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

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House’s Sundays for a Fiver Festival in November __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Holland Park’s 2019 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre Reopens in December 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House’s Exciting 2018/19 Cinema Season __________________________________
  • NEW! See Pop-Up Opera’s La Tragédie de Carmen this Autumn __________________________________
  • NEW! Oxford Chamber Music Festival October 2018 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Zurich Opera in 2018/2019 and Beyond __________________________________
  • NEW! Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
 in 2018/2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Edinburgh Sunday International Concerts Series in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! Salzburg Whitsun Festival 7 – 10 June 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bolshoi Ballet 2018/19 UK Cinema Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018-2019 Geneva Grand Theâtre Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Hallé Season in Manchester __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 CBSO at Symphony Hall, Birmingham __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 BBC NOW in Cardiff and Swansea __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! The Future of Opera is Theatre: An Essay by Casey Creel __________________________________
  • NEW! Jacqui and David Morris’s New Documentary Film Nureyev Celebrates a Unique Man and Dancer __________________________________
  • NEW! MAESTRO RICCARDO FRIZZA IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • NEW! JACK BUCKLEY’S MEMORIES OF LINDSAY KEMP (1938-2018) __________________________________
  • NEW! THE GESUALDO SIX IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Appreciation Talks this Autumn from Helen Astrid __________________________________
  • NEW! TENOR NICHOLAS PHAN IN CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTOPHER SALLON __________________________________
  • NEW! THE PIANIST GEORGE HARLIONO IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • NEW! A Major Work by Stanford to be Premiered – 99 Years Late! __________________________________
  • NEW! THE CONDUCTOR ALEXANDER SLADKOVSKY IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! THE TENOR RUSSELL THOMAS IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • NEW! RAFAL BLECHACZ IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month