Prom 1: BBC SO/ Belohlavek, Royal Albert Hall, London

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The Independent Culture

One advantage of launching the world's greatest musical festival with the world's worst piece of music – Strauss's preposterous Festival Prelude – is the certain knowledge that the only way is up. Unless, of course, you end with the second-worst piece of music – Scriabin's Poem of Ecstasy, where the sustained release of hot air and queasy harmony induces an untimely deflation of the spirit.

Then again, one assumes that this dog's dinner of an opening Prom was designed to proclaim that Roger Wright's tenure as director would transcend all boundaries of style and taste, and be what the Proms have always striven to be: adventurous and inclusive.

But that's being generous to a programme that could only have worked without the hiatuses for platform reorganisation. After Strauss it might have been interesting to savour Mozart's Oboe Concerto in C with Nicholas Daniel, a peerless, elegant, witty soloist, but the transition from ridiculous to sublime took a while, by which time the daring of the juxtaposition diminished.

Strauss did get to redeem himself, though. One of the joys of Christine Brewer's exquisitely long-breathed account of his Four Last Songs was that it was so self-effacing. Brewer gave notice in only the second phrase of "Spring" that the "spin" essential for keeping the vocal line fluid and airborne would be achieved through lightening delivery and allowing the music free rein to carry the texts. How rarely one hears a soloist in such perfect accord with the caressing solo violin (the superb Andrew Haveron) of "Beim Schlafengehen".

The centenary tributes to Messiaen and Elliott Carter began here, too. Wayne Marshall showed us how a dazzling array of registrations can transform the Albert Hall organ from birdlike diminution to Gothic roar in "Dieu parmi nous" from Messiaen's La Nativité du Seigneur. And piano whizz Pierre-Laurent Aimard made Beethoven's Rondo in B-flat and Carter's leaping toccata Catenaires sound like they'd been written about a month apart.

And then came Scriabin to ruin it all. The meal was over; this was the emetic.

BBC Proms continue to 13 September (0845 401 5040)

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