Prom 69: Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/ Chailly, Royal Albert Hall, London
Not bringing Mendelssohn to the Proms was never an option for the Leipzig Gewandhaus in this the composer’s bicentennial year.
He was, after all, the orchestra’s Music Director during the last 12 years of his life. That historic role now falls to Riccardo Chailly, and his extraordinary achievement to date has been to revitalise the world’s oldest orchestra with an injection of younger players whilst still preserving that innate sense of a long and proud tradition. One of Chailly’s great qualities as a conductor is his ability to reconcile scholarship with spontaneity and keep his audience well and truly in-the-moment.
And so Mendelssohn’s First Piano Concerto in G minor seemed to arrive in the heat of inspiration with bows fired and a sense of composerly authority in the fingers of Saleem Abboud Ashkar. The key to the performance, as indeed the work, was its unassuming brilliance. Nothing here drew attention to itself and yet in the quiet nobility of the slow movement’s lovely melody there were myriad refinements. Its magical return, for instance, was supported by string chords so transparent that hearing was like seeing all the way through to the recumbent bass line. As for the cascading scintillation of the finale, Ashkar, like Mendelssohn, made it all sound so effortless.
To enter then the spare, distracted, desolate world of Mahler’s unfinished 10th Symphony in Deryck Cooke’s performing version was like being fast-forwarded from a rosily romantic comfort zone into a place we barely recognised. But how beautifully, painfully, Chailly traced out that opening Adagio from violas so true to dissonance piled so high as to be literally unbearable. The harmonically wide-spaced uncharted feel of this movement is something that sits perfectly in the far-flung Albert Hall and Chailly seized that sonic advantage with truly ethereal pianissimos.
Of course this entirely “new” Mahler is exposed and exacting and the fractured counterpoint and abortive climaxes of the inner movements – which might be subtitled “dances with death” – brought the occasional accident in the brass. But the stratospheric trumpets still gnawed at our eardrums and come the terrible thud of the bass drum (now with its revised grace-notes) and the blessed consolation of solo flute the final distillation of Mahler’s heartache was rendered unbearably moving with that final upward glissando in the violins seeming to sap the breath from us all. The ensuing silence was the sound of numbness.
Arts & Ents blogs
There are a good many moments in the second episode of this psychological thriller that deserve refl...
The opening titles squeal ‘Never Can Say Goodbye…’. Oh Lord how I wish I could heave this series off...
Even though there was a complete absence of our favourite odd couple Brienne and Jaime, we got anoth...
Coronation Street triumphs over EastEnders at British Soap Awards 2013
Hollywood practices random acts of red-carpet kindness
The Freemasons' Code: Dan Brown reveals the message that told him the door to the lodge is open
World's most concise short story writer Lydia Davis wins Booker International Prize 2013
Cannes Film Festival 2013: And why exactly are vous here?
- 1 Exclusive: Woolwich attack suspect attended meetings of banned Islamist group - and were known by security services
- 2 'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Horrific attack brings terror to London’s streets
- 3 Grace Dent: I’m not sure how these people can avoid being called ‘bigots’. And the more ‘civilised’, the worse they are
- 4 Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, the mother-of-two hailed as a hero for confronting Woolwich attackers, thought: 'better me than a child'
- 5 Woolwich attack: The EDL will seek to exploit this evil crime for their own evil ends
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.