The BBC’s annual “Proms” series of classical concerts has concluded its 114th edition with the traditional “Last Night of the Proms” party at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
Organizers say this has been the biggest Proms series ever, with 164 events across eight weeks, including concerts (76 of which took place at the Albert Hall), workshops and films. More than 4,500 performers and 56 conductors have featured, producing 300 hours of broadcasting. With events now held across the United Kingdom, he BBC says a total of 281,934 tickets were sold for Proms concerts this year, an increase of 4% on last year.
At last night’s final concert (Sept. 13) — classical radio network BBC Radio 3’s controller Roger Wright’s first as director — Welsh powerhouse bass-baritone Bryn Terfel starred alongside some of the classical world’s leading performers in an atmosphere closer to a rowdy party than a classical concert.
Sir Roger Norrington conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra, opening with Beethoven’s “The Creatures of Prometheus” overture. Then the mighty Terfel took to the stage to rousing applause for a moving rendition of Wagner’s “Wie Todesahnung Dammrun” from “Tannhauser” and Puccini’s “Tre Sbirri, Una Carozza” from “Tosca.”
French pianist Helene Grimaud grinned at the audience throughout a spot-on rendition of Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy” before Terfel lumbered on stage again in full costume for his piece de resistance, “Ehi! Piaggio!… L’onore Ladri!” from Verdi’s “Falstaff,” hectoring the conductor and flirting with the audience.
Scottish composer Anna Meredith’s specially commissioned piece “froms” was a success of discordance and technology, featuring ambitious but effective live link-ups from the outdoor “Proms in the Park” event happening simultaneously in nearby Hyde Park.
The second, noisier half of the show got underway with yet more Terfel, this time singing some Denza, followed by Chris Hazell’s folk song arrangements and some Vaughan Williams. Terfel later returned bedecked in a suit of U.K. flags to sing Sargent’s arrangement of “Rule Britannia,” featuring a verse in Welsh. The concert ended with traditional renditions of “Land of Hope and Glory” and “Jerusalem.”
The Proms concerts began in 1895 and were the brainchild of impresario Robert Newman, who wanted to take classical music to the masses. The BBC has been running the event since 1927.