A Welsh Proms Classical Extravaganza

Owain Arwel Hughes leads Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra through a collection of classical favourites at the Welsh Proms

A Welsh Proms Classical Extravaganza
Owain Arwel Hughes CBE

If there’s one thing that Euro 2016 taught us, it’s that England should never underestimate its competition from over the Severn Bridge.

Last Saturday, the night after Sol Gabetta opened London’s BBC Proms, Wales’s equivalent season began. Established in 1986, the Welsh Proms (16-23 July 2016) takes place at St David’s Hall in Cardiff, the Welsh answer to the Royal Albert Hall if ever there was one.

At the heart of Welsh Proms season on Wednesday 20 July came ‘Classical Extravaganza!’, a concert of assorted favourites by Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by Owain Arwel Hughes (above). For a programme encompassing so many shorter favourites, you could be forgiven for thinking the concert would let the music, rather than the performers, take the spotlight. Quite the opposite - this was a programme that played very well to the orchestra’s strengths.

Hughes welcomed the audience by telling them to ‘sit back and enjoy this feast of live music’. But this was by no means a call for the orchestra to relax, as the musicians approached the repertoire with fiery precision. An opening of Rossini’s William Tell Overture combined a vibrant cello introduction with a final fantastic rhythmic urgency. Bizet’s Carmen Suite showed the orchestra performing dance-like aggression so close to sweet string melodies. And while it seemed slightly odd to hear a work associated with Christmas in the UK’s hottest week of the year, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite sounded bright and fresh, testament to the venue’s clear acoustics as well as the orchestra’s delivery. Rounded off with a final spectacle of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, there was no question that this was the feast of live music that Hughes promised.

The Welsh Proms may not be overtaking its English counterpart to the extent of the Welsh football team anytime soon, but for anyone hoping to stretch their Proms experience 'wider, still and wider' around the UK, one of the Welsh Proms is certainly worth a visit.

The Welsh Proms at St David's Hall continue this evening with Cory Band's Brass & Voices Prom and on Saturday with Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's Last Night of the Welsh Proms. For more information, click here.

Alec Evans

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