Saturday, 11 August 2012

Elder Elgar Apostles Prom 37

Mark Elder's Elgar The Apostles (BBC Prom 37) is exceptional, and could be a contender for best Prom of the season. It outclasses Sakari Oramo's performance in 2007, good as that was. It isn't fair to compare the Hallé and the CBSO, for both have long Elgar pedigrees, but Elder has the advantage because he has the ideal Jesus in Jacques Imbrailo.

How can one sing Jesus? And in the context of Elgar's good natured, humane Apostles? or no matter how much Elgar focuses on the Apostles, it is Jesus who who eclipses all else.  Jesus speaks in simple, almost aphoristic sentences, no rhetoric, no fuss. Imbrailo's voice is rich, but pure and calmly confident, his voice so pure and calm that it seems to glow from within. Magnificent trumpet call soars forth, and the choir sing triumphantly, as they announce that the Apostles are being sent out into the world. "We are the Servants of the Lord!" sing the Apostles.  Yet Jesus's words are simple, almost aphoristic. "He that receiveth you, receiveth me.. And he who receiveth me receiveth he that sent me", Imbrailo breathes richness into the long "sent". The Apostles are flushed with pride, but Jesus is humble. Absolutely no need for histrionics. The Apostles are calmed, and the orchestra ends with a simple flourish.

"Blessed are the pure in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven" Imbrailo's natural purity of timbre expresses Jesus's true nature with gentle, understated confidence. Imbrailo's Beatitudes seem to glow from within, lit by genuine sincerity. Where does this beauty come from? I listen, stunned by this sheer grace. You can hear in his Jesus why no-one sings Billy Budd as intuitively as Imbrailo. This is a voice composers should be writing for. In our age more than ever, we need spiritually resplendent singing like this.

The other soloists (Alice Coote, Rebecca Evans, Paul Groves, Davd Kemspter and Clive Bailey) are good, even if I'm not keen on vibrato in the Vigin Mary. and the Hallé choir is magnificent. They fill out the three named apostles when deeper textures are needed. Elder does wonders with the orchestra and singers. This Prom is a glorious reprise of the Manchester performance, captured on CD.

The painting of Jesus and the Apostles is by James Tissot. I chose it because it's so simple - watercolour goache, not oil - and so very different from Tissot's usual portraits of society ladies in fancy gowns.

No comments: