PROM 10: MUSIC FOR ROYAL OCCASIONS | London, Royal Albert Hall

Celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, Prom 10 explored the strikingly broad array of royal British music, with works by Henry VIII, Parry, Elgar, Ireland, Walton, and honorary Englishman Handel. Conducted by Barry Wordsworth, the BBC Concert Orchestra and BBC Singers gave us a right royal tour through royal music history.

Among the beloved lollipops like Handel’s Water Music and Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 4, a new BBC commission (and world premiere) really stood out. Composer Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s “Your Servant, Elizabeth”, specially commissioned for this Platinum Jubilee celebration, subtly pushes the envelope for what we recognise as “royal” music, challenging us with tonal deftness and reflectiveness. Set to a text adapted from Psalm 21 and writings by Queen Elizabeth II herself, Frances-Hoad honours the Queen’s legacy with striking beauty.

All this Prom’s other highlights appeared to be vocal, rather than instrumental, with the two dozen BBC Singers sounding crisp and energised throughout. Handel’s coronation anthem “Zadok the Priest” allowed for a controlled choral outburst, while Elgar’s “O hearken thou” and Henry VIII “Pastime with good companie”, as well as Byrd’s a capella “O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth our Queen”, showcased the ensemble’s capabilities for more muted tones.

Under Wordsworth’s baton, the entire ensemble were committed and unified. On the other hand, with almost every piece taken up-tempo, a strange sense of “rush-to-the-finish-line” pervaded, with some should-be highlights coming off as perfunctory rather than celebratory.

Tickets for all 72 Proms are available from just £7.12 on the BBC Proms 2022 website.

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