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“White hot” drama of intensity of Wagner’s music takes over

By Margaret Chrystall

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Mahler Players:

Wagner's Die Walküre Act One

Inverness Cathedral

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ANYONE who feared that a concert version of Richard Wagner’s first act of Die Walküre – as their first hearing of the iconic opera music – would leave them a little short-changed, need not have feared if they experienced the Mahler Players’ version on Saturday.

Inverness Cathedral was packed with many drawn by the chance to hear the premiere – of this specially-commissioned arrangement for a smaller orchestra and very possibly any performance of this Wagner in the North of Scotland, ever.

Warmed up by the cinematic romance of Arnold Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night), the imagination was given a wake-up call.

Listening to the musical interpretation of the response to the 1896 poem by German writer Richard Dehmel, as outlined in the programme notes, you could hear moonlight and a confession and a lover’s forgiveness – couldn’t you?

And though there were no heroic beards, flowing capes, magical swords or armoured warriors when the orchestra and soloists lined up to present the Wagner, it turned out we didn’t need them.

The opening orchestral storm was clear enough, tenor Peter Wedd conveying the exhaustion of weary warrior Siegfried, happening on a hut where he found Sieglinde (Claire Rutter), his long-lost secret sister and the miserable new wife of the sinister Hunding (Iestyn Edwards), his enemy.

Quickly, the “white hot” drama born of the intensity of Wagner’s music – as referred to by arranger Matthew King in his programme notes – takes over.

The composer’s signature motifs for everything from the magical sword Nothung to Hunding himself, quickly began to register as the act unfolded.

Most importantly, it was impossible to miss the emotional impact of the music combined with the stunning performances – both vocal and dramatic – of all three soloists.

As an introduction to Wagner’s music, his operas and his vision, this Mahler Players concert opened a door for a potential new audience on what the group hopes will be a continuing Wagner project.

Plans are in place to commission Players’-size versions of Siegfried Act Three, Tristan Und Isolde Act Two and even a new symphony based on late sketches by Wagner. And the Players plan a crowdfunding campaign. This will be an epic journey and the first stage ensures it will be one to sign up for.

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