LSO/MTT – Dvořák & Janáček

Symphony No.8 in G, Op.88
Glagolitic Mass

Measha Brueggergosman (soprano)
Karen Cargill (mezzo-soprano)
Stuart Skelton (tenor)
Matthew Rose (bass)

Catherine Edwards (organ)

London Symphony Chorus

London Symphony Orchestra
Michael Tilson Thomas

Reviewed by: Robert Matthew-Walker

Reviewed: 10 February, 2008
Venue: Barbican Hall, London

Michael Tilson ThomasIt was fascinating to compare the two performances of Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony given recently at the Barbican Hall. The first was by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Jiří Bělohlávek on 8 December; the second was in this London Symphony Orchestra concert under Michael Tilson Thomas, whose command of this still-underrated masterpiece was deeply impressive. Both performances formed part of programmes made up of Bohemian music, and whereas the Czech conductor was at times a shade more poetic and spontaneous than Tilson Thomas, the latter was more brilliant and penetratingly true to the European tradition into which, structurally, this symphony falls. Tilson Thomas was aided by superb playing from the LSO, responding magnificently to its Principal Guest Conductor.

In Janáček’s “Glagolitic Mass” the soloists were uniformly excellent, especially Measha Brueggergosman and Stuart Skelton, who between them had the larger parts to sing, and whose range and power rode magnificently over the heftiest tuttis without losing the many passages of lyrical beauty. Skelton, in particular, in the high tessitura of his part, was absolutely magnificent. The mezzo-soprano and bass soloists have less to do, and were thereby somewhat overshadowed, but they were in no way inferior. In musicianship and understanding they were quite superb.

The London Symphony Chorus, about 120 strong, coped well with the Old Slavonic language and produced an impressive range of tone, at times thrilling in its corporate attack, at others very moving in its hushed responses to the conductor’s total control of this difficult work. The orchestra maintained its customary high standard, and the playing of organist Catherine Edwards was every bit as exciting and impassioned as the composer demanded it should be. A great concert.

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