Stories » First night of the Proms review - tribute to France opens a stirring evening / theguardian

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First night of the Proms review - tribute to France opens a stirring evening / theguardian

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Everyone, not only the Prommers, stood for the first piece played in this year's BBC Proms. In an unannounced gesture of solidarity, conductor Sakari Oramo and the BBC Symphony Orchestra led off with the Marseillaise, as the lights behind them turned red, white and blue. It may not have been what David Pickard had initially planned as the opening piece of his first season in charge of the Proms, but it was indubitably the right music to play.

Ten cello concertos are programmed this season. The first, Elgar's masterly, elegiac work, brought a magnetic performance from Sol Gabetta, who made the long melodic lines sing and who brought a haunting inwardness to the slow movement, full of questions asked with no hope of an answer. Elsewhere she chose to bring out different points of emphasis to those listeners have come to expect, pushing on through some musical gestures that others – especially Jacqueline du Pré , from whose long shadow every interpreter of this concerto must struggle to emerge – have drawn out into impassioned cries of desperation. It worked, because the calmer passages had such richness and depth, and because her touches of playfulness were so poised, though some of the work's potential emotion perhaps remained untapped.  Her encore brought us the new music missing from the rest of the programme: Dolcissimo by Peteris Vasks, a dewdrop of a piece full of shimmering slides and mesmerising drones – like the sound of a high wire twanging – which in one passage had Gabetta singing wordlessly as she played. 

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READ The Independent REVIEW