Tuesday 21 August 2007

Elgar's The Apostles

On Saturday we saw Elgar's Apostles at the Proms. A work that I enjoy seeing once every 10 years or so. The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus were directed by their Finnish musical director, Sakari Oramo. He made the best possible case for the work, providing a magical performance that was beautifully flexible and the CBSO conjured a gorgeous sound-world.

Amanda Roocroft sang luxuriantly as the soprano soloist (Virgin Mary and Angel Gabriel) but I think the role calls for a purer type voice (think Isobel Baillie). Catherine Wyn-Rogers was Mary Magdalene, but she and Oramo still did not convince me that the Magdalene's bit scene actually worked. Perhaps if one had a smokey voiced opera singer in the role, it just might; but I doubt it. Apart from Judas (James Rutherford) the men do not get any really big moments. But each managed to be very distinctive of voice and utterance thus providing some neat distinctions and characterisations. Anthony Dean Griffey was a meliflous John, Alan Opie a strong voiced Jesus, Peter Rose characterised each of Peter's utterances vividly.

All in all this was a strong and captivating performance. Oramo made much of Elgar's varied textures in the piece and the final chorus came over very strongly. To my ears, the work lacks the dramatic pacing and sheer oomph that The Dream of Gerontius has but there were some lovely moments.

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