Prom 53: Budapest FO/Fischer and Prom 54: ORR/Monteverdi Choir/Gardiner, Royal Albert Hall, review

Superb and bewitching

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The Independent Culture

Sometimes a performance is so definitively satisfying that the last thing one wants to hear is an encore. And so it was when Ivan Fischer and his Budapest Festival Orchestra finished delivering two Brahms symphonies on the trot. But instead of the expected orchestral bonne bouche filtering out from the auditorium I had slunk out of, I caught the sound of an a cappella choir: had the stage been taken over by interlopers?

No: the orchestra had dumped their instruments, gathered in a tight group, and were singing a four-part arrangement of a Brahms serenade. If their performance of the third and fourth symphonies had been superb (and it had), this was bewitching. These multi-talented people could down tools tomorrow, and effortlessly make it as a top-flight choir.

 It isn’t often that the Proms strike gold twice in one night, but here they did because, in the late Prom, John Eliot Gardiner, the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique, and the Monteverdi Choir gave the most viscerally exciting performance of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis I have ever heard.

It certainly helped that the soloists – Lucy Crowe, Jennifer Johnston, Michael Spyres, and Matthew Rose – constituted a dream team, but the biggest thrill lay in watching the music’s passion tear like wildfire through the choral and instrumental ranks.