Michael Tanner

Thrilled by Strauss

Salome <br /> <em>Bridgewater Hall</em> Peter Grimes <br /> <em>Nottingham</em> Die Zauberflöte<br /> <em>Royal Opera House</em>

Salome
Bridgewater Hall

Peter Grimes
Nottingham

Die Zauberflöte
Royal Opera House

Salome
Bridgewater Hall

Peter Grimes
Nottingham

Die Zauberflöte
Royal Opera House

Does Richard Strauss’s Salome still have the power to shock, as the writers of programme notes like to claim? Not, anyway, in a concert performance, such as was given in the Bridgewater Hall last Saturday, the BBC Philharmonic on unusual territory, with soloists from the production that will soon be seen at the Teatro Regio, Turin. The uniting factor was the conductor, Gianandrea Noseda. Though not shocking, the performance was thrilling, mainly owing to the orchestral playing and Noseda’s brilliant shaping of the score, so that what can often seem, even when staged, a long and often rather tedious prelude to the sensational last quarter-hour was alive at every minute, with a tension maintained even through the uproar of the quarrelsome Jewish theologians and the absurd kitsch of the Dance of the Seven Veils. Noseda commands his forces with the grandest gestures, frequently leaping in the air while imperiously summoning the brass, or crouching below the music stand in order to turn a creepy pianissimo into a stampeding climax. The orchestra clearly revelled in their chance to indulge themselves at such length in Strauss’s exhaustive catalogue of decadent effects, and any set of soloists would have been delighted to work with them.

This set of soloists, however, admirable performers as they are, may have felt that they were obbligati to a stunning concerto for orchestra. Noseda didn’t show much sympathy for them during the many deafening stretches, and the admirable artist Dagmar Peckova could more easily be seen gesturing ferociously than singing the role of Herodias, of which only a small proportion of notes reached me.

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