This was the orchestra’s Proms debut. Surprising? Perhaps, although its European visits elsewhere have been sporadic; it disappeared for 26 years during the 1970s, the 1980s and beyond. This touring programme showed us what we have been missing. There’s that almost inordinate precision and sparkle, best experienced in its encore, Bernstein’s Candide overture; and an intense clarity of colour and line, so telling in the early stages of Copland’s Lincoln Portrait. And how about the sonic ballast, partly fuelled by the muscular buzz of double basses, placed on risers, facing the front?
Yet Langrée’s band is no brash machine. The orchestra can play with genuine warmth and easily conjure up Old World charm. Consider the waltz movement of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, so winningly steered and accented. There were brilliant individual performers, too: throughout the night Elizabeth Freimuth won all hearts with her creamy horn solos. This is one powerfully equipped orchestra.
Blots on the blue horizon? Well, I’ve always found the Fifth’s finale “rather horrible” (it’s Tchaikovsky’s own phrase), and the orchestra’s finesse did not alter that. There was also Charles Dance’s declamation of those timely, patriotic words in Lincoln Portrait: words blurred in the hall by amplification and delivered in an American accent that only underlined that this was a British actor on assignment, slipped in between filming Godzilla 2. Small blots, though, compared with the orchestra’s gorgeous blaze. Please, come back soon.”
Thank you, London!
Photo by Chris Christondoulou