London’s season opener is ‘stupendous’

London’s season opener is ‘stupendous’


norman lebrecht

September 26, 2021

The Guardian’s Tim Ashley on the LPO’s opening concert performance of Michael Tippett’s The Midsummer Marriage:

… Deeming it an outright masterpiece… (Edward) Gardner gave us a performance that overrode any qualms by bringing home the heady, almost narcotic quality of the music.

The conducting, playing and choral singing (from the combined forces of the London Philharmonic Choir and ENO Chorus) can only be described as stupendous. The richness both of sound and detail in the orchestration, delineating the teeming flux of nature and Tippett’s view of man’s mystic-erotic union with it, really got under your skin. The power of the choral commentaries was similarly overwhelming, nowhere more so than in the thrilling exultation of Fire in Summer, the last of the ritual dances.

In the Telegraph, new-boy, old-boy critic Sir Nicholas Kenyon manages to overlook the London Philharmonic Choir:

Gardner, a conductor steeped in opera who has just won a Gramophone award for his recording of Britten’s Peter Grimes, is the right person to immerse us again in the dazzling sonorities of Tippett’s score. With generous numbers of players and singers on the Royal Festival Hall stage, a cast of leading British singers, and the chorus from English National Opera, the clarity and attention to detail were riveting.

Any subs still at work on the night desk?

Ed Gardner. Photo Mark Allan/LPO


  • Anthony Sayer says:

    Why has he dyed his hair?

  • Chris says:

    Welp, not sure about that “mystic-erotic union” especially in close juxtaposition with “getting under [one’s] skin,” but I think a little more Tippett in the standard repertory would be a good thing.

  • RW2013 says:

    Hurrah for Tippett!

  • Mark Mortimer says:

    Even though I look just like him apparently I wouldn’t cross the road to see Eddie G conducting. A pretty boy no doubt- maybe modelling for M &S over forties collection- but Music Director of the LPO whoops! One thinks of Haitink, Tensdedt & Solti in the past…

    • JB says:

      What a pathetic comment – just nasty with no point to it. With such high standards perhaps you should be able to spell “Tennstedt’. The idea that there are a group of “super performers” and then the rest of the music profession not worth seeing is elitist and also defies experience. Many of my best experiences in the concert hall have been with what you would view as ‘lesser’ musicians. The music is the main thing, performer cults are something else.

      • Allen says:

        “just nasty”

        Par for the course then.

      • Nope says:

        No, totally accurate. The major names are the ones you want to hear, skip the rest. No-name = no-go, that’s the rule of thumb

        • Tiredofitall says:

          Expand your horizons. The names generally just have better PR. There’s a whole world of talented musicians out there.

      • Mark Mortimer says:

        Not nasty- JB- just honest opinion. EG is fine- he has all the extra curricular skills needed of a conductor i.e. smoothness, charm & dealing with the media. But as a conductor- he ain’t much cop- he’s got where he is because the competition isn’t great currently. I do agree with you however- there are hundreds of great performers around without the ‘autograph’ so to speak. I’m not into hero worship because somebody’s told me they’re great- I make my own opinions tx.

        • pjl says:

          he was a pupil of Sir MARK ELDER & is worthy of that pedigree. OK Solti was a big name & for me a great Elgar conductor but I think Gardner will rank as high as Haitink in the end. Tennstedt was a genius but only in Mahler and a few other composers. You did not mention W-Most; Gardner betters him, surely? Nor did you mention Jurowski: a genius who ranks above Solti for me.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        I’ve followed EG’s career with interest since his Bergen days. He is always interesting to listen to when he discusses music and his career has gone ahead in leaps more recently. He’s certainly eye candy but that’s a great image for classical music to have since it pushes aside the tired old canard that blue rinse brigade are the only patrons of the arts.

    • apropos says:

      prendez vous une grip…… really…..

    • pjl says:

      I was sceptical and was annoyed that he got ENO after they appointed and de-appointed CAETANI (his SIR JOHN IN LOVE was outstanding) but after an ELGAR 1 in Basingstoke, THE APOSTLES at the Edinburgh Festival and this sublime Tippett, I am now an acolyte

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      You wouldn’t be going to “see Eddie G”, you’d be going to hear one of Tippett’s greatest works. How’s Tennstedt’s recording of the “Midsummer Marriage”? . . . oh wait, one doesn’t exist!

  • Hilary says:

    It was a wonderful evening and I hope we have much more Tippett from these forces. Since his passing, talk of his neglect has been somewhat exaggerated to say the least. Mostly irrelevant mutterings from music critics.

  • Backrowbass says:

    Mischief making. The way it reads to me, the clear subtext is “… addition to the London Philharmonic’s own forces.” After all, the orchestra isn’t actually named either, at least not in the quoted passage.

    • Londoner Fassung says:

      Oh, dear! Not another one? The London Philharmonic Choir is not “owned” by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, but engaged by it, and is a separate organisation run and made-up of non-professional singers which is one of its many great strengths. Kenyon’s gaffe is inexcusable!

  • Gary Freer says:

    Still think he’s ‘A composer to forget’?

  • Yes, the RPO & LPO have both been in stupendous form recently.

  • Garry Humphreys says:

    I remember taking a free stalls ticket on offer for a performance at the ROH in the 1970s/80s(?) – I did not know the piece -and, come the interval, when my neighbours invited me to join them for a drink, I was just rooted to the spot, so overcome by the music and the action that I just had to sit to take it all in. The description ‘narcotic’, is absolutely spot on! A totally riveting experience.

  • Frank says:

    From what I heard of it on Norman’s favourite radio station, BBC Radio 3, it was a great performance. Congratulations to all involved, no doubt we’ll get more Tippett from them in coming seasons.

  • Phyllis Stringer says:

    This performance may well have been ‘stupendous’ in the RFH.
    But as a radio listener, the words were largely inaudible, whether solo or choral – especially the latter, though there was a prominent solo soprano who was well-nigh indecipherable.
    The orchestral playing was fine and it was an enterprising choice to open the LPO’s season.