Review BBC Symphony Orchestra, Besty Jolas’ bTunes BBC Proms 22, Royal Albert Hall by James Ellis  

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

For my finale Prom this season, an appearance from the BBC Symphony was offered for the last Monday concert. Mighty Conductor Karina Canellakis excited with an array of varied delights in a concert that had a lot going for it. 

Beethoven’s The Creatures of Prometheus overture thrills in its few minutes, a tantalising taste of the full ballet score. This makes a great concert opener with it’s charm on it’s sleeve, Karina getting off to a fabulous start here. Of note was the world premiere and BBC commission from Besty Jolas of bTunes. Here in the Albert Hall with us at the age of 96, this added a special weight to proceedings. Her odd piece used theatrical elements that could have been utilised more. We saw the lead violinist conduct for the first few bars, as the pianist and conductor arrive late flustered. 

This funny little moment lead into a harsh and insightful sound world, Betsy creating some intriguing compositions. Pianist Nicolas Hodges got busy with lid slamming, string plucking and smashing tone clusters, also notated into the score for him. The whole things was barmy, trying to pass off as a playlist of music, it seems to have gone down well and with her presence on the night proved a success. 

The 1st Symphony makes for gateway Mahler and here it was executed with a fiery focus. All the hallmarks Arte here in what would be heard later in his music. This graduation piece shows a vast array of musical brilliance, the meshing of popular songs, the waltzes, Alpine bliss and mirky underwater stand out as check points. With a pristine beauty, this held up as a highlight of my Proms live this year. There is a promise in this first symphony, perhaps one of the finest firsts ever written. The panache of it’s delivery, the mighty mood swings and the composer himself having conducted this more than any other of his works proves its importance. Highlight include the Frère Jacques variation, a evocative double bass solo and all round impassioned occupation that sells it and more. Would to hear Karina conduct the following on two symphonies by Mahler now. 

You can listen to the event on BBC Sounds here

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