Prom 12: West-Eastern Divan Orchestra/Barenboim – review

Royal Albert Hall, London

The third of Daniel Barenboim's Beethoven-Boulez Proms with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra will be remembered for a blunder that caused a considerable number of people, myself included, to miss part of it. The programme told us the interval came after the second piece of the evening, Boulez's Mémoriale (" … explosante-fixe … " Originel), when in fact it came after his Messagesquisse, placed third. Slips about the change weren't distributed to a substantial section of the audience, who departed the auditorium as Mémoriale's players left the platform. Some were able to get back inside when the truth dawned, but many were stuck in corridors and foyers unable to hear Messagesquisse at all.

Written in 1976 to mark the 70th birthday of Swiss arts patron Paul Sacher, Messagesquisse is a short work for solo cello and an ensemble of six further cellos that rings toccata-like changes on the musical annotation of Sacher's name: it was (according to BBC iPlayer, anyway) played with great dexterity by Hassan Moataz El Molla. Mémoriale, meanwhile – a piece of exquisite poise and beauty for flute and chamber ensemble – formed a fine vehicle for the Wedo's sensational flautist, Guy Eshed.

Beethoven was represented by the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, played in reverse order. Barenboim's way with Beethoven – carefully moulded, deploying large forces – wasn't ideal for the Fifth, which had great nobility but at times not nearly enough drive. The Pastoral, though, was very different: the orchestral sound combined warmth with clarity. There were some striking speeds, with the second movement, taken faster than usual, acquiring an uncommon urgency. And it was beautifully played, by the woodwind above all. Very fine.


Tim Ashley

The GuardianTramp

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