June 2018 Concert Reviews

May 2018 Concert Reviews
Peter Donohoe at Wigmore Hall – Sixty-fifth-birthday recital
Monday, June 18, 2018 |  On the day itself Peter Donohoe marked his sixty-fifth birthday with a generous recital at Wigmore Hall, juxtaposing Scriabin and Ravel, then Mozart with Schubert. 
John Eliot Gardiner conducts Bach Cantatas at Barbican Centre – II
Saturday, June 16, 2018 |  As part of the Barbican Centre’s “Bach Weekend with Sir John Eliot Gardiner” (seven recitals including the Goldberg Variations, Jean Rondeau, and the Cello Suites, Jean-Guihen Queyras), this was the second of three Cantata concerts. ... This programme traversed two Cantatas for the Third Sunday after Easter, one for Pentecost and one for the First Sunday after Trinity – Ascension notably absent. ... Always ready to recycle his music when the occasion demanded, Bach did so for BWV34, written for Pentecost Sunday in 1727. In addition to its blazing choruses (tongues of fire graphically conveyed in the opening number), Bach writes a rewarding alto aria... 
The Royal Opera at Hackney Empire – Na’ama Zisser’s Mamzer Bastard; directed by Jay Scheib; conducted by Jessica Cottis
Friday, June 15, 2018 |  Despite its blunt and near-tautological title, Na’ama Zisser’s new opera – the fruit of her “young composer residency” at The Royal Opera – is diffuse and elusive. In some ways it is meant to be, as the central character, Yoel, has fled his Jewish Hasidic home in New York during a blackout on a summer night in 1977, prior to his arranged marriage, which prompts his urge towards some drastic soul-searching. 
Robert Smith's Meltdown at Royal Festival Hall – The Church and The Psychedelic Furs
Friday, June 15, 2018 |  Thirty-eight years on and The Church continues its active service as the most self-renewing band from that faraway time of the first psychedelic revival. This Royal Festival Hall gig may have been intended as little more than warm-up for two successive evenings at Bush Hall, but this still provided the opportunity to hear its current take on songs old and new, familiar and deep-catalogue obscure. ... A pity that not a few punters had remained bar-bound during this set before taking their seats for that by The Psychedelic Furs. 
Garsington Opera at Wormsley – Mozart’s The Magic Flute – Benjamin Hulett, Louise Alder, Jonathan McGovern, Sen Guo; directed by Netia Jones; conducted by Christian Curnyn
Thursday, June 14, 2018 |  Greeting you as you walk into the auditorium at Garsington’s Magic Flute is a continuation of the landscape garden’s topiary, its symmetrical boxed hedges fronting an imposing white facade. ... Dominating both Acts is the paraphernalia of freemasonry (square and compass providing a visual reminder of Mozart’s own association with this society) with Act Two set in a David Lynch-style Lodge with lookalike brothers attired in moustaches and 1970s’ glasses. To the blatant symbolism Jones adds distracting references to Peter Greenaway’s The Draughtsman’s Contract and the television adaptation of Margaret Attwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. 
Jakub Józef Orliński & Michał Biel at Wigmore Hall
Wednesday, June 13, 2018 |  The Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński’s star has been on the rise for three years or so, with many an award, an exclusive recording contract with Erato (his debut album is due soon) and opera roles both sides of the Atlantic. His most recent big thing was the title role in Handel’s Rinaldo for Frankfurt Oper, which apparently astounded as much for his singing as for his athleticism. ... This sold-out Wigmore Hall recital marked the centenary of Poland regaining independence, and there was a speech from the Polish ambassador. To judge from his engaging stage manner, Orliński is a natural opera animal, with the Baroque as his bread-and-butter repertoire. He was much more at ease with the direct emotionalism of the Handel and Purcell arias... 
CBSO/Ilan Volkov – Simon Holt & Brahms/Schoenberg – Alisa Weilerstein plays Shostakovich
Wednesday, June 13, 2018 |  This concert found Ilan Volkov at the helm of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra for a typically arresting programme... ... Sixty this year, Simon Holt has long had a fascination with Spanish culture as is borne out in Surcos (2016) – a brief yet eventful piece, modestly and resourcefully scored, that takes as its basis the poem November 1913 by Antonio Machado... ... Strange that the programme’s introductory paragraph should describe as “punchy” Shostakovich’s Second Cello Concerto... ... ...Alisa Weilerstein brought out its wealth of expressive shades from the outset... ... That Schoenberg’s 1937 orchestration of Brahms’s First Piano Quartet (1861) has become a part of the repertoire owes not least to Simon Rattle’s advocacy in the early years of his CBSO tenure. 
Aldeburgh Festival 2018 – To See the Invisible
Monday, June 11, 2018 |  Dystopian visions of autocratic/fascist societies squeezing the life out of errant but sympathetic individuals are hard-wired into all the art forms, to the extent you wonder if there is anything new to be said in this miserabilist genre. Emily Howard’s To See the Invisible, which has just had its world premiere, keeps company with Aldeburgh’s most celebrated outsider, Peter Grimes, albeit on a much smaller scale. 
ENO Studio Live at Lilian Baylis House – Handel’s Acis and Galatea – Alexander Sprague, Lucy Hall; directed by Sarah Tipple; conducted by Nicholas Ansdell-Evans
Monday, June 11, 2018 |  Welcome to Arcadia! Or Mountain Media’s midsummer party, in Sarah Tipple’s modern re-imagining of Ovid’s pastoral landscape as filtered through eighteenth-century sensibilities and Handel’s first dramatic setting in English, long before his development of the English Oratorio. Indeed, ENO’s debut production of Acis and Galatea celebrates the 300th-anniversary of its première and is presented at Lilian Baylis House. 
Aldeburgh Festival 2018 – Simon Holt’s Llanto (para las chumberas) and Bach’s Goldberg Variations
Monday, June 11, 2018 |  Dmitri Sitkovetsky’s 1984 string-trio version of the Goldberg Variations is one of the great Bach transcriptions, and this superb, late-night performance, in Aldeburgh’s packed Parish Church, confirmed its place... ... It was neatly set up by the first performance of Simon Holt’s Llanto (para las chumberas), Lament (for the prickly pears). 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Jader Bignamini conducts Puccini’s Turandot – Othalie Graham, Jonathan Burton, Morris Robinson, Guanqun Yu [live webcast]
Sunday, June 10, 2018 |  The DSO ended its 17-18 season in grand-opera style, Puccini's Turandot originally scheduled for Leonard Slatkin, here replaced by Jader Bignamini, recently in London (my neck of the woods) to conduct an evening with Anna Netrebko in the Royal Albert Hall. ... Jonathan Burton was an heroic Calaf, his warm expressive tenor making a considerable impression – ‘Nessun dorma’ well done... ... ...although it is the compassionate Liù of Guanqun Yu – such sensitivity – that leaves the biggest impression... ... Although I didn’t hang on the presenters’ every word [...] I heard no mention of Luciano Berio’s relatively recent completion of Act Three. Puccini left Turandot unfinished at his death... 
Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2018 – Handel’s Giulio Cesare – Sarah Connolly, Joélle Harvey, Patricia Bardon, Christophe Dumaux; directed by David McVicar; conducted by William Christie
Sunday, June 10, 2018 |  It is testament to the ever-widening reception of Handel’s stage-works that even a major opera festival such as Glyndebourne can programme two revivals of the composer’s dramas in one season. David McVicar’s production of Giulio Cesare was seen previously in 2005, 2006 and 2009, in between which have also come Rinaldo and Saul, the latter also being revived this year. ... Sarah Connolly seemed to be under the weather as her performance on this opening night was oddly under-powered and reticent... ... Joélle Harvey is a fresh and clean-voiced Cleopatra... ... In the pit, William Christie directs the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in a lithe and well-driven interpretation of Handel’s eclectic score... 
Grange Festival 2018 – Rossini’s The Barber of Seville – Charles Rice, John Irvin, Josè Maria Lo Monaco, Riccardo Novaro; directed by Stephen Barlow; conducted by David Parry
Saturday, June 09, 2018 |  Circumstantially this Barber of Seville promises something of interest. A huge curly moustache adorns one of the facades of the Grange, perhaps hinting at a satire on the present fashion for facial hair amongst young (and not so young) men. And before the curtain rises, the surtitles screen announces “The Barber of Seville in England 1818 to 2018”, alluding to the fact that it was first performed in this country exactly two hundred years ago (two years after the first presentation in Italy) which might have betokened an imaginative exploration of changing perceptions of this now-perennial opera. ... ...a clumsy sixth-form attempt to ape Monty Python-style surrealism. 
Grange Park Opera – Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera – Vincenzo Costanzo, Roland Wood, Claire Rutter; directed by Stephen Medcalf; conducted by Gianluca Marcianò
Saturday, June 09, 2018 |  Grange Park’s Theatre in the Woods, now in its second season, is scrubbing up well with a new brick facade and new facilities. Once the interior is finished, this tiered opera house, neatly triangulated between Covent Garden and Glyndebourne, will be one of the prettiest. This year’s first opera (the company opened with Oklahoma!) is Verdi’s A Masked Ball, in its alternative version with the lead role of King Gustave III of Sweden replaced by Riccardo, governor of Boston in the United States, made for censorship reasons at the time of its premiere in 1859. ... Stephen Medcalf has recycled the imposing fixed set that he and Jamie Vartan created for Grange Park’s staging of Wagner’s Die Walküre last year. ... Teresa Gevorgyan is in fine coloratura voice as Oscar, billed as Riccardo’s page, but presented as a gender-bending, gun-totin’ riff on Wild Bill Hickok... 
Grange Festival 2018 – Handel’s Agrippina – Anna Bonitatibus, Raffele Pe, Christopher Ainslie, Ashley Riches, Stefanie True; directed by Walter Sutcliffe; conducted by Robert Howarth
Friday, June 08, 2018 |  Walter Sutcliffe’s new production of Agrippina represents a mischievous – if also somewhat self-deprecating – triumph for the Grange Festival in that it turns Handel’s opera about the unedifying political and sexual schemes to catapult Nerone (Nero) to the Roman throne into an allegory for nothing more or less than this Festival’s control over the premises at The Grange in Northington, following the acrimonious departure of Grange Park Opera a couple of years ago. 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Christoph von Dohnányi conducts Haydn 12 & Beethoven 5, Arabella Steinbacher plays Mozart K219 – Music of Today Composers’ Academy
Thursday, June 07, 2018 |  It was good to welcome Christoph von Dohnányi back to London, he has been absent here and elsewhere for a while recovering from injury. Surprising to note (unless I have missed something) that the Philharmonia Orchestra’s Honorary Conductor for Life has no London engagements next season... ... Meanwhile Haydn’s low-number Symphony 12 (low given he reached three figures in this genre, and how) was the perhaps-unlikely starter to this current concert. Dohnányi judged the three movements to a nicety... ... There followed K219 with Arabella Steinbacher, elegantly and crisply introduced by the Philharmonia... ... Beethoven 5, the familiar refreshed and persuasive at every turn... ... The evening started with the final Music of Today recital of the season... 
The Royal Opera – Wagner’s Lohengrin – Klaus Florian Vogt, Christine Goerke, Jennifer Davis, Georg Zeppenfeld, Thomas J. Meyer; directed by David Alden; conducted by Andris Nelsons
Thursday, June 07, 2018 |  Wagner’s Lohengrin is often considered a prime example of echt-romantic German operas, given its historical Middle-Ages setting and its succession of scenes and that comprise the drama. ... For much of the first Act of this new staging (admittedly the first half is one long exposition of the back-plot) David Alden seems to be content to do just that within Paul Steinberg’s monumental sets... ... Luckily the musical offering is outstanding. Under Andris Nelsons we have an interpretation contrasting luminous and warm string playing against darkly threatening and sombre woodwinds and thrillingly intense militaristic brass... ... As Lohengrin, Klaus Florian Vogt demonstrates why he is in much demand... 
Würth Philharmonic Orchestra at Cadogan Hall – Rumon Gamba conducts Tallis Fantasia & Enigma Variations, John Lill plays Rachmaninov
Wednesday, June 06, 2018 |  There’s no point grabbing a map to find Würth, for Reinhold Würth – a very successful German businessman and a dedicated collector of art – has philanthropically put some of his riches into an orchestra... ... ...this London appearance was the only one with Rumon Gamba as part of the orchestra’s UK tour. ... Opening with the Tallis Fantasia immediately showed the mettle of the strings, as many as the Cadogan Hall stage can accommodate. ... As centrepiece, John Lill revived (medically and spiritually) Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto. 
Longborough Festival Opera – Wagner’s Flying Dutchman – Simon Thorpe, Kirstin Sharpin, Jonathan Stoughton, Richard Wiegold; directed by Thomas Guthrie; conducted by Anthony Negus
Wednesday, June 06, 2018 |  Since this opera festival started twenty years ago, Wagner has loomed large, with two Ring cycles (and a third starting next year), Tannhäuser, and Tristan and Isolde, all marvellously and movingly tailored to Longborough’s scale and style, powerfully conveyed by Anthony Negus’s conducting, and delivering major performances. ... Longborough’s new staging, by Thomas Guthrie, of the earliest of the accepted canon of music-dramas, The Flying Dutchman – here played as three Acts to accommodate the dinner interval – is a disappointment. 
Classical Opera at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Ian Page conducts Mozart’s La finta semplice
Wednesday, June 06, 2018 |  Classical Opera’s Mozart 250 retrospective brings us to the twelve-year-old composer’s first full-length stage-work, La finta semplice (1768) marking an early milestone in a remarkable creative life. ... With his orchestra, The Mozartists, Ian Page leads off with a brisk, no-nonsense account of the three-movement Overture. ... In a score of melodic abundance, the singers clearly relish the opportunities given for ornate display, none more so than Regula Mühlemann as Rosina, the pretend or disingenuous simpleton of the opera’s title (really a Hungarian baroness) who plays off the brothers Don Cassandro and Polidoro against each other as she entertains their not entirely welcome affections... 
English National Ballet – Kenneth MacMillan's The Sleeping Beauty
Wednesday, June 06, 2018 |  Kenneth MacMillan, the innovator, the experimenter, the iconoclast was also an intensely Classical ballet choreographer who held few, if any, ballets in higher esteem than Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty. So much is clear from his own production of this great work which remains in the repertoire of English National Ballet and is now revived for a two-week airing at London’s Coliseum. It is a handsome affair on all counts – the old master’s choreography treated with due respect and the sets and costumes, by Peter Farmer and Nicholas Georgiadis no less, a sumptuous mise en scène for this pinnacle of Classical dance. Here and there MacMillan tweaked small details, but in essence, this is a production true to the heritage of the work as staged by the old Imperial ballet régisseur Nicholas Sergeyev for Ninette de Valois. 
Paul Lewis at Royal Festival Hall – Beethoven, Haydn, Brahms
Tuesday, June 05, 2018 |  Unable to get to the Royal Festival Hall as planned, I took advantage of Radio 3’s broadcast of Paul Lewis’s second programme of four exploring Beethoven, Brahms and Haydn... ... It’s good that Lewis, like his mentor Alfred Brendel, is championing (and recording) Haydn Sonatas. ... Opus 119 is Brahms’s ultimate set of Pieces for piano alone, three Intermezzos and a Rhapsody. 
Yuja Wang at Barbican Hall – Rachmaninov, Scriabin, Ligeti, Prokofiev
Tuesday, June 05, 2018 |  Tigers and dragons immediately sprang to mind listening to Yuja Wang’s inflammatory recital. Much of this covered what might be described as classic Horowitz territory. 
Würth Philharmonic Orchestra with Stamatia Karampini & Maxim Vengerov at The Anvil Basingstoke
Tuesday, June 05, 2018 |  Bankrolled by tools-manufacturer Reinhold Würth, the Philharmonic Orchestra that bears his name (its home located near Stuttgart) was formed last year. This Anvil appearance was the third leg... ... Stamatia Karampini conducted the first half. It got off to a rousing start with the Overture to Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, its exuberance well-served. Max Bruch’s G-minor Violin Concerto (the first of his three) was given an expansive outing, somewhere between leisurely and grandiose and grew in stature. Maxim Vengerov beguiled from the outset... ... Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony found Vengerov on the podium. 
The MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall – Michael Tilson Thomas conducts Ruggles, Mozart & Mahler, with Pretty Yende
Tuesday, June 05, 2018 |  Michael Tilson Thomas’s debut concert with the MET Orchestra included two composers for whom he has a special affinity: Ruggles and Mahler. ... Following a witty introduction to Carl Ruggles’s music and his methods of composition, MTT launched a glowing performance of the aptly-titled Evocations. ... The demanding vocal part of Mozart’s teenage Exsultate, jubilate was taken by Pretty Yende... 
Joyce & Tony at Royal Opera House
Monday, June 04, 2018 |  Recitals with opera singers and a piano used to be a regular feature of Royal Opera House... ... Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano, vivid communicators both, have a great and intuitive rapport... ... After the interval we were in more impressionistic territory with Shéhérazade. All the exoticism of Ravel’s writing (more frequently heard in its orchestral form) was there in Pappano’s superb playing... 
Paul Hindemith and Lennox Berkeley opera double-bill at Guildhall School – The Long Christmas Dinner, A Dinner Engagement
Monday, June 04, 2018 |  With a few exceptions, one-Act operas lead a threadbare existence on the outer edges of the repertoire, receiving the occasional blast of oxygen from the music colleges. This is the case with the Guildhall School’s double-bill of Paul Hindemith and Lennox Berkeley... ... Hindemith wrote The Long Christmas Dinner in 1962 (the year before he died), based on Thornton Wilder’s play of the same title... ... Substance isn’t an issue in Berkeley’s hour-long A Dinner Engagement... ... The opera handsomely showcases singing and acting much more overtly than the Hindemith, with Lucy Anderson brilliantly channeling Mary Berry as the Countess and Samuel Carl’s Earl faintly evoking the hapless Johnnie Craddock, both of them sharp comedians. Emily Kyte shamelessly ramps up class divisions as Mrs Kneebone, a neatly judged riff on Mrs Overall and very well sung, as the Dunmow’s lady-who-does. 
London Mozart Players & Simon Callaghan at Conway Hall
Sunday, June 03, 2018 |  This skilled ensemble from the London Mozart Players successfully revealed the inner workings of well-known musical masterpieces through interesting arrangements. The players opened with a spick and span Eine kleine Nachtmusik. ... The arrangement by Vinzenz Lachner (1811-1893) of Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto was published in 1881... ... Simon Callaghan’s interpretation was superb... ... Haydn had barely completed his final visit to London before a publication entitled “XII Grand Symphonies, by Haydn, arranged as Quintets, by J. P. Salomon” became available. 
LSO – Gianandrea Noseda conducts Rapsodie espagnole & Pictures, Yefim Bronfman plays Beethoven
Sunday, June 03, 2018 |  Prior to Bangkok and China, Rapsodie espagnole, Ravel’s evocation of all things Spanish– he was born in the Pyrenees to a Madrileño mother. It was played beautifully by the LSO, Ravel’s sumptuous colours superbly realised, if a little too harried by the ever-excitable Gianandrea Noseda. ... Noseda’s muscular approach to the opening of the minor-key Beethoven did not sit well, but then the control of Yefim Bronfman’s first utterance proved the ideal foil to such flamboyance... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Paavo Järvi – Sorcerer’s Apprentice & Symphonie fantastique – Denis Kozhukhin plays Rachmaninov
Sunday, June 03, 2018 |  Were it not for The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (and Walt Disney’s Fantasia with Mickey Mouse), the very self-critical Paul Dukas would probably be only known to those familiar with La Péri, Ariane et Barbe-bleue or the Symphony in C. Paavo Järvi conjured an assured and atmospheric Sorcerer... ... Much the same could be said for a gripping performance of Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto – an Everest. Yet its fearsome demands are tempered by a dreaming delicacy; two facets superbly articulated by Denis Kozhukhin... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Robert Spano conducts Luster & Rite of Spring – Seong-Jin Cho plays Chopin [live webcast]
Friday, June 01, 2018 |  The Rite of Spring, and Robert Spano’s conducting of it, elevated this DSO morning concert. Spano (replacing Leonard Slatkin) opened with the second performance (of three) of Jared Miller’s Luster... ... For the Chopin, Spano (long-serving maestro in Atlanta) ensured a purposeful well-integrated introductory tutti, if a little routine, setting up Seong-Jin Cho to play all the notes... 
Bavarian State Orchestra at Barbican Hall – Kirill Petrenko conducts Mahler 7
Friday, June 01, 2018 |  The last time I was present to hear Mahler’s Seventh Symphony in the erratic acoustic of the Barbican Hall the conductor was Gianandrea Noseda and his orchestra the LSO, an ensemble with a higher international profile than that taking the stage here, at least when functioning away from the Bavarian State Opera. ... That Kirill Petrenko has risen to the top of his profession without the usual publicity drives and record deals has added to his mystique... 
Garsington Opera at Wormsley – Richard Strauss’s Capriccio – Miah Persson, Sam Furness, Gavan Ring, Andrew Shore, William Dazeley, Hanna Hipp; directed by Tim Albery; conducted by Douglas Boyd
Friday, June 01, 2018 |  Richard Strauss’s Capriccio is the ultimate natural fit for summer opera in the country. This “conversation piece”, Strauss's final stage-work, is set in a chateau near, if not too near, Paris, and its impact depends greatly on an Agatha Christie-like isolation from the real world. The three Gs – Glyndebourne, Grange Park and Garsington – have mounted it, and now Garsington is back for seconds in collaboration with Santa Fe Opera. 


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