Proms: BBCNOW/Bancroft; Bournemouth SO/Karabits review – new works mark Albert Hall’s founding ambitions

Royal Albert Hall, London
Proms on consecutive evenings featured premieres of Augusta Read Thomas’s Dance Foldings and Mason Bates’s Auditorium. Both full of interest, the former work felt the more successful

Four of the new works at this year’s Proms have been commissioned to mark the 150th anniversary of the Royal Albert Hall, the permanent home of the summer season since 1945. The pieces are intended to reflect the hall’s founding ambition to promote both the arts and science, and so the first of them, Augusta Read Thomas’s Dance Foldings, had been inspired by the mechanisms of protein assembly – by the ways in which amino acids link into chains, and the intricate 3D foldings of those chains to create the final proteins.

It began with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales’s American-themed programme under Ryan Bancroft, and proved an excellent concert opener. Cast in the form of a scherzo, Dance Foldings is bound together by a web of motifs that ricochet off each other, combine to form longer lyrical lines and sometimes freeze into moments of stasis. It is cheerful, unpredictable and colourfully scored music, with explosive percussion punctuations, and BBCNOW seemed to relish playing every moment of it.

Bancroft ended his concert with a rather indulgent account of Dvořák’s New World Symphony, but he’d followed the Thomas with a finely detailed account of Ives’s Three Places in New England – beautifully refined in the hazy dissonances of the opening “St Gaudens” in Boston Common and the final Housatonic at Stockbridge, joyously anarchic in the brass free-for-alls of Putnam’s Camp.

Kirill Karabits conducts the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Kirill Karabits conducts the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Photograph: Chris Christodoulou

Another recent American work began the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s concert with their principal conductor Kirill Karabits the following evening – Mason Bates’s Auditorium was written in 2016 for the San Francisco Symphony; it’s a dialogue between live and electronic sounds with the orchestra onstage “possessed” (the composer’s word) by processed recordings of a baroque ensemble. The music emerges from the sounds of both groups tuning up, and it’s at its most intriguing in the opening and closing textural exchanges between the live musicians and their period counterparts playing at baroque pitch; the historical pageant of dance music in between, running from the 18th century to the present, is just too kitschy and ingratiating.

• All Proms are available to listen again on BBC Sounds until 11 October.


Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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