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Simon Rattle and the LSO unearth Beethoven's only oratorio, and it could hardly be bettered / FINANCIAL TIMES

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A year or two ago people must have been scratching their heads at orchestras around the world trying to think of a novel and interesting way to mark Beethoven's 250th anniversary. A complete cycle of the symphonies will have been pencilled in (the Barbican is offering two, of radically different kinds), but where to go from there?

It might seem that there are no little-known works of any size by Beethoven left, but Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra set out to prove otherwise. Their choice fell on a performance of his only oratorio, Christus am Ölberge.

What Rattle made clear is that the music is full of life. It is hard to imagine this performance being bettered. Pavol Breslik combined suppleness and strength of utterance for the tortured music of Jesus, like Fidelio in the darkness of his dungeon. Elsa Dreisig sang with brightness and purity as the seraph, hitting gleaming top notes as if she was auditioning for Mozart's Queen of the Night. David Soar was the sturdy bass Peter and the London Symphony Chorus, not hugely taxed, was at its best.  PHOTO: Mark Allan

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