Recent Prom Highlights

Prom 58 saw the first time the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra has appeared at the Proms. Louis Langrée, its music director since 2013, led a marvellously atmospheric performance of Bernstein’s On the Waterfront suite to set the ball rolling. Copland’s Lincoln Portrait was marred by Charles Dance’s declamation of the timely, patriotic words in an American accent that left something to be desired. In contrast The CSO percussion section showed plenty of flair and the brass were magisterial. In Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64 we heard the orchestra playing with real warmth and even the finale, which Tchaikovsky disliked, came across well.

Prom 60 brought an all Russian programme from from the Oslo Philharmonic and their chief conductor Vasily Petrenko.

Vasily Petrenko

They were joined by the pianist Leif Ove Andsnes for a performance of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G minor, Op. 40. This is the least popular of Rachmaninov’s four piano concertos and this performance did little to change one’s mind. The highlight of the evening was Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 12 in D minor, Op. 112 ‘The Year 1917’ – an appropriate choice for this anniversary year! It is a symphonically weak piece, but given such a a performance of decibel-busting proportions it certainly makes an impression. The Oslo Philharmonic does fortissimo very well indeed – at least one member of the percussion could be seen, wisely, to be sporting ear-plugs!

Last Wednesday, we were treated to yet another guest orchestra. This time the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic with Sakari Oramo, making one of his four Prom appearances. Nielsen’s Symphony No. 2 is something of an Oramo speciality. That evening he conducted a superb performance of this so-called “Four Temperaments” symphony; as one might expect having heard his recording of the work with the same forces on BIS.

On Thursday we were treated to Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in F sharp minor, Op. 1, thus completing the cycle at this year’s Proms. The soloist was Kirill Gerstein and the BBC Symphony Orchestra were directed by Semyon Bychkov. In this enjoyable performance there was total cohesion between soloist and orchestra. We also had another comparatively rarely performed piece, namely Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony, Op. 58. We were given a fine performance that gave much pleasure, even it could not quite match Bychkov’s outstanding CD of the work with the Czech Philharmonic on Decca.

Friday night saw the first of two appearances from Amsterdam’s mighty Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra with their Chief Conductor, Daniele Gatti. They gave us a monumental account of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor. Gatti’s approach may have been on the slow side, but their was no doubting the quality of his orchestra. The strings produced a transparent sound in the symphony’s moments of transcendence, while the brass provided suitable weight and authority in each fortissimo outburst, never sounding strident or overbearing.

Yet another week providing a feast of wonderful music for what must surely be the best audience in the world! If you missed any of these concerts or simply wish to listen again the concerts are still available on BBC i-Player.