Royal Albert Hall, London

Classical review: Prom 31 - Ravishing, adventurous and fit for a queen


The music for the 1953 coronation, celebrated at the Proms, offers a bold precedent for future crownings

Probably not yet born, the composers of the royal music at the coronation of King George VII will not want for precedents. From Zadok the Priest to I Was Glad, English music is bolstered by the mighty anthems of Purcell, Handel and Parry. With broad, striding themes, William Walton whipped up Crown Imperial for Edward VIII, recycling it unused for George VI. His Orb and Sceptre for Elizabeth II is a masterpiece of Fifties musical iconography, with its lump-in-throat slow march evoking the past, and jazzy brass and rude percussion heralding a brisker future. As a curtain-raiser to Prom 31, with the BBC Philharmonic under John Storgards, it was a deliciously blousy bauble.

Rubbra's Ode to the Queen, commissioned by the BBC to mark the coronation in 1953, doesn't get out much. Settings of ravishing 17th century poetry, the three angular songs now seem remarkably adventurous for their time. Hard to imagine the Amazon Broadcasting Corporation funding anything as otherworldly in, say, 2083. Susan Bickley was the soloist, but it's easy to hear that the Ode was written with Kathleen Ferrier's darker, creamier sound in mind. She was too ill to sing by the time of the work's first performance, dying of breast cancer four months later.

Like Walton, Erich Korngold wrote film scores that took his music to a much wider audience than the concert hall, his curse as well as his salvation, for concert performances of his "serious" works are rare. With its questing opening movement, intricate Scherzo, and mighty Adagio, the captivating Symphony in F Sharp only ran out of steam in the fourth movement at its Proms debut. Some eyebrow-raising intonation apart, this was a memorable performance of a forgotten piece, a textbook Proms collector's item.

Bruch's Violin Concerto exhibited differences over tempi, and soloist Vilde Frang seemed a little overpowered emotionally and acoustically by the occasion, but this is an exceptional talent unfolding, and her wayward Norwegian folk tune encore was enthralling.

The BBC Symphony Orchestra was on absolutely scintillating form for Prom 32 (Royal Albert Hall, London ****), joined by Louis Lortie for Lutoslawski's exacting Piano Concerto. From its swarming, insect-like first movement and cat-and-mouse Presto to its hollowed and harrowed depiction of martial law in Poland and finale with its molecular structure, this was a captivating and pristine performance, forensically conducted by Edward Gardner and with outstanding solo work from all sections of the orchestra.

Proms favourite The Planets kicked off with a Mars that seemed more terrible and less foot-tapping in light of the Lutoslawki. Gardner went for big and bold, with only the women's voices of the BBC Symphony Orchestra magically receding to near-silence from a hidden eerie. Holst's Egdon Heath was a dull dish, if impeccably served, but the Lutoslawski Symphonic Varations, crisp and crackling, were a great starter.

I went to West Side Story primarily to hear Leonard Bernstein's suzzling score in a revival of the musical's 50th anniversary staging of 2008, the summer treat at Sadler's Wells. But every number was magnified by Jerome Robbins's brilliantly executed choreography in this spectacular and moving and topical production. The orchestral suite from the show is a concert hall staple, so it is a real thrill to hear these stupendous numbers and interludes from top to toe, Donald Chan driving an inexhaustible band. And while the male singing is at times imprecise, and the diction should be as crisp as the scintillating footwork, there's passion here that eludes many an opera. Solving the world's energy problems overnight is Penelope Armstead-Williams as Puerto Rican fireball Anita. Catch this for "America" alone: it's music's answer to sunshine. Fit for a king, in fact.

BBC Proms ( to 8 Sept; 'West Side Story' to 22 Sept (

Critic's Choice

East meets West in the Royal Albert Hall, London tomorrow at the BBC Proms when Nishat Khan is the soloist in his own Sitar Concerto No 1, The Gate of the Moon. David Atherton conducts the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, which also plays Vaughan Williams’s London Symphony No 2. Also at the Proms, Sir Andrew Davis conducts Tippett’s opera The Midsummer Marriage on Friday. All Proms are also on Radio 3 and online.


Arts and Entertainment
The new Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Jardin d'Acclimatation in Paris

Arts and Entertainment
Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker and Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham

Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Arts and Entertainment


These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

Arts and Entertainment
The kid: (from left) Oona, Geraldine, Charlie and Eugene Chaplin

Arts and Entertainment
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised

Arts and Entertainment

Review: Series 5, episode 4 Downton Abbey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

    The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album