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Proof that the LPO has bagged a big talent, plus the best of November’s classical concerts

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 01/11/2021 Ivan Hewett
London Philharmonic Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor Karina Canellakis - Benjamin Ealovega © Benjamin Ealovega London Philharmonic Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor Karina Canellakis - Benjamin Ealovega

Concert intervals can be a nuisance – too short to properly enjoy a drink, too long to remain in your seat – but sometimes they’re essential. Saturday night’s concert from the LPO was a case in point. The two halves were so different musically they seem to come from different planets. The first half was all American glitz, with Gershwin’s piano concerto and a satirical take on Chairman Mao from John Adams strutting their stuff like two models on a catwalk. The second was all Nordic mist and craggy grandeur, with one of Sibelius’s most powerful tone poems alongside his evergreen 5th Symphony.

Frankly an interval of a couple of hours and a brisk walk along the Thames would be needed to bridge that divide. But the performances were so good one couldn’t really mind. John Adams’s The Chairman Dances (Foxtrot for Orchestra) – a dream-like scene, discarded from his opera Nixon in China, in which the aging Mao dances with his favourite Chinese film star – gets its strange emotional heat from the way the composer’s incessant minimalist “ticking” rhythms fight with the more seductive sway of a foxtrot. The contrast was shrewdly highlighted by Karina Canellakis, the LPO’s recently appointed Principal Guest Conductor, and she proved equally adept at negotiating the huge switchbacks of tone and pace in Gershwin’s Piano Concerto.

Achieving that meant razor-sharp and yet relaxed co-ordination with the soloist Inon Barnatan. The playing of this Israeli/American pianist was as louchely elegant as his tailoring. Even when the rhythms became biting and almost savage at the opening of the finale not a hair or note was out of place. Barnatan is one of those soloists who really appreciates orchestral musicians, and his duets with flautist Juliette Bausor and violinist (and orchestral leader) Pieter Schoeman had the intimacy of a jam session – though it was principal trumpeter James Fountain who actually stole the show, with the beautifully tired, four-in-the-morning melody of the slow movement.

Then we were plunged into the icy waters of somewhere far North, with a Sibelius tone-poem inspired by a painting of water-nymphs entitled Oceanides. In fact, the piece begins with Mediterranean charm, two flutes warbling away seductively; it’s only later that the music turns elemental and savage and icy, with a terrifying climax that subsides with weird suddenness back to salon-music charm. Canellakis and the players made the transition startling and yet absolutely coherent, as if to emphasise the point that these were two sides of the same coin.

That packed a considerable punch, but the performance of Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony that followed was truly overwhelming. Canellakis achieved an enormous spaciousness by broadening the tempos at the beginning, a risky procedure as the music’s strange quality of casting around for an identity became truly agonising and long-drawn-out. The prize came at the end where the grand brass motif, taken at a hugely slow pace, took on a superhuman grandeur and certainty. It was a curious but engrossing evening, which also proved that the LPO has bagged a big talent.

This concert was filmed for future broadcast on Marquee TV

Mark Elder conducts the Hallé - Alex Burns/Hallé © Alex Burns/Hallé Mark Elder conducts the Hallé - Alex Burns/Hallé

Hallé/Elder, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester  ★★★★☆

Christmas seemed to come early on Thursday night at the Bridgewater Hall, with a programme from the Hallé that seduced and charmed and glittered – but with something dark at its core.

Nothing charms as effectively as the familiar, so it was slightly risky of conductor Mark Elder and the orchestra to kick off with the rarely-heard Fantastic Scherzo by Josef Suk, the devoted son-in-law of Antonin Dvořák. But they played it with such affectionate grace and sumptuous sound that within a few minutes I felt I’d always known it. True, Suk is very in love with the waltz melody that punctuates the piece, and perhaps it did come round once too often, but it was such a wonderful tune and so wonderfully played it was easy not to mind.

Then on to the platform came the diminutive, eager figure of Russian pianist Boris Giltburg to play the Fourth Piano Concerto of 1926 by Sergei Rachmaninov. It’s another comparative rarity, and it soon became clear why. There’s plenty of the romantic intensity of Rachmaninov’s more popular Concertos Nos 2 and 3, but now stripped of melodic charm and with a strangely knotted and sometimes bewildered intensity. The piece began by throwing itself into confusion with a huge climax, like a cry of anxiety (Rachmaninov’s unhappiness at being an exile in the USA was his constant complaint at this time). The rest of the piece felt like an attempt to assuage the anguish unleashed by that beginning.

All this emotional complication was communicated with heart-stopping vividness in this performance. Giltburg conjured a huge range of piano colour and sound to express the music’s divided soul, making the ends of Rachmaninov’s tender melodic phrases trail away into puzzling obscurity. At one moment, his right hand played a repeating pattern of notes with hammered intensity (this was the Machine Age, after all, and Rachmaninov was at its epicentre) while his left hand touched in delicate phrases over the top, like a memory of a more comforting time and place.

At the beginning of the second movement, Giltburg played the opening phrase in a way that expressed a whole world of regret but also an encroaching confusion and loss of bearings, which the answering hushed melody in the violins didn’t soothe away. Elder and the Hallé seemed to be listening as intently to the soloist as we were, as the best accompanists always do. The result was powerfully affecting, and made Rachmaninov seemed astonishingly modern.

In the second half, the Hallé’s palette of orchestral colour was if anything even more sumptuous. The galumphing bassoons in Dukas’s The Sorceror’s Apprentice scratched at one’s ear-drums, and the massed trumpets at the beginning of Janáček’s Sinfonietta were so brazenly magnificent it was almost painful, like lowering yourself into bathwater that’s just a tad too hot. Splendour was in abundant supply; what was lacking was the wildness in those passages where the music seems to hurl itself off a precipice. Janáček’s modernism, unlike Rachmaninov’s, has no romantic disguise – it comes at you naked. IH

Hear this concert on the BBC iPlayer via the Radio 3 website for 30 days

Angela Hewitt, Wigmore Hall ★★★☆☆

Angela Hewitt at a Fazioli piano - Keith Saunders © Keith Saunders Angela Hewitt at a Fazioli piano - Keith Saunders

Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt is one of the many wonderful musicians Wigmore Hall audiences have been deprived of during the pandemic, and they turned out in force to welcome her back with cheers (somewhat muffled with masks – the Wigmore Hall may be the only place outside a hospital where there’s 100 per cent mask compliance). She rewarded them with an intriguing programme rooted in the clean lines and witty pauses of Mozart, venturing out to the perfumed ecstasies of the young Oliver Messiaen and the intimacy and grandeur of Chopin.

It was in the two Mozart sonatas you felt she was entirely at home stylistically. Few pianists do simple joie de vivre as well as Hewitt, and there was plenty to be found in the two early sonatas she played. The fast movements are full of sudden pauses and harmonic switchbacks which she showed as much in her body language as in the sound. In the slow movements, you felt the same wit animating the graceful phrases, but turned ever so slightly towards pathos rather than humour.

This was wonderful in principle, but actually not as enjoyable as it ought to have been. Hewitt has always played on a modern Fazioli piano, which may have been partly to blame for the distractingly massive hardness of her sound. There aren’t many occasions I find myself wishing for the small, delicate sound of an 18th-century instrument in performances of Mozart, but this was one.

With Messiaen’s early Préludes, composed when he was barely out of his teens, it was a different matter. Each piece bears an evocative title such as “The impalpable sounds of a dream,” and in the score Messiaen describes the colours that should be evoked by each of the pieces.

Not having synesthesia like Messiaen, I can’t say whether the third prelude, “Instants défunts” (Dead Moments), really was “smooth grey with reflections of mauve and green”, but it was certainly beautifully coloured. Hewitt touched in the silvery highlights Messiaen added to the notes of the melody with lovely delicacy, and throughout she gave Messiaen’s delicious harmonies a fluttering, yearning quality that was as much erotic as spiritual. In the final prelude, “Un Reflet dans le vent” (A Reflection in the Wind) she whipped up a storm that had a scary, supernatural tinge.

This was definitely the evening’s highlight; the group of Chopin pieces that rounded off the concert were less triumphant. The famous F minor Nocturne came across as careful and po-faced rather than mournfully elegant, the pedalling just too clinical, the melodic line oddly partitioned into segments.  Finally there came the Fourth Scherzo, which Hewitt shaped very shrewdly to make the final peroration seem the inevitable end of a long and complex journey. But on the moment-to-moment level the performance felt oddly stilted, and the unlovely neon glare of the piano sound was again a distraction. Hewitt is undoubtedly an intelligent player, but the ease that made her Bach performances such a joy isn’t always evident when she ventures into new territory. IH

Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival ★★★★☆

Soprano Juliet Fraser sings Laurence Crane's Natural World © Provided by The Telegraph Soprano Juliet Fraser sings Laurence Crane's Natural World

The UK’s best-known showcase for cutting-edge music has been reduced from 10 days to five this year, thanks to practical difficulties following the pandemic. But it’s full of creative energy, and the venues have been hearteningly full.

Alongside the big set-piece events with well-known new music ensembles such as the London Sinfonietta, the festival has offered multi-media shows, audio-visual installations and an intriguing final day of “shorts”: three two-hour concerts which showcased new work for just one or two performers.

That implies an intimate focus on musicians communing with their instrument with no complicating distractions, and the performances in the early-afternoon show were indeed like that. Heather Roche, billed as “one of the world’s leading experimental clarinetists” – who ever knew there were such things? – produced some entrancingly soft, gleaming sounds, which seemed to emanate from the walls of St Paul’s Hall.

As with the other performances, the sounds themselves were so intriguing they absorbed all one’s attention – or it may have been that the pieces didn’t have a strong enough personality to do so. Only one or two seemed more than a frame for the sounds they contained, such as Larry Goves’s Borneo Rivers 2, in which wispy gestures eventually took on a real musical shape.

At the polar opposite to this simplicity was the later show, which reminded us that nowadays a solo performer can command more variety of sound than an orchestra, thanks to digital sound-enhancing technology. And not just sound. In Matthew Grouses’s Left Right, Left Right, a mordant commentary on the alienation produced by lockdown, percussionist Sam Wilson’s drums were hooked up to devices that played spoken words in time with his drum beats. From time to time, he even popped up on a screen above the concert platform, to tell us about his lockdown woes. It was hectic but over-stuffed with incident, so the overall effect was muted.

More rewarding musically was the set from pianist Zubin Kanga, in which spacey, clangorous sounds obtained by electronically distorting a piano were often laid alongside familiar musical gestures, including (in Laurence Osborn’s Absorber) processions of guileless common chords, sullied gradually by foreign notes – a fascinating effect.

After a while, one became aware that all the pieces tended either towards an intoxicated revelling in sound, or a focus on tiny repeated gestures – or a swinging back and forth between the two. The results were intriguing and sometimes even moving but not wholly satisfying – with one exception.

Laurence Crane’s Natural World, a setting of dispassionate lists of facts about birds and sea-shores culled from among other things the Observer Book of Birds, rose majestically above the uncertainty around it. Soprano Juliet Fraser’s gentle phrases were beautifully framed in the musical equivalent of stained-glass windows, painted in luminous phrases by Mark Knoop on piano and electronic keyboards. It made one realise that patiently observing the world is an act of reverence in itself. IH

Hear highlights of Huddersfield Festival Shorts on the New Music Show on BBC Radio 3

Royal Northern Sinfonia/Norrington, Sage Gateshead  ★★★★★ 

Roger Norrington and the Royal Northern Sinfonia © Provided by The Telegraph Roger Norrington and the Royal Northern Sinfonia

The last appearance on the conductor’s podium of the 87-year-old Roger Norrington might have been an occasion for melancholy. For more than half a century, he’s been an inspiring figure on the classical music scene, delving into forgotten performing traditions, scraping the grime of centuries off music from Monteverdi to Bruckner. For lovers of classical music, it will be like losing an old friend.

But Norrington doesn’t do melancholy, a fact he made abundantly clear by devoting his last ever concert to the most cheerful of the great composers, Joseph Haydn. It was a wonderfully generous evening of music connected to Haydn’s two London visits in the 1790s, by which time he was an international celebrity.

In the spirit of that age, the concert was a miscellany, with two of Haydn’s great “London” symphonies mingled with songs and one of his final string quartets. You felt that the ripe good-humour of the elderly Viennese composer was perfectly matched by that of the conductor. And both were honoured by the Royal Northern Sinfonia, who played their hearts out.

It has to be said Norrington’s humour doesn’t tickle everybody. “Outrageous self-indulgence!” fumed one patron as he stormed out at the end. I imagine he was annoyed by the way Norrington glances roguishly at the audience at especially witty moments, or his way of spinning round on his conductor’s stool with an “Owzat?” gesture at the end of every movement. In his pre-performance chat, Norrington reminded us of his pet hates: slow movements played too slowly, and orchestral players using that habitual trembling of the left hand known as vibrato to make a “warm” sound (“I haven’t heard it for years” he said to general laughter).

However, the concert wasn’t just a parade of his so-called “period performance” mannerisms such as pert airy phrasing, a pungent, sharp orchestral sound with no gloss (clattering kettle-drums to the fore), and a generally brisk, dancing feel. There were plenty of those things to be sure, and sometimes the speeds were amazingly fast, as in the “ticking clock” movement of Symphony no 101 (“but that’s how fast a ticking clock sounds!” Norrington said with faux-naïf surprise. He’s always had a gift for making his most surprising ideas seem inarguable). But the grand, spacious introductions were genuinely grand, and the minuets stately – though Norrington is aware of the visionary, almost Romantic moments hidden inside the good-humour, and made sure we noticed them too.

Interspersed with the symphonies were eight of Haydn’s English songs or “canzonettas” performed with a welcome tender sentiment by soprano Susan Gritton, with Steven Devine playing the “authentic”, delicate-sounding fortepiano. Even more striking was Haydn’s late D major string quartet, rendered with beautiful wit and style by the orchestra’s principal players.

But really this was Norrington’s evening. He may be one of the great (if controversial) scholar-performers, but in the end what makes him treasurable isn’t his book-learning – it’s his generosity and irrepressible curiosity, qualities that aren’t going to desert him. Sir Roger may be headed for well-earned retirement, but I suspect we haven’t heard the last of him. IH

Britten Sinfonia/Alison Baldom, Theatre Royal, Norwich ★★★★☆

Trumpeter Alison Balsom - Hugh Carswell © Hugh Carswell Trumpeter Alison Balsom - Hugh Carswell

In these post-pandemic times, should orchestras dream up bold programmes to prove they’re still alive and kicking artistically, or play it safe to tempt audiences back into the concert hall? On Sunday night, the Britten Sinfonia found an elegant solution to the question: they did both at once, with a programme entitled American Rhapsody that included two sure-fire hits, played in intriguing new ways, alongside some fascinating rarities.

This ingenious and hugely enjoyable evening was the brainchild of the guest star soloist, trumpeter Alison Balsom (who is married to the film and theatre director Sam Mendes). As she reminded us in her chat with the evening’s conductor, Scott Stroman, she was first turned on to the trumpet by hearing a recording of bebop trumpet virtuoso Dizzy Gillespie. Ever since, she’s harboured a yearning to throw off her role as a stunning performer of Baroque trumpet concertos, and embrace some American sassiness. This invitation from the Britten Sinfonia gave her the chance, and she certainly seized it.

To launch things, we had the visionary transcendental aspect of American music, as expressed in Charles Ives’s The Unanswered Question. As the orchestra’s strings unfolded a slow chorale, vast and mysterious as a starry sky, Balsom was nowhere to be seen; but we soon heard her, intoning the repeated, never-to-be-answered “question” from somewhere in the wings. Then the orchestra’s cor anglais player Nicholas Daniel, hardly less starry than Balsom herself, joined her and the orchestra for a beautifully dignified and spacious performance of Aaron Copland’s Quiet City.

Thereafter, each piece brought a complete change of mood and tone. After two of the charmingly innocent Dances in the Canebrakes by Florence Price, the African-American composer now enjoying a renaissance, we had the Spanish-flavoured melancholy of Rodrigo’s famous Concerto de Aranjuez, as reconceived by Miles Davis and Gil Evans for solo trumpet and big band. Under Stroman’s sure but flexible direction, Evans’s luxuriant orchestration burgeoned with tropical luxuriousness, while Balsom’s lonely trumpet unfurled the melody with rhapsodic sadness.

The most unlikely and creatively ingenious aspect of the evening was Callum Au’s arrangement of one of John Cage’s patterned, aloof Sonatas for “prepared” piano. The metallic plinks and plunks produced by the nuts and bolts inserted into the piano‘s strings in Cage’s original were brilliantly reconceived by Au for marimba, vibes, percussion and plucked strings, with Balsom modestly contributing just one shard of coloured glass to the whirling kaleidoscope of sound.

To give Balsom a break, the orchestral strings gave a performance of Stravinsky’s Concerto in D, which brought all its heartless brilliance and wit. Finally came Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, in a new arrangement for solo trumpet by Simon Wright.

Ingenious though the arrangement was, this new version didn’t quite come off. Pianist Tom Poster seemed to be reining in his solo part, so as not to steal the limelight from Balsom – but she could have done more to seize the limelight, by emulating the ecstatic wildness of the jazz trumpeters in the band. This felt like an intriguing “work-in-progress”; everything else was perfectly achieved, and a total joy. IH


BBC Symphony Orchestra/Barbican ★★★★☆

Nervously energised: Mark Wigglesworth - handout © handout Nervously energised: Mark Wigglesworth - handout

“We must never go back to normal,” has been the battle-cry of some in the classical music world since the pandemic started to ease. According to them everything must be rethought - concert formats, venues, programmes, you name it.

Well, last night I attended what some would disparage as a “normal” orchestral concert, and I am pleased to report it was wonderful. The event followed the time-honoured format: a short opener, a concerto, a symphony. Conductor and soloist came and went; people clapped; nothing remotely radical happened. And yet at a deep level it felt different. There was an electricity in the air, and the applause was more than usually thunderous. The reason isn’t hard to find. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s loyal audience was starved of music for so long, and now they are so thrilled to be back.

But it wasn’t just the resumption of a cherished cultural habit. The music-making last night was electrifying, and much of the credit for that must go to the nervously energised figure on the podium. This was Mark Wigglesworth, one-time music director of English National Opera whose inaugural concert this was as the orchestra’s new chief guest conductor. He and the orchestra launched the evening with a fascinating rarity, an orchestral arrangement of the single-movement piano quartet composed by the 16-year-old Gustav Mahler. 

David Matthews, the neo-romantic English composer who made the arrangement had no qualms about fixing some of the teenage Mahler’s compositional errors. The resulting orchestral sound was certainly less cluttered than the original, and it showed an almost shaman-like ability to get inside the mind of the young Mahler. Here and there one heard uncanny echoes of the later composer, as well as hints of Dvořák and Wagner, all played with affectionate relish by the orchestra.

Shostakovich’s Second Piano Concerto, which came next, is often played with amusing sardonic light-fingeredness, but here it felt savage. The soloist Scottish pianist Steven Osborne gave the 1st movement’s motoric neo-Baroque roulades and spiky little melodies a demonic energy, and the orchestra and Wigglesworth responded absolutely in kind. After all that sarcasm the tender innocence of the slow movement always comes as a shock, especially here where the dialogue between strings and the trickling right hand of the pianist seemed more than usually intimate. After the brittle humour of the last movement, Osborne played as his encore a musing meditation on some ancient melody, possibly Scottish, which was the evening’s most intimate moment.

Finally came Sibelius’s 1st Symphony, a piece full of full-throated Tchaikovsky-like romanticism but with unexpected twists and turns in the narrative. Wigglesworth made the contrasts absolutely brutal, so we were left with a feeling of something blazing but enigmatic. Over the following three movements he and the orchestra gradually unravelled the enigma, so the final plucked chord felt like the last piece in the puzzle that makes sense of everything. Only some balance problems with over-assertive brass slightly marred the experience; apart from that it was thrilling. If this is “normal”, bring it on. IH

Uproarious: Up for Grabs at the Barbican - Tom Howard/BBC © Tom Howard/BBC Uproarious: Up for Grabs at the Barbican - Tom Howard/BBC

Up for Grabs, BBC Symphony Orchestra/Barbican ★★★★★

A brand-new piece inspired by the celebrated football match in 1989 where Arsenal scored a last-minute win over Liverpool; it’s a prospect that would surely make any Arsenal fan go all misty-eyed with emotion. As for a deeply unsporty classical music type like me—well let’s just say the prospect of a 25-minute long evocation of the match by long-time Arsenal fan Mark-Anthony Turnage didn’t have me salivating with anticipation.

Yet the premiere performance by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under super-alert, energised conductor Ryan Bancroft was a joy. The audience was packed with Arsenal fans and members of that winning team, who couldn’t help joining in with the recordings of cheering fans from that far-off day 32 years ago, mingled in here and there with the music. Projected on a screen was a cleverly contrived compilation of highlights of the match. Turnage invited three of his long-time musical sparring partners from the jazz world to add rhythmic bite and swing to the orchestra, guitarist John Parricelli, bass guitarist Laurence Cottle and drummer Peter Erskine.

As for the music it was in Turnage’s usual spiky, punchy idiom which recalled the sassy big-band sound of jazz composer Gil Evans, but done with a lighter sound and touch. There were even some overtly comic moments, to accompany filmed images of a morose-looking Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish. Apart from that, Turnage mostly refrained from mimicking the images on screen. Instead he built rising and falling waves of tension with what sounded like football chants evoked in brazen choirs of brass and winds, jostling each other in proper rough-but-friendly fashion, interspersed sometimes with a softer note. Turnage has a keen ear for that extraordinary sound of a packed football stadium, where chants in different tempos collide, disappear and then suddenly emerge into clarity again.

After much toing and froing up the pitch and some heavy tackles a sudden calm descended, and one of Turnage’s melancholy blues-like melodies emerged. This was in memory of David Rocastle, the Arsenal player who died of cancer at the age of 33 in 2001. But soon the tension built again, right up to the miraculous winning goal, scored by Michael Thomas in the game’s final minute. Predictably, the Barbican crowd went wild. It was an uproarious end to a piece which in the proper spirit of old-fashioned English ‘light music’ mingled high spirits with a hint of deeper feelings.  

Available on BBC Sounds now


Violist Antoine Tamestit with the LSO - Mark Allan © Mark Allan Violist Antoine Tamestit with the LSO - Mark Allan

LSO/Harding, Barbican ★★★☆☆

If the measure of a concerto is how well it shows off the soloist, then Jörg Widmann’s 2015 Viola Concerto which launched Monday night’s concert from the London Symphony Orchestra has to be one of the greatest concertos ever. Antoine Tamestit, the brilliant young violist for whom it was written, wasn’t just called on to play mournful melodies, which is what we expect from this introverted, soulful instrument. In fact, melodies of any kind were in distinctly short supply.

Instead, he strummed his long-suffering viola like a banjoist, rapped on its body, swooped up to crazy altitudes, making flutey noises like a flock of birds. He did all this while striding about the concert platform, duetting with this flautist or those brass players, or pointing enigmatically up to heaven with his bow. He had a duel of gruff single notes with the tuba, which the tuba undoubtedly won.

It was all quite entertaining, for about 10 minutes. Widmann can conjure the most extraordinary palette of weird, almost electronic sounds from an orchestra, and Tamestit is riveting to look at as well as hear. But well before the end of this half-hour piece I was longing for some actual music, some semblance of a narrative beyond “one damn thing after another”. When, at the very end, Widmann decided it was time to put on a show of being serious with a long, agonised cantilena for soloist and strings, it felt merely cynical, and by then I was past caring anyway.

After that thin gruel, the performance of In der Natur (In Nature) by Dvořák seemed bursting with genuine feeling and invention. In truth, its warm evocation of Bohemian meadows and twittering birds was musically a bit lightweight, though the occasional Wagnerism (I think I caught the wood-dove from his opera Siegfried cooing distantly at one point) added some flavour. The LSO under conductor Daniel Harding played with straightforward, unabashed generosity of sound and feeling, which is really the only option.

Dvořák’s late tone-poem The Golden Spinning Wheel is on an altogether higher plane of invention, and so offers more of a challenge to performers. It’s based on a Czech variant of the legend of the two sisters that’s found as far afield as Scotland, in which a magical harp (or in this case, spinning wheel) magically reveals the crime of the jealous sister who kills the other to win a man (the man being in this case a King).

Dvořák follows every twist and turn of the story, and in this dramatically vivid performance it was easy to follow the evil machinations of the bad sister in the bassoons’ writhings, and the uncanny revelations of the Spinning Wheel, piping away in piccolo and harp. But everything was so hard-driven, including the triumphal wedding scene, that the music lost its melodic smile. Behind the drama of this piece, the sunny pastoral charm of In der Natur still glows here as well, and that has to be given its due too. IH

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