Sir Simon Rattle www.askonasholt.co.uk/artists/conductors/simon-rattl makes his debut recording on LSO Live http://lsolive.lso.co.uk with a performance of Schumann’s rarely recorded Das Paradies und die Peri. Rattle will of course be joining the LSO as their new Music Director in September 2017.
Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra http://lso.co.uk are joined on this new release by the London Symphony Chorus www.lsc.org.uk , soloists from the Guildhall School www.gsmd.ac.uk , sopranos Sally Matthews www.sallymatthews.com and Kate Royal www.askonasholt.co.uk/artists/singers/soprano/kate-royal , alto Bernarda Fink www.machreich-artists.com/kuenstlerinnen_biografie.php?id=86 , tenors Mark Padmore www.markpadmore.com and Andrew Staples www.ajrstaples.com ; and bass Florian Boesch www.machreich-artists.com/kuenstlerinnen_biografie.php?id=114
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LSO Live have done Sir Simon proud with this new set, not only on SACD Hybrid (2.0 stereo + 5.1 surround mixes and Standard CD audio) but with a companion disc that provides Pure Audio Blu-ray (5.1 DTS-HD MA - 24bit 192kHz, 2.0 LPCM - 24bit 192kHz) and downloadable audio files (stereo DSD, FLAC, WAV & MP3).
There is also a video trailer about this new recording that can be watched at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rH3toYv5kzI&feature=youtu.be
Robert Schumann’s (1810-1856) oratorio for soloists, chorus, and orchestra Das Paradies und die Peri, Op. 50 was completed in 1843. The work is based on a German translation of a story from the verse epic Lalla-Rookh by the Irish poet, Thomas Moore. The Peri, a creature from Persian mythology and the focus of the story, has been expelled from Paradise and trying to regain entrance by giving the gift that is most dear to heaven. Eventually the Peri is admitted after bringing a tear from the cheek of a repentant old sinner who has seen a child praying.
In its time it was regarded as a significant achievement for the composer, receiving praise from Richard Wagner.
In three parts, Part 1 of Das Paradies und die Peri opens with Vor Edens Tor im Morgenprangen with a lovely gentle orchestral theme that immediately draws the listener in. When alto Bernarda Fink joins to sing ‘One morn a Peri at the gate of Eden stood...’ she proves a fine choice of soloist for this part, beautifully following every turn. Soprano Sally Matthews as the Peri joins for Wie glücklich sie wandeln (How happy are the holy spirits who wander there) and proves to be equally flexible.
The Recitativ - Der hehre Engel, der die Pforte brings tenor Mark Padmore as the Narrator in ‘The glorious Angel, who was keeping the gates of light…against a beautifully controlled orchestral accompaniment. He is very fine, equally controlled with beautiful dynamics. Bernarda Fink continues as the Angel with a lovely, characterful rich tone. Wo find ich sie? brings the return of Sally Matthews with some finely felt moments in ‘ Where was there ever a gem that shone like the steps of Alla’s wonderful Throne?’ bringing some fine singing, beautifully shaped.
Narrator, Mark Padmore brings a fine agile blend in So sann sie nach (While thus she mus’d her pinions fann’d…) with a fine vocal quartet of soloists. The LSO chorus enter with great gusto in Doch seine Ströme sind jetzt rot (But crimson now her rivers ran) giving a superb contribution, rising brilliantly in the dynamic passages, Rattle bringing a fine dramatic outpouring.
The LSO brass lead into Und einsam steht ein Jüngling noch… (Behold, a youthful warrior stands alone) before Mark Padmore enters. The chorus rise up before a dramatic strong voiced Florian Boesch as Gazna enters followed by tenor, Andrew Staples, who adds a fine contribution as the Young Man.
The chorus are again very fine in the flowing Weh, weh, er fehlte das Ziel (False flew the shaft. Ah sad to tell) with their little outbursts beautifully done, the orchestra and chorus providing a lovely blend. A gentle hesitant orchestral opening precedes the Narrator Padmore in a sensitive finely controlled Die Peri sah das Mal der Wunde (Yet mark’d the Peri where he lay). The Peri, Sally Matthews enters with her finely coloured voice, soon joined by the vocal quartet, as well as the chorus. Rattle balances his vocal forces and orchestra to perfection here. Schumann brings some fine fugal writing in the later stages, almost Mendelssohnian in character (think Elijah), before a rousing choral conclusion pointed up with timpani.
There is another attractive orchestral opening to Part 2 before the entry of Mark Padmore who brings a depth of feeling to Die Peri tritt mit schüchterner Gebärde (With timid steps the Peri then…approached the pearly gates of Eden). The Angel responds ‘Sweet is our welcome of the Brave…’ the female voices as the chorus of angels bringing a beautifully sound. The Narrator returns for Ihr erstes Himmelshoffen schwand ‘Ihr erstes’ (Her first fond hope of Eden blighted) with some lovely delicate orchestral passages and some light textured string passages as the chorus lead on as the Chorus of Nile Spirits. The Peri appears for ‘Ach Eden…’ (O Eden, how I yearn for thee.) There is some great choral singing here, refined and controlled.
The Narrator returns in the slower rather considered ‘Fort streift von hier das Kind der Lüfte’ (Thence over Egypt’s palmy groves.) with some exquisite orchestral textures. The Peri responds with ‘Für euren ersten Fall wie hart.’ (Poor race of men! dearly ye pay.) We are led into a lighter, gloriously orchestrated section where the Narrator and vocal quartet sing of ‘Die Peri weint’ (She wept).
Alto Bernarda Fink returns for the solo Im Waldesgrün am stillen See (Beneath that fresh and springing bower) bringing some fine varied tones before Andrew Staples as the Young Man brings a lovely, gentle ‘Ach, einen Tropfen nur aus dern See’ (Ah, a single droplet from the lake). Bernarda Fink continues in a beautifully drawn, flowing Verlassener Jüngling (Deserted youth!) beautifully supported by the LSO with lovely cello lines and lovely woodwind passages, rising buoyantly as the Narrator sings ‘Doch sieh – wer naht dort leise schleichend.’ (But see – who yonder comes by srealth)’
Soprano Kate Royal proves very fine as the Maiden in O lass mich von der Luft durchdringen’ (Oh! Let me only breathe the air.) fluent and of beautiful tone. The Narrator sings ‘Sie wankt – sie sinkt – und wie ein Licht’ (She fails, she sinks – as dies the lamp) subtly bringing a depth of feeling, particularly as the conclusion is reached. The orchestra leads beautifully and gently into the final section of Part 2 with Sally Matthews as the Peri bringing a very fine ‘Schlaf nun und ruhe in Träumen voll Duft ‘ (Sleep on, in visions of odour rest) with the LSO chorus bringing a most beautiful conclusion to Part II.
Disc 2 contains Part 3 of Das Paradies und die Peri that opens with a very light buoyant chorus for the female voices of the LSO chorus as they sing ‘Schmücket die Stufen zu Allahs Thron’ (Bedeck the steps to Alla’s throne). The Guildhall School Quartet add ‘Auch der Geliebten vergesset nicht’ (Do not forget the lovers’ plight), lightly pointed up by percussion. The two solo sopranos rise out of the ensemble before a little cello phrase leads into Dem Sang von ferne lauschend, schwingt (Hearkening to the distant song) Mark Padmore as the Narrator very finely shaping the text before the Angel responds with ‘Noch nicht!’ (Not yet!).
The orchestra leads into a particularly fine section where Sally Matthews as the Peri brings a heartfelt Verstossen! Verschlossen aufs neu das Goldportal! (Cast out! From the golden gate) a terrific moment, beautifully sung, speeding as she declares ‘Doch will ich nicht ruhn, will ohne Rast’ (Yet I will never rest, nor cease). There is a very fine bass solo from Florian Boesch ‘Jetzt sank des Abends goldner Schein’ (Now, upon Syria’s land of roses) bringing a firm, fluent rich flow beautifully followed by the LSO with Rattle finding just the right gentle tempo.
The narrator returns for Und wie sie niederwärts sich schwingt (And as she downward wings her way) along with the Guildhall School Quartet, Mark Padmore later bringing some finely, controlled and shaped phrases. Hinab zu jenem Sonnentempel! (Downward to that temple of the sun!) has a fine rhythmic pulse with some imaginative orchestral ideas as the Peri takes the music ahead full of determination. The Narrator lightens the flow of the music before alto Bernarda Fink enters continuing the flow. Florian Boesch as the Man brings a hushed slow ‘S war eine Zeit’ (There was a time).
Vocal quartet and chorus bring a gentle O heil’ge Tränen inn’ger Reue!’ (Blest tears of soul-felt penitence!), a beautiful blend of voices with each individual soloist appearing through the texture. A horn quietly opens the penultimate section with a dark hued orchestral accompaniment, the strings having an almost period feel with little vibrato. The Peri enters with Es fällt ein Tropfen alfs Land’ (There’s a drop that down the moon…) a most beautiful passage. The Narrator brings a real strength to ‘Und sieh, demütig betend kniet’ (And now – behold him kneeling there) with a lovely fine use of the chorus around the soloist. Finally the music takes off with Sally Martthews as the Peri bringing a bright, glowing Freud’, ew’ge Freude, mein Werk ist getan’ (Joy, joy for ever! My task is done) with the Chorus of the Blessed Spirits adding just the right subtly hushed accompaniment before rising to a glorious, vibrant conclusion.
Expectations will be high when Sir Simon Rattle rakes over the reins of the London Symphony Orchestra in 2017. This tremendous new release only heightens those expectations.
LSO Live achieve a first rate recording from the notoriously difficult acoustic of the Barbican, London. Applause is excised. There are excellent booklet notes from Stephen Johnson as well as full German texts and English translations.