ORCHESTRAL CONCERT | London, Royal Opera House

A thunderous ovation followed the fourth and final piece of the programme, Elgar’s Variations on an Original Theme: “Enigma”, the only time we got to hear this world-class orchestra in full force and uninterrupted. Conductor Antonio Pappano, Music Director of The Royal Opera, brought out the comic and parodic elements of the score without ever going too far. Actually, we got an encore too: a sweet and elegant rendition of Elgar’s Salut d’Amour.

In addition to the strings-dominated Elgar, the programme opened with Richard Strauss’ Metamorphosen for 23 strings, an ode to the destruction left by the Second World War. Melancholy and meditative, it was a real privilege to begin the evening by just honing in on 23 strings, before welcoming the whole orchestra.

Renowned German baritone Christian Gerhaher joined the stage with the rest of the orchestra for the second piece in the programme, Frank Martin’s Sechs Monologe aus “Jedermann”. In six gutturally miserable, through-composed lieder, “Jedermann” cries out to God and the people who abandoned him. Gerhaher’s clarion baritone and theatrical performance stole the show: utterly wonderful, but the text-heavy work took the limelight away from the orchestra.

The light, “palate cleanser” opening to the second half seemed misjudged; Shostakovich’s simple and repetitive orchestrations of Eight British and American Folksongs. Sung again with brightness and humour by Gerhaher, the music is hardly Shostakovich’s finest and did not show the orchestra off at its best. Nonetheless, a fantastic way to get this remarkable orchestra out of the pit and on stage, in a highly accessible and engaging programme of music.

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