Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us
Richard Strauß and John Adams

Strauß: Also Sprach Zarathustra, op.30 (1896)
Adams: Short Ride in a Fast Machine (1986)

Royal Academy of Music Concert Orchestra/Sir Mark Elder

Duke’s Hall, Royal Academy of Music, London – 23 October 2009


Whether you like Strauß’s philosophical tone poem Also Sprach Zarathustra or not, the sight of 120 plus musicians playing for all they are worth is more than sufficient excitement! If, like me, you cannot resist Strauß, even in the most purple of his patches, then the sound is totally irresistible.


This lunchtime the Royal Academy of Music students played Strauß’s magnificently overwritten tone poem for all they were worth, under the direction of Sir Mark Elder, who just seems to improve with each performance of his I hear.

Sir Mark, like Haitink and Mariss Jansions, has the ability to really understand a big structure, unravel the highways and byways, make sense of the musical progress and then convey his vision to his players. Following a stunning Sunrise, with some rather strange sounds coming from the organ, Sir Mark gradually built his musical superstructure until the release of the Tanzlied, a seemingly misplaced waltz - full of schmaltz, but never over–the–top, and beautifully played by leader Nathaniel Anderson–Frank. The highspot was the Nachtlied, with deep midnight’s bell tolling, perhaps for our souls, horns whooping away and the whole musical edifice collapsing, chromatically, into the final Nachtwanderlied where the dichotomy between C major and its diametrical opposite F# - the tritone – remains unresolved – nicely piece of held back here by Sir Mark, to make the point of inconclusiveness.

As a chaser John Adams’ insanely enjoyable Short Ride in a Fast Machine – five of the most enjoyable and satisfying minutes of music Adams has given us. And the band played with exactly the right amount of wild abandon required to make this piece work.

An excellent show.


Also Sprach Bob Briggs