Prom 62: Cleveland Orchestra/Welser-Möst<br></br>Prom 61: BBC SO/Robertson, Royal Albert Hall, London

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The Independent Culture

It's not exactly a bad choir: it's quite large and has a healthy complement of men; it's well-drilled and can produce some raptly soft singing when required. But it often simply didn't make a big enough sound. The orchestral strings (often hard to hear in the Albert Hall in purely orchestral music) easily overpowered the singers at the start of the "Credo" and elsewhere. Perhaps this was partly the fault of the conductor, Franz Welser-Most; other choirs heard this season have overcome such difficulties.

The orchestra played as superbly as this expert band would be expected to, with lovely flute and violin solos, and radiant lower strings, especially violas, in the "Sanctus". But orchestra as well as choir too often seemed bland, as though the performance was merely a rerun of what had been so well prepared in rehearsal. Real excitement came only in the way the final "Agnus Dei" was shaped with appropriate passion. Too little, too late.

Of the soloists, both the men - Toby Spence and bass Michael Volle - were late substitutes. Spence was the most characterful of the four solo singers but, like the soprano Emily Magee, tended to push too hard at climaxes. Volle was movingly engaging in the "Agnus Dei", and the mezzo, Yvonne Naef, also phrased with affecting subtlety.

Tuesday's late-night Prom was, at least in part, a revival of the avant-garde traditions of Pierre Boulez. His own rarely heard cummings ist der Dichter was performed by the BBC Singers and SO players under David Robertson in what seemed a very accurate account, which also found space for the more lyrical moments.

But Boulez would never have countenanced Messiaen's Trois petites liturgies de la Presence Divine, which concluded this attractive Prom. Its colourfully offbeat texts were here lovingly characterised by the women of the BBC Singers, including solo soprano Margaret Feaviour, while the pianist Nicolas Hodges and ondes martenot player Cynthia Millar scampered and whooped around them.