<br> One hundred and twenty years ago to the night since the first-ever Prom – conducted by Henry Wood at Queen’s Hall, just off Regent’s Street – there were several anniversaries being celebrated in the Albert Hall. But it was clear that the crowd had come not so much for Korngold’s now 70-year-old Violin Concerto as for the soloist, Nicola Benedetti, one of the nation’s favourite fiddlers.
Writing his concerto in Hollywood exile during 1945, the Viennese-born Korngold recycled several of his movie themes. Some are more memorable than others, and while the early charge against this effect-without-cause music still stands fairly enough, when performers make the best of it, the result can be persuasive.
Here Benedetti wove warm lines out of the tender opening, well supported by an excellent Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra that played with true sense of ensemble. Benedetti also traced silvery threads of tone in the dreamy slow movement and grabbed the finale with attack and verve, before offering more Korngold (too much of a not so good thing) by way of encore.
By accident or design, all three works in this Prom formed a musical snapshot of 1945, either by being composed or premiered that year. The evening had opened with the Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes, which, having been heard in dramatic context at the opera’s Sadler’s Wells premiere in June 1945, began a life of their own as concert pieces at the Proms that August.
Despite the BSO chief conductor Kirill Karabits’s experience in opera, something subtle went missing from this performance, and the Dawn interlude hardly felt desolate or atmospheric enough – perhaps the orchestra was confusing sea temperatures in Bournemouth and Aldeburgh. Though there ought to be more than one way of performing Britten, even the Sunday Morning “glitter of waves” sparkled with unusual glare.
Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony feels inextricably tied up with 1945, especially since its premiere in Moscow that January was interrupted by celebrations marking the Red Army’s strategic crossing of the Vistula. So it is hardly surprising that it sounds like a propaganda piece, as if big Soviet movie tunes were being poured into a symphonic mould.
Yet Karabits, closely attuned to Prokofiev’s work, found genuine music in it too, drawing out its nervous energy and wistfulness. The final gallop showed again that Karabits and the BSO represent one of this country’s finest orchestral partnerships.
Hear this Prom on the iPlayer for 30 days via the BBC Proms website bbc.co.uk/proms