Sunday, July 27, 2008

Primo Promen-Ades

I've written before about the joys of being to listen on-line to concerts from the Proms, the massive music festival occupying London's Royal Albert for the next couple months.

Saturday evening's concert, which you can hear for the next week, is an engaging example, with the insanely talented composer Thomas Ades conducting the City of Birmingham Symphony in a vibrant performance of his massively ambitious Tevot, a Hebrew word that can mean "bars" as in a musical score, "ark" as in Noah's, or the basket in which Moses floated on the Nile just before he was rescued by Anne Baxter.

In an interview with the London Guardian, Ades explained, "I liked the idea that the bars of the music were carrying the notes as a sort of family through the piece... But I was thinking about the ark, the vessel, in the piece as the earth. The earth would be a spaceship, a ship that carries us - and several other species - through the chaos of space in safety. It sounds a bit colossal, but it's the idea of the ship of the world."

After a couple of hearings, I still haven't quite taken the measure of it, but it makes me want to back and listen still again. You can hear it yourself, here.

The entire wonderfully overstuffed concert begins with a performance of Night on Bald Mountain, and the monologue and death scene from Boris (we tried to get Ivan but he wasn't) Godunov, sung by John Tomlinson. Check it out here.

If that's not enough, the program ends with Borodin's Polovtsian Dances, complete with soloists and chorus. Before that Louis Lortie appears as soloist in a glittering performance of the Prokofiev Piano Concerto Number One in d, which, along with the Shostakovich 1st Symphony, is one of the great career calling cards of 20th century music. Often treated with critical disdain, the concerto is one of Ades' - and my - favorite works. After hearing Prokofiev, himself, play it in 1914, songwriter Vernon Duke enthused that it overflowed with "unrelenting energy and the athletic joy of living." Hear it here. Only six days left.

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