Did you hear it? The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s Sunday evening debut in London’s Royal Albert Hall for the BBC Proms was met with deafening cheers and applause from the Proms audience, estimated at 5,000 to 6,000 people.
I think the response surprised even the announcer on the BBC’s Radio 3, which was airing the concert live from Royal Albert Hall.
And what a concert it was. The program opened with Bernstein’s suite from the film, “On the Waterfront,” followed by Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait,” which was premiered by the CSO in 1942. The celebrity narrator was British actor Charles Dance, who spoke Lincoln’s words with a bit of an American accent.
The announcer remarked that the piece had not been performed in the U.K. since 1943, when Sir Adrian Boult led its U.K. premiere at the Proms. At the intermission break, the broadcast continued with a panel discussion about Lincoln – interesting to hear from the British perspective.
The second half featured Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, given a high-voltage performance led by Louis Langrée. For an encore, Langrée and the orchestra delighted the crowd with Bernstein’s splashy Overture to Candide.
The broadcast was also notable because it was the first time that Cincinnatians could hear their orchestra, live in concert on tour across the Atlantic. I was impressed by the quality of the pickup – it was so clear and balanced, they could have been playing in downtown Cincinnati. But then the BBC obviously has lots of experience at recording and broadcasting.
If you missed the show, you’ll find it archived at BBC Radio 3 for another 30 days. In addition, Cincinnati’s WGUC-FM 90.9 is planning to air the American portion of the Proms broadcast, locally at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 6. (WGUC will also air the fabled Last Night of the Proms on Sept. 26).
Today the orchestra flies to Northern Spain.