What bothered me about soprano Gweneth-Ann Jeffers’ performance with the RSNO on Saturday, bothered me less in this surprisingly brief lunchtime recital (****) in St Magnus Cathedral yesterday. For here was a programme of Catalani, Wagner, Ravel and Verdi that commanded, and received, much greater diversity of nuance.
She is made for Wagner, startlingly so in this cathedral’s natural amplification, where she fully embraced the ravishing extremes of the emotionally exhaustive Wesendonck Lieder, not least in the melting stillness of Im Treibhaus.
And what a knockout Ravel’s Chansons Madècasses are. Jeffers conveyed all that is wild, sensuous and extravagant about them.
But yesterday’s supreme triumph was the closing concert (*****) of the RSNO’s festival residency, which itself ended with a blistering performance of Sibelius’s Symphony No 5 under new principal guest conductor Thomas Søndergård.
This was a seismic reading that harnessed the symphony’s ruggedness right down to the barely audible strings pianissimo in the finale, without once losing its sense of slow moving inevitability and explosive cathartic potential.
And when did we ever hear the RSNO tackle contemporary music with such gusto and purpose? They captured the full impact of Sally Beamish’s A Cage of Doves, a work as wholesome in range as the Sibelius.
The premiere of Arne Gieshoff’s Stanza was just as exciting, unveiling a work that possesses its own electrifying definition and personality.
Claudia Huckle may have been a last-minute replacement for Catherine Wyn-Rogers in Mahler’s Ruckert Lieder, but the rapt intensity she imbued in the centrally-placed Um Mitternacht was the pinnacle of a truly enchanting performance.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
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Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 3 C to 12 C
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