PROM 1: FIRST NIGHT OF THE PROMS | BBC Proms 2018

Few orchestral works share in the richness, magnificence and enduring popularity of Gustav Holst’s suite The Planets, the main event of 2018’s first Prom. Conductor Sakari Oramo, who has enjoyed a long association with the BBC Proms, led the mighty BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Proms Youth Ensemble, with the BBC Symphony Chorus and the National Youth Choir of Great Britain, in a spectacular opening to the greatest classical musical festival in the world.

“Mars, the Bringer of War” and “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity” allowed Oramo to explore the thunderous forces on offer, leading the orchestra in meticulously timed swells. Even in the quieter moments, Oramo was able to exploit every subtle texture. The finale, “Neptune, the Mystic”, featured unseen women’s voices, at first swimming through the cavernous hall, then slowly fading out to nothing: a truly cosmic experience.

A new commission from British composer Anna Meredith, Five Telegrams, closed the evening’s programme with a modern tour-de-force. A trio of percussion ensembles nearly blew the roof off in “4. Codes”, while beautiful solo cello (Susan Monks) led the surprisingly tonal “5. Armistice”, as well as ethereal, layered voices in “2. Field Postcard”. Abstract video projections did not persuasively enhance Meredith’s music.

The evening opened with an unusually rousing and uplifting rendition of Vaughan Williams’ Toward the Unknown Region, based on the poem by Walt Whitman. A last-minute addition of Oliver Knussen’s Flourish with Fireworks was added to the very start, to commemorate his untimely death last week. A stunning evening of music that bodes extremely well for this year’s Proms.

1,350 £6 Promming tickets are available on the day for every performance.

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