And both found superb vocal embodiment in Bryn Terfel, the towering patriarch of bass-baritones who spanned Wagnerian heights and demonic depths with a deep-grained voice of subtle hues and craggy thunder. He explored the ruminative inner questioning of Hans Sachs’ Act II aria from Wagner’s The Mastersingers with conversational nuance, and found complexity in Wotan’s stirring entry into Valhalla from Das Rheingold where doubt is kindled at the moment of triumph.
The concert’s highpoints were Wotan’s Farewell from Die Walkure, where Terfel mixed deep personal defeat and world-shattering tumult, and, in its different way, If I Were a Rich Man where, with variegated inflection, he recast Tevye’s self-mocking humour as courage in the face of oppression.
Harpist Hannah Stone captured delicacy in Debussy’s Danses: Dance Sacree et Danse Profane and cross-cutting rhythmic vitality in the third movement of the harp concerto by fellow Welsh musician, William Mathias. Conductor Gareth Jones accompanied with Opera Victoria well though was under-energised in orchestral numbers.
On Friday Uzbekistan-born pianist, Behzod Abduraimov made a welcome return in Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, for the SSO’s Russian Gala. His playing had resplendently rich and full-bodied tone and stormy energised bravura in big moments, refined melodic sense and calibrated shades in quiet sections, and a fine sense of rhythm and gesture. French conductor Lionel Bringuier was a sensitive partner during the concerto and led an invigorated reading by the SSO of Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 in E minor, with woodwind and horn solos of richly-coloured clarity.
For much of his life, Johannes Brahms seemed to imagine Hungarian Gypsies had more fun. The Skride Piano Quartet concluded the second concert of their first tour for Musica Viva with his Piano Quartet in G minor, Opus 25, playing the Gypsy Rondo finale with roistering vitality. Pianist Lauma Skride displayed quicksilver brilliance, and the strings played with comparable energy, albeit less resolved intonation.
Beethoven’s youthful Piano Quartet in E flat, WoO 36 also places the weight on the pianist who led with nimble lightness. Graeme Koehne’s new work Socrates’ Garden drew its inspiration from Breenhold Gardens at Mount Wilson and featured a recurring melody of quiet sentiment embellished by discreet birdsong.