Prom 45, Royal Albert Hall, London
Prom 46, Royal Albert Hall, London
The Emperor of Atlantis, Arcola Theatre, London

A premiere is followed by a little syncopation – but conservatoires can't teach musicians to swing

Calm, alert and unhurried, Thomas Larcher's Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra (Prom 45) is a space in which to breathe and listen. Nothing is quite as you might expect it to be.

Faint rustlings catch the ear: the rub of a palm on the skin of a drum, the lazy grin of an accordion, the mosquito whine of a bow drawn across metal. Here, where solo violin and cello imitate viols in their elegaic, dove-tailed figures, where lush, dewy choirs of woodwind and brass shimmer and bloom, Larcher has created a unique landscape. Electric zither, accordion, percussion and prepared piano offer a frame within a frame for the violin and cello. Romantic in the radiance of its tutti sections, Baroque in its collegial broken consort and the grave simplicity of the cadences that link its two movements, the work affords no grandstanding, no pyrotechnics: it is chamber music on a symphonic scale.

As the first work in the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra's Prom with Ilan Volkov, and the first of two Proms performances given by violinist Viktoria Mullova and cellist Matthew Barley on Thursday, Larcher's new-minted Concerto established a tonal purity and thematic spaciousness that continued in Volkov's unsentimental reading of Bruckner's Fifth Symphony. Led by Laura Samuel, founder member of the Belcea Quartet, the strings breathed into the Schumannesque suspensions and shy pizzicato bass of the opening Adagio. Though the horns sounded edgy, the trombones glowed. The timbre of Stella McCracken's oboe solo was almost Russian in the baleful second movement, the Scherzo hot, giddy and malevolent. The pursuit of serenity is a sweaty business in Bruckner, yet the blaze of the closing movement had a rough, healthful beauty.

Mullova and Barley's musical conversation continued in their late-night session with Julian Joseph, Paul Clarvis and Sam Walton (Prom 46). Tagged to the release of Mullova's latest disc, The Peasant Girl, this was a winsome crossover experiment in the mould of Through the Looking Glass (2001), with numbers by Bratsch and Weather Report arranged, as before, by Barley. As the only member of the band to bend a rhythm with style, Joseph was scandalously under-utilised, while Walton's equal temperament marimba made me long to hear the watery pitch of a cimbalom. Regardless of Mullova's Ukrainian roots, gypsy music suits her no better than it would Anne-Sophie Mutter. But why should it? Of the conservatoire-trained violinists that I've heard play gypsy music, only József Lendvay Jr can do it, and his father is a folk-music legend. Mullova played with dutiful attention to every ersatz off-beat, every just-so quartertone but only came to life in the mordant smears and guttural aphorisms of Kodály's Duo – confident and expressive, at home in the music. Written in Terezin, the concentration camp just a few miles from Prague, Viktor Ullmann's The Emperor of Atlantis is a zeitoper unlike any other: a brittle, sophisticated cabaret, a nostalgic romance, a Chaplinesque satire on a world where Death has gone on strike, a declaration of defiance. It is also a lament for Ullmann himself, Hans Krasa, Pavel Haas, Erwin Schulhoff and the other Czech composers of their generation who were annihilated in the Holocaust, fracturing a tradition that extended back through Janácek and Josef Suk to Dvorák and Smetana.

Designed by Valentina Ricci, Max Hoehn's plucky production in this year's Grimeborn Festival revealed what a challenge Ullmann and his librettist, Peter Kien, set their performers. Ullmann's orchestration was necessarily compromised by circumstance – a bran-tub of string quintet, woodwind, banjo, saxophone, trumpet, piano and snare drum – but wittily blended. He was a gifted pasticheur, darting from sour-sweet dances to opulent love duets, a caustic inversion of the German national anthem, quoting from Suk's Asrael. Had Ullmann made it to America, he could have given Weill and Korngold a run for their money. But only in the final aria for the impotent, lonely, murderous Emperor (Thomas Humphreys) and the closing quartet's Bergian extrapolation of Bach's "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" does Ullmann fully show his musical personality.

Smartly conducted by John Murton, with excellent work from percussionist Ollie Taylor, flautist Tom Hancox and double-bassist Georgine McGrath, The Dioneo Players kept the textures light and clean. Ullmann's score calls for more lyricism, vocal heft and better diction than a very young cast could deliver in a difficult acoustic, and Humphreys's attractive baritone faltered under pressure. In the supporting cast, soprano Christiana Petrou soared sweetly in the final quartet, with Osian Gwyn a confident, quick-witted, characterful Loudspeaker.

Grimeborn (020-7503 1646) to 27 Aug

Next Week:

Anna Picard hears the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester at the Proms

Classical Choice

Glyndebourne comes to the Proms as Ottavio Dantone directs the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in Handel's Rinaldo at the Royal Albert Hall, London (25 Aug). Meanwhile in Edinburgh, Vlaamse Opera stages Nigel Lowery's production of Rossini's Semiramide at the Festival Theatre (from 25 Aug).

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth

art

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
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.

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links