BBC Proms reviews

Prom 28: BBC Philharmonic/Noseda @ Royal Albert Hall, London

5 August 2009

An empty auditorium at the Royal Albert Hall

An empty auditorium at the Royal Albert Hall (Photo: Christie Goodwin/Royal Albert Hall)

The BBC Philharmonic delivers a highly polished, deeply eloquent and ultimately shattering performance of Mahler’s 6th Symphony under its Chief Conductor Gianandrea Noseda.

Given its length, at just over eighty minutes, it’s more usual these days to encounter Mahler’s 6th Symphony as the sole item on the programme but Prom 28 also included Stravinsky’s Scènes de ballet and Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto . Not only did this Prom prove to be good value for money, but it delivered an evening of music making of the highest quality.

The evening began with a performance of Stravinsky’s Scènes de ballet which forms part of this year’s exploration of all Stravinsky’s ballets. Embarking on such a project has its benefits and downfalls. Whilst it can be beneficial to hear all such works over a season, inevitably some of his ballet scores are not as good as others, and to my ears at least, Scènes de ballet does not compare with some of his stronger works for the stage. Nevertheless it was performed with precision and élan by the members of the BBC Philharmonic.

After the somewhat uninspiring Stravinsky, Karen Geoghegan was the delightful soloist in Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto in B flat. The bassoon isn’t the easiest instrument on the ear, so all credit to Ms Geoghegan for delivering such a mellifluous and spirited performance with some hair-raising cadenzas thrown in for good measure. Runner-up in the BBC Two series Classical Star and still at the Royal Academy of Music she evidently has a brilliant career ahead of her. I just hope her colleagues who cheered her on weren’t also responsible for the moronic applause between movements. Will someone please put a stop to this?

After the interval the orchestra surpassed all expectations with a monumental performance of Mahler’s 6th Symphony. Noseda inspired them to scale new heights and secured playing that was at once disciplined yet impassioned. The final movement, virtually a symphony in itself, left both the players and audience emotionally drained – the hammer blows of fate have never sounded more foreboding, which set the seal on an extraordinary evening of music making.

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