James Judd conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra in the world premiere of Michael Nyman's Double Concerto for Saxophone and Cello at London's Royal Festival Hall, tonight at 7.30pm
In the South Bank Centre's monthly publicity diary, concerts are customarily titled in red in terms of the ensemble giving them, such as "Philharmonia Orchestra". Yet, although the Philharmonia are in fact playing tonight's concert there, with a programme that includes Revueltas's Sensemaya and Schulhoff's 3rd Symphony, the major billing has been given over to the third composer represented: namely, Michael Nyman.

Love him or loathe him - the general public appear to take the former stance, the majority of "serious" music critics the latter - there is probably no other composer alive today who inspires such devotion and such antagonism. Yet Nyman may frighten off a large faction of the musical establishment precisely because he is so difficult to pin down. Is his music classical or popular? The free-wheeling and eclectic Nyman is perhaps claiming it to be both; or, at least, that the need for such distinctions no longer exist. Whichever, the highly successful Nyman is also today's archetypal hard-working composer, producing a dizzying array of orchestral, chamber, concerto, vocal and choral works, as well as music for dance, television and, of course, film.

And Nyman is not averse to accepting the odd commercial concert commission either. What is claimed to be the first-ever Double Concerto for Saxophone and Cello - in which John Harle and Julian Lloyd Webber will be the soloists - was commissioned by Mazda. Nyman's brief has been to reinforce Mazda's company philosophy of Kansei, the Japanese word for concord.

Nyman is certainly not averse to working to order, quoting Stravinsky's dictum: "The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees oneself of the chains that shackle the spirit." Mazda claim the piece "is sure to become a monumental contribution to the classical concerto repertoire."


A small faction of admirers revere him as one of our century's major symphonists; yet the musical establishment continues to dismiss him as an amateur eccentric. The man in question is the extraordinary Englishman Havergal Brian, and tonight there is a chance to hear one of his 32 symphonies, the 6th or Sinfonia tragica, played by the Royal Holloway Symphony Orchestra, under Matthew Taylor.

St John's Smith Square, London W1, 7.30pm tonight