The disappointment was all the keener after Orchestral Theatre I: Xun. Tan's absorption of hugely contrasted Western contemporary styles is astonishing. He doesn't try to fuse East and West, but to use Western elements to enrich his own language. The sounds that open and close Orchestral Theatre I are those of the "xun", a small, pear-shaped clay pipe that produces a wealth of ghostly noises out of all proportion to its size. The xun sounds dominate the piece, with members of the orchestra taking them up at beginning and end. That's not all they have to do beyond the call of duty: there are shouts of "hei zo hei, ha, chi", harp and piccolo soloists "bend" their notes, the brass tap their mouthpieces in rhythm - a glorious sound, somewhere between a primary-school brass lesson and a brigade of enraged bullfrogs.
But all these sounds, and the more conventional ones, grow from those magical, incantatory xun noises at the start. The piece has a strong theatrical impulse that makes its shape surprisingly and delightfully easy to grasp. There's nothing dry or abstracted about it, only teeming vitality and meditative calm. Apparently plans are already under way to fit the abandoned Orchestral Theatre II into a later Prom. Try not to miss it; more reserved listeners can always chant along with the Radio 3 broadcast.
As it was, we did get two other pieces before Tuesday's premature end: a somewhat prosaic performance of Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet, and a Rachmaninov Paganini Rhapsody with soloist Stephen Hough on fine form: plenty of sparky and delicate fantasy and a very intelligent grasp of the work's four-movements-in-one form. Half a Prom is still far better than no Prom at all.Reuse content