First Night of the Proms: BBC SO / Slatkin, Royal Albert Hall, London

4.00

First Night of the Proms, and all is in place: Albert's arena, awash with packed Prommers, chanting pitter-patter; circle and loggias brimming to the gills; acoustic saucers like festive blue bubbles, ribaldly rising roofward.

First Night of the Proms, and all is in place: Albert's arena, awash with packed Prommers, chanting pitter-patter; circle and loggias brimming to the gills; acoustic saucers like festive blue bubbles, ribaldly rising roofward.

Queen Victoria, who flung wide the doors in March 1871, described her Consort's 79-yard-wide hall as "like the British constitution". Nicholas Kenyon's 2004 Proms look pretty sturdy, too. Operas, odes and orchestral oddments pepper this deliciously mongrel series: 74 delicacies to waft down Kensington Gore and addle the BBC airwaves until 11 September.

TV was there, too, its big boom sweeping over our heads. This was an evening of big booms; £1.7m on, the revamped organ snorts a treat, and Martin Neary's benign, non-blistering Bach furnished an affable beginning.

Next, the weird and wonderful timbres of Sir Henry Wood's D minor fugal fricassee - not butch massed strings like Stokowski's, but tinkling like some bizarre Mozartian musical clock, aswirl with impeccable unison woodwind, then subterranean as Alberich, fiery as Fafner, purring like Parsifal.

Poor old Elgar. You don't need David Pownall's galvanising radio play Elgar's Third or Alec McCowen frumping onstage in the RSC's Elgar's Rondo to realise the chap could be downright gloomy as well as a genial cove who liked chemistry experiments. The Music Makers (1912) isn't Elgar's sunniest: it's his mope piece - an unremitting splurge of pointed quotations whining "nobody loves me any more".

Yet once Slatkin's fellow-American Lorraine Hunt Lieberson - surely the ultimate Gerontius Angel - joined in, the magic ballooned. Who could not be moved by the Nimrod allusions, so pertinent with Jaeger's death and Elgar's confidence waning? Or not be disarmed by the poignant plod of his First Symphony?

It was the blatantly autobiographical Angel ("On one man's soul it hath broken") and those falling chromatics echoing Gerontius's death that proved most disarming. The loving way Slatkin ushered in Lieberson's tragic "A singer who sings no more" and the final chorus retrospective, on oh-so-nearly-inaudible strings - Elgar closes the door on a dying double-bass whisper - this was the stuff of greatness.

And then, from this gamely Anglophile American conductor, Holst's astral The Planets. Composed by 1917 (the terrifyingly prophetic "Mars" in 1914, unbelievably), here was a ploy to knock spots off Paris: an English Nocturnes, Petrushka, Firebird. Tenor tuba and all, the suite is an orchestrator's encyclopedia: no wonder it caught on like hot cakes.

Albert's acoustic seems perfect for planetary revolution: that momentary retention, then sudden fade and cut-out. BBC SO leader Michael Davis's lovely, plangent wide vibrato; quadruple woodwind ripples; silvery slivers of Rimsky/Stravinsky; above all, Slatkin's superbly sustained spectral "Saturn" - you kept expecting Arkel or Titurel to show up - wreathed, sheathed in mystery, till the harp and bell sunbursts. Magisterial management; sensational music.

To 11 September; available to hear online until Friday (020-7589 8212; www.bbc.co.uk/proms)

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
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.

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test