sun 17/11/2019

Schäfer, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall | reviews, news & interviews

Schäfer, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall

Schäfer, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall

Low-wattage singing, novel conducting in a programme of bright lights

The opening of Mahler's Fourth Symphony, a bewitching sleigh ride in the hands of Jurowski's LPOGesellschaft der Musikfreunde Wien

Despite footsteps in the snow, as creepily characterised by Debussy's prelude of the same name, and sleighbells to launch a childlike symphonic journey, interior illumination should have been at the core of this concert. Sadly, given Colin Matthews's refined but fussy designer lighting in his Debussy orchestrations, a low-wattage Rimbaud/Britten zoo from one-tone soprano Christine Schäfer and hard sunbeams failing to probe the inner mysteries of the tomb-effigies Mahler envisaged in his Fourth Symphony's slow movement, it wasn't. Fortunately Vladimir Jurowski found novelty enough elsewhere to keep us from slumping in the semi-dark.

Schäfer's Britten was the reverse of lights on, no one home: you felt a fine song interpreter's nuances were impeded by a placement reaching only to the front of the hall

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In your blanket statement that “Germans have problems with other languages” you make reference to Jonas Kaufmann’s Italian. May I point out that Mr Kaufmann speaks the language of Dante so fluently that even Italians find it hard to believe he is not one of them, and that this ability is reflected in his singing of works in Italian.

It wasn't a "blanket statement", Helen, it was an - admittedly rather fatuous - question applied to "these" as in Schafer, Schwanewilms and Kaufmann. I'm sure the treasurable JK is as intelligent as they come, as is obvious from the way he shades and colours roles. But perhaps speaking is not the same as singing. To be fair, the Italian didn't bother me as it did some in the Adriana Lecouvreur; it was listening to the verismo disc, which has some splendid things on it (Canio's aria especially). The words sometimes turn to mush given that sometimes swallowed middle register which is the only other thing that worries me about this excellent artist. And perhaps this is a reaction, too, to everyone who says he's the next flawlessly great artist. I'm sure he could be great yet, but for the moment, in my opinion, he's interesting, very good and of course the handsomest tenor to appear on stage for a very long time.

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