Prom 16: Bournemouth SO/Alsop, Royal Albert Hall, London

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

It was only a matter of time before Samuel Barber's achingly romantic Violin Concerto became a core repertoire piece – but I've a feeling that the associations with his ubiquitous Adagio for Strings will have accounted for the near-capacity audience at this Barber/Copland Prom from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under their dynamic and gifted conductor Marin Alsop.

The Barber is not just a tale of two fabulous tunes. No; the intimacy and originality of the scoring is entirely unexpected, with the very first page suggesting that we might accidentally have opened the door on some private soirée. Incongruous piano arpeggios underpin the soloist's opening statement in such a way as to promise but not quite deliver chamber music.

That's the way the young Canadian violinist James Ehnes played it – sweetly and discreetly. He is nothing if not a tasteful player. But, though restraint and discretion have their place in this piece, you still need those ardent descents to the G-string to smoulder a bit. There isn't much heat in Ehnes' playing, and you do feel a certain distance from the music.

Aaron Copland's Third Symphony is the public face of the birth of a nation. You know exactly where you are, right from the wide-spaced harmonies of its horizon-seeking opening. Alsop's Bournemouth SO haven't just picked up the accent; they're beginning to get the dialect, too. There were a few dropped stitches, most of them triggered (pun intended) by the music's angular syncopations, but you could only admire Alsop's virility in stacking the building blocks of the first movement: the climactic transformation of the opening theme was hugely impressive. And she and her rim-shooting side drummer certainly kicked up dust in the prairie-pounding scherzo.

But this piece is all about its peroration – and as the first tentative stirrings of Copland's iconic "Fanfare for the Common Man" were ushered in, you could honestly feel that the first day of the rest of America's life was dawning. For an orchestra from an English seaside town, that's impressive.

The BBC Proms continue to 8 September (020-7589 8212). Visit independent. for exclusive daily podcasts and listen online to highlights from the previous night's Prom