Last Wednesday fiery conductor Vasily Petrenko launched us into a two-hour musical adventure with Elgar’s In The South (Alassio) and started an evening of diverse and beautiful music. Elgar has us captivated immediately with one of those cool, windswept openings he does so well; immediately hurtling us into a lively serenade, every instrument playing flat out. The timpani featured heavily; not played heavily, I hasten to add, but played gently and tenderly to make beautiful music.
This is a real journey through Italy, a land Elgar genuinely fell in love with. Now that’s what I call an opening.
Adela Zaharia sang the debut of Ian Bell’s Aurora, a concerto for coloratura soprano, three short wordless sections about the borealis.
To me it felt tentative and faintly unfinished, trying to give meaning to just the notes must be a natural instinct for the solo singer but whatever broke it was not the dawn.
Following the interval, soprano Miah Persson took on Richard Strauss’s Four Songs and did herself no good by continually edging backwards behind the conductor. She kept disappearing from sight for many in the stalls, unfortunately distracting from her lovely voice.
The music, however, was affectionate and breathless and it was a delight to hear featured solo vocalists even though they would keep disappearing.
Finally came the fireworks in Bela Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra. Bartok opens with a quietly sinister approach. It does not last long. Sweet lyrical melodies and interludes suddenly burst into the wildest, most delightful orchestral explosion.
The brass section was a welcome, dominant noise. In the quiet bits I kept my eye on the tuba. When the musician manhandled that mighty lump of yellow metal, you knew something rousing was in the offing.
But I was, as usual, impressed by what lay before me. Thousands of people rise to the curved roof of this vast building simply to hear these carefully assembled notes. It feels civilised and reassuring.
BBC Prom 62, Royal Liverppol Harmonic Orchestra, Royal Albert Hall, London, SW7 (Tickets 020 7070 4441/ royalalberthall.com; £7.50-£100)