I hate indecisiveness in music criticism. So why did I spend the short journey between the Usher Hall and Waverley Station agonising about whether I should be soft-pedalling, or even diplomatic, about what I had just heard? Plain old human embarrassment, I guess.
I have not one critical syllable to utter about the Edinburgh Festival Chorus's singing in Monday night's performance of Brahms' German Requiem. They are melodious, mellifluous, subtly modulated in their colouring and, though their genial director Christopher Bell will probably have my guts for garters after this review, impressive in their articulation and sonorous in their harmony.
And I have no issues with the ensemble, balance or sonority of the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, a lovely band whose praises I sang on Monday. But their Brahms Requiem fell absolutely flat for this listener. As chorus and orchestra thundered into the second verse of All Flesh ... I was cold and far from pinned to my seat. I could not lilt and sway to How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place; and at the great catharsis as the Requiem pours into the final Selig sind, the performance ossified and I turned to stone.
Why? Two words: David Zinman, a conductor whose direction of the Requiem was trapped by the beat, the barline and the pulse. It was inflexible, profoundly un-supple and stultifyingly rigid: variously three-square and four square. There was neither heart nor spirit in it. It is the only time in my life that Brahms' Requiem has failed to release the tears.
And despite the presence of luminaries, baritone Florian Boesch and soprano Rachel Harnisch, Zinman committed the worst crime of all: he was boring.