Prom 61: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra / Jansons / Magdalena Kožená
Magdalena Kožená needs underwear advice and she needs it now. I don’t know if her gorgeous gold lace gown was a genuine Chanel or an inspired ‘tribute’. Whichever, I’m sure it would have looked better without a black sports bra showing through. Karl would die. And she so nearly got it Catherine Deneuve-right for once with her elegant pearl accessories and sleekly whipped-up hair.
She couldn’t quite get it together musically either. After an uneven and sometimes inaudible start to her five Duparc songs, her voice settled into that cool, otherworldly glow that lends a touch of magic to everything she does. But it was impossible to tell what language she was singing in, let alone any of the words, and her detached manner suggested commentary more than experience. Her encore, Debussy’s Ballade des Femmes de Paris, was more effective for being more relaxed. But it remained abundantly clear that French – at least the French of the exquisitely turned mélodie – is not her language or her idiom.
Ravel’s second Daphnis et Chloé Suite, a work so perfectly conceived it doesn’t leave a conductor much interpretive leeway, was the Concertgebouw’s follow-up. Mariss Jansons couldn’t find anything new, but a dazzling display of taut, responsive playing made it worthwhile.
The first symphony of Sibelius was the uneven opener to the upside-down programme. Beautifully played throughout, but after a fiery first movement, returns diminished. A tendency to drag was marked by a restless audience (surprisingly, far from capacity).
Two splendid encores – Debussy’s Clair de Lune and Elgar’s Wild Bears – were (as so often at the Proms) the highlight of the evening.