Prom 69: BBC Now/Otaka <br/> Prom 70: BBC So/Haitink, Royal Albert Hall, London

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The Independent Culture

Finally, a Prom that had it all: metaphysical scorn in Shostakovich, communal joy in music-making through an hour-long Rachmaninov symphony, and a reminder that the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, a decade on from the principal conductorship of Tadaaki Otaka, can still emulate those benchmark years.

The orchestra welcomed him back as warmly as the audience. In the symphony, No 2, the reasons were obvious. The performance captivated by its attentive, unexaggerated detail - propulsive violas in an early build-up; strands of melody winding around the big tune in the slow movement; hypnotic chiming scales in the finale - while maintaining a firm grasp of the big picture.

Brass and horns played as finely balanced choirs, unstinted in power, to the extent that the violins were pushed to match them, though they shone in the long melodies. When Otaka led a headlong acceleration by trampolining on the rostrum, the sense of irrepressible energy epitomised an evening-long experience of musical joy.

Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No 1 featured the huge tonal range, intensity and insight of the young soloist Han-Na Chang. She and the orchestra were at one in going to the edge. It isn't often that music can sound scathing, but the wind solos had a biting quality matched by the cellist's stamina. She also delivered eloquent laments, ghostly withdrawals of tone and minutely accurate judgements of timbre and pitch.

In the next night's Mahler, the level of focus from the BBC Symphony Orchestra was less consistent. Bernard Haitink conducting the Resurrection Symphony was eagerly awaited. The atmosphere was astonishing; you could sense the full house willing it to be a great performance.

This was a broad, weighty, even solemn affair, in which the big moments had compelling immediacy. Unusually for Haitink, the orchestra's finest efforts came in the monumentally extended fortissimo at the middle of the opening movement, and in the spacious drama of brass calls an hour later. Between, there was sober affection in the lyrical music, a downplaying of its sarcasm and impetuousness, and a surprising rash of small imperfections of detail and large ones of ensemble.

Christianne Stotijn's mezzo solo, emerging out of stillness, fetchingly combined warmth and fresh, eager ardour. With the soprano Susan Gritton and the BBC and London Symphony choruses, the choral culmination sustained an uncommon breadth while Haitink shaped its piled-up masses with great patience. But it wasn't quite enough, and the miracle of Haitink and the BBC SO's Mahler Three at the 2000 Proms was not to be repeated.

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

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