Tuesday, August 3, 2021, Royal Albert Hall, London
Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 from 7.30 p.m.
Ben Gernon was the replacement conductor (for Omer Meir Wellber), a regular with the BBC Phil. The Haydn was a post-Proms Guide change as were Elisabeth Brauss and the Mozart Piano Concerto (No.23, A-major).
Eschewing the ‘traditional’ initial crescendo, Haydn 103 opened with a forte-diminuendo ‘Drum Roll’ (but think what Harnoncourt did with it!), to herald a pregnant slow introduction and a perky Allegro, nicely detailed in winds and timpani. The slow movement trotted with gravitas and point, including a splendid violin solo from Zoë Beyers and militaristic trumpets and drums. Gernon took his time with the Minuet, conjuring courtliness and chandeliers, although the Trio had its unexpected timbral aspects! The horn-call Finale enjoyed dynamic light and shade, and exuberance, but not through breaking the speed limit.
Following the interval (spent by me preparing supper), an enjoyable (if no more than that) Beethoven 4 – dark and pensive to begin with, then Light arrived to thunderous timpani as the Allegro scampered, the development sported very short grace notes (the polar opposite to Furtwängler), and Gernon didn’t stall, too much, the entrance of the recapitulation. If the slow movement flowed a little too easily (it has hidden depths) then the ABABA Scherzo and Trio was a lively affair, and the Finale a fleet one – no mercy shown to strings, clarinettist and bassoonist, the challenge accepted. As in the (more characterful) Haydn, all repeats were observed.
Between the Symphonies Elisabeth Brauss (a Radio 3 New Generation Artist) was outstanding, and stylishly introduced by the BBC Phil, which accompanied beautifully throughout. Her playing was the epitome of poise, thoughtfulness, gentleness, eloquence and sparkle – a quietness that nevertheless radiates things of import, exemplified by a spacious slow movement that touched the heart and searched the soul. A pity she didn’t offer an encore; it would have been welcome.
Superb broadcast sound, no doubt courtesy of the admirable Stephen Rinker, credited in many a Chandos booklet for its BBC Phil recordings.