Second concert in the Barbican presents international orchestras series and second German orchestra. This one was the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Why did the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig remain untranslated on the Barbican website and programmes and this one was translated instead of keeping the original Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks in German? This lack of translating policy in UK is killing my Prussian mind.

Mariss Jansons has been chief conductor of the BRSO since 2003, making him the 2nd longest serving conductor after Rafael Kubelík (passing others like Eugen Jochum, Colin Davis or Lorin Maazel).

Concert opened with Yefim Bronfman playing Beethoven 4th piano concerto. It was a big surprise to me to see how Jansons conducting has changed over the years. Now his approach is less rude and rough, with more attention to sound beauty. Of course we still get the dry attacks that are house trademarks. I had the impression that he was more insecure than before (pre-heart attack?) but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, everything sounded a little bit risky but under control. Jansons connection with Bronfman was perfect, something that it not always easy with Beethoven concertos. Largo connection with the Rondo was quite remarkable.

Less surprisingly was the second part of the concert with Prokofiev 5th symphony, one of Jansons house specials since he recorded in the 80s with the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra. Sumptuous sound while keeping clear details taking advantage of such a virtuous instrument this orchestra is. The sharp ending of each movement were textbook examples of how to do it in perfect tuning with the hall acoustics. A very enjoyable performance.

After the concert finished Jansons was awarded with the Royal Philharmonic Society gold medal. Before the concert, in a interview with The Telegraph he had very unfortunate words about women conducting:

“it’s a question of what one is used to” “I grew up in a different world, and for me seeing a woman on the podium… well, let’s just say it’s not my cup of tea.”

After these words I was determined of not joining the applause during the ceremony or even leaving the hall. However some hours before the concert the orchestra released this statement:

I come from a generation in which the conducting profession was almost exclusively reserved to men. Even today, many more men than women pursue conducting professionally. But it was undiplomatic, unnecessary and counterproductive for me to point out that I’m not yet accustomed to seeing women on the conducting platform. Every one of my female colleagues and every young woman wishing to become a conductor can be assured of my support, for we all work in pursuit of a common goal: to excite people for the art form we love so dearly – music.”

It is not easy to iron out your mistakes in a world so full of stars and egos like classical music. So I was really happy when Jansons, on his acceptance speech, again corrected his previous words and said that “conducting should be opened to anyone, boy or girl”. Bravo, maestro.