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BBC Proms: Santtu-Matias Rouvali and Víkingur Ólafsson

Royal Albert Hall
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Santtu-Matias Rouvali – conductor
Víkingur Ólafsson – piano


Prokofiev Symphony No. 1, Classical Listen

Bach Keyboard Concerto No. 5 Listen

— Interval —

Mozart Piano Concerto No. 24 Listen

Shostakovich Symphony No. 9 Listen

Our new Principal Conductor makes his long-awaited BBC Proms debut with a vivid programme spanning three centuries of music.

Two 20th-century Russian masterpieces inspired by the Classical era frame intricate keyboard works by Bach and Mozart, featuring soloist Víkingur Ólafsson. Famed for his interpretations of Bach’s music – “Bach at the keyboard has rarely sounded so fresh, expressive and joyous” (Sunday Times) – Ólafsson appears on stage with the Philharmonia for the first time since our tour to Colombia in 2019.

Bach’s Keyboard Concerto No. 5 offers the perfect showpiece for Ólafsson’s expressive style, balancing the composer’s trademark elaborate interlocking melodies with moments of surprising tenderness and sensitivity. Nowhere is that more present than in the gentle central movement, where a melancholy piano line floats lonely above the rest of the ensemble.

Mozart’s concerto balances perfectly with Bach’s – a dramatic opening for the orchestra gives way to sensitive restraint from the solo piano, which gradually grows and develops with the ensemble. Over the course of the work, moments of melodic counterpoint merge with Mozart’s sparkling melodies and virtuosic writing, while just like in Bach’s work, the heart of the piece sees a lonely, simple piano line provide a heartfelt emotional core.

Bookending the performance, a chance to hear Santtu’s passion for Russian music in action with two Soviet works inspired by Mozart’s legacy. Prokofiev’s First Symphony sees the composer directly imitating the style of the Classical era, with small-scale charm and wit undergoing a distinctive 20th-century twist, while Shostakovich’s 9th Symphony represents a rare chance to hear the composer have a moment of unbridled fun.

Opening with a sprightly melody, Shostakovich takes us on a slapstick journey through oom-pah bands, playful scherzos and wildly trilling woodwinds. But darkness is never too far away – the bittersweet second movement dispels the cheery mood, while later moments see the orchestra’s brass sections unleashed in scenes of snarling menace. Only the finale sees the humour return, with a satirical take on military music building up the speed until the whole orchestra races to a hectic finish.

Need to know

Prices & Discounts


Half-price tickets available for under-18s and visitors with disabilities

Running time

1 hour 50 minutes, including 20-minute interval

Recommended age

From 7+

Box office

Royal Albert Hall box office: 020 7589 1212

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