Four nights on from Prom 46, along came its unofficial companion. Both here and in that WDR SO concert the emphasis was on 19th-century Romantic warhorses, each with a Joachim-inspired violin concerto at its heart. For Prom 51, it was the turn of Johannes Brahms, with the 21-year-old Swedish prodigy Daniel Lozakovich making a striking Proms debut in partnership with Fabien Gabel and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Daniel Lozakovich and the BBC SO
© BBC | Sisi Burn

The Parisian conductor’s affinity with beefy German repertoire matched that of the Proms’ house band. Their collaborative reading was rendered with admirable ensemble and a clear command of the work’s symphonic structure. The BBC SO woodwind players excelled themselves, no one more so than Rainer Gibbs, the principal oboist, whose intonation was as sweet as his solo playing was eloquent. Together, the musicians gave the youthful soloist a feather-bed for his animated, considered account of the 45-minute concerto.

Lozakovich eased his way into the first movement with the sweetest imaginable vibrato, so delicate it could have been the flutter of a wafting breeze. The Swede is not one for big statements; his playing throughout was supple and conversational, rarely histrionic and never frantic, and so honeyed was his entry to the central Adagio that he seemed to be teasing out notes with tweezers instead of a bow. Yet thanks to the attentive partnership between both protagonists, what could have been an ‘odd couple’ performance emerged as a coherent whole. The violinist delivered the Allegro giocoso finale not as a burning fiery furnace but, rather, as a study of one – controlled and punctilious in its excitement. It worked for me.

Shades of Germany had also crept into the concert’s opening work, a rare outing for Lalo’s overture to his opera Le Roi d’Ys. So obsessed was the composer with Wagner that he inserted a naked quotation from Tannhäuser into his piece, a concert spectacular that emerges from its lugubrious opening into some fresh woodwind melodies before unleashing an opulent, expansive musical drama. Gabel’s reading of this 12-minute pudding was surprisingly digestible, as when principal cellist Jonathan Aasgaard caressed a rhapsodic cello interlude that recalled the composer’s concertante works. It was less a Beecham lollipop than a gourmet dish in its own right.

Fabien Gabel conducts the BBC SO
© Sisi Burn

The disappearance of César Franck’s Symphony in D minor from the repertoire has long been a mystery to those who love it (which, to judge by an impressive throng at the Royal Albert Hall, is a lot of us) although perhaps it’s because conductors and orchestras have learnt to sniff at its simple pleasures. The symphonic development may be rudimentary (not much happens to Franck’s thematic material in the development stage) but its melodies are potent and the work’s joys once earned it a place alongside Saint-Saëns' Third as the most-performed Gallic symphony.

Gabel wears his love for this work both on his sleeve and in his heart, and after a measured start he coaxed a rousing account from the BBC SO. They oozed excitement and, even better, pure conviction. Each of the work’s three movements is built upon mighty tunes – not so much earworms, more wandering beasts – and Gabel unleashed them gleefully into the arena where they stalked the Royal Albert Hall like gladiatorial lions. “Are you not entertained?” I certainly was.

****1