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Philadelphia Orchestra

Royal Albert Hall

Beethoven, Symphony no. 5 in C minor
Tchaikovsky, Symphony no. 5 in E minor
Philadelphia Orchestra
Christoph Eschenbach
Royal Albert Hall Prom 67

The programme for the evening's prom promised much, to which was added a feeling of relief that the concert would be able to take place, following the power cut of the evening before. And a rousing and energetic musical performance was in store for all.

The Beethoven was played throughout with the expected professionalism and quality, and was in many instances glorious and beautiful. The orchestra used dynamics in a captivating manner, winning and holding the audience's attention and highlighting the complexity of the piece. Similarly, the interesting use of tempo produced some dark, brooding moments in just the correct sections, for example the 3rd movement, which contrasted well with the splendour of the final melody. One strong aspect of this performance was that it was very easy to hear the individual instrumental parts, and each instrument (even the violas!) was given its chance to shine.

With the Tchaikovsky, the dynamics were again brought into play, with the effect that each movement had an additional feeling of tension and expectation to that produced by the score alone. The first movement, for example, felt like a battle between opposing forces, which kept escalating and then dissipating before the final onslaught. The mysterious, intricate tones of the second and third sections then gave way to a beautifully executed performance of complex, frenzied string-playing which provided the backdrop to the majesty of the finale.

The concert was billed as one of fate. In parts, this was fulfilled. The Tchaikovsky resolved from a dark, introspective opening to a memorable final theme full of hope, and the Beethoven was played adventurously and accomplishedly to produce a powerful interpretation of the feelings which lay behind it. For me, I felt that a certain passionate edge was lacking, but my companion was blown away, thereby demonstrating how music can speak in vastly different ways to people.

That being said, despite the odd reservation, the concert was a great success. The conductor, Christoph Eschenbach, never used a score, produced a fine and engaging sound from the accomplished orchestra and was highly energetic himself. The encore, from Smetana's Bartered Bride, was acrobatic and lively. And, in the end, the performance was given a standing ovation from the Promers, and what more could anyone ask than that?!

KT