Thursday, April 14, 2022

City Halls, Glasgow

Sir Mark and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra immediately found the spiritual dimension enshrined in the ‘Prelude’ to Parsifal, Wagner’s final work for the stage – through a spacious tempo, inward playing, noble brass underpinned by thunderous timpani, and a sense of journeying as a pilgrimage, the goal certain if not to be rushed, with time to contemplate raptly in the sequence known as the ‘Good Friday Music’, radiantly expressive here with some sensitive woodwind solos.

Following the interval, Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben, a self-penned ‘this is your life’ for himself as a ‘hero’, introduced in sweeping, confident terms, citing his carping Critics, going into Battle, reminiscing on achievements, and retiring into the sunset (Strauss in fact had fifty years left to compose) with his spouse, the real-life soprano Pauline de Ahna, photo-fitted to an orchestra’s leader. Elder took a panoramic (slightly restrained) view of the opening section, and if the swashbuckler’s enemies (though the spoken and written word) were less than vituperative it just goes to show that well-intentioned reservations are maybe more useful than a five-star review. Laura Samuel and her violin, the odd stray moment aside, captured Pauline’s capricious character well – seductive and feisty – whereas some adversaries brandish swords and shoots guns, the orchestra well-aimed as the combatant rides through militaristic cacophony (although, as broadcast, percussion was rather mushy) to hoist a flag of victory, and then to savouring the past with eloquence, and portamento. The closing pages were appropriately sepia-tinged, with a goodly silence before applause.

Prior to the break, in Ah, lo previdi (K272), a particularly ambitious (in length and scope) and dramatic Concert Aria by Mozart, soprano as Andromeda, Sophie Bevan was fiery and scorned, also regretful, and oboist Stella McCracken matched the singer’s beauty of phrase, Elder’s operatic experience and accompanying skills evident.

The Royal Opera – Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes with Allan Clayton in the title role – directed by Deborah Warner; conducted by Sir Mark Elder.