Prom 26: BBCSSO/Runnicles – review

Royal Albert Hall, London

You can, on occasion, have too much of a good thing. Donald Runnicles's first Prom with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra opened with Debussy's Prélude à L'Après-Midi d'un Faune and went on to explore its influence on the music of Dutilleux and Ravel – the former represented by his cello concerto Tout un Monde Lointain, the latter by Boléro and Daphnis et Chloé. Examining a seminal score in the context of its legacy is, of course, a common practice in programming. In this instance, however, it resulted in an evening of refined sensuality that nevertheless led to a feeling of satiety before it reached its close.

Performance-wise, you couldn't fault it. Runnicles, in his element in this repertoire, conducted with wonderful subtlety, while the BBCSSO were marvellously alert to every shift of mood and colour. The Debussy, sliding out of silence into sound, was ravishing. Daphnis et Chloé, meanwhile, has its occasional longueurs, though Runnicles's negotiation of the thin dividing line between sexual sweetness and pagan religious awe was immaculately judged. Boléro, on the other hand, was louche and blatant, the woodwind and brass solos, in particular, played with near-indecent suggestiveness.

Lynn Harrell, meanwhile, was the soloist in Dutilleux's Baudelaire-inspired concerto, traversing its introspective landscape of dreams, echoes and regret with understated poise. As an encore, he played the Bourrées from Bach's Third Cello Suite, a moment of sudden austerity that threw the hedonism of the rest of the concert into sharp relief. The gorgeous lushness of it all began to cloy a bit as the evening wore on, and a bit more contrast might have been welcome.

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Tim Ashley

The GuardianTramp

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