Prom 26: BBC SO/Davis, Royal Albert Hall, London

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The Independent Culture

The first of Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance marches rejoiced in a "Land of Hope and Glory"; the sixth - newly unveiled in Anthony Payne's completion - seems almost to suggest one last colonial campaign. There's a weariness in its gait, a sternness in its character; even the big, arching tune of the trio feels like something of a departure, a final salute, if you like, to an ever-diminishing empire.

That wistful, reluctantly valedictory, air was something of a feature, too, in Payne's reconstruction of the Third Symphony.

Elgar always intended there to be a half-dozen Pomp and Circumstance marches. Again, it is astonishing how convincingly Payne gets inside the Elgar sound. The little subversions - the way he second-guesses how Elgar might have striven to spice up his musical language - make the results here even more intriguing. There are the familiar fingerprints, not least the skirling horns and piccolo, but the shifting metre lends uncertainty and the use of sleigh-bells, a throw-back to his Cockaigne Overture, reminds us just how far we have journeyed.

Sir Andrew Davis and the BBC Symphony Orchestra delivered a ripping performance and then, rather cheekily, Davis went on to demonstrate what he could do with an orchestra in his own scintillating arrangement of Bach's Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor. His erstwhile prowess as an organist really shone through the variety of his orchestral "registrations", deftly unexpected throughout.

Britten and Shostakovich again linked hands across the East/West divide. The 2005 Cardiff Singer of the World, Nicole Cabell, found the implicit sex in the "murmurs and visions" of Les Illuminations, plumbing the contradictions between the sound and sense of Arthur Rimbaud's verse, while Evgeny Kissin and a somewhat retiring trumpeter, Sergei Nakariakov, were very much unequal partners in Shostakovich's bipolar Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings. Shostakovich, the sad clown, was very much alive and kicking but his heart was only briefly glimpsed.

BBC Proms to 9 September (020-7589 8212; www.bbc.co.uk/proms)

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