The Proms! the Proms! How I love the Proms when they come to the Royal Albert Hall every summer. 70+ concerts in 50 odd days and every day, one, or maybe 2 world class ensembles.
This is the first Prom in a while where I’ve been really smitten by lots of the programming. That’s partially to do with the good fortune of anniversaries. It’s Vaughan Williams and Messaien, two of my faves, and a healthy dose of modern composers. Not least Karlheinz Stockhausen who died last year, at 79.
Stockhausen the epitome of rigorous German experimentalism was one of my first exciting discoveries at Gosport Public Library. His Song of the Youths is one of the seminal works of electronic music from the 50s and he was ferociously – perhaps, obsessively – interested in the furthest expanse of sound experimentation.
His opera cycle Licht runs for about 9 days in total ( I exaggerate) and includes a famous string quartet played in four helicopters. When he died he was working on Klang another enormous cycle. 24 pieces, one for each hour of the day.
At the Prom on Saturday, there was a ragbag of Stockhausen pieces. The early (and a bit dry) Gruppen, and the amazing Kontakte for electronics, piano and percussion (a hair-tingling performance from Colin Currie and Nicholas Hodges). But the best for me was ‘Cosmic Pulses’ a 32 minute electronic piece where sound rotated around and around the massive circle of the Albert Hall, creating a living, morphing landscape of sounds. Please don’t listen to it on the BBC iPlayer because it sounds dreadful in stereo. In 24-dimensional circular space it was like an ayahuasca trip.