The most-discussed event thus far of the 2011 BBC Proms season has surely been the concert on 6 August that featured the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. Prior to the event TV, radio and broadsheet journalists had jostled to interview composer Gabriel Prokofiev and soloist DJ Switch with regard to the former’s Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra.
Prokofiev had been commissioned by the National Youth Orchestra to expand the original chamber orchestra version of his 2007 Concerto. The result, a version for DJ and large orchestra with which the evening commenced. A packed auditorium thrilled to DJ Switch’s virtuosity as he sampled, mixed and improvised orchestral sounds, with conductor Vladimir Jurowski steering the committed young performers through the electronica-infused soundscape:
‘… while the title of Gabriel Prokofiev's 2007 Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra might suggest something gimmicky, the reality is a lot more rewarding. Each of the five movements highlights a different turntabling technique; in the fourth, the varied speeds of a single sampled flute note finds the turntables becoming a melodic instrument. With all the samples coming from the orchestra, the DJ is an organic part of the ensemble, whether supporting it or subverting it.… Stravinsky’s influence looms large, and the second movement sounds like The Rite of Spring squeezed into a slow hip-hop beat – in a good way. But what Prokofiev does with it is intriguing, serious yet just witty enough, and easily sufficient to sustain a 20-minute work. Relishing his role as concerto soloist, DJ Switch’s takes on the classical show-off cadenza were breathtaking in their dexterity.’The Guardian (Erica Jeal), 7 August 2011
‘… groundbreaking and mind-blowing… This was new ground for many of the listeners, smiling and trying to get a grip on what they were hearing: a DJ sampling, mixing, distorting electronically with sounds from heavy stomping to eerie oriental. Our youngsters took this all in their stride to create five movements of extraordinary sounds many to be recycled, passed back and forth, foot-tapping and totally fascinating.’The Birmingham Post (Maggie Cotton), 12 August 2011
‘… the real surprise here was the realisation that what was on his discs was also in the hall and that the funky interplay between the two was like flicking a time-switch between the 20th and 21st centuries. The speed-slurring of flute samples in the meditative fourth movement emerged like a cosmic message from Olivier Messiaen (via ondes martenot, what else) and there was even a cadenza for the main man…’The Independent (Edward Seckerson), 7 August 2011
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