Prom 61 and 63, reviews: New Zhou Long work disappoints but John Adams' new saxophone concerto is a hit

Royal Albert Hall, London

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The Independent Culture

The composer Zhou Long is one of the heroes of contemporary Chinese music. Injured by the rural labour he was forced into during the Cultural Revolution, he extracted something good from that experience by imbibing the folk music of Mongolia.

And it was that style – plus the music of the guqin and of Peking Opera – which inspired his new work Postures - for piano and orchestra. But despite Andreas Haefliger’s incisive performance as soloist the work proved a disappointment: its effects – melding the sounds of Western and Eastern instruments - were often brilliant and evocative, and the players of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra under Lan Shui clearly relished them, but there seemed to be no structure.

Twice hastily pulled from previous Prom schedules – first because of Princess Diana’s death, then after 9/11 - John Adams’s Short Ride in a Fast Machine finally made it into Prom 63, and it proved a cheerfully innocuous little fanfare.

But Adams’s new Saxophone Concerto, with its dedicatee Timothy McAllister as the soloist, was fascinating. Adams grew up listening to bebop, and that idiom shone exhilaratingly through, but there were also echoes of Stravinsky and Bernstein.

The intricate inventiveness of the solo line was subtly shadowed by bassoon, flute, and the saxophone’s clarinet cousin: Marin Alsop and the BBC Symphony Orchestra did it proud.