Prom 60: Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Jansons - Royal Albert Hall, 29 August 2007
Mariss Jansons and his Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra took a distinctly fireworks-free perspective on tonight's programme, Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra and Sibelius's 2nd Symphony. He's a master at treading the right side of the narrow line between subtlety and plain dullness, and he finessed it perfectly again tonight.
The portentousness of Zarathustra offers a certain temptation towards vulgarity. But instead Jansons gave us a dignified and immaculately nuanced narrative, probing towards the unresolved ending.
The odd croaky brass entrance aside, the orchestral playing was a wonder of balance and technique. Bright, molten strings are at the heart of the BRSO's sound. There are no back row passengers in this orchestra, as reflected in their remarkable uniformity and ensemble.
The Sibelius 2, though maybe a little too far on the chilly Nordic side for my own tastes, was nevertheless thoughtfully weighted and immaculately performed. Watching Jansons on the podium was an education in itself, as his entire choreography switched for each new musical idea. At one point he simply stood with his hands glued to his sides for several bars, raising them into the air again as those bars were repeated with a different inflection.
The performance was a little less enthusiastically received than some others have been this week, but maybe this is a reflection of its cool gloss.
Perhaps just to prove they could raise the temperature if they chose, the BRSO warmed up considerably for their splashy encores, the maudlin Sibelius Valse Triste, and a manically energetic snippet from Bartók's Miraculous Mandarin suite. For sheer excitement, this was the high spot of the evening, but it also threw into relief the cultured restraint of the main programme.