Arts: A conga through the Albert Hall


TUESDAY'S PROM began with a march pretending to be a scherzo pretending to be a street dance - in ragtime, wouldn't you know - and ended with a conga through the Albert Hall arena. The American Dream, wide-awake. Charles Ives - the founding father of musical America - made the alarm- call, telling it like it was, is, has not, nor ever been.

The songs, scherzi, and "take-offs" which almost constituted the first half of this prom were like tissues of every romantic notion and cynical afterthought you've ever had about the good old US-of-A. Thomas Ades, conducting the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, juggled the marching- bands, fireside songs, wrong-note rags without dropping any balls - except on purpose. And the ridiculous was sublime, the simple truths magical. And moving. Who but Ives could drum General William Booth into Heaven (Thomas Hampson and London Voices wacking out the "Hallelujahs") and have us simultaneously chuckling and overawed?

Probably not Conlon Nancarrow - though as a chip off the Ives block, this maverick of the "player-piano" certainly hints at Ives's keyboard style, using rhythm like broken biscuits to concoct exotic confections. His Study for Orchestra (realised by Carlos Sandoval) may not have been what Ira Gershwin had in mind when he wrote the words "fascinating rhythm" (maybe that should now read "schizophrenic rhythm") but it does field one terrific joke: the spectacle of Tim Murray sitting impassively at a pre-programmed Yamaha Disklavier finally to reply to its whizz-bang figurations with a single chord.

Meanwhile, the pay-off was a cracking rendition of Leonard Bernstein's second Broadway score, Wonderful Town - the one written in five weeks when the original composer, Leroy Anderson, failed to impress the star, Rosalind Russell. This is Lenny's postscript to On the Town writ large in all the gaudiest colours from his Big Apple paintbox on a band that got hot from racing with the clock. The speed of composition is reflected in the heat of inspiration and Simon Rattle's performance, more than his recent recording, conveyed that sense of imperative - of a show being written and performed on the hoof. Besides, any conductor who can take the sigh from the vocal line of "A Little Bit in Love" (gorgeously sung by Audra McDonald) and persuade his strings to turn it into something almost indecent can't be all that bad. The sibling revelry of sisters Ruth and Eileen taking their first big bite of the "Big A" found Kim Criswell and Audra McDonald really playing up their vocal differences, like acid and alkaline. So, great band, feisty chorus (London Voices, New York attitude), and a timely reminder of two of the smartest mouths in the history of the genre - lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green.

Don't look directly at the sun, they said, so in Wednesday's Prom we listened directly to it. Poul Ruders's Gong - receiving a belated UK premiere - was not to be eclipsed, even partially. The awsome resonance of many gongs, the deep palpitation of the bass drum, like a solar heartbeat, a corona of high muted trumpets. The ruler of the Universe bade us dance, and we did - a throbbing, pulsating, pounding, blinding (Ruders's words) sun dance. This big and many-faceted score received a rather safe, literal performance from Jukka-Pekka Saraste and the BBC Symphony. Indeed, throughout the evening, Saraste's flabby stick technique appeared to be waving the music on instead of seizing it. You can't hope to liberate Nielsen's Third Symphony with your nose buried in the score.

Edward Seckerson

Wednesday's Prom will be rebroadcast on Radio 3 on Monday at 2pm

Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
    The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

    The ZX Spectrum is back

    The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
    Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

    Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

    The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
    Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

    Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

    If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
    The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

    The quirks of work perks

    From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
    Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

    Is bridge becoming hip?

    The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
    Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

    The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

    Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
    The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

    The rise of Lego Clubs

    How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
    5 best running glasses

    On your marks: 5 best running glasses

    Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
    Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

    'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

    Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
    Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

    Please save my husband

    As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada