When Andrew Davis raises his baton, he’s not just unleashing a grand work rarely performed at the Albert Hall, but inaugurating a summer of impressively eclectic music (Richard Strauss to Cole Porter, Pet Shop Boys to War Horse) across 76 concerts scrunched into 58 days.
Outgoing Proms director Roger Wright stresses, “This season we celebrate global classical music by welcoming more international ensembles to perform than ever before” – expect visitors from South Korea, Qatar, even Lapland… Yet to begin, we’re in familiar hands with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, and the BBC National Chorus of Wales. (The seasoned professionalism of the many BBC ensembles can often go unsung.)
This First Night has a British flavour and, defying any talk of dumbing down, is devoted to one heavyweight opus. Elgar’s 1906 oratorio The Kingdom depicts the acts of the Christ’s disciples after the Ascension. Watch out for distinguished mezzo Catherine Wyn-Rogers returning as Mary Magdalene, a part she last sang for Andrew Davis at the Proms in 1999.
If you like those scenes in rockumentaries where the composer of a classic whips out a guitar and plays a bit of it, you’re in luck. A-grade contributors – Dave Davies, Johnny Marr, Brian May, Nile Rodgers, Tony Iommi, Nancy Wilson – enliven what might have been a subject too nebulous for an hour of TV.
We start with Chuck Berry, moving through 60s rock ’n’ roll and 70s rock, past disco and on to hair rock, the cleansing simplicity of Nirvana and beyond. Riffs are the first hook you hear and millions have been made from the right ones, but it’s hard to hang a thesis on them so, to avoid an aimless list, the programme becomes a broader history of electric guitar. It skims the surface, but stylishly.
After their disastrous honeymoon last week, newlyweds Louisa and Martin return to what passes for normal life in pretty Portwenn. Louisa (Caroline Katz) is back at school and baby James’s new childminder Mel, throws the house into chaos when she’s late for work. Martin (Martin Clunes) is uneasy about handing over his precious son to her, largely because she’s constantly scratching herself. Martin’s hopeless beside manner soon sends the new nanny into a fury and the Ellingham family into chaos just as they are about to entertain guests at dinner. Stand by for some comedy business involving a baby monitor.