Wagner and Elgar

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Monday 25 August 2014 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0600

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Klaus Florian Vogt  tenor

Wagner: Parsifal –
Good Friday Music 11’
Act 2 Soliloquy 7’
Act 3: Nur eine Waffe taugt 6’
Wagner: Lohengrin –
Prelude to Act 3 4’
Lohengrin’s Soliloquy and Grail Narration 9’

Elgar: Symphony No. 2 54’

“Here, time becomes space…” Wagner’s Parsifal is like no other opera, and today Andris Nelsons and the CBSO make their first journey into its enchanted world; a realm of sublime passion, transcendent grandeur and music that glows from within. This should be very special indeed, and it’s a ravishing upbeat to Elgar’s mighty Second Symphony; music of epic vision, secret sorrow and beauty that’ll break your heart.

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Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

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…     “Vogt will sing Lohengrin for two more years at Bayreuth before taking the title role in a new production of Parsifal in 2018 and we got a foretaste of his Parsifal this evening. That was after Nelsons had led a spacious and lustrous account of the Good Friday music in which I was particularly impressed by the breadth of the CBSO’s phrasing and the sensitive way in which the quiet passages were played. Vogt joined them and immediately his big, ringing tone, effortlessly produced, was apparent in ‘Amfortas! Die Wunde!’ His account of this solo was intense and often impassioned yet in achieving intensity he never sacrificed beauty of tone. His top notes rang thrillingly around Symphony Hall. The performance of ‘Nur eine Waffe taugt’ was no less impressive and I especially relished the conviction with which he delivered the line ‘Den heil’gen Speer – ich bring’ ihn euch zurück’.     […]

[…]     The second movement was shaped with care and great feeling by Nelsons and the CBSO responded with wonderful playing that was both sensitive and, when required, burnished. The interpretation was marked by intensity and great concentration – it was noticeable that at the end Nelsons ‘held the moment’ for several seconds before allowing everyone to relax. The reading was very passionate at times but always the ardour, when it came, was appropriate. The reappearance, shortly before the conclusion, of the motif from the first movement associated with the ‘Spirit of Delight’ was movingly done. I thought this performance was highly persuasive. The third movement was packed full of brilliance and bravura. There was also considerable power when some material from the first movement reappears with increasing menace. The dazzling end, where Elgar’s imagination and skill as an orchestrator runs riot to a degree perhaps unparalleled elsewhere in his output, was brought off superbly.”     …

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

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...     “Though it seemed as if Nelsons was coming to Elgar through Wagner – a perfectly valid approach after all, for Wagner’s influence on Elgar extended well beyond the obvious link between Parsifal and The Dream of Gerontius – the details of his performance of the symphony, superlatively well played by the CBSO, pointed up more connections with Richard Strauss than anyone else. But it was a reading that for all its vividness and energy had begun with slight uncertainty, with the opening movement a series of brilliantly lit episodes rather than a single, sweeping arc, while elements of the Larghetto weren’t quite as effective or tragic as some conductors make them. But the final pair of movements was irresistible, and with refined pianissimo playing from the Birmingham strings, the closing bars were as magical as they should be.”     … 

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Review by “Admin”, Lark Reviews:

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…     “No such problems after the interval where we heard Elgar’s Second Symphony. The opening movement had great urgency with the music coming to us in warm waves of sound which made the quieter sections all the more poignant. Throughout, Andris Nelsons drew attention to the militaristic under-pinning of so much of the score, with its hints of violence and destruction beneath the potential for celebration. The second movement took this in its stride with a sense of both nobility and loss, looking backwards rather than dare to look ahead. However the future stares us in the face in the driven fury of the Rondo where odd moments of calm don’t last and the military percussion is ever present. The final movement brought some relief but often seemed on a knife-edge as if everything could still go wrong at any moment. A fascinating reading which made much of the wide dynamic range of the hall.”     …

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