Saturday 8 September 2012

Last Night of the Proms 2012 with Nicola Benedetti, Joseph Calleja and Team GB’s Olympic medallists

It is easy to allow the works played in the first part of the Last Night of the Proms to be overshadowed by the festive nature of the second half.

Where else could you hear in one concert a newly commissioned work by the young award winning composer Mark Simpson, Delius’ Songs of Farewell, Bruch’s First Violin Concerto and works by Suk and Dvorak, not to mention all the last night favourites such as Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs and Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No.1.

Mark Simpson’s new work ‘Sparks’ was a striking piece that packs a lot into its short length. I would like to hear more from this obviously talented composer.

Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Jiri Belohlavek conducted a short patriotic piece by Czech composer Joseph Suk ‘Towards a New Life’ in a rare opportunity to hear this work. He later conducted Dvorak’s Carnival Overture in a beautifully idiomatic performance. I don’t think there can be anyone better in this repertoire.

Belohlavek seemed equally at home in Delius’ late choral work Songs of Farewell, a setting of Walt Whitman played with rapt concentration. What a pity the audience decided to clap at the end of each part somewhat breaking the spell.

Joseph Calleja proved to be a fine tenor in arias by Verdi, Massenet and Puccini showing a richness of tone and a beautifully controlled upper range.

In Bruch’s ever popular Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor Nicola Benedetti brought out the varying timbres of the violin in playing of richness and depth. She displayed playing of fabulous technical security and a sparkling finale concluded this fine performance.

It is a tribute to the Promenaders how quiet and attentive they always are during the works before the festive part of the evening.

Before the usual last night fare there was John Williams’ Olympic Fanfare and Theme written for the 1984 Olympics,  Nicola Benedetti playing Shostakovich’s slight but beautiful Romance from ‘The Gadfly’ and the novelty of an arrangement of Leoncavallo’s Mattinata for solo violin, tenor and orchestra which brought back both Nicola Benedetti and Joseph Calleja to perform together.

Jiri Belohlavek again proved himself a natural last night conductor having immense fun bringing the whole audience to sing Richard Rodgers’ You’ll Never Walk Alone and really engaging with the audience.

Joseph Calleja ran on to the platform dressed in tracksuit and trainers to reveal a T shirt bearing the Maltese Cross before singing Rule Britannia. Towards the end Britain’s Gold and Silver Medal winning athletes made a surprise appearance reminding us of Team GB’s achievements this year.

With the number of flags from other nations being waved surely no one can any longer look on this as a jingoistic British only event. This was a worthy end to a great season of concerts.

See other Prom reviews:

A Memorable Concert from Bernard Haitink and the Vienna Philharmonic at the BBC Proms

BBC Prom - Max’s Ninth, fine Delius from Tasmin Little and an Impressive Shostakovich Tenth from Vasily Petrenko

Subtle Saint-Saëns from Benjamin Grosvenor at the Proms

A Battlefield at the Proms

Handel’s Water Music and Fireworks Music as they should be played

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