Edinburgh International Festival music review: Philharmonia Orchestra: Berlioz’s Grande Messe des Morts at the Usher Hall, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Carol Main
Fifty years to the day since they made their first appearance, the Edinburgh Festival Chorus were needed in fuller voice than ever for the grandest of the grand, the Requiem by Berlioz. With four brass ensembles stationed around the Usher Hall, perched aloft in the organ gallery and in the aisles of the circle, four sets of timpani and the full Philharmonia Orchestra on stage, this was a performance of awe-inspiring dimension.
At the centre of it all was Finnish conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, who commanded total authority from the hundreds of musicians following him, with not a gesture too many or superfluous. Turning to face the auditorium to bring in the relay of brass fanfares in the Dies Irae or the Rex tremendae, one downbeat unleashed a dramatic explosion of sound to echo round the hall and crown the excitement and sense of impending torment built up by the Chorus. Contrastingly lyrical in the more reverential sections, and swinging for the Lacrimosa, the Chorus were well-teamed with the Philharmonia and the glossy sheen of their strings, while solo tenor Lawrence Brownlee had just the right voice to proclaim the Sanctus.
Published in The Scotsman on 24 August 2015
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