Prom 67: BBCNOW/Van Steen

Regarded as one of the hardest of all instruments to play, the French horn is also one of the trickiest solo instruments to write for. John McCabe's recent concerto, commissioned by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales a couple of years ago, is one of surprisingly few to use the instrument's full range.

The work opens with a questioning theme played fully muted, revelling in a sound most people would associate with Miles Davis at his most "midnight". The same theme concludes the work where it blasts out almost jeeringly at menacing full tone. The journey between takes in a plethora of different colours and moods, some of which may be explained by the subtitle (Rainforest IV – elemental rhythms, prominent marimba, twittering woodwind), and some of which may not (for example, a "big band" moment that sounds like a special episode of The Simpsons). But the diversity never becomes chaotic.

The solo part found David Pyatt, who premiered the work in 2007, fully abreast of the part's expressive and rhythmic requirements – as well as being the only Proms soloist considerate enough to water the stage flowers (horns fill up when you play them). The orchestra, under their regular Dutch guest Jan van Steen, were also in excellent form, which made it all the more surprising that the other two works in the programme – Talich's suite arrangement of Janácˇek's Cunning Little Vixen and Dvorak's New World Symphony – were given such thoroughly mediocre airings. While van Steen's fine ear for detail was apparent, with the exception of Dvorak's famous "sweet chariots" melody, none among the abundance of melodies at the heart of both works seemed to find adequate form, a weakness further exacerbated by some terrible ensemble work.

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