Ain Anger Sings Mussorgsky with Cavernous Authority

08/04/2016

Dean, Mussorgsky, Beethoven: Ain Anger (bass), Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Olari Elts (conductor), Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, 7.4.2016. (SRT)

Dean: Testament

Mussorgsky: Songs and Dances of Death (arr. James Ledger)

Beethoven: Symphony No. 5

Olari Elts is a regular collaborator with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, but while this gives him a warm relationship with them, it hasn’t meant that he has ended up doing things out of habit. Quite the reverse.  He approached Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony as though it was being played for the first time, with sparkling energy, clear articulation and a sense of narrative drive that rendered the whole thing sort of unarguable (even though his horn section let him down more than once).  There was also a molten string sound running under the brio of the first movement, which came into its own in the Andante, and he gave us a Scherzo of beautifully judged contrasts.

Likewise, Brett Dean’s Testament, inspired by Beethoven’s state of mind as he wrote the Heiligenstadt Testament, felt logical and precisely articulated, from the desperate scratching of the opening through the false hope of the Razumovsky quotations and the climactic terror of the disjointed ending.  If Dean was trying to evoke Beethoven’s anguished uncertainty, then his interpreters told that story with rock-solid clarity.

The most interesting thing on the programme, though, was James Ledger’s arrangement of Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death.  Eschewing Rimsky-Korsakov’s and Shostakovich’s orchestrations, Ledger adopts a setting for violas, cellos, basses, harp, horns and clarinets, giving a totally distinctive and utterly appropriate darkness to the sound.  It’s used very intelligently, though, with skirling clarinets to evoke the snowstorm of the Troika and, in the opening Lullaby, the cellos sounding both richly alluring as the voice of death and shuddering panic at the mother’s entreaties.  It also has the advantage of reducing the chance of the soloist being swamped, though there’s little danger of that when Ain Anger is your bass.  Fresh from the recent run of Boris Godunov at Covent Garden, Anger has a dominant voice that filled the Queen’s Hall effortlessly.  He isn’t Russian, but he has all the characteristics of the most profound Russian basses; namely cavernous authority and the narrative articulation to match.  He is utterly commanding in this repertoire, not just in setting the narrative scene – showing that you don’t need an opera stage to tell a story – but especially when he spoke the words of Death himself, booming with authority when, for example, he spoke the words “You are mine!” at the end of the Serenade.  His is a voice you don’t argue with and you don’t forget.

Simon Thompson

 

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! 2019 BBC Proms 19 July – 14 September __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera House in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Opera in 2019-2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Leeds Lieder Announces 2019 Art-Song Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! Adrian Partington Introduces the 2019 Three Choirs Festival in Conversation with John Quinn __________________________________
  • NEW! ENB in 2019-2020 and Updates on their New London City Island Home __________________________________
  • NEW! Let’s Dance International Frontiers 29 April – 11 May 2019 in Leicester __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music and Other Events at the Southbank Centre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Longborough Festival Opera’s 2019 Season __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Cleveland Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music at the Barbican in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Carnegie Hall 2019-2020 Season Highlights __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera’s 2019 Performances of Stephen Storace’s Gli sposi malcontenti __________________________________
  • NEW! Nevill Holt Opera’s 2019 Season __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2019 Aldeburgh Festival and Snape Proms in June and August __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! Chelsea Opera Group Perform Anton Rubinstein’s The Demon on 30 June __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR PIETARI INKINEN IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! When Music is Indistinguishable from Drama by Jack Buckley __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR MAXIM EMELYANYCHEV IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! In August Fulham Opera’s Most Ambitious Project to Date – Die Meistersinger Von Nürnberg __________________________________
  • R.I.P. IN MEMORIAM ANDRÉ PREVIN (1929-2019) __________________________________
  • NEW! CHRISTOPHE ROUSSET IN CONVERSATION WITH COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • NEW! PIANIST MARC-ANDRÉ HAMELIN IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR ÁDÁM FISCHER IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • SOPRANO ELENA MOȘUC IN CONVERSATION WITH CASEY CREEL __________________________________
  • MAESTRO RICCARDO FRIZZA IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • NEW! THE TENOR RUSSELL THOMAS IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month