I attended Wednesday’s free late night prom, which was dedicated to Handel’s Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks. These well-loved pieces were played by Le Concert Spirituel, who use 17th- and 18th-century instruments to replicate the original sound of music composed during that era. Their vast ensemble was comprised of an impressive 80 instruments, and the task of leading them was likened to “driving a big van” by its charismatic conductor, Hervé Niquet. Wind and brass instruments were in abundance, and my personal favourite was a giant bassoon, which looked like a large stick insect that was playing the small man holding it.
It was both fascinating and uplifting to hear Handel’s music played by this wonderful group, which did full justice to pieces designed to be played in a grand outdoor setting. The majestic music was clearly appreciated by the packed hall, and the ever-enjoyable Proms atmosphere was tinged with the slight cheekiness that always accompanies its late night concerts.
Sitting in the choir seats, which are behind the stage, gave me a fantastic view of the beautiful hall and the ensemble. It was an utter delight to watch the conductor from this position, who has an incredible fluidity of motion and resembled a mischievous zephyr in a bark coat, poised to swoop between the players and swoop their instruments away on his irresistible breeze.
There are still many weeks of the BBC Proms to go, featuring a hugely diverse programme performed by world-class musicians. With £5 prom tickets available to those who queue on the day, there really is no reason to miss this fantastic festival.