Prom 19: Ten Pieces Prom – I

“Discover the characters and stories behind some spectacular orchestral pieces in the annual Ten Pieces Proms. CBBC’s Naomi Wilkinson presents a thrilling musical adventure for all the family, featuring music by Elgar, Dvořák, Copland and more.” [BBC Proms website]

Spell Caster – Naomi Wilkinson
Joseph Bologne – Paapa Essiedu
Molly Finch – Josie Lawrence
Ten Pieces Children’s Choir
BBC Singers
London Music Masters
Phoenix Dance Theatre’s Youth Academy
Brave New Voices from English PEN
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Rafael Payare

Reviewed by: Amanda-Jane Doran

Reviewed: 29 July, 2018
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London

The Ten Pieces Prom 2018 takes place at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday 29 July, featuring the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and BBC Singers under conductor Rafael Payare. Naomi Wilkinson presents and is joined by actors Paapa Essiedu and Josie Lawrence; the Prom features Phoenix Dance Theatre’s Youth Academy, London Music Masters & Brave New Voices from English PEN and the Ten Pieces Children’s ChoirPhotograph: Pete Dadds / BBCBBC Learning’s Ten Pieces initiative is in its fourth year, opening up classical music to children all over the UK by encouraging them to make music at school. This Prom was themed around a search for the Firebird and a magical narrative was constructed with the help of Naomi Wilkinson, Paapa Essiedu and Josie Lawrence. Each Piece was introduced with a charming biographical story about the composer accompanied by beautiful animation by Ana Stephaniak.

Sibelius’s Finlandia, illustrated by stylised trees in a snowy landscape, created a subtly evolving panorama, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Rafael Payare giving a performance of dynamism and emotional power. The search for the Firebird then extended to the prairies of America, to the ‘Hoe-Down’ from Aaron Copland’s Rodeo, the brass section sporting Stetson hats.

The colourful character of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, followed to introduce a movement from his Symphony in G, written in 1799. Essiedu told tales of Bologne’s virtuoso swordsmanship and violin-playing. He and Lawrence’s Molly Finch provided humorous links between the music and also some moving dialogue with those with refugee and asylum-seeker backgrounds, who had written poems about home, inspired and accompanied by the Largo melody from Dvořák’s ‘New World’ Symphony, Alison Teale on cor anglais.

Themes of home and birds intertwined throughout. The Phoenix Dance Theatre brought music by Mason Bates to life, slithering and creating fascinating shapes and formations. Meanwhile Molly was on the trail of the elusive Firebird and encouraged the orchestra to play snippets of her favourite bird-themes, from Delius (Cuckoo), Handel (Nightingale) and Saint-Saëns (Swan). Young violinists from the London Music Masters project played their own compositions with the BBCSO, inspired by Barak Obama, Rebecca Adlington and Rosalind Franklin, and the Ten Pieces Children’s Choir performed with gusto and precision ‘O Fortuna’ from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana and Kerry Andrew’s No Place Like.

Tchaikovsky’s ‘Waltz of the Flowers’ (The Nutcracker) and the Fugue from Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra were also included, the latter performed with an electricity that rivalled the appearance of the Firebird herself, yet the Stravinsky finished in a blaze of colourful effects and the gorgeous puppet version of the mythical bird left us completely enthralled.

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