MUSIC / BBC Philharmonic / Edward Downes - RNCM, Manchester

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The Independent Culture
Awesome technical fluency at an early age can rebound as savagely on composers as it often does on performers. Erich Wolfgang Korngold is a case in point. Hailed by Mahler as a genius at the age of 10, but pilloried in later life as 'more corn than gold', he has long been ripe for reassessement. No one has been more active in that process than Sir Edward Downes and the BBC Philharmonic.

On Friday, we heard the Act 3 interlude, dripping with treacly hypersensuality, from the sumptuous opera Das Wunder der Heliane, completed in 1927. No less succulent were the first three of his Songs of Farewell, in the orchestral version of 1923, in which Linda Finnie's voluptuous mezzo-soprano made love to every consonant. The final song suggests that cheerful moods were not Korngold's strong suit, as does the finale of the much later Symphony in F sharp. But there are plenty of memorably toe-curling textures earlier in this work, and it is easy to imagine Malcolm Arnold admiring the first movement and Walton the scherzo; the main weakness would seem to be a somewhat passive attitude to large-scale structure. The BBC Philharmonic's performance was by turns enthusiastic and ravishing.

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