With so much focus - understandably - on London's concerts during the Proms season, it is a delight to be able to listen to and attend various other related performances across the UK. As a result of both the various Community Proms and other concert series held under the Proms umbrella, this nationwide festival is ever-increasing in practical accessibility. At the centre of Cardiff's Welsh Proms week (19th-26th July) was BBC NOW's Slavic-orientated Romantic Prom, conducted by Owain Arwel Hughes: Smetana's Overture to The Bartered Bride, Dvořák's Symphony no. 7 in D minor and Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto with Chloë Hanslip as soloist.

Chloë Hanslip © Benjamin Ealovega
Chloë Hanslip
© Benjamin Ealovega

From the outset there was a crackling energy in Smetana's Overture. The level and even execution of the quiet, technically-unyielding chattering string figurations leant to the sense of momentum underpinned by the tempo. Consequently, the orchestra pushed at the sense that they were treading the edge of the precipice in this section, which only added to the sense of exhilaration. Despite some minor slips in ensemble, the performance was excitingly nerve-wracking as a result.

European music often seems to betray an undertone of melancholy in various guises and this aspect of Slavic nature was encapsulated in Dvorák's Seventh Symphony. Understandably overshadowed by his final two works in the genre, possibly as a result of the lack of immediately graspable tunes, it was nevertheless a wonderful choice for tonight and an excellent performance. The turbulent undercurrent to the work was never far from the surface and some of the more theatrical moments were conveyed beautifully. There was a darkness of tone to the strings and both the woodwind and brass sections took advantage of their moments to shine at all points, as well.

The first movement of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto was taken at a slightly slower tempo than I am used to hearing, however this allowed for various smaller nuances to make themselves known within this framework: cute little dynamic dips and and whimsies of tempo became more prominent. A sense of capriciousness poked through at times. However, Hanslip's liberties with the tempo between one set of figurations and the next resulted in the orchestra becoming unstuck in one or two places. This is hardly surprising, however, since there are many longer flourishes of which the end is not always easy to anticipate and in fact, for the most part, the BBC NOW yielded to Hanslip's dips and pushes very fluidly. Furthermore, it was wonderful to see the soloist's direct communication with Hughes and the orchestra itself. Hanslip maintained a great sense of pace and a feeling of freedom within her playing. For such a young player her sound was mature, gutsy at times and she set her harmonics in great relief in the first-movement cadenza, the sound of which was both gratifyingly clean and penetrating. Overall, one could sense, through her confident flexibility and occasional sense of humour that poked through, that this was a work with which she was very familiar. A solid, enjoyable evening and a good centrepiece to the Welsh Proms week.