A concert to heal the soul

After a somewhat trying day in which we discovered someone had nicked some of the lead flashing from the side of our house, the evening’s Wigmore Hall concert was a much needed dose of humanity.

The Nash Ensemble’s programme included the Siegfried Idyll, Mozart’s String Quintet in C Major (K515), and the usual excerpts from Strauss’s Capriccio, performed by the ensemble with Felicity Lott. It was a wonderful evening, going some way to restoring a semblance of peace of mind.

Sitting up relatively close, it was fantastic to have Wagner’s birthday present to Cosima presented with such instrumental intimacy. I’ve always felt that the piece can ramble ever so slightly (in my humble opinion!), but it was given a beautifully transparent and detailed performance. I had not heard the Mozart before, and was immediately engaged by it. Watching the interplay between the members of the quintet served to emphasise the exuberant life injected into the performance.

It was the Strauss, however, that had tempted me to book for this performance. The chance to hear Felicity Lott sing a part with which she has been so associated, even if it was only the closing scene, was not one to pass up. I have to say that I was entranced anew by her style and grace: a poise that is completely matched with the character and the musical style. The opening sextet was a bit tricky to get inside, after the more delineated rhythms of the Mozart, but by the time they embarked on a ravishing account of the Moonlight music, with its Straussian autumnal surge, the scene was set. Lott began with her back to the audience, gazing at the moonlight being described, slowly turning at each step up in the intensity of the orchestral swirl, so that she faced the audience to begin the closing scene. If her voice doesn’t have quite the silver sheen it once had, it sounded particularly polished for this performance. I thought she sounded in fantastic voice: can anyone capture that wistful, bitter-sweet quality quite as well as Flott? Certainly, very few. She seems to share with Karita Mattila, a ‘matt’ quality to parts of her voice that have a subtle power to convey such troubled emotions. Watching her silently accompany the orchestral change of mood as the piece moved from the heights of passion at Willst du zwischen zwei Feuern verbrennen? to the more resigned, playful, ‘composed’ Du Spiegelbild der verliebten Madeleine, kannst du mir raten…? was a joyous study in the subtleties of concert performance of opera excerpts. The Nash Ensemble were packed tightly onto the Wigmore’s little stage, and the reduction in the score for their numbers also added to the sense of intimate detail, alive to all the twists and turns of what is a curiously complex little ‘bleeding chunk’.

An utter joy. Made me feel quite human again.

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