Life & Culture

The concerts you shouldn’t miss

Jewish performers and composers are well represented in the Proms season.


Jewish performers and composers are well represented in the Proms season, which starts tonight.

Perhaps the biggest name among the performers is Daniel Barenboim, who is conducting three concerts with his Jewish-Arab West-Eastern Divan Orchestra — two on August 21 (his violinist son Michael also takes part), plus Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio, the following day.

The Hungarian-Jewish conductor Ivan Fischer begins his Budapest Festival Orchestra concert with Prokofiev’s klezmer-tinged Overture on Hebrew Themes (August 18), while 83-year-old Charles Mackerras (a descendant of the composer Isaac Nathan) conducts Elgar, Delius and Holst (July 25), and Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience (August 11).
Zubin Mehta — Parsi-born but, in his words, “Jewish by osmosis” thanks to his long association with the Israel Philharmonic — conducts the Vienna Philharmonic (September 11).

Two British cellists appear twice: Steven Isserlis (August 24, 28) playing works by Schumann, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky, and Natalie Clein (August 29, 31), who is performing Delius, Bach and Villa-Lobos.
Lithuanian Julian Rachlin plays the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto (August 10) while his fellow Baltic musician, the Latvian Gidon Kremer, plays the one by Philip Glass (August 12).

At the Cadogan Hall in Chelsea, the Jerusalem Quartet play music by Alexander Goehr (August 29).

Among the Jewish composers whose works are on offer, there is Schoenberg (September 4), and Mahler, now a staple at the Proms field with 14 works (including his five symphonies) is Mendelssohn, born in 1809 and one of four anniversary “Composers of the Year” along with Purcell, Handel and Haydn. Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” resounds at two children-friendly morning concerts called “Evolution! Darwin-inspired Extravaganzas for Kids” (August 1, 2).

There is a song by Manuel Rosenthal (July 27), a piano rarity by
Gerald Finzi (July 23), and a fresh Gershwin arrangement on the Last Night (September 12). In A Celebration of Classic MGM Film Musicals (August 1), John Wilson conducts music he has painstakingly reconstructed from an era when masterful film composers including Erich Korngold and Max Steiner flourished. Unbelievably, MGM trashed its music library in 1969 and irreplaceable scores became landfill for a golf course.

Two choice Proms without a Jewish connection: an all-singing, all-dancing Bollywood extravaganza (August 16), and a late-night Prom by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, strumming an instrument more George Formby than klezmer violin (August 18). Take your own uke and join a mass rendition of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.
Rodney Greenberg

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