October 2018 Concert Reviews

September 2018 Concert Reviews
Kensington Symphony Orchestra/Russell Keable at St John’s Smith Square – Joan Tower, Leonard Bernstein, John Adams’s Doctor Atomic Symphony, William Schuman's Third
Monday, October 15, 2018 |  Opening its 18-19 (and sixty-third) season, and also contributing to St John’s Smith Square’s year-long Americana festival, Russell Keable and the Kensington Symphony Orchestra get my vote for including music by New Yorker William Schuman (1910-92), composer and administrator, not least of the Juilliard School and of Lincoln Center, his Third Symphony being the main event. ... When John Adams led the world premiere of his Doctor Atomic Symphony (from the Oppenheimer opera) at the 2007 BBC Proms it took a debilitating fifty minutes. At least he cut it down, but even at Keable’s thirty, tedium set in for your correspondent with ten to go. 
LSO – Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider conducts Smetana’s Má vlast
Sunday, October 14, 2018 |  Smetana’s Má vlast (My Country) begins with the harps, the bard’s prelude to the songs he will sing of castles, knights and their ruin, of rivers and dancing, of the extreme vengeance of a woman spurned, of the homeland and its romantic countryside and the bloody wars of its early patriots. ... The great flowing theme of ‘Vltava’ was smooth and shining in the hands of the LSO strings, the polka a little sturdy, but the passage where the river hits the rapids was breathtakingly exciting... ... The tale was very effectively narrated by Nikolai Szeps-Znaider... 
John Eliot Gardiner conducts Berlioz at Carnegie Hall with Lucile Richardot and Antoine Tamestit
Sunday, October 14, 2018 |  For the first of two Berlioz concerts at Carnegie Hall, John Eliot Gardiner and Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique opened with an exuberant and swashbuckling rendition of Le Corsaire. ... Next, Lucile Richardot for The Death of Cleopatra, Berlioz’s third failed bid for the prestigious Prix de Rome, and the first of two death scenes on this program, each depicting the suicide of an African queen; Richardot was mesmerizing. ... Finally, a highly theatrical, eye-opening rendition of Harold in Italy. Throughout, Antoine Tamestit wandered around the stage... 
Southbank Sinfonia/Alexander Walker at Cadogan Hall – Dvořák 8 – Alda Dizdari plays Elgar
Sunday, October 14, 2018 |  Although this concert gave considerable enjoyment to the audience – and to this writer – both performances were problematic in different ways. The Elgar Violin Concerto was extremely interesting and so was the soloist. Alda Dizdari is from Albania, the daughter of a composer, and has been based in Britain for some time. She has made a special study of the Elgar and at the concert she was launching her book Kiss Me Again: A Memoir of Elgar in Unusual Places. ... Following the interval Walker and his players, all recent music college graduates, tackled Dvořák’s greatest, most characteristic and most loveable Symphony. 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Jakub Hrůša – The Golden Spinning Wheel & Taras Bulba – Frank Peter Zimmerman plays Martinů [live webcast]
Saturday, October 13, 2018 |  Tales to be told, if not before bedtime, essayed vividly by the Berliner Philharmoniker and Jakub Hrůša – Dvořák’s orchestral setting of a gruesome and surreal folk-ballad by Erben (murder, deception, the deceased brought back to life by mystical means) and Janáček’s Gogol-based Taras Bulba... ... As for Martinů’s Violin Concerto, it was composed in 1933 to a commission from Samuel Dushkin but not played... ... Frank Peter Zimmermann gave a spotless music-focussed performance... 
Welsh National Opera at New Theatre Oxford – Prokofiev’s War and Peace; directed by David Pountney; conducted by Tomáš Hanus
Saturday, October 13, 2018 |  The vast sprawl that is Prokofiev’s adaptation of Tolstoy’s literary masterpiece, War and Peace, with its composer’s various revisions and additions, means that it is unlikely there will ever be a definitive performing version; and it remains to be seen if there is any appetite for adopting Prokofiev’s suggestion at one time that the work be performed over two nights. 
Glyndebourne Tour 2018 – Massenet’s Cendrillon – Alix Le Saux, Eléonore Pancrazi, William Dazeley, Agnes Zwierko, Caroline Wettergreen; directed by Fiona Shaw; conducted by Duncan Ward
Saturday, October 13, 2018 |  Massenet’s Cendrillon was a triumph at its Paris premiere in 1899, but, like other Massenet operas, it has not exactly thrived. In the British Isles over the past twenty-five years or so, it has appeared at Wexford, WNO, Royal Academy of Music (twice) and in a star-studded Laurent Pelly production that touched down at Covent Garden in 2011. Three of my opera reference books don’t even mention it. As far as Massenet is concerned, Manon and Werther rule, with Don Quichotte a long stop. ... Fiona Shaw’s new staging for Glyndebourne (its first), on tour this autumn then at the 2019 Summer Festival, has provided Perrault’s Cinderella story with contemporary stiffening and an Angela Carter-ish fairy-tale reinterpretation that captures its sadness and comedy. 
Pascal Dusapin's Passion at Queen Elizabeth Hall
Saturday, October 13, 2018 |  The post-war history of French music has been one of refashioning the past in the process of embracing the future and there is no more creative figure than Pascal Dusapin, whose carving out of an independent role has resulted in an output second to none in its expressive scope. ... There have been few opportunities, however, to experience them in the UK – so making this production by Music Theatre Wales of Passion the more valuable. ... As a production this proved ideally suited to the Queen Elizabeth Hall... 
London Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra – Jérémie Rhorer conducts Poulenc’s Stabat Mater & Orff’s Carmina Burana
Saturday, October 13, 2018 |  Given its penchant for titles I wondered whether the LPO should have gone with “Sacred and Profane” for this programme, instead of the more cumbersome “Life, Death and Shameless Excess”. ... ...here twentieth-century choral pieces setting medieval texts in Latin and/or German, with a religious connection, even if the only real connection Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana texts have to the spiritual is due to the monastic collection from which came the sometimes-bawdy lyrics. 
Glyndebourne Tour 2018 – Tom Cairns’s production of Verdi’s La traviata – Mané Galoyan, Emanuele D’Aguanno, Noel Bouley; conducted by Christoph Altstaedt
Friday, October 12, 2018 |  Tom Cairns’s no-frills production of La traviata, first unveiled at Glyndebourne in 2014, enjoys a new cast, but the abstract sets and near-contemporary costumes conceived by Hildegard Bechtler remain. ... Violetta’s tragedy is placed at the centre of this staging, her universal humanity underlined by an unspecified timeframe and the trappings of tuberculosis traded for an incurable illness suggested by fainting fits. ... And making her Glyndebourne debut as Violetta, Mané Galoyan is a real find... ... The whole is given flamboyant conducting from Christoph Altstaedt... 
The Royal Opera presents Handel’s Solomon – Lawrence Zazzo, Sophie Bevan, Susan Bickley, Ed Lyon & Richard Burkhard; conducted by Christian Curnyn
Thursday, October 11, 2018 |  The Royal Opera House is undertaking a cycle of the stage-works by Handel associated with its eighteenth-century predecessor on the same site, the Covent Garden Theatre. ... This cycle started near the end of Handel’s career with the oratorio Solomon... ... If Theresa May wants a new Festival of Britain to celebrate the supposed achievements of Brexit one could, perhaps, do worse than start with this work. ... This one-off concert performance by the Royal Opera Chorus and the Early Opera Company with the latter’s director Christian Curnyn was good, if rarely much better than routine. 
English National Opera – The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess – Eric Greene & Nicole Cabell; directed by James Robinson; conducted by John Wilson
Thursday, October 11, 2018 |  In a close-knit community on the east coast a storm necessitates the occupants to huddle together for safety. The door opens and in strides an outsider come for his human chattel, the atmosphere leavened by a popular song. There’s even a black marketeer peddling his drugs. Ring any bells? I’m hoping you have immediately plumped for Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, but I’m thinking of an opera composed a decade earlier: the Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. ... James Robinson, artistic director of the Opera Theatre of St Louis, makes his UK debut and John Wilson makes his first appearance at ENO. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Karina Canellakis conducts Sibelius & Bartók – Pierre-Laurent Aimard plays Dvořák
Wednesday, October 10, 2018 |  Karina Canellakis has experience and background: spotted by Simon Rattle when she was with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchester-Akademie, she studied conducting at the Juilliard School, mentored by Alan Gilbert and Fabio Luisi, and won the Georg Solti Conducting Award in 2016. ... The opening of Pohjola's Daughter, “maiden of the north country”, premiered in St Petersburg in 1906, a piece that still assails the senses for its impact and imagination, caught a perfect soundworld... ... Dvořák's problematic 1876 Piano Concerto fared less persuasively... ... Favouring an undistinguished Yamaha, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, who some years ago recorded the work with Harnoncourt, wasn't in the best of form. 
András Schiff at Wigmore Hall – Schubert Piano Sonatas D845, D850, D894
Wednesday, October 10, 2018 |  Of all the composers András Schiff has championed – Bach, Bartók, Beethoven, Schubert, for starters – it’s the latter that seems to engage him the most. Perhaps it is because Schubert’s music positively resists a grandstanding approach... ... Wigmore Hall was sold out, and the audience was notably quiet and attentive throughout – the first half lasted an hour and twenty minutes, with D850 following D845 without Schiff taking a pause, and all the repeats observed – the event ending just before 10 p.m., late enough for Radio 3 to pass on Schiff’s substantial encore. 
New York Philharmonic/David Robertson – Louis Andriessen & Sibelius – Garrick Ohlsson plays Paganini Rhapsody
Wednesday, October 10, 2018 |  The New York Philharmonic is presenting “The Art of Andriessen” to celebrate the music of the inestimable Louis Andriessen... ... David Robertson led the Philharmonic... ... Andriessen’s TAO (The Way, 1996) was first up. ... Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini followed. Garrick Ohlsson negotiated the more challenging variations with masterful skill... 
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/Andris Nelsons at Royal Festival Hall (2) – Māra & Mahler 1 – Kristine Opolais sings Tchaikovsky
Tuesday, October 09, 2018 |  There was prolonged applause as the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra entered for the second of its pair of London concerts. For one listener, at least, the temperature then dropped for Māra by Andris Dzenītis, Andris Nelsons’s forty-year-old fellow-Latvian. ... There were no identity problems with the Tchaikovsky extracts – two heroines in thrall to mad, bad or sad men, with Kristine Opolais taking no prisoners in Lisa’s Act One scena from The Queen of Spades, and ‘Tatyana’s Letter Scene’ from Eugene Onegin. 
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/Andris Nelsons at Royal Festival Hall (1) – Mahler 5 – Håkan Hardenberger plays Bernd Alois Zimmermann's Nobody knows de trouble I see
Monday, October 08, 2018 |  The Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, founded in 1743, the world's oldest civic orchestra, deals in gold and plush velvet, steel and thunder, cannonades and silk tresses. ... Andris Nelsons is the orchestra's twenty-first Gewandhauskapellmeister, the second youngest in its history (the first having been Mendelssohn in 1835). He takes on a daunting responsibility, his twentieth-century predecessors having included the cream of central Europe on either side of two world wars, from Nikisch, Furtwängler and Bruno Walter to Konwitschny and Masur. ... Given the might and armoury of the machine on the platform, Mahler's Fifth Symphony had its epic minutes, huge dynamic range and pulverising climaxes enfolding the drama, without ever being as electrifying or cogently welded as one knows it can be. ... Bernd Alois Zimmermann's Trumpet Concerto (1954) doesn't get many airings in London – it was last done at the Proms in 2012, and before that in 1997 with the LPO under Masur – but it's widely popular around Europe. Denunciating racial hatred and discrimination, and based on 'Nobody knows de trouble I see'... ... A staple of Håkan Hardenberger's repertory, the performance was glossy and slick... 
The Metropolitan Opera – Giancarlo del Monaco’s production of Puccini’s La fanciulla del West – Eva-Maria Westbroek, Željko Lučić & Yusif Eyvazov; conducted by Marco Armiliato
Monday, October 08, 2018 |  Giancarlo del Monaco’s 1991 production of Puccini’s La fanciulla del West, last revived in 2011, returns to the Met, where the opera was premiered in 1910, Toscanini conducting. ... During the atmospheric introduction, Rance sits alone as Nick the bartender prepares for the inrush of miners. Željko Lučić sings strongly and cuts an imposing figure, but his declaration of love for Minnie triggers a brawl (effectively staged), culminating in a wonderful moment when she enters firing a rifle, bringing hostilities to a sudden halt. Eva-Maria Westbroek is a charming Minnie... 
The Royal Ballet – Kenneth MacMillan's Mayerling [Ryoichi Hirano & Natlaia Osipova]
Monday, October 08, 2018 |  Mayerling is perhaps the most dense, most intricate ballet in the repertoire, a vast canvas on which interweaving themes of love, lust, despair, political struggle and alienation are played out; it is the antithesis of the clean lines of Balanchinean abstraction. Much criticised for its sprawling, complicated narrative when premiered in 1978, it is work that has come of age, a ballet that is now rightly considered a jewel in The Royal Ballet’s repertoire. Much of the reasoning for such status is the role of Crown Prince Rudolf which, because of its extreme physical and dramatic demands, is seen as the ‘Hamlet’ of roles for male dancers and is as coveted as Juliet for their female counterparts. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Leonard Slatkin conducts The Seventh Trumpet & Enigma Variations – Gil Shaham plays Prokofiev [live webcast]
Sunday, October 07, 2018 |  Having had to bypass engagements in recent months, a repaired and hearty Leonard Slatkin returned to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, now as Music Director Laureate... ... Donald Erb (1927-2008, a native of Ohio) was first on with The Seventh Trumpet (1969), following The Star-Spangled Banner. ... Following which Gil Shaham gave a sweetly lyrical account of the outer movements of Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto... ... Slatkin recorded Enigma Variations some years ago (with the London Philharmonic), not a one-off for this imperishable masterpiece, for it’s a regular in his repertoire... 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Sakari Oramo – Peer Gynt & Lemminkäinen – Alban Gerhardt plays Brett Dean’s Cello Concerto [live webcast]
Saturday, October 06, 2018 |  Peer Gynt and Lemminkäinen on their travels, arriving in Berlin, their composers’ Scandinavian compatriot Sakari Oramo conjuring vivid details and much evocation, opening with a rapturous, woodwind-distinguished, ‘Morning Mood’ from Grieg’s music for Ibsen’s play... ... Sibelius’s Lemminkäinen Legends are from early in his output (if revised) and predate his Seven Symphonies. The named Kalevala-enshrined hero, the work opening with baleful, attention-commanding horns, becomes passionate with the ‘Maidens of Saari’. ... This programme’s third outing was also streamed to the World, extending the audience, not least for Brett Dean’s new-this-year Cello Concerto, written for Alban Gerhardt and premiered a few weeks ago in Sydney... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Orpheus & Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus, with Theater Trikster
Saturday, October 06, 2018 |  We’ve reached post-war 1940s in the LPO’s year-long survey of Stravinsky’s output. Vladimir Jurowski decided to pair the mercurial composer’s sparse ballet-score Orpheus (for Balanchine, 1948) with another dance-related creation based on classical Greek mythology, Beethoven’s The Creatures of Prometheus. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Cristian Măcelaru conducts Beethoven's Creatures of Prometheus & Mason Bates’s Anthology of Fantastic Zoology – Jeremy Denk plays the Emperor Concerto
Friday, October 05, 2018 |  Beethoven may have been the most-familiar name here, but this was an evening about Mason Bates, Cristian Măcelaru and Jeremy Denk. ... Creatures from classical antiquity were followed by a more-contemporary imagination in Bates’s Anthology of Fantastic Zoology, evocations of bizarre beings familiar and unknown. First-performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Riccardo Muti in 2015, this glitzy work is based on a story by the Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges. 
San Francisco Symphony/Michael Tilson Thomas at Carnegie Hall – Stravinsky program with Leonidas Kavakos
Thursday, October 04, 2018 |  For the second of their two Carnegie Hall concerts, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony turned to Stravinsky. ... From the opening bars of the Violin Concerto, written with significant input from Samuel Dushkin who premiered it in 1931, it is unmistakably from the same composer’s hand. Leonidas Kavakos found the abounding wit of the rhythmically fascinating ‘Toccata’... 
William Forsythe at Sadler's Wells – A Quiet Evening of Dance
Thursday, October 04, 2018 |  The news that choreographer William Forsythe is in town is big news indeed, so Sadler’s Wells has pulled off something of a coup to secure him for a full evening of his work. He is a cerebral dance-maker, one whose thought-processes, experimentations and musings on the art form of ballet have enriched the repertoire. A Quiet Evening of Dance is no different – a subtely concentrated series of works culminating in a new creation which acts as a synthesis of what we have witnessed before. For this successful evening, Forsythe has assembled some of his most trusted and attuned dance collaborators who, between them, notch up decades of experience of his way of working and his own particular aesthetic – it is simply a joy to see them move and bringing all they know of him and his ways to their performances. 
Llŷr Williams at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms
Wednesday, October 03, 2018 |  Llŷr Williams opened with his signature composer, Beethoven, his C-minor Variations in which the pianist immediately found qualities of touch and tone, exact balance between hands, and a wholesome appreciation of the music’s ground-plan... ... On a larger scale and more-extensive range, Robert Schumann’s relatively rare Humoreske, opening in dreamy nostalgia and then a showcase of mercurial moods... ... ...this is young man’s music yet it came across more as “blue remembered hills” (Housman rather than Dennis Potter). 
Carnegie Hall’s Opening Night Gala – San Francisco Symphony/Michael Tilson Thomas with Renée Fleming & Audra McDonald
Wednesday, October 03, 2018 |  The San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas, Renée Fleming and Audra McDonald launched Carnegie Hall 18-19. Bookending the program were works by George Gershwin, and including McDonald’s sultry rendition of ‘Summertime’ from his and Ira’s Porgy and Bess; there were also songs from Broadway shows. 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra 18-19 opener at Lighthouse – Kirill Karabits conducts Ligeti’s Lontano & Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony
Wednesday, October 03, 2018 |  Kirill Karabits was unafraid to start with something almost glacial in its focus on sonority and timbre, György Ligeti’s Lontano (distant), here brilliantly throwing into relief Mahler’s life-affirming ‘Resurrection’ Symphony. 
Robin Tritschler & Malcolm Martineau at Wigmore Hall – Schubert
Wednesday, October 03, 2018 |  Robin Tritschler and Malcolm Martineau's Wigmore Hall Schubert recital delighted the head and heart as his sweet lyrical tenor illuminated an eclectic choice of Lieder, a programme divided into Solitude, Childhood, Death, and Lost Love. 
A funeral for the Queen of Carthage – Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas – Academy of Ancient Music/Richard Egarr, with Caitlin Hulcup, Rowan Pierce, Ashley Riches & Neal Davies; directed by Thomas Guthrie
Tuesday, October 02, 2018 |  Following last year’s inane directional intervention by Daisy Evans into King Arthur, turning it into a drama about Brexit (although even then it would have been difficult to believe that that political process could become the theatrical charade it has become in reality) one might have feared what Thomas Guthrie would make of Dido and Aeneas in this presentation by the Academy of Ancient Music as the last part of its cycle of some of Purcell’s stage-works. 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Chiaroscuro Quartet – Joke & Rosamunde
Monday, October 01, 2018 |  The last-minute withdrawal of Annelien Van Wauwe also meant the disappearance of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet from the Chiaroscuro Quartet’s Wigmore Hall concert. But there was nothing at all to disappoint in the programme that the Chiaroscuro members delivered: first (as advertised) concise, almost stylised Haydn, and then (Mozart’s replacement) a much more expansive Schubert. 


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