Impressions of paradise16 March 2017
The Dream of Gerontius, Hallé Orchestra Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
Newman’s poetic vision of death was the tumultuous conclusion to Manchester’s four-day Elgar Festival. The mighty ensemble of the venerable 159-year-old Hallé Orchestra with its choir and youth choir, rose in ritual deference as the principal conductor Sir Mark Elder took the stage and after a solemn pause summoned the overture’s opening solitary melody from violas, clarinets and bassoons. The sad beauty of this line in the hall’s cool twenty-first-century acoustic inspired the entire evening: individual colours shone through and at key moments the organ coursed its cathedral tone into the ensemble from its gleaming panoply of silver pipes.
Young tenor David Butt Philip sang old Gerontius with compelling presence. His high announcement that he was near to death gripped the hall with its calm serenity. Here was no rage against the dying light but ready acceptance, fear suppressed.
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