London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus/ Elder, Barbican Hall
Monday 31 January 2011
Elgar’s The Kingdom arrives in the heat of inspiration on a surge of orchestral magnificence. A glorious theme representing “New Faith” is announced in the strings, as noble and aspirational as anything Elgar wrote.
If his own faith was compromised at the time of composition (as we are reliably informed) then there is certainly no evidence in the notes he penned. The great Pentecost scene is surely the finest of his sacred music and though it is customary to take an interval after it, I rather wish Mark Elder (who plainly adores this work) had chosen not to: when the Holy Spirit descends and Peter declares his faith in the divinity of Christ I don’t feel this is quite the moment to repair to the bar.
That said, one certainly needed refreshment after the marvellous Sarah Connolly boldly proclaimed “the rushing of a mighty wind” and Elder began driving his handsome forces onwards and upwards. The choral writing throughout this work, and certainly in this sequence, is thrillingly accomplished and grateful to sing – as witness the unstinting fervour of the LSO Chorus, compelling at every turn. But it is the way in which Elgar harnesses and elaborates his themes that makes the great transfiguring moments so overwhelming. As this sequence approached its climax the LSO horns took off into characteristically Elgarian descants and soprano Susan Gritton (a late replacement for the indisposed Cheryl Barker) crowned the moment of exultation.
Barker was not the evening’s only casualty. Tenor Stuart Skelton sang in spite of a chest infection and those of us who know his work could hear how it compromised both the signature big notes and his subtler colours. Nor did I feel that Iain Paterson was at anything like his best. Admittedly Peter’s great aria sits predominantly in the upper part of his bass voice but he didn’t sell the message with the passion I’ve heard him display on stage. And this is an “on stage” moment if ever there was one.
So it was down to the women to keep the faith and for Gritton to nail the agony and the ecstasy of “The sun goeth down” – another instance where ‘the Kingdom and the Passion” are not just notional but real to Elgar.
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 As an ex prostitute, I urge all the political parties to commit to the Sex Buyer Law
- 2 Nokia no more: Microsoft drops once-ubiquitous mobile name – in favour of its Lumia brand
- 3 Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery: 'I'm living a fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
- 4 Australian café owner sparks debate after saying 'No' to having unruly children on premises
- 5 Couple die within 28 hours of each other after being married for 73 years
Goodfellas star Frank Sivero sues for $250m over Simpsons character
American Horror Story season 4, Fox - TV review: Silly, sensational and sensitive
Breaking Bad season 6 hoax: Vince Gilligan has not confirmed a new series
MOBO awards 2014: Sam Smith sweeps the board with four gongs
The Apprentice, episode 3 - review: Lord Sugar hacks away at the deadwood with another double elimination
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'