Berlioz, Debussy, Wagner
Sir Bryn Terfel (bass-baritone)
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: 1 May, 2019
Venue: Musée d’Orsay, Paris
No sooner back in Berlin from Baden-Baden – Zubin Mehta conducting Verdi’s Otello common to both places – than the Berliner Philharmoniker was on its travels again, to Paris for this European Concert, a morning affair. The Musée d’Orsay (with a replica of The Statue of Liberty prominent, as well as numerous other exhibits) may have sounded a little ‘cold’ in itself and in resonance during the preamble but was sonorously warmed by Daniel Harding launching ‘Good Friday Music’ from Wagner’s Parsifal, majestic and mysterious, played with magnificence and radiance, aptly paired with the ‘Royal Hunt and Storm’ from Berlioz’s The Trojans, Nature-painting at its most suggestive and, with a magically distant horn-call (or so it seemed via this relay), the pace was electrified into a thrilling tempest. And then, from one French opera to another, music from Debussy’s Pelléas et Melisande (“Concert Suite by Claudio Abbado, based on the Orchestral Suite, arranged by Erich Leinsdorf”, distinguished conductors both) – sepulchral, brooding, yet shimmering and spiritual – and addressed with the most-refined playing, not least quietly rapturous strings, numerous tenderly expressive moments, a story told through stitched-together (if seamless) Interludes.
With the Museum’s ornate clock heading towards Noon, it was interval time, following which further musical languor, Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune and the ‘Scène d’amour’ from Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette (a Dramatic Symphony) – somehow the grand sweep of the opening Wagner seemed a long time ago, but there was no doubting the alluring flute solo that opened the Debussy, or the animation and bloom that Harding then found in it, a flexibility that also informed the Berlioz as the ill-fated lovers meet under Moonlight, with a mix of apprehension and palpitating rapture. Finally, a return to Wagner; cue Bryn Terfel for ‘Wotan’s Farewell and Magic Fire Music’ from Die Walküre (2/4 of The Ring), a bracing orchestral introduction, Terfel imperious if paternal (to daughter Brünnhilde), the latter quality also exemplified from the Berliners, and, with Loge summoned, Magic Fire to close the concert luminously.