BBC Proms Opening Weekend 15th to 17th July, Royal Albert Hall
As ever the opening weekend of the BBC Proms is a starry affair, giving a taste of things to come. The cello steps into the spotlight with a series of high-profile soloists and major concertos. Setting the ball rolling is Argentine cellist Sol Gabetta. Fresh from an exceptional recording of the work, she opens the Proms with Elgar’s Cello Concerto. There’s also a strong Russian flavour to this opening weekend, with music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Modest Mussorgsky and Sergei Prokofiev’s mighty cantata Alexander Nevsky. Adapted from the composer’s score for Sergei Eisenstein’s film, it’s a truly cinematic affair—a massed choral spectacular rich with battles and crusading valour. Choral music continues on Sunday, when the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge perform Joseph Haydn’s Paukenmesse—one of the composer’s most popular Mass settings. The centrepiece of the weekend is the Royal Opera’s visit to the Proms and a chance to see the company’s Boris Godunov in a concert performance. Bryn Terfel stars as the troubled Russian monarch, a performance of tremendous vocal and psychological intensity, supported by a cast including John Tomlinson, John Graham-Hall and rising British tenor David Butt Philip.
The Brook Street Band 20th Anniversary Concert 17th July, Wigmore Hall
Their name comes from the Mayfair street where GF Handel lived, so it’s only appropriate that the Brook Street Band should celebrate their 20th anniversary with an all-Handel concert. There’s a tremendous warmth and affection to all performances by this vivacious Early Music group, and with friends including bass-baritone Matthew Brook and soprano Nicki Kennedy joining them, this promises to be quite the classical party. Favourites, including The Water Music, sit alongside lesser-known works such as the exquisite cantata Apollo e Dafne.
Avi Avital 9th July, St George’s Bristol
The mandolin wasn’t exactly the height of instrumental cool until young Israeli virtuoso Avi Avital burst on the scene a few years ago. Set aside all preconceptions, because this passionate musician really makes his instrument sing, bringing its period textures up to date with the contemporary edge of his performances. Here he pairs classical works by Béla Bartók and Manuel de Falla with folk music from Eastern Europe—it’s a typically bold programme, a musical dialogue across genres that should provoke as much as delight.