Classical review: BBC SSO: Brucker, Glasgow

Mezzo soprano Alice Coote adds expression to Mahler's already expressive songs. Picture: Contributed

Mezzo soprano Alice Coote adds expression to Mahler's already expressive songs. Picture: Contributed

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USEFUL though it is to have song translations included in the programme, less than a minute after Alice Coote began performing Mahler’s Songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, they were rendered unnecessary.

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra: Bruckner

City Halls, Glasgow

****

So wonderfully expressive is Coote’s face, that nothing on paper could match the range of emotions it conveys.

The mezzo soprano is known for her interpretations of Mahler’s work, and small wonder. She doesn’t just sing his music, she inhabits it; whether it’s a mother watching her young child die of hunger or two lovers parting before a war, Coote’s draws us in to the story with just the right amount of drama and pathos, her voice matching the orchestral mood every step of the way, and melting over the audience like warm chocolate.

By comparison, Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 charged at us like a boulder tumbling down a mountain, fast-paced strings and bold brass driving the piece along, building up speed and intensity to the point where you feared the orchestra might explode.

For reasons best known to himself, Bruckner called this work his “Romantic” symphony, but little in the visual images it conjures up convey romance of any kind (and all his symphonies hail from the Romantic era, so it’s not that, either). Instead, the work takes us on a journey through rugged landscapes, deep forests and big open skies.

Ably conducted by Mark Wigglesworth, the orchestra never paused for breath, giving this long yet endlessly fascinating work a truly powerhouse delivery.

Seen on 16.04.15

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