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Philip Glass and Unsuk Chin at the Proms

In Live From Golgotha by Gore Vidal, St. Timothy — who is an old man, and by that time the keeper of the story of the early church — is visited by time travelers from the future who try to persuade him to change his story. When he refuses, they simply travel further back in […]

Proms Wrap-up

The BBC Proms is ongoing until the end of this week, the traditional Last Night at the Proms being on Saturday night.   For me it all ended about a week and a half ago, but there are a number of things still to report on. The Proms on August 19, given by the BBC Scottish […]

At the Proms–Vaughan Williams, Osborne, and Eötvös

One of the threads of this year’s Proms is a survey of the works of Ralph Vaughan Williams in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of his death.   On August 26, which was the actual date of his death, the survey climaxed with an all-Vaughan Williams concert by the BBC Symphony, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis.   […]

Carter, Messiaen, and Stockhausen at the Proms

Among the focuses of the Proms this summer are the centennials of Elliott Carter and Olivier Messiaen and the eightieth birthday of Karlheinz Stockhausen (due to his death in 2007, the celebration of his birthday was fused with a commemoration of his life’s work). Although the first night concert included the first performance of a […]

More from the Proms–first performances of Berkeley, MacRae, and Hillborg

The Prom Concert on August 10, given by the BBC Symphony, conducted by Edward Gardner, included two first performances, both of them commissioned by the BBC for this season of the Proms.  These were among the 13 first performances and 7 UK first performances on the Proms this season. Michael Berkeley’s Slow Dawn is a […]

Chen Yi’s Olympic Fire – More From the Proms

The BBC marked the beginning day of the Beijing Olympics by offering the first performance of Olympic Fire, commissioned for the occasion from Chen Yi. All of Chen’s music uses Western modernist practices to evoke her native culture, but Olympic Fire deals even more directly in Chinese materials, using folksongs both from the predominant Han […]

My First Prom–Prom 27, August 6

George Benjamin, at age 48, is one of the grand old men of British music.  Considering a succession starting with Britten, and continuing with Oliver Knussen and Thomas Ades, and including Benjamin, one might consider that the tradition of rather young grand old men, all of them very fine performers as well as seriously talented […]


I have a vague recollection of an article in the Sunday Times sometime in July of one of the last ten or so years which compared the decline of twelve-tone music (or maybe atonality or maybe modernism in general, but I think it was twelve-tone music) to the fall of the Soviet Union. I wonder […]

Somebody didn’t get the memo

The biggest shock of the day was reading in the NYTimes Book Review a review by Pankaj Mishra of Coltrane:  The Story of a Sound by Ben Ratliff, the following sentence:  “Jazz’s turn to the avant-garde and exoticisms of the 1960s now seems as inevitable as the rise of atonal music after the breakup of […]

Some More Proms–Lutoslawki, Birtwistle, Ades

On August 16, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Martin Brabbins, presented a late-night concert in honor of Sir John Drummond, former director of the Proms, who died last year. The program consisted of three works which he had commissioned for the Proms: Veni, veni, Emmanuel by James MacMillan, Chantefluers et Chantefables by Witold […]