PROMS / London Philharmonic / Klaus Tennstedt - Royal Albert Hall / Radio 3

Edward Seckerson
Sunday 23 October 2011 07:33

It was only fitting that Klaus Tennstedt and the London Philharmonic - not to mention Wagner - should make an entrance, only fitting that Bach and Liszt should prepare the way. But James O'Donnell at the Royal Albert Hall organ sounded too much like a warm-up for the main event, cautious and short-winded in Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, fruity of registration but hardly gripping through the gothic rigours of Liszt's Prelude and Fugue on BACH. No matter, Tannhauser's pilgrims were imminent and their solemn chorale found noble brass chording and burnished cellos - the shape of orchestral refinements to come.

Surprisingly, Tennstedt took very much a safe-sex option through the frenzied pantings of Venusberg - the real satisfaction here was almost entirely post-coital. No such restraint in the overture to Rienzi, as one of the world's great tunes once more vied with some of Wagner's crassest hectoring. On the whole it was an evening of prime-cuts as opposed to bleeding chunks, though quite how a conductor of Tennstedt's sensitivities could bring himself to make the unkindest cut of all from the break of dawn to Siegfried's euphoric departure down the Rhine is beyond me.

He also missed a golden opportunity to segue directly into Siegfried's Funeral March, though of course this darkly eloquent, breast-beating music is right at the heart of everything he does best. The first trumpet's sword motif shone thrillingly here, horns and Wagner tubas excelled. After that, a handsomely upholstered Meistersinger overture, and a surprise - an honorary fly-past of the Valkyries.

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