I overheard various Prommers commenting on the relatively short queue (in the end the arena was full enough, but not packed), and that this was due to "the Berg" putting people off. I have to admit, I wasn't particularly looking forward to his Seven Early Songs, but I was pleasantly surprised. Certainly anyone who likes Mahler's songs would feel at home, only occasionaly did the music stray far from tonality. Soprano Christine Brewer (a lady who clearly has a well-developed diaphragm) weaved her way swiftly and enjoyably through the set.
For the second half, we had Brahms' Symphony No 1. It is often written that Brahms was so in awe of Beethoven and afraid of comparison that for a long time he shied away from symphonic works altogether, and this piece in particular was spoken of at the time as "Beethoven's 10th". There are sections where this comparison perhaps holds water - particularly the modulation towards the climax of the first movement, and the soothing slow movement, but these aside, and the fact that the symphony is in the "Beethovenian" key of C Minor, the comparisons to J S Bach are much more striking to me. The work is reminiscent of Bach's dramatic organ writing, from the opening chromaticism, through to the detailed staccato passages, the canons, and the mathematical structuring. The passion in Brahms' first symphony is more intellectual than romantic, and conductor Mark Wigglesworth was certainly passionate in his direction of the orchestra on this occasion. Despite a momentary lack of confidence in the French Horns the performance was both accurate and accomplished, and appreciated as such by the audience.