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Opening night of the virtual Proms – archive treasures and a trite mash-up

BBC Radio 3
A deft but trivial Beethoven tribute was balanced by unforgettable past Proms performances, as the BBC launched a season of historic highlights, with live concerts to come in late August

When lockdown began in March and one-by-one the summer music and opera festivals began dropping off the calendar, the self-styled “world’s greatest music festival” kept quiet about their plans for longer than most. When the BBC finally bowed to the inevitable and admitted that there was no way the summer season as we know it could take place this year, it promised instead to broadcast six weeks of concerts drawn from its capacious Proms archives, followed by a programme of live performances – details of which are still to be confirmed – direct from an empty Royal Albert Hall.

That’s what was launched on BBC Radio 3 last night, with a parallel series of televised concerts on BBC Four beginning on Sunday. There are certainly some memorable performances among the selection of recordings that will be broadcast, though they hardly delve as deeply into the archives as one might have hoped. The earliest concert in the list dates from 1987, when Leonard Bernstein conducted the Vienna Philharmonic at the Albert Hall, and among the more glamorous appearances by orchestras such as the Royal Concertgebouw, Berlin Philharmonic and Staatskapelle Dresden there are a number of run-of-the-mill programmes from recent years, when one might have hoped for at least something from the 1960s and 70s.

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Opening night of the virtual Proms – archive treasures and a trite mash-up

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