To the Palais des Beaux-Arts this evening to hear the Müncher Philharmoniker, under the baton of Christian Thielemann, perform a programme divided, I would say, into four parts. The first was an extract from an opera, Der ferne Klang (The distant sound) by an ‘unknown’ German composer, Franz Schreker; ‘unknown’ because, in large part, his work was declared to be ‘degenerate’ by the Nazi regime and therefore effectively banned from performance. The second part was a recital, by American soprano Renée Fleming, of five Rückert Lieder by Gustav Mahler. The last of these, Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekomen (‘I am lost to the world?’), was beautifully ethereal. Fleming is a darling of the Beaux-Arts crowd and she didn’t disappoint. After the entre-acte, the plat principal was a wonderful performance of Brahm’s 4th symphony. The orchestra pulled out all the stops. To add to the visual, as well as aural, spectacle, Thielemann had a sort of symbiotic relationship of gestures, smiles and encouragements with his first violin, whose energetic performance kept leading to him almost getting to his feet. Great entertainment. Afterwards, somebody who knows about these things told us it was the best performance of Brahms’s 4th that he had ever heard. For me, the evening could have stopped there, with the strains of the instantly recognisable third movement still ringing in my ears. But for an – undoubtedly deserved – encore the orchestra played a great wodge of Wagner. It reminded me of a dinner I once attended where, after a delicious but quite rich dessert, somebody brought out a cassata and we had to eat a slice of that on top of what we had just consumed. On its own, it would undoubtedly have been wonderful, of course. This raises the whole question of ‘appropriate’ encores