The Proms draw to a close on Saturday with one final premiere, Songs of Darkness by Roxanna Panufnik.
This then serves as a reminder to catch-up on some of those concerts that will soon be disappearing from BBC iPlayer Radio over the next month. I’ve been doing just that over the last few days. Of the recent premieres I have listened to I was most immediately struck by Philip Venables’ Venables Plays Bartok. He’s a composer who always seems to find an ‘angle’, in this case his violin concerto is actually a violin concerto-cum-autobiography-cum-documentary on the life of violinist Rudolph Botta. It has certainly divided opinion (see here or here, for example), but I was impressed by the manner in which it movingly integrated the various strands.
Of the others I’ve been listening to Rolf Wallin’s impressive Violin Concerto Whirled, whilst ostensibly in the same genre as the Venables, was (mostly) free of angles and at the same time rather more substantial in musical content; Bushra El-Turk’s Crème Brûlée on a Tree for soprano and piano—a setting of a custard recipe—was silly, but fun; Iain Bell’s Aurora, a concerto for coloratura soprano and orchestra, rather ravishing even if I found myself wondering if it might have benefitted from a real text—all those ‘ahhs’ began to feel tiresome; Nina Šenk’s Baca was an exhilarating tour-de-force, 8 minutes of writing containing more music than some pieces three times the length. Simon Holt’s Quadriga, I’m afraid, left me cold—though brilliantly written its relentless style nevertheless feels stony-faced at a time when many other composers are letting a little more light and shade into their work.
Check out the Proms premieres you’ve missed here.