World's biggest and most eclectic summer music festival lays itself bare online
BBC Radio 3 has unveiled its electronic archive of the Proms, the London-based summer concert series that runs from mid-July to early September every year. The archive begins with the first Promenade Concert in 1895 and runs, unbroken, to the current season, which kicks off on Sunday.
You can search the database by composer, by work, by performer and, when you reach each entry, it neatly cross-references everyone involved. It's nothing short of amazing,
I entered the name of every prominent 20th century Canadian composer I could think of and came up blank, but that's not surprising, given how new music is a national -- and nationalist -- enterprise, much of the time.
So I tried a conductor who composes, Andrew Davis, onetime music director (now music director emeritus) of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. He co-arranged (with Gordon Jacob) the National Anthem, to be sung at the 50th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth's coronation in 2003. The arrangement had a repeat performance in 2006.
Davis also led two performances by his Toronto Symphony Orchestra at the Proms in 1986.
I looked up the vocal legends and saw that Maureen Forrester first sang at the Proms in 1957 (in Verdi's Requiem, with conductor Malcolm Sargent) and again in 1961 (Mahler's Rückert Lieder, again with Sargent, the first time this cycle had been performed at the Proms).
Other legendary singers: Lois Marshall, Joseph Rouleau, John Vickers (three times -- the last with Jessye Norman in 1985, in Mahler's Lied von der Erde), Catherine Robbin (seven times), Victor Braun and son Russell (for the first time in 1999, in Rameau's Boréades, the second in a performance of Fauré's Requiem in 2007).
Speaking of Toronto's current crop of golden voices, Michael Schade has been invited four times, Adrianne Pieczonka sang an opera aria there in 1994, Brett Polegato has visited three times (the first with fellow Ontarians Meredith Hall and Laura Pudwell in a 1995 performance of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas in 1995 with Les Musiciens du Louvre).
You get the picture.
And that doesn't count all the instrumental performers.
The site offers broadcasts of this year's concerts -- 76 concerts at Royal Albert Hall and 13 performances at the more intimate Cadogan Hall. The full schedule is here. The broadcasts are supposed to be available online for seven days after the concert date.
The site offers a neat-but-weird "Maestro cam" which shows conductors from the 2009 season at work, augmented by spoken commentary. I'd love to see how that works (I can't help but think of Peter Schickele's play-by-play commentary of Beethoven's Fifth), but visitors from outside the U.K. are not allowed to watch.
With no alterior motive (aside from having noticed that Richard Bradshaw never conducted anything at the Proms), here is Davis conducting (a slghtly-past-her-prime) Welsh soprano Gwyneth Jones in the final scene of Wagner's Götterdämmerung at Albert Hall in 1991: