BBC SSO: Sea Symphony - City Halls, Glasgow
The logic in leaving the Sea Symphony, his earliest and longest, till last was justified in a performance with the Edinburgh Festival Chorus and soloists Elizabeth Watts and Mark Stone that was glorious, effusive and rapturously expressive of Walt Whitman’s soul-searching, sea-inspired text.
It’s a work that requires equal measures of calculated precision and broad gesture. Manze’s approach – coupled with the electrifying unanimity in attack and tone of the chorus, its engagement in delivery, the sheer emotive power of both soloists, and the heated expressiveness of the SSO – did exactly that.
Manze has a habit, from time to time, of getting too involved in the nitty-gritty. But in this – as in all his Vaughan Williams interpretations in this series – his input was vital, inspirational and judicious. While exerting taut control of the myriad tempo changes, a sense of swirling ocean current pushed the music on with unstoppable force.
In the first half, soloist Steven Osborne brought to Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 1 his distinctive brand of musical vitality and spontaneity, a fresh and spritely view on a popular work, and a dash of whimsy in his own cadenza, which hauled Beethoven’s motifs into uncharted territory, and amazingly found its way back home.
Seen on 15.05.14