Today at the Proms - Prom 57 & 58


Continuing our daily coverage of what's on at The Proms 2019, Susan Omand has a quick look at the programme for Prom 57: Mozart, Rachmaninov & Qigang Chen and Prom 58: Tchaikovsky, Janáček, Szymanowski and Linda Catlin Smith ...

Reminder: Watch last night's Henry Wood prom tonight on BBC Four

How did it get to be September already?! Only two more weeks of promming to go this year but they're making sure there's a lot still to interest us. Two proms today. Looking at the evening one first, we have a feast of folk tales. The main event after the interval is Tchaikovsky's Symphony No 2, nicknamed informally as the Little Russian because it uses themes from three Ukrainian folk songs - and back in the day, Ukraine was known  as Little Russia.

Before the interval this evening, the prom starts with a world premiere - Nuages means clouds so I'm expecting vast and diaphanous music in Smith's beautifully abstract soundscape style. Then we get what, on the surface, is a folk tale from Janáček but it was really a revolutionary commentary on the contemporary socio-political climate between Moravia and Czechoslovakia at the time. The evening prom is rounded out by two song cycles from Polish composer Szymanowski, who put to music six love poems from a Persian poet called Hafiz, the first of which starts "I wish I were a morning-clear lake and you the sun, reflecting in it." How lovely is that!

Anyway, before things get too soppy, a quick look at the morning's prom. Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances, his final composition and full of nostalgia for his mother Russia with rhythmic energy, lush harmony and glorious staccato richness. Preceding that we have more marvellous Mozart, this time his piano concerto No 23 sounding very Mozartian (that's not a word - Ed) and operatic.

But it's the first piece of the morning that I really want to draw your attention to, as it was a new one on me and I absolutely love it. Written by Qigang Chen, he survived the Cultural Revolution in China with his creativity undimmed and went on to study in France, the last student of Oliver Messiaen, where he still lives and works as a prolific composer. This piece is The Five Elements and depicts water, wood, fire, earth and metal as it progresses. It's complex, descriptive and dissonant but, for me, rewards the effort manifold. Here it is in full so that you can attune your ear to it by listening several times. Enjoy!




Here's the full programme for this evening's Prom which you can listen to live on Radio 3 or on the iPlayer 

Prom 57 - 11:00
Qigang Chen
Wu Xing (The Five Elements)(11 mins)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major(28 mins)

INTERVAL

Sergey Rachmaninov
Symphonic Dances(36 mins)

Prom 58 - 19:30


Linda Catlin Smith
Nuages(15 mins)BBC commission: world premiere

Leos Janáček
The Fiddler's Child(12 mins)Henry Wood Novelties: UK premiere, 1924

Karol Szymanowski
Love Songs of Hafiz, Op. 26(22 mins)

INTERVAL

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Symphony No 2 in C minor, 'Little Russian'(32 mins)

Image - Photo © Chris Christodoulou