The least disappointing part of this patchy Prom was its centrepiece, Mahler's Rückert-Lieder, all five of them, sung with earnestness and intensity by Simon Keenlyside. His evident strain on the very highest and lowest notes only added to the impression that he was giving these expressions of love and loss his very all.
I had expected equally great things from Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Rotterdam Philharmonic. They've been together for two years now, enough time, you might think, to get acquainted. Yet in the opening Tannhäuser Overture the winds and brass consistently overwhelmed the strings and the timpanist was behind the beat. It's not an easy acoustic but Nézet-Séguin has conducted Proms before; he should know the ropes. I'm guessing the aim of his barely-varied mezzo forte and unblended colouring was translucency, but instead the sound was emaciated and lacking in the least degree of authority or sensuality, the two threads that should wind through it. Not good.
Beethoven's Eroica Symphony was an improvement, but then it is by nature reasonably conductor-proof. The orchestra cohered better, and Nézet-Séguin conjured a different sound - fuller, yet still crisp. But too much felt forced, with details - an accented horn here, a tempo shift there - applied like decoration instead of emerging naturally from the score. If a conductor lacks faith in the music's ability to speak for itself, why perform it? A brief but exquisitely-shaped Ravel encore, from Ma mère l'Oye, hinted that his strengths may lie elsewhere.