BBC Proms: The UNESCO Concert for Peace

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Mahler,Panufnik,R Strauss
LABELS: C Major DVD
ALBUM TITLE: BBC PROMS: The UNESCO Concert for Peace
WORKS: Works by R Strauss, Mahler and Panufnik
PERFORMER: World Orchestra for Peace/Valery Gergiev
CATALOGUE NO: DVD: 730 108; Blu-ray: 703 204

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Since its foundation by Sir Georg Solti in the mid 1990s, the World Orchestra for Peace has performed a steady stream of high-profile concerts. These are celebrated here in a somewhat hagiographic documentary which forms an aperitif to its recent appearance at the 2014 BBC Proms. The concert, marking the centenary of the start of the First World War, opens with the rather episodic Symphonic Fantasia from Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten. Gergiev inspires his players to deliver a fervent account that is only momentarily put out of kilter by some poor ensemble near the end. Less convincing is Roxanna Panufnik’s Three Paths to Peace. Her attempt to fuse elements of Christian, Jewish and Islamic musical idioms seems contrived, and the programmatic allusions to the Abraham and Isaac story are rather too obvious.

Gergiev’s Mahler Symphony No. 6 is something of a mixed bag – lots of high-octane aggression, but relatively little subtlety. As in his LSO live recording, Gergiev follows Mahler’s second published edition by placing the slow movement immediately after the opening Allegro. Whatever the structural merits of his decision, the argument that the Andante provides necessary emotional respite after the trials and tribulations of the Allegro energico is subverted by the rather fierce manner in which Gergiev drives the final climax of the movement. Indeed, despite some wonderfully sophisticated solo playing particularly from the woodwind, the performance as a whole could have benefited from more points of repose and a wider range of colours.

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On the whole, the camerawork is refreshingly free from gimmickry, and the visual impact of the huge flurry of dust that follows the striking of the two massive hammer blows is certainly a sight to behold. Erik Levi