PROM 20: STRAVINSKY’S RITE OF SPRING | London, Royal Albert Hall

It’s fantastic to see the Royal Albert Hall packed to the rafters again for Stravinsky’s iconic Rite of Spring (1913), even amid the new normal of Covid and an unprecedented heatwave. Conducted by Martyn Brabbins, the BBC Symphony Orchestra gave us a heart-thumping rendition. In the quieter moments, it was truly amazing to see the trumpets play at such a pianissimo, and it was an interesting choice to have more vibrato in the warbling woodwind at the start.

In the first half, 22-year-old Israeli pianist Tom Borrow stunned us with a truly heartfelt performance of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major (1932). The second movement, Adagio assai, was breathtakingly controlled. But we got technical fireworks too in the presto third movement, and in a well-deserved encore of Debussy’s Feux d’Artifice (1913) to a roaring crowd.

Closing the first half was a powerful and technically flawless performance of Xenakis’ enormous Jonchaies (1977). Part-composed by computer in a pioneering way, the work has a coldness that didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the programme, with such extreme dissonances that again made it seem like an ill-judged precursor to the second half’s Rite of Spring.

Opening the Prom was the 3-minute Sonance Severance 2000 by Harrison Birtwhistle, in memory of the composer, who passed away earlier this year. Overall, a slightly strange programme, but powerful from beginning to end, and a roaring success with the crowd.

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

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