o/t: I am doing my best to keep up normal service but . . .

. . . the 2016 BBC Proms have started. If you haven’t listened to Friday night’s Sol Gabetta/BBC Symphony Orchestra performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto you’re assuredly not amongst the cool kids.

If you hit that link, the concerto starts about twenty minutes in, but don’t feel you have to skip to it. There’s some pretty ghastly pretentious patter by the presenters but also two other renditions that are really worth listening to. One is Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture.

The other, unscheduled, is a performance of La Marseillaise. The standing ovation is deafening and prolonged. I was so proud of the Proms when I heard this.

And back to trivial self-interest:

There’ll be another o/t post soon. My imminent (August 2) book Eureka!: 50 Scientists who Shaped Our World has been getting some embarrassingly good advance reviews from PW, Kirkus et al., and, despite the aforementioned embarrassment (yeah, right — total swankorama going on; my poor wife), I plan to inflict a few of them upon you.

Also o/t: The town of Milford, Pennsylvania — famed as the home of the original annual Milford Writers’ Workshops, founded by sf writers Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm — is holding the inaugural Milford Readers and Writers Festival over the weekend of September 30. I’ll be dropping in for a couple of the events. (I’m a sort of widdershins alumnus of the original Milford workshops, having attended the UK offshoot several times.) If you’re going to be there, I’d love to say hello.

22 thoughts on “o/t: I am doing my best to keep up normal service but . . .

  1. I’m MIA on my blog too! Been wandering London happily, from the Vaudeville Theatre and the Cinema Museum to Churchill’s War Rooms and the British Library. I’ll post a bit soon.

  2. Good luck with Eureka and the festival when it happens. I’ll try and grab a listen to the Proms tomorrow at work, always assuming the link works via our complicated works internet routing. I’m in an office on my own so have no desk neighbours to annoy!

    • Thanks for the good wishes!

      Good luck with the Proms. I was less excited by Proms 2 and 3, but #4 has its moments. I was not at all taken by PCM #1; there may have been tuning problems in the Cadogan Hall.

  3. I really enjoy the feeling of being able to participate in the Proms every year through the BBC website (even though I sometimes wish that more of the programming choices were adventurous). One year I listened to every single concert!

    • I agree with you about some of the programming being unadventurous. In previous years they’ve tended to have a general pattern of two well worn classics sandwiching a shortish, specially commissioned piece that, more often that not, makes the teeth scrape. This year — perhaps for budget reasons? — they seem to have fewer of those specially commissioned pieces. Still some stuff I’ve never of, so I’m not unhappy!

      I don’t think I’ve ever matched your feat of listening to the entire season (aside from anything else, they tend to have silly items like a Dr Who Prom), but I came reasonably close to it last year.

      • Even moderately adventurous choices such as a Martinu symphony would suit me fine. Norman Lebrecht pointed out that the Proms missed a good bet by not programming Busoni’s huge Piano Concerto with chorus for the composer’s 150th birth anniversary this year – that piece was MADE for the Proms. (In fact, they scheduled no Busoni at all.). I agree with you that the commissions are a mixed bag, but occasionally there is a really good one. I’m open to music in absolutely all styles, including the most modern and “challenging”.

        • I agree with you that the commissions are a mixed bag, but occasionally there is a really good one.

          Too true!

          I hadn’t realized there was no Busoni this year. (I haven’t gone through the program, am just taking the concerts as they come.) No Martinu either?

          • Not a single note of Martinu this year. Sad for a composer whom I consider the equal of Bartok. No Szymanowski either. One Nielsen symphony (the 5th), but no Allan Pettersson. And so on. At least Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony is being performed (Prom 62) – that’s an enterprising choice.

            • To be honest, I might skip the Zemlinsky. Blame it on me, but I don’t much like choral-type symphonies. I blame this on my yoof, when I realized that Beethoven’s 9th was the only symphony of his — the only orchestral work, in fact — that I really didn’t much like.

              Yup: a philistine, me.

            • It is, of course, typical of Life that I’ve enjoyed all of the three or four original commissions I’ve listened to in Proms 2016 since making my snarky remark!

            • Oh, and I’ve just discovered that tonight’s Prom features a major new work by Lera Auerbach, of whose work I’m a major fan. I take back entirely all my snarks about the commissioned works! We seem to be really lucky this year with these.

              Has someone new taken over the commissioning, I wonder?

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