Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

Broadcast on Thursday, December 15, 2022, at 7.30 p.m.

Cobbled together by Engelbert Humperdinck, at one stage an assistant to Wagner, the Tristan bookends simmered, the tempo broad if no barrier to these snippets organically building to climaxes via beauty of phrase and sound, with an intensity that held the whole together, the ‘Liebestod’ exposed as being the core emotional release. Samuel Barber’s Medea music, at once suspenseful and sinister, if with eloquent expression, falls foul of Medea’s musing (details of orchestration touched-in with significance by the Hallé members) when a pulsating piano signals that her revengeful thoughts have turned to reality, the music charged with rage – pointed, linear – the murdering of Jason’s children uppermost in Medea’s machinations.

Perhaps neither performance was quite ecstatic (Wagner) or unleashed enough (Barber) however, given Mark Elder’s forty-minute from A-if-not-to-Z selections from Sleeping Beauty then raised the Hallé’s game enough for a retrospective reappraisal, because this continuous sequence proved irresistible as a vivid narrative and a thrilling and sensitive rendition, carefully crafted as a performance with much beguiling detail and romantic sweep (fine violin and cello solos) – a theatrical experience nicely balancing some of Tchaikovsky’s celebrated numbers (such as a suave Act I ‘Waltz’) with passages really only familiar from the complete score … but further choices and a resounding finish would have been welcome, to prolong the pleasure.

RELEASED TODAY, June 3: Mark Elder and the Hallé complete their Vaughan Williams Symphony Cycle with Sinfonia antartica and No.9 for the Hallé’s own label.