(Financial Times) — Simon Rattle has made Schumann’s oratorio Das Paradies und die Peri something of a speciality with his revivals of the rarely performed work in London and Berlin. But the conductor withdrew from what would have been his final performances as music director of the Berlin Philharmonic to attend to family-related matters, passing the baton to Mikko Franck. As if the orchestra were not already taken by surprise, four wind soloists subsequently fell ill.
Das Paradies und die Peri sealed Schumann’s international reputation following its 1843 premiere but subsequently fell out of fashion. In an at times convoluted adaptation of Persian folklore, the story follows the trials of the Peri, a half-mortal creature, as she travels through a battlefield in India, a plague-ravaged Egypt and, finally, Syria in an attempt to enter the gates of heaven.
The score, meanwhile, is rich in melodic invention and dramatic contrast as it freely integrates elements of opera and oratorio. Schumann looks back to Bach, Handel and Mozart while foreshadowing the epic structures of Wagner, deploying no fewer than six soloists and a large choir. […]