A Little Summer Music

Rosemary Hill welcomes back “the essence of summer in London,” the BBC’s annual summer season of orchestral music known as the Proms:

At 16 I was happy with the Proms as self-improvement, indeed I am still. The first one I remember was Paul Tortelier playing Elgar’s Cello Concerto. I went with a school friend having hardly ever heard a live orchestra before. The sheer scale of the thing as well as its beauty was overwhelming. Promming downstairs in the Arena was better for sound and vision, but the Gallery just under the roof, so deep there is room to lie down, struck me as absurdly luxurious. I reclined at my ease while Georg Solti and the Berlin Philharmonic knocked themselves out for my enjoyment.

The cheapness makes it feasible to experiment. Through the Proms I have learned to love Sibelius and discovered that, for me at least, Elliott Carter’s Organ Concerto is one of those pieces best heard from the bar. I listen to the music sometimes more and sometimes less intently but always at the back of my mind there is a mood, an overtone, a kind of mental screensaver playing over.