Proms 60, 59, 58 & PCM 7, Royal Albert Hall & Cadogan Hall, London

Too complicated? Then keep it simple

Calm and confident, this was a performance of tremendous simplicity. Welser-Möst maintained a measured, almost metronomic tempo through the first movement's extended collage of menace and renewal, illuminating the long, steady silences within it. The dynamic control was astonishing, the attack too. But not for one moment did I feel that he and his players were showing off their technique in the pianissmi or over-dramatising the fortissimi. Remarkably, for a visiting orchestra, Cleveland had the absolute measure of the Royal Albert Hall acoustics: hitting and sustaining dynamics at the very edge of perceptibility and those at the limit of comfort. From the first snarl of the trumpets, through the lissom dances of the flutes, the mournful trombone solo, the blithe posthorn, the gravity of Yvonne Naëf's implacable "O Mensch!", the brisk, bright chiming of the sopranos and altos of the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus and Trinity Boys Choir, and the prismatic serenity of the top-heavy conclusion, this was a meticulous and revelatory performance.

Glad as I was to have seen the Cleveland Orchestra play, I'm finding it increasingly unpleasant to swelter in situ when I could be listening to the live relay. You make an effort with your appearance, if only out of sympathy with the musicians, and 10 minutes later your shirt looks like a wet handkerchief, and random sections of your hair appear to have been permed in the style of a 1970s football player. Meanwhile, details that can be captured on the radio are often lost in the hall. So while I daresay there is much to be said for having seen Gianandrea Noseda's performance of the Verdi Requiem with the BBC Philharmonic (Prom 58), hearing it was thrilling enough for me. The BBC Philharmonic's strings - previously their weak point - are vastly improved and their articulation of the Dies Irae was exhilarating. Noseda has a natural instinct for this music, a subtle way with its festooned glamour, and drove the excellent singers of the BBC Symphony Chorus and the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus into a declamatory fervour. Led by Barbara Frittoli, whose Libera me was sculpted to perfection, the soloists were likewise superb. A very well-crafted and well-paced interpretation.

Also excellent this week was the Tonhalle Orchestra of Zurich (Prom 59), whose rather hackneyed programme - Overture to The Flying Dutchman, Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto, Also sprach Zarathustra - was made fresh by the delicacy of David Zinman's conducting and the unflappable loveliness of Emanuel Ax's playing. Not a gesture was misplaced or laboured, not a note less than radiant. Which, give or take the odd squeak from the strings in Uccellini's Sonatas for Two Violins, could also be said of I Fagiolini's celebration of the 400th anniversary of the birth of Carissimi (Proms Chamber Music 7) under Robert Hollingworth. There was too much chit-chat on the broadcast, and surely it's time to stop referring to instruments like the lirone as "exotic", but if that's the price we have to pay for the delicious dissonances of "Ardens est cor meum", so be it.

a.picard@independent.co.uk

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