United Kingdom Prom 5, Beethoven: Camilla Nylund (soprano); Birgit Remmert (mezzo-soprano); Stuart Skelton (tenor); Hanno Müller-Brachmann (bass-baritone); Manchester Chamber Choir; Hallé Choir; Gordan Trajkovic (violin); BBC Philharmonic/Gianandrea Noseda (conductor). Royal Albert Hall, London, 19.7.2016 (CC)
Beethoven – Missa solemnis
It would take an awful lot to live up the memory of Sir Colin Davis’ Missa solemnis at the Proms in 2011. Davis had lived with the work, making the Missa solemnis an integral part of his musical make-up. Gianandrea Noseda, leading an orchestra he has enjoyed a close association with over the years, says “Now I’m really starting to love [it] … every time I conduct it, my love for it increases” (interview in the programme booklet). Very much an interpretation in progress is the undercurrent here, and it has to be said that was the over-riding impression. There were many interesting moments, many beautiful moments in a work that challenges the greatest conductors to provide a earth-shattering experience. Noseda found drama (almost operatic in the final ‘Agnus Dei’), but the final impression was not one of the most profound depth.
Davis had featured his quartet of soloists at the front; Noseda favoured them between the massed choruses and the orchestra. It was an interesting line-up of soloists, also. Stuart Skelton is every inch the Heldentenor (he holds an impressive Wagnerian pedigree), and it showed in the rock-solid confidence of his delivery; and in the dynamic of that delivery, too. His low range was just as fine as his highest, and the declamatory “Et homo factus est” was perfectly achieved. Birgit Remmert was more a plummy contralto than the advertised mezzo, something more acceptable these days in the Albert Hall with its history of massed choral items and overall largesse than anywhere else, one might suggest. Camilla Nylund offered a very pleasingly toned soprano; the renowned Hanno Müller-Brachmann was a solid lower partner, his duet with Remmert in the work’s latter stages especially memorable. Mostly the soloists blended well together: there was a particularly radiant occasion in the “Et incarnatus” that offered unadulterated beauty, and moments of wonderful gentleness in the “Qui tollis”.
The choirs, too, excelled, particularly given Noseda’s often brisk speeds. The assured beginning to the ‘Credo’, the valiant and superb tenors in the “Et resurrexit”, the testing writing for sopranos in the “Et vitam venturi” and the fabulous definition to the counterpoint of “Osanna in excelsis” were all impressive. No doubting, also, that the orchestra loves working with Noseda, from the glorious string tone of the opening and the luminosity of the textures of the ‘Sanctus’ to the red raw shards of sound in the “Crucifixus etiam pro nobis” section of the ‘Credo’. And a special mention for the gorgeous tone and utter musicality of Gordan Trajkovic’s solo violin in the ‘Benedictus’, not quite as spellbinding as the “other Gordan” with Davis in 2011 (the LSO’s then leader, Gordan Nikolitch), but lovely nonetheless.
The mass entrance of late arriving audience members between the ‘Gloria’ and the ‘Credo’ was very disappointing and distracting.. We’re not talking just a few people here, and some took a long while to find their seats, leading to a massive disruption. Noseda waited patiently but seemed to start the second the last straggler had sat down. Had all these people misread or not taken note of the 630pm start? Had this been a great performance, of course, it would have hurt more, but ultimately the performance failed to be fully involving.