Royal Albert Hall
Let's start with the good news. Paul Daniel has an innate understanding of English music and so was the ideal interpreter for a programme of Bax, Finzi and Elgar. Bax' The Garden of Fand is not heard as often as maybe it should be and it filled the Royal Albert Hall with sensuous glowing tone. Woodwind and brass from the BBC Concert Orchestra seemed particularly positive and this impression was carried over into Finzi's Intimations of Immortality. Tenor soloist Andrew Kennedy was always sensitive to the text but just occasionally the sheer size of the BBC Symphony Chorus overwhelmed him. Paul Daniel guided his forces with skill, finding the hushed beauty of waters on a starry night and ecstatic outpouring of Hence in a season of clam weather.
So far, so impressive.
After the interval Nigel Kennedy was to return to the Proms after many years absence to play the Elgar violin concerto. It did not help that, when he and Paul Daniel came on to the platform that the conducting score was missing. This gave an extended time for Nigel Kennedy to chat to the audience, not that most of them could hear what he was saying, and to joke about before tuning up. His behaviour could possibly have been forgiven if the performance had been anything near acceptable. It wasn't. The hectic pace – I really can't believe that Paul Daniel wanted it that fast – led to a large amount of imprecision and garbled phrasing. The extended cadenza was over-indulgent and shapeless. Only the second movement came anywhere near the work Elgar wrote.
Needless to say the audience greeted the conclusion with wild enthusiasm. If anybody else had played this poorly they would have been met with polite applause as the audience left rapidly. It seems that personality means more today than musical value.
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