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Review: Prom 10: BBC Philharmonic/Mena Royal Albert Hall, London 24/40

July 28, 2014

Andrew Clements

The first of the BBC Philharmonic's six visits to the Albert Hall this summer was an all-British affair, conducted by Juanjo Mena. Sets of variations bookended the concert; there was Walton's on a theme by Hindemith to begin, Elgar's Enigma to end, while in between came the London premiere of a piece that David Horne composed for the orchestra last year, and the first performance at the Proms for over 60 years of the Violin Concerto by EJ Moeran.

Moeran is one of a clutch of British composers from the first half of the last century whose music seems constantly to be on the edge of a revival. His only symphony, from 1937, got a performance at the 2009 Proms, but that's a much tauter, tougher piece than the Violin Concerto, which appeared five years later, and tends to lapse too easily into pastoral note-spinning. It is indebted to Vaughan Williams in the first two movements and perhaps more to Delius in the last.

Tasmin Little shaped the solo part beguilingly, though, and brought a real warmth to the lingering fade of the finale, but a bit more backbone ought to have come from the orchestra, and that might have defined the outlines of each movement more precisely.

In fact, the whole concert would have benefited from more definition. Mena and the BBC Philharmonic dispatched Horne's Daedalus in Flight, a deftly turned scherzo, efficiently enough, but the Walton Variations needed more bite and character, especially in the fugato that fires up the finale, while the Elgar didn't really find its feet until after Nimrod. By then, though, there are only four variations and the finale to go.

Andrew Clements

On iPlayer until 22 August. The Proms continue until 13 September. Details:

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Source: Guardian (UK)

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