Janáček’s ‘From the House of the Dead’ at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
‘It is Wigglesworth’s conducting of the orchestra, the chorus and his wonderful cast that transports the performance into the realms of greatness…He is already the heir to Charles Mackerras in this astounding music.’
Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times; March 18th 2018
‘Played with ferocious power by the ROH orchestra under Mark Wigglesworth. The performance …is formidable. Wigglesworth, using John Tyrrell’s new critical edition, prises open every facet of the score.’
Tim Ashley, The Guardian; March 9th 2018
‘Wigglesworth drew dazzling playing.’
Fiona Maddocks, The Observer; March 11th 2018
‘Mark Wigglesworth, already a superlative Janáček conductor on the evidence of his ENO Jenůfa, and the Royal Opera players sometimes defy belief.’
David Nice, The Arts Desk; March 8th 2018
‘Those heights have already been reached by the evening’s conductor, Mark Wigglesworth, who propelled his reading of this exotic yet austere score with awesome command. His achievement here, as with his Jenůfa for ENO, was to make a large orchestra fizz with power even when the going got gentle. Then when Janáček unleashes his Sinfonietta-like screams of energy he had reserves in plenty: sonic steroids to bulk up the impact. It was a gut-wrenching, hard-boiled account – and, like the show itself, not for the faint-hearted.’
Mark Valencia, WhatsOnStage; March 8th 2018
‘The Royal Opera House Orchestra is on its most dedicated form under the insightful baton of Mark Wigglesworth.’
George Hall, The Stage; March 9th 2018
‘The orchestra is on magnificent form, and every note is articulated in its raw intensity.’
Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph; March 8th 2018
‘In the pit, Mark Wigglesworth relished every moment of humanising warmth.’
Hannah Nepil, The Financial Times; March 10th 2018
‘I find it difficult to believe that the opera has ever been better conducted than by Wigglesworth, who inspired the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House to the very top of its form. The sound world was just right…it seemed to grow out of an emphasis upon specifics, upon details, upon those gnawing rhythmic and melodic cells. This was not an abstract ‘approach’ foisted upon the work, quite the contrary. Certainly one heard, or fancied one heard, the intimacy of connection between language(s) and music.’
Mark Berry, seenandheard-international; March 12th 2018
The BBC Philharmonic at The Proms
‘It was striking to read in the Proms programme-book interview with Mark Wigglesworth that what he’s currently enjoying is chamber music, pure and intimate and, significantly, “music that does not need conducting”. This diffidence about his own métier is salutary for anyone with a scepticism about star conductors. The writer Hans Keller ranked conducting among the “phoney professions”, and who has not on occasion felt the same? Perhaps even Wigglesworth.
Yet one was bound to think, as he began this concert with the BBC Philharmonic — its first half devoted to Brahms’s first piano concerto, with the soloist Stephen Hough — that self-questioning was an index of calibre. It was the most authoritative conducting, instantly masterly, I’ve witnessed so far at these Proms, Bernard Haitink’s appearance apart. And Wigglesworth seems close to Haitink’s level.
Hough’s playing was beautiful and poetically self-controlled, but it was the conductor from whom I couldn’t take my eyes in this concerto rendering. The opening orchestra stretch was a passionate mini symphony, draining in itself. One knew all would be right about this account because Wigglesworth’s intensity was unanswerable.’
Paul Driver, The Sunday Times; August 6th 2017
‘Music-making doesn’t get any classier…Let’s hope a world-class orchestra realises as much and puts our greatest British conductor in charge some time soon.’
David Nice, The Art’s Desk; July 31st 2017
Wagner and Rachmaninov with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra
‘Conductor Mark Wigglesworth led with outstanding clarity, creating cogent coherence and balance…The sound was rich and resplendent and Wigglesworth’s clarity created vivid engagement.’
Peter McCallum, Sydney Morning Herald; April 9th 2017
‘Mark Wigglesworth provided the ideal blend of precision in the complex opening exchange of themes and willingness to relax into the grand, swoony second subject. Channelling his inner romantic, he brought a bosom-heaving warmth to Rachmaninov’s repeated ritardandos and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra responded with singing strings, plangent woodwind and heroic brass – in short, a big Technicolor sound…Wigglesworth was adept, too, in bringing out the Tchaikovskian darkness in the more brooding sections, while ensuring that the more delicate orchestrational touches were given plenty of room to shine … The mercurial scherzo-cum-military march brought urgent, yet shapely phrasing, while one of the finest tam-tam thwacks I’ve heard in a long time revealed Wigglesworth to be a man unafraid to look encouragingly at the percussion.’
Clive Paget, Limelight Magazine; April 6th 2017
On ENO 2016
‘Mark Wigglesworth’s sadly curtailed music directorship of English National Opera at least produced some of the greatest performances the company has delivered since the “golden age” of Sir Charles Mackerras. His conducting of a revival of David Alden’s Jenufa, of a new production of Don Giovanni by Richard Jones and of a transfer of Lulu —an Amsterdam/New York collaboration with the South African artist William Kentridge —proclaimed his gifts as a visionary, evangelising music director of a theatre-led opera ensemble. It was an emphatic affirmation of the beleaguered ENO’s company principle. Wigglesworth will be sorely missed, by audiences as well as the company, and his brief tenure will come to be regarded as a second musical golden age.’
Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times
Berg’s Lulu with English National Opera
‘Mark Wigglesworth bids farewell to English National Opera, after a scintillating though despairingly brief tenure as its music director, with the most gorgeous account of this unflinching yet lushly variegated score. His musicians in the ENO Orchestra respond like lions as he digs deep into Berg’s musical language and finds beauty in its squalor, love in its dirt and transcendence in its sordid humanity. Wigglesworth responds to the indescribably rich music with insight and flawless empathy.’
Mark Valencia, WhatsOnStage; November 10th 2016
‘Has it ever sounded more grounded in its beauty, or more closely connected with the stage shenanigans, than it is here under Mark Wigglesworth, in what is – “tragically” might not be too strong a word – his last opera as ENO Music Director?…What we take for granted is the total music-theatre cohesion between voices and orchestra, which never failed us in the five previous productions Wigglesworth has conducted in his short-lived role…The clarity of Wigglesworth’s outlines leaves us spellbound by the power of musical reminiscence…If anyone can help you to grasp it, he can.’
David Nice, The Arts Desk; November 10th 2016
‘Wigglesworth spearheading a cogent and wonderfully lyrical performance by the orchestra, this is a tremendous company achievement.’
Barry Millington, The Standard; November 17th 2016
‘It is most sensitively and lovingly conducted by Mark Wigglesworth, who draws playing of echt Viennese creaminess from his orchestra, making it sound as good as any in London.’
Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph; November 10th 2016
‘ENO’s orchestra on superb form throughout, with Wigglesworth’s ear for intricate detail ensuring a consistently fascinating listen.’
George Hall, The Stage; November 10th 2016
Mozart’s Don Giovanni with English National Opera
‘(Mark Wigglesworth) gives us a taut, dramatic account of this great score. He has inspired the orchestra and singers to produce one of the most gripping ENO Mozart performances in living memory.’
Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times; October 9th 2016
‘Mark Wigglesworth, a conductor kissed by greatness.’
Mark Valencia, WhatsOnStage; October 3rd 2016
‘Mark Wigglesworth conducts with elegance, drama and warmth, making some unusual tempo choices – the slower than usual second half of Batti, Batti, for instance – that are always insightful.’
Tim Ashley, The Guardian; October 4th 2016
‘Pace-perfect musical articulation…he and the ENO Orchestra put no foot wrong.’
David Nice, The ArtsDesk; October 1st 2016
‘Conducted by Mark Wigglesworth with innate command of line, tempo and structure.’
Fiona Maddocks, The Observer; October 9th 2016
‘Immaculately balanced both internally and in relation to the stage, and full of subtlety as well as dramatic punch…With playing of this calibre, ENO’s musicians sound like the finest opera orchestra in the country. Tempo choices all worked perfectly too.’
George Hall, The Stage; October 3rd 2016
Tippett and Wagner at the BBC Proms
Wigglesworth proved flexible in tempi, supportive of the singers and moving things on for them if necessary but taking all the time in the world for what we had to imagine as the great embrace of father and daughter before Wotan puts Brünnhilde to sleep and surrounds her rock with fire. This was pure Goodall slow burn, the climax perfectly gauged just as that Wagnerian master knew how to achieve it.
Wigglesworth urged the magnificent forces of the BBC National Orchestra and (huge) Chorus of Wales to find meaning and urgency throughout. The textural clarity was astonishing The payoff was a lead-in to the final “Deep River” of supernatural beauty – which Wigglesworth managed to sustain until the breathtaking final cut-off (those choral rolls at “I want to cross over” will never be forgotten).
David Nice, The Arts Desk; July 25th 2016
Jenufa with English National Opera
‘Mark Wigglesworth is bringing his brief tenure as English National Opera’s music director to a close with a revival of David Alden’s 2006 production of Janáček’s Jenůfa, and what he offers is a deeply humane performance that serves as a reminder of what a loss to the company his departure may be. This is Janáček done slowly and lyrically, with the emphasis placed on the score’s dark poetry and depth of musical and psychological detail. The opera’s passion and compassion burn fiercely yet lingeringly: this is an interpretation that seeps under your skin rather than hits you in the solar plexus and is unquestionably all the more powerful for it.’
Tim Ashley, The Guardian; June 25th 2016
‘Wigglesworth has an extraordinary grasp of this score and the orchestra play their hearts out for him…Time and again one registers the characters’ conflicting emotions through the score’s very textures — cushions of strings shot through with lacerating woodwind or horns, for example. But what Wigglesworth also realises so successfully is the accumulating tension of the act, through to a chilling final curtain.’
Barry Millington, The London Standard; June 27th 2016
‘That it was the fourth unqualified triumph for Mark Wigglesworth this season suggests that ENO should, under happier circumstances, have been thinking of getting him and Alden to complete a Janáček cycle, not dropping the composer, however temporarily, from the rep. Conductor and director worked together back in 2010 on a Katya Kabanova so stunning in its impact that I went twice. I’d do the same for this.
The ever more amazing players of the ENO Orchestra under Wigglesworth capture the best of all possible worlds. There’s the sheer dewy beauty that brings them close to the rather soft-grained Czech Philharmonic sound in April’s concert Jenůfa; Wigglesworth makes infinite distinction between the quieter dynamics, summed up by his subtly escalating emphasis on the two heart-surging violin phrases launching the final scene. But there’s also the sheer, well-earthed power missing from that earlier performance, with curtains to all three acts as electrically charged as Mackerras used to make them.’
David Nice, The Arts Desk; June 24th 2016
‘Within this framework a clutch of remarkable performances unfold under the peerless baton of ENO’s outgoing music director Mark Wigglesworth. Wigglesworth and the ENO Orchestra wring sweat and blood out of the score, with poetic phrasing and magnificent playing from every section. Along with an impeccably cast company of secondary artists, the music ravishes the ears even as the tale rips the soul.’
Mark Valencia, WhatsOnStage; June 24th 2016
‘ENO’s chorus hurls itself into the drama with unquenchable energy, while under master accompanist Mark Wigglesworth’s impeccable baton the company’s orchestra plays Janacek’s thrilling score as if possessed.’
George Hall, The Stage; June 24th 2016
‘I cannot recall hearing a finer performance from the ENO Orchestra. Mark Wigglesworth’s conducting – he must be brought back as Music Director, with a settlement for the company to match – was the most intense I can recall in this work, perhaps in any Janáček opera. It grabbed one by the throat, just like the work of a great conductor in Wozzeck, and never relinquished its grip. It was not all fierceness, though; the open, sympathetic humanity of Janáček’s score shone through all the more warmly in the context of such an agón. The pounding repeated chords at the second half registered all the more strongly for the turmoil both onstage and in the world outside; but they were the orchestra’s and Wigglesworth’s too. Biting, ferocious, generative: they were everything a musico-dramatic prelude should and must be. As the lights flickered in duet with the xylophone, a world internal and external shook. Wagner has no monopoly in operatic renewal of Attic tragedy: this was a communal and, yes, a political rite.’
Mark Berry, Seen and Heard International; June 26th 2016
‘Mark Wigglesworth conducts an account of Janacek’s multifaceted score that is rich and nuanced, drifting seamlessly through the variegations of light and shade that colour the drama’s stark emotional landscape. I can hardly remember the ENO Orchestra sounding better; from the uneasy tonal shadings of the first act, to Janice Graham’s exquisite violin solos during the prelude and Jenůfa’s prayer and the abrupt bursts of opulence that explode in the finale, Janáček’s world is evoked with an electric current that is as exciting as it is masterfully executed. The understated delicacy of Wigglesworth’s approach makes Janáček’s abrupt gestures of sonic crescendo all the more impactful. It cannot but feel deeply sad that this marks Wigglesworth’s last production during his brief tenure as musical director of ENO. He may be going out on a high note, but the natural insight he brings to Janáček will certainly be missed.’
John de Wald, Opera Britannia; June 25th 2016
‘But what holds all this together, is the incandescent conducting of Mark Wigglesworth and the playing of the ENO orchestra, aided and abetted by the full-throated contributions from the ever-excellent ENO Chorus. That this short run of performances is his last as the company’s musical director is nothing short of criminal…His conducting is ideal, blending the febrile energy that the late Charles Mackerras brought to the Czech composer’s operas with a more unhurried, lyrical approach as favoured by the likes of Jiří Bělohlávek. The amount of detail he brought out in the orchestration was fascinating, and the orchestra played like lions for him.’
Keith McDonnell, MusicOMH; June 27th 2016
‘Mark Wigglesworth and the ENO Orchestra played out of their skins, not only extracting every ounce of beauty from the music but also every ounce of meaning.’
David Karlin, Backtrack, June 26th 2016
‘Mark Wigglesworth…gives an unbearably moving account of the score.’
Cara Chanteau, The Independent, June 27th 2016
The Magic Flute with English National Opera
‘Wigglesworth’s Mozart is sublime.’
Anna Picard, The Times; February 9th 2016
‘Superb conducting by Mark Wigglesworth…always sensitive to shifting colours and emotions, is also fluently paced to complement the action.’
Barry Millington, The Evening Standard; February 9th 2016
‘The compelling conducting of Mark Wigglesworth – who is now an artistic rock at the financially beleaguered ENO.’
Martin Kettle, The Guardian; February 8th 2016
‘But the real hero of the evening is the conductor Mark Wigglesworth. In a raised pit, he draws buoyant and shapely playing from the orchestra, bringing to the score a glowing beauty and warmth.’
Rupert Christiansen, The Daily Telegraph; February 6th 2016
‘But even this…is nothing to the heat coming off Wigglesworth’s orchestra. From the nervy, dangerously swift Overture to the final chorus, he keeps the pace up throughout, while still finding space for moments of musical contemplation all the more ecstatic for their rarity.
The raised orchestra makes for a more prominent instrumental balance, but while we gain colour and some gorgeous shading, Wigglesworth’s careful balancing ensures we lose little from the singers.
Mozart’s flute may enchant the most dastardly of villains, but its magic is as nothing to the sleight of hand that Mark Wigglesworth has performed with this glorious revival. Now we can only wait and hope that he can pull off the same trick with the ailing ENO itself.’
Alexandra Coghlan, The Arts Desk; February 6th 2016
‘The real star of the performance was Mark Wigglesworth who gave a sensational performance of the score. One of the traps of The Magic Flute is it can either sound too comic, at the expense of the greater gravity of the piece, or it is simply too grey and staid, neglecting the lightness of Mozart’s humour. Wigglesworth drew a perfect balance from his orchestra. Having already proven himself in Shostakovich and Verdi this season, his third success in Mozart demonstrated that ENO is fortunate to have him.’
Dominic Lowe, Bachtrack; February 6th 2016
‘a company achievement through Mark Wigglesworth’s incisive conducting and the superb playing of his orchestra…It also drove home the consummate musicality of the evening, all the vim and pleasure of Mozart’s mercurial score evoked by Mr. Wigglesworth, who showed himself a master of this repertoire. He brought out the very best in the ENO Orchestra, his fleet tempi moving the evening along with constant energy and momentum. He dove straight into the overture with scarcely any warning that the performance was about to begin; the orchestra responded with technically assured, dynamic playing that swept from the bounding overture to the sublime choral scene that closes the work.’
John de Wald, Opera Britannia; February 8th 2016
The Force of Destiny at English National Opera
‘Mark Wigglesworth, English National Opera’s new music director, has hit the ground sprinting. After his coruscating account of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in September, he now inspires incandescent playing and singing from the company’s orchestra and chorus in one of Verdi’s most problematic masterpieces, The Force of Destiny…It is worth catching, above all for Wigglesworth on galvanising form, his wonderful orchestra and chorus.’
Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times
‘And the last word on the music belongs to Mr. Wigglesworth, for whom it represents a second triumph in his new job, after a decisive opening of the season with Shostakovich’s “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.” His mastery of the score was total, and his leadership clearly inspiring from the way the orchestra and chorus played and sang. The opera has been through bad times during the past six months in terms of money, management and morale. But from a show as bold and confident as this, one would never know.’
Michael White, The New York Times
‘Once again the onus is on Mark Wigglesworth’s pit to elevate a production beyond its own limited reach. This ENO’s new music director does with his signature driving energy, carefully deploying Verdi’s brass to devastating effect, and supporting an outstanding cast of singers…As a musical showcase of what we can expect from a Wigglesworth Coliseum it’s another sign of exciting times ahead for the company.’
Alexandra Coghlan, The New Statesman
‘For the second time in his first season at ENO’s new Music Director Mark Wigglesworth shows why he was such a terrific appointment. This was Verdi conducting to recall the glory days of the Mark Elder era – as subtle and supple of rhythm and inflection as it was thunderous and impulsive.’
‘A thrilling Mark Wigglesworth electrifies his ENO Chorus and Orchestra in Verdi’s score.’
Mark Valencia, WhatsOnStage
‘Wigglesworth’s highly energised approach suits the unflinching directness of the staging – orchestrally and chorally the performance is high-class.’
Andrew Clements, The Guardian
‘It falls to Mark Wigglesworth, ENO’s new music director, to hold everything together. The climaxes from hell that he unleashes and the ENO Chorus’s highly charged singing are what really fire up the opera.’
Richard Fairman, The Financial Times
‘Mark Wigglesworth, in conjunction with his superb choral and orchestral forces, contributes hugely to the compulsive effect of the drama.’
Barry Millington, The Evening Standard
‘Conducted with lucid intensity by Mark Wigglesworth, with sterling orchestral playing in a score alive with instrumental solos.’
Fiona Maddocks, The Observer
‘I’ve seldom heard the ENO orchestra sound so thrilling: under Mark Wigglesworth’s inspired direction, it rose to all the challenges of this wonderful score.’
Michael Church, The Independent
‘Mark Wigglesworth’s richly energised and boldly colourful conducting, electrically taut in its dramatic thrust but also imbued with a dignity and nobility entirely absent on stage. From the first urgent bars of the overture to the final dying fall, the orchestra played gloriously.’
Rupert Christiansen, The Daily Telegraph
‘The conductor is Mark Wigglesworth, and the playing he draws from his orchestra is fantastic, if, for this piece, a bit over-refined…The many instrumental solos were among the evening’s most poignant moments, and balances were perfect.’
Michael Tanner, The Spectator
‘Musically the performance was outstanding. Mark Wigglesworth began his role as music director of ENO less than two months ago with a stunning performance of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and his interpretation of this Verdi opera is equally masterful…Wigglesworth conducts the orchestra with a perfect combination of authority and sensitivity, usually imposing his sublime musicality to draw the very best out of the orchestra, but at times apparently letting the singers control the pace. He seems able to strike the perfect balance between the singers and instrumentalists throughout.’
William Hartson, The Daily Express
‘The chorus and orchestra sound fabulous, the company’s new music director Mark Wigglesworth offering an interpretation that lives, breathes and is full of heart.’
Jessica Duchen, The Critics Circle
‘From the moment the orchestra launched into the wonderful Overture, it was clear that the players and Mark Wigglesworth were in total command of the music’s scope and momentum, and Wigglesworth never let the tension slip.’
Peter Reed, Classical Source
Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk at The London Coliseum
‘Wigglesworth demonstrated — triumphantly — that he means business and can galvanise ENO’s musical forces, its outstanding orchestra and chorus, as well as a large, mostly native cast, in Shostakovich’s 1934 shocker Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, to thrilling effect.’
Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times; October 4th 2015
‘Under the inspired direction of ENO’s new music director Mark Wigglesworth, and with an on-fire orchestra and chorus ferociously pumped up by extra brass bands, Lady Macbeth emerges as one of the 20th century’s greatest operatic scores.
In Wigglesworth’s hands, some of the most astonishing moments are the quietest: serpentine bass lines presaging impending disaster; unaccompanied flute signifying the bleak loneliness of the terminally despairing; an off-stage bass intoning a quintessential Russian lament. I could go on for pages. Just hear it.’
Richard Morrison, The Times; October 29th 2015
‘The dazzling brass fanfares, blasting their crazed fortissimos from either side of the orchestra pit, would be reason enough to rush to hear Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (1934) at English National Opera. The music blisters, bubbles, froths and caresses. The cast is effective, chorus robust, enlarged orchestra on peak form. Conducted by Mark Wigglesworth, making his debut as music director of ENO, Shostakovich’s masterpiece has rarely sounded better.
(Mark Wigglesworth) won the loudest cheers and, with his fine orchestra and chorus, stole the show. Wigglesworth understands Shostakovich. The Guardian described his recently completed recordings of the 15 symphonies as “one of the finest of recent times”. A fluent writer too, Wigglesworth has produced a series of sharp commentaries (see his website) on the composer.
Wigglesworth has called the opera “a cry for help – a plea for personal freedom”. On the first night, he brought out this quality of tenderness to searing effect. Amid the roar – this is a noisy work – the moments of quiet lyricism sang out powerfully.’
Fiona Maddocks, The Observer; October 4th 2015
‘Mark Wigglesworth’s arrival as English National Opera’s new Music Director was never going to be a quiet affair. They probably heard it all the way over at the Kremlin. It wasn’t so much a case of a new door opening as the existing one being kicked in. The choice of composer was shrewdly one he has a particular and very enduring kinship with and the brute of the piece in contention had already brought him conspicuous success at this very theatre: Shostakovich’s astonishing “shout out” against the stifling provincialism born of brutal and demeaning (and State sponsored) chauvanism – Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. He conducts it patiently, audaciously, and with wicked relish of its withering irony and cartoonish cynicism.
But equally there is aching tragedy and desolation and playing from the ENO orchestra that finds real beauty in the bleakness. It is a tremendous and angry tour de force and could hardly throw down the gauntlet for ENO’s future with more defiance.
An orchestrally stupendous evening.’
Edward Seckerson; October 1st 2015
‘The first UK production of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in its original version was one of English National Opera’s defining successes in the 1980s. Now the opera is back as the vehicle that will lead the company into a new era — an overpowering blockbuster, which leaves the audience shattered and, in the best sense of Greek catharsis, cleansed.
It made quite a first night in the new job for Mark Wigglesworth, ENO’s incoming music director. Shostakovich has long been one of Wigglesworth’s specialities and choosing the composer’s operatic masterpiece for his opening production was a canny move. From the knockabout comedy to the numbed playing in the emotional wasteland of the final act, Wigglesworth was fearless in driving the music to its every extreme. The interludes, pumped up with extra brass in the side boxes, fairly blew the roof off the Coliseum.
For Shostakovich, this was a performance of crushing musical power and plain emotional truths. For ENO, an auspicious new beginning.’
Richard Fairman, The Financial Times; September 29th 2015
‘It is Wigglesworth’s performance, and those he inspires from the company’s chorus, orchestra and soloists that are so memorable in the new show. He understands completely the musical world that Shostakovich had created for himself in the early 1930s, with its mix of expressionist dissonance and sardonic neoclassicism, its savage contrasts between rampant excess and yawning emptiness, and charges it with irresistible energy. Whether it’s in the monumental climaxes, with the brass bands weighing in from the boxes to either side of the Coliseum pit, or the brilliantly played gallops that give a manic brittleness to so much of the action, there’s a tremendous theatricality to the orchestral playing, which carries over into the wonderfully secure and vivid choral set pieces. Wigglesworth leaves no doubt as to just how extraordinary so much of the score is, and how seditious it, and the subject matter of the opera itself, must have seemed to Stalin and the Soviet hierarchy in 1936.’
Andrew Clements, The Guardian; September 28th 2015
‘But the evening’s outstanding feature is the absolutely magnificent chorus and orchestra – both of them currently vulnerable to draconian cuts to ENO’s budget. Incoming Music Director Mark Wigglesworth conducts them in a masterly interpretation marked by extreme contrasts between silken sensuous pianissimi and boilingly thunderous fortissimi. The playing is as good as anything in London.
… a musically powerful achievement of which the new régime can be proud.’
Rupert Christiansen, The Daily Telegraph; September 28th 2015
‘In like a lion roars ENO’s new music director with an account of Shostakovich’s opera that flays the soul. Mark Wigglesworth and his ENO Orchestra kick the ancien régime into touch with music making of such power and immediacy that it doesn’t just communicate, it excoriates.
…an expanded ENO Chorus in fine voice, helps turn Wigglesworth’s personal triumph into an unforgettable company achievement.’
Mark Valencia, What’s On Stage; October 1st 2015
‘The music quacks, hoots, pants and gasps”: whichever of his Pravda scribes Stalin commandeered to demolish Shostakovich’s “tragedy-satire” in January 1936, two years into its wildly successful stage history, didn’t mean that as a compliment, but it defines one extreme of the ENO Orchestra’s stupendous playing under its new Music Director Mark Wigglesworth. On the other hand there are also heartbreaking tenderness, terrifying whispers and aching sensuousness.
A conductor could go no further in eliciting from his players six pianos or five fortes, a noise so loud it set me on the brink of tears with sheer terror. Solos, from first violin down to contrabassoon, manage to sound unlike the instruments in question, which is a compliment. The extra brass in the boxes, one slight out-of-synch on the first night apart, are resplendently awful.’
David Nice, The Arts Desk; September 27th 2015
‘I am full of admiration for ENO’s programming that opened music director Mark Wigglesworth’s new regime with an opera that drew Stalin’s ire when it was first put on in 1934. Currently in ‘special measures’ this might also be ENO’s own comment on the interference of the state in art. Wigglesworth in the programme suggested as much when writing ‘Set in the nineteenth century, written in the twentieth, and performed in the twenty-first, Lady Macbeth allows us at English National Opera to argue the continued relevance of opera louder than ever.
I can never recall a finer orchestral performance at the London Coliseum and I go very far back as my readers may know. Mark Wigglesworth – who had previously conducted the opera there in 2001 – knew exactly what to accentuate in the music from the lowbrow grunts, moans and screams (Stalin wasn’t entirely wrong here), the operetta and marching band interruptions to the graphic Scene Three lovemaking and the torridly painful Act IV denouement. He was supported by an orchestra – including 12 extra brass in side-stage boxes – who were totally at one with him and on stunning form. That the orchestral sound occasionally overpowered the voices added to the impact music-making of this quality can achieve.’
Jim Pritchard, Seen and Heard; October 1st 2015
‘For Wigglesworth it’s a triumphant debut as music director of ENO.’
Barry Millington, The Standard; October 1st 2015
‘ENO’s new music director Mark Wigglesworth has conjured a triumph in the company’s staging of Shostakovich’s extreme opera.
Wigglesworth released a torrent of orchestral character and detail and, with brass bands filling the boxes either side of the stage, the volume at times was deafening and suitably terrifying. He’s well known as a Shostakovich conductor and he surpassed himself here, as did the Chorus.’
Peter Reed, Classical Source; October 1st 2015
Mahler and Tchaikovsky with the Sydney Symphony
‘Conductor Mark Wigglesworth and the Sydney Symphony’s superb accompaniments captured the (Mahler’s) vast expressive range and inventive orchestrations. Their subtly controlled dynamics, rhythmic acuity and shrewdly varied phrasing brought out the contrasting character of the songs….
(The Tchaikovsky) was simply superlative. Wigglesworth’s flexible control over tempos, rhythm and dynamics ensured transitions and sudden changes were seamlessly negotiated.’
Murray Black, The Australian; May 11th 2015
‘Wigglesworth’s feel for the romantic phrase was empathetic without being overindulgent. The Waltz of the Flowers was flexible, buoyant and intoxicating, with expressiveness that was persuasive but not pathological. As the great pas de deux blossomed with balanced fullness, one might have believed, for a moment, that no child would live in poverty again.’
Peter McCallum, Sydney Morning Herald; May 10th 2015
Mahler and Bruckner with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
‘Even to committed and unrepentant Bruckner-phobes, there is something special about the composer’s Fourth Symphony, the so-called Romantic; and I think I know what it is. It’s more taut than others in its construction. It doesn’t spread itself expansively and repetitively over 90 minutes or more. It says what it has to say in just over an hour. But it needs to be interpreted and performed in that way: it doesn’t just happen. A determined, long-distance Brucknerian can make it seem infinitely more spacious, monumental and eternal.
But that was not the approach of conductor Mark Wigglesworth in his big-boned, majestic but rather urgent performance of the Fourth Symphony with the BBC SSO on Thursday night. At every turn, and in all of its dimensions, from its big structures to its progressive phrasing, from its repetitions, which had a rare cumulative effect, to its overall sense of momentum, which had an equally rare, continuous sense of purposeful forward movement, this interpretation was a vision and a performance of the Fourth that was symphonic to the core: it was as electric and as dramatic as Beethoven. It didn’t feel like monolithic blocks of sound: it felt like sound in motion; it seethed in the sheer dynamic of its events, and it gripped from each of these to the next, building all the while, with the SSO performance blazing in detail, immediacy and intensity.
It was an unforgettable performance, preceded by a heart-stopping, equally memorable account of five of Mahler’s Knaben Wunderhorn songs, delivered by mezzo Alice Coote with purity and opulence, poignancy and passion.’
Michael Tumelty, The Herald; April 17th 2015
‘Most strikingly, (Mark Wigglesworth) has the ability properly to build a climax rather than to magic it out of nowhere, and this score gave him plenty of opportunities to do just that. Best of all, he did so with little fuss and no bluster; just a clean, direct vision for what the music should be doing, that was never merely businesslike. Nowhere was that finer than in the long coda of the finale, which seemed to grow and grow with just the right gradations of sound before climaxing in the great E flat summation that ends the work.
I also liked Wigglesworth’s sense of scale. That gave real magnificence to the Scherzo – no mere hunting horns, these – and a huge sense of breadth to the slow movement. The orchestra matched him every step of the way. The strings sounded admirably central-European in that slow movement: rich, chocolaty and mellow, with all the flow of an orchestra that knows this tradition well. They also conjured up a marvellously clean shimmer at the start of the first movement, and the brass sounded clipped and ringing so that the climaxes never carried any hint of aural fog, culminating in a thrilling unison fanfare at the end.’
Simon Thompson, Seen and Heard International; April 18th 2015
Mahler Das Lied von der Erde with The Minnesota Orchestra
‘The interpretation brimmed with drama, proving hypnotic, exhilarating and, ultimately, draining.’
Rob Hubbard, Pioneer Press; April 2015
The Dream of Gerontius with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales
‘Conductor Mark Wigglesworth furthered his credentials as a Wagnerian with his excellently mystic interpretation of Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius.
If there are stages in his career that in retrospect appear significant, 2014 may become another for Mark Wigglesworth. His credentials as an interpreter of Wagner were evident when he conducted the BBC National Orchestra of Wales playing Elgar’s First Symphony, influenced by the German, at this year’s Proms. So this performance of The Dream of Gerontius at St David’s Hall, with the same forces and with its debt to Parsifal, was eagerly anticipated. It did not disappoint.
From the opening prelude, Wigglesworth created the mystic aura that surrounds the dying Gerontius, his frailty and his doubts, as though dipping in and out of consciousness. In the process, Wigglesworth established the basis of a colour palette – almost Turneresque in its balance of clarity and haze, and implicitly connected to Elgar’s harmonic language – that he then deployed with masterly control over the whole span of the work. The misty sheen of the BBC NOW strings was notable throughout.
Tenor Peter Hoare appeared to have thought himself into the role of Gerontius, his stance drooping and vulnerable, yet he projected the words of Cardinal Newman’s poem with such precision as to wring out every scintilla of meaning and, even if occasionally under pressure against the loudest orchestral passages, he carried the lyrical expanses of Elgar’s phrasing with conviction. In the role of the Angel, contralto Anna Larsson, a vision in red and gold with voice blazing and burnished, eloquently reinforced the Wagnerian parallels, while Peter Rose was the authoritative bass as both the Priest and the Angel of the Agony.
The BBC National Chorus of Wales, joined by members of the Bristol Choral Society, could have been a bit more demonic, but as the angelic host, their massed choral weight ensured that Praise to the Holiest in the Height, was Elgar at his most glorious.’
Rian Evans, The Guardian; November 9th 2014
Wagner, Mathias, and Elgar at the BBC Proms
‘There are many big orchestral beasts still to appear in this Proms season, but when the summer’s highlights are recalled this superlative performance of Elgar’s First Symphony by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under Mark Wigglesworth will surely be near the top. It had everything.
Wigglesworth’s pacing was spot on. The first movement was expansive enough for Elgar’s profuse thickets of detail to be disclosed, yet never grandiose. The second movement was ferociously precise and pointed, the sublime adagio beautifully tranquil and the finale gradually more fervent until the big tune returned replete with what always reminds me of a 21-gun salute.
The orchestra rose fabulously to this epic challenge. The string sound in particular was rich and full in the loud bits and stunningly diaphanous during the hushed adagio ending. And Wigglesworth drew such lyrical playing for a work that can sound a little bombastic. His Wagner expertise certainly helped, but it was more about treating the symphony as a subtle personal document, not an Edwardian swagger.
Earlier, some real Wagner — though his early Das Liebesverbot overture sounds a lot more like a preposterously frothy French operetta entr’acte than Parsifal. Much more substance came in William Mathias’s Violin Concerto, receiving its London premiere 23 years, incredibly, after the Welshman wrote it. Mathias knew he was dying when he composed it, and there’s certainly an “old man in a hurry” feel to the urgent, Shostakovich-like passagework, the asymmetrical rhythms and eerily sparse orchestral textures.
Even in the fizzing and seemingly exuberant finale there are astringent double-stoppings that hint at darker thoughts — though the heart of the work is surely the slow movement, suggesting some ancestral Welsh folksong twisting in the wind. The soloist, Matthew Trusler, superbly incisive and sinuous, proved to be an ideal champion for a work that doesn’t deserve its long neglect.’
Richard Morrison, The Times; August 7th 2014
“A genuine discovery for everyone,” is how violinist Matthew Trusler describes William Mathias’s Violin Concerto, a work that for some years has languished in comparative obscurity. Written to a commission from the Hallé in Manchester, it was completed in 1991, shortly before Mathias’s untimely death from cancer, and dramatises an existential battle with mortality that opens with a long, weirdly unbalanced lyrical melody and closes with a defiantly aggressive rondo. In between comes a wild scherzo and a ritual lament, at times reminiscent of the slow movement of Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony.
It’s not a masterpiece: the first movement meanders, and there’s an awkward dip in pressure at the centre of the lament. But it was a tour de force for Trusler, who gave the concerto its long-delayed London premiere at the Proms, alongside the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, with Mark Wigglesworth conducting.
Trusler brought an organic ebb and flow to Mathias’s twisting melodies. His handling of the rondo and the work’s big cadenzas was thrillingly dexterous. The orchestration veers between opulence and abrasion: Wigglesworth did wonders with it. Both he and the BBCNOW are on tremendous form at present.
The concerto was flanked by Wagner’s overture to Das Liebesverbot, and Elgar’s First Symphony. Wagner’s early take on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure was written with an eye to international success, and the overture, glitteringly done, sounds like French camp until some portentous Rienzi-style fanfares remind us who wrote it. Elgar, meanwhile, claimed his First Symphony embodied “great charity (love) and hope in the future”. For Wigglesworth, conducting from memory, the symphony is something altogether more troubling – a work with deep turmoil at its core, in which both tranquillity and exaltation must be fought for and won. A powerhouse performance of great integrity, it was superbly played and often overwhelming in its impact.’
Tim Ashley, The Guardian; August 7th 2014
‘(Elgar’s) First Symphony can hold its head high alongside very different masterpieces from the early 1900s by Mahler and Sibelius – though it needs a lift and a shape, which it got in excelsis from the consummate Mark Wigglesworth.
Who knew, other than those who have gone abroad to see it, that Wagner’s second opera, Das Liebesverbot (The Ban on Love, transposing Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure from a nominal Vienna to a sensual Sicily), had such a classical-pops overture? A percussion tattoo kicks off a romp modest by the standards of the Tannhauser orgy to come, but great fun in the French opera-ballet style; Wigglesworth drove an ardent love theme through the thick of it. Already an improvement on the first opera, Die Feen, and a crowd-pleaser which could occasionally supplant the Rienzi Overture in the repertoire.
Yet we were all there, I hope, for the Elgar. Wigglesworth’s ardent sensibility brushed the pomp off the great motto theme, making it sound fresh but not rushed, guiding the conflicting angst with absolute certainty of purpose to its final climax and extinction, a shattering, extended apocalypse brilliantly capped by BBCNOW principal trumpet Philippe Schartz. The hurly-burly of the scherzo went at a hell-for-leather pace, with just enough room for the introspective water-music that delays its progress (again, good work from a principal, here flautist Matthew Featherstone). An if I’d missed the real introspection behind earlier pianissimos, and found a certain thickness in the BBCNOW string sound, the Adagio, surely the most tender- heartbreaking in the symphonic repertoire, Mahler included, made up for that.
There could be no better demonstration of Wigglesworth’s crystal-clear art than the way he shaped the opening reverie in one supple paragraph. The longer vision puts him right up there with the two other best British conductors we have, the still-learning Robin Ticciati and Jonathan Nott, doing sterling work in Bamberg and so not so familiar to us here (note the ones I don’t mention). Once the clarinet had signed off with infinite tenderness on the most inward slow-movement coda in the repertoire, we were off without a break – though rather too much coughing to mark the change – into the conflicted adventure of the finale, again winging its way to a fast, exultant triumph.’
David Nice, The Arts Desk; August 7th 2014
‘Unbuttoned lust and sensuality were in the air at the start of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales’s Prom last night. Wagner’s youthful opera Das Liebesverbot, written in the wake of a hedonistic holiday in Bohemia with an equally red-blooded male companion, was an unashamed espousal of the joys of physical love, free from hypocrisy.
Mark Wigglesworth set its overture going, all castanets and tambourines, like a whirling dervish and barely let up. Just occasionally, important detail and even the shape of a line were sacrificed to sheer energy, but one thing not lacking was testosterone.
William Mathias is perhaps better known for his church and organ music, which has a habit of reverting to a default mode of mechanistic note-spinning. There were passages of that in the Violin Concerto, which even the eloquent soloist Matthew Trusler was unable to disguise. But in the slow movement, with its modal harmonies and filigree arabesques, he was able to offer something more emotionally rewarding.
Wigglesworth’s highly original and deeply satisfying account of Elgar’s First Symphony was on another level altogether, however. Tempi were again brisk here but in the first movement used to generate drama and urgency. The Scherzo took things further, its ferocious intensity becoming positively demonic. If the Adagio was a haven of serenity, the finale gathered all the threads for a final assertion of confidence.
The symphony, completed in 1908, expressed “a massive hope in the future”, according to Elgar himself. Wigglesworth’s reading was all the more potent an assertion of humanistic optimism for being forged in the fires of conflict.’
Barry Millington, The London Evening Standard; August 14th 2014
Owen Wingrave at the Aldeburgh Festival
‘Wigglesworth conducts a pared-down but never thinner-sounding chamber version by David Matthews – who better, as one of Britten’s best disciples? – with unerring turns of the screw from the first stunning gamelanish tattoo of the prelude through to interludes of surprising if always eerie beauty.
The highlight of those, exquisitely played and paced, comes before the disastrous supper party at the Wingraves’ haunted house Paramore, and the denouement is almost blinding in its oddly cathartic magnesium flare. Wigglesworth’s Peter Grimes from Glyndebourne is the deepest I know on disc, Britten’s own Decca version included, and here he puts not a foot wrong. The young Britten-Pears Orchestra musicians, capped by a trumpeter playing a characteristically uncompromising, barbed part as fanfarer, are simply stupendous.’
David Nice, The Arts Desk; June 16th 2014
‘No quibbles about the production’s musical standards. The score is full of fractured fanfares, bitonal unease and eerie textures, and the excellent Britten-Pears Orchestra brings out all this aural neurosis in a precise, perfectly paced performance under Mark Wigglesworth…It’s great, too, to hear a cast enunciating English so clearly without surtitles: an encouraging sign of Wigglesworth’s priorities when he becomes music director at English National Opera.’
Richard Morrison, The Times, June 16th 2014
‘a thrilling musical performance by Mark Wigglesworth and a Britten-Pears Orchestra on top form.’
Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times; June 22nd 2014
‘Mark Wigglesworth impressed in the pit, leading members of the Britten-Pears Orchestra in a searing dramatic performance of David Matthew’s new chamber adaptation of Britten score. Britten’s distinctive musical palette is emphasised by Matthew’s 14-player reduction, the strident rhythms, dissonance and angularity powerfully articulating the claustrophobic oppression of the Wingraves’ militarism. Wigglesworth intelligently revealed the underlying musico-dramatic structure, created unceasing momentum and brought forth the musical details allowing the score to tell the tale; there was some wonderfully dynamic ensemble and solo playing.’
Claire Seymour, Seen and Heard International; June 17th 2014
Shostakovich with the Minnesota Orchestra
‘What the orchestra presented…was indeed a triumph. Under the direction of English conductor Mark Wigglesworth, the orchestra made Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony a fascinating confluence of conflicting emotions, something like a story that pulls you further and further in, then breaks your heart. It was the kind of performance that can leave you emotionally exhausted and deeply grateful for the experience…Wigglesworth and the orchestra took a piece that’s often described as enigmatic and confusing and made me feel as if I were looking into Shostakovich’s troubled soul, roiling with rage, resignation, sadness and a quiet indomitability.’
Rob Hubbard, Pioneer Press; March 13th 2014
Tippett and Wagner 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
‘Both wrote philosophically inclined operas, I know though you still wouldn’t automatically fit Wagner and Michael Tippett into the same basket. Trust the BBC Symphony Orchestra to programme a concert against the grain. Trust them too, along with the generously gifted conductor Mark Wigglesworth, to play Tippett and Wagner with equal heat and make the pair boon companions.
Both works in this concert took us on magical journeys. Tippett’s Triple Concerto, a product of the late 1970s, led us through day, night, and the next day’s dawn with music both curt and florid, laced with the radiant gongs of gamelan ensembles. With Wagner we travelled farther and faster, thanks to The Ring – An Orchestral Adventure, a 60 minute roller-coaster ride through the music theatre cycle usually experienced over four nights.
Concocted 20 years ago by the Dutch percussionist and arranger Henk de Vlieger, this skilful conflation of orchestral highlights certainly contained the night’s biggest, most tumultuous sounds. Yet Tippett’s world still lingered even as the Valkyries roared and we sat scorched by the magic fire. Centred on a unison lyrical effusion from the soloists, the concerto’s slow movement spread the most obvious magic, though in every corner of the music’s mosaic the Leopold String Trio gave us the two essential Tippett ingredients: soul and spunk.
Wigglesworth’s contribution was just as crucial, maintaining lucid interplay between soloist and orchestra, tying together stretches that can sometimes seem full of loose ends.
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
‘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
‘There must have been not a few among the audience who recalled Mark Wigglesworth’s brief but eventful association with the BBC Symphony during the early 1990s, which resulted in a number of enterprising programmes. His appearance with this orchestra after the best part of two decades was a timely one, and confirmed that the conductor had lost none of his interpretative insight or ability to tease-out the most subtle nuance. These attributes were deployed to advantage in a coupling that additionally launched the BBCSO’s season-long exploration of the symphonic works by Sir Michael Tippett.
The first half bought a welcome revival of Tippett’s Triple Concerto…Wigglesworth proved a well-nigh ideal accompanist – never driving the music too hard, while making sure to characterise the brief but strategically placed interludes and confirming that the slow movement – the soloists as one over a luminous texture of tuned percussion – is among the sure highpoints in all of Tippett. This was a welcome and successful revival.
No less welcome (or successful) was the Wagner…Even in such a reduced version, this music remains a tall order for any orchestra and the BBCSO responded with playing that conveyed both the visceral impact yet also the delicacy and finesse of Wagner’s writing in fullest measure…For his part, Mark Wigglesworth – whose experience in the opera house is no less extensive than in the concert hall – drew a lustre and responsiveness from the players that evinced no mean rapport. Hopefully he will be back with this orchestra before long.’
Richard Whitehouse, ClassicalSource; October 2012
Paul Driver, The Sunday Times; October 28th 2012
A seamless orchestral arrangement, the piece rides a rollercoaster course of grandiose emotion, full of peaks and troughs rather than following an overall arc. But Wigglesworth did not allow it to feel shapeless; he seemed in his element, bringing out the sensitivities and richness of the score to produce an energetic yet warm, golden sound that characterises the BBC SO at its best. Throw in some capable solo turns from several brass players and this was, like the Tippett before, a thoroughly satisfying and invigorating performance.’
Katy S Austin, BachTrack; October 22nd 2012
Daphnis et Chloé with the Minnesota Orchestra
“Mark Wigglesworth, the Minnesota Orchestra and the Minnesota Chorale gave such an evocative, richly textured interpretation of the ballet’s score that it felt like the most passionate argument for Ravel’s greatness that could possibly be made. This was a performance of grand magnitude without grandiosity, a sweeping showcase for not only this orchestra, but for the composer’s gift for sculpting sound.”
Rob Hubbard, St Paul Pioneer Press; April 27th 2012
Tippett and Ravel with The New World Symphony
“The New World Symphony’s audience — formally dressed inside and wearing T-shirts and shorts outside for the Wallcast — enjoyed a first-class evening of music at the “Dance of Devotion” program Saturday night. Mark Wigglesworth displayed prodigious musicality as the English conductor led the orchestra through Michael Tippett’s demanding Ritual Dances, and Maurice Ravel’s epic ballet Daphnis et Chloë…Wigglesworth displayed a powerful, expansive conducting style matched by a fine sense of pacing and dynamics that brought out the best in the musicians…[He] used all of his prodigious skills at tempo, balancing and dynamics to separate and define each of Tippett’s musical lines…Wigglesworth’s experience as both an orchestral and an opera conductor have refined a dramatic, musical sense of pacing that made for a captivating performance…the New World’s compelling performance left nothing wanting.”
Dorothy Hindman, Miami Herald; February 1st 2012
Mahler Symphony No. 2 with the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra
“The musical direction is all important in a piece such as this, and English maestro Mark Wigglesworth’s lead could hardly be faulted. His conducting was clear-cut, exacting and meticulous; sharply bringing out the nuances, and obtaining an ethereal lightness from the outstanding Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo in the second movement. Wigglesworth’s performance surpassed itself in portraying a power beyond the reach of ordinary mortals, when the brass section – located in part off stage, as per the composer’s instructions – rang out with the terrors of the last judgement and the tremors of the apocalypse.”
Musicologie.Org; December 2011
“Conductor Mark Wigglesworth launched into the battle with the sincere and fitting commitment so characteristic of his work. It was quickly apparent how thoroughly he had thought through this lush piece, and how he had taken care to avoid the trap of extreme expressionism in order to give the piece a timeless quality. From the very beginning, we were caught up in the exhilarating tempo, the captivating narrative, and the musical landscape, spread out before of us like a powerful river.
The Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo once again reached levels of perfection, and resounded with exceptional magnificence. We were dazzled by the blend of the strings, the clarity of the brass, and the sharpness of the attacks and the nuances. Galvanised by such an approach, every desk tried to outdo the others in musical excellence. This second symphony was deeply moving, and the performance was a success in every way, quite simply because Wigglesworth’s dedication and enthusiasm were infectious, and we felt the fire in every line of this spiritual and inhuman score. This was the work of a goldsmith, skilfully negotiating every decibel. (…)
The apocalyptic final movement is one long journey from darkness to light. The conductor’s diabolical tempi pushed the musicians and singers to their limits. The result was an incomparable richness of sound which infused the electrified orchestra and impassioned chorus with radiance. The inspired Berlin Radio Choirs reached a state of musical perfection and faultless ensemble in this final movement. The two soloists were able to deploy their extended vocal lines with a magnificent sense of phrasing and an internalisation which brought out the very heart of the music. The audience greeted this unforgettable performance with a tremendous standing ovation, and the soloists, musicians, chorus and public all shared in the enthusiasm.”
Podcastjournal.Net; December 2011
Lutoslawski and Dvorak with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra
“The Sydney Symphony’s cogent reading of Lutoslawski’s Fourth Symphony under conductor Mark Wigglesworth highlighted the depth of this achievement, building an imposing and carefully structured edifice that keeps reinventing itself from a few unifying ideas, without having recourse to repetition or the stuff of convention.
Dvorak’s Symphony From the New World was notable for its focus and structural strength. Wigglesworth maintained continuity and a comely balance of lyricism and power, sustaining the tempo’s freshness and lapsing neither into excessive languor in the slow movement nor bombast in the last.”
Peter McCallum, Sydney Morning Herald, October 14th 2011
Benjamin Britten with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Proms
“Apart from Britten himself, the central figure of the evening was Mark Wigglesworth…proving once again what a very special conductor he is. His exposition and shaping of the three diverse Britten pieces was extremely fine, starting with the quiet unfolding of the restrained Cantata Misericordium, written for the centenary of the Red Cross, with a Latin text based on the Good Samaritan story. The much earlier Sinfonia da Requiem was no less effective, though in a wholly different way, all tension and drive, appropriate to a work from a less settled part of Britten’s evolution…Wigglesworth’s culminating achievement, though, was his compelling grasp of Britten’s problematic Spring Symphony…Britten’s symphony needs to be heard live to be convincing, preferably in a venue such as the Albert Hall, and Wigglesworth supplied a control, conviction and coherence that surpassed any previous rendering of the piece in my experience.”
Martin Kettle, The Guardian, August 15th 2011
“This performance by the BBC Symphony Orchestra was conducted with conviction and insight by Mark Wigglesworth and his superb crafting of the complex and at times problematic architecture of these works revealed the composer’s control of symphonic form and mastery of instrumental colour…Wigglesworth handled the continuous form, with its clearly delineated sections, with great skill, subtly controlling the rhythmic tensions which establish a forward-moving pulse. He fashioned a coherent narrative which moved from the tightly-controlled motivic statements of the instrumental introduction (drawing beautifully tender playing from the solo string quartet), to a more expansive close, the rich concordant harmonies of the full orchestra suggesting relaxation and reconciliation…Wigglesworth revealed a similar appreciation of form in the Sinfonia da Requiem…The three movements — Lacrymosa, Dies Irae and Requiem Aeternam — cohered seamlessly. After a thunderous opening, the Lacrymosa moved eerily and relentlessly, erupting in an energized scherzo — a frenzied ‘dance of death’ — which, seeming to have exhausted itself, in turn was replaced with the more subdued calm of the final movement…But, it was in the Spring Symphony that Wigglesworth demonstrated even greater insight, successfully creating a logical whole from the various parts of Britten’s multi-movement score.”
Claire Seymour, Opera Today, August 19th 2011
Mahler Symphony No.7 with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
“In a most satisfying interpretation that, for once, actually exposed the score’s sinews, conductor Mark Wigglesworth brought out substantial passages of immaculate ensemble from his executants, who showed a collaborative stamina that rarely faltered, even in most of those exhausting recapitualtions and detours during the rondo-finale…What marks this reading off…is the finesse of the group contributions, from the urgent muted string passages in the opening pages to the full-blooded Elgar-reminiscent rambunctiousness of the last movement…Wigglesworth presents the symphony’s five segments with an honest coherence, eschewing the role of conductor-as-hero, setting tempi with conviction and bringing out details from the work’s most vigorous moments of ferment that cast new lights – and shadows – onto this under-rated vast canvass.”
Clive O’Connell, The Age, March 2011
Wagner Parsifal at English National Opera
“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
Wagner and Haydn with the Minnesota Orchestra
“By turns voluptuous, frenzied, passionate and glowing…this week’s Minnesota Orchestra program is vividly led by guest conductor Mark Wigglesworth…From the meticulously balanced opening bars, Wigglesworth’s touch was sure; frenzied sections were propulsive, languorous passages glowed. [In Haydn symphony No. 90] Wigglesworth was in his element; the band played with articulate gusto.”
Larry Fuchsberg, Minneapolis Star Tribune, May 2010
“Haydn is slice of dessert in Wigglesworth feast…Joseph Haydn seldom gets to be the headliner at classical concerts, with his symphonies most often batting leadoff. The Minnesota Orchestra turns that convention on its head this weekend, but so substantial are the Richard Wagner and Johannes Brahms works that precede it that the Haydn seemed more dessert than main course Thursday morning. It was a tasty feast, nonetheless.
Guest conductor Mark Wigglesworth has developed a strong repartee with the orchestra over the past 15 seasons, as demonstrated during the opening music from Wagner’s opera, “Tannhauser.” The orchestra’s strings sounded smooth and rich as sweet cream, the woodwinds both stormy and soothing.
You expect a bit of friendly one-upmanship in a double concerto like the Brahms, but an enjoyable rivalry emerged unexpectedly in Haydn’s 90th Symphony. Wigglesworth encouraged principal flutist Adam Kuenzel and his oboist counterpart, Basil Reeve, to leap at chances to embellish their solos with ornamentation. Hence, they locked horns like a couple of jazz musicians trading four-bar phrases, spearheading an enjoyable interpretation with a light and lively touch.”
Rob Hubbard, St Paul Pioneer Press, May 2010
Brahms and Haydn with the Cincinnati Symphony
“Part of the success (of the Brahms Double Concerto) had to do with the collaboration by the orchestra. Wigglesworth made an excellent partner, leading with weight and warmth, and knowing exactly when to pull back to allow the soloists to shine.
Wigglesworth concluded the program with Haydn’s Symphony No. 90… Leading without a score, the conductor projected energy and musicality, and the musicians responded with playing that was precise as well as warmly phrased. The finale was scintillating.”
Janelle Gelfand, The Cincinnati Enquirer April 2010
Rachmaninov Symphony No.2 with The Indianapolis Symphony
“An advocate of the uncut version…Wigglesworth reveled in every minute of it. He drew from the orchestra a performance of irresistible sweep and heart-tugging passion…The comfort level between podium and orchestra was exhilaratingly high. Perhaps the most uncanny sign of this was the way Wigglesworth and the ISO relaxed into the outburst that opens the finale. An off-to-the-races approach is the norm, but this performance allowed the tension to gather naturally, and the relief afforded by the lyrical second theme wasn’t overindulged. The oddly shadowed exuberance of the work was consistently displayed.”
Jay Harvey, The Indy Star, April 2010
Janáček Katya Kabanova at English National Opera
“The production’s triumph is primarily musical, however. Mark Wigglesworth … proves a worthy successor to Mackerras in this repertoire. Indeed, I don’t recall playing as beautiful and powerful as this in Janacek’s score before. Wigglesworth emphasises Janacek’s lyricism — the prelude representing the Volga, the heart-stopping music announcing Katya’s first appearance, the ecstatic climax as Boris and Katya meet for the last time — without sacrificing its rhythmic pungency and dramatic momentum. It’s a theatrical bonus that the 100-minute opera proceeds without a break. Wigglesworth, Alden and Racette rack up the tension to the last. This is another memorable Janacek night at the Colly.”
Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times, March 2010
“But the protagonist of the evening is the ENO orchestra attending to every facet of Janacek’s painfully beautiful and brutal score. Mark Wigglesworth conducts it magnificently, with passion and a quiet understanding, where silences become prophecies and a solo string bass line can unlock all the sorrows in the world in Katya’s final moments.”
Edward Seckerson, The Independent, March 2010
“Mark Wigglesworth unfolds the aching rapture of the score with consummate authority. In their final meeting, Boris and Katya reels perilously along the banks of the Volga and a sense of being on the brink is miraculously conveyed too in Wigglesworth’s reading. His conducting and Alden’s direction make for a powerful conjunction of drama and music, constantly engaging the emotions, frequently lacerating.”
Barry Millington, The Evening Standard, March 2010
“The remainder of the cast is quite exceptionally good and Mark Wigglesworth’s conducting is even better than that. I can’t think when I last heard ENO’s orchestra play with such sumptuous richness of texture, with rhythms kept electrifyingly tense and the pacing perfectly judged. Wigglesworth may be a hard taskmaster, but golly, does he get results.”
Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph, March 2010
“The music is stunningly delivered – and often beautifully delineated – by the ENO Orchestra under Mark Wigglesworth’s direction. It’s all over in 100 minutes with no interval. But I’m still shuddering from the impact.”
Richard Morrison, The Times, March 2010
“Everything about this performance is first rate – from Mark Wigglesworth’s beautifully detailed and expansive conducting, through Alfie Boe’s Kudriash, Anna Grevelius’s “Varvara and Clive Bayley’s Dikoy to the leading roles, with Racette and Skelton counterpointed with Susan Bickley’s Kabanicha, as monstrous of character as of coiffeur”
Andrew Clements, The Guardian, March 2010
“Three cheers for Mark Wigglesworth: he captured the score’s combination of romantic lushness, Modernist angularity and folk heritage. Throughout the evening the pit did its bit brilliantly, with special praise due to the string section, whose rich execution of Wigglesworth’s lyrical leadership made the Act One music soar.”
Russ McDonald, Opera Magazine, May 2010
“It’s amazing how much you can tell of what lies ahead from the way a conductor handles a master composer’s first chord. Katya Kabanova’s opening sigh of muted violas and cellos underpinned by double basses should tell us that the Volga into which the self-persecuted heroine will eventually throw herself is a river, real or metaphorical, of infinite breadth and depth. And that was exactly what Mark Wigglesworth conjured from the ENO strings in a performance more alert to the value of every note and colour in Janacek’s lightening-flash score than any I’ve heard.
The hushed tenderness of the ENO’s Orchestra’s phrasing under Wigglesworth is almost too painful to bear here. Either side of it as single clarinet note seems to come from the depths of Katya’s tormented spirit and an oboe wails an unearthly threnody over her drowned body. Janacek who insisted upon the expressive significance of every tone from voices and instruments, would surely have approved. And Wigglesworth understands the unbearable tension of silence. What is unsung or unplayed is as vital as what we see.”
David Nice, The Arts Desk, March 2010
“Fabulous orchestral playing under Mark Wigglesworth’s strong baton.”
John Allison, The Sunday Telegraph, March 2010
“But throughout this evening’s final performance, the extremes of the score as devotedly rendered by the ENO Orchestra under Mark Wigglesworth’s electrifying baton, from the tenderest pianissimos to the most scary-exultant lovesurges, registered even more viscerally…I’ve never heard Janacek more searchingly conducted, and that includes by Mackerras.”
David Nice, March 2010
“Mark Wigglesworth conducts a thrilling orchestral performance, with acute attention to detail.”
George Hall, The Stage, March 2010
“Mark Wigglesworth’s interpretation throbs with all the passion, joy and pain Janacek could have hoped for.”
Warwick Thompson, Metro, March 2010
“From the opening bars, where muted lower strings tenderly evoke Katya’s purity of spirit and the frailty of her hopes, as well as the dark depth of the river which will claim both, Mark Wigglesworth draw from his orchestra playing of exceptional clarity and rhythmic vitality. The layered textures of Janačék’s driving motifs were expertly constructed, each melodic pattern contributing to the meaning of the whole. Wigglesworth effectively built up the tension in Act 3, confidently controlling both the rhythmic onslaught and the silences, as the drama lurched to its bitter conclusion.”
Claire Seymour, Opera Today, March 2010
“The orchestral performance…supplemented by a top-flight cast made it a fantastic musical event.”
Robert Thicknesse, Opera Now, April 2010
Berg, Ravel, Strauss
with The New World Symphony
“[Wigglesworth] drew gorgeous string textures from the eager young players and provided a soaring wave of orchestral luminescence beneath Brueggergosman’s vocal velvet…Wigglesworth emphasized instrumental transparency and magical impressionistic colours in a luminous reading of Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite. The conductor found the perfect sound for each movement [ …] Wigglesworth’s lucid conducting produced an enchanted performance of a masterpiece taken too easily for granted…Wigglesworth commanded the lilt and orchestral shimmer of Strauss’ Suite from Der Rosenkavalier. The Viennese waltzes danced in felicitous syncopation. […] The Presentation of the Rose music glowed in lush, captivating sounds.”
Lawrence Budmen, Music & Vision, December 2009
Britten Peter Grimes for Opera Australia at The Sydney Opera House
“Conductor Mark Wigglesworth and the orchestra’s swift tempos, razor-sharp attack and incisive rhythmic bite propel the music forward with urgent momentum and irresistible energy. By contrast, their piquant sonorities and sensitive phrasing achieve aching poignancy in passages of contemplative lyricism.”
Murray Black, The Australian, October 2009
“Wigglesworth leads a compelling reading of Britten’s unsettling score, navigating its many layers with precision and an ear for its poetry. He strikes a robust balance between pit and stage, supporting his singers while remaining unafraid to raise the orchestra’s own voice as forcefully as required.”
Sarah Noble, The Opera Critic, October 2009
“Wigglesworth led the company through an outstanding performance of Britten’s score, varying tempos and moods appropriately to reflect the beauty and power of nature as well as the dramatic tensions, gentle tenderness and rollicking humour of human relationships.”
David Rice, Classicalsource.com, October 2009
Debussy, Rachmaninov and Shostakovich with The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
“Mark Wigglesworth declared his control and confidence in his players from the start by taking the Debussy at a very modest pace, making the most of the teasing hesitations with which the piece abounds…Pianist [Alexander Melnikov] and conductor were at one in shaping a gripping performance [of Rachmaninov’s Piano concerto no. 2] without a hint of the cloying sentimentality that can be just under the surface. …
Power of a different kind made for a superb account of the Shostakovich. That Wigglesworth knows the work intimately showed not only in his brilliant performance, but also in his brilliantly written programme note. The 10th Symphony is so personal to the composer that insights of such depth as we heard in this performance brought a new dimension into my experience of it. Again, Wigglesworth chose a tempo for the first movement that left room for its relentless, large-scale build-up, and the orchestra players responded. The unrestrained anger that is the second movement hammered home its message, but was devoid of self-indulgence. There was no mistaking the two melodic fragments that are the building blocks of the third movement. Again, the conductor’s for the work as a whole ensured that they were sensitively and sensibly placed. This and the finale confirmed this concert as one of the most powerful I have heard form the NZ Symphony Orchestra.”
David Sell, The Press, July 2009
“Precision is not the full deal in the Shostakovich Tenth Symphony, though it surely helps. No, the success of this performance was due to the vision and execution of conductor Mark Wigglesworth. He enjoys a huge reputation in Shostakovich’s music. He galvanised his players to produce playing that moved from the sensitive to the sensational; from the superb playing of individual players, to a riveting intensity in climaxes. Never have I heard the “Stalin” scherzo played with such trenchant bite, nor have I heard such superb balances between all sections, including the percussion, as here.
The concert opened superbly, with Debussy’s Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune.
From the off, with the marvellous poise of Bridget Douglas’ flute, we heard playing of wonderful, languorous, refinement, culminating in some sumptuously glowing playing from the strings.”
John Button, The Dominion Post, August 2009
“If there was humour in Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony on Saturday then it had a manic tinge to it; any wayward circus spirits in its fiery second movement were distributing sawdust liberally laced with acid. Wigglesworth’s insightful programme note suggested he had thought long and hard about this work, and few conductors could equal his first movement in its balance of the stoic sorrow and repressed anger.”
William Dart, New Zealand Herald, July 2009
“From the exquisitely manicured opening flute solo, through the ebb and flow of various themes to shimmering string tremolos at the cora, Wigglesworth’s interpretation [of Debussy’s Prelude l’apres-midi d’un faune] was one of tranquil lyricism and unconditional beauty”
Elizabeth Bouman, Otago Daily Times, July 2009
“Conductor Mark Wigglesworth is a master interpreter. It was clear from the start of Shostakovich’s Symphony No 10. The NZSO showed cohesion, the winds and brass were tight, and the percussion was perfectly integrated into the mix. The strings had depth and bite from the merest pianissimos to the raw climaxes. This is a bitter symphony and the ferocious attack of the strings in the “Stalin” scherzo was riveting. Wigglesworth is an acknowledged Shostakovich expert, and conducting without a score, he gave us the best performance of a Shostakovich symphony we are ever likely to hear.
The concert had opened with a languid performance of Debussy’s Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune. Bridget Douglas’ gorgeous flute playing set the scene, with shimmering string textures to follow. The atmosphere of the piece was perfectly caught with the NZSO’s usual characterful winds.”
Capital Times, August 2009
“Passion and extraordinary power was gloriously revealed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra…a riveting performance ranging from serene beauty to drama and aching melancholy. Under the baton of Mark Wigglesworth, the NSZO was absolutely magnificent mastering the complex and emotional [Shostakovich] with aplomb.”
Brenda Harwood, Dunedin Star, July 2009
Wagner and Chopin with The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
“Wigglesworth, Lang Lang: a hit at 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.
Also, Lang Lang played the piano.
No, that’s merely a mean joke. In truth, Lang’s performance of Chopin’s First Piano Concerto, part of his weeklong residency under the Symphony’s auspices, was a perfectly delightful affair, full of wit, tenderness and simplicity. On any normal night at the Symphony, this would have been the high point of the evening.
But Thursday wasn’t a normal night. Guest conductor Mark Wigglesworth made sure of that. During the first half of the program, before Lang took the stage, 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.
There was no way to have seen this coming, really. Wigglesworth, a young Englishman with various minor posts around Europe, has led the Symphony a few times before – often in the music of Shostakovich – and generally acquitted himself well. But nothing in his past appearances gave any hint of the kind of sorcery he worked in these Wagner selections. 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…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. Let’s hope that David Gockley, or one of his trusted minions, was listening.”
Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, December 2008
Debussy Pelleas et Melisande at the Theatre Royal de la Monnaie
“The final scene was particularly delicately played by La Monnaie orchestra under Mark Wigglesworth…He controlled the pacing and the texture of the score with a sure hand.”
John McCann, Opera Magazine, December 2008
“Mark Wigglesworth’s account…made me listen anew to this fascinating piece: a remarkable achievement.”
Marcel Croes, The Bulletin, November 2008
“Mark Wigglesworth conducts with great clarity. Beautifully done.”
Lucas Huybrechts, Knack, September 2008
“Mark Wigglesworth conducted the score not as a mixture of sounds but more as a complete unit of provocative colours. It fitted beautifully with the images on the stage.”
Peter van der Lind, Trouw, September 2008
“Mark Wigglesworth gave a passionate…performance…Far from the usual mistiness, Wigglesworth brought out the Wagnerian inheritance of the score, and even gave it flashes of realism.”
Nicolas Blanmont, La Libre, September 2009
“At the head of a fantastically refined orchestra, the greatly analytical Mark Wigglesworth threw a subtle light on Debussy’s harmonic writing, underlining its Wagnerian inheritance.”
Bruno Peters, Crescendo, October 2008
“This was a fine orchestral performance under the baton of Mark Wigglesworth, restoring the score’s impalpable character.”
Jean Lucas, Luxemburger Wort, September 2008
“Mark Wigglesworth’s orchestra accompanied the tragic course and strange destiny of the encounter of two people’s solitude with a luminous transparency, daring to reveal all the facets of the drama. He did this with an instrumental acuteness which underscored the Wagnerian dimension of a performance which was never heavy, neither in bombasticism nor in its misty decay. This was both a strong and a tender performance, which dared to clothe Debussy in a modernity that thoroughly suited him.”
Serge Martin, Le Soir, September 2008
Mahler Symphony No.9 with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra
“One of Wigglesworth’s strengths is that he brings his own thoughtful ideas to the podium, along with a meticulous streak that gives his performances a polished sheen…You couldn’t doubt the conductor’s intelligent musicianship and sincerity…Wigglesworth and the DSO essayed the third movement rondo-burleske with fierce dynamism and a sweeping virtuosity that captured the heart of Mahler’s defiant sound world…The extended closing adagio morphed from hymnlike melody and organ sonorities to patient disintegration. Melodies faltered. Harmonies wandered. Rhythms stuttered. Textures splintered. Wigglesworth and the DSO’s control paid big dividends here; the symphony expired with resigned grace and ghostly acceptance.”
Mark Stryker, Detroit Free Press, May 2008
Berg Wozzeck at the Theatre Royal de la Monnaie
“Simplicity is the essence of [director David] Freeman’s approach, allowing Berg’s emotionally scarifying score to carry the real dramatic power, which, aided by superb playing from the Monnaie orchestra, Wigglesworth realises unflinchingly.”
Andrew Clements, The Guardian, March 2008
“The continuity of the action was also due to the musical preparation of Mark Wigglesworth, underlining the chamber music elements of the score. Every accent, every instrumental colour, every stylistic reference corresponded to a moment in the drama, creating an astonishing parallelism between the orchestra pit and the stage. After too many overexposed interpretations of the piece, Alban Berg’s opera needed this liberating return to the score itself. The opera’s profound dramatic continuity was revealed once again.”
Serge Martin, Le Soir, February 2008
“Muscially, the performance was no less enjoyable. Under the leadership of Mark Wigglesworth, the orchestra allowed its full palette of colours to burst out, from diaphanous transparence to explosive torrents, through shades of darkness.”
Nicolas Blanmont, La Libre, March 2008
“Conductor Mark Wigglesworth drove the orchestra to the highest level of expression, such that one almost felt harassed. The music didn’t leave a single element of the eccentricity and ridiculousness of the characters untouched.”
Christoph Schmitz, dradio.de, February 2008
“Mark Wigglesworth gave an almost post-romantic interpretation of the score, alternating lyricism and paroxysm, with a rich variety of colour and astonishing crescendi, at the head of a completely unleashed orchestra.”
Jean Lucas, Luxemburger Wort, March 2008
“This work (…) requires an intuitive feel for the dramatic rhythm with which Berg underpins the score and a powerful weighing up of its building blocks. Wigglesworth achieves both without ever drawing attention to the fact – which is, of course, exactly what Berg wanted.”
Stephan Moens, De Morgen, February 2008
“Mark Wigglesworth’s conducting packs a huge theatrical punch, combining raw energy and emotion.”
Marcel Croes, The Bulletin, March 2008
“Above all, we have Mark Wigglesworth to thank for such a deeply engaged performance. Brussels can be proud of the constant orchestral quality…Mark Wigglesworth leads Berg’s score with fiery enthusiasm, savouring the jewels and symphonic qualities to the absolute limit. [He] turns the shattering Passacaglia into a triumphant Funeral Cortege, a screaming, gaping, blood bath of sound.”
Dirk Altenare, Der Neue Merker, March 2008
Mozart Mitridate at the Theatre Royal de la Monnaie
“His deep understanding of singing, his command of breathing and his subtle dynamic changes worked miracles. British conductor Mark Wigglesworth conducts with a strong sense of the dramatic.”
Richard Martet, Opera Magazine, December 2007
“This Belgian ‘Mitridate’ does everything right.… An absorbing, bright and amusing production … And Mark Wigglesworth conducted the opera orchestra in a lively and gripping manner yet when needed, like here, with light veiled transparency.”
Christoph Schmitz, Deutschlandfunk, October 2007
“Excitingly produced and superbly sung, meant the performance was a huge success. Wigglesworth gave the Mozart score beautiful sounding contours. Above all the pianissimi were of unbelievable shading.”
Hans Reul, BRF Aktuell & Klassikzeit, October 2007
“The conducting of the Briton Mark Wigglesworth …really enabled the early work of Mozart to blossom. The style of the conductor has character, is elegant, dynamic and clever – everything that is missing from the stage.”
M. Fiedler, Das Opernglas, October 2007
“His melodic imagination and gift to musically depict fragile characters is already all too obvious. Mark Wigglesworth intensifies this with tight and now and again wild tempi and dynamic extremes.”
Stefan Keim, Die Welt, October 2007
“Conductor Mark Wigglesworth led a highly spirited performance.”
Michael Davidson, Opera Canada, October 2007
“The musical and vocal performance under the baton of Mark Wigglesworth is outstanding, full of much variation and searching contrast.”
Kasper Jansen, NCR Handelsblad, October 2007
“The main item of interest in Mitridate, is the unbelievable musical element of the production. In the pit one finds a wonderful orchestra with fabulous soloists. The horn solo was, for example, a joy to hear. The conductor, Mark Wigglesworth, always chose the perfect tempo to move and maintain the motion of the story.”
Lucas Huybrechts, Knack, October 2007
“In the pit Mark Wigglesworth proves himself, beyond doubt, a born Mozart conductor. He handles a broom as easily as an artist’s brush, changing with ease from angry drama to immeasurable tenderness”
Thiemo Wind, De Telegraaf, October 2007
Schönberg Gurrelieder at the Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels
“A sumptuous performance of Schoenberg’s all too rarely heard Gurrelieder, triumphantly conducted by Mark Wigglesworth with an astonishing mixture of passion and power; fluidity and intensity. Mark Wigglesworth set the musicians and the house choirs alight.”
Serge Martin, Le Soir, September 2007
“But the lion’s share of the credit for this exceptional evening goes to Wigglesworth, who conducted with assurance and elegance, displaying a perfect mastery of the score and a clear, fluid beat.”
Patrice Lieberman, The Bulletin, September 2007
“As for the conductor, he passed his trial by fire with flying colours. This extraordinary evening met with ecstatic applause from the audience.”
Jean Lucas, Luxemburger Wort, September 2007
“Mark Wigglesworth…revealed this intimate tenderness with a true master’s hand. It was brilliant how this conductor…was able to maintain control; never allowing himself to be teased away to let the balance slip from his hands, but patiently allowing the explosion of sound to envelop him.”
Peter van der Lint, Trouw, September 2007
Mark Wigglesworth…kept relaxed control…with beautifully painted scenes of nature receiving as much space and beauty as the enormous explosions of sound.
Thiemo Wind, De Telegraaf, September 2007
Elgar Enigma Variations at the Aspen Music Festival, Colorado
“In Sunday’s Aspen Festival Orchestra concert, 43-year-old English conductor Mark Wigglesworth led a magnificent account of Elgar’s Enigma Variations. Time after time, he chose an ideal tempo, urged just the right amount of thrust, knew when to ease back and when to goose the musicians into lively interjections. The orchestra’s playing reached toward the highest level.”
Harvey Steiman, Musicweb-International, July 2007
Webern and Tchaikovsky with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra
“Wigglesworth led a finely etched performance [of Webern’s Im Sommerwind], pregnant with feeling…Tchaikovksy’s Symphony No. 6 found Wigglesworth in risk-taking mode, creating a frenzied excitement with stormy contrasts in the opening movement and a relentlessly swift and manic third movement march that almost suggested Shostakovich. The DSO was in fine form, dark and expressive, and if the music was loose around the edges, its tragedy spoke with the urgency of a dynamo.”
Mark Stryker, Detroit Free Press, March 2007