September 2017 Concert Reviews

August 2017 Concert Reviews
This is Rattle: Harrison Birtwistle curates
Saturday, September 23, 2017 |  This ancient and modern programme chosen by Sir Harrison Birtwistle completed the quartet of Milton Court “curates” concerts that have been related to the “This is Rattle” series that inaugurated Sir Simon’s music directorship of the LSO, the first night including music by Helen Grime, Oliver Knussen, Thomas Adès and Birtwistle, they in turn returning the complement. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra opening concert of the 2017-18 season – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Enescu’s Oedipe
Saturday, September 23, 2017 |  Last summer, the Royal Opera mounted the first British staging of George Enescu’s Oedipe. It was one of those evenings, unforgettable as it was, from which you were more likely to emerge humming the scenery, so a major point of this London Philharmonic concert performance was to hear how the music stands on its own. ... and while Vladimir Jurowski drew out marvellous sonorities from the woodwinds, there aren’t any sizzling scoring surprises. .... Paul Gay’s portrayal of Oedipe kept growing in stature, not only in terms of Wagnerian heft but also in the many passages of tenderness and puzzled introspection... 
Vassily Sinaisky conducts the Guildhall Symphony Orchestra at Milton Court – Nicolai’s Mondchor, Vaughan Williams’s Serenade to Music, and Elgar’s Enigma Variations
Friday, September 22, 2017 |  ‘Mondchor’ from Otto Nicolai’s The Merry Wives of Windsor opens the final scene of the opera, set at night in Windsor Forest; the members of the chorus are the townspeople, gathered to witness Falstaff’s humiliation. ... Vaughan Williams’s Serenade to Music is one of his unalloyed masterpieces. It exists in four versions: for sixteen solo singers and orchestra (the original, written for Henry Wood)... ... In Enigma Variations the Orchestra came into its own, though once again Sinaisky was unable to create the proper atmosphere in the first half of the work... 
This is Rattle – Simon Rattle conducts the LSO in Stravinsky’s Firebird, Petrushka and Rite of Spring
Thursday, September 21, 2017 |  Climaxing the “This is Rattle” festivities, albeit with a second performance and a “Birtwistle curates” recital still to come, this astonishing evening offered Stravinsky's first three ballets at a single sitting – a long-held wish of Simon Rattle's amounting to extraordinary vision, bravura and memory... 
This is Rattle: Helen Grime curates
Wednesday, September 20, 2017 |  The installation of Simon Rattle as LSO supremo continued apace with this Britten Sinfonia concert put together – or, as we must say these days, curated – by Helen Grime, the young Edinburgh composer who wrote the Fanfare that opened the “This is Rattle” series. 
Senza sangue & Bluebeard’s Castle at Hackney Empire, conducted by Peter Eötvös
Tuesday, September 19, 2017 |  When Senza sangue (Without Blood) received its UK premiere (a concert performance by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Simone Young), it garnered mixed notices possibly because the work is so plainly conceived as an upbeat to Bluebeard’s Castle. 
106 All-Stars: Opening Concert of the New York Philharmonic’s 2017-18 season – Jaap van Zweden conducts Mahler 5
Tuesday, September 19, 2017 |  Neville Cardus called Mahler’s Fifth Symphony “one of the seven wonders of the symphonic world.” Listening to its passage from tragedy to joy can be a thrilling experience and was the single work with which to commence the New York Philharmonic’s new season with Jaap van Zweden as Music Director designate. 
This is Rattle: Thomas Adès curates
Monday, September 18, 2017 |  Part of the extraordinary celebrations for the arrival of Sir Simon Rattle at the helm of the LSO, this programme put together by Thomas Adès was typically varied. 
Classical Opera/The Mozartists at Wigmore Hall
Monday, September 18, 2017 |  Ian Page realised that Classical Opera is no longer a suitable name for his concert chamber orchestra, therefore The Mozartists is the name under which its new identity was launched at Wigmore Hall. ... Mozart's Sinfonia concertante K364 featured leader Matthew Truscott and first viola Alonso Leal del Ojo. ... Louise Alder sang the two extensive recitative-and-arias vibrantly using a modest touch of vibrato and never allowing the cadenza-like moments to be vocal virtuosity for its own sake. 
This is Rattle – Simon Rattle conducts the LSO in Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust
Sunday, September 17, 2017 |  Sir Simon Rattle pulled off a remarkably vigorous account of The Damnation of Faust, all the performers producing an electrifying response to both Berlioz and the conductor... 
Ebracher Musiksommer – Gerd Schaller conducts Bruckner’s Third Symphony
Sunday, September 17, 2017 |  The comparison between Bruckner’s Third Symphony as presented in Nowak’s score of the ‘third version’, 1889, and that published by Rättig in 1890 reveals only minor but nevertheless interesting differences... ... Gerd Schaller’s Bruckner performances at the Ebrach Music Summer have already presented a fine account of this Symphony as it stood in 1874... 
This is Rattle: Oliver Knussen curates
Saturday, September 16, 2017 |  Two nights ago Simon Rattle in his first concert as music director of the LSO included pieces by Helen Grime, Thomas Adès, Harrison Birtwistle and Oliver Knussen. In turn they are complementing the occasion with programmes of their own, beginning with Knussen as conductor, composer and champion of causes. ... Birtwistle’s Silbury Air, for large ensemble (including brass, percussion, piano and harp), retains its thrall after forty years... ... The London premiere of O Hototogisu! (part of an intended bigger work) was slightly delayed by celestial noises-off. Once cleared this Haiku-inspired creation proved irresistible... ... Knussen’s Stravinsky selections included two pre-Rite song-cycles – one Balmont, one Japanese – all five settings epigrammatic if with so much to say especially when sung so delectably by Claire Booth... 
The Grange Festival 2017 – Jonathan Dove’s Mansfield Park – Martha Jones, Henry Neill; directed by Martin Lloyd-Evans; conducted by David Parry
Saturday, September 16, 2017 |  Jonathan Dove’s Jane Austen opera Mansfield Park was first performed in 2011 in a touring production with piano-duet accompaniment from Heritage Opera (which also opened the 2011 Grimeborn season), and there have been two other productions. Closing its 2017 season, this Grange Festival staging, in a new chamber orchestration for thirteen players, should go a long way to consolidate its worth as a finely crafted, instantly attractive opera with two strongly written leads and a retinue of equally well-drawn other roles. 
This is Rattle – LSO opening concert of the 2017-18 season – Simon Rattle conducts Helen Grime, Thomas Adès's Asyla, Oliver Knussen & Elgar's Enigma Variations, and Christian Tetzlaff plays Harrison Birtwistle’s Violin Concerto
Thursday, September 14, 2017 |  “This is Rattle” – a rather inelegant title... ... Simon Rattle needs no introduction... ... Thomas Adès’s Asyla (Latin plural for asylum, here meaning both sanctuary and madhouse) has certainly caught on... ... To close part one [...] was Harrison Birtwistle’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (2010) written for Christian Tetzlaff... ... Following the interval, it was good to once again hear Oliver Knussen’s 1979 Third Symphony... ... As for Enigma Variations (recorded by Rattle during his CBSO days) – well, I really don’t know. 
Göteborgs Symfoniker – Opening Concert of the 2017-18 Season – Santtu-Matias Rouvali conducts Sibelius’s Kullervo
Thursday, September 14, 2017 |  “A new symphony, completely in the Finnish spirit” (Sibelius), Kullervo has found a currency of acceptance largely denied to it during the composer's lifetime. ... Since Berglund there has been no shortage of distinguished Kullervo champions – Neeme Järvi, Panula, Salonen, Saraste, Vänskä and Segerstam, more recently Oramo, especially springing to mind. With this concert, opening the 2017-18 season of the Gothenburg Symphony, “the National Orchestra of Sweden” (founded 1905), its newly appointed Chief Conductor, Santtu-Matias Rouvali, shows he has the mettle, confidence and attitude to take up the challenge. ... Taking the roles of Kullervo and his Sister (the beggar-maiden he seduces unknowingly), Ville and Johanna Rusanen (real-life siblings), making their slow entrance in the largely 5/4 third movement, proved an affective combination... 
Woyzeck in Winter [Barbican Theatre]
Thursday, September 14, 2017 |  Schubert’s Winterreise has come in for its share of performance enhancement – Ian Bostridge filmed in an asylum, Peter Pears filmed looking like a glum Sherlock Holmes, Simon Keenlyside in a dance version, Mark Padmore sharing it with an actor reciting Samuel Beckett (who was obsessed by Winterreise) – so there is a provenance of sorts for Woyzeck in Winter. Conall Morrison has grafted Schubert’s song-cycle onto Georg Büchner’s play Woyzeck... ... ...there was a moment with a singing monkey that could have come straight out of Cabaret, or a Sondheim musical, even the world of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. 
Doric String Quartet at Wigmore Hall – The first three Quartets of Haydn’s Opus 20
Wednesday, September 13, 2017 |  Expressiveness is the basis of the Doric Quartet’s approach to Haydn. Every phrase is carefully shaped and presented in a most meaningful way. As a result, slow movements often have an almost magical quality. 
The Royal Opera – David McVicar’s production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte; conducted by Julia Jones
Tuesday, September 12, 2017 |  Here in its sixth revival since 2003 is David McVicar’s rather dark-hued conception of Die Zauberflöte and which still provides an evening of both intelligence and geniality. ... From an orchestral perspective Julia Jones and the ROH Orchestra provide crisp airy textures and a fleetness that only seldom wants an element of gravitas. ... Tamino’s portrait aria, ‘Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön’, sung by Mauro Peter, really got things going. ... Roderick Williams was a charmer of a Papageno, too, and didn’t overplay the comic business... ... Pamina was sung, with attractive silvery tone and with great poise, by Siobhan Stagg. 
Bampton Opera at St John’s Smith Square – Salieri’s La scuola de’ gelosi/The School of Jealousy
Tuesday, September 12, 2017 |  Not seen in London since its original performance in 1786, Salieri’s The School of Jealousy returns under the infectious zeal of Bampton Classical Opera. It continues the company’s concentration on eighteenth-century opera, including a number of UK premieres. 
The Royal Opera – Puccini’s La bohème – Nicole Car, Michael Fabiano, Mariusz Kwiecień, Simona Mihai; directed by Richard Jones; conducted by Antonio Pappano
Monday, September 11, 2017 |  Once you have got used to his trademark stylisations and visual jokes, Richard Jones has also always revealed a cleverly tailored affection for whichever opera he is directing, but it took a while, towards the end of Act Two, for this to register in Puccini’s La bohème. ... Nicole Car performed Mimì as a grey wraith, with a tenuous hold on life from the start. 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Sophie Bevan & Sebastian Wybrew
Monday, September 11, 2017 |  Sophie Bevan and Sebastian Wybrew kicked off the latest season of BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recitals at Wigmore Hall... 
British Youth Opera at Peacock Theatre – Mozart’s Don Giovanni
Saturday, September 09, 2017 |  In its thirtieth year, British Youth Opera offered, as usual, the opportunity to come across some talented young singers. Here there was the bonus of a rare chance to experience the Vienna version of Don Giovanni, historically, the less successful of Mozart’s versions of the work... 
Wigmore Hall – Opening Concert of the 2017-18 Season – Robin Tritschler & Julius Drake
Saturday, September 09, 2017 |  It fell to Robin Tritschler to step in at twenty-four hours’ notice for an indisposed Gerard Finley to open Wigmore Hall’s 2017-18 season. It took a few songs before the singer and Julius Drake (scheduled with Finley) were truly together, breathing as one. 
Russian State Opera at Cadogan Hall – Puccini’s Tosca
Saturday, September 09, 2017 |  The Russian State Ballet and Opera certainly works hard for a living. Its schedule for this autumn is all-round Britain, and this indefatigable touring company has been doing much the same for the past decade. And who knows what it gets up to in the rest of Europe. ... For Tosca at Cadogan Hall... 
British Youth Opera at Peacock Theatre – Judith Weir’s The Vanishing Bridegroom
Wednesday, September 06, 2017 |  The Vanishing Bridegroom’s last appearance in the UK seems to have been as a concert performance during the BBC’s Judith Weir weekend in 2008, and this British Youth Opera staging is a leap of faith in a work that, unlike her A Night at the Chinese Opera, hasn’t flourished since its 1990 premiere. 


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