Prom 62 - RCO/Jansons (Programme two) | Classical review

Royal Albert Hall, London

It is a noteworthy fact, though not necessarily a regrettable one, that all three of the Haydn symphonies performed in the current Prom season are played by modern-instrument rather than period-instrument bands. Mariss Jansons, the Royal Concertgebouw's chief conductor, has stated an intention to reclaim these classical-period staples for the regular symphony orchestra, and as he and his virtuoso Dutch ensemble demonstrated in their performance of the Military Symphony, their Haydn can compare with the very best.

It is hard to define what happens when a great conductor and a great orchestra meld, but it could be felt in every aspect of this performance. The gestures of the youthful 66-year-old Jansons are not ones of a podium show-off. Everything is centred on encouraging the players to express the musical idea itself with the greatest possible clarity.

However, there was some amusing theatre. The military effects Haydn introduced to the delight of his original London audience in 1794 received a boost in the finale when the percussion players trooped on to the stage, one of them carrying a Jingling Johnny – a Turkish instrument that looks like a Christmas tree adorned with bells and other rattling objects. This was showbiz perhaps, but entirely integrated into the musical realisation.

After the interval, Shostakovich's mighty but enigmatic 10th Symphony held the collective attention over its nearly hour-long span in an exemplary performance.


George Hall

The GuardianTramp

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