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Promise of the Proms

img  Tobias

As the BBC Proms are drawing to a close, it's time for a little re-evaluation. After all, its organisors have not exactly been modest in advertising it as "the world's greatest classical music festival". So, have this year's proceedings justified this claim?

Let's start with some secondary aspects. Media coverage has once again been tremendous. While some complained about the comentators' tendency to talk too much before and after the concerts, the mere fact that the BBC aired every prom on the radio and on the Internet, featured a lot of them on TV and allowed fans to stream recordings for up to seven days after its initial broadcast is a sign of total dedication. The Proms-Page on the Internet issued notes on the program an hour in advance of concerts, provided information on the participating artists and allowed listeners and viewers to engage in heated discussions in a well-visited forum. Especially the latter made a strong statement with interesting topics and truly stimulating exchanges, that never became too negative or insulting.

The program itself was once again nicely balanced. Complaints about "too much Mahler" were hardly justified (four of his symphonies were played in a total of over 70 concerts) and there was a lot of 20th century music to go with the past masters. Apart from the classical core-repertoire, there were a few excursions into exotic territory (Ravi Shankar) and some world premieres (Mark Anthony Turnage's "From the Wreckage", written for Hakan Hardenberger) to keep everybody happy.

Then, of course, there was some great music. Which had quite a lot to do with the truly amazing billing. Conductors included Zubin Mehta, Kurt Masur, David Zinman and Sir Colin Davis, musicians like Andreas Scholl, Joshua Bell, Ian Bostridge, Placido Domingo and Bryn Terfel took part and audiences were treated to some of the best orchestras in the world - especially the "World Orchestra for Peace" stole everyone's hearts. Among the others favourites was Leif Ove Andsnes performing Marc-Andre Dalbavies piano concerto for the first time (the Financial Times called him "a thoughtful musician and a breathtaking figure-skater of a technician") and Joshua Bell playing the "Red Violin".

But what really sets the Proms apart is the unique ambiance and standing in queue with hundreds of other Classical Music fans, waiting to get a ticket anyone can afford. It is this feeling of openness that no other event can match. The "World's Greatest Classical Music Festival"? You bet.

Homepage: The BBC Proms

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