A Proms Alternative

In my frustration with much of the BBC Proms programme, I keep devising my own dream concerts. This one I’m rather fond of:

Gloria Coates — Symphony No. 4

This is dark, slow, minimalist music. It is highly complex – buts its complexity masquarades as simplicity. She bucks the 20th century trend, where despite the growing complexity of works, they seemed ever less designed and ever more chaotic. Coates’ symphony is the opposite: comprehensible, ingenious, microtonal majesty.

George Tsontakis — Violin Concerto No. 2

Tsontakis’ Violin Concerto is a pretty concise work at just under 20 minutes long. But it is an immense and poignant battle between violin and orchestra. One of the remarkable musical achievements of this century. (However, this video of the third and fourth movements, the only one around, does not do it justice, sadly.)

Pyotr Tchaikovsky — Symphony No. 6 (‘Pathetique’)

I’m sure a million other people feel this, but pathetique is my symphony. How everything is ruined by an anxious state of mind, how one goes through extreme bouts of energy accompanied by much more prolonged periods of doubt, how – just like the waltz in the second movement – while everyone else dances to three, I dance to five, nearly tripping up at the end of each bar. This symphony changed all symphonies that came after. Symphonies became even more introspective. Instead of festive celebrations of the world around us they became worlds in themselves. It is so heartening to see that this performance has been watched two and a half million times.


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