Classical: Time for clocks and Mahler

PROMS 25-28 ROYAL ALBERT HALL/ RADIO 3 LONDON

GIVEN THAT "the end of things" serves as a principal theme of this year's Proms, it was hardly surprising that for his Halle presentation of Mahler's Tenth Symphony, Kent Nagano limited himself to the one major movement that the composer himself completed. Thursday's Prom programmed just the opening Adagio, and yet the problem was less a matter of symphonic balance (or a lack of it) than of executive imprecision and an orchestral sonority that called heavily on the brass but fought shy of the strings.

Mahler's younger soul-mate Alban Berg was represented by an intimately lived-in account of his Violin Concerto. Once she had conquered what seemed like first-minute nerves, Kyung-Wha Chung gave a performance that was both passionate and eloquent - especially in the second movement, where Berg turns to Bach for consolation.

As to Beethoven's Seventh, the first movement was a bit of a trudge, but the Allegretto was swifter than most and the furious finale upped both the tempo and the temperature.

Later that night, a dedicated gathering stayed on for a concert by the ensemble Lontano, under Odaline de la Martinez. Varese conjured pre- Messianic birdsong with his seven-minute Octandre then showered us with percussive colour in Integrales.

Between Stravinsky (his entertaining Octet) and Varese, came the London premiere of Sir Harrison Birtwistle's Harrison's Clocks, or a "tribute to the clockmaker John Harrison", where pianist Joanna MacGregor set five separate "mechanisms" in motion. Each opened to a downward flourish, then settled on its own individual course, be it symmetrical or asymmetrical, constant or interrupted, loud or soft. It was a colossal undertaking, the sort that - if it's to be fathomed in detail - needs the repeated scrutiny that a good recording affords.

Lastly, Lantona returned for an extraordinary Octet by Galina Ustvolskaya where the closing movement alternated weeping string motives with loud volleys from the timpani. It was like hearing a firing squad, then eavesdropping on the grief of the newly bereaved.

The two Proms that followed both included memorable premieres. Friedrich Cerha's 1989-96 Cello Concerto was the absorbing centrepiece of Friday and Heinrich Schiff played its UK premiere with obvious emotional engagement, ably supported by the BBC Symphony under Jiri Belohlavek. The overall plan was to tail delicate instrumental activity (including an interesting use of steel drums) with a gradual calming, whereas on Saturday Mark-Anthony Turnage's more recent - and rather more instantly appealing - Silent Cities cued seething climaxes from the thematic "core" of a tune called "The Nag". Inspired by a visit to the Somme and dedicated to Tippett's memory, Turnage's gripping essay was given its London premiere by a generously manned National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain under Ivn Fischer.

Both of these recent works enjoyed "standard rep" for company. But while Belohlavek and the BBC Symphony presented us with sturdy, well-thought- out readings of Brahms's Tragic Overture and Fourth Symphony that hardly differed from other well-thought-out Brahms performances (save perhaps for some shaky brass playing), Fischer's NYO was refreshingly individualistic in Bartok and Dvorak. Leonidas Kavakos brought lashings of lustrous tone to Dvorak's lilting Violin Concerto, though you could only actually hear him if he was facing in your direction (listeners to Radio 3's broadcast will probably have enjoyed a more consistent aural picture).

But the high-spot of last week's Proms, playing-wise, was the NYO's white- hot account of Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra. Many readers will already know that Fischer is peerless among living Bartok conductors, but Saturday's performance showed how he can inspire young players to colour, shade, inflect and shape phrases with a degree of spontaneity that eludes many a seasoned orchestra. And they make a pretty good choir, too. Saturday's unexpected encore was Gibbons's brief but glorious "The Silver Swan".

The Thursday (early evening), Friday and Saturday Proms will be rebroadcast by Radio 3 at 2pm today, tomorrow and Wednesday respectively. www.bbc.co.uk/proms

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Arts and Entertainment
Sergeant pfeffer: Beatles in 1963
booksA song-by-song survey of the Beatles’ lyrics
Arts and Entertainment
music'I didn't even know who I was'
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl was left in a conundrum with too much talent and too few seats during the six-chair challenge stage
tvReview: It was tension central at boot camp as the ex-Girls Aloud singer whittled down the hopefuls
Arts and Entertainment
Kalen Hollomon's Anna Wintour collage

art
Arts and Entertainment

TV Grace Dent on TV
Arts and Entertainment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

music
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer is believed to be playing a zombie wife in Patient Zero

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Gatiss says Benedict Cumberbatch oozes sex appeal with his 'Byronic looks' and Sherlock coat
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Clothing items bearing the badge have become popular among music aficionados
musicAuthorities rule 'clenched fist' logo cannot be copyrighted
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson will star in Seth MacFarlane's highly-anticipated Ted 2

film
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in 'Gone Girl'

film
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.

    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
    Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

    Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

    Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
    Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

    Education, education, education

    TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
    It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

    It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

    So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
    This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

    Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

    Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
    We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

    Inside the E15 'occupation'

    We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
    Witches: A history of misogyny

    Witches: A history of misogyny

    The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
    Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
    'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style