PROMS / BBC SO / Lazarev - Royal Albert Hall, London SW7

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The Independent Culture
As usual, James Dillon has delivered something astonishing for his Proms commission. ignis noster is a hypersensitive, highly intricate piece which uses a huge orchestra with sometimes breathtaking delicacy and persistently hermetic effect. A torrent of surface detail makes its mark: slow shifting chords, string groups off on a wild dance of their own, an invasion of drums. What does it add up to? I was not alone in losing touch quite early, and on one hearing could not pick up the threads. Such obviously felt and considered music, refusing to make petty concessions to the player or listener, deserves several chances. But how far can you stretch human perception? Few of us have the power to focus on so many half-glimpsed visions.

Without long to learn it, Alexander Lazarev conducted as confident-sounding a performance as he had earlier of Sibelius's Symphony No 1 - a fresh, cogent and dramatic view of an all-too-clearly signposted musical landscape, reinforced by some well-timed extra percussion from the storms overhead. In Strauss's Four Last Songs Lazarev brought off the brave feat of conducting Helen Field behind his back. Singing from the rostrum gave her performance an air of larger-than-life intimacy, but only to the eye: the low vocal registers still did not penetrate the sumptuous orchestral sound, and her finest moments came with the soaring line of the third song.

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