News Column

Review: Prom 14: BBCNOW/Fischer Royal Albert Hall, London 24/40

July 29, 2014

Andrew Clements

Simon Holt's collaboration with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, since he became its composer-in-association in 2008, has resulted in some of his most striking recent scores. The latest of them to be premiered is a concerto, Morpheus Wakes, which Holt composed in 2011 for the principal flute of the Berlin Philharmonic, Emmanuel Pahud.

This 15-minute portrait of the shape-shifting Greek god of sleep pushes even Pahud's astonishing virtuosity to the limit. In the first of the two movements, he plays an alto flute, often at the very top of its range.

Heard in the Albert Hall, the music seems fragile, but the Radio 3 broadcast gives a much better sense of the world that Holt builds around the solo instrument in the opening movement, in which a cimbalom adds a threatening edge to some of the textures. The second movement sets off in a glitter of glockenspiels, and is interrupted by a manic cadenza, which recalls Messiaen's flute writing.

Thierry Fischer conducts, surrounding Holt's piece with French music, Ravel's Valses Nobles et Sentimentales and La Valse, and Durufle's Requiem, which owes just a bit too much to Faure's example, but is performed here with the BBC National Chorus of Wales and the National Youth Choir of Wales.

Andrew Clements

On BBC iPlayer until 24 August. The Proms continue until 13 September.

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Source: Guardian (UK)

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