Prom 41: West-Eastern Divan Orchestra / Barenboim, Royal Albert Hall, London

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The Independent Culture

The programme was announced as Mozart and Mahler. How inspired to begin with Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon. Oboist Mohamed Saleh, from Cairo, is the sort of talent that comes round once in a lifetime. Here was a star, intuitively phrasing and colouring in the manner of a truly great player. And from the reduced orchestra, Barenboim coaxed the warmest of sounds: squarely central European, elegant, precise, charming.

Mahler's First Symphony fielded the entire orchestra - including nine horns. At times, it was impossible to think that this was not one of the world's great orchestras. The opening serene hush, the aggressive "cuckoos", the graceful string glissandi, the dynamic detail and colouring, gave way in the second movement to fresh, rumbustious Tyrolean dancing. But it was in the third and fourth movements that Barenboim demonstrated his ability to pace transitions while willing and seducing the orchestra to join in relishing every nuance, every cataclysmic climax.

The audience went wild. Elgar's Nimrod was not enough to calm. Barenboim quietened the house. He spoke of the courage of every single player on stage. He spoke of an act of solidarity: next week they play in Ramallah. And then they played work by a composer proscribed in Israel, Wagner's "Prelude and Liebestod". The effect was overwhelming.

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