City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Mass of Life EIF Opening Concert Review

By Barnaby Miln - Posted on 11 August 2012

Andrew Davis, conductor
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The Usher Hall
Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Edinburgh Festival Chorus
Running time: 
Frederick Delius: A Mass of Life
Andrew Davis (conductor), Christopher Bell (chorus master), Anna Christy (soprano), Pamela Helen Stephen (mezzo-soprano), Robert Murray (tenor), Hanno Müller-Brachmann (bass).

The Opening Concert  was celebrating 150th anniversary of Delius’  birth in Bradford in 1862. A difficult to sing and not often performed work it was the composer’s largest work. If the International Festival exists to give us music we would not normally experience, A Mass of Life filled the bill.

With a large choir filling the seats behind the RSNO the eleven soliloquies were sung in German, divided in two parts with the first dwelling on spring and summer and the second on autumn and winter. And into those we heard about the four ages of man.

Delius took the text from the un-Christian philosopher Nietzshe’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra and so the work is unusual because it is not religious - but that’s why it is rarely heard, or recorded.

There was a messy start but Andrew Davis worked hard and took control with his endearing enthusiasm, a huge smile that lasted to the end. He was certainly right to give the bass soloist Hanno Müller-Brachmann the extra credit at the end because it will be his performance I’ll remember.

The first half got sleepier and sleepier, and the second started in a meditative mood. It was only at the end of the tenth that things livened up and the eleventh and final was a great deal more cheerful.

The experience was gratifying. I am not sure the applause was the longest I have heard. But it fulfilled the challenges of the opening remarks of Jonathan Mills, the Festival’s Director.

Event: Friday 10 August 2012 at 7.30pm