Prom 46: Mark Padmore/The English Concert - Cadogan Hall
Prom 47: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra - Royal Albert Hall
Prom 48: LSO with Alina Ibragimova/Venezuelan Brass Ensemble - Royal Albert Hall, 18 August 2007
If you had Wayne Rooney on your team, would you take him off at half time? It seemed odd to fill the second half of the English Concert's programme with Handel's overexposed Water Music when Mark Padmore (a mere six songs in the first half) was on such winning form.
Not that there was anything wrong with the English Concert's instrumental pieces, all pulled together with a freshness and vitality that even some dodgy horn playing didn't mar. Laurence Cummings' direction from the harpsichord, largely restricted to key moments like rests and rits, was minimal but effective.
But it was Mark Padmore's few contributions that really made this concert. He miraculously managed to present the quaint humour in three Arne settings of Shakespeare in an entirely non-excruciating way. And in his three Handel arias - a strongly theatricalised Total eclipse, His mighty arm and Waft her, angels - he thoroughly inhabited each character. Padmore's Handel is secure and precise, each syllable individually considered and perfectly coloured. At least there was the small consolation of an encore of Tune your harps, beautifully arranged for pizzicato strings and stunning oboe from Marcel Ponseele.
Talking of colour, the English Concert's choice of stage wear, individually selected but all in harmonious shades of purple, is a most effective compromise between the fussiness of full frack and the sloppy casual:
Over at the Albert Hall, despite the fine Jesus of Alan Opie and Mary Magdalene of Catherine Wyn-Rogers (left), I found the CBSO's performance of Elgar's The Apostles severely hard going.
It's a flawed and over-long work that wasn't helped by conductor Oramo's even-handedness of dynamics and tempo. Only in the final Ascension movement was there any real propulsive energy.
The late night prom which followed, a double header of the LSO followed by the Venezuelan Brass Ensemble, replacing the advertised Vengerov programme, was far more lively.
Conducted by a hyperactive François-Xavier Roth, the LSO positively motored through two short Piazzolla pieces and a couple of Coplands. Who knew they had hot tamale souce in their veins? Alina Ibragimova's solos in Piazzolla's La Mufa and Todo Buenos Aires were deft and sensitive, despite a mere four days preparation.
The LSO made way for the Venezuelan Brass Ensemble, a band of about 50 drawn from the ranks of the Simón Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, who are performing tomorrow night. In a variety of configurations, sometimes switching to percussion instruments, they displayed great balance and teamwork. They started with rather more slow and sombre work than I felt like hearing after the LSO's earlier programme, but always with an impressive precision. They really blossomed when they upped the tempo for pieces like Tico Tico.
They packed extra energy into the couple of pieces that were composed by ensemble members. These surprisingly made more of an impression than some of the better known works.
There's absolutely no need to make any allowance for the fact that all of the musicians are under 20 - any full-time, adult, professional band would be thrilled to play as well as this. Their blistering, uninhibited finale of I Got Rhythm got them a completely deserved standing ovation, rewarded with an immediate encore.
One thing puzzled me - the ensemble is reportedly open to all, but I only noticed a couple of girls there. That's fewer than the LSO have, fewer even than male bastions like the Berlin Phil - I wonder why?