Mariss Jansons's two Proms with the Bavarian Radio Symphony were eagerly awaited. On both evenings, we were acutely conscious of being in the presence of a conductor of rare insight and intelligence. The BRSO, meanwhile, is one of the world's great orchestras. Midway through the battle sequence in Strauss's Ein Heldenleben, the platform lights mysteriously failed, plunging the musicians into darkness. Everyone simply carried on as if nothing had happened, maintaining the momentum until illumination was restored.
Yet there were also moments - few and far between - where the quintessential Jansons combination of interpretative depth and exhilarating spontaneity didn't materialise. This inevitably raises questions as to why his UK appearances with the BRSO haven't had quite the impact of his concerts with his previous orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony.
The orchestral sound may be a factor. Jansons hasn't, as yet, drawn from the BRSO the chameleon-like ability of the Pittsburgh players to fully adjust tone and timbre to the work in question. The basic sound, ravishingly beautiful and incredibly opulent, remains a constant, though not ideally suited to everything they play.
They can be devastating in Strauss; Ein Heldenleben received a rightly deserved standing ovation. It was preceded by Dvorak's Eighth Symphony, for which the BRSO tone was too rich, and Jansons's approach seemed oddly studied, the scherzo veering away from its Czech folk origins towards the urbanity of a Viennese waltz.
Shostakovich's First Violin Concerto and Tchaikovsky's Pathétique Symphony formed the programme for the second concert. The soloist in the Shostakovich was Gidon Kremer, and the often-overwhelming impact of the performance derived from his alternation of lyricism with abrasion, creating subtle, emotionally probing points of concord and conflict with the orchestra. Jansons's interpretation of the Pathétique remains a searing experience. Spontaneous applause at the end of the march put him off his stride, perhaps, for the finale proved elegiac rather than harrowing. The tragic intensity of the opening movements, meanwhile, was immeasurably heightened by the almost oppressive sweetness of the BRSO sound.