From the First night of the Proms 1943

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Dukas,Handel,Saint-Sa‘ns,Stringfield & Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Somm
ALBUM TITLE: From the First night of the Proms 1943
PERFORMER: Heddle Nash (tenor), Moura Lympany (piano); London PO/Henry Wood
CATALOGUE NO: SOMMCD 076

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This charming disc of the 1943 First Night of the Proms, recorded off-air, provides a fascinating comparison with the current festival. In those days, the season was split between just two orchestras, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, heard here, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Those bemoaning the loss this year of the ‘traditional’ opening night large choral work might be chastened to discover that, after the National Anthem, the programme in 1943 is closer to 2008 – a fairly wide range of classics, from Handel to Dukas, something new in the guise of Lamar Stringfield’s A Negro Parade (which makes its point in one minute but lasts ten), and not a chorus in sight. A plodding Sorcerer’s Apprentice aside, the performances have the zest of musicians having fun. Moura Lympany romps through Saint-Saëns’s Second Piano Concerto, while ‘Love in her eyes sits playing’ from Handel’s Acis and Galatea sounds more like Gilbert and Sullivan, but Heddle Nash is touching and shows his effortless control. The recording is reasonable, but several movements of works have not adequately survived, so a truly rousing first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is left hanging. Despite such frustrations, though, this is an enjoyable historical document. Christopher Dingle