Review: BBC Prom 70 – Bridge, Birtwistle & Holst – Royal Albert Hall, London

Wednesday 7th September 2011

BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Robertson,

The all English programme, except for the American conductor and German Violinist (well the composers are English), begins with Frank Bridge and his 'Isabella'.
Isabella is inspired by John Keats (sticking to the English theme) poem of the same name (also known as 'the pot of Basil'). It is a love story which, as all good love stories do, ends in tragedy.

David Robertson
Robertson takes to the stage with great applause from the full auditorium, and with the flick of his wrist the show begins. Keeping in theme with the poem, Robertson looks serious as he orders the Orchestra. The audience is overcome by the passion that emanates up to them and the performance is heartfelt.

Robertson then runs off stage and reappears with his first gift of the night. His gift is the German born Violinist Christian Tetzlaff.
Tetzlaff prepares his violin and the audience resettle after their burst of applause, eagerly awaiting the start of a UK Première; Sir Harrison Britwistle's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra.    

Unusual for Britwistle, this piece features a solo string instrument, namely the violin. However, he continues to do what he does best and takes the violin, along with those listening, on a journey. On its journey, the violin encounters many duets with other instruments including, a flute, an oboe and a bassoon. By the end the violin is well travelled and the audience see this in the 'growth' of Tetzlaffs performance. He not only plays the instrument extremely well but caters to the audience who are very receptive. After the Concerto it is time for our next gift. This time Robertson brings out Sir Harrison Birtwistle! The audience cannot contain their pleasure of such an opportunity and claps, with whistles are abundant.

Christian Tetzlaff
 After all that excitement, it is time for a 20 minute break, just enough time to grab a drink and a chat and a quick stage change.

Gustav Holst and The Planets, Op.32 is the suite that is the next treat for the audience tonight. It consists of seven movements. Each movement is given the name of a planet and is characterised by Holst. The first movement is Mars, the Bringer of War, which is loud, heavy on the timpani, bold and jerky, almost exactly as you would imagine a war (of music) to sound like. The audience love it and are gripped, some on the edges of their seat hoping for it to go on.
Alas, or with hope, war cannot go on and Venus, the Bringer of Peace is the next movement. The music becomes light and smooth, creating an air of calm and the leader of the First Violins, Andrew Haveron, plays a solo.

All seven of the planets are aptly named and the 5th- Saturn, Bringer of Old Age, does exactly that when a young lady in the audience, who has a standing ticket, cannot stand any longer and a loud bang resonates throughout the auditorium. She gets up looking rather sheepish, but she does not need to worry as the Orchestra led by Robertson continue perfectly through the final two movements, which include Holst Singers (women's voices).

The show comes to an end but the audience is unsure if it really has, (they are hoping for more), until one of them shouts out 'Bravo' and applause swiftly follows.

All enjoyed the performance and the auditorium was full of excitement as they reluctantly left. 

Review by Unsa Chaudri