Cooper’s London


BBC Prom Time: Bigger is Better!

If you’ll be in London after 15 July, and if you can’t get tickets for all those musicals or plays people are raving about, don’t forget the BBC Proms! This has to be the best and most consistent music festival in the world–and a lot cheaper and easier to get tickets for than Salzburg, Bayreuth or even the Edinburgh Festival—plus, you can queue for cheap standing-room or “promenade” tickets to every performance.

The Proms offer 65 to 70 concerts every summer during July, August and early September, with top-class performers in every one. Although all the concerts are broadcast on the radio and about half are now shown on TV (the BBC has miked the place for decades and knows what to do for stunning broadcast sound), you don’t have to be there to enjoy it. But there is simply nothing like being in the house for the action! Most concerts are really packed, and have an atmosphere like no other. (Full disclosure: being inside the Albert Hall has its problems–on hot nights it can be like a sauna; and the acoustic in the hall is much less thrilling than over the airwaves.) That said, there is music for every taste and you get to experience the extraordinary Albert Hall in all its Victorian splendor. Try it once—bring a hand fan if it’s a hot night—and you will become addicted. With music this good, live rules!

My own personal recommendations for just the first week include:

Prom 2, 16 July: a complete performance of Rossini’s William Tell in concert in the original French with an interesting cast conducted by the ROH’s brilliant music director, Antonio Pappano. How often do you get to hear all of William Tell live, as Rossini intended it?

Prom 5, 18 July: the legendary Martha Argerich with the brothers Capucon, performing Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, elegantly conducted by Myung-Whun Chung. This is a formidable line-up!

Prom 7, 19 July at 10 PM: a late-night prom with the Schubert Quintet performed by the wonderful Belcea Quartet and Valentin Erbin

Prom 9, 21 July: Mark Elder and the Halle; and Andras Schiff doing the third Bartok piano concerto. Elder is one of the UK’s most acclaimed conductors; Andras Schiff is one of the best pianists.

As the season rolls on, there are Proms for kids, Proms for geeks, Proms for opera-lovers, Proms for modernists and every other taste. Hold the thought that being there is always fun, energetic, mildly cheeky and extremely friendly (unlike Bayreuth or Salzburg, where if you giggle, they lynch you). And you’ll have lots of good company. Check out the programme at:BBC Proms

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