Prom 1: BBC Symphony Orchestra & Chorus/Belohlavek, Royal Albert Hall, London
Tuesday 21 July 2009
A festive start, to be sure. A flourish of fireworks (Stravinsky's, I hasten to add), an unfamiliar ode to music, two piano concertos fielding three pianists, and, of course, the obligatory psalm of praise. Let no one suggest that Roger Wright's three-tier first nights don't reflect the comprehensive, inclusive, spirit of the Proms. But in terms of musical satisfaction, does the fragmented form, with its interminable intervals, really add up? No. Best to focus on the parts rather than the sum of them.
Two of this writer's favourite Frenchmen – Chabrier and Poulenc – provided the best form of détente with our closest European relations. Chabrier's "Ode à la musique", a Prom premiere (better 120 years late than never), drenched us in sweet harmonies of a peculiarly French persuasion while the Labèque sisters, kittenish Katia and demure Marielle, attended to the deliciously subversive nature of Poulenc's Concerto in D for Two Pianos, romping between skittish music hall burlesque and twilit reverie with idiomatic aplomb.
Stephen Hough was the third pianist on hand, launching his season's assault on the three Tchaikovsky Piano Concertos from the rear, as it were. The torso of the unfinished 3rd Concerto brought his characteristic deftness of rhythm and a wonderful sense of "golden age" pianism, with the second subject of the piece relaxing into a beguiling range of rubatos in the span of only a handful of bars. Sound and phrasing were beautifully reconciled.
Elgar sat quite comfortably with Brahms and Bruckner in the evening's final segment, though Jiri Belohlavek initially presided over a bit of a scramble into the Vale of Andorra in the opening pages of Elgar's In the South overture. Lovely solo from the BBC Symphony's principal viola, Norbert Blume, in the central "Canto Popolare", but the tempo was dreamy to the point of dropping off.
Enter, though, the wonderful Alice Coote to stiffen our resolve and lull us into hopeful acceptance with her beautifully articulate and thought-through reading of Brahms' Alto Rhapsody. As ever, the words chimed so completely with her wide-ranging contralto that the exultant Hallelujahs of Bruckner's joyous setting of Psalm 150 which followed seem to spring directly from it.
Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The truth about 'girl things': Three cheers for Heather Watson's honesty
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 3 UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
- 4 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 5 Men behaving badly: Urinating while standing, 'manspreading' and the gendering of selfishness
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd