Royal Albert Hall, London

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

4.00

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 (bbc.co.uk/proms) to 8 Sept; 'West Side Story' to 22 Sept (sadlerswells.com)

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 starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jude Law in Black Sea

film

In Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before

Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops

film

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game