Not quite the last night

9th September 2017

This evening BBC radio, television and online present the Last Night of the Proms with soprano Nina Stemme (above) from the Royal Albert Hall. Although not for me. My reckoning is that I will get to the Last Night about 10 or 11 nights from now. For me, today is all about Prom 59: La Clemenza di Tito from Glyndebourne, which the Proms and the BBC presented on 28 August. Which is where I am in my more-or-less chronological journey through all of this year’s concerts. For thanks to the download capabilities of BBC Radio iPlayer I am listening to each and every one of the 2017 Proms concerts. This is the third year I’ve done this – and I cannot recommend the experience too strongly.

I use the Radio iPlayer app to download each of the concerts to my iPhone. Keeping them in ‘Last Chance’ order means that I can listen to them pretty much in the order that they are broadcast, including the Proms at… events and – a particular favourite – the chamber music concerts from Cadogan Hall. And I listen when I’m reading and writing, when I’m travelling, early in the morning before the family is up (with headphones) and late at night when the house is asleep (ditto). I don’t quite keep up with the daily schedule, which is why I’m still in the midst of Mozart, but I keep well ahead of the 30 day disappearance deadline.

Listening to every concert means that I am exposed to a great deal of music that I probably would not otherwise encounter, including this year glorious classical compositions from India and Pakistan and the amazing sounds of Charles Mingus. I am also forced to make my way through chunks of stuff that I find difficult or dull – and I fear much Mahler falls into both categories. Nor am I especially enthusiastic about all the Brahms that I would otherwise almost certainly avoid. But all of this is most definitely good for my musical education. As are the largely excellent Proms Extra talks that populate most of the intervals.

Making your way through a season like this also means that you hear the sublime highlights, which this year have included Daniel Barenboim conducting Elgar’s Second Symphony (and his post-concert speech, below, which brought tears to my eyes), Renée Fleming singing Strauss, and the Bang on a Can All-Stars playing Philip Glass, Michael Gordon and Julia Wolfe. All of this has given me a wonderful summer of music, for which much thanks – and I still have nearly a fortnight to go!

Image: Soprano Nina Stemme © Kristian Schuller, courtesy BBC.

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