Norman Lebrecht’s Album of the Week – Rustic Wedding Symphony
I can just about remember a time when conductors never travelled abroad without a Rustic Wedding suite in their bag for emergencies. Fizzy and topped with icing sugar, it was the perfect tonic for a lethargic orchestra and catatonic audience, especially in hot climates before the age of air-conditioning. Thomas Beecham often performed it as did Antal Dorati, Leonard Bernstein, Andre Previn and many more.
No more. It is years since I last heard the piece in concert and recordings have dried up. Good reason to welcome Lan Shui’s new performance from Singapore, which has just the right blend of bounce and ceremony. Dating from the 1870s, when Goldmark scored his big Vienna opera hit, the Queen of Sheba, the Rustic Wedding tends to idealise peasant life. There is no anguish or anxiety in its five movements, just a lyrical celebration of life’s great moments in a lush orchestration that the Singapore Symphony blares out to full grandeur.
The companion piece is Goldmark’s second symphony, written in 1887 and looking fondly backwards to Mendelssohn and the young Johannes Brahms, who was one of Goldmark’s best friends. An anachronism in his prime, Goldmark lived on to 1915, by which time Schoenberg and Stravinsky had shattered his sound barriers.
Norman Lebrecht is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and other publications. He has written 12 books about music, the most recent being Why Mahler? He hosts the blog Slipped Disc.