Dream on ...
I've been cheated out of this spring by the worst dose of flu I've ever had - hence long silence here on Felixcitations. Incidentally, I've developed a technique for making an olbas pastille last the entire length of Mahler's First Symphony.
Midsummer always falls earlier than you think, and though it's only April, the inevitable appearance in concert programmes of the Incidental Music to A Midsummer Night's Dream is becoming more frequent. And what a dream it is. This astonishing score, full of skittering insects, haunted groves and glimmering magical figures, remains, to my ears, as fresh and delicious today as it did when I first fell under its spell at the age of six or seven. I'm just back from a performance of the orchestral numbers by the London Philharmonic under Vladimir Jurowski, who would make rather a good Oberon himself! Beside Mendelssohn's perfectionism, concision, élan and focus, the Shostakovich Second Piano Concerto sounded like a harmless romp and Mahler's First Symphony - olbas pastilles or none - like an overblown Freudian case study at least half an hour too long!
It is, however, extraordinarily rare these days to hear the music together with the play. Every production wants to offer something new, usually with a brand new score, which of course is fair enough. But as Shakespeare's words and Mendelssohn's music work so very perfectly together it is - well, a pity that they're not presented in tandem more often.
So here's a date for your diaries: 5 May performance, 10 May broadcast. Well, 10 May broadcast, since the performance has been sold out for months - but Radio 3 will be conveying it to the widest possible audience, and there'll be a 'visualisation' (ie video webcast) as well.
In Middle Temple Hall, A Midsummer Night's Dream will blaze into light and context. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment will be playing the music and actors will be performing the Shakespeare. Tim Carroll directs, Charles Hazlewood conducts - and Shakespeare himself is known to have performed in this venue in 1602. The evening is a reconstruction of a collaboration that brought the house down at the Royal Festival Hall four years ago.
The producer tells me: 'The problem for anyone trying to stage this amazing combination of words and music is that any attempt to evoke the forest visually seems doomed to failure beside the job that the writer and composer have already made of it. The Scherzo that takes us from Athens into the wood conjures up the scene so much better than any painted scenery could ever do. Thus this production makes no attempt to create a forest, but rather uses the one that is already available: the orchestra itself. Weaving in and out among the source of all these astonishing sounds, the eight actors will flit between the mortal and magical spheres at the flick of a switch - literally.'
The mind boggles - but they're letting me in to see it, so I shall report back afterwards. Meanwhile, do make a note to listen in on 10 May at 20:00, when the performance will be a high point of the BBC Radio 3 Mendelssohn celebrations. Of which, more very soon - the wall-to-wall Felix weekend is now coming up fast.