Proms 64 &amp; 65: Berliner Philharmoniker / Rattle, Royal Albert Hall, London <img src="http://www.independent.co.uk/template/ver/gfx/fourstar.gif"></img>/<img src="http://www.independent.co.uk/template/ver/gfx/fivestar.gif"></img>

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The Independent Culture

The second of Sir Simon Rattle's two Proms with his Berlin Philharmonic proved unforgettable. Prom 64 was not quite that, partly owing to its odd programme. It was framed by Mozart's two G minor symphonies, the stark early sturm und drang No 25 and the great No 40. The readings were nuanced, articulate and energetic, but somehow fell short of the fierce intentness of Mozart's tragic mode.

The small forces used also meant gaps in each half for the rest of the BPO to file on, then off again. In the first half, this was for a substantial three-movement quasi-symphony entitled Noesis by the Swiss composer Hanspeter Kyburz. The opening movement surged with complex, scintillating textures, but such thematic material as emerged proved to be only a few anonymous fragments of jagged post-Expressionism.

The second half opened with four of Debussy's piano Préludes, which Colin Matthews has orchestrated. These are less transcriptions than miniature tone-poems about the Préludes, to which Matthews has added touches enhancing Debussy's harmonies and mosaic structures.

Prom 65 began con amore with a Rattle favourite, Szymanowski's Violin Concerto No 1, with its Scriabinesque chromaticism and shimmering pre-Bartok "night music". Playing Fritz Kreisler's old Strad, Frank Peter Zimmermann made a slightly tentative first entry but was soon riding the sensuous waves with tremulous sweetness.

And so to Bruckner's Symphony No 7.Rattle gave notice from the start that his approach would be of the broadest, most sustained kind, and he carried it through with rare conviction, arguably losing concentration only in the middle of the adagio - though regaining it gloriously in the climax and noble coda.

The finale, too, which can seem short, gained stature. Under Rattle's unwontedly calm direction, the Berlin Philharmonic imparted wonders of visionary sonority. Artistic differences? Only an orchestra and conductor totally at one could give such a performance.

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