Classical Review: Weir hits right note - naturally

PROMS 58-60

ROYAL ALBERT HALL/RADIO 3 LONDON

JUDITH WEIR'S Natural History again affirms that among young composers today, few are as gifted as she is. Her music breathes coolly, calmly and intelligently with a clarity of tonal language that positively invites you in. Natural History is a four-part orchestral song cycle, based on Taoist texts - Horse, Singer, Swimmer and Fish/Bird. It marks a return for Weir to things Chinese, which have been so influential in her career, not least in her highly original A Night At The Chinese Opera.

Weir says she was drawn to these ancient texts by their "concision, clarity, lightness and (hidden) wisdom". Natural History, a kind of Taoist Carnival Of The Animals, was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and "written for the voice of Dawn Upshaw", soloist on Tuesday at its European premiere (the rapturous world premiere was in Boston last January, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle). Upshaw has a delightfully light floating sound perfectly suited to these exquisitely simple but wise tales. The impact says much for Weir's delicate scoring, a feast to the ear which although employing the full orchestra and substantial percussion, always leaves adequate space for the voice.

In the same concert, clarity of a different kind came from the BBC Philharmonic under Mark Elder, in a spectacular performance of Richard Strauss's much-maligned Symphonia domestica. Played like this, Strauss's "sofa music" is transformed into a virtuoso concerto.

With an acronym like BOAC, it is hardly surprising that Bang On A Can play a piece called Music For Airports 1:1. But since Brian Eno describes the work as "ambient", it does seem perverse to expect an audience actively to listen to it. But Tuesday's late night concert, with New York's darling of "cross-over" bands, shows how chic the Proms have become. From David Lang's music of "ominous funk" to Steve Martland's heady Horses Of Instruction (one of his best works), this virtuoso group of six, playing heavily amplified electric instruments (including something that looked like an ironing board), thundered and spluttered, crashing all notion of boundaries between pop and art. The next night's all Russian evening with Vassily Sinaisky and the BBC Philharmonic - again on sizzling form - felt ultimately unsatisfying. It was a Pushkin anniversary celebration, drawing on works set by Glinka, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky and Rakhmaninov. As a student exercise, Rakhmaninov's Aleko is prodigious but it needed more fire from the soloists - Vassily Gerello, Vsevolod Grivnov and Matthew Best - only Elena Prokina breathing real life into the score. In a "bleeding chunk" of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, including the final scene, Prokina again dominated. The appetite was wetted. More Onegin was required.

Tuesday's early evening Prom will be rebroadcast on Radio 3 at 2pm on 9 September

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing