BBC Proms 2023: Rufus Wainwright’s Want Symphonic – Want One
It’s been 20 years since Rufus Wainwright blessed the world of music with his seminal album, Want One. It’s only apt that his Proms comeback should celebrate this classic by performing new symphonic arrangements of the songs, crafted by Sally Herbert and Max Moston, in a concert that is a clear success.
Wainwright’s inherent flamboyance shines through as ever with vibrant attire and a sprinkle of self-deprecating wit. His charm keeps the audience entertained, even before he vocalises a single note. But sing he does, and he’s on top form – a testament, no doubt, to his harmonious rapport with conductor Sarah Hicks, who expertly leads the stupendous BBC Concert Orchestra through all the songs of the album.
As expected, Oh What a World dazzles as an opener with its intricate rhythms and layered orchestration, and it is followed by the poppy I Don’t Know What Is, with its simple yet almost melancholic melody that carries the entire number. Shortly after we are given the stormy, complex and multilayered Movies of Myself – a raving boost of energy before the quiet and sombre Pretty Things.
Not each song holds up well these days, however: Vibrate feels tethered to its time; Natasha, while including some nice sentiments, doesn’t translate all that well to this arrangement. Thankfully, however, some of the highlights are really effective: Go or Go Ahead is as good as it always was, with its beautiful chord progressions, slow build and grand payoff, while Beautiful Child remains a timeless gem.
The concert ends with no surprises, finishing on the quieter, moving Dinner at Eight. As his encore, Wainright performs Going to a Town from his later album, Release the Stars – another song that captures the audience’s hearts. It’s a lovely finish to a strong concert that stands as a tribute to one of his first great albums.
Photo: BBC/Andy Paradise
For further information and future events visit Rufus Wainwright’s website here.