Saturday, May 22, 2010

So, were we good or was he in a bad mood?

Review: Leeds Philharmonic & Festival Choruses

Leeds Town Hall

Gerontius was on his death bed when the Leeds choruses departed for a coffee break. Would he survive until they returned?

With audiences well acquainted with the length of Mahler and Bruckner symphonies, it is surely irrational and irresponsible to divide Elgar's great masterpiece, the Dream of Gerontius, on both sides of an interval.

It could have been doubly irksome had something very special been coming from the stage, but in a age where technical perfection is becoming paramount, we are in danger of music losing the flawed passion of yesteryear.

Such was the case here, the sheer weight and precise intonation was mightily impressive, yet their beautiful tone simply lacked the nastiness required when cast as the Demons to terrify Gerontius.

Brindley Sherratt (Bass) was the striking bass soloist in his differing dual role as the Priest and Angel of Agony, and much though we regretted the absence of the great mezzo, Sarah Connolly, her late replacement, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, was full of good intentions as the Angel.

For too long, Paul Nilon (Gerontius - Tenor) had his head pointing down to his score.

Reliable support from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Simon Wright's conducting always sympathetic.

David Denton

So, less perfection and more flaws then? Paul Nilon had so much to sing, he carried the whole thing and was wonderful. Is the best that can be said of his performance really that he didn't know the work off by heart? As for the interval - you try singing the whole thing in one go in an over warm town hall with no chance to rehydrate! Still as my friend Graeme pointed out, by reading this review free online we haven't added to the Yorkshire Post's profit margins!