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A beautifully sung, elegantly played performance
on 24 April 2014
There is every reason to celebrate the LPO as perhaps the best orchestra in London these days; I hear them regularly in the renovated Royal Festival Hall and can attest to their form under Leader Pieter Schoeman; certainly to my ears they are getting better and better. The same may be said of their conductor here, for whom I have not always had unqualified praise but, following his stupendous concert-performance of Mahler's Ninth Symphony recently, I have increasing admiration.
It is also good to hear the elegant British tenor Toby Spence a year before he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer from which he has now thankfully staged a recovery. He has an intrinsically beautiful voice and even if he is pushed to his limits in this music, it is a pleasure to hear him singing so well rather than having to endure another wobbly Heledentenor barking his way in ungainly fashion hrough "Das Trinklied". He is more in the Wunderlich mode than the style of James King or Kaufmann; a lighter, more youthful sound but with just enough heft to cope and no throatiness. He is matched by the equally lovely full and rich voice of Sarah Connolly; she is of course more of a soprano than the usual mezzo and she does not perhaps probe the meaning of the texts as deeply as some predecessors but it is nonetheless a delight to hear such steady, pure-toned singing. She is rapturous in the "Der Abschied".
The live sound is excellent: very few coughs and the perfect balance between orchestra and voice. I find Nézet-Séguin's tempi and phrasing ideal. Some find this performance under-stated; I must say that I really enjoy its fresh, unpretentious directness.