Editor: Marc Bridle
Webmaster: Len Mullenger
Seen and Heard International Concert Review
Stravinsky, Les Noces and Haydn, Mass in B flat major (Harmoniemesse): Martina Jankova (soprano), Rinat Shaham (mezzo soprano), Mark Padmore and Timothy Robinson (tenors), John Relyea (baritone), Katia Labeque, Marielle Labeque, Thomas Ades, Lars Vogt (pianos), Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Simon Rattle, Philharmonie, Berlin, 23 June, 2005 (SM)
And with a line-up
like the one Sir Simon Rattle had assembled for three nights
in the Berlin Philharmonic's current season, it was not surprising
that all three performances were sold out. Thomas Adès,
Lars Vogt and Katia and Marielle Labeque took the four piano
parts, Czech soprano Martina Jankova, Israeli mezzo Rinat Shaham,
British tenor Timothy Robinson and Canadian baritone John Relyea
were the vocal soloists. The six percussionists were from the
Berlin Philharmonic and the chorus was Berlin's own "Rundfunkchor"
or Radio Choir.
Tenor Timothy Robinson similarly had to strain to make himself heard, while mezzo Shaham and baritone Relyea fared somewhat better. Relyea, in particular, stood out with a wonderfully Russian-sounding warble, especially when he teamed up with a solo bass from the chorus for the liturgical hymn at the end of the second tableau.
With the exception of Robinson, who was replaced by Mark Padmore, the same vocal team were the soloists in Haydn's glorious "Harmoniemesse" after the interval. But how different they sounded. Jankova came into her own, her slim, angelic soprano blending deliciously with Shaham's shining contralto. Padmore's lithe, sinewy tenor was quite superb, easily matched by Relyea. In a nod to period practice, the Berliners' pared-down strings eschewed any excessive vibrato. But the wind band that gives the mass its name, including Berlin's star flautist Emmanuel Pahud and solo oboist Albrecht Mayer, sounded unashamedly modern in timbre.Sir Simon conducted Haydn's last great mass at a fair lick. While the Baerenreiter score puts the estimated performance time at 55 minutes, my watch clocked in Rattle's reading at just under 50 minutes.
Even so, there was never any sense of haste, just vigorous -- and wonderfully invigorating -- music-making, with Rattle deftly weaving each detail into a tightly-paced, satisfying whole, at least partly making up for the diffuseness of his conducting in “Les Noces”.