tue 11/08/2020

Sherratt, Hallé, Znaider, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester | reviews, news & interviews

Sherratt, Hallé, Znaider, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

Sherratt, Hallé, Znaider, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

Pan-Mancunian celebration of Strauss's 150th anniversary opens with a last-minute substitution

Brindley Sherratt, stepping in at the 11th hour to sing Strauss© Sussie Ahlburg

It’s all about the voice – Strauss’s Voice, which is the title of the series of concerts being given by the musical forces of Manchester to mark the 150th anniversary of his birth. It is becoming a happy custom these days for the Hallé, the BBC Philharmonic, the Manchester Camerata, the Royal Northern College of Music and Bridgewater Hall to collaborate on the big occasions. Over the next couple of months, they will between them present all the orchestral songs as well as great orchestral works in a dozen concerts and other events, devoted to Richard Strauss.

As honorary patron of the series, Strauss’s biographer Michael Kennedy, author of all the programme notes, writes, “He knew how to exploit the radiance, eroticism, drama, tenderness and humour of the voice – a woman’s voice in particular.” However, as it happens, the series opened unusually with a man’s voice, namely that of Manchester’s own Brindley Sherratt, replacing at less than 36 hours notice the Russian bass Alexander Vinogradov, whose withdrawal was an unfortunate start for this carefully planned, ambitious and mouth-watering series. However, they were very fortunate to be rescued by a replacement with such range and quality.

Znaider really came into his own right from that ensnaring opening

We know that Strauss had a keen preference for the soprano voice, but he certainly knew how to exploit the depth of emotion and rich sonority of the bass in the orchestral songs “Das Tal” (The Valley) and “Der Einsame” (The Lonely One). With Nikolaj Znaider, principal guest conductor of the Mariinsky Theatre, the Hallé provided an accompaniment to the soloist  that was both poetic and penetrative. Znaider (pictured below), erect, athletic and meticulous, showed a real grasp of the demanding orchestration.

In “Das Tal”, Sherratt’s sensitive control, giving a lightness to his power, reflected the nostalgia and quietude of the text, which longingly recalls a valley where the poet so enjoyed his youth that he longs to rest in peace there. In fact at the climaxes the singer is silent as the woodwind, enhanced by bass clarinet and basset horn, takes over. Sherratt captured the tone soulfully as he caught the mood of the line, “when I finally, weakly sink low”, before the voice rises as he asks to be laid to rest whilst the valley goes on “blossoming, cheerful and healthy.”

By contrast, in “Der Einsame”, a short sombre piece composed three years later in 1906, Sherratt was able to show his range, plumbing the darkest reaches as he pleads, “Welcome me, ancient night.” Depression replaces joyfulness. And here not the woodwind but the brass blaze forth, challenging yet not overwhelming the voice.

The two Strauss songs were sandwiched for no apparent reason between two Wagner overtures. At least, the opening of The Flying Dutchman enabled Znaider to get the orchestra off in full throttle and with Wagner capturing the turbulence of the sea it had a certain topicality as waves batter our own shores. Also, Daland’s aria gave Sherratt the chance to warm up effectively for the songs, after which we had the overture to Tannhäuser. What is so pleasing about this traditional overture is that it provides a thematic summary of the opera built around the familiar tune of the Pilgrims’ Hymn. And it was spiritedly played.

The second half was given over to the sweeping romanticism of Sibelius’s First Symphony. And here, Znaider really came into his own right from that ensnaring opening of a mournful solo clarinet over a quiet drum roll. He and the orchestra revelled in those sumptuous melodies so reminiscent of Tchaikovsky. His handling of the Scherzo with its echoes of the Pathétique was beautifully done. The Hallé brass was particularly impressive throughout. This was an inspired interpretation.

So, Strauss’s Voice is up and running, just over 80 years since the man himself came to conduct in Manchester.

The series opened unusually with a man’s voice, namely that of Manchester’s own Brindley Sherratt


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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