REVIEW: TWILIGHT AND SUNRISE
Götterdämmerung Act III, The Rehearsal Orchestra and The Mastersingers Henry Wood Hall, 22nd October 2017
The German word Dämmerung can translate as "twilight" or “dawn”. The usual translation for Götterdämmerung is "Twilight of the Gods",
but in a stunning day with the Rehearsal Orchestra, in their annual collaboration with the Mastersingers, I experienced a dazzling
Goodness knows, the final act of the Ring cycle holds enough challenges to daunt an experienced professional orchestra, and I was
astonished by the standard which the Rehearsal Orchestra had managed to attain in the course of individual practice followed by a mere
day and a half of working together. Tony Legge, their marvellous conductor, had coached them superbly. Most of them must have been
coming to this music for the first time, and the freshness of their response to it was wonderful.
The brass in the opening statement was full of foreboding, I felt the eddies of the water in the magical sonorities of the
Rhinedaughters' music, the woodwind underpinning Siegfried's So singet was grim with menace, and the crescendo to ist der Reif
geglüht was thrilling. At Ein hehrstes Gut Legge urged the players to play more softly and called a halt to comment to the audience
that Wagner was a pianist and composed for the piano whereas other composers did not. "So this line is impossible to play on the
violin. These string players are really doing very well!"
As usual, the audience joined the proceedings in the afternoon at the point where the singers were added to the mix. The Mastersingers
had outdone themselves with the quality of the cast assembled. Legge took a lot of time and trouble over the music for the
Rhinedaughters, sung by Mari Wyn Williams, Rosemary Braddy and Emma Carrington, who made an exceptionally strong team - hardly
surprisingly, as it isn't every day that one finds a Brünnhilde and a Fricka in the Rhine. Having a soprano and two mezzos, as opposed
to the usual two sopranos and a mezzo, gave their music a darker colour than usual. Under Legge's tuition their warnings to Siegfried
became eerie, almost malign, making me think for the first time how this warning before his death parallels Brünnhilde's warning to
There was a lovely expansiveness in the Vassals' entrance, but Legge told the players to be as unmusical as possible - "these men
are not musical" - and the crescendo as the brass quoted Siegfried's horn motif was positively brutal. The strings were beautifully
restful as Siegfried complained of thirst and shimmered exquisitely beneath his recollections of the Woodbird's song, with a lovely
dreamy quality to the sleep motif. The five (five!) harps beneath his cry of "Brünnhilde!" were like glittering drops of water while
the brass lamented and we felt the dying hero's struggles in the ascent of the horns. The Funeral March was simply shattering.
There was such tension in the opening drumbeats, the magical harps wept Sieglinde's tears for her dead son, and I felt as though the
instruments were mourning someone they knew. We were enveloped by the music, to the extent that those great double chords vibrated
through the wooden floorboards beneath our feet. I have rarely known this wonderful music to be so moving. I was in tears as the
final diminuendo accompanied the funeral procession while it passed out of sight.
Jonathan Stoughton, fresh from Cavalleria Rusticana in Leeds the previous night, was the very model of a swaggering Siegfried with a
brazen, ringing tone like a huge copper bell. This is a talent to nurture. Julian Close was a Hagen full of menace whose snarl of
Meineid rächt' ich! froze the blood. Lisa Howarth made much of Gutrune's solo at the start of the final scene, her voice on tiptoe
with her fear of Brünnhilde. As she faced up to Brünnhilde she took on true tragic stature, but instantly seemed small and weak beside
the vengeful goddess. Paul Carey Jones predictably sang magnificently and made much of Gunther's small but vital contribution to
this act. This was no weak fool but a strong, grim ruler full of authority.
A longer review can be found in edition 259 of our magazine Harmony