Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Playing with the Proms

The BBC Proms now has an archive of all past performances. Watch as your afternoon fritters away! Sure, you could have been working, but then you would have missed the chance to find out what the prommers heard on your birthday every year since 1895...
Hmm. No prom on September 2nd, 1895. But next year's was mostly Mendelssohn - three overtures, the violin concerto, the Italian symphony, and a handful of songs. That would be enough for modern audiences, but the concert also included Henry Wood's "Grand Fantasia" on Carmen, some songs by now-obscure figures such as Frederic Cowen (middle name "Hymen"!), cornet player Howard Reynolds's arrangement of Schubert's Ständchen, Halvorsen's Entry of the Boyars, and, to conclude, the overture to Auber's Fra Diavolo.
Let's jump forward to 1913: Weber's Oberon overture, the Act 2 prelude from Humperdinck's Konigskinder, "O don fatale" from Don Carlos, Vaughan Williams's Wasps suite, Tchaikovsky's Hamlet, the first Peer Gynt suite, a bit of Coleridge-Taylor's Song of Hiawatha, Sibelius's En Saga, Rossini's Semiramide overture, WH Squire's "When you come home", Arturo Buzzi-Peccia's "Lolita", and finally Elgar's 4th Pomp and circumstance march.
This is all very Classic FM, really, isn't it? Nothing to frighten the horses these days. But it is interesting to check out the dates of composition of these works - Rossini 1823, Weber 1826, Verdi 1867, Tchaikovsky and Grieg 1888, Sibelius 1892, Coleridge-Taylor 1898, Humperdinck 1900, Elgar 1901, VW 1909. What would the chronologically equivalent Prom from today include? How about Ravel's La valse, Honegger's Pacific 231, an aria from Barber's Vanessa, John Adams's The Chairman Dances and Maxwell Davies' An Orkney Wedding, maybe Rautavaara's Piano concerto no.2... after that it gets a bit tricky. Today's equivalent of a composition from 1898 is one from 1995, so I suppose we'd have to plump for - heh - Birtwistle's Panic. After that, my old spreadsheet and Wikipedia start to fail me. What's been written in the last decade-and-a-bit that will still be doing the rounds in 2107?

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