Prom 37: BBC SO / Metzmacher / Cascioli, Royal Albert Hall, London

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The Independent Culture

Hartmann has barely featured at the Proms - a measly treatment of a top-rank composer who drew inspiration from Berg and strengths from Webern's teaching. His Sixth Symphony, inspired by Zola's story of an artist under political pressure, is a seething hothouse. "How," Hartmann asked, "can my generation reflect on our epoch without melancholy?" From the start, darkness rules: in the Adagio, grim timpani, bassoon, contrabassoon and cor anglais well up from Wagnerian depths: are these the wellsprings of good or evil? Wonderfully, the movement grows - from firefly flickers of xylophone, harp and celesta within ever lusher string texturings, muted trumpets and burgeoning woodwind emerges an eerie Nachtmusik. Free from sneery brass, strings blossom afresh, before they are seen off by a flurry of triple oboes, horn and trumpet. Life cut short, perhaps.

The second part, Toccata, is one of those dazzling Hartmann movements that unleash an unbridled savagery. Here, amid a welter of brilliantly worked fugues, the BBC SO, under Ingo Metzmacher, found a clarity of rhythm and texture lacking in the first half. By keeping the volume controlled, Metzmacher let Hartmann's fine textures speak for themselves. The result was scintillating.

Earlier, Gianluca Cascioli's playing of Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto, hampered initially by an overzealous spreading of chords, communicated more in the andante and pranksterish piquancy of the finale. As for Wagner's Lohengrin Prelude, with violins periodically awry, I think I'd head back to the rehearsal room.

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