PROMS: BBC Symphony Orchestra / Davis - Royal Albert Hall / Radio 3

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
The most beautiful playing in excerpts from Act 3 of Wagner's The Mastersingers raised considerable expectations in the BBC Symphony Orchestra's Bank Holiday Prom, and indeed, after supporting a stylish Felicity Lott most sensitively in six of Wolf's rarely heard orchestral arrangements of his songs, the orchestra gave an unforgettable interpretation of Elgar's Second Symphony under Andrew Davis's inspired direction.

Its exceptionally large repertory has sometimes prevented it from establishing the kind of reputation it deserves, but on this kind of form the BBC SO can certainly be numbered among the top international orchestras. The strings' expressive range was breathtaking, from the most brilliant and sonorous display to those heart-stopping intimacies Elgar demands, while the wind and brass playing was something to be proud of.

Davis, already a matchless Elgarian, surpassed himself in commanding the structural complexities of the symphony's vast emotional narrative. The virtually continuous rubato required for the ebbing and flowing was marvellously achieved, and those key moments where the music suddenly withdraws as if a window had been closed were miraculously turned - the mini-pause and 'subito' drop in dynamics performed as if by one man. The awed silence that greeted this truly memorable reading told its own story.