Monday, 3 August 2020

BBC Proms 2020, or, A Proms Miscelleny for Week 3

Welcome to the second instalment of this rather mad combination of Previously at the Proms/What the critics said...

Monday 3rd August - Lunchtime Chamber Music - Liszt, Prokofiev (2011)

This was Katia Buniatishvili's debut at the Festival. She returned in 2018 to perform the Grieg Piano Concerto.

Intriguingly, given for most of its history the Proms was primarily an orchestral festival, this was the third performance of Liszt's Piano Sonata. On both occasions, it was paired with major symphonies - Bruckner's Fifth in 1984 and Beethoven's Ninth in 1989 (played by Lazar Berman on the first occasion and Peter Donohoe on the second). It's quite hard to imagine such a pairing featuring on a programme now. Liszt's music featured in the very first Proms season - his second Hungarian Rhapsody (heard in the orchestral version at the First Night) and Third Liebestraum (which Buniatishvili also plays, and which had gone unheard at the Proms between 1905 and 1997). This was the eighth performance of the Liebestraum (and its only other performance since the early days of the Festival, in Evgeny Kissin's 1997 solo recital, can be heard later in this archive season). Liszt's music overall has notched up just over 600 Proms appearances partly aided, as with Berlioz, by multiple performances in the early years of what I think Henry Wood referred to as lollipops - most frequent here was Liszt's Hungarian Fantasy. But his overall output is more widely reflected than I'd expected. The Piano Concertos have unsurprisingly appeared frequently (the First can be heard in tonight's Prom), but Les Preludes beats the Second Concerto and remained a regular feature of seasons through to the Last Night in 1963 after which it disappeared until Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra brought it back in 2009. Almost as surprising as the popularity of Les Preludes to me was the discovery that both his large scale symphonies have appeared more than once - the Dante Symphony receiving its Proms premiere back in 1904 (though it was not heard again until 1986). Henry Wood evidently had a fondness for the Faust Symphony, giving it complete on four occasions in the 30s (often alongside Liszt symphonic poems). The list even includes a performance of the rarely heard Christus in 1978 - I can't recall this being done in the UK since I started attending concerts - I wonder if that is still in the archive. 



This is the only solo piano work by Prokofiev to have featured at the Proms, and surprisingly he doesn't have any works which have notched up really significant numbers of appearances (though this comment on the BBC archive's first release notes that in the fifteen seasons to 2010 he was the most frequently performed composer). His most frequently performed work has been the Third Piano Concerto. His first work to appear was the Humoresque Scherzo, performed twice in the 1916 season. The most notable rarity was a concert performance in 1991 by Edward Downes and the BBC Philharmonic, with some notable singers in the cast, of The Fiery Angel. This archive season has already featured his Third Symphony and Flute Sonata, and outside the main series his First Symphony.

Thus far the Chamber Music concerts seem to have attracted less reviewers and the only one I could locate for this was by Ben Hogwood for Classical Source.

Monday 3rd August - Argerich/West-East Divan Orchestra/Barenboim - Widmann, Liszt, Wagner (2016)

This was the second performance of Widmann's Con Brio at the Proms - it received its UK premiere in the 2008 season from the Bamburg SO under Jonathan Nott. Of the seven other works of his heard at the Proms most featured in a Proms Composer Portrait at the Royal College of Music in 2009 where the composer doubled as one of the clarinettists).

We've already discussed Liszt and the Proms. The First Piano Concerto has appeared 79 times from the opening season to this its most recent Proms performance, featuring at both First and Last Nights. Few overseas orchestras have brought it, in addition to this pairing, only the China Philharmonic Orchestra/Long Yu and pianist Haochen Zhang, and the Budapest Festival Orchestra/Ivan Fischer with Zoltan Kocsis. A particularly intriguing performance dates back to 1958 when it was part of a first half including Borodin's second symphony and the Proms premiere of William Alwyn's Elizabethan Dances, followed after the interval by Act 3 of Tosca.

Wagner was also performed from the beginning of the Festival - his overture to Rienzi opened the First Night in 1895 following the national anthem - and is the most frequently performed composer. This is one occasion when the archive's set up would make it a vast task to work out first performances, so on this occasion I did not try. All I will note is that excerpts from Tannhauser, Gotterdammerung and Meistersinger all featured in that first season.

Despite being a young ensemble (founded in 1999) the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra already have a significant record of Proms appearances (19 of which this was the 17th) - the centrepiece undoubtedly being their six concert residency in 2012 performing the complete Beethoven symphonies alongside works by Boulez. They made their debut in 2003 with a programme of Schubert, Mozart and Beethoven and their most recent appearance was last year.

Martha Argerich made her Proms debut at the Last Night in 1966, performing Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto with Malcolm Sargent and the BBC SO, but did not return to the Festival until 1992. This was the seventh of her eight appearances, the most recent being with the same forces in 2019 performing Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto.

Daniel Barenboim has made 45 Proms appearances, making his debut in 1966 at the piano in Beethoven's Emperor Concerto accompanied by the Halle conducted by John Barbirolli. He first conducted in 1971 (the BBC SO) in Schubert's Ninth Symphony preceded by sonatas with Pinchas Zucherman (I mentioned this concert in passing when discussing the Norrington Prom last week). After an absence in the mid 80s-90s Barenboim has been a regular visitor - the other notable residency apart from the Beethoven/Boulez already mentioned being the Proms Ring Cycle (the Walkure from which was featured in Week 1).

This concert was very thoroughly reviewed. It's especially interesting to observe the divergence of opinions about the Widmann, and the contempt in some quarters for the Liszt as a work. Reviews as follows: Andrew Clements for The Guardian, Barry Millington for the Evening Standard, David Karlin for Bachtrack, Richard Fairman for the Financial Times (£), Michael Church for The Independent, Barry Creasy for Musicomh, Mark Berry for Seen and Heard, Richard Morrison for The Times (£), David Nice for The Arts Desk, and Rick Jones for Critics Circle.

Tuesday 4th August - BBC SO/Oramo - Sibelius (2015)

This was one of the few concerts this week which Radio 3's Proms Preview last night completely overlooked - this was surprising to me as I would have said this was one of the highlights among the repeats (particularly as far as the BBC ensembles are concerned). This was Kullervo's fourth Proms performance. It was first heard in 1979 from the same orchestra and Gennady Rozhdestvensky, and did not resurface until 1997 with Osmo Vanska on the podium followed by Thomas Ades in 2002.

En Saga received its London premiere at the 1906 Proms from the New Queen's Hall Orchestra and Henry Wood and has been heard a further 52 times since. It appeared in most seasons up to 1958, sometimes twice in the same season, but was then absent until 1980. Since then it has again featured regularly, always in the hands of UK orchestras, with this its most recent appearance. Earlier performances which stood out included a 1954 Prom featuring Thomas Beecham and the RPO in Sibelius, Schubert and Berlioz, 1958's Sibelius memorial concert given by the BBC SO and Malcolm Sargent, and a 1985 concert from the Philharmonia/Esa-Pekka Salonen which looks to be just at the beginning of their formal association.

Sibelius's music was first heard at the Proms in 1901 when his King Christian II Suite was given its UK premiere. His most frequently performed work at the festival is Finlandia given its London premiere just over a week after En Saga by the same forces. It has notched up 80 performances, primarily on the basis of multiple performances in early seasons to a far greater extent than En Saga (the year after its debut it was heard in no fewer than six Proms including both First and Last Nights). Again, like En Saga, it disappeared from the Proms after 1959, only reappearing in 1995.

This is the third and last of the BBC Symphony Orchestra's full Proms concerts to appear in the main archive season. They've given a mammoth 2091 Proms concerts (to date), performing all the concerts each season in the early years of their association. These days the number is down to roughly 12 a year. Sakari Oramo first appeared at the Proms with his then orchestra the CBSO in 1999 bringing Bridge, Sibelius and Nielsen. This was his 22nd of 40 appearances to date which have (unsurprisingly given his tenure as BBC SO Chief Conductor) included both First and Last Nights. The BBC Symphony Chorus (whose men's voices feature here) first appeared at the Proms a year earlier than their orchestral counterparts and this was their 488th Prom. Somewhat surprisingly this is their only appearance in the archive season.

Again this garnered quite a number of reviews, several of them commenting on it as the conclusion to a cycle of Sibelius symphonies the rest of which had taken place over an earlier August weekend that season. Reviews from: Mark Pullinger for Bachtrack, Sebastian Scotney for The Arts Desk, Andrew Clements for The Guardian, Rob Barnett for Seen and Heard, Barry Creasy for Musicomh, and Anne Ozorio for Opera Today.

Wednesday 5th August - Bournemouth SO/Alsop/Ehnes - Beethoven, Barber, Copland (2007)

We've already discussed Beethoven at the Proms. His Third Leonore Overture has outstripped quite a few of the symphonies and concertos in popularity, notching up 132 appearances from the second season on, and not missing a season until 1967, though there was later a long gap between 1977 and 1998. This was its 128th appearance. Its most recent Proms appearance (from the CBSO and Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla is part of next week's programmes.

Barber's music has been infrequently heard at the Proms, and the Violin Concerto ties with the Adagio for strings for most performances with 7 each. It was first heard in 1944 performed by Eda Kersey accompanied by the LPO and conducted by either Henry Wood or Basil Cameron, again on a programme also including Beethoven. It did not appear again until 1976. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra under Andrew Litton and Joshua Bell brought it in 1997 and the Bournemouth SO repeated it as part of their most recent Proms visit in 2019 with Nemanja Radulovic as soloist. Barber's music was first heard at the Proms in 1939 - his Essay No.1 receiving its "first concert performance in England" from the BBC SO and Henry Wood - part of this little flurry of performances including the Violin Concerto and the Symphony No.1 after which Barber almost disappeared from Proms programmes for several decades.

Copland has fared only marginally better than Barber, with his works appearing 75 times, unsurprisingly the Fanfare for the Common Man leads the pack with 18 performances. The Symphony No.3 has been performed five times. It received its "first concert performance in England" at a 1956 Prom in a rather odd programme combining Americana with Palestrina before ending with Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, the singing coming from the Harvard Glee Club in their sole Proms appearance. This was its fourth Proms performance, it surfaced again the following year. His music was first heard at the Proms in 1942 when the Billy the Kid Suite was given its first performance in England. I wonder if this little flurry of performances of American music around the Second World War was connected to the wartime alliance?

James Ehnes made his first of seven Proms appearances to date in 2001 playing Prokofiev's Second Violin Concerto. This was his second appearance in the 2007 season, having played a Chamber Music concert earlier in the week. His most recent appearance was last season. The Bournemouth SO have played the Proms 36 times beginning with two concerts in 1955 with its then Music Director Charles Groves, but did not return until 1967. Since then it has been a regular visitor most recently in that 2019 Prom already mentioned. Marin Alsop has conducted at the Proms thirteen times, first appearing with this orchestra in 2003. This was her third appearance and she has since appeared with her other orchestras including the Sao Paulo SO and the Baltimore SO, as well as conducting the Last Night in 2013 and 2015.

It was reviewed by Edward Seckerson for The Independent, Geoffrey Norris for The Telegraph (£), Ben Hogwood for Musicomh, and Kenneth Carter for Classical Source.

Thursday 6th August - Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Sir Neville Marriner - Haydn, Beethoven (1994)

Haydn's Symphony No.96 had first been heard at the Proms in 1947 played by the BBC SO and Adrian Boult. It has notched up a total of 8 performances of which this was the 7th and was most recently heard in 2002. The Violin Concerto No.1 received its "first performance in England" at a Prom in 1909 but has notched up only a further 3 performances of which this was the most recent. Haydn's music featured in the opening night of the first season - his Canzonetta 'My mother bids me bind my hair', but overall he hasn't received as many performances as one might expect, coming up just shy of 400 and although a wide range of his works have featured few have been performed more than a handful of times. To say which work has been performed most frequently would require labour beyond what I had time for with this piece, as the archive doesn't distinguish sufficiently between performances of excerpts and the whole piece in several cases to make the calculation straightforward.

We've previously discussed Beethoven at the Proms. Ah! Perfido is at the low end of popularity, appearing 12 times between 1943 and 2019 - this was the 10th and came after an absence from programmes since 1979. However, it has been performed by some notable singers including Gwyneth Jones, Heather Harper, Janet Baker, Amanda Roocroft, and most recently Elizabeth Watts. The Fourth Symphony is the second least popular at the Proms notching up a mere 97 appearances (this was the 87th). Henry Wood first introduced it in 1898 in a concert also including the first Proms performance of Mozart's Jupiter Symphony. It had a long run of continuous appearances from 1917 to 1970. Its most recent appearance was in 2018, interestingly from the ASMF and their current musical director Joshua Bell.

Rather to my surprise the Academy has made only 12 appearances at the Proms (of which this was the eighth) and in their first two appearances in 1965 they shared the bill with the BBC SO and Malcolm Sargent preceding large scale works (Elgar's Dream of Gerontius and Holst's Planets) with Proms premieres of Handel's Concerti grossi. Their first solo Prom was an all Bach programme in 1970. Neville Marriner had made his Proms debut in 1963 playing the violin in a programme of Purcell, Bach and Vaughan Williams, and also notched up 12 Proms appearances (of which this was the ninth). This was the sole Proms appearance of the two soloists.

This is the only concert so far for which I've been unable to locate any contemporary reviews.

Thursday 6th August - Late Night Prom - Pioneers of Sound (2018)

This re-broadcast is accompanied by a repeat of a 2014 Free Thinking episode about the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The iPlayer currently has the Doctor Who Prom from 2013 which any fan who hasn't heard it will want to explore if only for the glory of hearing excerpts from some classic Who scores played by a full symphony orchestra (the thrill of being in the hall listening to the glorious theme from City of Death was a personal highlight for me).

The London Contemporary Orchestra and conductor Robert Ames made their Proms debut the year before in a late night performance with Exaudi at The Tanks at Tate Modern and returned last season, also late night, with selections from sci-fi film scores, with Robert Ames going on to conduct Proms in the Park Wales that season.

The performance was reviewed by John Lewis for The Guardian, and by an unidentified reviewer for The Prickle.

Friday 7th August - Berlin Philharmonic/Sir Simon Rattle - Rachmaninov, Stravinsky (2014)

Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances received their "first concert performance in England" in that curious formulation of the online archive in a 1954 Prom from the BBC SO and Malcolm Sargent, and despite not appearing again until 1977 have notched up a total of 16 performances - this was the 13th. The first overseas visitors to include it in a programme were the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra under Yuri Termirkanov in 2004, but it has since proved a popular choice and they've been followed by the Philadelphians & Charles Dutoit, the Oslo Philharmonic and Vasily Petrenko, the Sao Paolo SO and Marin Alsop and the Shanghai SO and Long Yu in addition to the Berliners. His music was first performed at the Proms in 1902 - the eleventh of his 12 Songs, Op.14. His most frequently performed work has been the Piano Concerto No.2, one of the few to maintain a presence throughout the Festival's history. His music reappears twice more in this archive season.

Stravinsky's complete Firebird was first given at the Proms as part of an all-Stravinsky programme by the BBC SO and Pierre Boulez in 1972 and has appeared 16 times since (of which this was the 14th). The first overseas visitors to programme it were the Rotterdam PO under Valery Gergiev in 1996, and they were followed by the Los Angeles PO/Esa-Pekka Salonen (1998) and the Berliners. There was also an intriguing pairing with Rimsky-Korsakov's Kashchey the Immortal from the LPO and Vladimir Jurowski in 2008. Stravinsky is currently sitting on 449 performances at the festival, covering a wide range of his output. Unsurprisingly The Rite of Spring has been most frequently heard, with 53 appearances. Henry Wood first introduced Stravinsky's music to the festival in 1913 with the "first performance in England" of the 1910 The Firebird Suite. He was also celebrated with a day of three concerts in 1996 - one of the shortcomings of this archive season is that it hasn't attempted to recreate any of those Proms epics (the scheduling generally seems to be more rigid these days). His music was heard in the opening week (alongside Tavener's Protecting Veil), and reappears twice more in this archive season.

Sir Simon Rattle has appeared 74 times at the Proms (this was the 67th) going back to a 1976 late night appearance at the Round House with the London Sinfonietta in a programme of contemporary music. His first Albert Hall appearance was the following year with the same orchestra, and other early partners with the BBC Scottish SO and the Philharmonia (it would have been interesting to revisit some of those). His partnership with the CBSO was first heard at the Proms in 1981, the year after he became Principal Conductor. His four appearances, with three different ensembles, in 1999 are I suspect unusual in Proms history for a conductor without a formal BBC ensemble association. His partnership with the Berlin Philharmonic was first heard at the Proms in 2003 and he has been most recently heard in 2019 with his current orchestra, the LSO. This is one occasion when, given that recordings of both works with these forces are available (one on CD and one on DVD), it seems a slight pity the BBC didn't go deeper into the archive to represent Rattle.

The Berlin Philharmonic make their Proms debut in 1973 with Karajan in an all Beethoven programme, but did not appear again until 1991. Since then they have been regular visitors and have now appeared 28 times. This was the 23rd.

This was another concert which was widely reviewed: by Erica Jeal in The Guardian, Michael Church in The Independent, by Edward Seckerson, by David Nice for The Arts Desk, and by Evan Dickerson for Musicomh.

I will be especially interested to revisit this one having not been wholly convinced by recent performances I've heard Rattle conduct.

Saturday 8th August - Glyndebourne Festival Opera - Tchaikovksky, The Queen of Spades (1992)

This was the first performance of the work at the Proms, but Tchaikovsky is a hugely popular composer whose works have appeared there 1265 times, only a few hundred behind Beethoven and Wagner (surprisingly given this, this is the only work by him to feature in these evening archival repeats). It also looks from the archive as if Henry Wood may have previously programmed some kind of arrangement from it, but there is no easy link provided (as occasionally happens with the archive) to determine exactly what it was. Glyndebourne under Sir John Pritchard had previously given the Proms premiere of the complete Eugene Onegin in 1970 (excerpts from which had been featured by Wood from the very first season). Of his other operas, Iolanta was given by WNO at the 2005 Proms. His most frequently performed work is the Pathetique Symphony which has received 124 performances. An underwhelming performance of the Fifth Symphony from the Ulster Orchestra at the 2016 Proms was included in Afternoon Concert on 21st July.

Both Sir Andrew Davis and Glyndebourne have long histories at the Proms. Davis has conducted there on 131 occasions. Like Marriner he made his debut as an instrumentalist, playing the chamber organ for the 1968 Proms premiere of Monteverdi's Vespers conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner. He first appeared on the podium with the BBC SO in 1971. Already in 1973 he was conducting multiple Proms per season (in that year five with four different orchestras), and in the late 70s he conducted his first First Nights. This was his 55th appearance. His most recent, in 2019, was repeated in July as part of Radio 3 Through the Night.

Glyndebourne have brought an opera to the Proms every year since 1961, with the exception of 1993 (the year of their Festival Hall residency during the opera house rebuild). The first was Don Giovanni, the most recent The Magic Flute. This was their 35th appearance. Nancy Gustafson had made two previous appearances with Glyndebourne at the Proms (as Katya in 1990 and Alice Ford in 1988). She made her final appearance the following year in the Letter Scene from Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin with the BBC Concert Orchestra. Felicity Palmer has made 52 Proms appearances. Her debut was in 1971 with Sir Roger Norrington and the BBC SO in a programme of early music. In 1973 she appeared five times. She can be heard again on 20th August in Afternoon Concert as Dame Carruthers in a 2012 performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Yeoman of the Guard with the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Jane Glover. Her most recent appearance was as Clytemnestra in Semyon Bychkov's 2014 concert performance of Strauss's Elektra with the BBC SO (given the evident limits of this archival season, it's a glaring omission not, so far, to have included a single one of Bychkov's performances with the BBC SO - a partnership that has been one of the highlights of BBC music making in recent years). This was Sergei Leiferkus's second Proms appearance (he'd made his debut the previous year, again appearing alongside Palmer in the concert performance of The Fiery Angel previously mentioned). Anne Dawson had appeared earlier in the season in a late night programme of Villa-Lobos, following a debut with Glyndebourne in 1984 as Barbarina in The Marriage of Figaro. Both Enid Hartle and Christopher Thornton-Holmes had made previous appearances with Glyndebourne at the Proms including appearing together in 1987's Traviata as Annina and D'Obigny (the latter, I confess, a character whose very existence had completely escaped me), and Thornton-Holmes returned later in the season as one of the soloists in Berlioz's L'enfance du Christ. Hartle had first appeared in Cavalli's La Calisto in 1971 alongside Janet Baker, this was her final Prom. Robert Burt was heard earlier in this archive season as First Prisoner in Beethoven's Leonore. The Tchaikovsky was his first Proms appearance, he also appeared in the Berlioz later in the season, and later added a First Night (1993), the world premiere of Rachel Portman's The Water Diviner's Tale (2007) and a Glyndebourne return in Purcell's The Fairy Queen in 2009. Marie-Ange Todorovitch's only other appearance was as a soloist in Berlioz's Romeo et Juliette the following season alongside John Tomlinson and Anthony Rolfe Johnson. Andrew Slater also made one other Proms appearance in 2009 when Martin Brabbins conducted the Proms premiere of "The Arches" from Birtwistle's The Mask of Orpheus. The remaining soloists were making their only Proms appearances.

Reviews for this, as for other earlier Proms, have disappeared into online archives. Rodney Milnes in The Times described the LPO's playing in the final Glyndebourne performance as throwing "all vestiges of British reserve to the winds and lash[ing the] score with thrilling abandon" and found Marusin's Hermann "terrifying" (in a positive sense). By contrast Hilary Finch, in The Times's review of this performance criticised Marusin for singing flat and also reported him sending "a pair of BBC mics flying [on] one of his more deranged exits", though was full of praise for the orchestra and other soloists. Edward Seckerson gave it a rave for The Independent (28/7/92), as did Max Loppert and David Murray for the Financial Times (29/7/92).

Sunday 9th August - Proms Chamber Music - Brahms, A. Sierra (2015)

This is the only Proms performance to date of the Brahms. The same forces had previously given the Third Piano Trio at a chamber music concert in 2012. Brahms's most frequently performed work has been the Violin Concerto which has reached 94 outings, but the symphonies, concertos and other major orchestral works were all appearing in programmes from early in the festival's history. His first work to be programmed was the Wiegenlied from the 5 Songs, Op.49 in the inaugural season. His Variations on the St Anthony Chorale and the Second and Fourth Symphonies appear in coming weeks.

This is the only performance of work by Arlene Sierra at the Proms.

Nicola Benedetti made her Proms debut in 2010, playing The Lark Ascending with the BBC SSO conducted by Donald Runnicles, and this was her sixth of nine appearances, and her second of the season (she had earlier given the Korngold Violin Concerto with the Bournemouth SO conducted by Kirill Karabits). Leonard Elschenbroich had made his Proms debut with the first appearance of this trio in 2012 and this was his 5th (of 7). Alexei Grynyuk's only Proms appearances have been with the trio.

It was reviewed by Jim Pritchard for Seen and Heard, Sebastian Scotney for The Arts Desk and Nick Breckenfield for Classical Source

Sunday 9th August - Polyphony/Stephen Layton - Britten, C Matthews, Mozart (2011)

We discussed Mozart at the Proms in last week's instalment. Despite his overall popularity on programmes, the Requiem has been infrequently performed - 10 appearances in the Sussmayer completion (first heard in 1961 from the BBC SO/Sargent, with this the eighth) and once in 2014 in Robert D. Levin's completion.

Britten's Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge was first performed at the Proms in 1938 with the Composer conducting the BBC SO (Britten appeared as a performer at the Proms on 11 occasions). It was not heard again until 1960 and has overall featured seven times (of which this was the sixth), most recently in 2013. Two visiting orchestras have programmed the work: the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra/Iona Brown in 1991 and Camerata Ireland/Barry Douglas at a Cadogan Hall matinee in 2013. Britten's music has been heard 302 times at the Proms (putting him for example ahead of Prokofiev and not so far behind Haydn). His most performed work, currently standing on 43 appearances, is, perhaps unsurprisingly, The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. His music was first heard at the festival in 1937 - the Soirees musicales, played by the BBC SO/Wood.

Colin Matthews's work has featured on at least 22 occasions at the Proms (I say at least because his page misses several of the realisations of Britten's unfinished works which appear on the Britten page). He was first represented at the Proms with a performance of the original version of Night Music, given by Richard Hickox and the City of London Sinfonia in 1983 (on a programme which also opened with Britten). This was the world premiere and the only appearance of No Man's Land thus far.

The City of London Sinfonia made their Proms debut in 1973 with a performance of Messiah and have appeared a total of 18 times (this was their 17th, they most recently appeared in 2017). Polyphony made their debut, again conducted by Stephen Layton, in a 1995 late night performance of Part's St John Passion (that would have been interesting to re-hear) and have appeared 6 times in all (this was the most recent). That 1995 Prom was Layton's main-stage debut, though he had been the off-stage conductor at a 1992 Prom. This was his ninth (of nine) appearances. Emma Bell made her Proms debut at the First Night in 2001 in a performance of Vaughan Williams's Serenade to Music, and has appeared on four subsequent occasions of which this was the most recent. Renata Pokupic made her Proms debut in 2004 in Bach's Mass in B minor, this was her third and most recent appearance. There is contradictory information as to who sang the bass part in this performance. The listings for the archive season have Hank Neven, the entry in the Proms archive itself has James Rutherford - the latter seems more likely to be accurate. This was his 8th of 11 Proms appearances. He had made his debut alongside Emma Bell in 2001. He went on to appear the following year as Kissinger, in a starry cast for Adams's Nixon in China conducted by the composer - now why haven't we had that as part of this archive season - is it too late to suggest the BBC get it into an Afternoon Concert?!)

Ian Bostridge made his Proms debut in a late night Back programme in 1995 and was a regular through to his last, to date, appearance in 2013, taking in the First Night in 2005. This was his twelfth of fourteen appearances. Roderick Williams has also appeared regularly (this was his 9th of 17) since his debut a year after Bostridge as the Royal Herald in Verdi's Don Carlo (which we hear later in the season). He has notched up both First and Last Nights and appeared most recently in the 2019 season in Berlioz's L'enfance du Christ.

The performance was reviewed by Geoffrey Norris for The Telegraph (£), by Alexandra Coghlan for the New Statesman, and Stephen Layton has copies on his website of reviews from Barry Millington for the Evening Standard and George Hall for The Guardian (Google searches did not quickly turn up the links to the originals).

Covid-19 permitting I'm off on holiday for a couple of weeks, so you may be spared instalments until my return depending on whether I've a) got the energy and b) the WiFi connection!

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