News Column

Review: Prom 42: BBCSSO/Manze Royal Albert Hall, London 32/40

August 19, 2014

Tim Ashley

Andrew Manze's concerts with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra have come to be regarded as special occasions. Their Prom, a thoughtful, haunting examination of the waste and damage of the first world war, was no exception. Music by three composers killed in action, Rudi Stephan, Frederick Kelly and George Butterworth, was followed by Vaughan Williams's Pastoral Symphony, which is haunted by memories of the Flemish landscape, where Williams served as an ambulance driver with the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1916.

Stephan's Music for Orchestra (1912) and Butterworth's Six Songs from A Shropshire Lad can be regarded as embodying prewar unease. Butterworth's intimate settings of AE Housman's sad, at times homoerotic verse, beautifully sung by Roderick Williams, hint at the impending loss of male lives. The most striking work in the first half, however, was Kelly's Elegy for Strings, In Memoriam Rupert Brooke, a memorial to the war poet, who was among the composer's closest friends. Heartbreaking and exquisite, it left you longing for more of Kelly's work.

The performance was inspirational, beautifully judged in its gradations of dynamic and mood, and played with near perfect grace and warmth.

Tim Ashley

The Proms continue until 13 September. Details:

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Source: Guardian (UK)

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