I had a mind to be very forgiving tonight. It had been a while, and it must be so difficult for musicians to blend again. Imagine my surprise when this unit were found not only to be very passible, but actually equal to the very best. Tonight the BSO were simply wonderful, not only ticking all the boxes but with exemplary aplomb, and bursting with confidence. The whole evening’s performance had only one little blip, which given that it is notoriously the most difficult beast to play was on balance a virtuosic episode.
The evening began with JS Bach’s Ricercar a` 6. Of course no one plays Bach as a ‘warm up event’ and certainly not here. It was played with mind-blowing precision and immense alacrity. This was good omen indeed. The Metamorphosen of Richard Strauss was at times just overwhelming; the direction by Karl-Heinz Steffens was tremendously lyrical and so full of hopeful emotion, that he made it his own. I had never heard it so wondrously played. If I were to be in any way ‘nit-picking’, I would suggest that the opening wasn’t dreary enough, but he simply took this work to another level – it was utterly brilliant. Metre, timing and continuity were perfect, and the playing was dextrous and utterly enchanting.
The Eroica was also one of the best I have heard. It is a very difficult symphony to balance and keep control. But again Steffens managed a very disciplined approach. The second movement was a delight; he seems to have cornered the market in lyricism, delivering Beethoven’s musical jokes so beautifully and richly.
In this Concert, the BSO have shown what many of the regulars have known for a while; that this Orchestra is world class. I would have to restate that ‘world class!’, but the Leader, Cello 1 and Trombone 1 were outstanding. Well done all for achieving platinum status; all those cold morning rehearsals have truly paid off.
I would love to hear this orchestra play some Gustav Holst, particularly ‘St Pauls suite’. It’s right up their street really.