PROM 46: CITY OF BIRMINGHAM SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA | BBC Proms 2019

Twenty-year-old cello star Sheku Kanneh-Mason headed up this Prom with Elgar’s Cello Concerto. Despite one or two tuning issues, it was clear from the first few notes that we were in the presence of a master, even one at such a young age. Kanneh-Mason gets an intensely human and finely crafted sound of his cradled instrument, though a greater variety in timbre and phrasing would not go amiss in this lengthy piece. His well-deserved encore, Prelude No. 18 from Mieczysław Weinberg’s Twenty-Four Preludes for Solo Cello, allowed Kanneh-Mason to demonstrate a greater spectrum of expression.

After the interval, the audience had noticeably thinned out for Weinberg’s Symphony No. 3, for which conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, Music Director of the CBSO, led a charmed and dynamic playing. A petite young woman of only 33, Gražinytė-Tyla is already unbelievably accomplished, and conducts so physically she’s like a dancer: one moment it’s avant-garde ferocity; the next it’s graceful, balletic lines.

Opening the first half was a Proms favourite, the tone poem Lamia, written when composer Dorothy Howell was only twenty years old herself. Gražinytė-Tyla is not afraid of quiet, even non-energised quiet, at key moments, making later dynamic surges all the more dramatic. Oboist Thomas Hutchinson delighted with a brief but beautiful solo.

Opening the second half was a medley of annoying, dislocated orchestral interludes from Oliver Knussen’s short children’s opera, Higglety Pigglety Pop!, which gained a lukewarm reception, although a first time performance at the Proms. Most people had come for Kanneh-Mason.

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

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