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BWW Review: PROM 23: SWAN LAKE, Royal Albert Hall

BWW Review: PROM 23: SWAN LAKE, Royal Albert HallBWW Review: PROM 23: SWAN LAKE, Royal Albert Hall

The BBC Philharmonic made a triumphant return to the BBC Proms for Prom 23: a concert showcasing the work of two of Russia's finest classical exports - Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky.

Led by Principal Guest Conductor Ben Gernon, this was very much a concert of two halves. Malcom Arnold's "Peterloo" was chosen as the prelude - a piece of music that commemorates the Peterloo Massacre that took place 200 years ago in Manchester, the hometown of the orchestra. This is a dynamic piece that is both delicate and soaring, and showcased the string section beautifully.

Gernon is an energetic conductor who controls the ebb and flow of each piece in a commanding yet sensitive way. His connection with his orchestra feels tangible, and this raw emotion is reflected in the sounds that are created.

At times, he feels disconnected from guest pianist Juan Pérez Floristán (possibly because Floristán was a last-minute replacement for the originally scheduled Alexander Gavrylyuk). During Rachmaninov's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini", Floristán demonstrated dextrous handling of his instrument, but whilst he had flair and incomparable technical ability, the emotion felt lacking. A better connection with the rest of the orchestra would have been satisfying to see, but the delivery of this piece was still impressive, and Floristán received rapturous applause.

The second half focused solely on excerpts from Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake", which successfully took the audience on an emotional journey even without the context of dance to support it.

The brass section had many opportunities to shine during this Act, but these weren't always grasped successfully, including a trumpet solo which sounded rather hit-and-miss with its pacing. Those not well versed in classical music would have found this section the most enjoyable, with more widely recognisable pieces being performed, and then reprised at the end.

For classical purists, the musical design of this concert was pleasing, with each section of the orchestra having its own moment in the spotlight. But, ultimately, the strings and bold percussion choices impressed the most, and in the hands of Gernon, this orchestra was, at times, able to create moments of magic.


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