Prom 54: Minnesota Orchestra/Vanska, Royal Albert Hall, London
Wednesday 30 August 2006
The Minnesota Orchestra lost a soprano but gained a pianist on their way to the Proms. The trendy ethnicity of Osvaldo Golijov songs (which the indisposed Dawn Upshaw was to have sung) now shifted to patrician Beethoven and a less intriguing route to Mahler's Fifth than might have been provided by the Argentina-born Golijov's Russian-Romanian-Jewish ancestry.
The orchestra's own ancestry was soon established in Barber's First Essay for Orchestra. This sonorous lamentation showed off the orchestra's warmth and homogeneity. The trumpet-led acclamations from the euphonious brass choir felt as if they came from somewhere and meant something. And that level of sensitivity was carried through to Beethoven's C minor Piano Concerto No 3, in which the gifted young Welshman Llyr Williams exhibited a poise, not to say self-effacement, rare among today's keyboard virtuosi.
The "correctness" of the performance was a little anonymous in the first movement. The stiffness of Williams' unsmiling bow to the audience seemed to define his playing: it felt constricted. But then came the cadenza, a bridge between Mozartian simplicity and Beethovenian knowingness. The slow movement was lofty, temperament at last glimpsed in the subtle but telling pauses for thought that Williams opened up between notes. The conductor Osmo Vanska was a most sympathetic collaborator.
Vanska's Mahler, though, felt all wrong. It was partly the sound: too blended, too refined. Mahler's personality resides in the extremes of sonority, the pungency and rough-hewn elementalism of the writing. Even with bells raised, the winds lacked stridency and attitude. Too much beauty, not enough beast. And Vanska does so love to take in the scenery. For all the flexibility of his approach to Mahler's tempo rubato, the overriding impression was one of impossible slowness. Beautiful though the Adagietto was, it felt as if Mahler's love letter to Alma had somehow got lost in the post.
BBC Proms to 9 September (020-7589 8212; www.bbc.co.uk/proms)
Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beachart
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Husband creates spreadsheet detailing wife's 'excuses' for turning down sex
- 2 Apple has installed security backdoors on 600m iPhones and iPads, claims security researcher
- 3 Saneie Masilela, 9, marries Helen Shabangu, 53 years his senior, for the second time
- 4 UK pirates will get four warning letters a year
- 5 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley star in trailer for new Alan Turing film The Imitation Game
Latitude 2014, review: A huge success that shows festival is maturing nicely
It looks like Krusty the Clown is the major Simpsons character death
Russell T Davies wants your 'sexcapades' for new web series Tofu about modern sex culture
Star Wars 7: Plot details 'leak', with sequel's opening sequence and premise revealed
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash: 'Nine Britons, 23 Americans and 80 children' feared dead after Boeing passenger jet is 'shot down' near Ukraine-Russia border
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains