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Posts Tagged ‘Sofi Jeannin’

It was wonderful to be back at The Proms after two years, and by my seventh and final concert it felt like life was back to normal; all of my summer traditions – Shakespeare’s Globe, Open Air Theatre and The Proms – had returned.

It started (for me) with Icelandic pianist Vikingur Olafsson, whose residency on the daily BBC Radio 4 arts programme Front Row rekindled my interest in the solo piano and ignited my interest in his artistry. His two beautifully played piano concertos – Bach & Mozart – were bookended by Prokofiev and Shostakovich symphonies from the Philharmonia Orchestra, but this didn’t stop him doing a few solo encores in the middle of the second half, during which you couldn’t hear a pin drop. A great programme and a great showcase for this young man whose international career is clearly taking off.

I’d never heard of South African cellist Abel Selaocoe, but I fancied a bit of fusion, this year promoted from late night proms to evening proms. He’s a real force of nature, the blending of classical music with African rhythms was a great success and the party atmosphere was infectious. The BBC National Orchestra of Wales under Clark Rundell were having a ball, moving from the baroque pieces of Rameau to orchestral arrangements of contemporary pieces based on African traditions. Selaocoe’s trio Chesaba provided the rhythmic foundation for most of them, Moroccan Londoners Gnawa and the Bantu singers adding colour. A punt that paid off.

The BBC singers concert was another experimental success. This time it was the Renaissance meets the present day with contemporary composers like Nico Muhly and Roderick Williams contributing a response to the older pieces by composers such as Hildegard von Bingen and Byrd. With no gaps between each piece it flowed beautifully under the direction of Sofi Jeannin, who has gone from strength to strength since becoming their chief conductor. One of the responses was ‘played’ on turntables and electronics from the centre of the prom area, which was rather surreal to watch as well as listen to.

The LSO and Simon Rattle are Stravinsky experts and it showed in a brilliant programme of three of his less well known ‘symphonies’. It was lovely to see the wind section shine in the Symphony of Wind Instruments, and you could hear each one clearly in this vast hall. I was more familiar with the Symphony in C, though I’ve never heard it sound this good. The Symphony in Three Movements showed the cinematic direction his work had taken on moving to the US and it proved fascinating.

Wagner’s Tristan & Isolde was this year’s contribution from Glyndebourne Opera. It was semi-staged, though I rather wish they hadn’t bothered as moving up, down and around a few steps doesn’t really add anything. A concert version would suffice. The London Philharmonic Orchestra under Robin Ticciati sounded wonderful and the soloists were fine indeed, though Simon O’Neill seemed to be struggling in Act II. We found out why just before Act III began when it was announced that Neal Cooper (hitherto Melot) would sing Tristan from the side while O’Neil acted the role. This added an extra layer of drama, with Cooper shining brightly (without score, though he had understudied and sung the role in Melbourne). All’s well, as they say.

This was followed a day later by a gorgeous choral programme by the Monteverdi Choir with the Baroque Soloists under John Elliott Gardiner. A Handel sandwich with Bach filling, the highlight was the joyful Dixit Dominus to end, with a couple of encores of the final movements. The vocal soloists all stepped out of the choir, such is the standard of this brilliant group. A treat.

My proms ended with Bach’s mighty St. Matthew Passion, given by Jonathan Cohen’s Arcangelo musicians and chorus with a superb set of six British soloists. I’d forgotten how demanding the part of the Evangelist is, and Stuart Jackson did a fine job. Iestyn Davies was particularly good and Roderick Williams’ contribution grew as the evening proceeded. I hadn’t heard the piece for some time, so it was good to be reminded of its quality with this fine reading by all.

Good to be back.

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