'The Queen goes Promming' promised the press release for the BBC Symphony Orchestra's concert, the Proms' celebration of the 50th anniversary of the coronation. It was an enticing prospect, her Majesty mingling in classical music's most famous mosh-pit, but in the event, she confined herself to a tour of the front row of hard-core Prommers during the interval, before returning to the safe haven of the Royal Box.
The mostly-British programme, conducted by Andrew Davis, mixed the celebratory with the serious, so the first half paired Walton's Coronation Te Deum, played at the ceremony in 1953, with Elgar's Sea Pictures, in an elegant performance by Catherine Wyn-Rogers.
But the middle was made up of music by notably republican composers. Arnold Bax, who died 50 years ago, may have become the Master of the King's Musick, but when he wrote November Woods, he was actively involved in the Irish uprisings. Davis's performance revealed the dark colours at the heart of this tempestuous score, even it the orchestra missed some of its passion.
However, they relished the deviant fantasy of two of Percy Grainger's folk-song arrangements, Molly on the Shore, a dazzling superimposition of two folk-tunes, and the riotous Shepherd's Hey. The chosen representative of living British composers was Mark-Anthony Turnage, with Momentum, his reworking of football chants and jazz harmonies. Davis's performance had an acerbic energy that cut through the pomp of the rest of the programme.
There was a spiritual celebration in the previous evening's late-night Prom, with the Bach Choir of Bethlehem and Bach Festival Orchestra, under conductor Greg Funfgeld. The choir are the oldest Bach Choir in America, but despite their 100-strong number, they gave underpowered performances of two Bach cantatas, accompanied by the orchestra's lacklustre playing. Funfgeld failed to inspire his singers in four unaccompanied motets by Mendelssohn, and they made this worthy music sound monotonous.
At least Libby Larsen's I It Am: The Shewings of Julian the Divine, one of the season's world premieres, triggered more engagement from the choir and orchestra. The piece is a contemporary cantata that dramatises the visions of Julian of Norwich, a medieval anchoress. Larsen's work sets out to show human spirituality, and offers, in her words, music that is "empowering". The piece was never less than comforting and accessible, but it realised only a saccharine, superficial spirituality.