EIFF Week 2 review: Tristan and Isolde | Gergiev’s Brahms | Orchestre des Champs-Elysées | Cleveland Orchestra

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MY second week began with an uneven concert performance of Tristan and Isolde by Welsh Opera (***).

Give or take details like the disappointingly subdued trumpet fanfare at the end of Act 1, conductor Lothar Koenigs maintained superb control over Wagner’s vast creation.

Led by an excellent Brangäne, the solo voices showed up competently - with the exception of Ben Heppner in the name part. He was not at his best.

It is difficult to find an acceptable reason for the pairing of Brahms and lesser light Szymanowski. When reviving works that have failed to maintain a place in the concert hall, it does no harm to bear in mind that they were dropped because performers and listeners had lost interest in them.

Szymanowski’s four were intended to underline his wish to avoid being thought of as a Polish nationalist composer. But they have not secured for him a lasting place in European music.

Performing standards throughout the four concerts were excellent (****). Maestro Gergiev’s Brahms was measured and thoughtful. He was at his best in the fourth symphony.

The Orchestre des Champs-Elysées offered – perhaps rather oddly – an evening of German compositions (****). Phillippe Herreweghe made light of weighty items by Brahms and Bruckner. The Collegium Vocale Gent and a strong quartet of soloists gave additional support.

Despite some more odd programming, the Cleveland Orchestra’s first of two concerts measured up to the highest Edinburgh International Festival standards (*****). They opened with a scintillating account of Lutoslawski’s Concerto for Orchestra. For some strange reason there followed four of Smetana’s six Ma Vlast symphonic poems – the remaining two being held over until the following evening. Conductor Franz Welser-Möst is relatively undemonstrative, but the orchestra responds stunningly to his clear direction.

• Edinburgh International Festival, until September 2. www.eif.co.uk