Prom 62: Gustav Mahler Jugend-Orchester / Davis, Royal Albert Hall, London

Click to follow

First of the pan-Continental youth orchestras to recruit from new and old Europe, its results were magnificent as usual, in a quirky pairing of what may have been the slowest Beethoven Violin Concerto in living memory with the fastest Sibelius Symphony No 2.

Certainly the concerto made a case for the usefulness of conductors. By the time Nikolaj Znaider's solo violin had slowed almost to a standstill after an already broad introduction, the music needed an authority to remember what the pace was supposed to be.

Sir Colin Davis had to perform the feat several times, and the performance held together thanks to an intense focus and to Znaider's readiness to put steel into his notably beautiful timbre.

Lustrous strings entered the spotlight early in the symphony, which had its cogency and vitality stressed rather than its undercurrents of darkness. Too dynamic for tragedy but compelling in its momentum, it rose to splendour with more of the Beethoven spirit than the Beethoven itself.

So many strands threaded through the late Prom that it forgot to be a concert. Nishat Khan's sitar played over early French choral music because its music was rooted in the same era; but the instrument itself dates from centuries later, and its harmonics clashed with those of the voices. Playing solo in response was an improvement; working with unharmonised plainsong, much better.

BBC Proms continue to 13 September (0845 401 5040)

Comments