Saturday, July 25, 2009


I love The Proms!

Whenever I tell I someone love the Proms, I'm greeted with a curious stare and an "Uh, so you go waving a flag?" It's a pity that the ghastly pomp-and-circumstance of the last night is the only thing most people know about the Proms, as it's a truly democratic music event.

The Albert Hall is a beautiful building, a memorial to all that was most overblown and showy about the Victorian era. Queueing for two hours for the Arena brings you into contact with slightly shabby old men with elasticated waistbands, carrier bags and lunch boxes (ok, I admit it, I had a sandwich in a lunch box too), nerdy teenage music students, and, for last night's programme, a noticeable number of Japanese people.

The evening was about cross-musical links between East and West, and France and Spain, featuring Debussy's orientalist Pagodes and swirling La Mer, Ravel's mysterious Rapsodie Espagnol and fiery Tzigane, with rousing solo violin from Akiko Suwanai.

The East was represented by Toru Takemitsu, his dreamy Ceremonial opening the three-hour concert, with barefoot shō player Mayumi Miyata starting the piece. The shō is a small hand-held set of pipes, making a delicate ethereal sound, like a quiet harmonica or accordian. Mitaya also reappeared to play the shō on the UK premier of Toshio Hosokawa's Cloud and Light, and takemitsu was represented a second time with the Debussyesque Green.

Apart from the Ravel Rapsodie, the Franco-Spanish crossover was represented by Pable de Sarasate's 'Carmen' Fantasy, with a stunning virtuoso violin performance by Akiko Suwanai, who rightly had the audience whooping and cheering at the end.

Forget your Union Jacks and Rule Britannia. The Proms represents a fantasic value for money accessible event - a fiver for nigh on three hours of amazing music in a beautiful setting.


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