Peter Phillips

Late-night line-up

Peter Phillips on Roger Wright's first Prom season

Lecturing on a course in Seattle has taken me away from London in recent days, and therefore from the excitement of Roger Wright’s first Prom season. As Wright himself said in a preliminary interview, if the season goes well he will claim it as his first; if it goes badly he can reasonably say that this is Nick Kenyon’s last, since Kenyon planned much of it. I suspect Wright is now counting his tenure from this season.

There has been a change of style. Experiments both with the repertoire and with the staging have been apparent, which meant taking risks not least with audience numbers. This may not have been entirely obvious in the earliest concerts of the series, since inviting Nigel Kennedy to play the Elgar Violin Concerto and Olivier Latry to play Messiaen’s organ music was bound to fill the place. But in fact Kennedy hasn’t played at the Proms for 21 years, and if his late-night jazz gig was part of the deal which tempted him back, the whole exceptional evening must have resulted from some nimble negotiating. Of course it may have been Kenyon’s negotiating, but no one is saying so. The opening night had anyway been an event with a different slant. Starting late it was a kind of potpourri of unlikely bedfellows, which nonetheless made for a satisfying and festal event alternating as it did a vast orchestra for Strauss’s Festliches Präludium, with the chamber-like Mozart oboe concerto, and then solo piano. There hasn’t been much solo piano in recent seasons, nor has anyone dared to play quite as pianissimo in the Albert Hall as Nick Daniel did in the Mozart. It was as if the old lady were being tested out for new faculties which, despite her age and experience, were being found.

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