tue 22/10/2019

Like a baton out of hell: Conductors at the 2018 Proms | reviews, news & interviews

Like a baton out of hell: Conductors at the 2018 Proms

Like a baton out of hell: Conductors at the 2018 Proms

Chris Christodoulou snaps mostly men at work, but the women are coming

Sakari Oramo giving it some welly at the PromsAll images by Chris Christodoulou

Discreetly poking his camera through one of the red curtains around the Albert Hall, chief Proms photographer Chris Christodoulou gets the action shots others would kill for. They're of orchestras, a mixed roster of soloists and what this year remains the mostly male world of conducting; of the five women conductors originally scheduled, the most electrifying to date, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra's Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, had to take maternity leave.

Many more are coming up through the ranks at last, though, and meanwhile there was much to celebrate in a more conspicuous show of women composers (a field where now, at least, one shouldn't need to add the feminine article). Despite the usual parade of new works and commissions, the season had felt safer than usual on paper. But that didn't reckon with the quality of the performances, which reached a zenith – and a Proms first – with two of the greatest orchestras, the Berlin Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, respectively responding to two of the world's top five conductors, Kirill Petrenko – a revelation to UK audiences – and Andris Nelsons, as they gave concerts on the same day.

These and many others proved that "the maestro myth" is itself a myth: there may be a new collegiality, but the art of creative conducting is fierier than ever. You don't always have to show the claws, but the heat of the moment justifies some of the fierceness on display below. Not bad, incidentally, that 10 are Brits. Click on an image and then the arrow to right or left for the full processional.

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