Prom 56: BBC PO / Noseda <br/> Prom 59: Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra / Zinman, Royal Albert Hall, London

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The Independent Culture

Brahms and Liszt. No reflection on the condition of anyone involved; just the works in Prom 56. The young Danish-born violinist Nikolaj Znaider played the Brahms Concerto with a wonderful range of colours and enticements. Nothing was quite as we are used to; contrasts were bold, dynamics wide. For those of us who see Brahms, not Wagner, as the natural stepping-stone to Mahler, it was telling. Znaider has a natural but tantalising way with dynamic nuance, yet can project Brahms's pyrotechnics to greater purpose than mere display.

The exciting Gianandrea Noseda elicited a wonderful Brahmsian sweep from the BBC Philharmonic. Just watching him nurse the songful oboe solo in the slow movement showed what makes him special.

And anyone who makes Liszt's A Faust Symphony sound like a symphony as opposed to three long symphonic poems must be special. He made sense of the thematic crossbreeding, and made a credible musical drama of what can sound like a series of long-winded crises. The BBC Phil played the socks off it.

Liszt's father-in-law kicked off Prom 59. Open fifths in the strings and heroic horns mean only one thing - the imminent arrival of The Flying Dutchman. And, on this occasion, the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra. But this was Wagner's overture without the drama. Horns were low key, strings well mannered. Blend is key to the orchestra's sound, and a pristine objectivity marks out the conducting of David Zinman.

But where is the characterisation? Where, in Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra, was the celebration of excess? It's the naughtiest, most self-regarding of pieces, Strauss as superman. Zinman's seriousness proved seriously apologetic.

Emanuel Ax sounded at odds with Zinman's clipped accompaniment in Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto. The solo playing was without intrigue until the first-movement cadenza, where flashes of temperament began to turn things around.

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