November 2018 Concert Reviews

December 2018 Concert Reviews
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Martyn Brabbins conducts November Woods & Vaughan Williams 4 – Marcus Farnsworth gives the premiere of Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s Last Man Standing
Friday, November 30, 2018 |  I hope Martyn Brabbins will take this as a huge compliment, that he is the Sir Adrian Boult for our time. His versatility and consummate embrace of a wide range of repertoire – Guillaume de Machaut and Byrd to Birtwistle and Ferneyhough, opera-house to concert-hall, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Tippett – suggests him as such... ... They also have Bax and Vaughan Williams in common. The former’s November Woods (1917) doesn’t get out much... ... When Bax composed November Woods the Great War was at its height. Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s thirty-five-minute Last Man Standing, to a libretto “by Tamsin Collison inspired by WW1 texts and personal testimonies” acknowledges the end of this conflict in 1918. ... Marcus Farnsworth’s diction and mellifluous musicianship were impeccable in a piece that might be considered a counterpart to John Adams’s The Wound-Dresser... ... Brabbins has started a BBCSO Vaughan Williams Symphony cycle for Hyperion – five-star reviews for the first two, links below – and numbers 3 (Pastoral) & 4 were recorded just a few days ago, awaiting release. 
New Sussex Opera at Cadogan Hall – Stanford’s The Travelling Companion
Friday, November 30, 2018 |  New Sussex Opera continues to set the pace in terms of unfamiliar operas, imaginatively staged, with this production (the first for decades) of The Travelling Companion being no exception. This last of Charles Villiers Stanford’s operas, completed in 1916 but only posthumously staged, typified the career of one whose early immersion in the genre should have enabled him to blaze a trail for modern British opera. That he failed to do so is usually attributed to his failings as a composer which, as NSO here demonstrated, may not be entirely the case. Taking its cue from a story by Hans Christian Andersen, and with a workable if often gauche libretto from Henry Newbolt, Stanford’s opera welds elements dealing with coming of age, divine intervention, chivalrous conduct and supernatural hokum... 
Academy of Ancient Music/Michael Collins at Milton Court – Mozart – Nicola Boud plays the Clarinet Concerto & Soraya Mafi sings arias, plus Salieri & Amalia
Thursday, November 29, 2018 |  Salieri’s music is rarely heard in concert but this courtly three-movement Symphony from 1786 certainly charmed the ear. ... In Michael Collins’s sparkling interpretation he observed first repeats only (as per the Ricordi score) and not both (as per Bärenreiter). ... All the orchestral music here is in three movements and the three pieces sung by Soraya Mafi followed the pattern – a comfortable sequence with two operatic excerpts surrounding a concert aria. ... Amalia (1739-1807) – Duchess Anna Amalia of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel – had a most interesting life... ... Originally, Collins was to have played Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto but illness prevented his full attention to preparing it. Nicola Boud replaced him... 
LSO – Kristjan Järvi conducts Charles Coleman & Steve Reich – Simone Dinnerstein plays Philip Glass
Thursday, November 29, 2018 |  In a concert rather opaquely tagged “Divine Geometry” Kristjan Järvi’s avowed intent was to bring together, by way of their similar motivic insistence and defined chordal structures, music separated by over three centuries: Baroque and Minimalism. ... Charles Coleman – a co-founder of Järvi’s Absolute Ensemble, but also championed by both Paavo and Neeme Järvi – composed his Handel Water Music homage Drenched and his Bach Inspired suite of four pieces in 2014. ... Kristjan likened the exact contemporaries of the Baroque – born less than 200 kms apart (Bach in Eisenach; Handel in Halle) – to the much closer geographical near-contemporaries from New York City Steve Reich (born 1936) and Philip Glass (1937). Glass’s Third Piano Concerto – a commission by twelve organisations – closed the first half, with dedicatee Simone Dinnerstein. 
New York Philharmonic/Jaap van Zweden – Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony – Simone Lamsma plays Britten’s Violin Concerto
Thursday, November 29, 2018 |  Jaap van Zweden’s coupling of Britten’s Violin Concerto and Shostakovich’s ‘Leningrad’ Symphony was a good conception, composers with much in common and well-acquainted, each holding fast to tonality to communicate reactions to contemporary times. ... Simone Lamsma gave a stunning performance... ... The New York Philharmonic played superbly. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Andrés Orozco-Estrada conducts Romanian Rhapsody, La valse, Martinů 4 – Viktoria Mullova & Matthew Barley play At Swim-Two-Birds
Wednesday, November 28, 2018 |  Martinů’s Fourth Symphony is such a great work, and its conclusion so exhilarating, that to follow it with anything else is almost criminal. La valse (1920) may be of equal distinction in terms of musical quality... ... Andrés Orozco-Estrada led a graphically detailed (tuba especially) account... ... In the first half, with the composer in attendance, Pascal Dusapin’s intriguingly-titled At Swim-Two-Birds, owing to the 1939 eponymous “experimental” novel by Flann O’Brien... ... ...Viktoria Mullova and Matthew Barley meaningfully entwined... 
Guildhall Symphony Orchestra & Takuo Yuasa at Barbican Hall – Rite of Spring & Mahler 4
Wednesday, November 28, 2018 |  The Rite of Spring suits youth orchestras and Pierre Boulez and Simon Rattle have given memorable performances of it with the NYO of GB. The Guildhall Symphony Orchestra followed suit under Takuo Yuasa in a performance that was devoid of a single moment of routine playing. ... Mahler’s Fourth Symphony calls for a different set of musical values... 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Karabits at Lighthouse – Pulcinella & Shostakovich 1 – Johannes Moser plays Walton’s Cello Concerto
Wednesday, November 28, 2018 |  Three distinctive musical personalities, immediately evident in the Suite from Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, a “ballet with song” reimagining music wrongly attributed to Pergolesi (with references to other Italians), a shoplifting of Baroque styles. ... Kirill Karabits coaxed primary colours and rhythmic precision... ... Stravinsky’s capacity for reinventing himself was not a primary concern for William Walton... ... Nothing could be further from the truth as this Cello Concerto... ... When played with such conviction and passion as it was here by Johannes Moser there can be no doubt of the work’s integrity and emotional power. 
The Royal Ballet – Triple Bill – The Unknown Soldier | Infra | Symphony in C
Wednesday, November 28, 2018 |  It is hard to fathom the process by which The Royal Ballet decides upon the composition of its mixed evenings of dance – a good triple bill possesses an internal logic and thought as to its internal dynamic. However, in recent years at Covent Garden, the overriding principle seems to owe more to Chaos Theory. And so it proved with the latest combination, bringing a new work by Alastair Marriott to a commissioned score from film composer Dario Marinelli together with a revival of Wayne McGregor’s rebarbative Infra set to Max Richter and sundry electronic scrapings and George Balanchine’s lustrous white tutu extravaganza Symphony in C set to Bizet. 
Kensington Symphony Orchestra at St John’s Smith Square – Russell Keable conducts The Perfect Fool, Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances & Vaughan Williams's Job
Monday, November 26, 2018 |  The Kensington Symphony Orchestra was at its largest for this generous and typically enterprising programme (requiring at some point a piano, two harps, alto saxophone, celesta and organ), Rachmaninov seeming rather a gooseberry in relation to the friends that were Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams, and – pertinent to your reviewer – the players and Russell Keable were up against definitive recordings, Ormandy’s of Symphonic Dances and Boult’s fourth and final taping of Job. 
Royal College of Music – Sir Thomas Allen directs Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro; conducted by Michael Rosewell
Monday, November 26, 2018 |  With good reason, Figaro and Susanna survey with horror the dump of a room they’ve been allocated by the Count for the start of married life. That is the first thing we see in Thomas Allen’s RCM staging of The Marriage of Figaro, and it sets the scene for a sparkling evening as well as neatly summing up the opera’s political idée fixe of rulers and the ruled. 
English National Opera – Jonathan Miller’s production of Puccini’s La bohème – Natalya Romaniw & Jonathan Tetelman; conducted by Alexander Joel
Monday, November 26, 2018 |  Jonathan Miller’s 2009 La bohème is now enjoying its fourth revival... ... A buzzing Café Momus is stylishly decked out (you can almost smell the coffee and Gauloises), a brazier, lofty balloons and flower-seller add verisimilitude, and the ENO Chorus and the children are in commendable form. ... As Mimi, Natalya Romaniw brings cool restraint, vulnerability... ... No such reservations mark Jonathan Tetelman’s performance as Rodolfo... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Tai Murray & Silke Avenhaus – Grieg, Philip Glass, Saint-Saëns
Monday, November 26, 2018 |  It’s very easy for performers to go overboard with the big romantic stuff, so in many ways the achievement of Tai Murray and Silke Avenhaus’s superb Grieg at Wigmore Hall was in its restraint. ... There is – no doubt surprising to many people – also quite a bit of dramatic chopping and changing in Philip Glass’s Pendulum (2010) written to celebrate an anniversary of the American Civil Liberties Union... 
The Metropolitan Opera – Jack O’Brien’s production of Puccini’s Il trittico – Il tabarro, Suor Angelica, Gianni Schicchi; conducted by Bertrand de Billy
Monday, November 26, 2018 |  Jack O’Brien’s production of Il trittico, one of the most appealing in the Met’s repertory, is receiving a terrific revival after a nine-year absence. Bertrand de Billy leads a masterful realization of Puccini’s scores... ... And not the least of the enjoyable features is the portrayal of Gianni Schicchi by Plácido Domingo. ... As the curtain rises on Il tabarro to reveal a freeze-frame tableau, we are drawn instantly into the milieu of hard-working bargemen along the Seine in 1927 Paris... ... The first half of Suor Angelica is taken up with the everyday goings-on in the convent to which she, marvelously portrayed by Kristine Opolais, was banished by her noble family after she bore an illegitimate child. ... The best of Il trittico comes with Gianni Schicchi, the hilarious yarn carried off with precise comic timing, ensuring that every punch-line and sight-gag lands with maximum impact. 
Wimbledon International Music Festival – Philharmonia Orchestra – Robin O’Neill conducts Langsamer Satz & Eroica Symphony – Zuill Bailey plays Schumann’s Cello Concerto
Sunday, November 25, 2018 |  Wimbledon is iconic around the World for all tennis fans. It is surely joined now, after ten years of existence, by the Wimbledon International Music Festival, at least for music enthusiasts. ... Anyone with any knowledge of twentieth-century music might, therefore, have approached the opening work by Anton Webern, with a degree of trepidation. Langsamer Satz is, in fact, a final statement he made in the romantic style he inherited in his youth from Wagner in particular. ... Robin O’Neill (the Philharmonia's principal bassoonist) has arranged this ‘slow movement’ originally written for string quartet. ... If this is Webern’s farewell to the Romantic era, then Beethoven’s consummate ‘Eroica’ Symphony is a precursor to a different age in which he grew up. ... In between, the American cellist Zuill Bailey performed Robert Schumann’s Cello Concerto. 
Elgar Sinfonia of London – Adrian Brown conducts an Elgar programme at St John’s Waterloo – Music in the Shadow of World War One
Sunday, November 25, 2018 |  Clearly, the Elgar Sinfonia is going to play Elgar’s music, and before anyone claims that his orchestral music is often played, there are quite a few fine and characteristic works by him that are hardly ever heard. Adrian Brown was a long-term pupil of Sir Adrian Boult: with regard to Elgar’s music he could not have had a more sympathetic mentor. ... From the unknown to the familiar: Elgar’s Cello Concerto, with Daniel Benn as soloist, followed. I have not encountered this cellist before, but I have a mental note to seek him out in future. 
Marin Alsop conducts Chichester Psalms at Chichester Cathedral
Saturday, November 24, 2018 |  This final hurrah for Leonard Bernstein brought to a close Chichester’s year-long centennial celebration of the composer whose Chichester Psalms had its first UK performance there in 1965, commissioned by Dean Walter Hussey whose chutzpah had given life to music, among others, from Britten, Finzi and Walton and art-works from Marc Chagall, John Piper and Graham Sutherland. ... Marin Alsop – a Bernstein pupil – spoke about her mentor... 
Nash Ensemble & Christine Rice at Wigmore Hall – German Romantics – Schumann, Wagner, Brahms
Saturday, November 24, 2018 |  The Nash Ensemble’s German Romantics season is currently showing off how late-Classical style stoked the fires of Romanticism into white-hot Expressionism. ... Beethoven casts a long shadow at one end of the series’ reach, darkened by Wagner at the other, in this recital with the Wesendonck-Lieder. Christine Rice might just as well have been singing them lying on a psychiatrist’s couch, such was her uncanny identification with the five songs’ angst-ridden eroticism... 
Time Unwrapped at Kings Place – Aurora Orchestra with Iestyn Davies & Nico Muhly – Old Bones
Friday, November 23, 2018 |  All music contains and is contained by time; the Time Unwrapped series at Kings Place has investigated this existential role. This Aurora Orchestra programme was devised by Iestyn Davies and Nico Muhly, intelligently contrasting vocal and chamber works, fusing elements of polyphony and medieval love poetry with the recent music of Muhly and Thomas Adès. 
Americana '18 at St John’s Smith Square – Thanksgiving – ORA Singers/Suzi Digby
Thursday, November 22, 2018 |  Americana ’18 is now approaching the end of its year-long celebration of music from across the pond. Using Thanksgiving Day as a stimulus, the ORA Singers delivered a “Mass of Thanksgiving”, built on a framework that, with notable exceptions, placed works by contemporary English and American composers between movements from William Byrd’s Mass for Five Voices. There were some neat couplings with settings of identical Eucharistic texts by Thomas Tallis and Steven Stucky and by Palestrina and Paolo Prestini, also recently commissioned works. 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Jakub Hrůša conducts The Mystery of Time & Slavonic Dances – Simon Trpčeski plays Shostakovich
Thursday, November 22, 2018 |  Principal guest conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, Jakub Hrůša continued his productive association with it - opening with a major piece by arguably the leading post-war Czech composer who nonetheless remains virtually unknown outside of his native country. ... The career of Miloslav Kabeláč (1908-79) was one of constant antagonism with the Czech state... ... If the remainder of this concert consisted of lighter fare, it in no way reflected on the quality – or lack thereof – of the music in question. It is a measure of Shostakovich’s stature that so accessible a piece as his Second Piano Concerto (also 1957) should be so wholly characteristic. In the hands of Simon Trpčeski , the initial Allegro proved weightier and more ambivalent than is often the case... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra & Opera Rara – Mark Elder conducts Puccini’s Le Willis
Wednesday, November 21, 2018 |  The draw was the reconstruction by Martin Deasy of the original one-Act version of Puccini’s first operatic venture, Le Willis, composed in 1883 for a competition. ... Mark Elder, his career-long opera-house experience persuasively bringing out all the felicities of Deasy’s reconstruction, ensured that dramatic facets were explored whilst also pointing out originalities and influences. The LPO responded enthusiastically... ... Ermonela Jaho is justifiably famous for her Puccini interpretations and superb vocalism. 
The English Concert/Harry Bicket at Wigmore Hall – Bach Cantatas – Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland
Tuesday, November 20, 2018 |  Advent was launched in fine style by The English Concert and Harry Bicket with Johann Sebastian Bach’s three surviving Cantatas for this time of year. ... Philipp Heinrich Erlebach was regarded as one of the most important German composers and Kapellmeisters in the generation before Bach. 
Alexandre Tharaud at Wigmore Hall
Monday, November 19, 2018 |  Alexandre Tharaud is a gift to classical-music marketing. He’s tall, with model-like looks and slimness, and, on the cusp of turning fifty, he is cultivating a guru-like gravitas among his fans – and Wigmore Hall was sold out. ... His self-imposition was even more marked in two of the final Beethoven Sonatas... 
Gary Numan & The Skaparis Orchestra at Royal Albert Hall, with Chris Payne
Monday, November 19, 2018 |  Vertical red-strip lighting and an operatically huge curtain pulsing with blue flowers was the eerie backdrop for warm-up artist, ex-Numan Band member, Chris Payne and his wife Dominique (vocals) both evoking Celtic mysticism with songs (lyrics inaudible). ... A huge blue iris projection, repeating harp solo, foreboding double bass, shrieking electric violins, fraying mummy-like men staggering onto the stage like a 1920s’ horror montage! Then the dark lord himself Gary Numan strolled on with his unmistakable black quiff... 
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons at Carnegie Hall – Mahler’s Fifth Symphony – Håkan Hardenberger plays HK Gruber’s Aerial
Monday, November 19, 2018 |  Boston Symphony Orchestra music director Andris Nelsons’s pairing of HK Gruber’s Aerial with Mahler’s Fifth Symphony proved to be an interesting if not a perfect fit. Both works do have common elements, not least radical shifts in tempo and mood. Aerial calls for a trumpet (in C rather than B-flat), a piccolo trumpet and a cow’s horn as well as different mutes; Håkan Hardenberger, for whom the work was written, skillfully maneuvered his instruments.  
English National Opera stages Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem; directed by Daniel Kramer; designed by Wolfgang Tillmans; conducted by Martyn Brabbins
Friday, November 16, 2018 |  English National Opera has form with staging tried and tested Christian choral works, and it could only be a matter of time before its tally included Britten’s fifty-year-old-plus War Requiem, in an elaborate staging from Daniel Kramer... ... Martyn Brabbins (ENO Music Director) often makes the main orchestra sound as intimate and detailed as the soldiers’ chamber group... ... Emma Bell, cast as an angel-human hybrid, fills the Coliseum with glorious sound. David Butt Philip and Roderick Williams, both in wonderful, tender voice, sum up human frailty and love. 
L’invitation au Voyage – Sarah Connolly, James Newby & Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall
Friday, November 16, 2018 |  As part of Wigmore Hall’s Ravel Song Series, Sarah Connolly and James Newby shared a French programme, two contrasting versions of ‘L’invitation au Voyage’, both from 1870, framing settings of Symbolist verses by Ravel’s predecessors and contemporaries; a mélange of dreams and fantasies, erotic and nightmarish, leavened by the humorous and vividly-imagined Histoires naturelles. 
Philharmonia Orchestra – John Wilson conducts Richard Rodney Bennett & Walton – Louis Schwizgebel plays Gershwin
Thursday, November 15, 2018 |  The opening piece, Richard Rodney Bennett’s Celebration (1991, for the Maryland Symphony Orchestra) was stunningly well played. John Wilson is engaged in recording for Chandos a series of Bennett’s orchestral works, and whose command of this by no means easily-playable score was total. ... George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto remains, after more than ninety years, a wholly unique and original masterpiece... ... This first movement remains the first and only wholly successful symphonic Charleston, and with Louis Schwizgebel a clean-fingered and hugely stylish soloist, it was wholly successful... 
The Royal Opera – Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra – Carlos Álvarez, Ferruccio Furlanetto, Hrachuhi Bassenz; directed by Elijah Moshinsky; conducted by Henrik Nánási
Thursday, November 15, 2018 |  After a day of real-life politics in and around Westminster there was a certain irony to spending an evening at the Royal Opera House for a work largely concerned with politics beset by factionalism, ruthless ambition, old enmities, financial corruption and their impact on personal lives and relationships. However, there were rewards! Elijah Moshinsky’s 1991 staging of Simon Boccanegra, seen in many revivals over its twenty-seven years, wears its age lightly. ... At the centre of the cast is Carlos Álvarez’s Simon, one of the best performances he has given for the company... ... Counter to this is the implacable Fiesco of Ferruccio Furlanetto. 
Die Stadt ohne Juden – 1924 film with music by Olga Neuwirth
Thursday, November 15, 2018 |  Die Stadt ohne Juden (City Without Jews) is an Austrian film made in 1924 by Hans Karl Breslauer. It was adapted by Breslauer and the playwright and screenwriter Ida Jenbach from the best-selling novel of the same name by Hugo Bettauer. Bettauer’s novel is speculative fiction in the vein of H. G. Wells or G. K. Chesterton whereas the film is a satirical comedy with a few Expressionistic touches that suggest Robert Weine’s The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. ... Olga Neuwirth is a natural cinephile. She studied both music and film at university and has been inspired by film throughout her career, most notably in her video-opera based on David Lynch’s Lost Highway. 
BBC Symphony Chorus & Orchestra – Martyn Brabbins conducts Ethel Smyth’s Mass in D – Pavel Kolesnikov plays Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto
Thursday, November 15, 2018 |  Just to give you an idea of the popularity in the UK, or curiosity about, Dame Ethel Smyth’s Mass in D – the best of her, as she thought – it has been performed once, at the Proms, in 1930. Sakari Oramo, who was originally due to conduct this BBCSO concert, is a fan... ... ...it was inevitable that the Russian’s First Piano Concerto, especially in the astonishing account from Pavel Kolesnikov, would obliterate the impact of Smyth’s Mass. 
Royal Academy of Music – Handel’s Semele – Lina Dambrauskaitė, Ryan Williams, Frances Gregory, Olivia Warburton; directed by Olivia Fuchs; conducted by Laurence Cummings
Wednesday, November 14, 2018 |  After the premiere of Deidamia in early 1741, Handel composed no more operas as such, concentrating instead on creating a series of unstaged music-dramas based on the Bible or occasionally, as in Semele (1744), on episodes from Classical mythology for the edification of Christian audiences during Lent. Charles Jennens (librettist for some of these works, but not Semele) described it as “no oratorio but a baudy [sic] opera”. He was quite right to notice its full theatrical potential, but it is surprising that the po-faced Evangelical proselytiser failed to see beyond the exuberance of the score and plot to the latent moral. ... It is not clear, however, that Olivia Fuchs’s production really takes seriously or recognises either facet... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Oleg Caetani conducts Hymne & Symphonie fantastique – Roberto Prosseda plays Gounod’s Concerto for Pedal Piano
Wednesday, November 14, 2018 |  What an extraordinary concert. Rarely have I entered a hall with such a buzz going on around the stage, though one glance was enough to see what warranted such attention: the towering edifice that is a pedal piano. It’s like a Steinway smash up... ... Our soloist, Roberto Prosseda, who for the last seven years has made this instrument something of his speciality, implied that, as far as he knew, this marked the instrument’s debut in modern times in Britain. ... Gounod’s Concerto for Pedal Piano and Orchestra is a four-movement work in the genial style of Saint-Saëns... ... Oleg Caetani, reminding me of another tall Italian conductor, one Carlo Maria Giulini, conducting without a score (and with the players using his own set of parts), fashioned an idiomatic account of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique that cleared the fustiness of sloppy past performances. 
LSO – François-Xavier Roth conducts Faune & Zarathustra – Jean-Guihen Queyras plays Dvořák
Wednesday, November 14, 2018 |  The Dvořák Concerto and French cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras were rightly the London Symphony Orchestra's advertised attraction of this concert. He's a charismatic, impeccable artist, a gentleman player, whose facility, musical imagination and intellect make for powerful chemistry. ... François-Xavier Roth, winner, the programme book reminded us, of the 2000 Donatella Flick competition and these days joint principal guest conductor of the LSO, supported in style... ... Orchestrally, inevitably, the poem of the evening was Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune... ... Nietzsche's “book for all and none”, Also sprach Zarathustra released the LSO‘s full, crowded strength, the nobility and cadence of Richard Strauss's opening and rejoinder reaching for epic territory... 
Mark Bebbington at St John’s Smith Square – Pianograms I: Scenes from the opera, plus Sonatas by Schubert & Scarlatti
Wednesday, November 14, 2018 |  On paper, a programme which seemed somewhat oddly juxtaposed and titled (just half the pieces played referred directly to opera) proved to be far more than a collection for specialists. Mark Bebbington may have a reputation as a British-music champion – of which he is, no shame in that – but this recital (the first of three themed recitals to be given at St John’s Smith Square) demonstrated further less-appreciated aspects of this wholly gifted artist’s musicianship. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Penny Woolcock’s production of Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles – Pretty Yende, Javier Camarena, Mariusz Kwiecien & Alexander Birch Elliott, and Nicolas Testé; conducted by Emmanuel Villaume
Wednesday, November 14, 2018 |  This production of Bizet’s Pearl Fishers provides the most spectacularly beautiful visual effect that I have experienced in any opera. ... The story is about two lifelong friends, Nadir and Zurga, who became rivals when both fell in love with Leïla, a Hindu priestess, but who now renew their friendship in the celebrated duet, ‘Au fond du temple saint’, gloriously sung by Javier Camarena and Mariusz Kwiecien. ... Unfortunately, early on, Kwiecien was momentarily troubled, and although he sang through the problem well-enough, he was unable to return following intermission. He was ably replaced by his cover, Alexander Birch Elliott... 
Artemis Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Haydn’s Rider, Demetz’s Broken Islands, Schumann’s A-minor
Tuesday, November 13, 2018 |  Haydn’s Opus 74/3 is entitled ‘Der Reiter’ because of the equestrian rhythms that pervade the Finale (and to a lesser extent the opening Allegro). It enjoyed great popularity dating from its presentation in 1793 at London’s Hanover Square Rooms – the same venue that had witnessed the premieres of the first six of the composer’s ‘London’ Symphonies. The Artemis Quartet was admirably straightforward in approach... ... Broken Islands by Eduard Demetz (born 1958) is in the rare but logical form of five movements, three of them preceded by a half-minute bridge acting both as an introduction to what follows and as a postlude to the previous music. 
Paul Lewis at Royal Festival Hall – Beethoven, Haydn, Brahms – 3/4
Tuesday, November 13, 2018 |  Haydn’s Piano Sonatas are becoming increasingly popular, but they still have a whiff of special interest about them. Like many pianists, Paul Lewis is a great enthusiast, and throughout this year’s International Piano Series – an indispensable element in the classical music firmament – he has been featuring them in the context of short pieces by Brahms and Beethoven. This Royal Festival Hall recital proved that he is completely inside their astonishing originality. 
Philadelphia Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin at Carnegie Hall – Lohengrin, Fountains of Rome, Anthology of Fantastic Zoology – Joyce DiDonato sings Poème de l’amour et de la mer
Tuesday, November 13, 2018 |  A diverse combination of works displaying a variety of colors and adventurous harmonic ideas. From the ethereal atmosphere of the Prelude to Lohengrin through the imaginative if devilish humor of Mason Bates’s Anthology of Fantastic Zoology, from the late-romantic ambiance of Chausson to Respighi’s Fountains of Rome, there was much to savor. The Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin succeeded equally well in creating just the right aesthetic aura for each of these distinctive pieces. 
Mark Morris Dance Group & Silkroad Ensemble at Sadler's Wells – Layla and Majnun
Tuesday, November 13, 2018 |  Mark Morris stands as one of the great current dance creators, a choreographer with an artistic field of vision of extraordinary breadth and displaying uncommon musicality. His creativity is fired by a myriad of influences, and his choice of subject matter remains ever-surprising, the product of the most catholic of aesthetic tastes. And so it proves with his latest presentation at Sadler’s Wells after an absence from the UK of over five years: Layla and Majnun is an old story of unfulfilled love from the Middle East and Central Asia, dating back centuries. 
Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Lisa Batiashvili & Gautier Capuçon at Barbican Hall – Shostakovich, Ravel, Mendelssohn
Monday, November 12, 2018 |  The Piano Trio is such an unforgiving medium, with problems of texture, balance and dominance based around an instrument that can easily vault from salon intimacy to near-symphonic weight. It was clear that Lisa Batiashvili, Gautier Capuçon and Jean-Yves Thibaudet, all of them formidable soloists, have given all this much thought in their London recital, towards the end of their ten-city Europe tour. 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Jonathan Biss plays Haydn & Schumann
Monday, November 12, 2018 |  If the bottomless complexity of the Schumann (and Jonathan Biss’s particularly strong association with this composer) meant that the Haydn risked being something of an amuse-bouche, any worries on that count were unfounded. 
Symphony of Sorrowful Songs
Sunday, November 11, 2018 |  Prefaced by the briefest of brief fanfares, Penderecki’s new Fanfare – premièred across the World today as the part of a lavish Polish-sponsored celebration of the centenary of Polish Independence (which coincides with the Armistice), and a speech by the Polish Ambassador to the UK, Arkady Rzegocki, this midday-starting concert focussed on a work that also aptly encapsulates the mood for the commemoration of the centenary of the Armistice, Górecki’s aching symphonic lament, his Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. 
[email protected] – Marin Alsop conducts Tallis Fantasia & German Requiem
Sunday, November 11, 2018 |  On the resonant centenary of the Armistice Marin Alsop and the OAE presented a programme representing the quintessence of English and German spirituality. The pendant piece to Brahms’s profound and expansive Requiem was Vaughan Williams’s Tallis Fantasia. 
LSO – François-Xavier Roth conducts Lontano, Cantata profana and Nelson Mass
Sunday, November 11, 2018 |  It was apt that Haydn’s 'Nelson' Mass – the Mass “in dire straits”, written in 1798 when Napoleon and France were at their most predatory – should take its place among the Armistice Centenary events, and there was also a Hungarian connection, albeit a loose one, with the other works. ... This LSO concert and its Principal Guest Conductor had opened with Ligeti’s Lontano... ... After a decade-long gestation, Bartók completed his Cantata profana in 1930... ... With a smaller orchestra (four double basses) and a chamber pipe-organ, the LSO slipped into Classical style for Haydn's 'Nelson' Mass 
Oratorio Society of New York/Kent Tritle at Carnegie Hall – Górecki, Szymanowski, Vaughan Williams
Sunday, November 11, 2018 |  Commemorating the centenaries of the World War One Armistice and the independence of the Republic of Poland, the Oratorio Society of New York and its long-time conductor Kent Tritle included masterworks by Karol Szymanowski and Henryk Górecki, followed by Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Dona nobis pacem. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Debussy, Janáček’s The Eternal Gospel, Stravinsky, and the premiere of Magnus Lindberg’s Triumph to Exist
Saturday, November 10, 2018 |  On the eve of the Armistice Centenary, Vladimir Jurowski and the LPO opened this considered concert with Debussy, his Berceuse héroïque (1915), an orchestration and expansion of a piano piece he wrote “to pay homage to H. M. King Albert I of Belgium and his soldiers”. ... Then the premiere of Magnus Lindberg’s Triumf att finnas till… (Triumph to Exist...) setting words by Edith Södergran... ... The LPC then became Latin scholars for Stravinsky’s Requiem Canticles... ... Good concert this for adventurous programming and excellence of performance, and, like Stravinsky (at any time of his long career), Janáček is also inimitable, if not consistently so during The Eternal Gospel (1914/17), although leader Pieter Schoeman gave a charismatic cameo of the recent The Fiddler’s Child and there is no doubt that this is the composer of such pending scores as Taras Bulba and Glagolitic Mass. 
Cédric Tiberghien at Wigmore Hall – Armistice Recital
Saturday, November 10, 2018 |  The scope of events, in any medium you care to mention, marking the Armistice Centenary takes your breath away, and Wigmore Hall contributed with Cédric Tiberghien’s exceptional recital of music composed during the years of World War One, by composers from Britain, France, Germany and Poland. 
New York Philharmonic/Iván Fischer with Miah Persson & Anthony McGill – Schubert & Beethoven
Saturday, November 10, 2018 |  Schubert’s Fifth Symphony offers some of the loveliest melodies in the repertory, and Iván Fischer gave them room to blossom. ... More Schubert followed – Miah Persson’s fine account of The Shepherd on the Rock in the scoring by Carl Reinecke (1824-1910, conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra for three decades). Anthony McGill’s superb playing of Schubert’s original clarinet obbligato was the highlight of the concert... 
Denis Matsuev at Carnegie Hall
Friday, November 09, 2018 |  In this Carnegie Hall recital Denis Matsuev displayed prodigious technique, tremendous power and colossal sound. ... Rachmaninov’s Corelli Variations is based on ‘La folia’, which was not created by Arcangelo Corelli but used by him in a Violin Sonata. Among the Variations were the forcefully thumped Fifth... ... Most memorable and startling was the last: Grigory Ginzburg’s flamboyant transcription of ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’ from Grieg’s music for Ibsen’s Peer Gynt. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Cristian Măcelaru conducts Carnival Overture & Andrew Norman’s Play – Emanuel Ax plays Beethoven [live webcast]
Friday, November 09, 2018 |  That’s the first paragraph of Grand Rapids-born (in 1979), LA-based Andrew Norman’s introduction to Play (2013/16). ... In the presence of the composer the DSO and Cristian Măcelaru appeared well off the ropes... ... The centrepiece of the concert (its second outing on this day) was Beethoven’s C-major Piano Concerto. Măcelaru conjured an introduction that was crisp and classical (the music does majesty, too, if not here) which agreeably set up Emanuel Ax for a sparkling and modulated account... 
The Metropolitan Opera – Robert Carsen’s production of Boito’s Mefistofele – Christian Van Horn, Michael Fabiano & Angela Meade; conducted by Carlo Rizzi
Thursday, November 08, 2018 |  Best-known today for his librettos for Verdi’s Otello and Falstaff, Arrigo Boito’s Mefistofele (his only opera, first staged in 1868 and then revised) was a staple at the Met in the early-1920s, often pairing Beniamino Gigli as Faust and Fyodor Chaliapin in the title-role, but it vanished, not returning until 1999 in this production by Robert Carsen... ... In his first leading role at this house, Christian Van Horn projects powerfully yet with much nuance... ... Michael Fabiano’s voice rings out with thrilling quality, but he had occasional difficulty with intonation, though was back on form in the final Act and the Epilogue. His Faust leans more toward the philosophical than the romantic... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Klein & Janáček, Borodin Quartet plays Schulhoff & Martinů
Wednesday, November 07, 2018 |  This outstanding concert, given to mark the emergence of the state of Czechoslovakia after World War One, was recorded... ... As soon as Vladimir Jurowski entered, things started looking up. The first half of the concert was devoted to composers who were victims of the Holocaust. Readers may wonder why they have not heard of a Partita for strings by Gideon Klein (1919-45). ... Erwín Schulhoff (1894-1942) was a brilliant pianist and a composer whose music chimed with several trends of the interwar years, including jazz and neo classicism, although he had an orthodox German training from Fritz Steinbach and Max Reger among others. His Concerto pits a string quartet against an ensemble of woodwinds including bass clarinet, two each of horns, trumpets and trombones, and tuba. It was first heard on 9 November 1932 from the Ondříček Quartet of Czech Radio and the Czech Philharmonic under Václav Talich. I know it only from recordings, where it is easy to balance. At the start, I wondered if even the magnificent Borodin Quartet – probably in the best formation right now – would be heard... 
René Pape & Julien Salemkour at Wigmore Hall
Tuesday, November 06, 2018 |  You wonder if singers you know first through Lieder will be as strong in opera (I’m thinking of Gerhaher), and, in the case of René Pape, whether the great opera bass-baritone of his generation will translate to the intimacy and exposure of the recital. Only half-joking, a bass-baritone once told me that, after opera, recitals were too much like hard work. Pape was last at Wigmore Hall in 2016 (his debut) in a programme of songs of faith and death, and here he expanded into love, wonder and a little humour. ... Julien Salemkour (replacing Camillo Radicke, who had hurt his hand) was as effective in the spare desolation of Wolf’s piano-writing as he was in the more orchestral Sibelius settings, and he is a highly responsive Schubert player. 
Guildhall School of Music & Drama – Mozart’s Così fan tutte – directed by Oliver Platt; conducted by Dominic Wheeler
Monday, November 05, 2018 |  There is almost too much talent to be spotted in this Così fan tutte from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama Opera Course, some of the cast (with a second line-up taking over two of the four performances) familiar from GSMD operas earlier this year, all six names here working as effectively in ensembles as in solo work. Guglielmo and Ferrando, the two men in Mozart’s and Da Ponte’s pitiless exposé of the supposed fickleness of young love are played by New Zealanders Benson Wilson and Filipe Manu in a sharply directed appraisal of the boundaries of male friendship, while vocally both singers are ideally suited. 
Birmingham Royal Ballet at Sadler's Wells – The King Dances | Ignite | La Fille mal gardée
Monday, November 05, 2018 |  With Birmingham Royal Ballet in something of a state of flux at present, it was good to take stock of the current health of the company during its short Sadler’s Wells visit. What emerged was a lively and alert ensemble who dance with engagement and a strong sense of theatre. 
LSO – Gianandrea Noseda conducts James MacMillan premiere & Shostakovich 4
Sunday, November 04, 2018 |  A packed Barbican Hall gave a heartfelt endorsement to both parts of this stimulating programme of similarities and contrasts. James MacMillan’s All the Hills and Vales Along is described as an oratorio. The texts are five poems of Charles Hamilton Sorley killed in 1915 at the battle of Loos and offer a bleak commentary on the futility and cost, human and otherwise, of the Great War... ... Ian Bostridge got the second movement, ‘Rooks’. ... Then a blistering performance of Shostakovich’s monumental Fourth Symphony – a work he “voluntarily” shelved in 1936 following his “officially sanctioned” denunciation following Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. That it only achieved its first performance in 1961 still seems astonishing. The abrupt and unsettling switches of tempo and mood were deftly negotiated by Gianandrea Noseda and the LSO was admirable. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Vladimir Jurowski conducts The Rake’s Progress
Saturday, November 03, 2018 |  No directorial credit was provided for the LPO’s semi-staged performance of Stravinsky’s ever-compelling opera. Whoever was responsible should take considerable credit for their suggestive, alternatively witty and chilling, deft handling of the action. ... The London Philharmonic was on fine form. Jurowski is very adept at clarity of texture in this repertoire. ... Toby Spence brought Tom Rakewell vividly to life... ... The trump card was Matthew Rose’s Nick Shadow. 
Roderick Williams & Iain Burnside with Sorcha Cusack at Kings Place – Before Life and After – Thomas Hardy settings by Finzi, Ireland, Britten, Ian Venables and John Dankworth
Friday, November 02, 2018 |  As part of the year-long “Time Unwrapped” series at Kings Place, Iain Burnside and Roderick Williams examined settings of the master of nostalgia and pathos, Thomas Hardy. Between the songs, by way of a more-contemporary poetic and female parenthesis, Sorcha Cusack read poems by Elaine Feinstein, Sharon Olds, W. B. Yeats, Hardy and others. 
Trevor Horn at Queen Elizabeth Hall
Friday, November 02, 2018 |  This sell-out Trevor Horn gig generously launched with guitar duo Nicholas Ball and Max Radford – both highly competent. Nicholas repeatedly declared that it was an honour to perform at Queen Elizabeth Hall... ... The concert was an admix of Horn's stellar back catalogue and his new album "Trevor Horn Reimagines The Eighties”. The lights burst into Technicolor as the band rocked up: including Lol Creme the bass guitarist of 10cc and Godley & Creme, Phil Palmer the guitarist of Dire Straits and for Eric Clapton, Steve Ferrone, drummer of the Bee Gees and Tom Petty, Simon Bloor of Lana Del Rey, Alan Clark Hammond of Dire Straits... ... Molloy delivered a phenomenal force-of-nature interpretation. This singer is a revelation, on a par with Tom Jones and Freddie Mercury, and he went on to Money for Nothing; superlative. 
A Centenary of Polish Independence – BBC Symphony Orchestra/Michał Nesterowicz – Janina Fialkowska plays Paderewski – Elgar, Pawel Szymański premiere, Lutosławski
Friday, November 02, 2018 |  The centenary of Poland becoming an independent country has been commemorated through numerous cultural events this past year; this concert by the BBC Symphony Orchestra being not only apposite but enterprising in the music which was chosen to mark this event. ... Elgar's music written during the First World War has come in for deserved reappraisal over recent years, with Polonia (1915) arguably his most impressive such piece... ... Orchestra and conductor were duly joined by Janina Fialkowska in the Piano Concerto (1888) by Ignacy Jan Paderewski – pianist, composer, statesman and philanthropist. ... Now in his mid 60s, Pawel Szymański is a name largely unfamiliar in the UK. His Fourteen Points: Woodrow Wilson Overture (2018) reveals a composer still intent on evolving the sonorist thinking of the previous Polish generation... ... The evening ended in an all too infrequent revival of Lutosławski's First Symphony (1947), a work whose protracted gestation across the Second World War is balanced by that innate classicism which informs even the most radical of his later works. 
Raphael Mostel’s The Travels of Babar
Friday, November 02, 2018 |  This updated production by Raphael Mostel of his Travels of Babar is musically and visually engaging. An octet accompanies a recitation of the 1932 novel, the second of Jean de Brunhoff’s picture-books about Babar, the king of the elephants... ... There is much musical interest, including allusions to Bach, Chopin, Stravinsky, the Second Viennese School and Minimalism... 
Mariinsky Orchestra/Valery Gergiev at Carnegie Hall – Ein Heldenleben – Nelson Freire plays Brahms
Thursday, November 01, 2018 |  This second of two Carnegie Hall appearances by Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra opened with Nelson Freire’s ebullient rendition of Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto... ... Following intermission, Gergiev, standing on the stage floor, led a thrilling account of Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben... 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Edward Gardner conducts Ein Heldenleben, Leif Ove Andsnes plays Brahms; Philharmonia Chamber Players
Thursday, November 01, 2018 |  Two heroic works, one titled thus, and the other has been described as “the Eroica among piano concertos”. Brahms’s epic Opus 15 didn’t quite hit the spot, perhaps epitomised by the introduction: purpose and majesty, yes, but too much dreamy reflection, but there was nothing to doubt the Philharmonia’s honed response to Edward Gardner’s conducting, nor Leif Ove Andsnes’s dovetailed first entry. ... If the Brahms hadn’t always engaged, despite the expertise and camaraderie on display, Heldenleben was a triumph, graphic and vivid. ... Quite a performance then, gripping from start to finish and an impressive showcase for Gardner and the Philharmonia, and of course when Strauss wrote Heldenleben he had several decades of creativity ahead of him (and Salome, Elektra and Rosenkavalier were waiting in the wings). Fast-forward to 1945, the end of World War Two on the horizon, Europe in conflict and the now-aged Strauss surrounded by destroyed German culture. His musical response was Metamorphosen. ... To open this early-evening, free and informal, recital, one of Luigi Boccherini’s two-cello Quintets, if not the one containing The Ladykillers Minuet (that’s to be found in Opus 11/5, famed since 1955 in the filmic company of Alec Guinness, Herbert Lom and Peter Sellers). 
Federico Colli at Wigmore Hall – Scarlatti, Mozart, Brahms, Bach-Busoni
Thursday, November 01, 2018 |  Federico Colli, winner of the 2011 Salzburg Mozart Competition and Leeds 2012, is a musicianly thinker with clear ideas on what he wants from the audience – no applause until the end of the second half was a request, a shaking of the head a cue to silence nervous clappers following the first of the Domenico Scarlatti Sonatas (F-minor, Kk19). To the point of tonal tautology, his recital made for a predominantly D-minor traversal, with prolonged emphasis on shades and tricks of pianissimo, some remarkably whispered, others on the threshold of keyboard response. 
The Royal Ballet – La Bayadère – Marianela Nuñez & Vadim Muntagirov
Thursday, November 01, 2018 |  It has been five years since La Bayadère has been seen performed by The Royal Ballet here at Covent Garden in Natalia Makarova’s production, so its return to the repertoire is most welcome, particularly on the evidence of a meticulously prepared first night which saw the company field some of its most illustrious star dancers. The break in time allows for some perspective to be taken on its worth, and it emerges as a splendid gauge of the company’s health, given the considerable demands it places both on the corps de ballet as well as the soloists and principals. 

 

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