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Last Updated: Friday, 1 August, 2003, 13:10 GMT 14:10 UK
Lost opportunity for Welsh Prom

by Andrew Walker
BBC News Online

Antje Weithaas (Violin)
Violinist Antje Weithaas

Prom 18 saw conductor Christian Gansch make his Proms debut with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

After the regal excesses of the previous night it was encouraging to get back to the symphonic works which characterise the Proms season.

The evening opened with György Ligeti's tense Lontano. Ligeti, popularly known for Atmospheres and Lux Aeterna, used as the emotive incidental music for the cult sci-fi film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, was celebrating his 80th birthday.

Thursday's work highlighted the composer's superb harmonic outlook: all taut strings and baleful promise. Christian Gransch, conducting, approached the work with the necessary balance of subtlety and aplomb.

Mozart's Fifth Violin Concerto, the Turkish, with its frequent technically-demanding cadenzas, is a tricky proposition for any performer. Thankfully, the German virtuosa, Antje Weithaas, has both the chutzpah and understanding to pull it off.

Her sublime phrasing combined superbly with the strings and woodwind of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, even if the latter was, on occasion, slightly brash.

The second half brought a decidedly understated rendition of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony.

Nature, that staple of the Romantics, was never really meant to be as bland as this: the whole point of the genre, the expansive celebration of the world as it is, seemed to be lost in this clinically-precise rendition.

Altogether, a strange evening, promising much and, paradoxically, delivering both more and less than advertised.

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