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April 5   -   Guardian

Wagner: Lohengrin CD review – perfectly paced drama from Mark Elder & the Concertgebouw

Struckmann/Vogt/Nylund/Youn/Nikitin/Royal Concertgebouw/Elder (RCO Live, 3 CDs)

Over the last decade, Mark Elder has been making slow but steady progress through Wagner’s operas in concert with the Hallé in Manchester. The results are also appearing on disc: Die Walküre and Götterdammerung have already been released, Parsifal is due out in June, and no doubt last autumn’s Das Rheingold will follow in due course. This Lohengrin, also recorded in concert but in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw (in December 2015) rather than Bridgewater Hall, makes an unexpected complement to the Manchester series.

As superbly as the Hallé play for Elder on those recordings, it’s an added treat to hear the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, one of the world’s greatest, tackle Wagner’s score. From the opening bars of the first-act prelude, the refinement and transparency of the string textures that play such an important role in the unfolding drama of Lohengrin are a constant wonder; the brass is utterly secure without ever becoming too assertive, the woodwind instantly responsive, whether colouring its moments of ceremony and jubilation or adding dark hues to the plotting of the central act. And as Elder has shown in his stage performances of the opera in London, both for the Royal Opera in 2003 and at ENO a decade before that, it’s a score he understands and paces perfectly through the long, arcing spans of each act.

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