Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting WONEWS to 80360, or email
11:58am Friday 25th May 2012 in Leisure
Beethoven's Choral Symphony
Leeds Town Hall
Saturday, May 19, 2012
Beethoven's Ninth Symphony requires substantial choral forces, but only for the last twenty minutes of the work. However, Mendelssohn's rarely heard secular cantata Die erste Walpurgisnacht (The first Walpurgis Night) was much more than merely a warm up for the main event. This is a score of sublime richness whose highly coloured writing for the orchestra, choirs and vocal soloists foreshadows Mendelssohn's best known oratorio, Elijah.
Mezzo soprano Louise Winter, tenor Paul Charles Clarke, bass Neal Davies, the combined Leeds Philharmonic and Leeds Festival Choruses with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Simon Wright, delivered an impeccably balanced performance of extraordinary clarity. There is absolutely no danger of stodgy orchestral textures or leaden choral singing under Wright's baton.
Transparency was one of the most remarkable qualities of his reading of Beethoven's Choral Symphony. Instrumental solos and the more economically scored passages were realised with the eloquence and delicacy of chamber music. Wright's sense of drama built up the first three purely orchestral movements to the white heat of the stupendous choral finale - taken prestissimo!
The choirs projected Schiller's Ode to Joy as though driven by some primeval force, but with the inner meaning always shining through. Soprano Anna Leese - stepping in at short notice for an indisposed Rebecca Evans - joined the three soloists mentioned earlier to make up a superbly blended quartet which effortlessly surmounted Beethoven's taxing vocal writing. A young man sitting nearby remarked during the tumultuous applause, "It's such a romp isn't it!"