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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Saturday, August 29

Saariaho at the Proms

Synopsis

Say the phrase “BBC Proms” to most music lovers, and they’ll conjure up a mental image of the rowdy “Last Night of the Proms” at which normally staid and reserved Britons don funny hats and make rude noises during Sir Henry Wood’s arrangement of British sailor songs. But the raucous “Last Night of the Proms” is only the festive finale of several weeks of fairly SERIOUS music making: dozens of concerts covering a wide range of old and new music

From the very beginning of the Proms in 1895, Sir Henry, who started the whole thing, had this specific agenda: “I am going to run nightly concerts to train the public in easy stages,” he explained. “Popular at first, gradually raising the standard until I have created a public for classical AND modern music.”

On today’s date in 1996, for example, violinist Gidon Kremer premiered a
brand-new violin concerto by the Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho at a Proms concert. The work had an unusual title—“Grail Theater.” “I like the unusual combination of these two words,” explained Saariaho, “because it represents two such different things. One is the search for the Grail, and the other the theatrical aspect.”

Music Played in Today's Program

J.S. Bach (1685 – 1750) arr. Henry Wood Toccata and Fugue in D minor BBC Symphony; Andrew Davis, cond. Teldec 97868

Kaija Saariaho (b. 1952) Graal Theatre Gidon Kremer, violin; BBC Symphony; Esa-Pekka Salonen, cond. Sony Classical 60817

Additional Information

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