couple of concerts. First, the original tenor
cancelled and Jan Kyhle was called in. Kyhle’s
biography includes citations for The Phantom
of the Opera and Les Misérables,
although it did promise us that he had sung
Siegmund with Scottish Opera in 2001. Then,
despite the fact the audience was present
and correct for a 7.30pm start on Friday,
the concert did not get going until 7.40.
The way to elongate a concert with an estimated
finish time of 9.05pm is not to have the audience
good news. Conductor and orchestra are completely
and utterly at home in the music of Franz
Liszt, whose music provided the first half
of both concerts.
the twenty-minute first half of Friday’s concert,
Liszt’s Tasso: Lamento e Trionfo was
given a sensitive performance. The placing
of eight double basses at the very back of
the platform helped the depth of sound. There
was some notable wind playing, and an incredibly
expressive cello solo. Above all, Fischer
injected to the music a sense of rightness
that is not easy to achieve in a work that
can at times so easily seem bombastic. The
momentum that led to up the climax was achieved
by superb unanimity of accents - yet even
Fischer could not really save the end.
Liszt opened the second concert: the Hungarian
March No. 1 (arr. Doppler) and the Two
Episodes from Lenau’s Faust. The Hungarian
March was marked by a sequence of amazing
cadenzas and flourishes by the cimbalomist
Oszkár Okrós. The swagger the
orchestra imparted to some of the music brought
to mind the ‘authenticity’ of the VPO in Strauss
on New Year’s Day, so close was the identification
between performers and composer. Alongside
that was an infectious humour and lightness.
episodes from Faust are the Night-time
Procession and The Dance at the Village
Inn (better known in its solo piano guise
as Mephisto Waltz No. 1). The Procession
was superb. Chords were balanced perfectly,
with the bias towards the lower frequencies.
There is one particularly Wagnerian moment
along the way and some unsurprising kinship
also with Liszt’s own Faust Symphony,
except that here the themes did not have time
to stretch and develop. The Dance seemed
in comparison something of a miscalculation.
The opening superimposing of fifths lost the
visceral effect of the more monochrome piano,
instead having its edges softened. Despite
many admirable moments, the tension one feels
when ten fingers wrestle with the music was
dissipated, leaving an altogether more comfortable,
rather than diabolical, experience.
the Wagnerian meat. Things seemed not altogether
right from the very beginning of Act 1. An
off-stage wind machine intended to conjure
up the prescribed storm was more of a breeze-machine
and Fischer’s tempo was almost laughably swift.
And this latter facet of the performance was
indicative of what was to come, for throughout
Fischer conducted as if he had a bus to catch
and nothing and no-one (certainly not a singer)
was going to stop him from getting it. The
singers, too, started very much as they went
on. Kyhle’s first entrance was as narcissistic
as they come, concerned with shape but not
meaning. Petra Lang from her very first syllable
was in a different league. Impetuous, with
a warm sound (there is a contralto-ish aspect
there) and with excellent diction, all of
the emotions came from the voice.
the star of this evening was the brass section,
who announced Hunding with real emotive power.
Alfred Reiter’s Hunding was large of voice
and explicitly menacing. This was a very commanding
assumption of the role (although he also revealed
a tendency to swoop up to notes). In comparison,
Siegmund bleated his way through the part,
and by Scene 3 the edge to Kyhle’s voice was
getting distinctly wearing. By the line ‘der
Lenz lacht in der Saal’ there was the impression
that his voice was leaving the stage before
he did. The climactic repetitions of ‘Nothung’
counted for exactly zero. The list just goes
on and on...
Lang gave a convincing portrayal of Sieglinde,
tender and ardent by turns. Just occasionally
she was swamped by the orchestra, but her
ability to hit notes straight in the middle,
to project each word and to live the part
will be the element of that first evening
that will long remain with this reviewer.
Act Three, Scene Three the next night (from
‘War er so schmählich’, and not the whole
act as originally billed). And here Lang was
in good company, for it was the great John
Tomlinson who took the role of Wotan. Here
is a Wotan with real authority and a wealth
of experience behind him. His anger at his
daughter came through every single syllable,
balanced later by the utmost tenderness at
‘Des Augen leuchtendes Paar’ as he prepared
to leave Brünnhilde surrounded by flames.
His pitching was excellent (particularly at
the difficult ‘So küsst er die Gottheit
von dir’). Lang’s rich and concentrated sound
fitted in well, although her identification
with the part of Brünnhilde was less
obvious than Tomlinson’s for Wotan and she
was less than passionate in her self-defence.
Her best moment came when she was decidedly
wheedling (‘Du zeugtest ein edles Geschlecht’).
At ‘Diess Eine musst du erhören’ she
was seven-eighths of the part, and how obvious
that missing eighth was when Tomlinson tore
into his farewell at ‘Leb’ wohl, du kühnes,
question, the evening belonged to John Tomlinson.
If towards the end of the act there was some
evidence of strain in his voice (surprising,
perhaps, given the relative brevity of the
excerpt), there was never a shadow of a doubt
about his supreme interpretative abilities.