R. Strauss, Four Last Songs (inter alia), J. Eaglen, London Symphony Orchestra, D. Runnicles (2000)
Elgar, Enigma Variations, London Symphony Orchestra, C. Davis (2007)
The overture to Mozart's The Magic Flute featured sharp ideas, with the beat crisply marked by the baton in Runnicles' left hand. All those critical "knock" chords, the Masonic signature, were clearly defined and unified, with beautifully balanced tutti sound, and all sections paid close attention to delineating the repeated-note theme of the fast section, which bubbled with energy, if some occasional ensemble disagreements, all minor.
Russian soprano Olga Peretyatko, who had to cancel her local debut with the Washington Concert Opera one year ago, made an exemplary NSO debut in Richard Strauss's Four Last Songs, a piece we would gladly hear once a year. We have been following her via online streaming, and the reports of our European correspondent have been enthusiastic. Little surprise, then, that this is a voice worth hearing, firm and earthy at the middle and bottom, clear and unrestrained at the top. The latter quality made the end of the third song, Beim Schlafengehen, particularly beautiful, as the soul yearns to soar in the magic wreath of the night. Runnicles, who made a fine recording of these songs with Jane Eaglen some years ago, here had a voice more uniformly up to the task (and an improvement over the last singer to perform them here, Renée Fleming in 2010). The NSO responded with intense violin solos, not overly lachrymose, from concertmaster Nurit Bar-Josef and a luscious, poignant horn solo from outstanding principal player Abel Pereira at the end of the second song, September.
Anne Midgette, The NSO starts its regular season with a promising debut (Washington Post, October 2)
Kate Molleson, BBCSSO/Runnicles review – warm, bold and incisive (The Guardian, September 30)
Edward Elgar and His World, ed. Byron Adams (Bard Music Festival, 2007)
This concert repeats tonight and tomorrow night, in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Through a special promotion, $20 tickets on the orchestra level are available for both performances.