Endings and beginnings have abounded in the last few weeks at Bachtrack. The London music scene feels rather empty since the BBC Proms concluded last weekend – but at least this brilliant festival, from which we reviewed 81 events, celebrated a first as well as a last on its final night, with Marin Alsop the first woman ever to conduct this famous concert. Booking Alsop for the Last Night seemed like a minor announcement when it was made back in April, but it has grown in pertinence in recent weeks thanks to Vasily Petrenko’s already famous comments on female conductors. This dazzling Last Night also saw Joyce DiDonato make a minor stand for LGBT rights – this year, all the pomp and circumstance was checked with a subtle emphasis on equality.

Marin Alsop conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Last Night of the Proms © BBC | Chris Christodoulou
Marin Alsop conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Last Night of the Proms
© BBC | Chris Christodoulou

But what a Proms season it was, filled with excellent performances whether from the Vienna Philharmonic last week or Les Siècles back in July. And that’s not to mention reams of Wagner performances including a blistering Ring with Daniel Barenboim; an immaculately attired National Youth Orchestra of the USA; and a big family bear hunt. That’s an arbitrary list – have a browse of all our Proms reviews for a sense of just how much amazing music there was this year.

That said, there’s been more than enough going on outside London too over the summer. Alan Coady should know – he reviewed an impressive sixteen concerts from this year’s Edinburgh International Festival, and David Smythe contributed several more, and the range and quality of classical music on display looks to have rivalled that in London. An excellent double bill from Oper Frankfurt and Meredith Monk’s On Behalf of Nature were among the many highlights here. Among other festivals, the Musikfest Berlin is still going on, welcoming many of the world’s top orchestras to the Philharmonie, and Dan Wang has been at much of it for us. Some exquisite Mozart from Pierre-Laurent Aimard and the phenomenal musical partnership of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Daniele Gatti and Yefim Bronfman have been the picks so far – but more is yet to come.

Another ending has come in the more tucked-away surroundings of Ebrach Abbey in Bavaria, where the Philharmonie Festiva orchestra has completed its Bruckner symphony cycle with a fine performance of the Sixth, which Ken Ward reviewed for us.

Le Grand Macabre © Erik Berg
Le Grand Macabre
© Erik Berg
Among all these endings, however, are an increasing number of beginnings. The Hong Kong and Oslo Philharmonic Orchestras have been the first to open their seasons, and both have done so in considerable style (sexist comments aside, Oslo Phil principal Vasily Petrenko has had an exceptionally busy few weeks of concerts). Opera houses are re-opening their doors as well – Norwegian National Opera already have two productions under their belt, for instance. And we’ve also seen not just the start of British Youth Opera’s season, but the start of a number of operatic careers as well, in their impressive, witty production of Britten’s Paul Bunyan.

There’s been much else, of course – a tribute to Ivor Gurney in Gloucester Cathedral with mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly sticks out in particular. And it’s a big few weeks ahead, all around the world. We’ll be at beginnings in San Francisco, Washington, Montreal, Vienna, London, Liverpool – the list goes on. More to come.

Paul Kilbey 11th September 2013