Context is everything. Prom 13 was about John Adams' On the Transmigration of Souls, but to treat that piece apart from the rest of the programme is to do it a great disservice. The evening was designed to provide a setting for the final work, and it did so admirably. Firstly, a nicely played 'Trauer' symphony - it does have a sense of melancholy and mourning, and that sense was made evident without losing the drive and purpose which keeps the music flowing - conductor Adams clearly enjoying the experience. This followed by a coruscating reading of the Bartok third piano concerto from Héléne Grimaud - her playing really giving the clear sense of raging against the dying of the light, and setting us up nicely for what followed.
John Adams (I presume) had chosen to prefix his contemplation of the tragedy of New York with Aaron Copland's Quiet City, a subtle and charming view of the same city - not without its problems, but a place to celebrate nevertheless - with glorious solos on trumpet and cor anglais. It left me with a clear sense of the city before the tragedy, and Transmigration was intended to give the sense of the aftermath; the loss, the pain, the determination in some way to move on. It begins and ends with footsteps and a roll call of names, and layers together a kind of musical rage and dismay with sorrow and loss; the voices articulating the only emotions available in such a time - the simple truths of love and loss, often in a manner which recalled the simplicities of plainchant. The repeated 'I love you' was moving, but the phrase which leapt out at me was 'I see buildings and water' - although presented in context, in that this cannot help but be a work about September 11 2001, it also spoke to me of hope and confidence in the future of New York; a kind of 'we're still here' statement. Whether this work survives in the repertoire is largely irrelevant; it exists in the here and now, and relates to an event which touched all our lives in some way, therefore it is art to celebrate, and use as art should be used - to provide a place to consider one's own reactions.