Prom 62: Israel Philharmonic Orchestra/Mehta/Shaham – review

Royal Albert Hall, London

Overlooking the 10 minutes of stray Webern at the start, this was a fluffy programme seemingly aimed at the casual concert-goer. But anyone who booked without clocking that this was the Israel Philharmonic will have got more of a show than they bargained for.

The audience contained enough pockets of anti-Israel protesters to disrupt the concert between every piece – as well as during the flowing account of Webern's early Passacaglia, which continued despite an unscheduled chorus by the protesters of the Ode to Joy. Radio 3 eventually abandoned its live broadcast, depriving its listeners of the chance to hear how angry a Proms audience can get when its music is interrupted. For those with a good view of the circle, there was even the tantalising prospect of an actual fistfight breaking out over a performance of Albéniz's Iberia.

If anything, the heated context did Bruch's Violin Concerto No 1 a favour, loosening its Classic FM Hall of Fame straitjacket and pointing up its muscularity. Would Gil Shaham have played so forcefully in other circumstances? Perhaps; his performance was refreshingly punchy, with every note clear, and if the slow movement lacked pensiveness it was often tender. The orchestra, sounding world-class, seized every brief opportunity to shine, the massed violins tearing into the gypsy theme of Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol with panache.

All this reignited the age-old debate about whether it is, or indeed should be possible to separate music and politics. Conductor Zubin Mehta, the model of composure, was silent on the matter, talking to the audience only to announce the hard-edged encore, Tybalt's Death from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet.

The musicians kept smiling and played like demons. The protesters made it on to the 10 o'clock news: job done. But inside the hall, the two combined seemed to turn the audience – many of whom were no doubt sympathetic to the protesters – into avid supporters of the Israel Phil.

Tweet your reviews

The Guardian's team of critics will be reviewing every Prom this year and we'd love to hear your verdict, too. Every Prom will be broadcast live on Radio 3, or via the Proms website (you can also listen again for up to seven days after each concert). Send us your thoughts on the comments thread under each review, or tweet your reviews using hashtag #gdnproms. We'll collect the best together in a weekly blog on


Erica Jeal

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Prom 62: Israel Philharmonic Orchestra/Mehta/Shaham – review

The belligerent reception for the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra might actually have enhanced the music, writes Erica Jeal

Erica Jeal

02, Sep, 2011 @10:29 AM

Prom 39: Spaghetti Western Orchestra – review
This Australian tribute outfit to Morricone's groundbreaking scores are a bit too enthusiastic, writes Guy Dammann

Guy Dammann

14, Aug, 2011 @12:21 PM

Prom 72: Philadelphia Orchestra/Dutoit – review
The Philadelphia Orchestra's exceptional beauty was sometimes brought down to earth by their conductor's too-solid approach, writes Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley

09, Sep, 2011 @10:18 AM

Prom 59: Hooray for Hollywood/John Wilson orchestra – review
John Wilson's orchestra delivered a pleasurable shock, blasting out music that is usually squeezed through the tiny speakers of a telly, writes John L Walters

John L Walters

30, Aug, 2011 @11:00 AM

Prom 42: Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre/Gergiev
It was remarkable not just how well Swan Lake stood up to concert hall scrutiny but also how marvellously the orchestra played it under artistic director Valery Gergiev, writes George Hall

George Hall

16, Aug, 2011 @11:10 AM

Prom 23: BBC Philharmonic/Noseda – review

Gianandrea Noseda's last concert as the BBC Philharmonic's chief conductor reached a high point with a spellbinding Liszt, writes Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley

02, Aug, 2011 @10:18 AM

Prom 56: BBCSO/Bychkov – review
Semyon Bychkov barely glanced at the sheet music in a memorable performance of Mahler's Sixth, writes George Hall

George Hall

28, Aug, 2011 @2:44 PM

Prom 50: CLS/Layton – review
Colin Matthews's No Man's Land, premiered here, is a strikingly atmospheric score, writes George Hall

George Hall

22, Aug, 2011 @10:11 AM

Prom 26: BBCSSO/Runnicles – review
Donald Runnicles's exploration of Debussy's influence got a bit cloying by the end of the evening, writes Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley

04, Aug, 2011 @10:13 AM

Prom 55: Rinaldo – review
The semi-staging of the Handel opera, ported over from Glyndebourne, is tacky; thank heavens for the music, says Erica Jeal

Erica Jeal

26, Aug, 2011 @10:23 AM