Home » BBC Proms 2013 » Prom 39: Holst, Nishat Khan & Vaughan Williams Review

Prom 39: Holst, Nishat Khan & Vaughan Williams Review

Prom 39 (part 1): Holst, Nishat Khan & Vaughan Williams

Prom 39 was broadcast live on the BBC Asian Network, as well as BBC Radio 3, as the first act had a distinctly Indian theme. This meant that all those listening on BBC Asian Network were getting a dose of classical music rather than their usual Bollywood! As a Radio 3 listener, it is quite interesting to have these simulcasts, as it means there are different presenters for the Prom, alongside the usual Radio 3 crew. I believe that these simulcasts are a great way of getting a completely different audience engaged with classical music, which is, of course, what the Proms are all about.

Back to Prom 39…

The first piece in Gustav Holst’s suite Indra. Love it. Holst taught himself Sanskrit in the 1890’s and was rather obsessed with India and anything ‘Oriental’ as it was referred to as at the time. That was of course the height of the British Empire, and as India was the jewel in the Empire’s crown, it’s not really a big surprise that Holst was so intrigued by it. Indra was Holst’s take on what Oriental music sounded like. Of course, it’s not even close, but it is a fabulous 11 minutes or so of music. I was actually surprised as to how wonderful this piece was. I think I’d actually rank it in my list of pieces from this year’s Proms that I don’t recall hearing before but now it’s a favourite (at the end of the season, I’ll make an actual round-up list!).

The second piece was a world premiere by Indian composer Nishat Khan, The Gate of the Moon (Sitar Concerto No. 1). This piece is a combination of Western and Indian classical music, with the sitar being the most quintessentially Indian instrument. I’ll admit that I wasn’t particularly expecting to enjoy this concerto, so I was pleasantly surprised when I did. The BBC National Orchestra of Wales, under conductor David Atherton, sounded beautiful while accompanying Khan on the sitar.

The final piece for Prom 39 was Vaughan Williams’ A London Symphony (Symphony No. 2). I thought that in the first movement, around 1:44:00, it sounded quite a bit like something out of the score of Phantom of the Opera! There was a smattering of well-deserved applause at end of first movement, as it was a grand ending. There was a smaller smattering after second (slow) movement. I particularly liked the fourth movement, around the 2:15:00 mark onwards. The music grows darker and deeper, and it’s rich and beautiful. I was hoping this symphony would end with a bag, the way the first movement did, but it ends quietly, and it really is a beautiful final.

The BBC NOW were fantastic throughout this Prom, and their entire Proms season – this Prom is the last time we’ll hear the BBC NOW at the Royal Albert Hall this Proms season. They’ll be at Caerphilly Park for Last Night, but we won’t be hearing them again from London. Thank-you BBC NOW, you have been amazing. And I think this Prom may have snuck into my (as yet unwritten) list of favourite Proms of the season.

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