The Creation/Norrington <br/> Orpheus/Oedipus Rex/Malkki, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

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The Independent Culture

Haydn's Creation marvels at God's bounteousness but misses out the Fall of Man. Everything is a miracle, and Adam and Eve leave in a haze of rapture, splendidly evoked in this performance by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra under Sir Roger Norrington, whose bonhomie was infectious. He said that we could applaud when we liked, and we did.

The soloists basked in the glow – even the tenor Ian Bostridge, urging us schoolboyishly to survey the newly created birds. The soprano Katharine Fuge sang with such humour that she sounded like a soubrette, chirping as the bassoons portrayed turtledoves. Her roulades had charm rather than brilliance, and as Eve, she glanced coyly at her Adam, the benign bass Matthew Rose.

The Edinburgh Festival Chorus gloated over the fall of the shadows of darkness; their majestic fugues rolled inevitably forward. The SCO, though not wholly authentic, achieved the variety of tone and sharpness of edge one associates with old instruments. The continuo part was played with a witty flourish on piano, not harpsichord, which was surely right. This was a sweet, jolly Creation, absolutely true to the composer's simple faith.

The men of the chorus also sang in Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex in a later concert. Under a different conductor, Susanna Mälkki, they made plenty of noise but lacked rhythmic muscle. This conductor made elegant gestures throughout, but her relentless marking of the beat took the stuffing out of the textures. Earlier, she had subjected us to a monochrome Orpheus – also by Stravinsky – but in Oedipus the day was saved by fine soloists.

Stravinsky may have wanted the parts sung in an expressionless style, but the tenor Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts, in the title part, threw Verdian high neurasthenic drama into his performance. This Oedipus was full of anger and horror, sometimes shouting rather than singing. Tiresias was sung firmly by Matthew Rose (again), and the Shepherd (Andrew Kennedy) sang a desolate lament. But Neal Davies, as the Messenger, sounded breathless and hectic, and Natascha Petrinsky (Jocasta) fielded a rich, heavy mezzo that slipped out of control at times.

The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra has a built-in cut and thrust, and together with Lloyd-Roberts et al, they handed a success to Mälkki without her having to try very hard.

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