Music review: Orchestre de Paris – War Requiem, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Orchestre de Paris  War Requiem, Usher Hall, Edinburgh
Orchestre de Paris War Requiem, Usher Hall, Edinburgh
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Daniel Harding’s Orchestre de Paris is huge. As such it easily accommodated not only the vast twin-orchestra requirements of Britten’s War Requiem but also a richly rounded profundity, especially from the strings, that was the bedrock of this gripping, sharply defined Festival performance.

Orchestre de Paris – War Requiem, Usher Hall, Edinburgh * * * * *

The choral forces were no less contributory. Aidan Oliver’s Edinburgh Festival Chorus was engaging and assertive, even-toned across the entire expressive range, with unanimity of attack that superheated every emotional utterance. The “n” in the final Amen drifted magically into prolonged silence.

Added to which, Christopher Bell’s NYCoS National Girls Choir imbued its offstage role with crystal clear diction, ringing purity of tone, and that essential ethereal sheen.

READ MORE: All of The Scotsman's 5-star reviews from the 2019 festivals

And what a trio of soloists: the white-hot intensity of tenor Andrew Staples and magisterial consistency of baritone Florian Boesch, at their most captivating together in the concluding setting of Wilfred Owen’s Strange Meeting; and soprano Emma Bell, the most effusive of the three, a hint of wildness illuminating her geographical separation behind the orchestra.

Harding’s vision of the piece – a haunting juxtaposition of texts from the Latin Requiem Mass and Owen’s poetry – was both incisive and calming. Britten’s message of futility hit the spot.

Ken Walton

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