Friday, July 22, 2022

Royal Albert Hall, London

This Prom was overshadowed by the recent sad death of Bramwell Tovey, the original conductor, the concert dedicated to his memory, Barry Wordsworth now on the podium. The Bliss made a short if stirring start, and Zadok the Priest moved along nicely, although the singing sounded strained as if those doing it were conscious of being too few in numbers for the size of the venue. Orb and Sceptre (on Radio 3 only yesterday, in a leaden performance) lacked for swing although the ceremonial section did at least avoid pomp. The Elgar (choral) was sublime, a cut above, the Harris (orchestral) charming, if doing exactly what you’d expect, and I can’t dissent something written by Henry VIII – off with my head – assisted by Wordsworth, although Lord Britten of Aldeburgh showed them both the way, a masterclass in mock-Tudor, and very well played. Parry’s I Was Glad (orchestrated Gordon Jacob?) set the seal on the first part, not quite hitting the spot and not just for choral shortness. Part the Second opened with John Ireland’s Epic March, pretty good if a little careful, but the head I am hanging onto has Boult’s recording engraved on it. Centuries apart they may be but Judith Weir (with organ, Richard Pearce) and William Byrd (a cappella) made a rich coupling, the BBC Singers on home-ground, and then a few glasses of Water Music were served up courtesy of Hamilton Harty, an instructive reminder of how Handel used to sound, and still can, before the Singers, remaining in the chapel, returned to still the air with the otherworldly tones of Silence and Music. Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s new work (premiere) – vocal soloists, chorus and orchestra – made a big impression in its supplication, beauty, etherealness and powerful crescendo. Finally, Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No.4 – don’t tell anyone but I think the trio tune is infinitely better than the one that became ‘Land of Hope and Glory’.

Bliss: Jubilant Fanfare
Handel: Coronation Anthem No.1: Zadok the Priest
Walton: Orb and Sceptre
Elgar: O hearken thou
Harris arr. Manners: The Windsor Dances
Henry VIII: Pastime good companie
Britten: Courtly Dances from Gloriana
Parry: I was glad

Ireland: Epic March
Judith Weir: I love all beauteous things
Byrd: O Lord, let thy servant Elizabeth, our Queen
Handel: Water Music (excerpts)
Vaughan Williams: Silence and Music
Cheryl Frances-Hoad: Your Servant, Elizabeth (BBC Commission; first performance)
Elgar: Pomp and Circumstance March No. 4

BBC Singers
BBC Concert Orchestra
Conductor Barry Wordsworth

Sad news: composer & conductor Bramwell Tovey (BBC Concert Orchestra; Rhode Island Philharmonic; Sarasota Orchestra) has died at the age of 69.

Something for Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee: Sir Hubert Parry’s I Was Glad (1902, for Edward VII’s Coronation). Conductor not credited! I think it’s Philip Ledger for an HMV recording.

Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Giuseppe Sinopoli (DG recording).