World Orchestra for Peace with conductor Donald Runnicles

We heard an exhilarating and inspiring performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in the tradition of Solti and Guilini. Donald Runnicles and the World Orchestra for Peace explored Beethoven’s counterpoint in the first movement in forensic but flowing detail, plenty of shape, the conductor encouraging the flow and counter flow of the musical voices with just small movements of his baton. Beethoven’s counterpoint was radical and miraculous at its premiere and is still a joy to behold even now.

The slow movement was beautiful, it can drag but not tonight: the conductor shaping the suspense and helping the music sing. The finale, the evolution out of chaos, the timpani punctuation reminiscent of Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem before the interval. The tenor solo, Russell Thomas giving strong clear voice to the plea for more pleasing joyous sounds. The glorious weaving of the soloists and the chorus, operatic in its intensity and passionate in its message, particularly from this orchestra and at this event. Finally the exhilarating setting of Schiller’s Ode, the young voices of the Youth Chorus giving weight and sheer acoustic force to the music. And Donald Runnicles brought the performance to an exuberant but precise end with a single extravagant swoop of his baton. Tumultuous applause, thumping, standing etc.
A popular programme, tonight looks to have been a full house. A multicultural audience, typically London, both up in the tiers and those experiencing the arena atmosphere.
Before the interval we heard the World Première of a work commissioned for this performance and to celebrate the end of World War 1, the war to end all wars, which didn’t. Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds delivered a simple piece for choir, some playing handheld xylophones, others whistling as well as singing. I guess it would sound equally as good from a school choir.
The World Orchestra for Peace plays brilliantly; their performance of Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem was punchy yet fluid, sensitive and poignant and flowing. Of course Donald Runnicles is a major international conductor but this orchestra comes together for the occasion in the name of World Peace. It is comprised of many eminent players from orchestras and ensembles all over the world. The result was a really special performance, particularly of Beethoven's Ninth.


Prom 9: War and Peace

Ēriks Ešenvalds: Shadow (BBC commission, world premiere)
Benjamin Britten: Sinfonia da Requiem
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No 9 in D minor, ‘Choral’

Erin Wall (soprano)
Judit Kutasi (mezzo-soprano)
Russell Thomas (tenor)
Franz-Josef Selig (baritone)
BBC Proms Youth Choir
World Orchestra for Peace
Simon Halsey (conductor)
Donald Runnicles (conductor)