Prom 25: Gabetta/BBCSO/Stasevska review – stirring and spirited

Royal Albert Hall, London
Dalia Stasevska established a strong rapport with orchestra and audience in fresh and fluid readings of Tchaikovsky and Sibelius, while Sol Gabetta gave shape and intimacy to Mieczysław’s cello concerto

This was Dalia Stasevska’s debut as the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s new principal guest conductor – an appointment that makes her, at 34, the first woman to hold a titled conducting post at a major London orchestra. The players’ responsiveness to her suggests a strong rapport already developing; the silence in a packed Royal Albert Hall at the end of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 6 suggests that she can hold an audience in her hand just as surely. It had been the bleakest of endings to a stirring performance of the symphony, spirited and with a few edges left raw, its dark moments made more vivid by the BBCSO players’ grittiness.

Opening the concert, Sibelius’s Karelia Suite had likewise sounded familiar yet fresh, the middle movement fluid and pensive, the outer ones skipping along, feet barely touching the ground, the orchestra always ready to move when Stasevska whipped things up.

Sol Gabetta plays the Cello Concerto by Mieczysław Weinberg at Prom 25.
Richly lyrical … Sol Gabetta performs the Cello Concerto by Mieczysław Weinberg. Photograph: Chris Christodoulou/BBC

Between these two there was something new, at least for London audiences: the Cello Concerto by Mieczysław Weinberg, a more richly lyrical work than you might expect from the musically proscriptive USSR of the 1950s. Sol Gabetta, who has recently been its champion, shaped the first movement into one long, slowly blossoming melody, and whirled through the livelier passages, even if the orchestra didn’t always share her urgency. The return to the opening music at the end was movingly done. Her encore – Casals’s haunting arrangement of a Catalan folksong, for which she was joined by three of the BBCSO cellists – was further proof that even the Albert Hall can feel like an intimate venue if the performer gets it right.

  • The Proms continue until 14 September.

  • This review was amended on 7 August to correct the statement that Stasevska is the youngest to be appointed to a titled position at a major London orchestra.


Erica Jeal

The GuardianTramp

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