Das Paradies und die Peri, Usher Hall, Edinburgh
Tuesday 16 August 2011
Although it has been given twice before at the Edinburgh International Festival, Robert Schumann's 1843 oratorio about a fallen angel is something of a rarity. It provided a highly enjoyable opening concert in the Usher Hall on Friday evening.
Sir Roger Norrington conducted the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, with six soloists, in a piece that Schumann described as "a new genre for the concert hall", a series of tableaux vivants composed as a hybrid of opera and oratorio.
The theme of this year's Festival is the influence of the Far East on our own culture. Das Paradies und die Peri is a product of the 19th-century vogue for orientalism, a setting of part of the Irish poet Thomas Moore's 1817 epic Lalla Rookh.
The Peri (soprano Susan Gritton) travels through India, Africa, Syria and Egypt in search of the tear of a repentant sinner that will be her passport to paradise. The music is influenced by Mozart, Handel and Carl Maria von Weber – even Bach, in one delightful fugetta section.
The performance, supervised by Norrington, created great washes of colourful sound with some exquisite high-altitude jubilation. It will be well worth catching when it is broadcast on BBC Radio 3, on 12 September.
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