If the Berlin Phil has anything as prosaic as a comfort zone, the bulk of this programme wasn't it. Of the five composers in the first of their two Proms, only Wagner was an obvious fit for their trademark sound, as velvety and patrician as ever. Yet all the works gained something from their fastidious attention.

Simon Rattle has been a champion of Sibelius during his time in Berlin, and the players sounded at home in the elusive Fourth Symphony. The music's strange contradictions – the achingly intense strings, the chirpy glockenspiel in the final movement, the restrained, almost deflated ending – fell into place.

The two perfumed tranches of French ballet music in the second half were not quite so idiomatic. It's a cliche to say that this stuff needs to sound impressionistic, but this was a touch too much in focus. The flirty game of tennis portrayed in Debussy's Jeux had more baseline rallies than delicate drop shots. And in the Suite No 2, from Ravel's Daphnis and Chloé, we could hear every one of the zillions of notes – every woodwind burble as the rising sun put out its tendrils, every whirl and twirl in the closing dance. That dance set the toes tapping, but it felt more measured than manic. Still, when the orchestra played at full intensity the glow was out of this world.

Boldly, Rattle had begun with Ligeti's brief, masterly Atmospheres, plunging the auditorium into immediate stillness. The music seemed to inhale and exhale, as if the orchestra were a huge human squeezebox. Rattle then "conducted" a silence and carried straight on into Wagner's Lohengrin Prelude – and it turns out that Wagner starts his opera with exactly the same orchestral breathing. Unexpected musical connections are everywhere, but when they are pointed out so skilfully, they feel like little revelations.

• Available on iPlayer until 6 September. If you're at any Prom this summer, tweet your thoughts about it to @guardianmusic using the hashtag #proms and we'll pull what you've got to say into one of our weekly roundups – or leave your comments below.

• This article was amended on 31 August 2012. In the original, the Berliner Philharmoniker performed Sibelius's Third Symphony. This has been corrected.


Erica Jeal

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Prom 64: Berliner Philharmoniker/Rattle – review
It was the dark urgency of Yefim Bronfman's playing that will linger most in the memory, writes Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley

02, Sep, 2012 @1:38 PM

Article image
Berliner Philharmoniker/Rattle review – sheer quality and intensity of playing
The superb Philharmoniker under Simon Rattle gave the opportunity to wonder again at the originality and irresistible logic of Sibelius’s musical thinking

Andrew Clements

13, Feb, 2015 @3:20 PM

Article image
Berliner Philharmoniker/Rattle review – mesmerising Lachenmann, compelling Mahler
Helmut Lachenmann’s startling Tableau was perfectly suited to the clarity of Simon Rattle’s style, while Mahler’s Second became genuinely awesome

Tim Ashley

16, Feb, 2015 @12:31 PM

Article image
Berliner Philharmoniker/Rattle/Kavakos review – eloquent exploration of Sibelius
The Berliners command an orchestral palette that few others can match, and although Rattle conducted with plenty of urgency, there was a greater focus on symphonic structure, while Kavakos was compelling

Martin Kettle

12, Feb, 2015 @5:27 PM

Article image
Berlin Philharmonic/Rattle; The Mastersingers of Nuremberg – review
Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic gave a Sibelius masterclass, while beleaguered ENO have a hit on their hands

Fiona Maddocks

15, Feb, 2015 @8:00 AM

Article image
Berliner Philharmoniker/Rattle review – demonstrating what a gloriously responsive orchestra they can be
Simon Rattle celebrates one of the composers he built his career on as his orchestra rises magnificently to the challenges

Andrew Clements

11, Feb, 2015 @12:42 PM

Article image
Prom 64: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Rattle review – a high point of the Proms season

Simon Rattle and the BPO give an orchestral masterclass with finely tuned Rachmaninov and dazzlingly vivid Stravinsky, writes Erica Jeal

Erica Jeal

07, Sep, 2014 @1:48 PM

Article image
Prom 3: Pelléas et Mélisande – review

This semi-staging of Debussy's opera was a touch detached, but the orchestra's playing was something to savour, writes Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements

16, Jul, 2012 @11:08 AM

Prom 27: BBCSSO/Runnicles – review
It's not often you hear cries of "encore" after a Bruckner symphony but in Runnicles' hands the Eighth flowed superbly, writes Guy Dammann

Guy Dammann

05, Aug, 2012 @1:28 PM

Article image
Prom 61: RCO/Jansons | Classical review
Royal Albert Hall, London
From Sibelius to Ravel, Debussy and Elgar, Mariss Jansons led the Royal Concertgebouw through a perfectly judged Prom, writes Martin Kettle

Martin Kettle

01, Sep, 2009 @10:30 PM