More than most countries, the US produces non-classical musicians whose virtuosity and technical excellence are up there with the best that the classical world can produce, but have no interest in being corralled by any particular genre, their playing moving at will between jazz, bluegrass, country, folk and classical styles.

Last night’s “Americana” Prom was headlined by bassist Ranaan Meyer and violinists Zach DePue and Nick Kendall, collectively known as Time for Three, who are fine examples of this, and never was the effect so obvious as in their second encore: a theme and variations for string trio that would have graced any classical chamber music hall but happened to be on the Beatles’ Norwegian Wood. This was a preceded by a decidedly non-classical super-high octane rendition of Mumford & Sons' Little Lion Man, which sent the hall into a hand clapping, foot thumping frenzy.

Keith Lockhart © Michael Lutch
Keith Lockhart
© Michael Lutch

These are very fine musicians and I’m delighted to have been introduced to them. However, I’m less than 100% convinced that last night’s stage layout gave them any chance of being displayed at their best. The trio were at the front, conductor Keith Lockhart had his back to the trio, facing the BBC Concert Orchestra, while the drum kit of Matt Scarano was to the trio’s side, invisible to Lockhart and some ten metres or so away from the orchestral percussionists. There was no way the music was going to be tight, and it wasn’t. Chris Brubeck’s composition, specially written for Time for Three, had plenty of verve in it – a mashing into an orchestral creation of a three day jam session he had with them in 2009 – and their was plenty of display of fun in a dozen different styles, but the whole thing did get somewhat muddled.

The second half opened with another Chris Brubeck number, an orchestral arrangement of one his father Dave’s most famous compositions, Blue Rondo à la Turk. Dave’s original is up there with the greatest pieces of jazz ever composed, and Chris’s arrangement, being heard for the first time in the UK, does it full justice: when the big horn section comes in at the points where the rhythm breaks, it feels so natural that it’s hard to believe that the original was written without a brass instrument anywhere near it. But I could have wished for an orchestra that played it with just a bit more syncopation, togetherness and bite.

The first half of the concert was devoted to the music of Aaron Copland. Inexplicably, the programme was played backwards from the printed order, without anyone telling us this (the radio announcers apparently knew this, but if an announcement was made in the hall, I totally missed it). So it came as a big surprise when, in place of the expected contemplative calm of Appalachian Spring, the orchestra launched straight into the rumbustious “Buckaroo Holiday”, the first of Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo. For those who knew the music in advance, it required some hasty mental readjustment. For those who didn’t – particularly, I imagine, any young person who had diligently read the excellent “What should I listen out for” in the “Proms plus family” guide – it must have been utterly baffling.

All three Copland works have wonderful melodies, bright orchestral colours and beautifully crafted changes of mood, with a sophistication that belies their apparent simplicity of their folk-infused core. In reflective mood, as in the opening and close of Appalachian Spring, the “Saturday Night Waltz” in Rodeo or in the late night cityscape that is Quiet City, Copland can bring inner peace to your soul. When he goes for a rumbustious dance like Rodeo’s famous “Hoe-Down”, you can be swept up in the madcap energy.

This is glorious music which is a joy to hear live, but I can’t class the BBC Concert Orchestra’s performance as more than just about adequate. I wished for a richer string sound, more accurate brass playing, more elegant shaping of solos and, most importantly, the energy and bite that comes from an orchestra playing with that last degree in togetherness. In summary, Prom 71 contained some great music, but delivered less than it promised.