BBC Proms Season 2016 ~ PROM 1 – 3.5*’s

Last night the 122nd season of the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts began!

I had a tremendous evening and have woken up today ready to start my Proms Reviews again. I’ve moved from twitter onto my blog, but don’t want to have full length reviews so I shall try my best to keep it short. Hope you enjoy!

The first night of the proms featured one of the best ever British works and two works from very different Russian composers. However, something neither the Proms nor the audience could have expected was to have the entire 5000 capacity of the RAH standing for the Marseillaise, and the applause at the end of the remembrance sent a shiver down my spine.

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The French flag beamed across the organ of the RAH

The programme began with Tchaikovsky’s Fantasy-Overture ‘Romeo and Juliet’ celebrating 400 years since the death of Shakespeare. After performing the piece to a fairly similar standard (…) at Glyndbourne earlier this year I can say I was impressed with how Sakari Oramo controlled the mighty BBC Symphony Orchestra. Both woodwind ‘chorales’ were beautifully phrased and the strings took great pride in the tricky semi-quaver passages. Unfortunately I found the bass trombone and tuba far too restrained, and for some reason the cymbal played demanded a sit down after very sword-fight-I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a flask of tea with him too… I take my hat off to the dangerously engaged principal horn player who managed to make a significant contribution to the boring quavers that graced his page. Bravo!

Overall the Tchaikovsky was a very sweet performance as both Sakari and the entire orchestra worked for sonority and beautiful flow through all the phrases. The result?-a performance that was beautiful and worthy of a CD recording. However, I wanted to hear more risks, that’s why we come to hear live music after all.

I have always said that the Cello is the relative of the Trombone from the String section, and last night didn’t at all make me change my mind. The sound created in Sol Gabetta’s playing was EXTRAORDINARY. she made the instrument sing in both triumphant and pleading subjects of the Elgar. The BBC Young Musician winner Sheku Kanneh-Mason points out how brilliantly the Elgar is written for the cello, and by Jove we could tell! Sol’s technical skill truly was faultless, and there wasn’t a single moment when she wasn’t loving it.

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Sol was constantly connecting with the leader of the orchestra (ex-Trinity boy Stephen Bryant), the conductor and the cellos, and with obvious passion oosing out of her, her performance was incredibly admirable.

Mr Evans certainly would’ve loved it as Sol played both the entire concerto and an encore by memory. Talking of the encore, it’s well worth a look on iPlayer as I found the piece very scary before the cellist began singing. Yes, singing… It was eerily beautiful but add in some quiet ‘ah’-ing and I was suddenly very worried that I was about to get knifed… just saying…

After the interval, Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky took to the stage. It was incredible. With the extra trombone and 2 trumpets, the brass became {Defense Level=100}. I’ve got to be honest I didn’t find the beginning very interesting but that all changed when Olga Borodina the mezzo-soprano walked slowly onto the stage taking in the surroundings and fully embracing the character. She sung with utter conviction and the power that we all expected from a Russian mezzo.

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The singers (a combination of the BBC National Chorus of Wales and the BBC Symphony chorus) was very powerful, but lacked conviction with the language. The MOTM goes to a young welsh tenor who was constantly trying to out-tenor his neighbor (if you know, you know). I’m not sure I want to meet him because he had so much anger he would scrunch up his face at every word, whilst what looked like screaming at every word… bonkers…

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The mighty forces!

Overall, I had a great evening although I felt like the programme choice was slightly safe. Perhaps it was to appeal to the audience or maybe just to ease us into what is, to be sure, a great proms season. I rated last night 3.5*’s.

I’m already looking forward to my next proms encounter!


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