Tonight’s Prom: Prom # 1

William Walton: Portsmouth Point Overture
Edward Elgar: Cello Concerto
Beethoven: Symphony No.9


Given that it’s the opening night of the 2007 season of the BBC Proms (don’t tell me this comes as a surprise, I’ve been banging on about it for ages), it should come as no surprise that tonight’s concert of British and German music is all-inclusive. Nothing difficult to grapple with here.

The first half features music from British composers William Walton and Edward Elgar, both now dead (obviously) but whose works epitomise what some consider are stereotypical images of Britain.

Walton’s Portsmouth Point Overture may be unfamiliar to some but just like one of his more popular works Crown Imperial, it manages to conjure up an evocative image of post-war 1950s hope and positive despite the country suffering the grip of austerity.

Similarly, Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto transports me, at least, to an idyllic scene of rolling countryside, cups of tea and cucumber sandwiches. It’s an incredibly powerful association but one which leads me to wonder whether those who are not familiar with this country may possibly have a difficult image in their head when they hear it.

Long as the second half might at first appear – at 70 minutes, Beethoven’s Symphony # 9 is quite a hefty work so if you’re listening at home make sure you get the refreshments prepared to keep you going.

If the Elgar and the Walton conjure up different images of Britain then Beethoven’s Symphony # 9 (known as “The Choral” because of its use of voices in the final movement) evokes an idealistic view of an harmonious Europe. This is probably to do with the adoption of the main theme (known as “The Ode to Joy”) as an unofficial (?) anthem for the European Union.

In the Beethoven make sure you listen out for the solo clarinet line in the slow movement. It’s gorgeous to hear and even more gorgeous to play. I know. I’ve played it myself.

Listen out too for the audience cheers in this concert. The concert goes out live on Radio 3 and can be listened to via the BBC’s spangly Radio Player thingy (and as a catch up service up to seven days after the original broadcast) or using that antiquated wireless thing.

If you listen to it, leave your comments on what you’ve heard on this posting.

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