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Primal Energy

Barenboim and the Vienna Philharmonic play
Bartók, Kodály, Enescu and Ligeti


The Royal Albert Hall was spectacularly filled almost to the brim, the arena packed, with only a handful of empty seats speckled around; the ambience was buzzing and the arrival of the first member of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra on stage was greeted with resounding applause, a level of enthusiasm that was maintained until the last note of the second encore some two hours later.

The occasion, on 4 September 2007, was the second appearance at the BBC Proms of one of the world's greatest orchestras, conducted by one of the world's greatest conductors, Daniel Barenboim. Whereas the previous evening had featured their programme of Viennese masterworks, Schubert and Bruckner symphonies, this was a counterfoil, a programme of East-European modern classics, Hungarian and Romanian works from the pre- and post- War II years by Bartók, Kodály, Enescu and Ligeti.

Daniel Barenboim. Photo © Chris Christodoulou
Daniel Barenboim. Photo © Chris Christodoulou

The VPO is renowned for its tonal qualities, and this concert did not disappoint, the strings' delicacy and warmth, the unanimity of ensemble in the wind and brass, the sense of a living expressive organism, all were evident here; Barenboim similarly surpassed expectations, breathing life into each phrase, impelling energy and intensity rather than beating time. The scarcity of women members of the VPO was notable, but it is a failing which time will hopefully correct.

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Copyright © 11 September 2007 Malcolm Miller, London UK


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