Prom 12: BBC Philharmonic/Vassily Sinaisky | Classical review

Royal Albert Hall, London

The disappearance in the late 20th century of the traditional Viennese night at the Proms was not to be mourned. Invented in the 1950s, its surreptitious return in recent years is regrettable. The Viennese repertoire requires idiomatic flair, brilliant execution or fresh stylistic insights. Sadly, Vassily Sinaisky's second BBC Philharmonic Prom in three nights had none of them. It is not a bad rule of thumb that the more a conductor smiles at the orchestra during a performance, the less there is to enjoy in the music-making. So it proved here during what were, with the arguable exception of the Emperor waltz, dull accounts of the Strauss family's greatest hits.

This was to have been the first of Charles Mackerras's appearances this season, and he was hugely missed. Perhaps the instinctive snap of Mackerras would have lifted the all-Schumann first half or the mainly Strauss second from the unchallenging, even disengaged music-making offered by Sinaisky. As it was, even the dedication of the concert to Mackerras was lacking. No public announcement and the sole addition to the programme of Dvorák's beguiling E minor Slavonic Dance, though lovingly played, added up to a tribute without much conviction.

After a lethargic and at times undisciplined account of Schumann's Overture, Scherzo and Finale, the most substantial item was Christian Zacharias's studied account of the A minor piano concerto. In 2004, Zacharias directed this concerto from the keyboard. Freed to concentrate on the solo part, he dug more interestingly into the rhythmic texture of the music, especially in the final movement, but for the most part this was an earthbound account of a work that ought to soar.


Martin Kettle

The GuardianTramp

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