Olly Knussen’s marvellous Flourish With Fireworks, performed as an opener at the First Night of the Proms, was a seemly way to mark the sad news of his death.
In other respects it was a concert where it might have been better to be outside rather than inside the Albert Hall. Not because of any lack in musical quality, but because of the effective projections that accompanied Anna Meredith’s Five Telegrams—though there was a half-hearted attempt to reproduce them inside the auditorium, they worked far better on the outer shell of the building.
Meredith’s score is inspired by impersonal multiple choice postcards sent by soldiers on the front in the Great War (see The Guardian for a fuller account). Her response to them was both monumental and moving, the massed forces deployed effectively (if sometimes a little mechanistically) in the brutal climaxes and with hypnotic tenderness elsewhere.
The work was a co-commission by the BBC and the Edinburgh International Festival, so there will be another chance to hear it in the opening concert in Scotland on 3rd August. As well as all the other delights offered by the Edinburgh Festival, there is also a fair bit of other new(ish) music to be found there, including works by Thea Musgrave, Eric Whitacre, John Estacio, Arvo Pärt, Toru Takemitsu, Esa-Pekka Salonen and a world premiere from Peder Barratt-Due. EIF will also be making a contribution to the ongoing Bernstein festivities, with performances of his Piano Trio, Arias and Bacarolles, Symphony No 2 The Age of Anxiety, Serenade, Symphonic Dances from West Side Story and Three Dance Episodes from On the Town.
To return to the Proms briefly. As I often say, do keep popping back to this blog post, here, to see C:T’s summary of the rest of the new music available there. Like last year the BBC does seem to be adding video content at these links (just click on the date) so you can also catch up on what you’ve missed. The first night is already there though the three premieres on 15th are so far only available on BBC iPlayer.
If you are taking time to catch up on that concert, may I heartily recommend you listen to the splendid Sidechaining, a new work by C:T’s very own David Bruce, available directly, here.