An evening of French music, the notes from Debussy, Ravel and Dutilleux lingered in the sticky summer air long after the concert finished.

Lynn Harrell © Christian Steiner
Lynn Harrell
© Christian Steiner

Making their BBC Proms debut, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (BBC SSO) and the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, conducted by Donald Runnicles with chorus-master Christopher Bell, took command of the stage. In the opening piece, Debussy's Prelude a L'après-midi d'un faune, the BBC SSO captured the pastoral, yet erotic nature of the piece. From the opening flute theme (played by Rosemary Eliot) to the last ringing chord, the Prelude was orgiastic throughout.

Similarly rich in tonal quality is Ravel's Daphnis and Chloé. Although Debussy's Prelude a L'après-midi d'un faune upstaged Ravel's choreographic symphony back in 1912 - both pieces were part of the Ballet Russe and choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky - the two complemented each other at the Proms, creating an ethereal atmosphere within the grandeur of the Royal Albert Hall. Throughout both pieces, one could really envisage Nijinsky's fierce choreography, particularly in Daphnis and Chloé. With low sounding violins building up to a crescendo, Part Two of Daphnis and Chloé sounded primitive and haunting, more akin to Stravinsky's famous Danse Sacral from The Rite of Spring. A wild and creatively scored piece - flutes, clarinets and horns played solos alongside wind machines and various percussive instruments, like a celestra and keyed glockenspiel - Daphnis and Chloé required an active and engaged orchestra, a role the BBC SSO played perfectly.

Dutilleux's cello concerto, Tout un monde lointain, was equally as demanding. Defined by its rich chromaticism and spotty rhythms, Dutilleux's concerto demanded a high level of musical flair, and Lynn Harrell was brilliant. A continuous, five-movement concerto, there was hardly a breath between each movement. Still, Harrell executed his solo with technical perfection. Together with the BBC SSO, the piece had a breathy, Impressionistic air as well as a punchy, Modernist edge.

After Dutilleux, Ravel's Boléro was particularly well-received, as the BBC SSO built up a ten-minute crescendo without faultering on the repetitive, steady rhythms that define this popular dance.

The orchestra, chorus members and soloists performed effortlessly. And with Runnicles' commanding presence, the entire concert was an eloquent tribute to some of France's greatest composers.