WORKS: The Kingdom, Op. 51
PERFORMER: Claire Rutter (soprano), Susan Bickley (mezzo-soprano), John Hudson (tenor), Iain Paterson (baritone); Hallé Orchestra & Choir/Mark Elder
CATALOGUE NO: CD HLD 7526
The spirit certainly needs moving along in Elgar’s more sprawling oratorios – which means all but Gerontius, with its perfect shape – and that’s something Mark Elder doesn’t really believe in. Like his Wagner, Parsifalian touches from which are all over The Kingdom, the pace is stately from the Prelude onwards. So The Kingdom rarely acquires its angel wings, especially in the splashily-rendered acoustics of the Bridgewater Hall.
There are, it’s true, moments of inwardness and spirituality where the gleam of the cor anglais and Elgar’s ever-emotional divided-string writing make their mark. But there are also interminable sequences like the Pentecostal vision. This isn’t helped by the splintering of the Hallé Choir, safer in numbers and excellent in the final summing-up, but less happy when sopranos and tenors find themselves as exposed as they do here.
I’m a bit worried, too, that the estimable Iain Peterson is being stretched to stentorian roles like Peter – the big monologue at the sequence’s heart seems to overtax him. John Hudson has the clearer, more focused example of Alexander Young on Adrian Boult’s superlative EMI recording to follow, and Claire Rutter doesn’t have the luminosity of Boult’s Margaret Price. But she’s a fine spinto soprano. Ultimately, though, I found this rendition of The Kingdom too much of a bore too often. David Nice