Prom 35: BRSO/Jansons – review

Royal Albert Hall, London

The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra's second Prom under Mariss Jansons consisted of just one major work: Mahler's Second Symphony. One of the largest pieces in the repertoire in terms of its length and the forces involved, the so-called Resurrection Symphony is, at the most basic level, a blockbuster of a score perfectly suited to the Albert Hall, where the apocalyptic terrors and unequivocally affirmative apotheosis of its final movement resounded magnificently in the cavernous acoustic.

Earlier sections of the piece, though, did not consistently match the comprehensive interpretative richness that made the last two movements so resolutely memorable. While the orchestral playing held to the highest standards throughout, combining a lithe attack with precision under Jansons's firm yet flexible control, there were moments amid the vehement, doom-laden progress of the vast opening funeral march that felt curiously becalmed. The second movement's self-consciously old-fashioned naivety seemed literal rather than viewed from a perspective that was both nostalgic and ironic, and even the outcry of spiritual despair at the climax of the comic-grotesque scherzo registered as marginally underpowered. Perceptive and refined though Jansons's overview of these emotionally intricate statements was, it fell short of the ideal range and scale of their potential impact.

Greatness entered the performance immediately following the end of the third movement, with the first notes of the Knaben Wunderhorn setting Urlicht as intoned by mezzo Gerhild Romberger, who brought a simple dignity of expression to the straightforward text that was mirrored in a renewed security and subtlety of orchestral response. With the entry of the chorus in the fifth movement – a relatively small but choice body comprising the Bavarian Radio Chorus and the WDR Radio Choir, Cologne, who sang seated until launching themselves at their final ecstatic soaring – and bolstered by the radiant soprano of Genia Kühmeier, the interpretation's drive and emotional sweep became ever more compelling until reaching an overwhelming sense of elation in the symphony's last bars.

On iPlayer until Thursday.

• Did you catch this gig – or any other recently? Tell us about it using #GdnGig


George Hall

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

BRSO/Jansons | Classical review
Mariss Jansons was hypnotic with both Mahler and Shostakovich, writes Martin Kettle – but was it really worth his orchestra's trip from Munich?

Martin Kettle

09, Mar, 2010 @11:00 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

BRSO/Jansons, Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Rian Evans

04, May, 2005 @11:37 AM

Prom 62 - RCO/Jansons (Programme two) | Classical review
Royal Albert Hall, London
Mariss Jansons takes his exemplary Dutch ensemble to astonishing heights in their celebration of Haydn's military music, writes George Hall

George Hall

02, Sep, 2009 @9:35 PM

Article image
Prom 40: 6 Music prom – review

Radio 3 and 6 Music's pioneering mash-up made the alt-poppers look conservative and the prog classics edgily contemporary, writes Jude Rogers

Jude Rogers

13, Aug, 2013 @10:54 AM

PSO/Jansons, Royal Albert Hall, London

/4 stars Royal Albert Hall, London

Martin Kettle

01, Sep, 2003 @10:30 AM

Article image
Prom 2: Doctor Who Prom – review

John Lewis: Whovians lap up an audio-visual feast at the Royal Albert Hall, with Matt Smith the guest of honour

John Lewis

14, Jul, 2013 @2:47 PM

CD review: Mahler: Symphony No 5: Jansons

No one could deny the polish of the playing in this account of Mahler's Fifth but all this technical excellence seems to lack musical purpose and direction

Andrew Clements

28, Nov, 2008 @4:30 PM

RCO/Jansons, Royal Albert Hall, London

Royal Albert Hall, London

Erica Jeal

04, Sep, 2005 @11:01 PM

Article image
Prom 20: Götterdämmerung – review

Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin not only met high expectations for the end of the Ring cycle – they exceeded them, writes George Hall

George Hall

29, Jul, 2013 @11:54 AM