Prom 6 pitted two 20th century English composers against each other, specifically their fourth symphonies, just thirty minutes each half. The unusual programming elucidated similarities between such seemingly different composers.

Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 4 in F Minor premiered in 1935, as terrible unease was brewing across Europe. Lacking the sweetness and pastoral sounds for which Vaughan Williams is known, the BBC Philharmonic nevertheless gave us an impassioned offering, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis. From the opening onslaught of grinding dissonances to the full-bodied flute solo (Victoria Daniel), the whole ensemble understood the assignment.

Less persuasive was Michael Tippett’s Symphony No. 4, which premiered in 1977. Appearing as cold and academic as the museum time-lapse film of a rabbit foetus that inspired the work, the ensemble nevertheless rose to the challenge of the symphony’s schizophrenic technical demands. Human breath into a microphone (CJ Neale) was effective at realising Tippett’s ambiguous “breathing effect”.

Due to the indisposition of original conductor Omer Meir Wellber, Sir Andrew Davis was a last-minute replacement. Despite maybe one or two moments lacking perfect synchronicity, the BBC Philharmonic gave a spirited and assured performance of these difficult symphonies. It was bizarre to see the 6,000-capacity Royal Albert Hall filled with only a few hundred audience members, but resounding cheers and applause from the select crowd nonetheless proved it to be a success.

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

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