As you would imagine, with star Sir Mark Elder gracing King’s Chapel with his presence, this concert was packed. Conducting the Berlin Phil. and working with the Bayreuth Festival are just two of his many accomplishments. An extremely talented conductor, the audience were not disappointed by his interpretation of the works of these two composers.

Whilst not religious works, both Debussy’s cantata La Damoiselle Élue, and the third act from Wagner’s Parsifal use religious imagery, and so the grandiose setting of King’s Chapel could not have been more apt. One might think the pairing of these two composers unusual, given Debussy’s hatred of his fellow composer, and the vast differences in their compositional styles. However, the two carefully chosen pieces perfectly complemented each other to create an evening of breathtaking music-making.

The first thing the audience heard was the magical string opening which managed to be both still and warm at the same time, allowing Debussy’s colourful harmonies to shimmer throughout the chapel, and the female-voice choir matched this sound perfectly. Whilst I was impressed by both Joan Rodgers and Victoria Simmons, the two soloists, I must admit that there were moments where I thought that Simmonds’s vibrato became a little overbearing.

The Wagner began with an immediate intensity that grew to immense proportions with especially beautiful playing from the lower strings. Each of the three male characters, Parsifal, Gurnemanz and Amfortas were ably sung by Simon O’Neill, Robert Lloyd and Robert Hayward; each added an admirable depth of emotion to their characters that was easily perceivable despite the lack of the staging and movement that would be present had it been an actual staging of the opera.

The moment of the Knights’ entry was well executed, with the choir marching solemnly through the rude screen to take the stage whilst singing, as Amfortas ominously strode down the aisle. This was all to the accompaniment of truly awesome brass and immense bells that created real drama, eventually giving way to the magical, yearning ending in which a solo flute takes centre stage.

This talented orchestra was brought to even higher levels by the great Mark Elder; they sounded perfectly polished and professional, making the evening a great experience.