Vienna Philharmonic in perpetual motion

Following the Cleveland Orchestra's problem plagued visit to the Proms, another über-orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic, came for two concerts in the final week. On Wednesday Zubin Mehta (left) conducted them in Haydn, Berg and Stravinsky's Rite. On Thursday, after a quick baton change, Christoph Eschenbach led them in a leaden Bruckner 8. (On the basis of this performance, and Franz-Welser Most's similarly funereal Mahler 3 the previous week, the new generation of jet-setting maestros are avid readers of that book of the moment - In Praise of Slow). The two lacklustre Vienna Philharmonic concerts drew lukewarm reviews (and here, and here as well), which is not really surprising.

The orchestra played in no less than twenty-three concerts and operas during their August Salzburg Festival residency, with their last concert on the 28th of that month. On the Saturday before the Proms concerts (4th September) the same forces that played in London gave the Haydn, Berg and Stravinsky programme in the beautiful Großer Saal of the Musikverein in their native Vienna. They then travelled 1000 miles to the gorgeous new Sage Gateshead Hall in the north of England where they played the programme again on the Monday evening at the start of a three day back-to-back UK tour organised by their agents Askonas Holt (Mehta is one of their artists) .

On the Tuesday morning after the Gateshead concert the orchestra travelled more than 250 miles south to London for their Proms. They did a hall check in the afternoon, and played their first programme with Mehta in the evening. For the following day's concert they were joined by Eschenbach who had not conducted them in the previous month. (Star conductors in Salzburg had been Muti, Harnoncourt, Gergiev and Gatti).

Following the halting Bruckner 8 in London on Thursday, the orchestra travelled 500 miles on Friday to Lucerne in Switzerland, where they were joined by, yes - you've guessed it, Mehta and soprano Katarina Dalayman for exactly the same Haydn, Berg and Stravinsky programme on Saturday. (At least, in my day, touring orchestras varied their programmes, it prevented lacklustre performances) . The next day (Sunday) in Lucerne Eschenbach rejoins them to reprise Brucker 8. On Monday and Tuesday Daniel Gatti is back as conductor for two different Mahler programmes. Then after returning to Vienna, and a three day break, the orchestra return to the platform in their own hall, the Musikverien under Muti.

Memo to Askonas Holt and the Vienna Philharmonic management. If you are going to inflict that sort of schedule on your musicians at least equip them with some more appropriate encores. Johann Strass Jr. offers a wealth of possibilities. There is the fast polka Pleasure Train, plus the waltzes Morning Papers and Artist's Life.

And, of course, there is his Opus 257 - Perpetuum Mobile.

Visiting orchestras and the BBC will be delighted to hear this is my last 2005 Proms season story. For my views on the Last Night open this link. And if you enjoyed this post take an overgrown path to No such thing as an unknown Venezuelan conductor. invisible hit counter


Pliable said…
Interesting that Anthony Holden's views about the Last Night of the Proms in today's Observer are exactly the same as mine......

Time to ban the banners

The world's greatest music festival is let down only by the outdated flag-waving finale of its Last Night

It's just a party, I hear you say. Well, fine, hold it somewhere else, maybe at the headquarters of the British National Party.

Yes, even I can have a sense of humour failure when it comes to this subject. Let's face it, Britannia does not rule the waves any more. Those who think she does, or would like to, are clinging to the post-imperial delusions beneath so much that is wrong with this country. This is not patriotism; it is the ugly face of jingoistic nationalism.

I speak as a citizen as much as a critic - who, up to last night's interval, has again marvelled at a final week of musical wonders. So much so that no one else around the land has been bothering to make music of much (with all respect to British Youth Opera) significance.

I'll drink to that.

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