A full-blown Romantic programme, performed with no holds barred by the LPO, driven on by the relentlessly inspiring direction of Vladimir Jurowski, to a packed auditorium in sauna-like conditions; ah, this is what the Proms is all about.
We set off on this Grand Tour of the sublime with Weber’s overture to Der Freischütz, here given a lively, affectionate performance full of dramatic contrasts between the artless joy of Agathe’s theme and the sombre threats of the supernatural.
Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen followed, sung by Alice Coote exactly as the composer specified in his instruction for the final part, ‘ohne Sentimentalität.’ Coote shaped the long lines beautifully, giving proper weight to phrases such as ‘Auf der Strasse steht ein Lindenbaum,’ although one might want a little more sense of the searing anger behind ‘ihr silbern Lachen.’ Jurowski supported her like a guardian angel, and the first violin’s obbligato in the second song was tremulously beautiful. My 14 year old daughter, Amy, was hearing her first ‘live’ Mahler, and although she rated the singing very highly she had naught but contempt for the work – “Oh come on, who says all that about ‘Woe’ and ‘Weep for my darling love?'” Long may she feel that way!
Amy pronounced Tchaikovsky’s Manfred to be “too intense” which sounds exactly what the composer wanted. Jurowski really is the man you need for this sort of thing – he drives it all on, tortured Romantic hero, innocent victim and dramatically evocative backdrop of nature and all. The doom-filled close of the first movement, the delicate second and above all the minutely judged scherzo in the third all found the orchestra in cracking form. The work had its UK premiere at a Prom, but has been on the Proms programme only ten times in all; perhaps a sufficiently passionate advocate of a conductor was missing – certainly not the case on this occasion.