Julian Anderson's reputation for brilliant instrumental writing that sometimes lacks substance has recently been challenged by evidence of an ever-maturing voice of his own. The very fine The Book of Hours, his first work to involve live electronics, has, in particular, suggested a significant new phase in his output.
I wish that I could be as positive about Heaven is Shy of Earth, his latest BBC Prom commission. The notion of mixing settings of the Latin Mass and Psalm 84 with Emily Dickinson, pared down to generate a sophisticated musical structure of five movements lasting half an hour, is a good one.
The decision to use both a mezzo-soprano soloist and a flugelhorn was inspired, and leads to some fine moments where melody takes wing, as in the flugelhorn solo, played here with passion by Bill Houghton. Angelika Kirchschlager, gesticulating a little wildly, made the most of a sometimes radiant vocal line, though she was really too little employed. As always with Anderson, the orchestral writing was scintillating and succulent by turns.
Yet the extensive writing for chorus is often pedestrian. Pointing to obvious models - Ives's Unanswered Question for the beginning, as well as Britten's War Requiem - is arguably a little unfair. But I did have the feeling that too much was borrowed to too little effect.
Sir Andrew Davis conducted the BBC Symphony Chorus and Symphony Orchestra in a well-prepared account of Anderson's score, and a glowing one of Ravel's Daphnis and Chloë.
Earlier, David Goode produced an even bigger noise than did the several hundred souls assembled on stage for Daphnis, as he gave the mighty Albert Hall organ an energetic, if occasionally splashy workout. His curious programme ranged from the baroque to rare Russian repertory, ending with some Liszt that blew the roof off. Just what you need for a lazy summer Sunday afternoon.
BBC Proms to 9 September (020-7589 8212; www.bbc.co.uk/proms)Reuse content