Hot on the heels of the announcement that Omer Meir Wellber would be the BBC Philharmonic's chief conductor from the next Proms season, the young Israeli gave his new home audience a mouth-watering taste of things to come in this thrilling concert of Mozart and Wagner. The orchestra appointed Wellber on Thursday, after making the final decision just the day before. His entertaining pre-concert talk described his path from youthful routes as an accordionist to protégé of Daniel Barenboim via student employment as a magician. His work is now mostly in the opera house, best known in the UK for his work at Glyndebourne. He is self-effacing, humble and easygoing in conversation, and has exciting plans for his new orchestra. Judging by tonight's Wagner, one hopes that bringing more opera to Manchester is at the top of his agenda.

Omer Meir Wellber © Wilfried Hösl
Omer Meir Wellber
© Wilfried Hösl

The first act of Die Walküre was an appropriate choice, “Not for the incest!” said Wellber, but for being “about a new guy in a new place”. The biggest disappointment of the night was that the remaining four hours of the opera were not encored after the perfectly-paced and utterly compelling account of the Act 1. It was an unusual luxury to have a libretto printed in the programme, but the furiously quick opening forest dash immediately dragged attention back to the stage, the chase driven breathlessly onwards by pounding lower strings. There was a great deal to admire in the orchestral playing, memorably in an elegantly shaped cello solo but above all in the imperious, dark sounds of the Wagner tuba quartet. Later, as Siegmund and Sieglinde slowly realised their deep connections, the upper strings relaxed into an uncommonly rich, golden legato, whole sections swaying on their seats together.

The tubas immediately gave Brindley Sherratt's Hunding a powerful sense of villainy, each triplet figure crisply cut in his strident motif. Sherratt was remarkably sinister for a concert-performance, commanding the stage from his first entry and filling the hall with his rich bass. Sieglinde, in Christiane Libor's hands, was wide-eyed and innocent, and convincingly sisterly in her soft warmness. It was Robert Dean Smith's Siegmund who left the strongest impression, though. His huge cries of “Wälse, Wälse!” seemed to last an eternity without wavering, and as Wellber masterfully drove the tempo forwards into the act's heady climax, he wrought every drop of wild passion from the score.

Wellber stressed his need for some sort of narrative in concert programmes, and accounted for this evening's Mozart as an extended overture to Wagner. With this in mind, the Linz Symphony sounded fresh, zesty and unusually dramatic in the context. With a reduced string section but modern timpani, liberal vibrato and Barenboim-esque grandeur of direction, this was heart-on-sleeves, brightly coloured Mozart which embraced all the vivid details on offer. The rich warmth of the Andante was a sharp contrast to the strings' bitingly incisive articulation in the dotted rhythms of the Menuetto. In the finale, the violins' dizzyingly quick semiquaver scales flew off the stage with completely seamless phrasing. At the last chord, someone cheered as though Manchester United had just netted the winner. It's hard to quibble with his enthusiasm for this new partnership.

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