Last Night of the BBC Proms 2014

The fun and frolics of the famous Last Night

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Last Night of the BBC Proms 2014
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And so, after 88 concerts, the BBC Proms came to its close with the traditional Last Night fun and frolics down at the Royal Albert HallI was at home watching on TV (BBC Two), joining many millions of viewers and listeners around the world – at a safe distance, one might suggest, from the klaxons, streamers and Union Jacks. Still this is a concert that plays well to the cameras, and in Sakari Oramo, the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s newish chief conductor, we had an ideally personable and assured compère.Gavin Higgins’s Velocity, an energetic new fanfare, got things underway with a bang. Malcolm Arnold’s Peterloo Overture followed, with some furious playing from the BBC Symphony Orchestra. The jaunty three minutes of Walton’s Façade seemed an odd follow-up, particularly when followed by Chausson’s darkly hued Poème.

Here, Janine Jansen was an impassioned, sensitive soloist, her sorrowful intensity matched by the elegiac strings and thoughtfully-phrased woodwind of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. She returned later for a zingy rendition of Ravel’s gypsy-inspired Tzigane, and a giggle-inducing duet version of La Cucaracha with Oramo, himself a violinist.

Before that, the sadness of the Chausson was echoed in Tavener’s Song for Athene, sung with poise and stillness by the BBC Singers. It offered an atmospheric moment of reflection, but also sat oddly with the item that followed: Richard Strauss’s cantata about a juggling Norman knight, Taillefer. Mind you, there’s not much that would go well with this bit of silliness – still, terrific performances from Elizabeth Watts, John Daszak and Roderick Williams (pictured above).

A quick channel hop to BBC One for the second half, where Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance got the fun underway and the BBC Symphony’s departing timpanist took a leading role. Baritone Roderick Williams lit up the stage with both his megwatt smile, and heartfelt singing of ‘Ol’ Man River’ from Jerome Kern’s Showboat and ‘Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho’. He was practically perfect in every way. I enjoyed the Mary Poppins singalong that followed, led by music theatre star Ruthie Henshall, though I can see it might not be everyone’s cup of tea – perhaps you have to have loved the Disney film as a kid to appreciate it now.

And then we were on to staunchly British fare: Ansell, Arne, Elgar, Parry and Britten’s arrangement of the National Anthem. Williams returned to the stage for a stylish performance of Rule Britannia, and the crowd seemed to enjoy the rest of the pieces. Oramo, sporting a natty Union Jack/Finnish flag waistcoat, hit just the right note with his speech, mixing self-deprecating humour about introvert Finns, with a plea for all children to have access to ‘good and great classical musical’. It was a moving message, convincingly communicated.

 

 

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  • Article Type: | Blog |
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