PROMS Xenakis, Elgar, Bruckner Albert Hall / R3

Long goodbyes, but few regrets. As swan-songs go, Elgar's Cello Concerto and Bruckner's Ninth Symphony are essentially hopeful pieces. There is sadness in Elgar's elegiac confessional, a feeling that that which is done cannot now be undone; there is anger, defiance, an overwhelming sense of catharsis in the grim reaping of Bruckner's last symphonic utterance - the one instance in his entire uvre where this God-fearing man actually shakes a fist at the Almighty and asks "why"? But in both cases there are answers - strangely reassuring answers.

Steven Isserlis's reading of the Elgar has been marinating nicely over the years. It's a very particular view, a private view. He doesn't reach out with the piece, he doesn't sell it in time-honoured fashion - but rather draws you into its confidence, to muse and to question. Bigness plays no part: the outgoing, "operatic" approach is not for him. You can always see behind the eyes of Isserlis's playing: listen, really listen, and he has a lot to say.

So concentration is all, and in Tuesday night's Prom it took him and us a while to settle. Tadaaki Otaka and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales were at once sensitive to his needs. You learn a lot about the conductor and orchestra in this piece from the way in which they "place" their response to the opening recitative. And then the violas have it - that autumnal tune. Isserlis didn't quite pick up here on the easy repose of it. Tension - the wrong kind of tension - was perceptible, if not wholly evident, and tension makes for tightness makes for unevenness. So some ragged co-ordination. But then came the scherzo, and suddenly Isserlis was Puck to Elgar's Oberon and you couldn't see bow or fingering for the speed of the articulation. The rest was fine, and personal, not least that moment in the dying breaths of the epilogue when the principal subject of the slow movement poignantly re-emerges. That's a special moment in every Isserlis performance of this piece. Beyond time and recall.

Time is, of course, an overriding factor in the Bruckner experience. From the moment those horns begin their summons from some deep and remote region, the Ninth Symphony, in keeping with every other Bruckner symphony, is an Odyssey that takes as long as it takes. There has to be that very real sense of evolution, of unfolding, of unharried ascent. Otaka kept his nerve, even though it meant testing his orchestra's. Bruckner is all about sustaining. And resisting the temptation to move on leaves an orchestra horribly exposed. The BBC National Orchestra of Wales did well to stay the course so concentratedly and with so relatively few sour or poorly placed notes. Otaka is a very centred, patient, conductor, and he instils as much in his players. The outer movements were possessed of genuine sense of awe at their enormity, the scherzo (the harmonic half-light of its opening bars chillingly tweaked at) proved an unsettling apposition of subversive war-like stomp and falsely ingratiating trio. As for that ending, Otaka seemed in no doubt as to its finality. A further movement would add nothing. It is finished. It is enough.

One wonders if Iannis Xenakis thinks so too. Earlier this year, in an Independent interview marking his 75th birthday, he said: "I'm getting very old now and older people don't care any more. They are waiting, maybe not for death, but for something different..." That Xenakis is unaccustomed to waiting was written all over his BBC commission Sea-Change, premiered at Wednesday's Prom by Andrew Davis and the BBC Symphony. The ferocious spirit that drove his notes and numbers into ever more furious and elemental contortions would seem to have deserted him. Sea-Change is a Xenakis torso with all the life-force taken out of it. The Tempest is its distant source of reference, so distant as to be barely recollected. Four trombones sound a deep pedal set "full fathom five". Bare unisons of woodwind, trumpets, and horns exchange sennets and tuckets. Glissandi feebly slither where once they would have seared. It's all over bar the shouting in well under 10 minutes. Except that there is no shouting. Not any more. Who'd have thought he'd go so quietly? Wednesday's Prom will be repeated on Radio 3, 2pm today

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
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
  • 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.

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?