New World Symphony Orchestra / Stravinsky, Wagner
“Wigglesworth drew a performance of rich color and drama from the orchestra. The music symbolizing Isolde’s desire for Tristan had a delirious, almost out-of-control feeling. The great climactic moments, such as the foreshadowing in the Prelude and Isolde’s Liebestod, weren’t just loud—any conductor can accomplish that. Wigglesworth built them with such skill that just when you thought the intensity had peaked and couldn’t go any higher, he would pull back on the tempo and draw even more power from the orchestra.”
South Florida Classical Review, December 2013
Recording: Brahms Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 2 / Mozarteumorchester Salzburg / Stephen Hough (Hyperion)
“Mark Wigglesworth leads the Mozarteum Orchestra of Salzburg in a trajectory that, from the timpani thunderclap punctuating the pedal-point surge that launches the D minor Concerto, enacts the relentless unfolding of an implacable tragedy. This is undoubtedly young Brahms, but without a trace of reticence or ambivalence. Towering, angular chords have edges that could slice stone and the strings’ high-register trills shriek in recoiling alarm. .. through the accretion of another two dozen instances of close reading, intelligent contrasts and eloquent rhetoric, do Hough, Wigglesworth and the Salzburgers construct a towering edifice, conjuring waves of power and tapping veins of poetry from the depths of this perhaps least guarded of Brahms’s creations…
Significant credit is due to Wigglesworth, whose close attention to balances [in Concerto No.2] render the orchestral choirs luminous, and whose wonderfully coaxing, elastic beat never becomes ponderous… There’s nothing to argue with in either the conception of execution of these stimulating, heartfelt performances.”
International Record Review, December 2013
“Mark Wigglesworth scrupulously prepared his musicians, and their medium-weight sound offersthe best of both worlds: chamber intimacy if needed, but also clear textures whenever the notes thicken… both concertos are marvels of the repertory and Hough and the Mozarteum players polish their wonders anew.”
Times, November 2013
Recording: Shostakovich Symphony No. 11 / Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra (BIS)
“I've always been impressed with British conductor Mark Wigglesworth... I've heard some mighty broadcasts of performances with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam and he shows the same strengths in his distinguished series of all of the Shostakovich symphonies recorded for BIS with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic. This new issue of the powerful Symphony No. 11 is among the finest you will ever hear, and the intense reading and superlative playing by the Dutch orchestra are captured with remarkable fidelity by the BIS engineers… Those who love this symphony surely should investigate this new version with Wigglesworth.”
Classical CD Review, November 2012
BBC Symphony Orchestra / Tippett &Wagner
“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. That he and the BBC Symphony Orchestra burned their symphonic way through Dutch percussionist Henk de Vlieger’s audacious, unbroken “orchestral adventure” turned this from an odd-looking programme on paper into a great one in practice.
Wigglesworth 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.
Liberation from the pit helped make Wagner’s selective orchestral genius visible. Throughout, stage spotlights on the strings made you appreciate just how much he asks of every desk… It was tempting to spring up and proffer the missing soprano lines for her [Brünnhilde’s] immolation, but once she’d leapt into the flames, Wigglesworth did not disappoint in pacing the final cataclysm and unfurling the last great theme 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, by which stage there may be a production worth looking at too.”
The Arts Desk, October 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.”
The Guardian, October 2012
“You 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 rollercoaster ride through the music theatre cycle usually experienced over four nights …
Wigglesworth’s contribution was just as crucial [as that of the Leopold Trio], maintaining lucid interplay between soloists and orchestra, tying together stretches that can sometimes seem full of loose ends ...
The conductor’s skills at pacing and shaping played a key role in keeping de Vlieger’s breathless “musical adventure” plausible 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.”
The Times, October 2012
“Moving for me, too, was the journey through The Ring, particularly since it came soon after I lived through the real thing at Covent Garden. Listening to this tumultuous survey of the high points of the four dramas… put me in mind of Homer’s Odysseus, weeping to hear his own epic exploits recounted by the minstrel. The Ring is almost more intense alluded to than directly encountered, but this uninterrupted, wholly liberated, fantastically vivid discourse also suggested the new kind of (giant) symphony that Wagner was planning to write near the end of his life, but never did… And in this account it was utterly compelling.”
Paul Driver, The Sunday Times, October 2012
“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… He seemed to judge each Wagnerian moment perfectly whether it was playful, threatening, heroic, funereal or rapturous.”
Seen and Heard International, Oct 2012
“Mark Wigglesworth and the BBC SO demonstrated a real flair for and affinity with Wagner's music. So much so, that one could imagine them doing a better job in the pit than some of the more established, and complacent, opera house orchestras. Wigglesworth conjured up a murky Rhine at the start, swelling up into the Rhine Maiden's glorious celebration of life and love. The Magic Fire music crackled and dazzled, while the Forest Murmurs section impressionistic in its subtlety.”
Music OMH, October 2012
Recording: Shostakovich Symphonies Nos. 1-3 / Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra (BIS)
“Wigglesworth’s Shostakovich is deeply satisfying, shedding new light on works we think we know so well…
Firing up the Wigglesworth I was immediately struck by the more equivocal nature of his reading... the real thrill is that Wigglesworth digs so much deeper than most, and sometimes it’s as if we’re hearing this music anew. It’s a defining characteristic of his other recordings in the series and augurs well for the rest…
I’ve rarely heard this symphonic edifice built so carefully, brick by brick, but the effect is utterly compelling. The stereo spread in the BIS recording is very convincing and individual instruments are easy to locate in the soundstage; it certainly has the finest, most throat-grabbing sound of all… that’s Wigglesworth’s way; he really does know how to balance out the banalities in Shostakovich and get the mood of this music just right...
There’s just so much to engage with – and marvel at – in these performances that I must do the same here. The artistic and sonic virtues of this new recording simply blaze forth. It’s a triumph for all concerned and proof, if it were needed, that Wigglesworth’s almost complete Shostakovich cycle is one of the finest – and most consistently satisfying – in the catalogue. Onward the 15th!”
Music Web International, April 2012
“From the perspective of how Shostakovich’s career was to develop, all three [symphonies] offer a fascinating array of might-have-beens, hinting at stylistic directions that were contemplated, but never followed up… Wigglesworth and the Netherlands Radio Orchestra do a fine job in clarifying the tangled textures, and in making their choral finales seems a bit more than just propagandist doggerel”.
The Guardian, June 2012
“Shostakovich’s quirky First Symphony was written as his graduation piece and remains a remarkable achievement for someone who completed its orchestration only two months short of his 19th birthday. Even so, I don’t recall being gripped quite as much by this work as in this present recording by Mark Wigglesworth and his Netherlands forces. Their relish in the Symphony’s vibrant kaleidoscope of characters and colours, all caught in a fine recording, hold your attention – even throughout the passages that sounds less inspired in other hands. Wigglesworth and his musicians are alive to every inflection.”
BBC Music Magazine, five stars, October 2012
Minnesota Orchestra / Ravel & Berkeley
“Conductor Mark Wigglesworth, the Minnesota Orchestra and the Minnesota Chorale gave such an evocative, richly textured interpretation of the ballet's [Ravel Daphnis and Chloe] 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.”
St Paul Pioneer Press, May 2012
Recording: Arcadia Lost (Melba Recordings)
Sydney Symphony Orchestra / Vaughan Williams The Lark Ascending, Flos Campi & On Wenlock Edge; Britten Sinfonia da Requiem
“This is an exquisitely musical and splendidly atmospheric disc… I have had occasion to praise Mark Wigglesworth previously in these pages for his outstanding recording of the Mahler 10th Symphony, which I believe was only issued as a BBC Music Magazine disc, but which is my all-time favorite performance of that work. This is yet further proof that he is an exceptionally special talent.
Indeed, I would place these performances of The Lark Ascending and FlosCampi as far and away the most exquisite, deeply felt, I would even say spiritual performances of these works I’ve ever heard.Wigglesworth draws such extraordinary playing out of the Sydney Symphony that one is left speechless in trying to describe its effect…
There are many reasons Arcadia Lost is wonderful, but the major factor is Mark Wigglesworth’s brilliant conducting. I first heard him a few seasons ago in performances of The Marriage of Figaro at the Metropolitan Opera. From the first measures of the overture I realized that this was something out of the ordinary… The style is very profound, and the musical heart of the matter brilliantly illumined from beginning to end. The Sydney Symphony Orchestra has had Beecham and Klemperer on its podium, but I hope they know that Mark Wigglesworth is in every way their peer of these two patriarchs… Wigglesworth is an authentic voice in an inauthentic time, and he makes Sydney one of the prominent music centers of the world.”
Fanfare, November 2012
“Under the inspired, profound and rigorous direction of English conductor Mark Wigglesworth the works presented in this recording recapture a level of emotion too often masked by a disconcertingly academic approach.” Opus Haute Définition
, Opus d’or: Featured CD of the Month, February 2012
“Mark Wigglesworth's account of the Britten is a slow burner; he resists the temptation to turn it into a virtuoso showpiece for the fine Sydney orchestra from the start, but steadily ratchets up the intensity through the first movement and scherzo, leaving the finale to resolve its tensions.”
Guardian, February 2012
“Wigglesworth paces proceedings to a finessed nicety, drawing out every ounce of rapt languor and tender intimacy from RVW’s yearningly sensuous paean to earthly love”.
The Classical Review (US), February 2012
“Wigglesworth is an excellent conductor who brings out the best qualities of the compositions. He simply has the right feel for the music.”
Audiophile Audition, February 2012
“Mark Wigglesworth… occupies a status that ranks them high in the world of music. Wigglesworth is particularly highly regarded for his conducting of English music in general and of Ralph Vaughan Williams in particular… and brings sumptuous sound from the orchestra, as he does in Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem.”
Pittwater Life, December 2011
Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo / Mahler
“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 ...
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.”
Podcastjournal.net, December 2011
Sydney Symphony Orchestra / Lutoslawski, Mozart & Dvorak
“Mark Wigglesworth conducted with familiarity and ease, creating masterfully the scattered structure and subtle colours of the symphony. The orchestra produced magnificent fresh textures... under Mark Wigglesworth the orchestra surpassed expectations with refreshing phrasing and dynamics.”
Australian Stage Online, October 2011
BBC Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Proms / Britten
“Apart from Britten himself, the central figure of the evening was Mark Wigglesworth, deputising for an indisposed Jiri Belohlavek, and proving once again what a very special conductor he is. Wigglesworth's exposition and shaping of the three diverse Britten pieces was extremely fine ... 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 … Wigglesworth supplied a control, conviction and coherence that surpassed any previous rendering of the piece in my experience.”
The Guardian, August 2011
“[Sinfonia da Requiem] was the concert’s highlight, in part because of the tight control exerted over the BBC Symphony Orchestra by the conductor Mark Wigglesworth (stepping in for Jiri Belohlavek). How carefully he graded its dynamics in the opening bars, with winds wriggling like earth worms through the lower strings’ anguished tread. Tension built inexorably, further raised in the central movement’s brittle fury, sharply garnished with tutti shrieks and the dry bones of the rattling xylophone (superbly played). Then came the finale’s slow retreat, with a consoling hand offered and wounds licked: very moving.”
The Times, August 2011
“Mark Wigglesworth confidently located the music’s Mahlerian pulse [in the Sinfonia da Requiem
] and maintained an edgy, eloquent reading that avoided overstatement and let the notes speak for themselves as they built towards their grand climax. The ensuing ‘Dies irae’ burned its trail with lightning speed, Wigglesworth testing the BBCSO brass to the limit with the force of its fiendish chromaticism. His grip never relented until the music’s rage gave way to the lyrical finality of the closing movement ...”Classicalsource.com
, August 2011
“The combined BBC Symphony, Chorus and Singers under Mark Wigglesworth delivered a performance that grasped not only the casual brilliance of Benjamin Britten’s virtuoso writing, but also the rather more timid sincerity of his politically and emotionally charged music…
A testament to his pacifist beliefs, Britten’s [Sinfonia da Requiem
] struggles against itself – the central dance of death with its flutter-tongued sirens and hellish whirrings seems forever in danger of becoming seduced by its own rhythmic urges. Wigglesworth held his forces in check, never quite surrendering to the macabre glee Britten glances toward but ultimately rejects.
The precision of colour (both musical and emotional) that the BBCSO brought to the Sinfonia relaxed into the garden party that is the Spring Symphony. …
As skilful a finale as any Britten achieved, Beaumont and Fletcher’s sweeping vision of London here brought the evening to a vivid and apt close, a joyful release to the tension so carefully fostered by orchestra and singers in the first half.
This may have been one of the Proms’ Choral Sundays concerts, but the argument put forward so eloquently by Wigglesworth and the BBCSO was that even when writing wordlessly for orchestra, Britten was equally capable of articulating his convictions and dramatising his concerns.”The Arts Desk
, August 2011
"The BBC Symphony Orchestra gave a powerful, no-holds-barred performance of the Sinfonia da Requiem
under the baton of Mark Wigglesworth."Financial Times
, August 2011
“Most satisfying of all in the concert, however, had been the Sinfonia da Requiem
… This was a spell-binding performance, and was a timely reminder of just how excellent a conductor Wigglesworth is – if anyone had been missing Jiri Belohlavek on the podium, this surely would have dismissed those longings.”MusicOMH.com
, August 2011
English National Opera / Wagner Parsifal
“I find it almost impossible to believe that Mark Wigglesworth has never conducted Parsifal before - in this revival of Nikolaus Lehnhoff’s 1999 production, 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, occupied only by Reginald Goodall and Mark Elder, the name of Mark Wigglesworth must now be added.”
The Telegraph, 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.”
The Times, February 2011
“Mark Wigglesworth and the ENO orchestra, magnificent throughout the evening, now achieve a truly rarefied beauty, strings whispering a barely audible benediction before the solo oboe announces the new dawn.”
The Independent, February 2011
“The accomplished British conductor Mark Wigglesworth, in his first performance of “Parsifal,” drew warm, plush and sensitive playing from the orchestra”
New York Times, February 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.”
Financial Times, February 2011
Recording: Britten Peter Grimes
Glyndebourne / London Philharmonic Orchestra / Glyndebourne Chorus
“This is the greatest conducting and playing – LPO on top form – of Britten’s first operatic masterpiece I’ve ever heard, by quite some way (including both the composer’s own focused Decca interpretation and Edward Gardner;s recent account at English National Opera). It’s agile, fleet and sharp in the choral ensembles – no doubt helped by a relatively slimline ensemble of top young voices – and searingly weighty in the interludes: the crucial central Passacaglia catches fire and blazes … this is an ideal presentation of a masterpiece at its unrelenting best”.
BBC Music Magazine, December 2010
“Mark Wigglesworth’s conducting has remarkable moments: the various threads and textures in the scene at the Boar are clearer and easier to follow that I’ve ever heard; the slashing of the strings goes straight to the heart in the recitative moments before ‘We shall be there with him’. There’s a jollity to the early moments of Act 3 and a mania to the build-ups to the grand hunt-for-Grimes scenes that really catch fire, and he pays attention to Britten’s bass lines, always an undercurrent of evil. The London Philharmonic and Glyndebourne forces play and sing with accuracy and focus to all of Britten’s mood changes. The penultimate scene of the opera is as frightening as it should be.”
International Record Review, November 2010
“Under Mark Wigglesworth’s assiduous baton, there’s scarcely a moment where ensemble is less than flawless, while the rough splendour of the LPO’s playing highlights the intermittent expressionism of the piece through an intense concern with orchestral sonority. The storm carries a thrilling electrical charge.”
Opera Magazine, January 2011
Minnesota Orchestra / Wagner & Brahms
“From the meticulously balanced opening bars, Wigglesworth's touch was sure; frenzied sections were propulsive, languorous passages glowed. …
As late Haydn symphonies go, No. 90 is obscure. Yet it offers abundant formal felicities, captivating solo turns for flute and oboe and, in the finale, a musical joke worthy of PDQ Bach…Wigglesworth was in his element; the band played with articulate gusto”
Star Tribune, May 2010
English National Opera / Janacek Katya Kabanova
"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, 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
"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 Art's Desk, March 2010
Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra / Shostakovich Symphony No. 11 (BIS)
“Mark Wigglesworth's attention to detail is apparent from the first movement. The music seems to stand still as Wigglesworth stakes everything on the most important element: the instrumentation. He doesn't hurry his way through the movement, but waits until every detail emerges out of the haze of the strings. This has a most unusual effect. On the one hand, the performance seems almost too slow and sluggish; on the other hand it is perhaps precisely this lethargic, pale coolness (demonstrated to perfection in the trumpet's reveille) that is the essence of this piece. It could quite appropriately be compared to a menacing military march.
The same applies to the rest of the recording: the tempo is on the whole slow, giving space to every phrase and every tonal nuance. The subtly planned corollary is that the fast sections of movements 2 and 4 are performed at a tempo just quick enough that none of the lines become blurred. The orchestra's virtuosity is apparent in the extreme precision and excitement of the playing. (...) The performance of the whole symphony is eloquent in its narrative, and coherent in its expression.”
klassik.com, April 2010
“… This could be the most important Shostakovich cycle of recent times. […]
[Wigglesworth] takes a broader, more purposeful view of these scores than most, uncovering a wealth of hidden detail and sonorities along the way. This wouldn’t count for much if the results weren’t so compelling. For instance, I was quite sure the gaunt 8th wouldn’t survive Wigglesworth’s measured pace, only to discover that those great climaxes sound all the more powerful for being so doggedly pursued. In particular, the 12th which, like the 11th, is often considered a Cinderella symphony, emerges as a far better work than I had first imagined. Indeed, if anyone can be said to have rehabilitated that neglected work it must be Mark Wigglesworth.
So, how does the 11th fare? As with all iconoclasts - and I’d say that’s a fair description of this conductor - first reactions are likely to be mixed. His tempi and phrasing in the first movement, ‘In the Palace Square’, are very deliberate indeed - just listen to those dark opening chords - yet the music retains a surprising degree of tension. […]
The second movement, ‘The Ninth of January’, is similarly low-key to begin with, but Wigglesworth soon ratchets up the tension, restless brass baying above insistent drums. And despite the work’s obvious programme, Wigglesworth focuses more on the subtleties and nuances of the score, all of which are projected with striking clarity and implacable logic. That may translate into ‘too cool and detached’ for some, but aided and abetted by a warm, detailed recording Wigglesworth and his Dutch forces can be as ferocious as any when required. […]
After that heat and turmoil Shostakovich strikes a note of utter desolation, the music leached of all warmth and drained of all momentum. Wigglesworth captures that chill as few others have done, ushering in the third movement, ‘In memoriam’, with the softest string playing imaginable. Indeed, the ear-pricking realism of this disc is a perfect complement to the conductor’s passion for detail; many of those barely audible string passages - a distant keening, perhaps - are often lost on less analytical recordings. Just as impressive is the amplitude and weight of the pounding theme that emerges at 7:57, less gritty than some yet no less powerful for that. And listen out for the spectral figure that flickers into life at 10:15; it may be short-lived, but in Wigglesworth’s hands it takes on a frisson all of its own.
The last movement, ‘The Tocsin’, is apt to sound rhetorical at best and bombastic at worst, and it’s a measure of Wigglesworth’s skill that he manages to avoid both pitfalls. There’s plenty of thrust here, the playing as keenly focused as ever. […] But it’s that juggernaut of a finale that draws together all the strengths of Wigglesworth’s vision, combining raw power with a remarkable degree of refinement, yet without sacrificing momentum or excitement.
And that’s the nub of it; Wigglesworth’s musical judgment is impeccable, the results invariably illuminating. Yes, the young pretender Vasily Petrenko’s recent recording of the 11th might offer more ‘bang for your buck’, but if you want a deeply satisfying performance of this symphony - and an unrivalled recording - then Wigglesworth’s is the one for you.”
Recording of the Month
musicweb-international.com, March 2010
New World Symphony / Berg, Ravel & Strauss
“[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, op. 59. The Viennese waltzes danced in felicitous syncopation. […] The Presentation of the Rose music glowed in lush, captivating sounds.”
Music & Vision, December 2009
Opera Australia / Britten Peter Grimes
“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.”
The Australian, 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.
[…] this is a superb production, both musically and dramatically, and the first-night audience enthusiastically applauded both the performers and the production team.”
classicalsource.com, 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."
The Opera Critic, October 2009
“The result of so much perfection is that the evening is satisfying in every way. Wearing a blindfold one could simply enjoy the wonderful orchestra and orchestration […]
It is difficult to think of anything to complain about in this production, except the fact that only six performances will be given in Sydney.”
Timeout Sydney, October 2009
Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra / Shostakovich Symphony No. 4 (BIS)
“This is one of those symphonies, like Mahler’s Seventh, which demands so much orchestral preparation that you rarely hear a less than compelling interpretation. Recently we’ve had top-notch discs from Gergiev, Jansons, Barshai and Haitink. For me, Wigglesworth’s latest instalment in his long-term Shostakovich cycle goes even deeper […] Climaxes here are comparably weighty, but there’s a clarity and an expressive care throughout which inform even those first-movement passages where Shostakovich seems suspended in a pale kind of purgatory.
Everything is humanised, so that the conflict of the Finale is a whirlwind battle rather than a grinding mechanism, and even the circus ditties before the final storm have a charm as well as nuance. The end is as mesmerising as it can be, raising parallels with the fading heartbeat of Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique. Is Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony an equal masterpiece? Mark Wigglesworth and his Dutch players persuade me that it is.”
BBC Music Magazine, Music Choice, five stars, October 2009
“Wigglesworth has the requisite dramatic sweep and staying power for this unusual, large piece; he leaves room for the ambivalent traits, and for the alternation between classical and modern, between rigid and free form. He has a feel for the upturns and the downturns, for the sometimes violent contrasts, for the surprises and for the grotesque and sarcastic elements of the score.
The Netherlands Radio Philharmonie play with precision, flexibility, virtuosity, excitement, and rich contrast. […] The transparency of the playing is perfect; not a single detail is lost.”
Klassik Heute, September 2009
“Mark Wigglesworth and the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic […] deliver a performance of the Fourth that makes a terrific impact, not merely at the weighty climaxes but also in the way that Shostakovich’s material is executed with a sharp ear for detail while at the same time forging appreciable – even if audacious – architectural shape.
Wigglesworth’s long view of where the symphony is heading is a crucial component of this interpretation, but it also embraces a kaleidoscopic variety of character, be it the icy funeral march at the start of the finale, the passages of stirring brilliance in Shostakovich’s orchestral writing, or those moments where the composer seems to be retreating into his own contemplative thoughts. The emotional force is intense."
The Telegraph, July 2009
"Mark Wigglesworth […] has a very real and admirable ability to emphasize detail and rhythmic precision without sacrificing the necessary power. […] the very clarity of texture means that the music loses very little in the way of excitement, and it gains a melodic interest you might never suspect that it has.”
Classicstoday.com, June 2009
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra / Debussy, Rachmaninov & Shostakovich
“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.”
New Zealand Herald, 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.”
Capital Times, August 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.”
The Dominion Post, August 2009
San Francisco Symphony Orchestra / Wagner & Chopin
“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. […] 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. […]
Wigglesworth led the orchestra through orchestral excerpts from Wagner's "Tannhäuser" and "Die Meistersinger." The results were heart-stopping, transfixing, almost beyond praise; they created the sort of quasi-religious enchantment that Wagner envisioned at his most grandiose, but that performances of his music provide all too rarely. […]
The magic was twofold. One aspect was the remarkable interpretive assurance that Wigglesworth brought to the music, particularly the way he paced Wagner's musical paragraphs with a combination of expansiveness and rhythmic momentum. The other was the almost unparalleled quality of playing he got from the orchestra. […]
In the end, though, this was Wigglesworth's night. As the "Meistersinger" Prelude came to an end, I felt a sudden pang of disappointment that the entire opera was not coming next..”
San Francisco Chronicle, December 2008
Detroit Symphony Orchestra / Brahms & Wagner
“Friday’s concert was gripping in its focus and execution. Wigglesworth brought a clear-eyed expressiveness to the ‘Overture’ and ‘Venusberg Music’ from Tanhäuser, balancing muscle and delicacy and striking a flowing tempo that pushed ahead while still taking in the expansive vistas.”
Detroit Free Press, December 2008
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra / Mahler Symphony No. 6 (ABC Classics)
“I came to this disk with open ears and a lot of expectations. Let me say right away that I was not disappointed. […]
Mark Wigglesworth … is a great conductor. The power, insight and intelligence he shows in shaping this performance, and bringing it to fruition, proves it. […] This is, without doubt, another Recording of the Month.”
Music Web International, March 2008