- •Contact us
- •About us
- •Advertise with the FT
- •Terms & conditions
© The Financial Times Ltd 2013 FT and 'Financial Times' are trademarks of The Financial Times Ltd.
September 3, 2012 5:33 pm
As in economics, so in music: the penultimate weekend of the BBC Proms was a display of German orchestral prowess. After the luxuriant sonorities of the Berlin Philharmonic came the very different, old-style sound of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, which is able to trace its history back to the mid-1700s.
Concerts in Leipzig, a city proud of its musical heritage, regularly feature composers who were resident there. Since Riccardo Chailly became Kapellmeister, Mendelssohn has been a particular favourite and Saturday’s Prom was entirely of his music, played with an agility and grace that is a special part of the Leipzig inheritance.
A pair of overtures – “Ruy Blas” and “The Fair Melusine” – formed the opening to each half, establishing a patrician balance of sound, strings and wind on equal terms. The Symphony No.5, the “Reformation”, with its dour, religious counterpoint, came across like a dainty sermon, spoken trippingly on the tongue. All three pieces were performed in new versions edited by Christopher Hogwood. In the Violin Concerto, played with peerless expertise by Nicolaj Znaider, everything was perfectly prepared, but while Chailly has worked to instil rigorous standards of exactness, something of the old affection has gone out of the Leipzig performances.
In the second Prom, on Sunday, Chailly and his orchestra showed their range. Messiaen’s Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum leaves out the string section, but its colours are kaleidoscopic. In this vast hall the choirs of wind and brass glowed as if in a cathedral. Beautifully played, Messiaen’s static musical tableaux hung in the air like imposing stained glass windows.
The performance of Mahler’s Symphony No.6 made up in intensity what it lacked in softer feelings. In this most classical of Mahler’s symphonies, Chailly kept unequivocally to the classicist’s rule book – fast speeds, sharp rhythms, no emotional lingering. The result was a high-definition digital image of the symphony, in which brightness and detail always took precedence (how far away seemed the misty isle of memories that Karajan found in the slow movement). It takes an impeccable ensemble to bring off this kind of performance to the exacting level of precision that Chailly demands. His Leipzig orchestra did not let him down.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2013. You may share using our article tools.
Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.