Malcolm Sargent Revisited BBC Proms


Malcolm Sargent Revisited

A recreation of chief Proms conductor's Malcolm Sargent's 500th Prom from 1966. Featuring works by Schumann, Berlioz, Elgar, Holst and Britten.


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Transcript


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We're celebrating Proms superstar, the conductor Sir Malcolm Sargent.

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It's 50 years since his death

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and tonight we're recreating his 500th Prom from 1966.

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Welcome to The BBC Proms 2017.

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You may know him as Flash Harry, or recognise him

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as the man with the white carnation in his lapel.

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Sir Malcolm Sargent was chief conductor

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of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and

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effectively the chief conductor of the Proms, for 20 years from 1947.

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Until the Second World War,

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Sir Henry Wood had conducted every single Prom,

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but the arrival of Malcolm Sargent on the scene changed everything.

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Sargent was born the same year the Proms were founded

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and he later joked it was Henry Wood's birthday present to him,

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knowing he would need something to occupy himself with later in life.

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And occupy himself he most certainly did.

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Sir Malcolm Sargent quickly became synonymous with the Proms.

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His impact was enormous - in fact,

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he's the man behind the Last Night of the Proms as we know it today.

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He loved the TV cameras and with his sense of style

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and flair on stage he soon became a household name.

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He really knew how to put on a show,

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which is exactly what we're going to do tonight.

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The BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Sir Andrew Davis

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are recreating Sargent's 500th Prom,

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which was performed here in the hall on Saturday the 23rd of July 1966,

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the First Night of the Proms Season that year.

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And what a great way to mark

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the 50th anniversary of Sir Malcolm's death.

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And what a great way to hear what a Prom was like half a century ago.

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Some of you might even remember the concert.

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I've got a copy here of the original programme.

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And the first thing I noticed is that there is lots of music -

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many different pieces of music.

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So tonight in our recreation, as well as Berlioz and Schumann,

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we'll hear pieces from some of Sargent's favourite

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English composers - Elgar, Walton, we've got Holst and Delius,

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leading up to Britten's iconic

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The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra at the climax of concert.

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But before the music begins, let's meet the man himself.

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Here he is working the crowd at the Last Night in 1965.

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I find it hard to believe what I sometimes hear

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and read in the paper, that the youth of this country is,

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-what should I say, untidy...

-LAUGHTER

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-..unintelligent...

-LAUGHTER

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-..irresponsible...

-CHEERING

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-..and ill-behaved.

-CHEERING

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I know you'll agree with me that that is not true of you.

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CHEERING

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What a showman.

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And in typical flamboyant fashion, Sargent's concert had

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an exhilarating curtain raiser - Berlioz's Roman Carnival Overture.

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ORCHESTRA TUNES UP

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APPLAUSE

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And here comes Sir Andrew Davis, our conductor for the night,

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who's going to open this concert

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exactly as Malcolm Sargent did back in 1966.

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# God save our gracious Queen

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# Long live our noble Queen

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# God save the Queen

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# Send her victorious

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# Happy and glorious

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# Long to reign over us

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# God save the Queen. #

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APPLAUSE

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The national anthem - Henry Wood's arrangement, of course.

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And the concert ran straight into the next piece.

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Hector Berlioz's Roman Carnival Overture.

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APPLAUSE

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What a fizzing start to this Prom celebrating Sir Malcolm Sargent.

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That was Berlioz's Roman Carnival Overture,

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conducted by Sir Andrew Davis.

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Many would say he's the natural heir to Sir Malcolm Sargent.

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The BBC Symphony Orchestra -

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a special mention there to the cor anglais soloist, Max Spiers.

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From Berlioz, we turn to another of the great Romantic composers -

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Robert Schumann, and his Piano Concerto in A minor.

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It originally started life as "a fantasie for piano and orchestra",

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but when Schumann couldn't get that published,

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he made it the first movement of his only piano concerto,

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which he created with his beloved and brilliant wife Clara in mind.

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One of the greatest pianists of the time,

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she went on to play the premiere in 1846.

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Audiences were struck by

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the incredibly rich and complex relationship

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between soloist and the orchestra,

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but some thought it wasn't flashy enough

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and in the end the concerto was not very well received.

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Clara was crushed, but Schumann was more philosophical,

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telling her "in ten years' time all this will have changed."

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And you know what? He was right.

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It became a much-played and imitated masterpiece.

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In fact, Grieg's famous piano concerto

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was unashamedly modelled on it.

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In Malcolm Sargent's 500th Prom in 1966, it was performed by

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the international superstar Moura Lympany,

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just shy of her 50th birthday.

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Our soloist this evening is just 24.

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She's a rising star, she's a Radio 3 New Generation Artist,

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Beatrice Rana, who is making her Proms debut.

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She says she fell in love with the piece as a teenager

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and begged her teacher to let her try it, but he refused.

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She was frustrated, but on reflection says, "Now I thank him,

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"as it's a very special and delicate concerto that requires maturity."

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APPLAUSE

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And here she is - Beatrice Rana - with Sir Andrew Davis,

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to perform Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor.

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APPLAUSE

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APPLAUSE

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And a fabulously assured debut there by Beatrice Rana.

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A New Generation Artist, 24-year-old.

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A wonderful performance there

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of Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor.

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Some lovely moments of connection, I'm sure you'll agree,

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between the soloist and conductor Sir Andrew Davis.

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When Clara Schumann played the premiere in January 1846,

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conducted by Mendelssohn - now there's a combination -

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she was just five weeks away from giving birth to her fourth child.

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We said earlier that

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it was a piece that Beatrice's teacher said required maturity.

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She is only 24. But, my goodness, she was absolutely on top of it.

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Thanking the orchestra.

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If you enjoyed that and you'd like to hear some more Schumann,

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you can hear his cello concerto in Prom 33

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and his 3rd symphony in Prom 40.

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And I should direct you to the iPlayer, because if you missed

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Bernard Haitink's performance of the 2nd Schumann symphony,

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then you missed a real treat.

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So go to the iPlayer and do catch up if you can.

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APPLAUSE

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Lovely encore there from Beatrice Rana.

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That was Widmung, written by Schumann and arranged by Liszt.

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During Sir Malcolm's 20 years at the Proms,

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he built up a great relationship with the audience,

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and that intense connection between audience and artist

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has become a defining feature of the modern Proms Festival, something our

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conductor this evening, Sir Andrew Davis, whole-heartedly embraces.

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We caught up with Sir Andrew to find out a little bit more about

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his personal connection with Sargent.

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'And there is Sir Malcolm.'

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You know, in a way, he owned the Proms.

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After the death of Sir Henry Wood,

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Sargent came along and kind of revitalised them.

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PLAYING: Pomp and Circumstance March No.1 in D by Elgar

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I saw a good deal of Sir Malcolm Sargent in my teenage years

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when I used to come up on the Tube and promenade.

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And actually he gave me a prize once when I was about...

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I don't know, 15 or 16.

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It was a national piano playing competition

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and I won third prize, which he presented to me.

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But he was very charming. I mean, I was kind of overawed by the moment.

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He certainly was a major presence in my musical life

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all through my teenage years from the Proms.

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Yes, the idea that I'd ever be standing up on the podium

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in the Albert Hall was sort of ridiculous.

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Couldn't be anything further from my thoughts.

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There's no question that Sargent opened my eyes to a lot of music.

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He was very elegant, very dapper.

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A very popular figure.

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He would stand up and kind of command not only the orchestra

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but the whole stage and the whole hall.

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-Young ladies, young gentlemen...

-CHEERING

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The showmanship, that's very much part of him,

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that's one of the reasons his nickname was Flash Harry.

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Ladies and gentlemen...

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-and others.

-LAUGHTER

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When I was asked to conduct this concert,

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which I was very thrilled to do, a replica of his 500th Prom,

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I'm only in 130 or something...

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Brylcreem is definitely out.

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But I am going to wear a white carnation.

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That was one of his signature things.

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This is a wonderful chance to celebrate somebody

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who's been gone a long time, but whose legacy is still with us

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and I'm very proud to be able to do that.

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Hear, hear. I see you!

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Not in first, dear.

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Our conductor, Sir Andrew Davies, there.

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Now, I want you to imagine that it's the end of the interval

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of Malcolm Sargent's 500th Prom in 1966.

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And you're now settling down by the wireless at home,

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ready for a very British-themed second half,

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which begins with Elgar. He'd been a personal friend of Sargent

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and a composer Sargent championed throughout his career.

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The Cockaigne Overture, written in 1901 and described as

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"a musical portrait of life in the turn of century London"

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is one of Elgar's most popular pieces.

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But don't mistake "Cockaigne" for Cockney.

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The somewhat ironic title refers to an imaginary country,

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a medieval utopia where the houses were made of cake and barley sugar

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and the rivers flowed with wine.

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Listen out for a chirpy Londoner, church bells and a military band.

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The initial theme on the violins, which recurs throughout,

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is said to represent the Guildhall in London.

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APPLAUSE

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And here comes Sir Andrew Davis, there he is,

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to conduct Elgar's Cockaigne Overture.

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APPLAUSE

1:13:381:13:40

Oh, it was great to hear the organ here at the Royal Albert Hall,

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at the end of the Cockaigne Overture there

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by Edward Elgar.

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Sir Andrew Davis conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra,

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led by Stephen Bryant, just taking his seat there.

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And Elgar once described this piece as "stout and steaky"

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which gives you an idea of what he thought about London at the time.

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Apparently it was a performance of this piece in 1971

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conducted by the then Prime Minister Edward Heath,

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that was credited with bringing it back into popular consciousness.

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Sir Malcolm Sargent knew the titans of 20th-century English music

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personally and took his role as

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their unofficial ambassador very seriously.

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Many of them entrusted premieres of their work to him,

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including our next two composers - William Walton and Gustav Holst.

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Walton's Facade started life as a series of poems

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written by Edith Sitwell, which Walton set to music.

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As in 1966, we'll be hearing the orchestral version tonight.

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It's influenced by jazz, and Schoenberg and Satie

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and it's full of quirky harmonies.

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Facade was described as "daring stuff indeed"

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and earned Walton some notoriety in the 1920s

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as an avant-garde modernist.

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APPLAUSE

1:15:021:15:04

So, listen closely

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as Sir Andrew Davis conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra

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in excerpts from Facade Suites

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and listen out for Oh, I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside.

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APPLAUSE

1:19:421:19:44

LAUGHTER

1:26:211:26:23

APPLAUSE

1:26:231:26:25

APPLAUSE

1:29:011:29:03

Just brilliant. Excerpts there from Walton's Facade Suites.

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I don't think anybody enjoyed it in the hall

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as much as Sir Andrew Davis did conducting it on the stage.

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Absolutely marvellous stuff.

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Apparently, on the 500th Prom, that night in 1966,

1:29:261:29:29

that was the piece that got the biggest cheer.

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And the English music in the second half of Malcolm Sargent's

1:29:331:29:36

500th Prom continues with Holst's The Perfect Fool.

1:29:361:29:40

Following the colossal success of The Planets in 1918,

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Holst thought to himself,

1:29:431:29:44

"I know, I'll have a go at writing a comic opera!"

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It was a disaster, though not a complete waste of five years' work,

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because the short ballet music at the start

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was far more popular than the opera itself.

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It took on a life of its own in the concert hall,

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and it's this music that the orchestra played in the 1966 Prom.

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Holst's musical palette is every bit as varied and imaginative

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as in The Planets and there are stylistic similarities,

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as he invokes the spirits of Earth, Water and Fire

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which are summoned by a wizard.

1:30:111:30:13

APPLAUSE

1:30:131:30:15

Sir Andrew Davis returning to the stage

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to conduct Gustav Holst's The Perfect Fool.

1:30:201:30:23

APPLAUSE

1:41:091:41:11

The ballet music from Holst's The Perfect Fool.

1:41:141:41:17

And we're going to go straight onto the next piece of music

1:41:171:41:20

in Sargent's programme - the much-loved vivid evocation

1:41:201:41:24

of the English countryside

1:41:241:41:25

called On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring by Delius.

1:41:251:41:29

APPLAUSE

1:47:241:47:26

Just lovely.

1:47:351:47:36

That piece by Frederick Delius, On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring.

1:47:361:47:41

Sir Andrew Davis conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

1:47:411:47:44

And that piece really does conjure up images

1:47:451:47:47

of a spring morning in England and it was written in 1912.

1:47:471:47:50

And I think it captures

1:47:501:47:52

that age of innocence before the First World War, doesn't it?

1:47:521:47:56

Well, we're almost at the end of

1:47:561:47:57

our recreation of Malcolm Sargent's 500th Prom.

1:47:571:48:01

The concert finished with a piece

1:48:011:48:02

that was very close to Sargent's heart -

1:48:021:48:04

Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra,

1:48:041:48:07

which was originally commissioned in 1945

1:48:071:48:09

by the British Ministry for Education,

1:48:091:48:11

for a short film called Instruments of the Orchestra.

1:48:111:48:14

In that film, Malcolm Sargent narrated and conducted

1:48:141:48:17

a musical tour of the various instruments and sections.

1:48:171:48:21

So, the piece takes the form of Theme and Variations,

1:48:211:48:24

and for his core theme it's no accident that Britten

1:48:241:48:27

took inspiration from another English master,

1:48:271:48:29

the Baroque composer Henry Purcell,

1:48:291:48:31

and his incidental music for the play Abdelazer.

1:48:311:48:35

APPLAUSE

1:48:361:48:39

And I think that before the Britten,

1:48:441:48:47

our conductor might have something up his sleeve.

1:48:471:48:49

Erm, it's really a great privilege for me to be here tonight,

1:48:521:48:57

celebrating the memory of Sir Malcolm Sargent.

1:48:571:49:01

I was fortunate enough to meet him once, in 1960 -

1:49:011:49:05

a long time ago - when he was most encouraging and kind to me.

1:49:051:49:09

But by that time, he was already an important figure in my musical world

1:49:091:49:14

because I had listened to many of his performances,

1:49:141:49:19

right down there in the arena.

1:49:191:49:22

LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE

1:49:221:49:25

It's hard to imagine I was ever one of you, but there we are.

1:49:281:49:31

LAUGHTER

1:49:311:49:33

He was, of course, famous for his championing of British music,

1:49:331:49:36

including - let's not forget - Gilbert and Sullivan,

1:49:361:49:40

and I have to say that actually the first recording I ever bought

1:49:401:49:45

was his recording of The Dream of Gerontius.

1:49:451:49:50

And in terms of manipulating and inspiring huge choral forces,

1:49:501:49:55

I think we can safely say that

1:49:551:49:58

there's never been anyone to better him.

1:49:581:50:01

He was really extraordinary.

1:50:011:50:03

But not only did he do British music,

1:50:031:50:06

his range was extraordinarily wide.

1:50:061:50:08

His Sibelius, for instance, was always wonderful.

1:50:081:50:11

And I particularly remember

1:50:111:50:13

a performance of Shostakovich's 10th Symphony, when I was down there,

1:50:131:50:17

that made a huge impression on me.

1:50:171:50:21

So, for almost 20 years,

1:50:211:50:23

he simply was the Proms for millions of people.

1:50:231:50:28

And the Last Night, of course, was his finest hour.

1:50:281:50:33

Now, when it eventually fell to my lot

1:50:331:50:37

to steer that extraordinary evening through the sometimes choppy seas

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caused by the boisterousness of the Promenaders...

1:50:421:50:46

-LAUGHTER

-No, surely not!

1:50:461:50:49

..it was on Sir Malcolm and my memories of him

1:50:491:50:52

that I drew to guide and inspire me.

1:50:521:50:55

You probably can't see this, because I wanted a white one,

1:50:551:50:58

but this is a red carnation

1:50:581:51:00

which was, of course, his signature decoration, so to speak.

1:51:001:51:04

And I shall wear it to finish the concert.

1:51:041:51:09

So, as we perform Benjamin Britten's

1:51:091:51:12

marvellous Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra,

1:51:121:51:14

and as you listen to it - and, by the way, Sargent premiered it -

1:51:141:51:19

let's all cast our minds back, those of us who can,

1:51:191:51:22

and those of us who can't,

1:51:221:51:24

join in the celebration of this remarkable man

1:51:241:51:27

who opened the magic box of music literally for millions of people.

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So, let's do this the really old-fashioned way.

1:51:311:51:35

So, to Sir Malcolm Sargent, hip-hip...

1:51:351:51:37

-ALL:

-Hooray!

1:51:371:51:39

-Hip-hip...

-ALL:

-Hooray!

1:51:391:51:41

-Hip-hip...

-ALL:

-Hooray!

1:51:411:51:44

APPLAUSE

2:09:072:09:09

A rousing and crowd-pleasing end to this Prom,

2:09:222:09:26

with Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra.

2:09:262:09:30

It's a great work, that, isn't it? It really is.

2:09:302:09:33

Wonderful to see it.

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Such an orchestral showpiece, everybody having their moment,

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and enjoyed thoroughly by the audience here

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at the Royal Albert Hall,

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by the orchestra and by Sir Andrew Davis as well.

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Lovely affectionate tribute he made

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to Sir Malcolm Sargent as well, before that piece.

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CHEERING

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Now doing a bit of a Malcolm Sargent

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and focusing on every section of the orchestra as well.

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The BBC Symphony Orchestra in fine form tonight.

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Sir Andrew Davis was their chief conductor for 11 years,

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and they obviously enjoyed playing for him again.

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And that brings our celebration

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of the legendary Proms conductor Malcolm Sargent to an end.

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I hope you've enjoyed the recreation of his 500th Prom from July 1966.

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There certainly was a lot of different music played back then.

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A lot of music full-stop.

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Stay with us for more music, though, this evening.

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In just a few moments here on BBC Four,

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Scott Walker is revisited in a star-studded late-night Prom,

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celebrating the much-lauded 1960s era of his solo career.

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It's going to be great. But for now, from me, goodnight.

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Nicknamed 'Flash Harry', Sir Malcolm Sargent was the chief conductor of the Proms for two decades, bringing the concerts to TV audiences for the first time. Marking the 50th anniversary of his death, conductor Sir Andrew Davis, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and sensational young pianist Beatrice Rana recreate Sargent's 500th Prom from 1966. Alongside Schumann and Berlioz, there's a feast of English music, including works by Elgar and Holst, culminating in Britten's much-loved Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra.


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