Last week at the BBC Proms

The week began with a superb concert from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

On Wednesday evening there was another Proms first – ‘Beyond the Score’. This multimedia presentation entertaingly illuminated the following performance of Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 ‘From the New World’ from the Hallé conducted by Sir Mark Elder. I suspect that all who listened to the riveting presentation had their experience of listening to this popular symphony changed forever. If you missed it, you really should experience it on catch-up.

Friday evening saw the inaugral appearance of the Orchestra of La Scala, Milan together with their director Riccardo Chailly (who has, of course, appeared at the Proms before).

The evening started about 15 minutes late; apparently the orchestra’s instruments were held up by customs at Stansted followed by a slow journey into London. Perhaps the lack of rehearsal time explains why the concert failed to live up to expectations. I’ve heard many finer performances of Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 77 and of Respighi’s Rome pieces.

Saturday night’s Prom was cleverly devised around the Hussite war song that opened the concert. The melody of the opening song reappeared in works by Smetana, Martinů and Dvořák. The BBC Symphony Orchestra rounded off a daringly programmed all Czech evening with Suk’s Prague, which gave the Royal Albert Hall organ another appearance! A great evening ably led by Jakub Hrůša in a lively manner that reminded one of his late, lamented teacher Jiří Bělohlávek. Congratulations to all involved in the delivery of this interesting and enjoyable Prom.

Last night saw yet another Proms debut: this time the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra who were conducted by their music director, Louis Langrée. In the first half we enjoyed an all American programme; Bernstein’s symphonic suite from On the Waterfront and Copland’s Lincoln Portrait. The evening was rounded off by another statement of musical nationalism in a fine performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64.