Shakespeare has influenced the programme of this year's Proms as much as many regular seasons, celebrating his work and impact on countless other artists up to this day. Last night the BBC Concert Orchestra and Keith Lockhart offered a snapshot of the Bard's lasting artistic impact with music for composed for stage and screen, from this side of the Atlantic and beyond the pond.

Keith Lockhart © Winslow Townson
Keith Lockhart
© Winslow Townson

The regal fanfare of William Walton's Prelude to Richard III greeted the audience, carried by the Royal Albert Hall's long reverberation to great effect, before the music marched and flowed on under Lockhart's flourished, batonless lead. Another bright fanfare introduced the lovely incidental music to Love's Labour's Lost by Gerald Finzi, presented with lean strings, a beautifully projected viola solo in Moth and an inkling of colour in the Finale. On the whole, however, much for the first half remained in the monochrome of early films, from the overture to Arthur Sullivan's Tempest Suite to Walton's orchestral poem As You Like It, leaving me profoundly unmoved.

That was until the Spring Dance from Joby Talbot's score to The Winter's Tale, a ballet adaptation of the psychological drama and problem play of the same title receiving its first Proms outing. Cue orchestral magic. The BBCCO had taken its time to warm up, but once out of its shell, there was no stopping it. Gone were untidy woodwind moments, gone the washed-out articulation. With Keith Lockhart's movements more decisive and to the point, the orchestra seemed egged on by the more demanding music, jerked to life by the gripping, skew-whiff rhythms. Snarling double basses, tearing trombones and a full arsenal of percussion (noteworthy: Paul Philbert on timpani, with a lot of gusto) whirled in the savage springtime rite to the heartbeat of the djembe, calmed for a lyrical string passage and threw themselves into the harsh final section with great commitment. Exit all reserve (albeit no bear).

Scene change: the Bard on Broadway. Keeping up the tension and enthusiasm over the interval, the musicians demanded attention with precise cues, focus and pithy tone in the opening of Leonard Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. It was a changed orchestra from the first half that unleashed plenty of smack, bang and drive, interspersed with the beautiful "Somewhere" theme in intimate togetherness of viola and cello. It was a performance of great intensity giving the sound copious shine and colour in stronger passages and driving the Mambo with steam and magnificent noise. While this dynamic exuberance was not all abandon, but astonishingly well controlled as the subito piano preceding a tender "Maria" line proved, orchestra and conductor were committed to a big sound with personality, and it was rather spectacular.

Completing the picture of Shakespeare's reach unhindered by time and distance, the programme turned to the earlier musicals of Cole Porter and Rodgers & Hammerstein. Great density in the orchestral introduction, Another Openin', Another Show from Kiss me, Kate, set the scene for a trip into the soundscape of the 1940s. It soon saw the BBCCO as a solid, accompanist full of verve to Anne-Jane Cassidy, sweetly and coyly promising the front row Prommers to always be true – in her fashion. With "So in Love", Hannah Waddingham took a dip in velvet-voiced, Bondesque waters before a quick trip into Rodger's Boys from Syracuse, introduced by Joseph Shovelton with a swagger in his voice. While Sarah Eyden's otherwise bright, youthful soprano took on an unpleasant edge in the top notes of "Falling in Love", her timbre mixed marvellously with that of the other two ladies for a gorgeous "Sing for your Supper".

Pleasing as the forays into the world of Broadway songs were, Bernstein's Symphonic Dances were undoubtedly the centre and highlight of this evening lauding Shakespeare in the 400th year since his death. A memorable performance, i'faith.

***11