Every Proms season has one concert – just one – that is so completely unrelenting in genius that it’s truly impossible to describe. This is that concert. Saxophonist Marius Neset’s new eight-movement work, specially commissioned by the BBC for this Prom, is simply one of the greatest jazz orchestral fusion albums ever created, played here flawlessly by the London Sinfonietta and a handpicked rhythm section.
Ostensibly following the eight stages a geyser takes before eruption, including “On Fire” and “Meeting Magma”, the work is profoundly led by two polar-opposite forces prescient to 2022: the joy of being able to perform live again post-Covid, and the unforeseen horrors of the Ukrainian invasion. The result is romantic melodies played against manic cross-rhythms; triumphant tonality battling against dismal atonality.
As a performer, Neset is mesmerisingly understated: flawless runs up the tenor and soprano saxophones are only played as a way to arrive at that golden note; a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. Neset also plays additional percussion — sometimes rocking out on a tambourine (in whatever absurd time signature we were in).
One word of criticism: the Royal Albert Hall was almost empty, probably winning the award for the least-attended concert for the entire Proms season. Where the heck was everybody? Sure, it’s a late-night Prom, and it’s jazz-inflected, but this fusion of the classical with the contemporary represents everything Henry Wood stood for. We gave it a full standing ovation, the lucky few that were in attendance.
Tickets for all 72 Proms are available from just £7.12 on the BBC Proms 2022 website.