PROMS / Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra / Chailly - Royal Albert Hall / Radio 3

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The Independent Culture
Moving on from the Edinburgh Festival to the Proms, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra was able to go for some non-safe programme options. So on Thursday, while starting again with Webern's Passacaglia - a friendly, early piece, almost repertoire nowadays - it followed with the genuinely rare Grande Aulodia by Bruno Maderna. This duly attracted a half-full hall; but it by no means entirely alienated the audience that had come for the second half's Tchaikovsky.

Unlike some of Maderna's music, Grande Aulodia retains a freshness and spontaneity of invention that has outlasted the fashions of two or three decades ago. It pits two eloquent, intricate wind solos, here played with beauty and assurance by the oboist Maurice Bourgue and the RCO's principal flautist, Paul Verhey, against a modestly rearranged orchestra. The three separate string groups resounded well in the Albert Hall, even though what they played was an apparent harmonic muddle. Matters clarified with some delightful bird-like solos against orchestral rejoinders and asides, and then through ever more luxuriant and lingering lines above a spreading, fading haze of strings.

As the Webern had shown, flexibly shaped by Riccardo Chailly, the RCO's distinction lies not only in skilful balance and detail, but in a breadth and patience of manner that London orchestras do not possess - and probably never will, however 'world-class' they try to become, simply because the quality rests in a more secure and rooted cultural tradition. What price a residency that changes national character?

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