June 2017 Concert Reviews

May 2017 Concert Reviews
Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger, with improvised soundtrack by David Briggs on the Royal Festival Hall organ
Saturday, June 24, 2017 |  As the second part of the Southbank Centre’s Alfred Hitchcock triptych – the other films shown being Psycho and Vertigo – with The Lodger (1927) all of the familiar Hitchcock characteristics are present for the first time... ... The film focuses on the search for a Jack the Ripper-like serial killer called The Avenger who targets blonde women on Tuesday evenings. A mysterious young man (played by Ivor Novello) comes to a Bloomsbury boarding house... ... Several composers have provided orchestral scores for The Lodger including Nitin Sawhney and Neil Brand. David Briggs, playing the Royal Festival Hall organ, takes a different approach... ... Composers from Wagner to Richard Rodgers via Kurt Weill’s ‘Mack the Knife’ are pressed into service, the latter as The Avenger’s theme, and Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag accompanies Daisy at a fashion show. Some other usages work less well though, such as Henry Mancini’s Theme for The Pink Panther... 
Belief & Beyond Belief – Semyon Bychkov conducts Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony at Royal Festival Hall with Royal Academy of Music forces
Thursday, June 22, 2017 |  As if hell-bent to break the current hot spell, Semyon Bychkov’s sweeping downbeat unleashed a crackling string tremolando; cellos and double basses giving a fair representation of thunder in the semiquaver ascents that starts Mahler’s epic ‘Resurrection’ Symphony. ... Bychkov’s willing cohorts were the Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Academy of Music... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Yuri Temirkanov – Kikimora & Shostakovich 5 – Denis Kozhukhin plays Rachmaninov ... Music of Today Composers’ Academy
Wednesday, June 21, 2017 |  Of Shostakovich’s fifteen Symphonies it’s the Fifth that is played the most, relentlessly, and it was just a few months ago when Yuri Temirkanov conducted it at this address as part of a not dissimilar programme (link below). Now culturally exchanging the St Petersburg Philharmonic for the Philharmonia Orchestra, Temirkanov led an account of ‘Shos 5’ that might be considered neutral in terms of its circumstances... ... When the Philharmonia returns to ‘Shos 5’ in the RFH, November 23, it will once again have Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto parked alongside it, another work impossible to have a Brief Encounter with. On this occasion Denis Kozhukhin was in terrific shape... 
The Royal Opera – Verdi’s Otello – Jonas Kaufmann, Maria Agresta, Marco Vratogna; directed by Keith Warner; conducted by Antonio Pappano
Wednesday, June 21, 2017 |  Jonas Kaufmann has at last taken up Verdi’s most challenging tenor role, Otello. ... Interestingly, Kaufmann’s lower notes were fuller than some of Marco Vratogna’s, and Vratogna’s baritone had more wheedling insinuation than distilled blackness. He was very effective in all the minutiae of Iago tipping Otello over the edge... ... Maria Agresta showed from the start the scope of Desdemona’s love and purity... ... Boito reduced Shakespeare’s play to about a quarter of its length to concentrate on its core theme. Perversely, Keith Warner’s new production re-inflates it into something imposing but inert. ... From the storm music onwards, it was clear how fully Antonio Pappano understands this. 
Aldeburgh Festival – Trio Frühstück – Olga Neuwirth & Charlotte Bray, Piano Trios by Haydn & Beethoven (Ghost)
Tuesday, June 20, 2017 |  Aldeburgh Festival featured-composer Olga Neuwirth’s updated version of her 1996 Quasare/Pulsare was written for Trio Frühstück (the original is for string quartet) and premiered earlier this year in Vienna... ... If an exact mapping of Neuwirth’s music to a programme sometimes feels elusive – and this was no doubt intentional – Charlotte Bray’s That Crazed Smile is much more representational. One of a series of short works based on episodes from Shakespeare, this one depicts Puck’s antics with the young lovers and the magic potion in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. 
Aldeburgh Festival – Matthew Rose & Albion Quartet at Orford Parish Church
Monday, June 19, 2017 |  The apparently cataclysmic effect of hot weather on public transport that’s better known for not coping with cold kept me from the opening Americans, but the Albion Quartet and Matthew Rose made a fine and sensitive introduction to Kate Whitley’s Three Charlotte Mew Settings... ... An Aldeburgh Young Musician and award-winner, and one of his teachers is Charlotte Bray, Dominic Wills’s Over the Rolling Waters Go sets Tennyson’s Sweet and Low... 
Aldeburgh Festival – Trio Isimsiz plays Tchaikovsky & CBSO/Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla in Petrushka
Sunday, June 18, 2017 |  The second of two appearances by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla at this year’s Aldeburgh Festival was a shared programme with Trio Isimsiz, the latter playing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio written in 1882 in memory of Nikolai Rubinstein. 
Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD – ENO at Hackney Empire – music by Daniel Schnyder, with Lawrence Brownlee as Parker, conducted by Clark Rundell
Saturday, June 17, 2017 |  I knew nothing about Charlie Parker and, following this performance, I’m not sure that I know much more. ... Schnyder’s Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD comes to Hackney Empire courtesy of English National Opera... ... As an almost-constant presence, Lawrence Brownlee’s suited Parker has an ever-engaging tenor... 
Chelsea Opera Group at Cadogan Hall – Verdi’s Nabucco – David Kempster, Helena Dix; conducted by Gianluca Marcianò
Saturday, June 17, 2017 |  Verdi’s Nabucco, his third opera and first success, is a tough piece to stage successfully... ... The Overture set the scene with Gianluca Marcianò setting a pace that would have tested a well-oiled professional orchestra, the potpourri of good tunes given full rein. The Chelsea Opera Orchestra was on fine fettle... ... The Chorus relished its moments in the spotlight at ‘Va pensiero'... ... The most treacherous role is Abigaille. Helena Dix proved to be a superb exponent. ... In the title-role David Kempster gave a trenchant account of the over-confident King... 
Royal Academy Opera at Shoreditch Town Hall – Brecht & Weill’s Die Dreigroschenoper/The Threepenny Opera; directed by Walter Sutcliffe; conducted by Gareth Hancock
Saturday, June 17, 2017 |  Bertolt Brecht seems to be back in fashion – perhaps not surprisingly given the political situation – but this Royal Academy of Music production of his most-famous collaboration with Kurt Weill follows hard-and-fast on the Donmar Warehouse’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui and the Young Vic’s The Life of Galileo. ... I was surprised on arriving at Shoreditch Town Hall that the publicity had it wrong – it wasn’t The Threepenny Opera I had come to review, but Die Dreigroschenoper... 
Garsington Opera at Wormsley – Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande – Jonathan McGovern, Andrea Carroll, Paul Gay; directed by Michael Boyd; conducted by Jac van Steen
Friday, June 16, 2017 |  Instead of benign midsummer light and warmth, Gothic clouds scudding across louring skies would have been more appropriate for Garsington Opera’s new production of Debussy’s setting of Maeterlinck’s symbolist tragedy, in which the enigmatic Mélisande, married to Golaud, embarks on a deadly relationship with his much-younger half-brother Pelléas. ... Michael Boyd’s and designer Tom Piper’s staging reverts to a murky Pre-Raphaelite eroticism... ... Making her UK debut, the American soprano Andrea Carroll’s strong-voiced Mélisande is the more knowing of the lovers, in that she is sure of her preference. Jonathan McGovern, an experienced Pelléas, doesn’t quite have that expressive twang of a French baryton-martin... ... Paul Gay’s Golaud is a superb display of anguish, suspicion and violence... ... Garsington Opera has secured a five-year partnership with the Philharmonia Orchestra, the first outing of which is this Pelléas. Under Jac van Steen, the Philharmonia musicians surpassed themselves... 
New York City Opera – Peter Eötvös’s Angels in America; directed by Sam Helfrich; conducted by Pacien Mazzagatti
Friday, June 16, 2017 |  New York City Opera concluded its season with Peter Eötvös’s Angels in America (2004), a condensed re-telling of Tony Kushner’s lengthy seminal play. ... Pacien Mazzagatti led the orchestra capably and traffic-copped the complex vocal entrances graciously. However, the balance was generally abysmal... 
Richard Alston Dance Company at Sadler's Wells – Glint / Tangent / Chacony / Gypsy Mixture
Friday, June 16, 2017 |  Richard Alston is the real thing: many claim to be choreographers but few are makers of dance. In his eponymous company's Sadler's Wells season, three of the four works on show are by him, and while it is relatively easy to identify them as 'Alston', with his trademark Merce Cunningham-influenced use of the body and arms, they show a true master of his craft, reacting to an eclectic choice of music with characteristic individuality. Making up the quartet is a new work by Martin Lawrence, a company associate, increasingly playing Jerome Robbins to Alston's George Balanchine, a complement rather than a rival.… 
Igor Levit at Wigmore Hall – Beethoven Piano Sonata Cycle (8), Opuses 109,110 & 111
Tuesday, June 13, 2017 |  It has taken Igor Levit eight months to complete his Beethoven Piano Sonata cycle at Wigmore Hall, and each recital has proved him to be a bold navigator of this particular musical galaxy. 
Classical Opera at St John’s Smith Square – Mozart 250 – Lambach Symphony, Grabmusik, Apollo et Hyacinthus; directed by Thomas Guthrie; conducted by Ian Page
Monday, June 12, 2017 |  This was a cleverly devised programme, adopting the by-now-established routine of Classical Opera’s Mozart 250 project in profiling works from a given year in that composer’s life (here 1767). On this occasion three disparate pieces – never intended to have any connection, despite their chronological proximity – into a dramatically and musically convincing whole. ... Grabmusik is a dramatic cantata for Holy Week in which a Christian soul – sung vociferously by Benjamin Appl – contemplates the dead Christ and bewails the scandal of the incarnate God being put to death... ... Pairing that allegorical Christian work with Apollo et Hyacinthus, the re-telling of a pagan mythological story about the killing of the latter, bore unexpected connections... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Antoine Tamestit & Cédric Tiberghien
Monday, June 12, 2017 |  Brahms’s viola version of his F-minor Clarinet Sonata might surprise by the transformation it undergoes. On a viola it’s full, dark, romantic and dramatic in a way that the woodwind instrument can never quite achieve. This was the climax of this Wigmore Hall BBC Lunchtime concert by Antoine Tamestit and Cédric Tiberghien, alumni of the BBC’s New Generation Artists scheme. 
Grange Park Opera – Katie Mitchell’s production of Janáček’s Jenůfa – Natalya Romaniw, Susan Bullock, Nicky Spence, Peter Hoare; conducted by William Lacey
Sunday, June 11, 2017 |  First impressions of Grange Park Opera’s new theatre at West Horsley Place are of a close, resonant acoustic, and, in its horseshoe configuration with a number of tiers ranged around the stalls, excellent sightlines. ... Grange Park’s Jenůfa is based on Katie Mitchell’s 1998 Welsh National Opera production... ... Susan Bullock is making her role debut as the Kostelnička. Bullock is a magnificent singer-actress... ... Natalya Romaniw, making her role debut as Jenůfa, is beautifully cast as a young woman larger in spirit, and infinitely more vulnerable, than the rest of her family and her neighbours. 
The Grange Festival 2017 – Bizet’s Carmen – Na’ama Goldman, Leonardo Capalbo, Phillip Rhodes, Shelley Jackson; directed by Annabel Arden; conducted by Jean-Luc Tingaud
Sunday, June 11, 2017 |  Grange Festival is confusingly occupying the former site of Grange Park Opera. Little has changed in this idyllic country-house venue, except plush new seating and a multitude of marquees on the expansive lawns conjuring Henry V’s Agincourt. ... Bizet’s Carmen was always going to be a likely choice for a new artistic venture... ... Annabel Arden’s production certainly brings a fresh approach... ... Despite looking the part, it’s a shame that Na’ama Goldman’s Carmen never quite raised the emotional temperature and her ‘Habanera’ made little impact. ... It’s left to Leonardo Capalbo’s José to make the strongest impression... 
Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2017 – world premiere of Brett Dean’s Hamlet – Allan Clayton, Barbara Hannigan, Sarah Connolly, John Tomlinson, Jacques Imbrailo; directed by Neil Armfield; conducted by Vladimir Jurowski
Sunday, June 11, 2017 |  With a record of a new commission almost every decade, Glyndebourne confirms its astute choices in following Jonathan Dove’s Flight, Harrison Birtwistle’s The Second Mrs Kong, and Peter Eötvös’s Love and Other Demons, with Brett Dean’s Hamlet. It reunites former Vladimir Jurowski with the company for the first time since his departure in 2013 and boasts a cast with impeccable Glyndebourne credentials. Both John Tomlinson and Sarah Connolly started their professional careers as members of the Glyndebourne Chorus, while Jacques Imbrailo returns after taking the title-role of Billy Budd in 2010 and 2013. Hamlet himself is Allan Clayton, previously Albert Herring here. ... Dean draws us inexorably in, aided and abetted by Jocelyn’s remarkable conflation of Shakespeare. The walls of the large room are moved to form a corridor on the forestage where Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are introduced as a Tweedledum/Tweedledee double-act (admittedly rather thinner), both light-suite countertenors, before Polonius announces he’s found out what ails Hamlet – love for his daughter Ophelia, whom he encourages to read aloud Hamlet’s letters. ... The second Act has the two biggest theatrical shocks. The raucous opening includes chorus-members entering the auditorium and calling for Laertes to be King, Dean’s music crackling with ferocity and danger. 
Murray Perahia at Barbican Hall – Bach French Suite BWV817, Schubert Impromptus D935, Mozart Rondo K511, Beethoven Sonata Opus 111
Sunday, June 11, 2017 |  Murray Perahia doesn’t do lightweight these days and here he coupled masterworks by arguably the three greatest composers who have ever lived with a rather more prosaic offering by Mozart. 
Istanbul Recitals – Roland Pöntinen plays Chopin, Liszt & Debussy at Sakıp Sabancı Museum
Saturday, June 10, 2017 |  Founded by the late Kâmil Şükûn, the Istanbul Recitals series has been running for ten years, in which time it has established a classy niche for itself, with a cultured subscription audience and a discerning roll-call of artists. This season's pianists have included Bavouzet, Volodin, Jablonski, Dinnerstein, Restani and Hewitt. ... Concerts are held in one of the most exclusive, alluringly leafy settings in Istanbul (home in recent years to exhibitions of Rodin, Picasso and Dali), the crush bar overlooking the waters at Emirgan. ... Drawing a full house, Roland Pöntinen's recital – a journey of stories and endings – was a high-profile, thought-provoking encounter interlaced with pertinent, personable asides... 
New York Philharmonic/Alan Gilbert – Concert for Unity – Mahler 7
Saturday, June 10, 2017 |  For his final subscription concert as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert invited twenty-two musicians from nineteen countries – including concertmasters from Iran, South Africa, South Korea and Mexico – to join the orchestra for Mahler’s Seventh Symphony. Gilbert intends this “Concert for Unity” to be a first step toward the creation, under the auspices of the United Nations, of an international ensemble that will use the power of music to unite people. In a brief video Secretary-General António Guterres offered congratulations to Gilbert and also his support. ... It seemed odd at first blush that Gilbert selected Mahler 7... 
Istanbul Music Festival – Russian Chamber Philharmonic St Petersburg/Juri Gilbo – Ravel and Prokofiev Left-hand Piano Concertos with Hüseyin Sermet and Vassilis Varvaresos, and Pulcinella and Polovtsian Dances
Friday, June 09, 2017 |  Pursuing the “Unusual” theme of this the forty-fifth Istanbul Music Festival, this concert contrasted a Russian orchestral fest with two of the several Left-hand Piano Concertos commissioned by Paul Wittgenstein before the Second World War, one famous, the other scarcely played. ... In the Ravel (1931), Hüseyin Sermet, Turkey's best-known ex-pat, based in Paris, excelled in the solo paragraphs... ... But most to blame was the cavernous acoustic of the Byzantine Hagia Eirene Museum in the outer courtyard of the Topkapi Palace, the former arsenal of the Ottoman janissaries. ... In such a space, Prokofiev's Fourth Piano Concerto (also 1931), its motoric rhythms playing to the beat in contrast to Ravel's playing to the emotional curve, survived better, it's less-opaque orchestration presenting fewer ensemble problems. Vassilis Varvaresos, a rising star of supremely assertive self-confidence, metallised his way through the notes... 
Aldeburgh Festival – Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Iestyn Davies, Sophie Bevan, Jack Lansbury, Nick Pritchard – directed by Netia Jones; conducted by Ryan Wigglesworth
Friday, June 09, 2017 |  Benjamin Britten's Shakespeare opera A Midsummer Night’s Dream opened the refurbished Jubilee Hall for the 1960 Aldeburgh Festival. ... ...and now there is this one from Netia Jones opening this year's Festival and marking the fiftieth-anniversary of Snape Maltings as a concert hall... ... ...and Captain Mainwaring-type suits for the Mechanicals. ... The stellar cast is a Dream-team blend of character and virtuosity you can imagine Britten would have loved. Iestyn Davies's remote Oberon floods the Maltings with countertenor magic, matched by Sophie Bevan's equally imperious Tytania... ... Jack Lansbury is a sensational Puck... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Enrique Mazzola – Mendelssohn & Schumann – Till Fellner plays Mozart K466 ... Music of Today: Musical Toys and Hans Abrahamsen with Mei Yi Foo
Thursday, June 08, 2017 |  Sadly Christoph von Dohnányi was indisposed (best wishes to him for a speedy recovery), his place taken by Enrique Mazzola (aus Italien), the programme unchanged. ... Schumann 2 “the greatest Symphony in C-major”, I know not who I quote but it’s out there somewhere, and I wouldn’t argue with the opinion. However, it was a bit less of a masterwork here, for although the Philharmonia Orchestra played with alertness, athleticism and artistry, and Mazzola was discriminating with detail, dynamics and degrees, his zeal tended to tempos that glossed over the music’s deeper emotions... ... Mazzola and the Philharmonia then provided an excellent accompaniment for K466, surreptitious and stylish in the first movement, a perfect foil for Till Fellner... ... It was piano all the way in the early-evening Music of Today recital, Mei Yi Foo demonstrating commendable identification and technical address with a range of pieces. Those vignettes, eleven of them from eight composers, including George Benjamin, Eötvös, Gubaidulina and Lachenmann (but given the remit nothing from Ligeti or Nancarrow), opened with impressionistic glissandos from Kurtág, and closed with the pulsations of Unsuk Chin... ... All these miniatures, invariably selected from cycles, intrigued, so too Hans Abrahamsen’s Piano Concerto... 
Longborough Festival Opera – Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde – Peter Wedd & Lee Bisset; directed by Carmen Jakobi; conducted by Anthony Negus
Thursday, June 08, 2017 |  When Longborough mounted its first Tristan und Isolde in 2015 (which I didn’t see), a key component of Carmen Jakobi’s production were two dancers who ghosted the title roles. Wagner lovers and critics, it’s fair to say, were not impressed... ... The other Longborough figure is Anthony Negus, who brings a compelling authority to Wagner – his conducting is in a league of its own. ... By not getting in the way, the staging enhances the intensity between the lovers, and with Peter Wedd (who was in the original run) and Lee Bisset you see and hear something quite remarkable unfold... 
Grange Park Opera – Puccini’s Tosca – Ekaterina Metlova, Joseph Calleja, Roland Wood; directed by Peter Relton; conducted by Gianluca Marcianò
Thursday, June 08, 2017 |  Hats off to Wasfi Kani and Grange Park Opera for delivering a 750-seat house based on La Scala... ... However Puccini's Tosca is here uneven, although rescued with some standout moments. Peter Relton chooses a conventional approach, transferring a politically turbulent Rome in 1800 to Mussolini’s 1930s. ... ...Ekaterina Metlova’s Tosca dressed curiously like Julie Andrews in the closing sequence of The Sound of Music. ... It was the much sought-after Calleja who provided the real substance... 
LSO/Michael Tilson Thomas – Nielsen 5 – Yuja Wang plays Brahms
Thursday, June 08, 2017 |  The combination of these two works, either of which would naturally form the culmination of any concert, was distinctly odd. However, part of the rationale must have been the draw of Yuja Wang. She certainly attracted an eclectic and partisan audience who persisted in clapping vigorously Brahms’s first three movements of the Brahms to the evident irritation of Michael Tilson Thomas who also fixed latecomers with an icy stare. ... Written in the aftermath of the First World War, which had severely dented the composer’s natural optimism, Carl Nielsen’s Fifth Symphony should have been the evening’s highlight. Unfortunately it soon became clear that this was not the case. ... From the LSO and MTT it should have been a sure-fire success. Unfortunately, two things got in the way. 
The Grange Festival 2017 – Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria – Paul Nilon, Anna Bonitatibus, Thomas Elwin, Robin Blaze; directed by Tim Supple; musical direction by Michael Chance
Wednesday, June 07, 2017 |  With the removal of Grange Park Opera to its venue at West Horsley, a new company – confusingly called the Grange Festival – has sprung up to fill the void at the extraordinary property at Northington, which stands stark and proud in the midst of the Hampshire countryside like a Greek temple. The venture, under the artistic directorship of Michael Chance, begins its first season by returning to the roots of operatic tradition and marking the 450th-anniversary of Monteverdi’s birth with the composer’s penultimate work for the stage, itself a Greek epic. 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Tadaaki Otaka – Elgar’s Froissart & Walton 1 – John Lill plays Tchaikovsky
Tuesday, June 06, 2017 |  Of all conductors from the Far East who have made an impact in the United Kingdom, none has had a greater success in British music, alongside the international repertoire, than Tadaaki Otaka... ... ...two English works surrounding Tchaikovsky’s G-major Piano Concerto with John Lill. ... ...his direction of Froissart (not one of Elgar’s flawless masterpieces) so captured the essence of this work that its qualities were clearly and cleverly brought out. ... Tchaikovsky’s G-major Piano Concerto would be more highly regarded had it not been overshadowed by the melodic power of the B-flat minor... ... John Lill is without question one of the finest living pianists... ... Otaka has also given many fine accounts of William Walton’s music. 
Britten Sinfonia/Thomas Adès – Beethoven Symphony Cycle & Gerald Barry at Barbican Centre – 2/Chevaux-de-frise ... Eroica
Tuesday, June 06, 2017 |  Gerald Barry’s shock tactics were out and proud for the second concert of Thomas Adès’s Beethoven cycle/Barry retrospective with the Britten Sinfonia – the ‘Eroica’ Symphony prefaced by Barry’s Chevaux-de-frise, commissioned the BBC Proms and first-performed there in 1988 by the Ulster Orchestra conducted by Robert Houlihan – so it’s a veteran shocker. 
The MET Orchestra/Esa-Pekka Salonen at Carnegie Hall – 3 – Mahler & Sibelius with Christian Tetzlaff & Anne Sofie von Otter
Tuesday, June 06, 2017 |  Carnegie Hall, most often the venue of choice for orchestras on tour, had a local visitor, the MET Orchestra concluding a three-concert series with Esa-Pekka Salonen... ... Christian Tetzlaff delivered a performance that easily overcame the technical complexity of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto... ... Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder is a haunting and haunted score. It is, both in the selected poetry (from Rückert) and Mahler’s composition, always a step removed, but never sterile. Anne Sofie von Otter’s presentation matched Mahler’s distance... 
New York Philharmonic – Wagner’s Das Rheingold; directed by Louisa Muller; conducted by Alan Gilbert
Tuesday, June 06, 2017 |  This was the third, final, and marvelous performance of Wagner’s Das Rheingold, the penultimate program of Alan Gilbert’s farewell subscription concerts as New York Philharmonic music director. 
Guildhall School of Music – Handel’s Radamisto
Monday, June 05, 2017 |  At a time when Donald Trump thinks it clever and grown-up to threaten other countries with displays of American force, and the General Election campaign in the UK descends into a crass parade of who would or would not deploy nuclear bombs, Handel’s Radamisto (1720) makes an opportune appearance at the Guildhall School, in its reflection upon tyrannical power. 
LSO/Michael Tilson Thomas – Scènes de ballet & Pathétique Symphony – Lisa Batiashvili plays Prokofiev
Sunday, June 04, 2017 |  Michael Tilson Thomas began the evening thanking us for attending in the wake of the London Bridge attack... ... Stravinsky’s Scènes de ballet was commissioned for a Broadway revue by impresario Billy Rose and was composed in the year of MTT’s birth, 1944. ... The first movement of the Prokofiev took a while to warm up although the dreamy opening was beautifully played by Lisa Batiashvili... ... The sombre opening of the ‘Pathétique’ was impressive with an eloquent bassoon and real depth of sound from violas. 
Christian Ihle Hadland at Wigmore Hall – Mozart, Brahms, Webern, Schubert
Sunday, June 04, 2017 |  Christian Ihle Hadland has easily lived up to expectations raised when he was a BBC New Generation Artist, and this Wigmore Hall recital confirmed his exceptional musicianship. ... Interestingly, under his hands, Mozart’s A-minor Sonata had already bolted the Classical stable to forge a notably neurotic, romantic identity, while Brahms’s Fantasies looked back longingly to a Classical Neverland of balance and restraint. 
Garsington Opera at Wormsley – Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro – Joshua Bloom, Jennifer France, Duncan Rock, Kirsten MacKinnon; directed by John Cox; conducted by Douglas Boyd
Sunday, June 04, 2017 |  It is a supreme irony that Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro should have become the ideal country-house opera since Beaumarchais’s play was a scarcely-veiled attack on everything to do with feudal privilege. ... If so, the audience at Garsington was thoroughly representative; after all, we live in a World which places great store on economic and cultural diversity. ... John Cox and Douglas Boyd clearly enjoy working together and it shows in a variety of subtle ways. This is no ordinary Figaro... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Jérémie Rhorer – Requiems by Duruflé & Fauré … Philharmonia Chamber Players in Debussy, Dave Heath and Ravel
Sunday, June 04, 2017 |  The atmosphere in the Royal Festival Hall was subdued and sombre. Jérémie Rhorer made a brief dedication of the concert to the victims of the previous evening’s London Bridge attack. The Requiems by Maurice Duruflé and Gabriel Fauré are amongst the most contemplative and consoling of settings of the Catholic rite and here they reached a level of gravity and intensity that was truly moving. 
Opera Holland Park – Mozart’s Don Giovanni – Ashley Riches, John Savournin, Laura Fagan, Victoria Simmonds; directed by Oliver Platt; conducted by Dane Lam
Saturday, June 03, 2017 |  The slightly rusting deck of an ocean liner arrayed with cabin doors and life-rings is certainly not what one expects as a setting for Don Giovanni... ... Oliver Platt’s direction is both inventive and cogent. There are moments of great humour... ... Ashley Riches and John Savournin are well-paired as Giovanni and Leporello, credible in their interplay and in their co-dependence. ... From her first appearance as Donna Anna, Lauren Fagan demonstrated a rich, creamy and dramatic voice that bought immediacy and thrill to her every utterance. 
Garsington Opera at Wormsley – Handel’s Semele – Heidi Stober, Robert Murray, Christine Rice, Christopher Ainslie; directed by Annilese Miskimmon; conducted by Jonathan Cohen
Saturday, June 03, 2017 |  Charles Jennens, the librettist for Messiah and several of Handel’s other Biblical epics, described Semele, setting William Congreve’s re-telling of a Greek myth, as “no oratorio but a bawdy opera”; had he lived today he might have called this production simply a ‘soap opera’ and we would know what he meant. ... Annilese Miskimmon places Act One in the context of the wedding to take place between Semele and Athamas, but as the former is enamoured with Jupiter there are predictable disruptions aplenty to the festivities. ... Despite having recently sustained a foot injury, Heidi Stober gave a lively account of the title part... ... Jonathan Cohen’s direction of the Garsington Opera Orchestra provided a gloriously consistent point of focus. 
The MET Orchestra/Esa-Pekka Salonen at Carnegie Hall – 2 – Rhenish Symphony and, with Karen Cargill & Stuart Skelton, Das Lied von der Erde
Saturday, June 03, 2017 |  At first glance the coupling of Schumann’s joyful ‘Rhenish’ Symphony with the transcendentalism of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde seemed incongruous, the contrast of Schumann’s unswerving affirmation of being alive, and Mahler’s revelation of Life’s ultimate value following his profound exploration of human torments. .... Esa-Pekka Salonen managed spirited readings of the outer movements of the ‘Rhenish’. ... Das Lied von der Erde, often described as death-ridden, is in fact one of Mahler’s most Life-affirming works. 
Britten Sinfonia/Thomas Adès – Beethoven Symphony Cycle & Gerald Barry at Barbican Centre – 1/Symphonies 1 & 2
Friday, June 02, 2017 |  In between the runs of his opera The Exterminating Angel in London and New York, Thomas Adès has embarked on a Beethoven Symphony Cycle with the Britten Sinfonia, spread over three years and leavened, if that’s the word, with music by the Irish composer Gerald Barry. 
The Royal Ballet – Frederick Ashton Triple Bill [The Dream / Symphonic Variations / Marguerite and Armand]
Friday, June 02, 2017 |  Frederick Ashton’s ballets stand at the very heart of The Royal Ballet – his movement style, his approach to narrative and his musicality suffuse the company’s particular take on Classical dance. This triple bill comes as a source of immense relief to those who have felt that the ensemble has been losing sight of that fact – The Royal Ballet from its Director through to its dancers do their Founder Choreographer proud and also show that he was the creator of dance works of the very highest quality. 
LSO – Bernard Haitink conducts Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony – Mitsuko Uchida plays Beethoven
Thursday, June 01, 2017 |  Bernard Haitink found breadth and direction at the beginning of the Beethoven, the LSO mellow-sounding yet keenly accenting, dynamic too, a rhetorical setting up for Mitsuko Uchida to respond to. She did not disappoint... ... Following the interval, Haitink conducted his third Bruckner Ninth in five days – London and Paris prior to this finely crafted rendition on return to the Barbican Centre (Paris also included the Beethoven). Although Bruckner’s orchestration is not particularly extravagant (save for four Wagner tubas in addition to the ‘normal’ horns) the LSO fielded a grand turnout of players... 
Opera Holland Park – Puccini’s La rondine – Elizabeth Llewellyn, Matteo Lippi; directed by Martin Lloyd-Evans; conducted by Matthew Kofi Waldren
Thursday, June 01, 2017 |  ‘Problem’ operas tend to occur at the start of a composer’s career. Puccini’s La rondine (The swallow, as in the bird that migrates south) came later on, in 1917, between Fanciulla and Il trittico, and his problem was its commission as a Viennese-style operetta at the time of the First World War, with the result that it has survived but hardly thrives as a hybrid of comic and serious opera. Undeterred by this, Opera Holland Park (launching its second season as an independent company) has now mounted its third staging, this one being the most ambitious. ... One big difference between Violetta and Magda is that the latter doesn’t go all tubercular, but otherwise Magda is one of Puccini’s top vulnerable heroines, and the role is magnificently sung by Elizabeth Llewellyn... 
Akram Khan Company at Sadler's Wells – DESH
Thursday, June 01, 2017 |  It is over six years since Akram Khan created his highly successful one-man evening DESH, during which time he has toured it to great acclaim across the world. It is easy to see the reasons for its popularity: a spectacularly designed and lit eighty minutes of often sheer theatricality with the thread of Khan himself running through it. It is difficult to resist Khan, a highly accomplished kathak-trained dancer who has fused his Bangladeshi artistic inheritance with contemporary Western dance, into which already fascinating mix he adds his own mercurial personality, dry-humoured wit, self-deprecation and an an engaging directness. … 

 

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