Me and Daniil Trifonov

Daniil Trifonov in Verbier talks BBC Proms, Prokofiev and Glazunov

I spent some time with pianist Daniil Trifonov first thing this morning. He’s here at the Verbier Festival regular (the delights of which I’m currently sampling). One of his concerts was last night in which he played one of the three pianos in Mozart’s Concerto for Three Pianos with Daniel Matsuev and – making a rare appearance at the keyboard – Valery Gergiev.

My interview technique follows a tried and tested script, taught me by my radio production tutor Michael Kaye. “Set the device recording, then ask them what they had for breakfast that morning. That usually warms them up.”

Unfortunately, I had to wait at the dining table for Trifonov to return from another interview elsewhere in the hotel. While I waited, I realised that the half-eaten breakfast in front of me was Trifonov’s, making my customary sound-check a little tricky. We concentrated instead on what he had for lunch yesterday: pasta with porcini.

Daniil was, as I had been advised, adorable company. A self-assured, self-possessed individual who articulates his passion for art in speech just as he does at the platform.

He’s playing Prokofiev’s first and third concerto next week at the BBC Proms with Valery Gergiev and the LSO. I asked him about this performance of Prokofiev 1 with Gergiev with the Marinsky Orchestra. “Prokofiev is a sadist in that work. There is no warm up. I’m straight in right at the beginning. There are no passing notes. Everything has to be,” he said as he tapped out the opening phrase on the dining table, “just so.”

It’s not his first time at the Proms. Hence him highlighting its unique atmosphere. “There’s nowhere else like it. It’s an amazing experience.” Trifonov debuted with the Glazunov piano concerto in 2013. “Not many people knew it at the time. I didn’t until I discovered it on You Tube.”

Daniil Trifonov. 25. Rock star. Who wouldn’t want to have a picture taken with him?

Philharmonia Managing Director David Whelton set to retire

David Whelton, managing director of the Philharmonia Orchestra, is to retire after 29 years running the 70-year-old London orchestra.

It’s easy to wax lyrical about the Philharmonia Orchestra’s 160 concerts a year at venues including London’s Royal Festival Hall, in Bedford, Leicester, Basingstoke and Canterbury, and at the Three Choirs Festival. Their touring schedule is notable too.

Amongst the many of the orchestra’s achievements during that 29 years, the ongoing relationship with conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen is perhaps the most potent. What won’t be written about quite so much is the fact that under his stewardship the band’s marketing and digital investment has been considerable and reaped well-deserved rewards. The fact that the orchestra advertises arts management traineeships merely underlines the success the orchestra has achieved amongst the industry and, by extension, points to the vision of its MD.

Whelton will leave the Orchestra at the end of its 70th anniversary season, in summer 2016. The process to recruit his successor is underway.

BBC Proms: Live Blog

That’s right. A live blog spanning 92 concerts for the entire BBC Proms.

It’s not official. But, it is lovely. Obviously.

I’m meant to be finishing off my book during the Proms season this year but, inevitably perhaps, I find myself distracted. So, what you read will be what it written when I should have been doing my homework. There are no guarantees. At the very best it will be just about readable.

BBC Proms 2015: Recommended concerts

I adore the BBC Proms.

I first watched the last night as a kid over thirty years ago, attended it for the first time 21 years ago, and started following it obsessively ten years ago. Now it represents the perfect musical soundtrack to my summer. It’s always varied, always exposes me to things I wouldn’t otherwise consider listening to and, as each year passes, resolutely embeds itself deeper into my consciousness.

The ‘World’s Greatest Classical Music Festival’ isn’t the pinnacle in my world – that spot is taken up by the Aldeburgh Festival. But it is the event which established classical music as a lifelong friend. I couldn’t do without it. Nobody had dare tinker with it.

This performance (above) of Strauss’s rousing, defiant and joyous Festliches Praeludium is one of many performances from last year which has over the past few days returned to my playlist. The music perfectly sums up my feelings about the Proms, how important it is to me and how – bizarrely – proud it makes me feel whenever I step foot into the Royal Albert Hall.

This coming together of the world’s performers, orchestras and conductors under one-roof in West London for a summer of live broadcasts is something none of us should take for granted. They are curated by people who know their stuff, marketed by people who love what they sell and put on by people who get as excited about the season as I do. This little thing from a years ago is still relevant in illustrating that point.

If you’ve never been – and I know of a lot of people who haven’t – I’ve put together a selection of recommendations (based largely on what I want to see over the summer). If you go (or if you end up watching on TV or listening on the radio) it would be great to hear what you thought. If you attend, be sure to take a read of my list of dos and don’ts for Promming.

If, like me, you need to have a seat in the auditorium, then be sure to get a seat in the Choir (they’re not always available – be sure to ring to check last minute availability).

Recommendations for the BBC Proms 2015

Sunday 19 July

Prom 3 – Ten Pieces Prom
BBC Symphony Orchestra

Tuesday 21 July
Prom 6 – Poulenc Organ Concerto & Stravinsky Symphony of Psalms
BBC National Orchestra of Wales

Wednesday 22 July
Prom 7 – Delius’ In The Summer Garden & Nielsen Clarinet Concerto
BBC Symphony Orchestra

Monday 27 July
PCM 2 – Nielsen Wind Quintet
Royal Northern Sinfonia Winds

Tuesday 28 July
Prom 14 – Prokofiev’s Piano Concertos
London Symphony Orchestra

Thursday 30 July
Prom 17 – Elgar’s Symphony No.2
Halle

Friday 31 July
Prom 19 – Bach Partitas and Sonatas
Alina Ibragimova

Sunday 2 August
Prom 22 – Brett Dean’s Pastoral Symphony
Aurora Orchestra

Monday 3 August
Prom 24 – James MacMillan Symphony No.4
BBC Symphony Orchestra

Wednesday 5 August
Prom 26 – Walton’s Symphony No.2
BBC National Orchestra of Wales

Thursday 6 August
Prom 28 – Mark-Anthony Turnage’s On Opened Ground
BBC Symphony Orchestra

Friday 7 August
Prom 29
BBC Philharmonic conducted by Nicholas Collon

Saturday 8 August
Prom 31
National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain

Sunday 9 August
Prom 33 – Beethoven 5 and Berlioz’ Symphony Fantastique
Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique

Monday 10 August
Prom 34 – Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Thursday 13 August
Prom 38 – Messian’s Turangalila Symphony
London Symphony Orchestra

Monday 17 August
PCM 5
Sondheim Cabaret

Tuesday 18 August
Prom 44 – Schoenberg Chamber Symphony
West-Eastern Divan Orchestra

Thursday 20 August
Prom 46 – Brahms Violin Concerto
Danish National Symphony Orchestra

Saturday 22 August
Prom 49 – Brett Dean’s Dramatis personae
Boston Symphony Orchestra

Monday 24 August
Prom 53 – Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor  
Philharmonia Orchestra

Sunday 30 August
Prom 60 – San Francisco Symphony Orchestra

Monday 31 August
Prom 61 – San Francisco Symphony Orchestra

Tuesday 1 September
Prom 62 – Brahms Symphony No. 1  
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

Thursday 3 September
Prom 64 – B Tommy Andersson’s Pan (BBC commission – world premiere)

Saturday 5 September
Prom 68 – Yo-Ya Ma

Monday 7 September
Prom 70 – Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2 
St Petersburg Philharmonic

Thursday 10 September
Prom 73 – Brahms Symphony No. 3
Vienna Philharmonic

Friday 11 September
Prom 75 – Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius
Vienna Philharmonic

Brilliant Stuff

Just released today (and just in time for the BBC Proms) is the latest update to BBC iPlayer Radio, including the option to download programmes for 30 day catch-up. 

It’s a great move. Music-rich programming can now be consumed offline, meaning I’m not tied to flaky 3G. 

I know that 30 day catch-up  isn’t new – it was available for last year’s BBC Proms season – but knowing I can download a concert, somehow makes me feel I’ve got something more.  Now I feel like I ‘own’ radio.