City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

EIF Opening Concert: Das Paradies und die Peri Review

By Barbara Bryan - Posted on 13 August 2011

SCO woodwind
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The Usher Hall
Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Running time: 
Roger Norrington (conductor)
Susan Gritton (soprano, Peri), Maximillian Schmitt (tenor, narrator), Lydia Teuscher (soprano, Maiden), Marie-Claude Chappuis (Mezzo-soprano, Angel), Benjamin Hulett (tenor, Young Man), Florian Boesch (baritone, Gazna, Man)

The Edinburgh International Festival launched its 2011 eclectic programme last night in traditional fashion with a concert at the Usher Hall. The piece chosen was Robert Schumann’s seldom-performed choral work Das Paradis und die Peri. Composed in 1843 the cantata for soloists, chorus and orchestra is based on an extract from Lalla Rookh – a Persian mythological tale by the Irish poet Thomas Moore.

Translated into German by Schumann and his friend Emil Flechsig, the story charts the journey of Peri, a mythological fairy, who wanders through the Orient in search of a means to gain entrance to Paradise. 

Performed by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra with guest conductor Roger Norrington, six soloists and the Edinburgh Festival chorus, the piece begins with haunting strings, building up every now and then to thrilling crescendos with a vocal quartet and the chorus, mirroring Peri’s turbulent journey to Paradise. There are some exquisite passages in this work and the string section of the SCO predictably produce sumptuous sounds, despite the fact that at times Roger Norrington’s minimalistic conducting appeared to be detached from the orchestra.

The soprano, Susan Gritton, sang the part of Peri. She has a magnificent vocal range and has a marvellous ability to interpret the profundity of emotional passages. Indeed all the singers were excellent. Maximillian Schmitt, the tenor was the Narrator; Marie-Claude Chappuis, the mezzo-soprano, was the Angel; Lydia Teuscher, the soprano, was the Maiden; Benjamin Hulett, the tenor, was the Young Man and Florian Boesch, with his rich, baritone voice, was Gazna and Man.

The Edinburgh Festival Chorus, under the guidance of Christopher Bell, excelled in this performance. The vocal nuances in this massed choir were perfectly synchronised in the pianissimo passages and the work concluded with a thrilling, rousing finale.

Event: 12 August 2011