Gennadi Rozhdestvensky at the Proms

Keith Giles

Unforgettable experience

It was a long time ago, mid 1960s, but if my memory serves me correctly the first ever Sunday Promenade Concert at the Royal Albert Hall featured the visiting Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra and their conductor, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, who performed Tchaikowsky's Symphnoy No.4 in F minor. The third movement, a scherzo, features largely the string section playing pizzicato, a brilliant piece of writing and a brilliant performance, not least by the conductor, who I can only describe as having conducted with his cufflinks, so light and expressive, so much so that the audience went wild and applauded long and loud, refusing to allow him to continue to the finale until he had encored the scherzo movement! 

I was privileged to witness this spectacle as he had earlier that evening conducted a choral piece which included the BBC Choral Society as it was known then, (now the BBC Symphony Chorus) so, as a tenor singer in that choir, I was seated in the choir stalls facing the audience and conductor. What an evening! 

The picture shows Rozhdestvensky conducting a Promenade concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1966, very probably to occasion referred to above.

Membership of the BBC Choral Society provided me with many awe-inspiring experiences, having been under the baton of such greats as Sir Malcolm Sargent, Sir Adrian Boult, Leonard Bernstein, Bernard Haitink and many more at both the Royal Albert Hall and The Royal Festival Hall throughout the 1960s. I am still singing in my late 70s, although not at the same level!