Dresden Staatskapelle/Haitink, Royal Albert Hall, London

Royal Albert Hall, London

Conductor Bernard Haitink is usually the embodiment of musical seriousness and intensity, but in his Proms with the Dresden Staatskapelle, he was having fun. In both concerts he reacted to the enthusiasm of the prommers, turning to talk to them between pieces - even between movements - and confiding in them before an encore of Weber's Oberon overture. This relaxed charm gave his performances a youthful vigour, astonishing for a conductor who celebrated his 75th birthday this year.

His music-making, though, was never less than magisterial, and he brought a surprising grace and style to Mozart's Jupiter Symphony and Haydn's 86th Symphony. In repertoire now hijacked by period-instrument specialists, the naturalness and insight of the Dresden players was a revelation. Haitink gave the main theme in the slow movement of the Jupiter Symphony an aching tenderness before the expressive eruptions of the movement's central section. The finale was a thrilling contrapuntal display in which every line of Mozart's super-abundant polyphony was finely etched. In Haydn's symphony, the discontinuities were brilliantly dramatised, and the piece ended with an unexpected throwaway ending, relished by the Dresden musicians.

But it was in Bruckner's Seventh Symphony and Dvorak's Seventh that Haitink unleashed the full range of the Staatskapelle's talents. The performance opened with a vivid musical sunrise: a weightless, arching melody in the cellos that grew into an explosion of orchestral colour. The slow movement unfolded with clarity and purpose, and the finale was a riot of contained force, the coda a blazing conclusion. Meanwhile, Dvorak's Seventh was an essay in fiery energy, and Haitink conducted with freedom and finesse, making the scherzo an irresistible dance and giving the finale a violent, headlong power.


Tom Service

The GuardianTramp

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