Today at the Proms - Prom 13

Continuing our daily coverage of what's on at The Proms 2019, Susan Omand has a quick look at the programme for Prom 13: From the Canyons to the Stars …

Reminder: Watch Prom 12: National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain tonight on BBC Four

There's only one piece tonight but it's a doozy with 12 separate movements, grouped into three parts, as specified by the composer Olivier Messiaen. The first part contains movements 1-5, the second contains movements 6 and 7, and the third part contains movements 8-12.

It was written for a 1971 commission by Alice Tully who, as well as being an opera singer, was a music promoter, patron of the arts and philanthropist from New York. She wanted the work to celebrate the bicentenary of the United States Declaration of Independence.

Apparently, while he was researching his themes, Messiaen visited Utah where he was inspired by the landscape and its birds, particularly Bryce Canyon and its colours which sparked his colour/sound synaesthesia (where the senses get "cross-wired" so he could "hear" colours). As well as four different soloists - piano, horn, glockenspiel and xylorimba (like a xylophone but bigger) - there's also a vastly expanded percussion section including a whip, a gong, a wind machine and a thundersheet! [OK, how many of you just said thunder, thunder, thundersheets HOOOOO? Oh. Just me then - Ed]

As always, it's a bit of a challenging listen but wonderful and exciting to watch too, especially if you get a good view of the percussion fun. 

Here's the full programme for this evening's Prom which you can listen to live from 19:30 on Radio 3 or on the iPlayer 

Olivier Messiaen
Des canyons aux étoiles …(105 mins)

Image - Photo © Chris Christodoulou

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