This has been a major breakthrough year for Edinburgh-born mezzo-soprano Catriona Morison, beginning with the release of her adventurous debut solo album, and hitting a summertime high with the RSNO in Strauss’s Ariadne at the Edinburgh International Festival. She was back with the RSNO on Saturday in a sublime performance of Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été.
These are songs that cast love in its many guises, its joys and pains, its permanent spectre but impermanent presence. The magic of Morison’s performance was her ability to express these within a framework of timeless composure. The characterisations, perceptive but subtle, blossomed through the potency of that easeful reserve.
So yes, Berlioz’s opening “Vilannelle” danced with gleeful innocence, but cautiously expectant of the scenes to follow, whether the tempered anguish of “Sur les lagunes”, the distantly ecstatic “Absence”, or “L’île inconnue”, which let Morison reveal her saucier side.
But what a fascinating voice, impressively uniform from its richest depths to its sustained heights. Morison’s expressive control gave her performance a sense of breadth and profound understanding, and the scope within to colour the minutiae. Did her use of the printed score present a barrier to its delivery? A little perhaps.
Nonetheless, her rapport with Thomas Søndergård and the orchestra was supple and sensitive. As was the RSNO’s own opening performance of Bent Sørensen’s Evening Land, a wistful depiction of a vision from the composer’s Danish childhood, beautiful and sensory.
Søndergård ended with his own powerful vision of Sibelius’s Second Symphony, one truly remarkable for its precision and detail, its avoidance of unnecessary excess, and its willingness to exploit the power of silence.
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