Homer would have nodded not in weariness but approval of his Iliad - if indeed there really is a 'he' and 'his' rather a 'they' and 'theirs' - being read aloud, as it originally was, without a break for 16 hours by over 60 actors at the British Museum and later at the Almeida Theatre. Thanks to the wonders of livestream I saw and heard them all, writing up the experience bleary-eyed the next morning on The Arts Desk; hard to choose a best but certainly none was better than Rory Kinnear, pictured above by Helen Maybanks, and - a revelation to me, since I hadn't seen his Hamlet - Tobias Menzies, in a YouTube clip here reading the crucial Book XXII lines 25-404. Yes, he stumbles a bit at the beginning and gets a name wrong, but please have sympathy with the singular situation and stay with him.
The Almeida's website had promised to put up clips in the weeks following this triumph for Rupert Goold, but none has yet materialised, at least that I can find. Thanks to a Menzies fan for the above.
Pursuing the same line, Henry Wood would have been astonished to see how the BBC Proms now fires on every cylinder - populist and deep, on radio, TV and internet - in 76 Albert Hall Proms and eight chamber music events at the Cadogan Hall (the only statistic that's bad is the number of women conductors, still only three, of whom Susanna Mälkki, pictured up top and wonderful in Holst's The Planets, seems to me incomparably the best). I went to 18, participated in a pre-performance talk for one my self-imposed Gergiev veto wouldn't allow me to attend and heard all or parts of nine, including that Prokofiev Concertos evening, on Radio 3.
There weren't many disappointments (can I cite them quickly? The miking and much of the material in the semi-staged Fiddler on the Roof, the waste of time that is Shostakovich's Orango and Marin Alsop's dreadful "interpretation" of Brahms's First Symphony with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment). On the plus side, the mixed bag of Sibelius symphonies - and I persist in admiring the pell-mell nature of Thomas Dausgaard's interpretation of the First - was followed by Kullervo as I've never heard it before from Sakari Oramo and his BBC Symphony Orchestra plus superb Finnnish voices; I've already written about this here. Suffice it to say that when I met the players over breakfast in Lahti five days later, each one I spoke to is head over heels in love with the partnership. Here's Sakari conducting Prom 1, among the splendid selection that the great Chris Christodoulou sent over for The Arts Desk to choose from in its annual gallery of the conducting unexpected.
The Nielsen component did not disappoint. While Hymnus Amoris is youthful stuff with limited supplies of the indelible Nielsen personality, Springtime in Funen is stuff about youth written by a master. Henning Kraggerud did a wonderful job on the free-flowing Nielsen Violin Concerto, but the soloist highlight - for one who missed all the late-night Bach, despite best intentions - came in a concert remarkable less for its Nielsen than for the Nikolaj Znaider partnership with Fabio Luisi and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra in a Brahms Violin Concerto which came up fresher than I've heard it before.
The day after I'd heard Andris Nelson's stunning new Shostakovich 10 on CD with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, I encountered the team live in the best Mahler 6 I've heard in concert (Nelsons above palpably feeling it all, from the last concert of his CBSO tenure which I wish I could have got to). The Vienna Phil under Bychkov redeemed a torpid Brahms Third Symphony with a revelatory Franz Schmidt Second (an utterly original masterpiece, or so it seemed on Thursday night). The St Petersburg Philharmonic/Temirkanov partnership had lost none of its magic even in the most seemingly conventional of Russian programmes, with the great Nikolay Lugansky matching them for you-never-heard-it-like-this-before in, of all things, the Rachmaninov Second Concerto. There must be honourable mentions in this context for Jeremy Denk's string-breaking Bartok Sonata, Elisabeth Leonskaja's Britten cadenzas in her Mozart concerto and Jean-Efflam Bavouzet's scintillating, playful-deep Ravel G major.
I loved the Etude-Tableau encore too - Lugansky has to come and play them all in sequence, as he did the second set of Preludes.
Too many highlights already; on with the new season, where the heart currently seems to be at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. Can't wait for Bjarte Eike's two concerts with his Barokksolistene on Sunday and Monday.
One final epic footnote: we covered our 16 Norfolk churches in 17 miles on Saturday. The torrents that threatened on one forecast until 4pm actually eased up by 11am and from lunchtime to the end we walked in fine sunshine. The usual chronicle will appear when I've got all the photos sorted.