Of head and heart
DAVID THOMPSON samples three symphonies
from two international orchestras
at the BBC Proms
The Editor was not overstating the situation in extolling the riches
of the annual Proms season at London's Royal Albert Hall. It says much
for our good fortune that two of the world's finest orchestras, the
Royal Concertgebouw and the Los Angeles Philharmonic each presented a pair
of concerts in the same week. I was privileged to be present at one of each.
The Royal Concertgebouw provided the cultured voice of mainstream Europe.
It has a long and distinguished tradition. In particular, it has Mahler
deep in its bloodstream, from the time of the composer himself, through
the likes of Mengelberg, Van Beinum and Haitink, to Riccardo Chailly in
the present day. So we might have anticipated that a rare live performance
of of the gigantic Third would be a highlight of the season. In the
event, Chailly was indisposed, and his replacement, at short notice, was
Eliahu Inbal, a distinguished Mahlerian himself as his recorded cycle amply
Mahler 3 is a difficult, if not impossible work to bring off convincingly.
Not so much from a technical point of view -- indeed, the orchestra declared
its credentials most convincingly, with every considerable demand easily
met, every precise nuance keenly observed. There was pleasure enough to
be had from this alone. But does an immaculate performance a symphony make?
In a piece so extended and diverse, I'm not sure that Mahler is able
to achieve the impossible, nor fair to ask it of his interpreters.
Copyright © 6 September 2002
David Thompson, Eastwood, Essex, UK