I was invited last night to that big musical festival of classical music that is the BBC Proms: thousands of people fill up the Royal Albert Hall twice every day to enjoy great orchestras, conductors and soloists from all over the world, with even standing tickets as cheap as 5 pounds… it’s difficult to make classical music any more popular than that!
The concert had a theme of “Russian Legends”, in reference to the last and biggest piece we heard (Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade). The beginning was absolutely delicious with Ravel’s Ma mère l’oye, with Sakari Oramo getting all kind of colors out of a fantastic BBC orchestra that shone in the solos of the wood instruments, the precision of the harp or the perfect “goose”-efects. Scheherazade is a spectacular piece, but yesterday’s version was irregular for my liking, especially in the tempi, several times unnaturally slowed down. However, it also had great moments like the brass dialogue between trombones and trumpets, or the climatic tutti in the last movement. The concertino did a great job in his firework and lyric solos too.
The central part had the petite lively soprano Anu Komsi to delight us with her coloratura, trills, tremolos and beautiful filati on stratospheric high notes. Her voice was perfect for Jukka Tiensuu‘s premiere, for which she brought up her comicality producing a very enjoyable, funny piece. The work also has an interesting use of the instruments in the space, with the two percussionists very far up and separated, and two sextets of winds and strings among the audience that enabled a game of echos that Oramo and the orchestra played excellently. The Szymanowski song cycle paired perfectly with this work in flavor and complexity. Komsi sang them again beautifully, and we could only have wished for a slightly bigger voice for some lyrical fragments.
Altogether this very first taste of the Proms was absolutely amazing. I can only hope to have time enough to see many of these amazing concerts that will keep going on until September 13th. And even if you miss them, they’re available online on this link. God save the BBC!!