Halle Orchestra/Elder, St Paul's Cathedral, London
Sunday 10 July 2005
If this was a vision of another realm - which most of Bruckner's Wagner-inspired symphonies are - it owed more to the world of the Flower-Maidens than the Knights of the Grail. Under a dome in which a note can take more than seven seconds to die, Elder's performance was necessarily careful, though far from chaste. The upper strings in the opening of the first movement were kept to a whisper during the cello melody: suggesting rather than stating the harmonies. The dark sobs of the violas in the second movement gave way to a rich impasto of Wagner tubas. Elder allowed their sound to clear whenever possible, incorporating these semi-silences into an confident, compelling argument. The speed and energy of the Scherzo was surprising, the counterpoint lost to reverberation. Delicate pointed pizzicato from the basses lent delicacy to the spacious structure of the final movement. What those further back in the nave could have heard is anyone's guess, but this was a performance of remarkable grace and discipline, and a triumph of close ensemble work over difficult acoustics.
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