November 2017 Concert Reviews

October 2017 Concert Reviews
Kensington Symphony Orchestra – Russell Keable conducts Schoenberg – Five Orchestral Pieces and orchestrations of Bach & Brahms
Monday, November 20, 2017 |  One expects Russell Keable and the Kensington Symphony Orchestra, now in its sixty-second season, to put on bold, adventurous programmes that few of the 'big five' in London would either think of or get away with. Central to this concert was Arnold Schoenberg – Schoenberg the classicist, the romantic, the progressive, a man whose profundity you'd never question... ... The only original work of the evening, the expressionist, pantonal Five Pieces Opus 16 (following the 1909 version, richer orchestrally than the 1922 and 1949 revisions), was also the earliest chronologically, dating from the radical time of Das Buch der hängenden Gärten and Erwartung. Premiered by Henry Wood at the 1912 London Proms... ... Contrasting the imperialism (and fuller doublings) of Stokowski's or Wood's Bach transcriptions, Schoenberg's 'St Anne' (1928), first performed under Webern, is a leaner, more registrally terraced homage, making for a cumulatively commanding overview crowned with a final E-flat prolongation Masonic rather than Romantic in character. 
Basel Chamber Orchestra at Cadogan Hall – Heinz Holliger conducts The Hebrides, Meta arca, and Great C-major Symphony – Stephen Hough plays Mendelssohn
Monday, November 20, 2017 |  The Swiss connection – an ensemble from Basel, Heinz Holliger born in Langenthal, and this concert under the umbrella of Cadogan Hall’s Zurich International Orchestra Series. The Basel Chamber Orchestra was formed in 1984... ... The ten-minute Meta arca (2012) for strings, fifteen of them plus a solo violin (here leader Daniel Bard), reminds of Lutosławski’s Preludes and Fugue... ... Meta arca came between Mendelssohn, first an engaging outing for The Hebrides... ... Vibrancy was also a hallmark of the concentrated G-minor Piano Concerto (a three-movements-in-one design), Holliger conjuring a thrilling crescendo to kick things off, Stephen Hough then sizzling the keys with romantic fire before expanding into Mendelssohn’s melodic ease... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Fabien Gabel conducts Don Juan & Brahms 2 – Bertrand Chamayou plays Richard Strauss’s Burleske [live webcast]
Sunday, November 19, 2017 |  Guest-conductor this week with the DSO, Fabien Gabel launched into Don Juan with a vigour and swashbuckling athleticism that found Lenau’s version of the philanderer in peak stalking form... ... A rather different Richard Strauss surfaces in Burleske... ... ...Bernard Chamayou brought affection, Lisztian bravura and the suggestion of nightclub-pianist grin. 
The Royal Opera – Rossini’s Semiramide – Joyce DiDonato, Lawrence Brownlee, Daniela Barcellona; directed by David Alden; conducted by Antonio Pappano
Sunday, November 19, 2017 |  Semiramide was the last opera Rossini wrote for Italy before moving to France and it marked a high-water mark of the florid Italian style. David Alden’s Covent Garden production, first seen in Munich earlier this year, is London’s first since 1887... ... Moreover, as Antonio Pappano’s inspirational conducting makes abundantly clear, you can hear the style moving confidently from high Baroque, to Classical and on to the sort of Romantic Italian lyricism you get in early Wagner. ... Musically, this performance made me go weak at the knees. ... Semiramide is officially a soprano role – it was one of Joan Sutherland’s triumphs – and the mezzo Joyce DiDonato doesn’t fling out stratospheric top notes with abandon, but the quality and artistry of her intonation, coloratura and trills are astounding... 
English National Opera – world premiere of Nico Muhly’s Marnie – Sasha Cooke, Daniel Okulitch; directed by Michael Mayer; conducted by Martyn Brabbins
Saturday, November 18, 2017 |  The American composer Nico Muhly has, he says, gone out of his way to exorcise any influence of the film of Marnie on his new opera, its world premiere here from ENO. Muhly, though, could have taken some tips from Alfred Hitchcock in terms of dramatic pacing. Both Winston Graham’s 1961 novel and the 1964 film are gifts to an opera composer. Marnie, damaged goods from childhood at the hands of a feckless mother, becomes a tormented, kleptomaniac wraith repelled by the thought of sexual intimacy, who compulsively steals money from her employers before moving on to another town, a new identity and yet more lies, and who meets her match in the handsome, lonely young widower Mark Rutland who, while almost destroyed by his love for her when he blackmails her into marrying him, triggers her rehabilitation. 
EFG London Jazz Festival – Stefano Bollani at Cadogan Hall
Saturday, November 18, 2017 |  Stefano Bollani is as Italian as Vespa scooters and gelato, and performs like he chain-drinks espresso doppio. ... Ideas rushed by so fast it was sometimes hard to keep up: tempo changes executed as hard as handbrake turns; mood-shifts from Classical to Blues to Klezmer to Italian pop; and sly quotes ranging from Für Elise to Jesus Christ Superstar to the shameless kitsch of Richard Clayderman’s ‘Ballade pour Adeline’ and even ‘London Bridge is falling down’ and ‘Frère Jacques’ 
Basel Chamber Orchestra at The Anvil Basingstoke – Heinz Holliger conducts The Hebrides, Meta arca, and Great C-major Symphony – Stephen Hough plays Mendelssohn
Saturday, November 18, 2017 |  The Basel Chamber Orchestra began its whistle-stop UK tour with an individual account of Mendelssohn’s The Hebrides, conveying two sharply defined images of the composer’s Scottish experiences, Heinz Holliger conjuring a storm-tossed Atlantic swell ... Swiss-born Holliger – famous as an oboist – is also a composer. Meta arca (2012) reflects his preoccupation with exploring instrumental capabilities. ... There followed Mendelssohn’s First Piano Concerto, Stephen Hough variously charming with vigour, intimacy and sparkle. ... Such energy continued in a dynamic and buoyant account of Schubert’s ‘Great’ C-major Symphony – first given complete under Mendelssohn in 1839... 
EFG London Jazz Festival – Henri Texier’s Hope Quartet at Kings Place
Friday, November 17, 2017 |  Sixty minutes plus ten more for an encore – blimey, this was a short gig. But a musically satisfying one, the band tight and free of the self-indulgent riffing and noise interludes that can mar live improvisatory music. And Henri Texier was a generous raconteur... 
John Barry – Bond and Beyond – Philharmonia Orchestra/Nicholas Dodd, presented by Robert Lindsay
Thursday, November 16, 2017 |  Few film composers have left such a legacy of music as John Barry. ... His influences are eclectic and include Chet Baker, Stan Kenton and Carl Orff, as well as Eric Wolfgang Korngold and Max Steiner. ... Barry won Oscars for both original score and song with Born Free. ... Barry won Oscars for both original score and song with Born Free. It can seem mawkish but Dodd led a tasteful and restrained reading with a notable emphasis on exceptional cellos and double basses. Barry could also do comedy – Dodd brought out the pathos in Chaplin, directed by Richard Attenborough... ... ...Elsa Bradley’s cimbalom dominated the theme for the TV series The Persuaders (Roger Moore and Tony Curtis). 
Víkingur Ólafsson at St John’s Smith Square
Wednesday, November 15, 2017 |  On the basis of what I had heard from and read about the Juilliard-trained Icelandic pianist with the unequivocally Icelandic name, I was expecting Víkingur Ólafsson to be the epitome of Nordic cool and armour-plated technical accomplishment. ... Bach’s beautiful abstractions had a powerful resonance for Chopin, as you could hear in Ólafsson’s playing of three Etudes... ... The F-minor link continued with the Brahms Sonata, in as powerful and as positively dangerous an account as I’ve heard in years... 
English Chamber Orchestra at Barbican Hall – Beethoven programme – Julian Rachlin plays the Violin Concerto and conducts Coriolan & Symphony 7
Wednesday, November 15, 2017 |  By a curious coincidence a performance of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus was taking place at the adjacent Barbican Theatre when this English Chamber Orchestra and Julian Rachlin concert opened with the Coriolan Overture (albeit written for Heinrich Joseph von Collin’s play) to begin a Beethoven programme that is set for an European tour. 
The Metropolitan Opera – John Cox’s production of Massenet’s Thaïs – Ailyn Pérez, Gerald Finley, Jean-François Borras; conducted by Emmanuel Villaume
Wednesday, November 15, 2017 |  Jules Massenet’s Thaïs is staged infrequently – it requires a diva of star quality. In 1998, after a forty-year absence, the Met borrowed San Francisco’s production starring Beverley Sills. The current staging, by John Cox, was imported from Chicago Lyric a decade ago, Renée Fleming in the title role. In Ailyn Pérez, the Met has found a worthy successor to them. 
Shostakovich & Messiaen at St John’s Smith Square – Osborne, Ehnes, Gerhardt, Johnson
Tuesday, November 14, 2017 |  As part of Southbank Centre's International Chamber Music Series, and also the year-long Belief and Beyond Belief festival, Steven Osborne, James Ehnes and Alban Gerhardt played Shostakovich, and then Jean Johnson (Osborne’s wife) joined for Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time. 
Cédric Tiberghien at Turner Sims
Tuesday, November 14, 2017 |  Cédric Tiberghien’s debut at Turner Sims was memorable for an artfully conceived programme... ... Prokofiev’s pre-Revolution Visions fugitives comprises twenty short pieces, fleeting images... ... Tiberghien gave full rein to his imagination in Pictures at an Exhibition, a tribute by Mussorgsky to his artist-friend Viktor Hartmann... 
Mariinsky Orchestra/Valery Gergiev at Carnegie Hall – Shostakovich & Scriabin – Denis Matsuev plays Prokofiev
Tuesday, November 14, 2017 |  In this magnificent concert, Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra displayed dramatic power, kinetic energy and riveting intensity. ... Soviet dignitaries attending the premiere of Shostakovich’s Ninth Symphony in November 1945 expected something monumental and must have been shocked by this audacious work. ... Prokofiev’s dizzying Second Piano Concerto followed. In this overpowering account, Denis Matsuev interposed massive chords during savage passages... ... Scriabin’s ‘Divine Poem’ attempts to convey a metaphysical philosophy based upon Oriental mysticism with Nietzschean overtones... 
EFG London Jazz Festival – Herbie Hancock at Barbican Hall
Monday, November 13, 2017 |  Can the stately-looking man ambling onto the stage really be only three years shy of eighty, and is it really fifty-five years since his debut album Takin’ Off (1962)? And what’s he going to play: classic Blue Note from his earliest days? Electronic space-jazz and funk from the seventies and eighties? Densely woven neo-bop? Jazz tributes as per his albums dedicated to Miles Davis, Gershwin and Joni Mitchell? Hip-hop? ... The website blurb wasn’t much help but the publicity photo gave the game away, a shot of Herbie Hancock playing... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Gabriela Montero
Monday, November 13, 2017 |  If it was a slight disappointment that Gabriela Montero concluded her Wigmore Hall recital with a free improvisation... ... Montero’s creation “to describe my broken country” (referring to her native Venezuela, not her adopted Catalonia) opened in a cantabile manner... ... Earlier, if the episodic effect of Schumann’s Kinderszenen was inevitable given the nature of the pieces... ... There was much drama in the wartime Shostakovich Sonata... 
Kirill Gerstein at Wigmore Hall
Saturday, November 11, 2017 |  To know an artist, forget studio recordings. Get the 'live' experience. In concert Kirill Gerstein – Soviet-born, American naturalised, German-based – is a very different personality from the “inside the instrument” one you'll find on his recent release of Liszt's Transcendental Studies. ... Camera at the ready, Book I of Debussy's Préludes looked to the cinematic. ... Thomas Adès's three Mazurkas (2009) were written for Emanuel Ax to commemorate the bicentenary of Chopin's birth. 
EFG London Jazz Festival – Andy Sheppard Quartet + Kadri Voorand & Mihkel Mälgand at Kings Place
Saturday, November 11, 2017 |  No surprise that Andy Sheppard’s latest album, promoted here, is on ECM: menthol-cool saxophone improvising on folk-like melodies, effects-drenched guitar, spacious bass and minimalist drumming – all hallmarks of the label. Jan Garbarek might seem an inevitable touchstone.... ... As a warm-up act, Estonians Kadri Voorand and Mihkel Mälgand provided a marked contrast to Sheppard’s set, playing a style of music almost impossible to describe: a bit Joni Mitchell at times, a bit cabaret at others, sometimes plain bonkers. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Giancarlo Guerrero conducts Romeo and Juliet & Scottish Symphony – Daniil Trifonov plays his Piano Concerto [live webcast]
Friday, November 10, 2017 |  The Detroit Symphony Orchestra welcomed Giancarlo Guerrero as its latest guest-conductor. From the off Romeo and Juliet (desert-island Tchaikovsky) exuded atmosphere, tragedy in the air for the clandestine and star-crossed lovers... ... As the centerpiece, Daniil Trifonov featured as composer and pianist. His Piano Concerto (2014) – opening descriptively, dreamily – suggests Rachmaninov’s The Rock. ... Mendelssohn’s ‘Scottish’ Symphony (he saw the country first-hand) culminated this Friday-morning concert, Guerrero now without baton and such a loosening-up facilitated greater expression and a fantasy element... 
Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia – Eliahu Inbal conducts Stravinsky and New World Symphony – Varvara Nepomnyashchaya plays Mozart Piano Concerto K595 [live webcast]
Friday, November 10, 2017 |  In PR jargon the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia, established in 1992, must be one of Spain's best-kept secrets. Under principal conductor Dima Slobodeniouk it has evolved into a distinctively individual band of cosmopolitan players... ... Eliahu Inbal may enjoy muttering and singing but it isn't that helpful and his cueing wasn't always clear... ... Cutting a fragile, red-haired presence, Varvara Nepomnyashchaya – Varvara as she calls herself these days – won the 2012 Géza Anda Competition (with Beethoven's musically exacting Third Concerto – not an obvious contest choice but, famously, the making of Radu Lupu in Leeds). 
EFG London Jazz Festival – An evening with Pat Metheny at Barbican Hall
Friday, November 10, 2017 |  A fresh quartet playing lots of old repertoire, An evening with Pat Metheny proved to be old wine in new skins. At around two-and-a-half hours with no intermission, it was a long concert too – but then Metheny has a large vat to draw from. 
Britten Sinfonia – Mark Elder conducts Mahler/Britten, Finzi and Brahms – Elisabeth Kulman sings Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder
Thursday, November 09, 2017 |  

With a Symphony per year starting now, Brahms’s cycle is getting the Britten Sinfonia long-term treatment (longevity being its watchword and currently enjoying twenty-fifth-birthday jaunts), Mark Elder favouring smaller forces in this four-part series that also embraces Mahler Lieder and English pastoral pieces... ... One’s place in the human race also figures in ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’ (I am Lost to the World), one of the most transporting and transcendental of songs, here ending Mahler’s five Rückert-Lieder (there’s no fixed order), tenderly traversed by Elisabeth Kulman... ... Brahms’s Symphonies played by an orchestra whose strength is less than ‘symphonic’ proportions isn’t to everyone’s taste... 

Paul Berkowitz plays Schubert’s Last Three Piano Sonatas D958-960 at St John’s Smith Square
Thursday, November 09, 2017 |  Paul Berkowitz's recorded Schubert cycle for Meridian has garnered largely favourable attention over the years, the recognition at least that here is an artist with a viable view, performance-wise, of the trickiest composer of the classical-romantic era. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/John Wilson – Sinfonia Antartica & The Planets
Thursday, November 09, 2017 |  Close on forty years separate Holst’s Planets from Vaughan Williams’s Sinfonia Antartica and yet the cross-references between them make intriguing listening when placed side by side – as here in these stirring if uneven performances from the Philharmonia Orchestra and John Wilson. 
Schubert Ensemble at Kings Place – Martinů & Dvořák Piano Quintets
Thursday, November 09, 2017 |  The bad news is that the members of the Schubert Ensemble are well into their final season. The good news is that the musicians are still playing to a very high standard, so they going out on a high tide. This concert was the sixth and last in a series they called “Quintessentials”, in which they subjected a series of Piano Quintets to analysis before playing them. In Part One, lasting some twenty-five minutes, Simon Blendis and William Howard revealed some of the building blocks of two masterpieces, Martinů’s Second Quintet of 1944 and Dvořák’s Second Quintet of 1887. 
Bernstein’s Philharmonic: A Centennial Festival (3) – New York Philharmonic/Leonard Slatkin – Kaddish & Don Quixote
Thursday, November 09, 2017 |  It was Leonard Slatkin’s turn to salute Leonard Bernstein with the New York Philharmonic, a performance of his ‘Kaddish’ Symphony. ... First off, Richard Strauss’s Don Quixote, which Bernstein had conducted in his 1943 Philharmonic debut, when he stepped in at very short notice and without rehearsal for the ailing Bruno Walter... ... After intermission, Slatkin directed a thrilling account of ‘Kaddish’ Symphony. Jeremy Irons recited the text in the composer’s revised version... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Alain Altinoglu conducts 1812 Overture & Eroica Symphony – Patricia Kopatchinskaja plays Robert Schumann’s Violin Concerto
Wednesday, November 08, 2017 |  Napoleon defeated, and Beethoven’s dedication to him revoked – thus in the 1812 Overture Tchaikovsky commemorated a Russian victory, and the ‘Eroica’ Symphony’s title-page had Bonaparte’s name crossed-through when he turned out to not be the man the composer believed – self-proclaimed Emperor rather than a democrat. ... The London Philharmonic Orchestra and Alain Altinoglu tackled both. ... In between these notable scores, Patricia Kopatchinskaja played Robert Schumann’s Violin Concerto... 
LSO – Marin Alsop conducts Leonard Bernstein – Jeremiah – Mahler 1
Wednesday, November 08, 2017 |  The most remarkable thing about Marin Alsop is that she is an American musician in charge of a major US orchestra. As things stand, she might just be the only one left when MTT retires from the San Francisco Symphony! It’s a state of affairs that would have puzzled Leonard Bernstein... ... For all their seriousness of purpose not one of Leonard Bernstein’s three Symphonies conforms to the generic stereotype of the big abstract statement. .. But Jeremiah comes closest. 
Doric String Quartet at Wigmore Hall – The last three Quartets of Haydn’s Opus 20
Wednesday, November 08, 2017 |  This concert completed the Doric Quartet’s survey of Haydn’s Opus 20 at Wigmore Hall; and, as with the first three, sympathetic attention to every phrase was of the essence. 
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra/Zubin Mehta at Carnegie Hall (2) – Mahler’s Third Symphony
Wednesday, November 08, 2017 |  Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic came to Carnegie Hall to mark their fifty-year partnership with Mahler’s Third Symphony. 
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra/Zubin Mehta at Carnegie Hall (1) – Footnote Suite & Ein Heldenleben – Yefim Bronfman plays Beethoven
Tuesday, November 07, 2017 |  This was the first of three Carnegie Hall concerts by the Israel Philharmonic and the long-serving Zubin Mehta... ... The concert opened with music from Amit Poznansky’s score for the 2011 film Footnote. ... In the lengthy introduction to Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, well-paced by Mehta, dark textures were produced. Yefim Bronfman was terrific... ... Following intermission, Mehta led a wonderful reading of Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben... 
A Night Under the Stars – Charity Concert at Royal Festival Hall in aid of The Passage
Tuesday, November 07, 2017 |  This was the seventeenth annual fundraiser given in aid of The Passage, a charity that works with homeless people around the Victoria area. As I walked from The City to the Royal Festival Hall on this rather chilly evening, I passed quite a few rough-sleepers... ... Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini tested the mettle of the orchestra’s members, and they were on their best form, with ensemble crisp. Toby Purser’s conducting galvanised the players, a few smudges aside, dovetailing Boris Giltburg’s occasionally eccentric reading... ... Raymond Yiu was present for the premiere of his arrangement of ‘The Song of the Volga Boatman’... 
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Ben Gernon – Sinfonia da Requiem & Winter Daydreams – London premiere of Shadows on the Wall with Marta Fontanals-Simmons
Tuesday, November 07, 2017 |  In this instance Ben Gernon, who six years ago graduated from the Guildhall School, is markedly at the onset of creating his maestro persona... ... Beginning with Benjamin Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem, Gernon laid-out his determination to reflect the aura of inevitable death in which the work is drenched. ... Alasdair Nicolson describes Shadows on the Wall (2017) as “five pieces as character studies”... ... Marta Fontanals-Simmons (replacing Anna Stéphany) performed with a rich middle register and determination to do justice to poems by Christina Rossetti and Chaucer. 
Maria João Pires at Birmingham Town Hall – Mozart K332 & K333 and Schubert D935
Monday, November 06, 2017 |  She may long have operated primarily within the Austro-German tradition, but Maria João Pires has few equals when it comes to that axis which extends from Bach to Brahms, and this recital of Mozart and Schubert reinforced this point in no uncertain terms. 
The Royal Ballet – Mixed Bill – The Illustrated 'Farewell' / The Wind / Untouchable
Monday, November 06, 2017 |  Kevin O’Hare, Director of The Royal Ballet, is a man in the thrall of the new – his stated aim is to create modern classics, to re-forge the repertoire, in other words. In one way he could not be more right, as new creations are the lifeblood of any repertoire dance company, as acknowledged by Ninette de Valois, The Royal’s own founder. [...] For anyone coming to ‘see’ The Royal Ballet, the company of Ashton and Fonteyn, MacMillan and Bussell, it would have been a pretty perplexing experience ... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Juraj Valčuha conducts Liadov’s The Enchanted Lake & Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances – Stefan Jackiw plays Korngold’s Violin Concerto [live webcast]
Sunday, November 05, 2017 |  The Detroit Symphony Orchestra welcomed Juraj Valčuha as guest-conductor. He opened with Liadov’s The Enchanted Lake... ... ...Erich Wolfgang Korngold's Violin Concerto featured on the DSO’s recent tour of Asia with Leonard Slatkin, the soloist being Akiko Suwanai... ... ...Stefan Jackiw and Valčuha collaborated in the most positive way... ... Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances proved to be his swansong, dedicated to Eugene Ormandy and his Philadelphians... ... Valčuha was on top of this superb score... 
Philharmonia Orchestra at Royal Festival Hall – Mark van de Wiel gives London premiere of Joseph Phibbs’s Clarinet Concerto – Edward Gardner conducts Elgar’s In the South & Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast ... Beat Furrer Music of Today
Sunday, November 05, 2017 |  Into which category the Austrian composer Beat Furrer may well find himself unfairly put, yet by including two works of his in the Philharmonia Orchestra’s Music of Today series he has been cast pretty widely... ... The Concerto was staggeringly well-played by Nicolas Hodges... ... The main Philharmonia programme began with Elgar’s In the South.... ... ...but Edward Gardner’s approach initially exposed less of the music’s spaciousness and dignity than its emotional response to the Italian landscape... ... ...but not Joseph Phibbs’s new Clarinet Concerto, outstandingly well-played by Mark van de Wiel. ... With the concert marking the sixtieth-anniversary of the founding of the Philharmonia Chorus, the programme ended with a thrilling account of Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast... 
LSO – Marin Alsop conducts Leonard Bernstein – Halil & Kaddish – Mahler 10 Adagio
Sunday, November 05, 2017 |  Marin Alsop launched the LSO’s “Bernstein 100” series with two of her mentor’s overtly political works. They both show that Leonard Bernstein’s genius still robustly sidesteps categorisation... ... The two Bernstein works here included Halil... ... The LSO’s Adam Walker turned every mood beautifully... ... This cogent and highly charged performance rather sabotaged the impact of ‘Kaddish’, the most difficult of Bernstein’s so-called Symphonies... ... Claire Bloom, her majestic voice amplified, animated the narration intensely... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Lawrence Renes conducts Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony
Saturday, November 04, 2017 |  his concert would have been conducted by a ninety-four-year old Stanisław Skrowaczewski, but, following his death in February this year, Lawrence Renes took up the reins. His account of Bruckner 8 – conducted without a score and utilising antiphonal violins – was generally lucid and crisp... ... ...no particular section of the London Philharmonic Orchestra dominated another, but often an array of instrumental detail was revealed which can be submerged, including some sequences from the brass. 
Philharmonia Orchestra at The Anvil Basingstoke – Mark van de Wiel gives world premiere of Joseph Phibbs’s Clarinet Concerto – Edward Gardner conducts Edward Elgar’s In the South & First Symphony
Saturday, November 04, 2017 |  An evening of first-class music-making, beginning with Elgar’s In the South, written and orchestrated at lightning speed in 1904. From star-burst opening to thunderous close it was given a blistering account under Edward Gardner’s superb focus, the Philharmonia Orchestra bringing to this evocation of Italy a cinematic brilliance. ... Joseph Phibbs’s Clarinet Concerto is scored for medium-sized orchestra and is in four movements, its character largely shaped by the expressive and technical range of Mark van de Wiel... 
The Royal Opera at Wilton’s Music Hall – La tragédie de Carmen, Peter Brook’s adaptation of Bizet’s opera – with Jette Parker Young Artists
Friday, November 03, 2017 |  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Make her big, make her small, put her in a film, a play or a musical, Bizet’s and Merimée’s Carmen continues to baffle, arouse and appal audiences. Peter Brook’s 1981 version is just one of many to play fast and loose with opera’s most unknowable heroine. ... Marius Constant’s arrangement of the score for a one-of-each band of fifteen players uses the much-loved melodies, although, Morecambe & Wise-style, not necessarily in the right order. ... The singers have the opportunity of Wilton’s stage for some old-fashioned music-hall-style audience rapport, but, except for Gyula Nagy’s boisterous Escamillo, are rather diffident in using it. ... As Carmen, Aigul Akhmetshina was directed more as pouting wild child than as a man-eating, man-hating force of nature, but her voice is potent, confident and voluptuous... 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – John Storgårds conducts Lili Boulanger, Betsy Jolas and Mahler 4, with Håkan Hardenberger, Roger Muraro and Susanna Hurrell
Friday, November 03, 2017 |  With a first half of French music by Lili Boulanger and the Betsy Jolas we were assured of works to tickle the ear if not of earth-shattering importance perhaps. ... D’un matin de printemps is an energetic bordering-on-fun work that cannot be accused of wallowing in the composer’s real-life situation with a terminal illness... ... The twenty-minute Histoires vraies (True Stories, 2015) is for piano, trumpet and orchestra. The soloists are sometimes less busy than the percussion players.... From a paucity of themes in the first half we are spoilt for choice in Mahler’s Fourth Symphony. 
Welsh National Opera at Birmingham Hippodrome – Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin
Friday, November 03, 2017 |  A very distinguished performance this with some sensational playing, particularly from the woodwinds (especially the dovetailing of clarinet, flute and oboe), under Ainārs Rubiķis. ... Natalya Romaniw, fielding all the dark tones in her lustrous voice, was an appealing Tatyana... ... Nicholas Lester’s tall Onegin was an aloof, almost isolated customer in dramatic terms... ... Sadly this fine revival suffered appalling behaviour from some in the audience... 
Bernstein’s Philharmonic: A Centennial Festival (2) – New York Philharmonic/Alan Gilbert, with Anthony McGill & Makoto Ozone – Prelude Fugue & Riffs, Age of Anxiety, and George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue
Friday, November 03, 2017 |  Alan Gilbert continued to honor Leonard Bernstein, whose centenary falls next year. Between the two Bernstein works was George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, with Makoto Ozone... ... Prelude, Fugue and Riffs (1949) – for clarinet, with saxophones, brass, piano, double bass, and percussion – was intended for Woody Herman (but his jazz ensemble disbanded before the work was completed) and it was taken up by Benny Goodman. ... Ozone returned for 'The Age of Anxiety', which is nominally a Symphony (Bernstein’s Second), but is just as much a Piano Concerto – or perhaps neither. It was inspired by, and structured to reflect, the eponymous “Baroque Eclogue” by W. H. Auden... 
Birmingham Royal Ballet at Sadler's Wells – Mixed Bill – Arcadia, Le Baiser de la fée, and 'Still Life' at the Penguin Café
Friday, November 03, 2017 |  Lachlan Monaghan took centre-stage in a welcome revival of Michael Corder’s Le Baiser de la fée. […] Of especial interest, the music for Ruth Brill’s Arcadia, a work by saxophonist John Harle in which the composer himself played the solo. […] As a narrative, Arcadia is pretty thin, and the choreographer does not always achieve what she sets out to do […] To finish, Bintley’s now venerable eco-ballet, ‘Still Life’ at the Penguin Café, created in 1988 for The Royal Ballet.… 
Welsh National Opera at Birmingham Hippodrome – Janáček’s From the House of the Dead
Thursday, November 02, 2017 |  So atmospherically powerful is David Pountney’s staging of Janáček’s From the House of the Dead that it comes as a shock to realise that it was first mounted thirty-five years ago! From distant recollection, there have been some modernising modifications... ... They were helped by the WNO Orchestra performing wonders under Tomáš Hanus. He has the blood of Brno coursing through his veins and the legacy of the city’s most-famous composer to protect and promote. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Anthony Minghella’s production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly – Hui He, Roberto Aronica, Maria Zifchak, David Bizic; conducted by Jader Bignamini
Thursday, November 02, 2017 |  The late Anthony Minghella’s production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly occupies a significant place in the Met’s history. ... Cio-Cio-San is the cynosure of the opera. Hui He gives a dramatically powerful portrayal of the teenaged geisha who marries naval lieutenant Pinkerton... ... In his house debut, Jader Bignamini infuses the music with vitality and romanticism... 
Birmingham Royal Ballet at Sadler's Wells – Aladdin
Thursday, November 02, 2017 |  It is always good to welcome Birmingham Royal Ballet back to the Sadler’s Wells Theatre, its spiritual, if not actual, home; this always-likeable company continues to have a loyal London support-base, and it is important that the capital sees them dance in their own repertoire. For this visit, David Bintley’s full-length Aladdin was offered, replacing the initially scheduled new production of La Bayadère, which had to be shelved when the company’s grant was cut. ... 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Cadogan Hall – Barry Wordsworth conducts The Wasps & Enigma Variations, Mark Bebbington plays John Ireland and Duncan Riddell plays The Lark Ascending
Wednesday, November 01, 2017 |  This programme of British music included John Ireland’s once-regularly-performed Piano Concerto, and opened with the Overture from Vaughan Williams’s music for The Wasps, written in 1909 for a production of Aristophanes’s play. ... Mark Bebbington is closely associated with John Ireland’s piano music... ... The evening’s most effective and gratifying contributions arrived in Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending, Duncan Riddell an outstandingly eloquent soloist. 

 

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