Prom 3: Siegfried, Royal Albert Hall, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

Deep in the forest of Wagner's imagination, the worm turns. A single bass tuba growls through a menacing undergrowth of string basses and thudding timpani.

It's the third instalment of the Proms Ring, and Christoph Eschenbach's Orchestre de Paris is showing why it's sometimes called the scherzo of the cycle. As the anvil rhythms underscoring the reforging of the sword Nothung proliferate, the thing that strikes you about the performance is its momentum. There's an inevitability about it.

And poetry. Eschenbach turns the bass clarinet into the saddest instrument in the world when Siegfried learns of his mother's death. At the other extreme, the great ground-surge of the Act III prelude is tremendous, stabbing sforzando trumpets foreshadowing the great confrontation between Wotan/Wanderer and our hero. Here was a performance that had plainly seen the inside of a theatre (the Châtelet in Paris).

Jon Fredric West's was a bouncing bruiser of a Siegfried. Yet there was a point to his cartoonish hopping, skipping and jumping, and vocally he was nothing if not resilient. Like most seasoned Siegfrieds, the voice had failed to defy gravity and spread somewhat. But the hefty money notes were all there - and he hungrily used text to carry the energy forward. It was a sterling effort.

So, too, Volker Vogel's Mime, balanced between whining subservience and malicious intent. Sergei Leiferkus led the cast's predominantly Russian contingent with his customary sibilant menace. Actually, there wasn't enough distinction between the baritonal character of his voice and that of Evgeny Nikitin's charismatic Wanderer. This young singer has immense promise but he was pushing in his bid to awaken Erda in Act III. More ballast is needed at the bass end of the voice for this role.

Finally, if tasting the dragon's blood enabled Siegfried to understand the wood bird, perhaps it also helped him with Olga Sergeeva's Brünnhilde. I couldn't make out a word. But the singing was voluptuous and she nailed the emergence into light with a whopping top C.

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

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