From the outset, I thought that Prom 9 was set to be a good one, full of beautiful Romantic-era music, culminating in Richard Strauss’s brilliant Alpine Symphony. I’m glad to say, I wasn’t let down. It was conductor Thomas Søndergård’s first outing at the Proms, and tonight he was conducting the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, who we previously heard on Saturday night at the Doctor Who Prom.
First up was Wilhelm Stenhammar’s overture Excelsior! Any piece called Excelsior! and come complete with an exclamation mark is bound to be good, and this certainly was. It was mentioned in the notes on BBC Radio 3 before the piece began that it sounded much more Germanic than Scandinavian (Stenhammar was Swedish), and I found this to be very much the case. The stings and woodwinds in particular were quite sublime. This piece is very much of the Romantic era, and I really enjoyed it. Also, it has a pretty great ending.
The second piece of Act I, Karol Szymanowski’s Symphony No. 3, ‘The Song of the Night’, was a bit of a change of tune. It was quite different from the Stenhammar, and sounded more like the music from Prom 8. This piece was good, and very well performed by the BBC NOW, BBC National Chorus of Wales, BBC Symphony Chorus and tenor Michael Weinius, but it just didn’t do it for me the way the Stenhammar did.
Finally, after interval, we reached Richard Strauss’s fabulous Alpine Symphony. This symphony was performed at Prom 75 last year by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and I mustn’t have been the only one who enjoyed it, with it being performed again this season. This symphony really is quite something, and the BBC NOW played it as well as ever. I love when it builds around the 1:42:00 minute mark on iPlayer. A beautiful symphony.
A lighter, happier Prom tonight, and a lovely way to conclude the first seven days of the 2013 Proms season.