Thursday, September 11, 2003


Last week two events marked out the special and creative place that the BBC Proms continues to occupy in British musical life. The biggest deal was jazz and soul singer Bobby McFerrin scatting one of the solo parts in his re-arrangement of Vivaldi’s 'Concerto in G Minor for Two Cellos'. He also conducted the normally staid Vienna Philharmonic in a programme including Mozart, Dukas and Prokofiev.

Tim Ashley wrote in The Guardian: "This might be profanity for some, though you can't help admiring McFerrin's voice as he swirls through falsetto coloratura or spins out Vivaldi's extended lines in a velvety bass-baritone.

"He included improvisations, combining wit with staggering technique and a phenomenal range of vocal tone colour. The audience roared for more, so he got everyone to sing Gounod's Ave Maria, while he vocalised the Bach prelude that forms its accompaniment. This brought the house down and even the VPO joined in the applause."

McFerrin tours Switzerland and Germany in September and October with the VPO and the Kirov Orchestra, before returning to the capital's Royal Festival Hall on 15 November 2003 for a headlining solo performance as part of the London Jazz Festival.

Not so brazenly revolutionary, but perhaps of longer term significance, was The Clerks' giving the world premiere of Robert Saxton's 'Five Motets', interwoven with Josquin des Pres' 'Missa Fortuna Desperata' and instrumental music by William Byrd and Christopher Tye.

Tim Ashley again: "Saxton draws on and expands the techniques of Renaissance church polyphony to explore images of Jewish exile, liberation and mysticism. Interspersed with Josquin's Mass, the whole asserts a spiritual universality that transcends creed."

Saxton's next performances are 'Songs, Dances and Ellipses' (paired with Judith Weir's 'String Quartet' at Musikhøst (Music Harvest Festival) on 13 November 2003, and 'Krystallen' at London's Warehouse.

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