The Last Night of the Proms (on radio...)

September 12, 2016, 1:17 PM · Not as exciting as a concert review of me actually going there, but... Still wanted to share my thoughts!

I've been casually listening off-and-on for about a month now to this season of the BBC Proms off the Radio 3 website. It's been a fun experience, because, as I've mentioned in a post last month, the Proms are an amazing way to experience wonderful orchestral music, both old and new commissions. The Last Night of the Proms is always a wonderful British (but multi-cultural!) festival, and I listened to the entire thing yesterday. (You can still find it on the Radio 3 website.) And the Last Night is actually many concerts in one - the Proms in the Park (in places such as Hyde Park in London) contain their own music, on Radio 2 I believe, and then come in for the finale with the Prommers in the Royal Albert Hall.

The first half of the concert contained a large variety of music, beginning with a new commission by Tom Harrold, a young Scottish composer who wrote "Raze". It's a very fascinating piece, and in the interval they spoke with a couple violinists, who said they pretty much had forte and accented notes - it's a very brass-heavy piece as well! I particularly liked the BBC Chorus in Borodin's "Prince Igor", and the lush flutes against a sea of soft strings in Butterworth's "The Banks of Green Willow" is always a wonderful British sound you'd expect to hear from a composer working in the lush greens of England.

The second half contained music that's been played for many concerts now - see all the musical examples at the bottom of this article - but beginning with Vaughan-Williams' "Serenade to Music" was a beautiful continuation of the Shakespeare theme they'd been going at this year. They also had a little Latin American/Spanish music thrown in towards the end, to celebrate the Rio Olympics, and as I'd watched many of the events, that was also neat to see here, with tenor Juan Diego Flórez even dressing up as an ancient Incan king, which was a nice touch. In the videos below you'll see all the various flags and just how warm of an atmosphere it is, especially on the Last Night, and it of course makes me want to go see a Proms concert (anything!) live one day...

The BBC Proms concerts are a wonderful way to explore (classical) music - to hear a wide variety of genres and music from the Baroque era to new pieces fresh off the grill. As before now I've only watched a few concerts on YouTube, like the Film Night and the Spanish Night in 2011, Stravinsky's Rite of Spring in 2013 (which got me into Birds of Prey!), or Ravel's Bolero in 2014, being able to listen to the entire concert while on a relaxing walk through the neighborhood gives me a great excuse to just relax and enjoy the thing I love the most before going back and practicing or composing, working hard. Nothing, of course, can beat actually being there, but on Radio 3 hearing the commentators offer more information on the composer or the piece allows me to get closer to the music, and the BBC Proms Extra intervals are always a fantastic way to learn about something new every night. This being my first big Proms season I've kept up with, I'm excited for next year to start from the First Night and see how many I can listen to - potentially even go to one next year...

And finally, a little quote I wrote down from Sakari Oromo, the current conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra...

"Music is a cosmos. Music is a universal concept that combines humanity. Listening to music in a concentrated way gives us a chance to lose ourselves, and to find resolution, peace, and harmony."

Thanks for reading! Until next time - where I'll surely tackle a completely different topic than the Proms! :)

Playlist - music from the end of the concert

Rule, Britannia!

Land of Hope and Glory


God Save the Queen

Auld Lang Syne


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