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Mark Wigglesworth

featured composer – Wagner

 

 

The Ring – An Orchestral Adventure with the BBC Symphony Orchestra

 

‘Frankly, had Mark Wigglesworth only conducted Siegfried’s Funeral March in this concert’s second half, he would have consolidated an already glowing reputation as a top-notch Wagnerian.…[He] conjured a watery luminescence at the start as well as searing brilliance for the air through which the Valkyries fly, and there was a breathtaking transition from magic fire to forest murmurs…[He]did not disappoint in pacing the final cataclysm and unfurling the last great theme – Sieglinde’s apostrophe to her Valkyrie saviour – with all the assurance of a Knappertsbusch or a Furtwängler. No doubt about it, this was the white heat which has mostly eluded Haitink and Pappano, for all their sterling virtues, at Covent Garden. Wigglesworth should be the house’s next choice of Ringmeister.’

David Nice, The Arts Desk; October 20th 2012

‘A Wagner conductor of distinction, Wigglesworth held it together skilfully, finessing its changes of tempo perfectly. With the BBC strings and brass on wonderful form, the last 30 minutes were Wagnerian bliss.’

George Hall, The Guardian; October 23rd 2012

‘I saw this concert halfway through a Ring Cycle at the Royal Opera House…Nothing I have heard from that orchestra during those many hours matched the musical frisson Mark Wigglesworth brought to the 73 minutes of Wagner’s music that Dutch percussionist, Henk de Vlieger, leaves us with in his 1991 ‘orchestral adventure’.

Mark Wigglesworth is one who could surely be considered a possible contender for the Royal Opera’s music directorship when it eventually comes up-for-grabs and here his Wagner was everything Pappano’s currently isn’t. His tempos were generally very well-judged and his virtuoso orchestra provided excellent support with their exciting playing. He seemed to judge each Wagnerian moment perfectly whether it was playful, threatening, heroic, funereal or rapturous.’

Jim Pritchard, Seen and Heard International; October 25th 2012

‘The conductor’s skill at pacing and shaping played a key role in keeping de Vlieger’s breathless ‘musical adventure’ plausable as one bleeding chunk bled into another, eased by pockets of Wagner pastiche. Resplendent brass playing also helped Wagner’s glories to shine. Heard complete in the opera house, The Ring can make me fidgety. But here? Never a dull moment.’

Geoff Brown, The Times; October 23rd 2012

‘Utterly compelling.’

Paul Driver, The Sunday Times; October 28th 2012

 

 

Parsifal

 

English National Opera, London

“I find it almost impossible to believe that Mark Wigglesworth has never conducted Parsifal before – it sounded as though he’d been soaked in the score all his life and thought of nothing else. Miraculously, he struck the fine balance between the music’s unique translucency (Debussy said it was ‘lit from behind’) and its depth, weight and intensity. Each act was confidently shaped through one organically growing curve, within which the whispered pianissimi, the shimmering stillnesses and the dramatically pregnant pauses were as masterfully calculated as the stupendous climaxes. The orchestra was inspired to playing of a smoothness and security which would not have disgraced the Berlin Phil. To ENO’s Wagnerian pantheon, the name of Mark Wigglesworth must now be added.”
Rupert Christiansen, The Daily Telegraph February 2011

“I want to hymn the praises of the musical side, which is in most respects quite wonderful. This is Mark Wigglesworth’s first Parsifal, though listening to it that is very hard to believe. Not only is his musical conception flawless, but the ENO orchestra also plays with incredible, untiring beauty and power. Usually you can judge how good a performance of Parsifal will be from the Prelude, and on the first night it was played in a way that invited the most noble comparisons. Pacing, balancing, the achievement of that kind of transparency which everyone rightly goes on about in relation to this score, all were perfect.”
Michael Tanner, The Spectator, March 2011

“Mark Wigglesworth conducts superbly, generating momentum and purpose while creating moments of softness, stillness and sexiness – above all in the flowermaidens’ chorus. The orchestra responds with exceptional refinement, and a long evening flies past.”
Andrew Clark, Financial Times, February 2011

“Mark Wigglesworth’s lovingly-crafted Wagner conducting is one of the revelations of recent years, and the ENO orchestra and thrillingly augmented chorus perform brilliantly.”
Richard Morrison, The Times, February 2011

“Mark Wigglesworth and the ENO orchestra, magnificent throughout the evening, achieve a truly rarefied beauty, strings whispering a barely audible benediction before the solo oboe announces the new dawn.”
Edward Seckerson, The Independent, February 2011

“Mark Wigglesworth’s conducting is wonderfully poised, timelessly spacious.”
Andrew Clements, The Guardian, February 2011

“Mark Wigglesworth’s conducting and the playing of the ENO orchestra…cast an echt-Wagnerian spell from the first bar of the prelude, a complete musical world that you didn’t want to leave even at the end of five and a half hours.”
Tom Service, The Guardian Unlimited, March 2011

“Mark Wigglesworth was conducting the opera for the first time, but you’d never have known it. His performance was superbly paced, relatively swift – yet his tempi always seemed perfectly judged. The strings had a wonderful luminosity to them, he secured a warm yet sonorous tone from the brass, whilst the solo woodwind contributions were outstanding. What gave the performance as a whole its sense of overwhelming power and authority was the way in which Wigglesworth managed not only to display Wagner’s orchestral palette in all its coruscating colour, but wove all the sections of the orchestra together to produce an aural tapestry that was balm to the ears. The orchestra’s playing was quite simply outstanding.”
Keith McDonnell, WhatsOnStage, February 2011

“The accomplished British conductor Mark Wigglesworth, in his first performance of Parsifal, drew warm, plush and sensitive playing from the orchestra.”
Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, February 2011

“Mark Wigglesworth gave the score a masterful reading that was by turns elegiac and muscular.”
Mike Silverman, The San Francisco Chronicle, February 2011

“The music, given a shimmering rendition here by the ENO orchestra under Mark Wigglesworth…With Wigglesworth’s consummate approach to the score, the five-hour evening never flags.”
Clare Colvin, The Express, February 2011

“In the pit Mark Wigglesworth achieved astounding results. The ENO orchestra has rarely sounded more luxurious, the silky strings and sonorous brass in particular…The score’s grand ceremony was beautifully paced.”
Hugo Shirley, Musical Criticism, February 2011

“Holding it all together was Mark Wigglesworth. His affinity for Wagner was evident in the Prelude to Act I – specifically, the way the silences were held. These silences are, as in the music of Webern, an integral part of the music itself. Motifs reached through them, resonating in the listener’s consciousness. The brass excelled (the so-called “Dresden Amen” rivalled anything that could be done across the way at the Garden). Wigglesworth let dissonances dwell. No mere voice-leading on the way to consonant arrival points, Wigglesworth was more than aware of the significance of held dissonant simultaneities in Act 1 – something that Wagner explores more fully in the second act (particularly at the moment of the Kiss). The holy aspect of Parsifal lies within the music, and even in the music’s spaces. Wigglesworth ensured the essential role of silence was intact…This was impressive conducting.”
Colin Clarke, Music-Web International, March 2011

“Parsifal is by any standards a tough proposition, but the structure was largely in place, most impressively of all in the first act, which opened with a beautifully slow yet sustained prelude… The score’s dialectic between horizontal and vertical demands was more surely navigated than I have often heard. Moreover, the ENO orchestra gave perhaps the finest performance I have ever heard from it; I have certainly never heard it finer. Strings had weight, sweetness, and silkiness, as required, whilst the rounded tone of the brass, sepulchral and never brash, proved exemplary.”
Mark Berry, Opera Today, February 2011


Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

 

The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London

“Following Bernard Haitink at the helm of the Royal Opera’s prizewinning Die Meistersinger was always going to be a tough assignment. The task fell to Mark Wigglesworth making his Covent Garden debut, emerges with flying colours. The quality of his conducting was evident from the Prelude, where he handled Wagner’s contrapuntal tour de force near the end – a passage that usually sounds overloaded – with consummate skill. His assured pacing and his ability to differentiate the threads in Wagner’s most elaborate orchestral textures are impressive. He also has a fine ear for instrumental detail: the quiet epiphany of the trumpet, marked ‘dolce’ as Walther steps forward to deliver his prize-song, was only one of many superbly realised moments.”
Barry Millington, The Evening Standard

“Die Meistersinger – a wonderful revival. Mark Wigglesworth’s conducting is in many ways preferable to that of Haitink. One savoured every touch of characterisation, all the mischief and incipient profundity as the comic dialectic between rules and the creative, tradition and the individual talent, …got underway and moved forward with a naturalness which I have otherwise only heard from Rudolf Kempe. Wigglesworth showed himself a master of the organised chaos with which both the first two acts conclude…He is also magnificent in the last, festive part of the work, and there is no drop in temperature as we moved to the Festival Meadow and the follifications and the song contest.”
Michael Tanner, The Spectator

“Wigglesworth is the star of the show. – The first-night audience was dead right to give the conductor Mark Wigglesworth the loudest ovation. Close attention to the stage-drama, beautiful, searching playing drawn from celli and horns in the Act Three Prelude…It was Wigglesworth’s ultra-sensitive pacing – musical and dramatic – that distinguished the performance.”
David Murray, The Financial Times

“Hours of mastery – the conductor was Mark Wigglesworth making his house debut…Wigglesworth tightened his grip by act and gave us a Meistersinger in which the phrasing was expansive where it needed to be…It was a buoyant and illuminating reading of this wonderful score which held attention throughout.”
Michael Kennedy, The Sunday Telegraph

“Mark Wigglesworth conducted an impressive account of the score. There was none of the galumphing and harrumphing that can leave more Teutonic Meistersinger interpretations plodding. Wigglesworth whipped the dense orchestral textures into a soufflé, delighting in the play of counterpoint and coaxing out phrases and colours often left buried. He relished the music’s poetry, from his graceful pacing of the opening chorale to the pregnantly expressive pauses of Act 3. The orchestra played magnificently throughout.”
Rupert Christiansen, The Daily Telegraph

“The conductor is Mark Wigglesworth; he has the makings of a fine Wagnerian…The playing is glorious, with a rich, autumnal radiance flowing from the orchestra throughout.”
Tim Ashley, The Guardian

“Those eager to hear dynamic conductor Mark Wigglesworth in action were richly rewarded. [His] control is ever more impressive.”
Anna Picard, Independent on Sunday

 

Tristan und Isolde

Welsh National Opera

“This warm and thoughtful reading of Tristan and Isolde for Welsh National Opera reminds us of his great talent. Taking advantage of the Wales Millennium Centre’s mellow acoustics and sunken pit, Wigglesworth establishes a fine balance between voices and orchestra and delves deep into Wagner’s velvety fabric. At times, the dwelling on detail becomes almost self-indulgent, but a rare sensitivity to the score’s sensual beauty is rich compensation.”

Rupert Christiansen, The Daily Telegraph

“Mark Wigglesworth is the true linchpin of this production, drawing rhapsodically sumptuous playing from the WNO orchestra. Some conductors emphasise the sheer dramatic pulse of Wagner’s tragedy; others its creeping slide towards 20th-century Modernism. But Wigglesworth revels in the sheer beauty of it all: the luxuriant, swelling prelude, the silvery otherworldliness of the central duet, and the darkly eerie dissonances of the third act’s bleakness. Even better, Wigglesworth paces the whole journey so astutely that what might seem self-indulgent in other hands all links up perfectly in his: he knows where he’s going, but he’s not afraid to stop and marvel at the view on the way.”
Neil Fisher, The Times

“Mark Wigglesworth’s perceptive, fluid conducting…the wealth of harmonic detail constantly seducing the ear was revelatory. The Orchestra of Welsh National Opera achieved a luminous quality and an incredible passion. Wigglesworth’s pacing meant that not a moment flagged: he realised the essential sensuality of Wagner with an undeniable and deeply moving force.”
Rian Evans, The Guardian

“But where the evening scores highest is with the conducting of Mark Wigglesworth and the playing of the WNO orchestra. The balance is superbly managed and the combination of passion and control flawless. On this showing, Wigglesworth is one of the great Wagner conductors of his generation, while the standards reached by the orchestra are of the very highest.”
George Hall, The Stage

“Mark Wigglesworth’s thoughtful reading was altogether masterly, characterised by exemplary attention to detail at every turn, a fine sense of impetus throughout and excellent balance between orchestra and singers. As an exposition of the riches of both this fascinating score and of the capabilities of WNO’s excellent orchestra this would be hard to beat.”
Bill Kenny, Musicweb-International

 

 

 

 

In performance with…

 

The San Francisco Symphony

 

“Thursday night’s concert by the San Francisco Symphony in Davies Symphony Hall featured some of the most focused, eloquent and ravishingly beautiful music-making local audiences have heard this year. During the first half of the program, Wigglesworth led the orchestra through orchestral excerpts from Wagner’s “Tannhäuser” and “Die Meistersinger.” The results were heart-stopping, transfixing, almost beyond praise; they created the sort of quasi-religious enchantment that Wagner envisioned at his most grandiose, but that performances of his music provide all too rarely.

The magic was twofold. One aspect was the remarkable interpretive assurance that Wigglesworth brought to the music, particularly the way he paced Wagner’s musical paragraphs with a combination of expansiveness and rhythmic momentum. The other was the almost unparalleled quality of playing he got from the orchestra. That much was obvious in the opening measures of the “Tannhäuser” Overture. I yield to no one in my regard for the horn and woodwind players of the San Francisco Symphony, but I don’t know when I’ve heard them muster such a rich, warm and gorgeously blended sound as they did in those few moments.

And the magic just kept going, as the chorale-like main theme spread to the cellos and then the other strings. It was like a dark, swelling tide, pulling the listener ever deeper into Wagner’s stately, voluptuous world. For true voluptuousness, though, there was the “Venusberg” music from the same opera, a dizzying whirl of melody and voracious rhythms executed with tremendous precision and a sense of hungry eagerness. If Wigglesworth isn’t actually a devotee of subterranean orgies, he certainly knows how to impersonate one.

The “Meistersinger” excerpts were no less arresting, marked by full-toned pomp in the processional music and vivid physicality in the “Dance of the Apprentices.” And once again, the sheer sound of the orchestra – which after all, almost never plays Wagner – was a marvel to witness. In the end, though, this was Wigglesworth’s night. As the “Meistersinger” Prelude came to an end, I felt a sudden pang of disappointment that the entire opera was not coming next. ”
Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle

 

The London Philharmonic Orchestra

“His conducting of Wagner’s Tannhuäuser and Vensuberg Music was exemplary: his expansive phrasing was tempered by maintaining a rock-steady tempo, gradually moulding the music from its sombre opening passages, building up the tension in the festive Venusberg music, only to die down and slowly unwind in the quiet, closing string passages, which were hushed and exquisitely sustained. His rigorous control of dynamic range was a marvel. Not only was his pacing absolute perfection, his sense of orchestral colour and balance made every detail of the orchestra shine through. There was no congestion even in the wildest percussive moments. Judging by this performance alone, Wigglesworth has the making of a great Wagnerian and should be conducting at Bayreuth; his Covent Garden Die Meistersinger was universally acclaimed.”
Alex Russell, Musicweb-International

 

The New World Symphony, Miami

“The stirring, richly textured playing that Wigglesworth elicited from the New World Players confirmed how tremendously effective this über-Romantic music is even out of its theatrical context. The conductor drew a vitally characterised reading of the Prelude to Die Meistersinger, with a weighty, flowing account of the Meistersinger’s theme and sly perky winds in Beckmesser’s music. The return of the main theme was heralded with majestic trombones, and Wigglesworth deftly clarified the contrapuntal lines in a powerful yet transparent coda.

Wigglesworth’s alert and detailed attention made the overture [to Tannhäuser] into a miniature tone poem, with each theme given due voice, from the solemn horns and low winds of the pilgrim’s hymn to the yearning lyricism of the hero’s ode to Venus. the conductor also brought out the contrasts of the ballet music, with the exotic frenzied sensuality of the Venusberg as surely pointed as the delicately sated string phrases at the coda.”
Lawrence A. Johnson, Sun Sentinel