Leipzig Gewandhaus/Chailly | Classical review

Royal Albert Hall, London

Riccardo Chailly has consistently championed Deryck Cooke's performing version of Mahler's unfinished Tenth Symphony. While some insisted that only the opening movement, which Mahler virtually completed, could be performed, Chailly has conducted Cooke's score with a succession of orchestras, the latest of which is the Leipzig Gewandhaus, where he has been music director for four years now.

As their outstanding Proms performance underlined, without Cooke and his collaborators, and believers in their work like Chailly, some of Mahler's greatest music would still be unheard. Chailly steered a clear path towards the vast, redemptive finale. In a work that is particularly self-obsessed, even by Mahler's standards, Chailly's approach was a model of control, steering clear of the angst-ridden and neurotic even in the most wrought passages of the outer movements. Yet the great climaxes, such as the piled–up dissonance that caps the opening Adagio and returns at the point of maximum crisis in the finale, were never lacking in power, and the transition to that finale, with its minatory bass drum (tweaked by Chailly with extra grace notes) was wonderfully stage-managed. The orchestral playing was fabulously refined, and Chailly shaped their lustrous webs of sound unerringly.

The Gewandhaus orchestra could have hardly visited the Proms in the year of Mendelssohn's bicentenary and not included something by the composer, who was their music director for the last 12 years of his life. So before the symphony, Chailly and his players accompanied the young Palestinian pianist Saleem Abboud Ashkar in the G minor piano concerto. It was not an engaging performance; though there was plenty of flashing fingerwork in Ashkar's playing, there was little charm or wit, and no real Mendelssohnian sparkle, unfortunately.

The Proms continue until Saturday. Details: www.bbc.co.uk/proms


Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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