Most of the time, I'm quite content being stupid. Occasionally, though, it grates. Months ago, I found myself hungrily going over the schedule for the 2010 London Proms, the annual musical festival that includes nearly a hundred concerts and recitals, which can be listened to via streaming audio via the BBC both live and for a week thereafter. Then I forgot all about it, and only remembered today, at the end of Proms Week Four. Why does this make me angry?
Prom #1: Mahler's Symphony of a Thousand, with the BBC Symphony conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek.
Prom #2: Wagner's The Meistersingers of Nuremburg, with the Welsh National Opera and, as Han Sachs, Bryn Terfel.
Prom #3: Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, with Placido Domingo and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden conducted by its director, Antonio Pappano.
On Friday, the 30th, the Proms celebrated the 80th birthday of Stephan Sondheim with Terfel singing excerpts from Sweeney Todd, plus Judi Dench, and the incomparable Simon Russell Beale.
It appears that, unlike some other places I might mention, the 5,000 audience members weren't shooed away after a factory timekeeper's 85 minutes, but given a generous sampling from the wealth of landmark works Sondheim has created over his long, brilliant career, capped by a sustained, ecstatic ovation for the composer/lyricist, himself.
Well, that's all water under the Tower Bridge now, and not every concert, true be told, offers the same blinding starpower. You can, however, still catch - through next Wednesday - the Valery Gergiev conducted Mahler 5 with the World Orchestra for Peace, the ensemble founded by Georg Solti, which may be the globe's most illustrious pickup orchestra. Andrew Patner reported the group's performance of the 5th in Salzburg recalled the famed Solti brass sound, with solo's from former CSO Associate Principal horn player Gail Williams, plus violinists Olga and Ilya Kaler, Larry Combs on clarinet, and Gene Pokorny on Tuba. For a few more hours, you can hear Violeta Urmana, Ben Heppner and Simon Rattle conducting the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in a blistering account of Tristan, Act 2.
Future weeks bring everything from the Nachstuck from Der ferne Klang by recently rediscovered composer Franz Schreker (thank you, James Conlon), to Ligeti's Night and Morning and Violin Concerto, Arvo Pärt's St. John Passion, and, later that week, Symphony No. 4 Los Angeles, which continues to grow on me after its CSO premiere a season ago, Simon Keenlyside singing Mahler's Rückert-Lieder, A Freak in Burbank by Albert Schnelzer, Gil Shaham playing the Barber Violin Concerto, David Robertson conducting the BBC Symphony, Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra tackling the Beethoven 9, Karita Mattila singing Strauss' Four Last Songs with Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Phil, along with Five, Six, and Three Pieces for Orchestra - you probably already know by who, John Elliot Gardiner conducts the Monteverdi Vespers of 1610, Andrew Davis leads the BBC in Brahm's 4th, Jennifer Larmore helps recreate the 1910 Last Night of the Proms, and Renée Fleming headlines this year's Last Night, on September 11th.
Check all all the goodies, and find the links to the broadcasts, here.
I know there can be only one Proms, and Chicago's not London. I cherish the Grant Park Symphony, and have fond memories of Ravinia, but given the world-class talent both native to the city and attracted to perform here, is what we have now really the best Chicago can do with its summers?