Opera + Classical Music Reviews

Prom 69: Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra/Petrenko @ Royal Albert Hall, London

3 September 2013

Vasily Petrenko(Photo: Chris Christodoulou)

Vasily Petrenko
(Photo: Chris Christodoulou)

For their second visit to the 2013 Proms, the Oslo Philharmonic and their new Chief Conductor Vasily Petrenko tackled the core Austro-German composers of Beethoven and Bruckner.

Beethoven was represented by his Second Piano Concerto, a work published in 1801 but for the most part written much earlier, a fact that accounts for the influence of Mozart in the piano and orchestral writing. The Norwegian pianist Christian Ihle Hadland delivered a lyrical and rhythmically precise interpretation of the score, poetic in the Adagio and full of dash in the finale. The orchestral accompaniment under Petrenko was lithe and clear, with good balance and fluid phrasing, the woodwinds  especially characterful.

Hadland followed the Beethoven with a performance of the charming A Galliard Gigue by Byrd (mistakenly identified as Couperin on the Radio 3 broadcast).

I’ve previously heard Vasily Petrenko deliver interpretations of works by Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Lutosławski that were outstanding, but this performance of Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony with the Oslo Philharmonic was not among them. Whether Petrenko lacks an affinity with the composer’s music or whether the new conductor/orchestra relationship has yet to settle was not clear. His pacing of the symphony was uncontroversial and the orchestra’s playing was suitably energetic, but the overall effect was earthbound. Allegros lacked drive and the music’s quieter passages were unyieldingly grey and wanting in mystery. In the Andante, the delicacy of the woodwind playing and blending of the brass was exemplary, but rarely seemed part of a larger picture, and some of Petrenko’s extreme pianissimos in the finale sounded mannered.

The behaviour of some of the audience members at this Prom was also unhelpful, including flash photography during the Bruckner performance, a bored man next to me deciding to leave ten minutes before the end and forcing a row of people to stand, and lots of unstifled coughing throughout.

For further information on these and all BBC Proms click here.

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Prom 69: Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra/Petrenko @ Royal Albert Hall, London