Prom 62, Royal Albert Hall, London
Prom 57, Royal Albert Hall, London
Prom 61, Royal Albert Hall, London

What a powerful trio – music, silence and ear-splitting applause

When it came, the applause for Herbert Blomstedt and the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester (Prom 62) was ear-splitting.

More telling was the reverential silence that preceded it. This was a concert of uncompromising seriousness, from Hindemith's intricate extrapolation of Grünewald's Isenheim Altarpiece, Symphony "Mathis der Maler", to the monumental stained-glass panels of Bruckner's Ninth Symphony. Framed by two triptychs of angels and demons, redemption and torment, one dizzyingly vertical, the other as broad as the horizon, Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen was almost light relief. Yet Christian Gerhaher's clean, contained singing gave this headily perfumed concentrate of bitter disillusionment, violent fantasy and mocking natural beauty an intimacy and directness of expression rarely achieved in orchestral song.

Having played Parsifal under Claudio Abbado, the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester are no strangers to complex textures or large canvasses. With 12 double-basses arranged in a magnificent line along the back of the stage, behind and above the brass and percussion, the balance was secure and clear. The dancing counterpoint of Hindemith's Engelkonzert was delivered with minimal vibrato from the strings and bell-like notes from the brass. Flute, oboe and clarinet lamented sweetly through the Grablegung, while the lacerating, demonic trills, consoling cellos and Praetorian syncopations of Versuchung des Heiligen Antonius were perfectly balanced and contrasted.

Reduced to 70 players, the orchestra's Mahler was similarly vivid, the hushed pizzicato bass notes at the close of "Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht" barely audible, Blomstedt's balancing and rebalancing of the textures of "Ging heut' morgen übers Feld" cinematographic in its lushness and dexterity. Chaste and cool but for the hot, guttural rasp of "Ach, was ist das für ein böser Gast!", Gerhaher's sound was almost that of a tenor, pure, unadorned, conversational. The first imprecatory movement of Bruckner's unresolved symphony had numinous heft, the roiling Scherzo was a nightmare of mechanistic brutality, its hedonistic Trio an image of rouge-and-petticoats temptation. In a work that is more easily admired than loved, the Adagio was a long exhalation of briney Wagner tubas and sour flutes, the grit and throb of the violin theme a shock after the tonal chastity of the preceding movements. Devoid of extraneous drama and flailing gesture, each movement closely linked to the next, Blomstedt's Bruckner had impeccable authority and clarity.

The Minnesota Orchestra is unique in North America in having addressed the issue of how to play Beethoven on modern instruments in a post-period-instruments age. While its cousins in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Cleveland and elsewhere still cultivate a high-gloss, heroic, late Romantic sound, Minnesota has honed and trimmed its strings to Size 6 gym-bunny litheness. Backgrounded for much of Berg's Violin Concerto in the second of their Proms appearances, (Prom 57), they floated serenely over the orchid-house flutes and chill brass chorale as soloist Gil Shaham traced the delicate, dewy figures dedicated to the memory of Manon Gropius. In Osmo Vänskä's athletic sprint through Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, their attack was brilliantly unanimous and fearless, though there was precious little rubato and no space for the players – or the audience – to breathe and wonder. For much of the symphony, Vänskä appeared to be trying to manoeuvre a large dirigible through a very small aperture, which, in a way, he was.

Last weekend brought a head-cold of terrifying efficiency and merciful brevity. Fearing the death-ray glare of the cough-monitor who stands in the arena at the foot of the Door 3 stalls, turning programme fumblers and bag-rustlers to dust with a single glance, I kept my snuffles to myself and listened to Prom 61 at home. Radio isn't the medium for fat-suits, see-thru macs, pink wigs or false breasts, let alone gingerbread models of the Royal Albert Hall (a nice touch), but Glyndebourne Festival Opera's semi-staged performance of Hänsel und Gretel with the London Philharmonic Orchestra had wit and tenderness enough to restore the innocence that Laurent Pelly's arch 2008 staging sucked from Humperdinck's sugar-frosted score.

Making his Proms debut, Robin Ticciati started slightly stiffly in the Overture (again a lack of rubato), only warming up in the Hexenritt. In Act II the LPO excelled, their woodwind birdcalls just the right blend of naivety and artfulness, their strings and horns sweet and solemn in the Hymn. The same qualities could be heard in Lydia Teuscher's sprightly Gretel and Alice Coote's Hänsel – so ardent, rich and true, with something of the throaty, no-nonsense delivery of a continental boy treble. Somewhat colourless in the first Glyndebourne run, Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke's Witch has developed into a thrillingly uninhibited comic/horrific turn. William Dazeley and Irmgard Vilsmaier were the harried parents, Tara Erraught and Ida Falk Winland the Sandman and Dew Fairy. Blame it on over-the-counter cold medicine or late-onset sentimentality, but I loved it.

Next Week:

Anna Picard goes to hell and back with Harry Joy, the advertising executive hero of Brett Dean's Bliss

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor