A visitor to my blog recently was unchivalrous enough to dismiss my review of the Proms First Night as ‘feeble’. Well, in the interests of strength, let me applaud the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra under the mighty baton of conductor Daniel Barenboim, and their performance at Prom 9 of the first and second symphonies of Beethoven.

Both these symphonies have a melodious power which, in their familiarity to a listener, calm, soothe and inspire, and the performance of the wind and string sections of the orchestra in particular reinforced this. This is a young orchestra who have enough energy and talent to inspire those who watch them, and clearly, those who lead them too, with young Michael Barenboim in the violin section being particularly noticeable amongst a cast of gifted players.

I haven’t mentioned the middle piece by Pierre Boulez (Dérive 2), but this 45 minute piece of modern music for eleven musicians did not reach me at all. I appreciate that Barenboim and Boulez have a working relationship which goes back to the mid-1960s, and that Boulez cites Beethoven as one of his influences, but for me this Dérive was ten minutes too long and badly needed a more melodic hook. I know that the lack of melody and the sense of the music being a river was intentional, and no doubt the musicians performed well, but it seems to me that the old classics went down better than the experimental at this melting pot of a Prom.

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