FIRST NIGHT OF THE BBC PROMS
Royal Albert Hall
450 voices, plus the BBC Symphony Orchestra under its brand new Chief Conductor Sakari Oramo, and seasoned soloists Sally Matthews and Roderick Williams.
All brought together in an impressive opening performance of Vaughan Williams' Sea Symphony. The choirs, including the Proms Youth Choir, filled the hall magnificently, the crash of the waves and the wide seascape captured in a wall of sound. The two soloists, while they sometimes struggled to bring the text to the four corners of the auditorium, duetted enchantingly in the intimacy of The Explorers.
More marine music in the first half, with Britten's Sea Interludes given some delicate textures, though the Storm seemed underpowered in the vastness.
The traditional new work was Julian Anderson's tiny tone poem Harmony, a setting for orchestra and chorus of words by Richard Jefferies. No fanfares or spectacle – in fact we saw Oramo move his baton, the violins tickle their strings, before we could hear anything at all – it worked much better on radio and television.
A predictably delectable treat was Stephen Hough's witty and intelligent interpretation of the Paganini Variations, not once but twice, the second time re-imagined by Lutoslawski, whose centenary, like Britten's, is generously marked this season.