The independent London newspaper

Michael White’s classical & jazz news: Proms; Fidelio Orchestra Café; Presteigne Festival

27 August, 2020 — By Michael White

Thomas Adès

FOR the past month the BBC has been in crazy denial about the undeniable fact that the Proms were Covid-cancelled, insisting that its nightly radio broadcasts of concerts from past years amounted to a “2020 Season”.

And whatever the joy of hearing these concerts again, because some are classics, the pretence has been delusional.

But over the next two weeks there will be a series of live, Proms-style concerts in the Albert Hall.

You can’t go to them because the Beeb says it’s too difficult to have an audience present, so they’ll play to a surreally empty space.

But they’ll be broadcast on radio like normal Proms. Some will be televised, others viewable on the BBC iPlayer.

And however odd it looks, the schedule offers wonderful artists in great repertoire – starting this Friday when the BBCSO play Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony alongside Aaron Copland’s orchestral score Quiet City (which was presumably slipped into the programme as a topical if rueful joke). It screens 7.30pm, BBC Two.

Sunday brings a highlight when Simon Rattle conducts the LSO in Vaughan Williams’ magnificent 5th Symphony alongside a world premiere from Highgate-born composer Thomas Adès. The new piece is called Dawn and may well be a reference to natural phenomena – though knowing that his mother (a distinguished art historian) also answers to the name Dawn, I suspect connections there too. Adès ranks these days among the world’s most prominent musicians, so this premiere is a must-hear. And it can be seen as well, at 7.30pm on BBC Four.

As for the rest of the week, watch out for the tenor Allan Clayton singing Britten’s Nocturne on Wednesday (iPlayer) and star violinist Nicola Benedetti playing Bach on Thursday (BBC Four).

It won’t be the same as being there but remains something to be thankful for in these lousy times when live music has been almost silenced.

A WELCOME sequence of live music on an intimate scale comes this week when violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen and pianist Huw Watkins play a cycle of Beethoven violin sonatas at the Fidelio Orchestra Café, 91 Clerkenwell Road, running nightly at 7pm from Tuesday to Friday.

I’ve mentioned the set-up here before: you buy a meal and performance together, with a bargain discount if there’s space and you count as “young”. If I were “young”, I’d be there every night.

• ONE of this year’s many Covid casualties is the Presteigne Festival – a favourite of mine that would normally be happening now in the idyllic Welsh borders.

But refusing to disappear, it has put its 2020 season online, with eight specially filmed concerts you can access without charge, though donations are invited. Featuring new works by leading composers like Tarik O’Regan and Joseph Phibbs, they’re watchable at

Share this story

Post a comment