(The) Last Night of the Proms
Watching an old Last Night of the Proms programme on DVD might seem like eating halfwarmedup soup‚ but the year 2000 had some special claims – not just marking the Millennium but in celebrating Sir Andrew Davis.
He said goodbye after 11 consecutive Last Nights‚ as well as giving his final concert as chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
The programme itself reflects Davis’s own preferences‚ when‚ as he explains in an interview‚ three of his favourite composers are represented – Elgar‚ with his sumptuous arrangement of Bach organ music‚ the Fantasia and Fugue in C minor; Mozart with the Violin Concerto No 4 in D featuring the brilliant young American‚ Hilary Hahn‚ as soloist; and Richard Strauss with the ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’ and the final scene from Salome.
In that Jane Eaglen is the soprano‚ producing the most opulent tone‚ a commanding figure in every way‚ nowadays not heard enough in this country. Needless to say‚ she also rises magnificently to the challenge of Rule Britannia in the final junketing‚ resplendent in a gown of royal blue and crimson with tiara to match‚ studded – as the camera reveals – with a diamanté Union Jack.
If that is far less showy than the gowns worn by some of her predecessors‚ or even Bryn Terfel’s rugby jersey‚ the point follows that the patriotic flagwaving and the final items are less a demonstration of jingoism than plain exuberance over musicmaking as represented in this greatest of the world’s music festivals. I am glad to report that in this instance the BBC cameramen highlight the Welsh dragon flags waved by Promenaders just as much as Union Jacks or the red cross of England’s St George.
Special facilities on the DVD consist of options on subtitles and an ability to limit the playing to music only‚ without introductions. What is infuriating‚ pure sloppiness over the transfer‚ is that tracking is so limited. So the Mozart Violin Concerto‚ 25 minutes long‚ is on a single track‚ with no separation of movements‚ and even the two items from Strauss’s Salome come on a single track‚ with no separate indexing of the final scene after the ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’. That is the more irksome when the fastsearch facility on DVD is so slow‚ one of the system’s current weaknesses. Yet no one will argue with the benefit of having DVD picture quality.