Prom 8: BBC Philharmonic / Noseda <Br/> Prom 9: Northern Sinfonia / Zehetmair <Br/> Prom 11: BBC No Wales / Hickox, Royal Albert Hall, London

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The Independent Culture

Tropical conditions have been trying for performers and audiences in the "air-cooled" Albert Hall. But some musicians triumphed against the odds, in particular the Austrian violinist Thomas Zehetmair (Prom 9) who, as soloist in Brahms' Violin Concerto, gave as fine a performance as I can remember - and he was conducting, too.

Intriguingly, this mighty work was performed by a chamber orchestra - the Northern Sinfonia, of which Zehetmair is music director - and so solved the balance problem. Mood and ensemble between soloist and orchestra was miraculous, even if Zehetmair did have to conduct with his back.

Zehetmair's compatriot Till Fellner, half of Mozart's double keyboard concerto (Prom 11), also showed achingly direct musical understanding. Paul Lewis was his partner, a dream team, both once students of Brendel, but Fellner played with more clarity and sparkle.

Richard Hickox, in his last stand as principal conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, led the band adequately, but the performance was less gay than could be imagined.

The main interest of Prom 8 was Shostakovich's rarely heard Suite on Verses of Michelangelo Buonarroti. Almost his last work, it was written for voice and piano, but, after orchestrating it, the composer felt it could be regarded as his 16th symphony. His fragmentary writing contrasts music of utmost bleakness with ironic gentleness and sensuality. Gianandrea Noseda, with the BBC Philharmonic, controlled the dynamics impressively, but the baritone, Ildar Abdrazakov, was disappointing. He has a good sound but did little to characterise the verses, and pitch was too approximate.

Noseda led a passionate performance of excerpts from Romeo and Juliet, while Zehetmair opened with Ligeti's Ramifications and ended with Schumann's Fourth. Hickox's Dvorak Seventh returned the Proms to full-scale symphonic bombast.

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

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