Proms Saturday Matinee, Cadogan Hall <br/> Prom 2: Scottish CO/Norrington, Royal Albert Hall, London

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The Independent Culture

With the second day of the 2006 BBC Proms, Mozart was celebrated with a vengeance. A matinée concert at Cadogan Hall (a new venture in a new venue), miserably filled, offered neither fun nor fizz. One of the great features of the Proms is the audience buzz. Now a certain rapaciousness seems to have got into the BBC planners: "More Proms than ever" is the clue. Cadogan Hall is the deadest of venues, providing nothing new or exhilarating. And it quickly became apparent that we were a "studio audience" for the concert by the London Mozart Players; obliged to listen to the on-stage guff from the Radio 3 announcer for the benefit of those not attending.

Isabelle van Keulen presided over nearly 90 minutes of insubstantial Mozart. She did her best, and good and feisty was the playing of Mozart's 14th symphony and the interminable "Haffner" Serenade. But a serenade should serenade and be the exquisite background music it was undoubtedly intended to be. Where were tea and cakes? The afternoon's Mozart concert had been lightly leavened by Moz-Art à la Haydn - Alfred Schnittke's witty "wrong-note" homage, although the audience had remained sullen.

The evening concert, entitled "Mozart the Dramatist", offered a whistle-stop tour through nine of Mozart's 22 operas that could not demonstrate Mozart's dramatic genius because there was no dramatic context. Sir Roger Norrington is no slouch at getting the most out of his players in normal circumstances, but this was far from normal. Ensemble was frequently scuppered by TV cameras demanding one direction, alas not the same as the conductor's. And why the whole affair was bathed in lurid brothel lighting was anybody's guess. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra played manfully without vibrato, only to be kiboshed by a set of singers for whom wobble meant no fear. Most guilty was Rebecca Nash, who, with Ailish Tynan, scaled (from cold) Mozart's perilous heights in a duet from Mitridate. Act II Finale of Seraglio began to liven things up, with Ian Bostridge splendidly coy as a worried lover, but Simon Keenlyside showed himself as the only true actor of the evening as Don Giovanni in the Act II Finale.

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