The programme includes Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, Stravinsky's Violin Concerto with soloist Leila Josefowicz, and the premiere of Gerald Barry's Canada with soloist Allan Clayton.
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Tonight, encounters with Beethoven. But put aside any preconceptions
because the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
and conductor Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla are ready to reintroduce us.
Welcome to the BBC Proms 2017.
The most famous four notes in classical music,
a world premiere inspired by a moment in Toronto airport,
and a Stravinsky concerto
performed by a violin virtuoso. What an evening awaits us.
2016 was the 31-year-old conductor Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla's
first year at the helm of the CBSO.
Together they dazzled us at the Proms last summer,
so excitement is really rippling around the Royal Albert Hall tonight
for what magic they might conjure for us this year.
Now, the CBSO certainly has form
when it comes to spotting the brightest conducting talent.
It was previously home to Simon Rattle, Sakari Oramo
and Andris Nelsons, and its winning streak continues with Mirga.
Rave reviews have greeted conductor and orchestra
since she joined last year and it's a partnership, I think,
with a real knack for bringing out subtleties and nuances
in even the most familiar repertoire,
which certainly bodes extremely well for their performance tonight
of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.
I was present at the rehearsal earlier
and I cannot wait to hear it in performance.
Now, I met Mirga earlier today to find out more about
what they've got in store for us tonight.
We have this Beethoven sandwich, and then having at first Stravinsky
and then Gerald Barry instead of ham and cheese
is a great connection to Beethoven also,
..Stravinsky is doing many,
in a way, classical things in his concerto, although he's also...
He is also ironic and also funny,
also very lyrical here and there.
And also crazy, as Gerald Barry is.
And Beethoven was definitely crazy, so all these elements together
have a beautiful range of contrast and relations.
And we'll be hearing more from Mirga later.
First though, one of Beethoven's offcuts
from his opera Fidelio, the Leonore Overture No.3.
This has become something of an orchestral favourite
as a stand-alone piece, because it perfectly distils
the opera's sense of suffering and final redemption,
as Florestan the political prisoner is eventually freed.
And the leader of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra,
Tomo Keller, making his way onto the stage
for the first piece in tonight's Prom.
And here she comes, woman of the hour Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla
to conduct the CBSO in Beethoven's Leonore Overture No.3.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Beethoven's Leonore Overture No.3 performed at the Proms
by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
absolutely playing their hearts out
under their new music director Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla.
And my goodness, what a radiant presence she is on the podium,
and what charisma, what infectious dynamism.
It's no wonder the orchestra is so delighted to have her at the helm.
Next tonight, it's Stravinsky's Violin Concerto, composed in 1931.
Stravinsky himself was not a violinist, so he worked with
the soloist Samuel Dushkin to create the piece, relying on the performer
to tell him what might even be possible on the instrument.
This close working relationship between composer and musician
would be familiar to tonight's soloist Leila Josefowicz,
who has a distinguished record herself in collaborating
with some of today's greatest living composers,
including Esa-Pekka Salonen, Oliver Knussen and John Adams.
As is often the case in his music,
Stravinsky wrote this concerto in a neoclassical style,
but one with a compelling connection to old forms and language.
Nevertheless, it still sounds newly minted to my ears, at least,
not least because of a unique chord which acts
as a kind of passport to each movement.
When Stravinsky first dreamt up that chord, Dushkin had to go away
and try it out at home before confirming that, yes,
it was physically possible to play it.
Well, I met Leila earlier today to find out more.
It looked to me like a very difficult thing to play.
Can you just even give us a sense in your fingers of how you do it?
You take this finger and you take this finger and you put them
as far apart as you can.
And I know my hand isn't the biggest in the world,
but it's not really about size.
It's about flexibility. It's sort of like a tribal call or something.
And he uses this interval to start every of the four movements,
but each time it sort of brings you in a different direction.
It's like a marking place, like an announcement of some kind.
And you hear that the interval's the same
but then you also understand that each movement
is like a different journey, so you know that this is sort of
your beginning and your start and in some way your special chord,
but that it's going to be morphed
and you're going to go into a different labyrinth each time.
The American violinist Leila Josefowicz
coming onto the Royal Albert Hall stage with Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla
to perform Stravinsky's Violin Concerto.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Well, earlier Leila Josefowicz told me that she knew
the very first time she heard that piece that it had things to say
to her, and hasn't she just communicated those to us
in that blistering performance.
Stravinsky's Violin Concerto performed at the Proms
by Leila Josefowicz with Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla conducting
the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
Stravinsky's first sketch for this concerto, by the way,
dated November 1930,
was made on the back of his bill from the Doolun Hotel in Amsterdam.
Not bad for the scribblings on the back of a receipt.
And not bad for a composer who wasn't himself a violinist.
I hope she's going to give us an encore.
MUSIC: Extract from Lachen Verlernt by Esa-Pekka Salonen
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Leila Josefowicz playing an extract from Lachen Verlernt,
a piece written in 2002 by the multi-talented Finnish conductor
and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen.
He described our soloist Leila as "pretty much fearless",
and I think that's a quality that we've all seen in her tonight.
Lachen Verlernt, by the way, means "laughing unlearned"
and it refers to Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, in which the
narrator asks the harlequin to teach her how to laugh again.
Salonen says that he felt this was a moving metaphor for a performer
helping their audience to reconnect with their emotions.
Leila Josefowicz certainly bringing out the emotions
in the Royal Albert Hall audience this evening.
Well, now for something totally new.
A world premiere from the Irish composer,
described as a master of musical anarchy, Gerald Barry.
The name of the piece is Canada,
and it features the British tenor Allan Clayton.
Inspiration struck Barry, he says,
when he was travelling through Toronto airport, of all places.
Intrigued? I certainly am.
Lloyd Coleman went to meet him to find out more.
Well, it came to me in Toronto airport.
There's something about Canada that its very normality
that is exotic to me.
And when I got through security,
I was so relieved to have managed that,
I went to the nearest bar to have a pint
and immediately the idea of Canada came into my head,
that it would be called Canada
and it would be a setting of the Prisoners' Chorus from Fidelio.
It all... Just like that.
Why the Prisoners' Chorus, though?
In Fidelio, when the prisoners come up,
they come up illegally, because they're not supposed to come up,
and to have air.
They're speaking, and Fidelio, the principal character,
tells them to speak softly because the prison authorities might see
that they were out of their cells.
In my piece, the orchestra become the prisoners
and Allan Clayton becomes Fidelio, the hero.
And he turns to them and he teaches them how to be quieter,
and so they begin fortissimo, saying "Canada!"
And he says, "Speak softly, we are watched with eyes and ears."
And it did remind me of Edward Snowden and the way we live now
under constant surveillance and monitoring.
And finally, this Prom, you've worked with the CBSO a lot.
They think it should be called Birmingham.
Is there something exotically normal about Birmingham, then?
No, well, it's the same syllables, you see. Canada, Birmingham.
And then I thought, that's quite a good idea, actually.
And whenever it's played,
it has to be played in cities which have the right three syllables.
And it could change title, so it could be played in Liverpool
or Huddersfield, or it could be in Arsenal.
They could take it up as a football thing or something.
So could move around.
What a brilliant idea.
I can see that catching on. I nominate Arsenal.
Well, coming onto the stage to give the world premiere
of Gerald Barry's piece Canada is star British tenor
and former BBC New Generation Artist Allan Clayton
along with Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla
and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
Canada! What joy in the open air! Breathing freely again!
Only here is life!
HE REPEATS WORDS IN FRENCH
HE REPEATS WORDS IN GERMAN
# Canada, what joy
# In the open air Breathing freely again
# Only here is life Only here
# Canada... #
HE SINGS IN FRENCH
# Canada... #
HE SINGS IN GERMAN
# Canada... #
# Canada. #
Speak softly! We are watched with eyes and ears.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
The world premiere of Gerald Barry's Canada,
performed here at the Proms by tenor Allan Clayton,
bringing his customary wit and intelligence to proceedings,
with the CBSO conducted, once again,
by their music director Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla.
And here comes Gerald Barry himself.
He's come to London especially from his home in Ireland to see
this world premiere at the Proms, giving a very warm hug indeed
to Allan Clayton and Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla.
Shaking hands with Tomo Keller, leader of the CBSO.
The audience certainly enjoyed that one.
Gerald Barry making reference there to the Prisoners' Chorus
from Fidelio, the opera by Beethoven.
He is, of course, at the centre of tonight's Prom.
Barry's a huge fan of Beethoven's music.
He says, "No matter how often you hear it,
"it's always like a messenger coming to you with fresh news."
What a way to put it.
Well, speaking of Beethoven,
we're almost ready for the mouthwatering prospect
of Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla taking on the momentous Fifth Symphony.
Its ubiquity now makes it even more surprising that its premiere in 1808
was an unmitigated disaster, buried in the middle of a four-hour concert
along with its pair, the Sixth Symphony,
in an unheated theatre in December in Vienna,
with the players having had almost no rehearsal.
The audience were less than enthusiastic.
Well, somehow I don't think lack of enthusiasm is going to be
a problem here tonight.
The Fifth remains a truly exhilarating ride,
propelling itself from minor to major and from darkness into light.
When I met Mirga earlier I asked her
how she and the orchestra approached the world's most famous symphony.
It is, in fact, much harder to come back
to the core of a piece we all know very well
than a new piece,
first-time, and "Mmm!"
You work on a masterpiece
and you let that piece do things with you,
because it affects you. It changes you, it brings you ideas.
-And every time we play...
-SHE SINGS OPENING NOTES OF BEETHOVEN'S FIFTH
..again, let's say,
we've never played that in that moment yet
with these people, with exactly this combination we have.
The awareness and the joy of discovering the things,
or rediscovering the things we knew already, or maybe we heard
so many times, but, "Ah!
"This is the same motif!"
SHE REPEATS OPENING NOTES
..in the last movement.
All these things hidden between the lines.
It's about discovering them again and again.
APPLAUSE And here she comes, Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla,
to conduct Beethoven's mighty Symphony No.5.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
with that gloriously fresh take on an old favourite,
Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.
What a performance here at the Proms.
To say that Mirga was dancing on the podium would be something of
an understatement, this remarkable Lithuanian conductor, 31 years old.
Her expansive and incredibly expressive physical gestures
being answered by the orchestra in playing of such intense lyricism,
such attention to detail, such subtlety,
and as the work moved into the sunlit triumph of C major
in the final movement, such absolute and unbridled joy.
Well, it's not hard to see the bond between conductor and orchestra
on stage this evening.
Earlier this year, Mirga said of the CBSO that, not only is the orchestra
itself a miracle, but that it's made up of 100 individual miracles.
She looks delighted as she shakes hands with the first desk
of the violins. What a triumph.
Here she comes once again.
I think the Prommers are not just going to let them just slip away
into the night.
The deal last year was, "See you in Birmingham!" So see you there.
MUSIC: Air from Orchestral Suite No.3 by Bach
Well, an exquisite way to end this concert, the Air from Bach's
Orchestral Suite No.3, often known as the Air On The G String.
So we've heard Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla take the CBSO
through two of the world's most famous pieces of music
and enable us to hear them anew.
What a gift that is.
Well, the Proms will be back on your screens on Friday
with two concerts, a big band spectacular with Clare Teal
followed by Jools Holland and his tribute to Stax Records.
Do join us then.
But for now, from me and everyone here at the Royal Albert Hall,
Following her dazzling debut at the Proms last year, conductor Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla returns to the Royal Albert Hall with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Their programme includes Beethoven's mighty Fifth Symphony, Stravinsky's Violin Concerto with soloist Leila Josefowicz, and the world premiere of Gerald Barry's Canada with soloist Allan Clayton.