Photo, Chris Christodoulou

Friday, August 25, 2023

Royal Albert Hall, London

While the Berlin Philharmonic was beginning its new season,, the Boston Symphony Orchestra was in London. Catching up with its Prom, and opening with Julia Adolphe’s Makeshift Castle (European premiere) – related to her first experience of a sunset and when she first saw her (now late) father cry – it’s a fifteen-minute piece initially heavy with brass and percussion (nothing new there then) in agilely composed music intensely delivered before fragmenting to skeletal timbres, lamenting, expressive in a familiar public way if deeply felt and personal to the composer (perhaps beyond us?). Alas, Makeshift Castle didn’t hold my attention. Andris Nelsons has been big on Richard Strauss’s music recently for DG, with Boston and Leipzig, and his conducting at the Proms of Death and Transfiguration was secluded, then bold and dramatic if rather indulged at times, if moving at others, such as the climb to the transfer and the moment itself, both grippingly sustained. If Prokofiev Five was without revelation across its four movements, save for the ultimate coda being more joyous than usual, less of a snarl, the vivid whole was elevated by the sheer quality of the BSO’s playing and its highly distinctive tutti and solo timbres.