Thursday, August 5, 2021, Royal Albert Hall, London

Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 from 7.30 p.m., and later shown on BBC Four

Radio 3 trailed this Prom with typical remorselessness – if Mirga is so “charismatic”, did the concert need to be ‘sold’ in this irritating way, regularly over several days? And then there were the superlatives chucked at her during the evening itself…

Following the interval was Brahms’s Third Symphony (Opus 90), a somewhat hasty first movement, at least with exposition repeat observed (unexpected from this conductor), and a few dynamic and phrasal tweaks, small things yet outside of rather than germane to the music. Of the middle movements the first flowed without controversy, yet, despite sensitive playing, it didn’t invite this listener in; and its successor was lumpy and treacly (fine horn solo, mind). The Finale fared best, expectant and striding, albeit for the quiet and satisfied ending to fully ‘work’, greater tension needs to have been in evidence from the off than was the case here; anyway the mood was broken by an intrusive “bravo”.

The evening opened with (centenarian) Ruth Gipps’s Second Symphony (Opus 30, 1945, first-performed in Birmingham the following year, and recently recorded by Chandos), a very British affair in terms of expression, constructed ingeniously as a continuous evolving structure colourfully scored with some touching pastoral passages (her teacher Vaughan Williams in the mix), a yearning for pre-WWII times gone by; and also embracing happy-go-lucky optimism and the eloquently nocturnal. Very sympathetically rendered by the orchestra that Gipps (who died in 1999) was once a member of, as an oboist.

Also around the twenty-minute mark is Thomas Adès’s The Exterminating Angel Symphony [London premiere] from his opera (first staged in 2016) based on Luis Buñuel’s eponymous film, with (extracted and modified) music that is rhythmically complex and strangely dark, stridently marching, and including an inebriated rather whimsical/surreal waltz, all orchestrated with typical élan, multi-layered yet pinpoint lucid. Another sympathetic performance, virtuosic and powerhouse. [Gipps’s Clarinet Concerto] [a previous Brahms 3]