Angela Hewitt - Cadogan Hall, 3 September 2007
Prom 66: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Barenboim - Royal Albert Hall, 3 September 2007
Prom 68: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Barenboim - Royal Albert Hall, 4 September 2007
The refinement of Angela Hewitt's playing was matched by her frock choice for this lunchtime recital, a slinky teal jersey sleeveless gown and pants paired with teetering stilettos in matching satin (a risky choice for an hour at the piano?). But as it turned out she pedalled minimally, allowing the bright, pinging tone of her Fazioli piano to illuminate her midday programme, which sandwiched a couple of Scarlatti sonatas between two Bach Partitas.
She characterised each dance in the opening Partita no 1 with a clarity and delicacy that flowed through the whole programme. A little hesitancy and some uncharacteristic fluffs in this opener weren't repeated in the closing Bach Partita no 4, each phrase shaped with complete focus and attention.
Although Domenico Scarlatti was a contemporary of Bach, the two sonatas performed, K9 and K29, sound as if they come from another century, even another planet. Their sparky playfulness and invention provided just the right amount of contrast with the Bach.
Unfortunately, the BBC radio recording destroys the delicacy and intimacy of Hewitt's performance with a cavernous quality that wasn't at all apparent at the recital. But if you're curious about what a piano might sound like at the bottom of a well, it's worth a couple of minutes attention.
Given the tube strike which started a couple of hours earlier, it was surprising to see a full house for Barenboim and the Vienna Philharmonic in the evening, but it was worth any amount of difficulty to see a performance of this calibre.
They opened with Schubert's light and Mozartean fifth Symphony, composed when he was just 19. Finessing that tricky blend of assurance and freshness, the Vienna Phil gave the most charming and delightful performance.
Having no doubt drilled these consummate musicians to perfection in rehearsal, Barenboim simply waved his arms in the air now and again as if he was waiting for his deodorant to dry.
The main course of the evening was Bruckner's Symphony no 4, which according to the programme was performed in the original 1874 version. I didn't notice any differences from the more usually played 1880 version so I'm a bit baffled by this.
Anyway, who cares, it was a marvel from start to finish. Barenboim's conception had the air of confidence - no muddle and no theatrics. From the moment the horns reached out over the rippling strings in the opening bars through to the blazing finale there was not a second's drop in concentration. The burnished sweep of the string section was the foundation for some immaculate and inspired playing from the wind and brass as they shaped the long melodic phrases.
It really is impossible to pick out any one of the finely-crafted moments or any musician for special praise. Sometimes a great performance seems to be constructed in front of you from the base up - this one felt as if it had been born perfect, fully-formed, and simply unveiled to us slowly, second by second.
The tube strike finally managed to get its claws into the Proms with the Vienna Phil's second and final Prom the next day. There were great toothless gaps in the stalls seats, and even the arena could have squeezed a few more standing customers in.
It would have been unreasonable to expect anything of the intensity of the previous day's Bruckner, and indeed this was a much more relaxed affair.
If the previous night had focused on architecture and construction, this one was about painting. The huge textural differences between each of its four sections were what really leapt out from a surprisingly abrasive take on Bartók's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta. Ligeti's brief Atmosphères was similarly rough-hewn, its curious shapes grinding up against each other.
The other two pieces, Kodály's Dances from Galánta and Enescu's Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 were delivered immaculately, and with tremendous verve. But despite their common Central European ancestry, their dancing rhythms seemed to belong on a different programme from the Bartók and Ligeti. Then again, perhaps that was the point.
The almost inevitable thundering ovation drew a couple of lively Strauss encores - the Vienna Phil as comfortable with these as with everything else they'd played.
Before the concert I slipped in to Proms head Nicholas Kenyon's audience Q&A session. This drew mostly the predictable Why can't we have more/less [insert name here] questions. However Kenyon did reveal that the Proms cost £8.5m, of which only £3.5m was covered by ticket receipts, the BBC footing the rest. For how long I wonder?