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)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Strictly Come Dancing 2014 contestants and their professional dance partners open the twelfth run of the celebrity ballroom contest

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin teaches Clara to shoot an arrow
doctor who
Arts and Entertainment
Queen Christina left the judges baffled with her audition
X Factor
Arts and Entertainment
The Vienna State Opera
opera
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'
musicLilly Wood and Robin Schulz bag number one single
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.

    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
    The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

    The fall of Rome?

    Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
    Glasgow girl made good

    Glasgow girl made good

    Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
    Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

    Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

    Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
    Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

    Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

    Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
    The landscape of my imagination

    The landscape of my imagination

    Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories