Photo, Chris Christodoulou

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Royal Albert Hall, London

Groundhog Day! Once again, a Prom yielded to an event in Berlin,; however, nothing personal to the good folk of the Boston Symphony or Andris Nelsons who started their second Prom (first one here, with Carlos Simon’s Four Black American Dances (European premiere), quite enjoyable, with plenty going on at times, not least percussively, with more reflective moments reminding of the corresponding section of George Gershwin’s Cuban Overture. Next, Stravinsky’s Petrushka (1947 score), a conscientious account, if somewhat stolid, high on virtuosity, low on characterisation, the central tableaux plodding dully, and if some life was found in the final one, Nelsons’s concern for clarity and detail starved the music of its theatrical content, more a rehearsal.

Real Gershwin following the interval, his Concerto in F, with some orchestral heavy weather before Jean-Yves Thibaudet entered laconically, and although he brought some brilliance to the solo part he was also coy with it, and Nelsons could be indulgent with the tunes. The bluesy central movement fared better – excellent trumpet contribution and sensitive solo strings – and the Finale was zesty if just a little smooth or snatchy from the pianist, the music rarely lifting off the page, and I wonder why he added trills to match those in the trumpets at the end. To close, Ravel’s La valse, suave and swirling if with little tension or underlying threat that the Viennese waltz is about to be subjected to violence – and it wasn’t, Nelsons holding back, and when he did cut loose it was too late and unrelated. Following which no encore (ditto the night before), Thibaudet had also declined, and the hasty return to Broadcasting House suggested that no extras was pre-planned. Contractual?