Performer: Philharmonia Orchestra
The last time I saw Gustavo Dudamel conduct at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall was in August 2005, when he stood in for an indisposed Neeme Järvi, at the age of 24.
The second concert of the Philharmonia’s Brahms cycle saw Brahms’ orchestra at its richest and most full-blooded. Alongside the burnished, glowing colours of the Haydn Variations were placed the autumnal glow of the Third Symphony and the Concerto for Violin and Cello, Brahms’ final orchestral work, with sibling soloists Christian and Tanja Tetzlaff.
It is often said of British orchestras that their sound lacks the visceral, characterful edge of their colleagues on the continent.
With a last-minute change of conductor from the excitable Andris Nelsons to the more reserved Jac van Steen, one might have forgiven a not exactly revolutionary performance. Last night’s concert was meant to be the first half of Nelsons’ Brahms cycle with the Philharmonia in the Sheldonian Theatre, part of Music at Oxford’s series, but illness unfortunately prevented him from performing.
If it was a little strange that Esa-Pekka Salonen’s 30th anniversary with the Philharmonia was celebrated with a traditional, unadventurous Sunday matinée programme which did little to challenge its audience, at least the quality of the performance made it clear why this conductor is so well loved and respected.