Review: Last Night of the BSO Proms at the Guildhall, Portsmouth

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Jerry Williams. 

Picture by Gareth Gatrell

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The BSO’s versatility is legendary, and it seems to have rubbed off on Frank Zielhorst in his two seasons as its associate young conductor.

Heck, he even embraced the peculiarly British tradition of the Last Night of the Proms as to the manner born.

He achieved a very English delicacy of expression in the Greensleeves Fantasia by Vaughan Williams – and, better still, he did not over-inflate Nimrod from Elgar’s Enigma Variations.

The Guildhall cannot match London’s Royal Albert Hall, of course, and the festive atmosphere seemed to be embraced less enthusiastically in the staging than in some previous years – although the electrics for Finlandia seemed to be a nod towards the Northern Lights.

But the programme of classical pops was nicely varied, with special charm found in relative rarities such as the waltz from Tchaikovsky’s opera, Eugene Onegin, where expressive phrasing and tone-colouring were rich in subtleties.

Indeed, the orchestra played as it always does, as if this was the year’s most important assignment. And Dougie Scarfe – the BSO’s chief executive, no less – revelled in the role of compere.