COMPOSERS: Robert Schumann
LABELS: LSO Live
ALBUM TITLE: Simon Rattle conducts Schumann
WORKS: Das Paradies und die Peri
PERFORMER: Sally Matthews, Mark Padmore, Kate Royal, Bernarda Fink, Andrew Staples, Florian Boesch; London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus/Simon Rattle
CATALOGUE NO: LSO 0782
Along with Scenes from Faust this is Schumann’s choral masterpiece, internationally successful in his lifetime but largely neglected throughout a 20th century embarrassed by the sentimental libretto, drawn from Thomas Moore’s Orientalist pastiche Lalla Rookh. Now we’re less inclined to sneer, Paradise and the Peri is becoming recognised again, with several excellent CD versions, especially Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s (Archiv). Now Simon Rattle’s new live performance easily equals this – and many will prefer it, not least for the superb recording, on two SACDs, with an included Blu-ray containing two- and five-channel streams and downloadable audio files. Vivid detail and clear choral textures come over quite stunningly on both formats, but the Blu-ray has the edge. Its clarity entirely suits the greater expansiveness and richness of Rattle’s reading, slightly less crisp than Gardiner’s but also less hard-driven, with a greater tenderness in the orchestral passages and the characterisation of the Peri, the lost spirit in search of a prize that will readmit her to Paradise.
Sally Matthews doesn’t quite catch the ethereal quality Gardiner’s Barbara Bonney radiates, especially in her final joy, but is still superb, and the other soloists hardly less so, especially Mark Padmore’s restrained but moving Narrator. Bernarda Fink sings her almost classically styled alto solos at least as finely as for Gardiner and Harnoncourt. Kate Royal is a slightly vibrant but plangently heartfelt Angel, Andrew Staples and Florian Boesch make much of their roles, and the LSO chorus sing with arresting fervour. A pleasure to recommend.
Michael Scott Rohan