Monday 12 August 2019

Prom 26: Mozart's Requiem, Brahms and Wagner from BBC National Orchestra of Wales

Prom 26 - Nathalie Stutzmann, BBC National Orchestra of Wales  - BBC Proms (Photo BBC / Chris Christodoulou)
Prom 26 - Nathalie Stutzmann, BBC National Orchestra of Wales  - BBC Proms (Photo BBC / Chris Christodoulou)
Brahms Tragic Overture, Wagner Prelude & Liebestod; Mozart Requiem; Fatma Said, Kathryn Rudge, Sunnyboy Dladla, David Shipley, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, BBC National Chorus of Wales, Nathalie Stutzman; BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall
Reviewed by Anthony Evans on 7 August 2019 Star rating: 3.0 (★★★)
Large-scale Mozart in a programme exploring love and loss

The programme for Prom 26 on Wednesday 7 August 2019 explored the themes of love and loss. The tempestuous Tragic Overture - Brahms’s 'reversed Sonata', Wagner’s orchestral version of the Prelude and Liebestod 'the zenith of musical art' followed in the second half by 'the nation's favourite Mozart' Requiem in D minor.

This concert of high drama saw a charismatic Nathalie Stutzmann conduct the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Fatma Said, making her proms debut, Kathryn Rudge, Sunnyboy Dladla and David Shipley were the soloists with the BBC National Chorus of Wales.

Prom 26 - Fatma Said, Kathryn Rudge, Sunnyboy Dladla, David Shipley, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, BBC National Chorus of Wales - BBC Proms (Photo BBC / Chris Christodoulou)
Mozart: Requiem - Fatma Said, Kathryn Rudge, Sunnyboy Dladla, David Shipley,
BBC National Orchestra of Wales, BBC National Chorus of Wales - BBC Proms (Photo BBC / Chris Christodoulou)

Brahms’s dramatic microcosm is full of restless energy. This was an elegiac reading that elegantly and fluidly navigated the turbulent mood shifts. The sonorous waves of the strings swept the audience towards the rocks of impending tragedy. It was the beautiful string sound that made an impression again in the orchestral version of the Prelude and Liebestod. The Prelude was a painting of a doleful yearning love. The Liebestod - expansive and muscular, the sound intense and canorous. Despite its dramatic potency, the surge toward the euphoric climax felt a little too restrained so the earth didn’t quite move. Not quite ‘höchste Lust’, utmost bliss, but the audience clearly affected, were held in a moment of communal stillness.

The big draw was the second half’s Mozart Requiem. Despite all the esoteric debate about the authenticity of its completions and its mythic accretions it doesn’t seem to matter too much. There’s enough inspired creativity that remains to satisfy everyone but the most egregious of pedants. The opening bars alone are so economical and powerful as to leave you breathless.

This was a large-scale performance with a chorus of over 150 singers. Nathalie Stutzmann’s approach to the music felt more 19th than 18th century, passionate certainly, even exciting, but some of the dynamics tended to be over exaggerated. There was an inclination towards textural muddiness rather than transparency. A bit heavy handed where there should have been clarity. The chorus, performing impressively without scores, were solid.

The acoustics at the Albert Hall can be tricksy at the best of times so placing the soloists’ upstage of the orchestra was always going to be a gamble. Disappointingly I must have been in the dead zone as the density of the orchestral and choral sound overwhelmed the soloists’ lower registers. Diction was a bit pitiful. What I could hear from them in the 'Tuba Mirum' sounded as if they blended rather well. Fatma Said’s plaintive tone particularly caught my ear. All in all though not really my cup of tea.
Reviewed by Anthony Evans
The concert is on BBC iPlayer for 30 days.

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