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Michael White’s classical news: Proms; Carousel; Fidelio Orchestra; Peter and the Wolf

05 August, 2021 — By Michael White

Nicholas Collon and the Aurora Orchestra play the Albert Hall on August 11

“TO thine own self be true,” witters Polonius in Hamlet; and as children we’re all taught that it’s a pearl of wisdom. But it doesn’t really mean much, and especially not in the arts where there’s a long tradition of not being totally yourself.

Better advice came from Stravinsky, who said “all composers borrow, but the great ones steal”.

And this year’s Proms have made a sort of theme from that, to demonstrate how nothing comes from nothing in the history of music: everybody borrows, steals, adapts from what has gone before.

A good example comes this Friday at the Albert Hall when the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra play Stravinsky’s Pulcinella: music written in the early 20th century that revisits music from the early 18th.

And another follows August 11 when the compelling line-up of pianist Pavel Kolesnikov, conductor Nicholas Collon and the youthful, energised Aurora Orchestra play Rachmaninov’s Variations on a Theme of Paganini – an experience that should be edgier than usual, because everybody on the platform will perform from memory. No printed music.

Other Proms to listen out for this week are two glorious English cello concertos: the Elgar (soloist Johannes Moser) on August 9 and the Walton (soloist Steven Isserlis) on August 12.

If you don’t know the Walton, it was written in the 1950s when the composer had settled on Ischia in the Bay of Naples, and it’s saturated with the sultry, spangled magic of the Mediterranean – in a way that makes you want to book a flight and leave tomorrow.

Ah, if only.

One more highlight comes this Saturday when the National Youth Orchestra team up with Nicola Benedetti for Prokofiev’s 2nd Violin Concerto. Full details of everything at bbc.co.uk/proms

And remember: if you can’t get to the Albert Hall, every concert can get to you, via the miracle of Radio 3.

The big show at the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park, this summer is Rogers & Hammerstein’s Carousel, one of the true classics of American musical theatre with numbers like You’ll Never Walk Alone and If I Loved You. These days it gets done by opera companies, which is a mark of its enduring vocal substance. But at Regent’s Park it gets traditional Broadway treatment; and there’s bound to be a run on tickets, so plan in advance. It runs until September 25. Details: openairtheatre.com

• I’ve often mentioned on this page the innovative Fidelio Orchestra Café, Clerkenwell, where they serve music and food together in an agreeably cabaret-like context; and the name of the place isn’t fanciful – because there actually is a Fidelio Orchestra, run by the same person who runs the café, Raffaello Morales. This Saturday he demonstrates his multi-talents by conducting the orchestra in a performance of Mahler’s 1st Symphony – not in the café (it wouldn’t fit) but at St Andrew’s, Holborn. Needless to say, though, there is food involved if you feel peckish. Details: fideliorchestra.org

• Finally, for children of all ages, there’s a repeating family concert at Cadogan Hall on Saturday with a programme of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf alongside new musical adaptations of The Gruffalo by Philip Mackenzie and of Kipling’s Just So Stories by Louis Mander. Should be entertaining bedlam. Details: cadoganhall.com

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