Prom 40: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra / Volkov
And so it came to pass that the annual Beethoven 9 was prefaced by the neo-classical niceties of Stravinsky's Orpheus under the dainty baton of Ilan Volkov. Very neatly played by the BBCSSO, but how could anyone dance to it? Lightweight, refined, and a bit boring.
The Big B trod the same path, at least until the last movement. Even though Volkov didn't push the pace, the well-rehearsed gloss of the Adagio gave way to some shaky playing. I wouldn't normally praise mistakes, but it lent a much-needed frisson of unpredictability. This movement is intentionally tough on singers and musicians alike, and it needs to sound like it.
And once the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus let rip, there was finally a sense of involvement and, yes, passion.
The soloists were terrific too. For once I could actually hear all of them above the orchestra, no mean feat. The bass James Rutherford wasn't quite agile enough to centre all his notes, but he sang with beautiful tone and great enthusiasm. Rebecca Evans (in a saloon gal frock that only someone as wholesome as her could pull off), Caitlin Hulcup and Anthony Dean Griffey rounded off a well-balanced quartet.
If you happen to watch the concert on BBC4 (I think it's on this Friday), spare a thought for the prommers who queued for hours for front row places, only to be shoved aside to make way for the BBC's ohso important camera, and even more insultingly, a handpicked selection of photogenic munchkins gathered from all corners of the auditorium. No, viewers, the Proms audience is still packed with silver-haired grannies and baldy middle-aged men in polo shirts, whatever the BBC would like you to think.