Photo, Mark Allan

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Royal Albert Hall, London

Richard Wagner greatly admired Robert Schumann’s secular oratorio (1843), so too Simon Rattle. He has previously conducted it in London, the basis of his LSO Live recording (other recorded versions include those by Henryk Czyż, John Eliot Gardiner, Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Armin Jordan). Rattle has also conducted Peri in Berlin, in 2008, although ten years later he was indisposed and Mikko Franck replaced him in Schumann’s Opus 50, which “tells how the Peri, a legendary creature, was expelled from paradise and follows her quest to redeem herself by giving the gift that is most dear to Heaven. Conceived in three beautifully sequenced parts, it is unlike any oratorio of Schumann’s day. Sustained melodic invention is clear throughout, with Peri’s high-C in the finale forming a deftly timed climax.”

There’s some lovely lyrical music in Peri – eloquent, heartfelt, suggestive – colourfully and skilfully scored, with the occasional dramatic impetus, yet maybe, over ninety or so minutes, it outstays its welcome just a little despite the composer’s devotion to his task to set Thomas Moore’s exotic story and the equal devotion of the performers here – fine solo singing all-round, with Lucy Crowe as the Peri, captivating and gleaming in the ecstatic conclusion – conducted by Rattle with total belief and perception, reciprocated by the London Symphony Chorus & Orchestra … but, wait, maybe the best (ravishing) music is found in the third and final part, when the Peri is allowed back into Heaven, with a musical look-back to Beethoven, which Schumann would have been conscious of, but happenstance that he should anticipate Elgar, although the late Anthony Payne was of the opinion that Elgar’s true German counterpart was indeed Robert Schumann. It was good to hear Peri again.

Lucy Crowe (soprano)
Jeanine De Bique (soprano)
Magdalena Kožená (mezzo-soprano)
Andrew Staples (tenor)
Linard Vrielink (tenor)
Florian Boesch (baritone)