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Proms - Berlin Philharmonic - Heitor Villa-Lobos the two Bachianas Brasileiras No.1 and No.5 - San Francisco Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas - World Orchestra for Peace conductor Valery Gergiev

Francesca came this summer and said "no more musicals". Now we have to go for classical music, which is more cultural!!!! So we have been to the Proms - the most famous and biggest classic Festival in the world.Founded by Sir Henry Wood in 1895, they bring classical music to a very wide audience in an informal setting with the audience casually-dressed. The youngsters (Promenaders) queue for hours in order to stand just behind the maestro and on the Last Night they really go wild with streamers, Union Jacks etc.etc. It began at the Queen's Hall. Then moved to the Royal Albert Hall during the war and the BBC took over in 1927. We choose the 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic late-night Proms, also because they were playing Heitor Villa-Lobos, the two Bachianas Brasileiras No.1 and No.5.The audience included some Brazilian diplomats, most of them middle-aged and sleeping, to our great amusement!!!

The first cellist spoke to the audience and was trying to be very humorous but we found the German sense of humour very strange. Perhaps, with my poor English, I lost the point. They also followed the Brazilian rhythm using their hands beating on the wood as well as using the bow, also body movements to convey Brazilian rhythms of the samba and bossa nova, like Latin-American percussion, with even the cellist singing OOOH!!! But the most amusing was the body language of the Germans playing cello and 'dancing' to the Brazilian rhythm. It was great fun!!! They all played divinely and the first cellist joked about it being our good fortune in seeing the premiere of the Berlin Philharmonic's 12 Cellists because next day it would be a full orchestra. The No. 5 Bachianas included the beautiful singing of soprano Juanita Lascarro. At the end of the concert were many encores, one by Astor Piazzola, Argentinean musician and composer. The public was delighted with so many encores and they ended with a Brazilian Bossa Nova. It was enjoyable and exhilarating.

Claudio Abbado, the conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, could not conduct the next day as he had recently undergone surgery and had to allow three months for recovery. Abbado has been conductor for eleven years (he was voted in for three seasons). In 2002 "Claudio" will leave the orchestra, only appearing for special performances. The next conductor was chosen by 113 members of the orchestra by ballot; the world's most prestigious orchestra has chosen Sir Simon Rattle to succeed Maestro Claudio Abbado and predecessors such as Nikisch, Furtwangler and Karajan. Rattle has just conducted the Berliner with much enthusiasm and success in Marhler's Tenth. Also, for the Proms, he has conduct the Netherlands Opera with the Rotterdam Philharmonic. His post carries a salary of £1m a year. He will be the seventh senior conduct in the 132 years of the history of the orchestra; but, of course, the supreme conductor was Herbert Von Karajan from the 1950's to the 1980's.

Again at the Proms, we heard the San Francisco Symphony conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas conducting Rimsky-Korsakov's Dubinushka and Shostakovich's 11 Symphony which celebrates the 49th anniversary of the October Revolution of 1917 (but maybe it was to commemorate the Hungarian uprising of 1956?). A work of Aaron Copland was also performed that featured much use of percussion including vast tambourines: very exciting. Michael Tilson Thomas, born in Los Angeles, was the first assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, then the principal guest conductor and musical director of the Buffalo Philharmonic, then conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra in 1988 and principal guest conductor in 1995 and since 1995 Musical Director of the San Francisco Symphony. He now works mostly for the BBC and is best know for his musical celebration of the life and work of Gershwin. (In Brazil I have some very good friends who often invite me for dinner; afterwards, Maria Enila plays the piano and her husband Ernani [a dentist] plays the violin in a Gershwin recital. For God's sake - they even cook the most divine dinner!!! They are the parents of my best friend Marcelo Pequeno, a very handsome Brazilian dentist. He has a beautiful daughter named Cleo, after Cleopatra, and is the brother of Dr Marcos Pequeno, orthopaedic surgeon who is the father of the most beautiful Marquinhos Pequeno. Christiane, the wife of Marcos, keeps in touch with me with funny e-mails, family photos and even if we had the Atlantic between us - we managed to celebrate the birthday of Marquinhos on 19 August this year on the Internet. Marcelo called for me at home and, of course, takes me back afterwards.When I am there Marcelo even finds me dancing partners - for the good, old-fashioned,"cheek-to-cheek" dancing, which I had with one of Marcelo's friends' who would have liked to have become a lover but in true ladylike fashion I resisted his lustful advances. A friend like that is hard to find!!! I really love them all.)


Anyway, back to the Proms! the audience wildly applauded, foot-stamping etc. and Michael Tilson Thomas returned to the podium many times acknowledging the applause, finally miming his tiredness and the fact that he was flying the following day by appropriate gestures. Very funny!!! In the interval the young Promenaders were lying down, they had perhaps had enough standing.

The Proms produced the greatly emotional concert with the World Orchestra for Peace, conductor Valery Gergiev, the Russian-born maestro. He looked completely drained, sweating profusely. He was even more bald then when I saw him a month ago. The following day he was due in Los Angeles for rehearsal. But he conducted divinely as usual. The World Orchestra for Peace was created by Sir Georg Solti in 1995 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations and to mark the 60th anniversary of the London blitz; the musicians come from all around the world - more than 26 countries; 105 musicians from 66 orchestras They performed Debussy's La Mer and Shostakovch's Leningrad Symphony No.7. Gergiev also conducted the Rotterdam Philharmonic for the Proms as he has been their principal conductor since 1995. They really played majestically - great Russian music. During the interval there was a special edition of the music quiz with Lady Solti, John Sessions, Julian Joseph and Simon Callow.

But really the most fun was "The Proms in the Park", Saturday 9 September 2000, in Hyde Park. I invited my cousin Vera and husband Tadeusk. We met at Marble Arch. They bought the chairs, and a picnic complete with red wine. In Selfridges I bought some Middle-Eastern food - very sweet delicacies with some kibes. With Vera and Tadeusk everything was so very special. I really love being with them. Until the last moment we thought it might rain, this summer the weather was been disgusting. But, thank God, it did not rain and at the end, with the fireworks, we could see the full moon for five seconds and then again the grey clouds. By a miracle we had the most lovely time - one of the largest collective picnic in history - a very English occasion, people waving British and Commonwealth flags.There was even an area for wheelchairs.

The exhibitionists like to get to the front so that they are on BBC camera and on the big screen. They paint their faces in patriotic colours and dress in flags, they like to be seen.They bring tables, candles, wine, food, blankets, umbrellas, hats and wigs in red, white and blue, but you can see flags from others couuntries. Vera and I said how nice it was to see such a friendly atmosphere amongst different nationalities, all enjoying it peacefully together; classics and jazz, pop and even Irish country music. It began with Georgie Fame whom I saw for the first time last year (nov 1999) at a Brazilian concert, singing a song which he translated from the Brazilian musician Gilberto Gil, and he is doing at the moment, two weeks at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club.He has also recorded with Eric Clapton, Joan Armatrading, Muddy Waters, etc.

During the performance of the group 'Bjorn Again', who sing ABBA songs, everyone, including myself, lost their inhibitions and danced and sang like the Swedes. I was in a red wig so they thought I was one of them. I am a big fan of ABBA. I took Lea Millon to see the musical "Mamma Mia!" in London last November 1999.She was working with Gal Costa and when the musicians left she spent a few days with me.

Back to the "Proms in the Park" . Vera, Tadeusk and I sang the great "Dancing Queen" like Kylie in Sydney for the Olympics. Willard White sang beautifully with Angela Gheorghiu. The Chieftains played country music from Ireland - great fun.Terry Wogan was the presenter and has, to my mind, a strange sense of humour. This Hyde Park celebration took place contemporaneously with similar events at the Proms in the RAH, Liverpool and Birmingham. At 8.30 p.m. the broadcasting of the live concerts outside of London was paused, leaving just the RAH Proms to be seen on the big screen in Hyde Park. Sir Andrew Davis gave a humourous speech because he was leaving as the chief conductor of BBC Symphony Orchestra. It was his last day so he was very emotional!!! He was leaving for Chicago to became the conductor of Chicago Lyric Opera. The "Promenaders" sang "for he's a jolly good fellow". The Director of the Proms, Nicholas Kenyon, gave him a collection of sketches of Elgar's Third Symphony. The concert at the RAH was Shostakovich's Jazz Suite No. 2. The soprano Jean Eaglen sang beautifully Strauss' "Salome" but what really caught my eyes was the Union Jack dress she wore - shades of Spice Girls. For the grand finale, the live nationwide link-ups were re-established and, with her volcanic voice, Eaglen led the crowd into the thrilling Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory.

As England is one of my 'second countries', I went on singing karaoke-style, following the words on the big screen. Then came a beautiful display of fireworks and we all joined in the National Anthem. As we were leaving we heard Lou Reed's music "WHAT A PERFECT DAY" being played. GREAT!!!!!


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