April 2017 Concert Reviews

May 2017 Concert Reviews
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Gottlieb Wallisch plays Bach, Themessl, Liszt, Schubert
Sunday, April 30, 2017 |  Based in Berlin at the Universität der Künste, the Austrian pianist Gottlieb Wallisch, a former student of Heinz Medjimorec in Vienna, is one of those artists allying fluidity of finger-work and muscular power with boundless curiosity for the new and unusual. ... Schubert's ‘Wanderer’ Fantasy was gritty and tough, identifying as much with the composer's Bacchanalian discovery of cyclic organisation as his increasingly violent rejection (like Beethoven's) of the comfortable other face of Biedermeier Vienna in the 1820s. ... Based on Schubert's Divertissement à la hongroise, Liszt's seldom-heard Ungarische Melodien (1838-39) had swagger and attitude... ... The renovated eighteenth-century Spanish Baroque Auberge de Castille, Office of the Maltese Prime Minister, is an intimate venue... 
Oberon Symphony Orchestra/Samuel Draper – UK premiere of George Enescu’s Fourth Symphony, with Bartók, Mahler, Schubert
Saturday, April 29, 2017 |  Fascinating programming from the Oberon Symphony Orchestra and a major coup to present the UK premiere of George Enescu’s Fourth Symphony in its completion by Pascal Bentoiu. The rest of the concert was no less stimulating, the Romanian element honoured in Bartók’s Folk Dances, incompletion being present in the Schubert/Newbould, and Symphonies in a transient state reflected in Blumine (originally intended for but dropped from Mahler’s First Symphony). ... ...the church acoustic well-judged by Samuel Draper. 
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – The Russian Virtuosi of Europe play Serenades by Elgar & Tchaikovsky and Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht
Saturday, April 29, 2017 |  The eleventh edition of Karl Fiorini's International Spring Orchestra Festival, “From Zappa to Beethoven”, among the more creatively imagined of Malta's current crop of festa initiatives, offers audiences something refreshingly different. ... This early-evening concert, in Valletta's elaborately beautiful 16th-century Our Lady of Victory Church – where images, acoustic and intimacy are designed to inspire and enlighten – set the bar high, phenomenally high. Fielding a balanced string force – 4.3.2.2.1, cellos and double bass opposite violins, violas in the middle – the Russian Virtuosi of Europe, London-based, are an extraordinary band of artists... ... Schoenberg's 1899 Richard Dehmel-inspired Verklärte Nacht, in the original sextet version, scaled the apparently impossible... 
Malta International Music Festival – Grigory Sokolov plays Mozart & Beethoven Piano Sonatas
Saturday, April 29, 2017 |  Not having heard Grigory Sokolov in recital for some years, here was a useful opportunity to catch up with him in the context of what during the past month has been a strongly Russian-led “International” Festival in Malta. ... Favouring a theatrically darkened hall (Richter-like minus the lamp), the concert fell essentially into three parts mostly around majors and minors of C: Mozart, Beethoven, encores (six of them). 
Welsh National Opera at Mayflower Theatre, Joachim Herz’s production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, with Karah Son & Paul James Clarke, conducted by Andrew Greenwood
Saturday, April 29, 2017 |  Recycling this legendary production by Joachim Herz of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Welsh National Opera’s latest revival of its longest-running show is well into its UK tour. It’s a classic, traditional staging and has lost little lustre. Singing, characterisation and playing are firmly in place, yet more account could have been taken of the unenclosed pit (or possibly the Mayflower’s acoustic) which, at times, caused problems of balance, the orchestral presence too great. ... Previous WNO portrayers of Cio-Cio San (Madama Butterfly) have included Amanda Roocroft and Helen Field; and now, making her debut with the company, the rich-toned South Korean soprano Karah Son has emerged. She studied under Mirella Freni... 
The Royal Ballet – Kenneth MacMillan's Mayerling [Edward Watson & Natlaia Osipova / Federico Bonelli & Laura Morera]
Saturday, April 29, 2017 |  Kenneth MacMillan's Mayerling is perhaps the most ambitious and, ultimately, successful of narrative ballets... ...This is a mightily powerful revival, in which this great company shows itself to its very best advantage. For those who wish to see outstanding performances in a work which takes the art form to the heights of narrative dance, it is simply essential viewing. 
Belief & Beyond Belief – London Philharmonic Orchestra/John Mauceri – Bach/Schoenberg, Wagner/Stokowski, Hindemith – Angel Blue sings Richard Strauss's Four Last Songs
Friday, April 28, 2017 |  During this year the Southbank Centre and the London Philharmonic Orchestra are inviting us to believe, and then go further. Well, I believe that Paul Hindemith wrote some great music, such as his 1938 score for the ballet Nobilissima visione... ... John Mauceri proved a sympathetic begetter of Hindemith’s music for Massine’s choreography, the focus being the life of St Francis of Assisi. ... As they should for Arnold Schoenberg’s lavish scoring of Johann Sebastian Bach’s organ Prelude and Fugue known as ‘St Anne’. ... Following the interval, Leopold Stokowski’s Synthesis of Act Three of Parsifal, many Wagner minutes made fewer... ... Richard Strauss was finishing his decades of composing with Four Last Songs, to a poem by Eichendorff and three by Hesse. To an articulate and expressive accompaniment – much trouble taken by Mauceri and the LPO – Angel Blue was often radiant and always communicative... 
Victor Herbert’s Babes in Toyland at Carnegie Hall – MasterVoices with Kelli O’Hara, Lauren Worsham, Bill Irwin, Jonathan Freeman; narrated by Blair Brown; directed & conducted by Ted Sperling
Thursday, April 27, 2017 |  Ted Sperling’s MasterVoices, joined by Broadway stars, concluded its season with Victor Herbert’s Babes in Toyland (1903), a brilliant account of a dated work that, despite many delightful moments, has been eclipsed by the great American musicals that followed. A clever narration by actress Blair Brown included a satiric element through references to the absurdity of the plot – which was adhered to more closely than in any of the versions for film and television, including from Laurel & Hardy. 
Belief & Beyond Belief – London Philharmonic Orchestra/Marek Janowski – Wagner, with Egils Siliņš as Wotan, and Bruckner 7
Wednesday, April 26, 2017 |  More Belief & Beyond Belief in this programme of Wagner and Bruckner from the London Philharmonic and Marek Janowski, the Polish/German maestro who presided over Bayreuth’s ‘Ring’ cycle last year... ... Janowski’s approach to The Flying Dutchman Overture may have highlighted its conventional role as a précis of the opera, but it also gave us a clue as to how the rest of the concert would unfold. ... It was the same for the concluding section of Act Three of Die Walküre. Egils Siliņš looks every inch a Wotan – he is tall, photogenic and commanding... 
CBSO/Fabien Gabel – Le Corsaire & César Franck’s Symphony – Louis Schwizgebel plays Chopin
Wednesday, April 26, 2017 |  Despite working often in the UK (including with the London Symphony Orchestra), Fabien Gabel enjoys less than the highest profile here. This concert with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra should help to redress that imbalance, opening as it did with an account of Berlioz’s Le Corsaire... ... The programme continued with Chopin’s First (second) Piano Concerto... ... Following the interval, Gabel presided over a commanding account of César Franck’s Symphony... ... An impressive and idiomatic reading, then, and how fitting that this concert should have been dedicated to Louis Frémaux... 
John Adams’s Doctor Atomic – the composer conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra, with Gerald Finley as Oppenheimer, Julia Bullock, Brindley Sherratt & Andrew Staples
Tuesday, April 25, 2017 |  For the second night running in London a composer conducted his latest completed opera. Following Thomas Adès’s The Exterminating Angel at Covent Garden, John Adams’s 2005 Doctor Atomic (The Gospel According to the Other Mary was originally an oratorio, although it has subsequently been staged; and Girls of the Golden West has its premiere in San Francisco at the end of this year). ... Part of the problem is Peter Sellars’s collection of texts (contemporary reports and diaries, juxtaposed with classic and contemporary poetry, and Indian religious mantras), and a rather non-dramatic trajectory that spotlights just a few moments in the story of Robert Oppenheimer’s research leading to the first test of the atomic bomb – Trinity. 
The Metropolitan Opera – August Everding’s production of Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer [The Flying Dutchman] with Michael Volle, Amber Wagner & Franz-Josef Selig; conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Tuesday, April 25, 2017 |  Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conducting his debut Wagner opera at the Met – and his first appearance there since being announced as music director designate to succeed James Levine – led a thrilling, without-intermission, Flying Dutchman... ... Michael Volle is a powerful Dutchman, combining beauty of tone with magnetic stage presence. Each of his entrances, and his final exit, were moments of intense drama, with Gil Wechsler’s lighting giving him an appropriately supernatural pallor. Amber Wagner as Senta matched Volle’s vocal power... 
The Royal Opera – UK premiere of Thomas Adès’s The Exterminating Angel; directed by Tom Cairns; conducted by the composer; cast includes Thomas Allen, Anne Sofie von Otter, John Tomlinson, Iestyn Davies, Christine Rice, Sally Matthews...
Monday, April 24, 2017 |  Existential crisis is no recent phenomenon and was hardly more so fifty-five years ago when Luis Buñuel released El angel exterminador, his stinging attack on bourgeois mores which set the tone for a generation’s worth of ever more scabrous films about the ‘establishment’ real and imagined. Refashioning this for the present, Thomas Adès and Tom Cairns have rendered the scenario from a vantage point where absolute notions have been superseded by a more ambivalent take on what constitutes freedom of action in a divisive and frequently alienated environment. ... For all that, The Exterminating Angel makes a powerful impact and leaves a disquieting impression. 
Stephen Farr at the Royal Festival Hall organ – Judith Bingham, Jehan Alain, Messiaen
Monday, April 24, 2017 |  I once visited the cathedral in Ortigia, in Sicily, and was very moved by the sight of a Baroque church incorporating the columns of a Greek temple built a long time before the birth of Christ. It is this accretion of layers spiritual, temporal and artistic – of the new built on ancient certainties – that has inspired Judith Bingham’s Roman Conversions. Her examples are all in Rome... ... Her theme is resurrection and renewal, and it linked all three works in Stephen Farr’s recital. ... Jehan Alain was killed in 1940 aged 29, after an act of stupendous wartime bravery, by German soldiers, leaving a catalogue of music of great originality. He was a contemporary of Messiaen, but his organ music is not saturated in visionary Catholicism to the same degree – which is just as well... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Louis Lortie – Preludes by George Benjamin and Chopin
Monday, April 24, 2017 |  Louis Lortie brought his trademark Fazioli to Wigmore Hall for music as stylistically different as could be, yet similar in aim – contrasting soundworlds in miniature forms, beginning with a grabbing, absorbing account of George Benjamin’s Messiaen-esque Shadowlines... ... In Chopin’s 24 Preludes there was again great attention paid to detail. 
London Handel Festival – Joseph and his Brethren – Christopher Ainslie, Fflur Wyn & Edward Grint; conducted by Laurence Cummings
Monday, April 24, 2017 |  Well over two centuries before Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice had their West End hit with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Handel treated the same Biblical narrative in his 1743 oratorio. Written within three years of his last opera, Semele, and the oratorios Messiah and Samson, he brought to bear the full extent of his dramatic genius in this profoundly human story of Joseph’s rejection, elevation by Pharaoh, and eventual reunion with his brothers. 
LSO/François-Xavier Roth – Debussy’s Faune & Bruckner’s Romantic Symphony – Antoine Tamestit plays Bartók’s Viola Concerto
Sunday, April 23, 2017 |  The broadcasters were out in force for this one, live on LSO YouTube and also on medici.tv, and recorded by BBC Radio 3, for this portion of François-Xavier Roth’s After Romanticism series. The novelty was that Roth, to be the LSO’s Principal Guest Conductor from this September, as versatile as he is, may not be much associated with Bruckner’s music, not on my radar anyway. ... It was an impressive performance of the ‘Romantic’ Symphony... ... In 1945 Bartók started work on a Viola Concerto for William Primrose. Sadly the composer died with much of the piece in sketch form. Tibor Serly made a completion and this has been developed. ... Antoine Tamestit played marvellously... 
Peter Donohoe plays Scriabin’s Ten Piano Sonatas at Milton Court
Sunday, April 23, 2017 |  It is surprising how few major composers have written cycles of Piano Sonatas in the wake of Beethoven, with the ten-strong sequence by Scriabin among the most significant. Not that they require several evenings, a full traversal coming in at little more than two hours, and so well suited to an extended recital such as Peter Donohoe undertook at Milton Court. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Santtu-Matias Rouvali – Vltava & The Planets – Alban Gerhardt plays Elgar’s Cello Concerto
Sunday, April 23, 2017 |  This rather odd programme (certainly in terms of the opening item – which, given the other works played, ought to have been something by Delius) got off to an excellent start with the rather faded Smetana piece – once a repertoire staple. ‘Vltava’ was played with admirable judgement and artistry, Santtu-Matias Rouvali’s tempos being exactly right... ... The fine playing Rouvali obtained bade well for Elgar’s Cello Concerto, in which the exceptional artistry of Alban Gerhardt combined to produce a performance both meticulously clear and deeply expressive... 
Sunday Morning Coffee Concert at Wigmore Hall – Ivana Gavrić plays Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt
Sunday, April 23, 2017 |  Ivana Gavrić drew a full-house to Wigmore Hall for a well-planned programme drenched in expressive nineteenth-century Romanticism and full of poetic imagery. ... Gavrić sees Chopin’s Mazurkas as “poignant diary entries”. In the Opus 17 set she emphasised the dance element and rhythms had real lift. ... The rest was Liszt. His Petrarch Sonnets were inspired by the Italian Renaissance poet Francesco Petrarca and each is a meditation on love, more specifically his fondness for Laura de Noves. 
Andreas Haefliger at Wigmore Hall – Perspectives 6 – Beethoven, Berio, Schumann
Sunday, April 23, 2017 |  Andreas Haefliger (son of the late tenor Ernst) is a musician who brings a boundary-breaking completeness to his recitals, as he proved in the latest his Perspectives project (available on Avie), with No.7 coming up at the Edinburgh Festival. ... This series doesn’t set out to be another complete Beethoven cycle, but Haefliger’s Perspectives are completely Beethoven-centric. ... Berio’s Six Encores (1990) include the four-elements pieces he played between the two Sonatas and before the Schumann – ‘Earth’ a bell-like cloud of harmonics, ‘Water’, a Debussy-like impression of flowing neutrality. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin with Michel Camilo, Cliff Almond & Ricky Rodriguez – Bach & Jazz – Lukas Foss's Phorion, Shostakovich, Bach arrangements by Barbirolli, Ormandy, Stokowski [live webcast]
Saturday, April 22, 2017 |  Leonard Slatkin entered, took his bow, then retreated, leaving concertmaster Yoonshin Song and her bow (word-play) to start this eclectic DSO concert with the ‘Preludio’ from the E-major Partita... ... Where does this leave Lukas Foss (1922-2009)? Well in 1967 not too well in Slatkin’s eyes, for he was at the premiere of Phorion, conducted by Leonard Bernstein in New York, but he later grabbed the score and got to know Foss. The “stolen goods” (otherwise it was Greek to me) belong to Bach... ... As for the Concerto for Jazz Trio by Michel Camilo (born 1954), which received its premiere the previous day (although given the extemporisation element maybe every performance will be a ‘first’), well, it's likeable, energetic and colourful... 
Benjamin Appl & James Baillieu at Wigmore Hall – Heimat
Friday, April 21, 2017 |  The Germans have a word for it – Heimat – but as Benjamin Appl explained following Schubert’s ‘Seligkeit’ (Bliss, D433), sung invitingly, its reclusive meaning is rather more than “home” or “homeland”, with “identity” and “belonging” being closer to the mark. Appl, who studied with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and is now happily settled in London, was giving a lunchtime’s-length selection from his first release for Sony Classical. 
Anne Akiko Meyers & Akira Eguchi at the 92nd Street Y – Fantasia: An Evening of Fantasy
Thursday, April 20, 2017 |  Anne Akiko Meyers presented her take on this concept, the recital’s focal point being Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Fantasia, a glistening fifteen-minute work originally for violin and orchestra that Meyers commissioned in 2015, and among the Finn’s final compositions. ... Arvo Pärt’s Fratres has been transcribed for varied ensembles; Meyers began alone, the music emulating a machine whirring into life, until Akira Eguchi entered, intoning hypnotically; however, in Ravel’s Tzigane, Meyers’s matter-of-fact approach was at odds with the music’s gypsy soul... 
Piers Lane plays Chopin at Wigmore Hall
Wednesday, April 19, 2017 |  The stars were brightly shining for Piers Lane’s illuminating Chopin recital at Wigmore Hall... ... Lane opened with an inviting and dynamic A-flat Impromptu, given with an ink-still-wet capriciousness, whether expressing flights of fancy or lyrical asides. The great Fantasy was full of gravitas, a spacious account sure of its direction. ... Following the interval, and also judged to a nicety, was the Opus 44 Polonaise, ominous at its opening, quite Lisztian for a few bars, and soon weighty and majestic... 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Charles Dutoit – Mother Goose & New World Symphony – Vadim Repin plays Prokofiev
Wednesday, April 19, 2017 |  Once again, Charles Dutoit and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra hit the spot. ... You wouldn’t necessarily have thought that Dutoit’s saturnine, rather Proustian persona would open the door to the child’s world of play and fantasy that renders Ravel’s Mother Goose music as potent as, say, Alice in Wonderland... ... Vadim Repin is often compared with Maxim Vengerov, because both are Siberian. Really, though, they are Yin and Yang, with Repin’s instincts deferring more to restraint, poise and introspection. In his Violin Concerto No.2, Prokofiev was aiming at a Soviet-friendly clarity and simplicity... ... Re-title Dvořák’s Symphony No.9 as the ‘Brave New World’, and it was an apt work to perform on the day another General Election was confirmed, and under Dutoit’s direction, there was much to be nostalgic about. 
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment – Symphonies by Haydn & C. P. E. Bach – with Isabelle Faust playing Mozart Violin Concertos
Tuesday, April 18, 2017 |  Devotion to stylish performance-practice is a feature of Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment concerts and it was much in evidence in this programme. A raised eyebrow perhaps at the non-inclusion of harpsichord continuo in Haydn’s Symphony No.49 (the most frequently used modern score edited by H. C. Robbins Landon specifies it)... ... Mozart’s adventurous writing for horns in high B-flat in the outer movements is an ear-catching feature of his K207 Violin Concerto – a striking sound achieved here with a gentleness entirely suited to Isabelle Faust’s elegance. 
Basel Chamber Orchestra & Daniel Hope at Wigmore Hall
Tuesday, April 18, 2017 |  The Basel Chamber Orchestra, (re-)founded in 1984, last played at Wigmore Hall in 2014. Daniel Hope (last year appointed music director of the Zurich Chamber Orchestra) was billed as director as well as soloist in a well-conceived programme that illuminated parallels between these pieces... ... There followed Mendelssohn’s rarely performed D-minor Violin Concerto, written when he was twelve. It was Yehudi Menuhin who discovered the score during the 1950s... ... Works by Frank Martin and Béla Bartók – both composers associated with Paul Sacher’s generous and enterprising commissioning policy with the original Basel Chamber Orchestra – formed the concert’s second half – and what a joy this was! 
Leonard Slatkin conducts the Peabody Symphony Orchestra – Russian Easter Festival & Enigma Variations – Marina Piccinini plays Aaron Jay Kernis’s Flute Concerto [live webcast]
Saturday, April 15, 2017 |  Leonard Slatkin completed his week at the Peabody Institute – including masterclasses and recording sessions – with this concert of similarly opus-numbered standards bookending a recent Flute Concerto by Aaron Jay Kernis written for Marina Piccinini. ... The concert opened with a postcard from Russia. From solemn chorale to celebratory ending, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Festival Overture works on an expansive scale... ... Elgar’s Enigma Variations is a masterpiece of musical portraiture and musical substance; immortal. Slatkin, an Elgarian to his fingertips, led a wise account on young shoulders... ... ‘Nimrod’, hushed, deeply-felt and noble, emerged as part of the plan... 
Bach’s St John Passion on Good Friday at Barbican Hall – Britten Sinfonia & Voices, Mark Padmore, Simon Russell Beale
Friday, April 14, 2017 |  You might have thought that performances of J. S. Bach’s Passions had enough to do balancing the layers of St John’s or St Matthew’s vivid versions of the story, highly subjective meditative arias and consolatory Lutheran chorales into a whole without adding further elements, such as a full staging or, as with this St John Passion from the Britten Sinfonia, offering a modern nod to performance practices of nearly three-hundred years ago... ... ...Simon Russell Beale read extracts from T. S. Eliot’s salvation-seeking poem Ash-Wednesday... ... ...this was very much a collective account, with Mark Padmore’s Evangelist, in the absence of a conductor, defining its style and temperature. 
Fifth Easter Festival of the Berliner Philharmoniker in Baden-Baden – Simon Rattle conducts Slavonic Dances & Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra – Lisa Batiashvili plays Dvořák’s Violin Concerto [live webcast]
Friday, April 14, 2017 |  The spa town of Baden-Baden, in south-western Germany, once again welcomes the Berliner Philharmoniker, from April 7 to 17, including concerts with Zubin Mehta and Kirill Petrenko, and Simon Rattle leading Tosca. Here Sir Simon was conducting Dvořák and Bartók, opening with a selection of the former’s Opus 72 set of Slavonic Dances. ... Continuing the Slavic theme, Lisa Batiashvili played Dvořák’s Violin Concerto, and did so brilliantly. ... For Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra – a long-time favourite in Rattle’s repertoire – the Berliners were alive to every detail of the painstakingly composed score. 
BBC Symphony Chorus & Orchestra – Jiří Bělohlávek conducts Dvořák’s Requiem
Thursday, April 13, 2017 |  While Verdi’s Requiem was concurrently resounding through the Royal Festival Hall, the Barbican Centre was hosting Dvořák’s much-rarer example. ... Choosing a conductor for a well-timed concert revival would certainly include Jiří Bělohlávek on the shortlist, no doubt in pole position; and he led a revelatory account of it. ... Yet there are times when Dvořák seems consciously to be avoiding what Verdi and Berlioz (Grande Messe des morts), in particular, had previously done with this content... ... What did come across is how ‘English’ the opening ‘Requiem aeternam’ is, eloquent and Elgarian, and that there are anticipations of the latter’s Gerontius; and it seems that Dvořák had previously contemplated setting Cardinal Newman’s poem... 
Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at Bavarian State Opera – Stephen Gould, Petra Lang, Okka von der Damerau & René Pape; directed by Peter Konwitschny; conducted by Simone Young
Thursday, April 13, 2017 |  Peter Konwitschny’s production of Tristan und Isolde at Bavarian State Opera is a real exercise in eclecticism. ... Simone Young led a well-paced interpretation. ... Okka von der Damerau (Brangäne), René Pape (König Marke), and Iain Paterson (Kurwenal) were the real standouts... ... Stephen Gould (Tristan) was clearly coming down with an ailment... ... Petra Lang’s Isolde, though, was just slightly overmatched throughout... 
Verdi’s Requiem at Royal Festival Hall – Vasily Petrenko conducts The Bach Choir & Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Thursday, April 13, 2017 |  Placing Verdi’s Requiem on Maundy Thursday is a sure way to highlight the relationship between religious ritual and dramatic intensity. ... This performance under Vasily Petrenko’s efficient direction gave priority to vivid expression. ... Verdi’s fire and brimstone ‘Dies irae’ was pulse-raising... ... The Royal Philharmonic was marvellously supportive, creating distinctive colours in cameo roles and, collectively, plenty of heft when required. The Bach Choir was on fine form... 
Frank Loesser’s How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying at Wilton’s Music Hall
Wednesday, April 12, 2017 |  Notwithstanding the Royal Festival Hall concert performance two years ago, Frank Loesser’s How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying is a rarity, especially compared to his Guys and Dolls from a decade earlier. But its tuneful exposé of office life (which hasn’t really changed that much since 1960s’ America) is neatly constructed with a clutch of catchy melodies as it follows J. Pierrepont Finch (‘Ponty’) rapidly up the ladder in the World Wide Wicket Company... ... In this production at Wilton’s Music Hall it gets a colourful and energetic shake down... ... A largely youthful cast (Andrew C. Wadsworth’s J. B. Biggley a notable exception – I first saw him in the original UK production of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd in 1980) is led with Alan Cumming-like impishness by Marc Pickering as ‘Ponty’... 
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Mariss Jansons at Barbican Centre – Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Rachmaninov
Tuesday, April 11, 2017 |  A programme of Firsts and Lasts from the relatively young Munich-based Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1949, Mariss Jansons its current chief conductor, since 2003, following in the footsteps of Eugen Jochum, Rafael Kubelík, Colin Davis and Lorin Maazel. ... Prokofiev’s ‘Classical’ Symphony (1917) may not be a momentous debut in the form, but it’s an unfailingly enjoyable piece... ... Rachmaninov’s swansong Symphonic Dances (1940) continued this exalted evening. 
Yuja Wang at Royal Festival Hall – Chopin’s 24 Preludes & Brahms’s Handel Variations
Tuesday, April 11, 2017 |  Yuja Wang dropped a sizeable chunk of Schubert from her advertised programme (the first two of the Drei Klavierstücke, D946), she reversed the order of what remained to end with the Brahms... ... The Wang phenomenon, though, soon came into focus in Chopin’s Opus 28 Preludes. Most importantly, she played them as a stream-of-consciousness series of interdependent vignettes... ... For all the extremes of expression, Wang’s style is, paradoxically, admirably self-contained, which suited the poise of Handel’s Theme that launches Brahms’s Variations on it. The technical challenges and rhythmic games were like catnip to Wang... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Kitty Whately & Joseph Middleton
Monday, April 10, 2017 |  Kitty Whately stepped in for an indisposed Sarah Connolly at Wigmore Hall, delivering a nuanced and deeply-known programme of twentieth-century English song. ... There was drama in Herbert Howells’s King David, too, and in an exciting reading of Charles Villiers Stanford’s Belle Dame Sans Merci. 
National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain at the Barbican Centre – Carlos Miguel Prieto conducts Revueltas & Shostakovich, with Sheku Kanneh-Mason
Sunday, April 09, 2017 |  The welcome inclusion of music by the cruelly short-lived composer Silvestre Revueltas (1899-1940) indicates the imagination of those involved in programming the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. Carlos Miguel Prieto is also Mexican and The Night of the Mayas is fabulously over-the-top music... ... Sheku Kanneh-Mason won the BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2016 with this Concerto and this Hall. Playing on an Amati cello (circa 1610), Kanneh-Mason gave an astonishingly assured performance. 
Wagner’s Parsifal at Vienna State Opera – Christopher Ventris, Gerald Finley, Kwangchul Youn, Nina Stemme, Jochen Schmeckenbecher, Jongmin Park – directed by Alvis Hermanis; conducted by Semyon Bychkov
Sunday, April 09, 2017 |  Like the main theme in the Prelude to Wagner’s Stage Consecration Festival Play, Semyon Bychkov also emerged from nowhere to begin Parsifal... ... The acoustic of the Vienna State Opera is divine... ... Both Christopher Ventris (Parsifal) and Nina Stemme (Kundry) gave commanding portrayals. ... In the last handful of years Gerald Finley has added larger roles to his repertoire, sometimes with mixed results. Here, within the intimate acoustic, he was marvelous as Amfortas. 
Handel’s Messiah at Bristol Proms – Harry Bicket conducts The English Concert in a staging directed by Tom Morris
Saturday, April 08, 2017 |  On the cusp of Holy Week, Tom Morris’s semi-staging of Handel’s Messiah was given a welcome revival at the Bristol Proms... ... Although the production apparently demythologises the mystery of God become flesh – as thinkers have done since at least Ludwig Feuerbach and, perhaps better-known in English literary culture, as George Eliot did in Silas Marner – by focusing on the outwardly human figure of the Beloved, it otherwise takes seriously the Christian doctrines of the Incarnation and the Atonement... ... Morris’s vision of the work does justice (as Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ did in cinematic terms) to the remarkable theological leap that was made by the earliest Christian thinkers in associating Jesus, as the Messiah and son of God, with the apparently non-heroic figure of the Suffering Servant encountered in the Old Testament book of Isaiah... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin – Mahler 10 – Sharon Isbin plays Vivaldi & Chris Brubeck [live webcast]
Saturday, April 08, 2017 |  Antonio Vivaldi and Gustav Mahler have both had music used in films; whereas, as far as I can find, Chris Brubeck has not composed for the movies. In case you are wondering, Vivaldi’s Mandolin Concerto (in C, RV425) featured in Kramer vs. Kramer (Dustin Hoffman & Meryl Streep) and the Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony is linked to Death in Venice (Dirk Bogarde). ... ...played pluckily by Sharon Isbin... ... The versatile Chris Brubeck (born 1952), son of Dave, composed Affinity for Isbin. ... When Mahler died in 1911, his Tenth Symphony (the Eleventh including Das Lied von der Erde), was unfinished if A-to-Z overall, sketchily orchestrated, and with various indications. Numerous attempts to complete it have been undertaken, some quite speculative, but none better than the late Deryck Cooke... ... I direct you then to Leonard Slatkin’s article... 
Belief & Beyond Belief – London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski – Spem in alium & Symphony of a Thousand
Saturday, April 08, 2017 |  Mahler baulked at first-performance publicity terming his latest Symphony as being “... of a Thousand” but the Munich 1910 premiere, which Mahler conducted, and a soon-after second, drew the crowds in for a huge success. This LPO presentation (apt word) fielded roughly seven-hundred personnel... ... ...we started with Spem in alium, by the circa composer, Thomas Tallis, born around 1505. Spem in alium is maybe from 1570 and its circumstances are little-known. What isn’t in doubt is that this forty-part Motet is a high-point of Renaissance a cappella polyphony... ... ...then Vladimir Jurowski plunged straight into Mahler 8, and with a burst of bright light, a stunning moment of sounds and visuals. 
San Francisco Symphony/Michael Tilson Thomas at Carnegie Hall – 2 – Mahler 10 Adagio & Symphony 1
Saturday, April 08, 2017 |  Making a short speech at the start of this second San Francisco Symphony concert at Carnegie Hall, Michael Tilson Thomas emphasized the meditative aspects of Mahler's Tenth Symphony... ... Mahler's First Symphony was similarly well-played, displaying every detail of the texture and adhering closely to the score for the most part... 
Britten-Pears Orchestra/Marin Alsop at Royal Festival Hall – Daphnis and Chloe & The Rite of Spring – Colin Currie gives premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Martland Memorial
Friday, April 07, 2017 |  From daybreak to bacchanal, the student Britten-Pears Orchestra – mapped to Aldeburgh and internationally fielded (from eighteen countries this year) and tutored by experienced hands – rippled the Ravel into dawning life and Marin Alsop energised the final orgy. ... Conversely The Rite of Spring (1913, only slightly younger than the also-Paris and Diaghilev-commissioned Daphnis) – still has the power to shock, if inspirationally. ... As the centrepiece was Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Martland Memorial. Steve Martland (1954-2013) has been well-remembered by his friend... 
Midsummer Opera – Ponchielli’s La Gioconda – Zoë South, Siân Woodling, Stephen Holloway, Anna Loveday, Trevor Alexander & John Upperton; directed by Lynne McAdam; conducted by David Roblou
Friday, April 07, 2017 |  Ponchielli’s La Gioconda is very much of its time and genre – a grand Romantic opera conceived on an elaborate scale with a complex plot, requiring considerable vocal, choral, orchestral, and theatrical resources. It is a project not undertaken lightly... ... Midsummer Opera made a bold attempt... ... La Gioconda exploits the spatial possibilities of a theatre, though David Roblou and Lynne McAdam could have made more explicit use of that... ... With a central cast of six characters – requiring each of the major voice types – the opera makes a serious demand on producers; within the context of their respective capacities, the soloists were well chosen. Zoë Southand Siân Woodling as La Gioconda and her mother La Cieca were musical birds of a feather... ... ...the ensemble otherwise conveyed great confidence and enjoyment in the music, not least in ‘Dance of the Hours’... 
Murray Perahia plays Beethoven Piano Concertos with Academy of St Martin in the Fields – (3) Emperor Concerto
Friday, April 07, 2017 |  The final leg of Murray Perahia’s survey of Beethoven’s Piano Concertos, ending with the ‘Emperor’. ... Much of the light and shade in this account came from changes in volume – Perahia coaxing from the piano in the first movement the lightest of rippling passages against pizzicatos; or his thundering out of the rising and descending scales towards the end... ... The account of the First Symphony was of another order altogether. Performed by nearly forty ASMF players (with the barest of nods now and again from Keller), it was the triumph of the evening. This was unpasteurised Beethoven... 
San Francisco Symphony/Michael Tilson Thomas at Carnegie Hall – 1 – John Cage & Bartók – Gautier Capuçon plays Shostakovich
Friday, April 07, 2017 |  For this first of two concerts at Carnegie Hall, Michael Tilson Thomas led the San Francisco Symphony in an eclectic program of music composed during the middle decades of the twentieth-century, beginning with John Cage’s 1947 ballet, The Seasons, composed in collaboration with Merce Cunningham. ... It was delightful to hear the Shostakovich played by Gautier Capuçon, whose intensity and his vigorous and physical playing is reminiscent of Rostropovich, to whom the First Cello Concerto is dedicated. 
Palm Beach Opera – Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance – Michael Todd Simpson, Sarah Joy Miller, Stephanie Blythe, Mark Schnaible, Andrew Stenson; directed by Alan Paul; conducted by David Stern
Friday, April 07, 2017 |  Palm Beach Opera closed its 2017 season with The Pirates of Penzance. The production takes a traditional approach, with a few hints of Mike Leigh’s direction for English National Opera and Joseph Papp’s Broadway version. Palm Beach’s staging is a shining example of vitality and interconnectedness; it originated at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and with other collaborators. 
LSO/Gianandrea Noseda – Mahler 7 – Janine Jansen plays Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto
Thursday, April 06, 2017 |  

In 2014, the last time I was present to hear the LSO play Mahler’s Seventh Symphony at the Barbican Hall, the conductor was Daniele Gatti and the reading was nothing if not individual. Adopting some preposterously slow Klemperer-like tempos, Gatti seemed intent on restoring what was once taken for granted, the perversity and sheer menace of Mahler’s invention. Three years on, under a more frequent Italian visitor, the LSO’s recently anointed Principal Guest Conductor Gianandrea Noseda, the efficient dazzle of the music-making could not quite disguise the fact that this was very much business as usual... ... There was not quite enough ambiguity or intimacy before the interval either, although Janine Jansen’s heartfelt but unexaggerated account of Berg was potent enough... 

Philharmonia Orchestra/Jakub Hrůša – Brahms Hungarian Dances & Dvořák 8 – Julian Rachlin plays Tchaikovsky … Bent Sørensen Music of Today
Thursday, April 06, 2017 |  The Philharmonia Orchestra offered another of its early-evening free Music of Today recitals, this one a showcase for the 58-year-old Danish composer Bent Sørensen... ... The titles of the first two – The Deserted Churchyards (a reference to graveyards on the Danish coast being eroded by the sea) and The Weeping White Room – anticipate a big dose of Danish noir... ... Sørensen’s comforting gloom made the Brahms Hungarian Dances seem especially energised, even balletic, as conducted by Jakub Hrůša... ... The concert’s benign progress continued with Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, with the Lithuanian Julian Rachlin replacing Sergey Khachatryan. ... Lofty grandiloquence was never Dvořák’s thing, which is why I love the Symphony No.8 and admire the ‘New World’. Hrůša showed how completely he is inside the music in this big-hearted, compelling performance. 
Rameau’s Les fêtes d’Hébé at Royal College of Music – Académie de l’Opéra de Paris & Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles
Wednesday, April 05, 2017 |  Although Rameau’s stature as one of the geniuses of Baroque opera is now little questioned on either side of the Channel, performances of his operas remain scarce, especially in the UK. This collaboration between the Académie de l’Opéra de Paris and the Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles, and co-produced with the Royal College of Music, is believed to be the first time that the colourful opéra-ballet Les fêtes d’Hébé (1739) has been staged in Britain, despite being a conspicuous success in Paris during the composer’s lifetime and through William Christie’s fine recording. 
Alexander Melnikov at Wigmore Hall – Debussy’s Préludes
Wednesday, April 05, 2017 |  You might think that the very grounded-looking Russian pianist Alexander Melnikov is not an obvious fit for all twenty-four of Debussy’s Préludes, works that range from the visionary to wish-you-were-here postcard japes, taking in wise-cracking caricature, Ancient Egyptian artefacts and urbane wit on the way. Yet his clear-sighted, pragmatic musicianship enabled an almost friction-free connection with the music and made its succession of rapid emotional, visual, spiritual or humorous expansions into small time-frames seem entirely natural. 
Munich Philharmonic/Valery Gergiev at Carnegie Hall – 2 – Debussy Faun, Schubert Tragic, Mahler 4
Wednesday, April 05, 2017 |  For the second of its two Carnegie Hall concerts the Munich Philharmonic offered a puzzling combination of music: two Austro-German Symphonies preceded by the stylistically unrelated Afternoon of a Faun ... Valery Gergiev showing great affinity for Debussy's rapturous and languorous score. ... However, tempos turned problematic in the Mahler... ... It created a theatrical moment: Genia Kühmeier emerged to deliberately stride across the front of the stage and past the podium. Standing well in front of the orchestra, Kühmeier projected easily and could adopt the light, unforced timbre appropriate to the innocence of this Wunderhorn setting... 
Under the Skin – Jonathan Glazer's film with Scarlett Johansson, with Mica Levi’s score performed live by London Sinfonietta @ Royal Festival Hall
Tuesday, April 04, 2017 |  The notion of film screenings with live music has returned to the cultural mix after a longer absence than vinyl records. This is how cinema used to be enjoyed during the silent era – indeed Shostakovich made a living playing for silent films (his score for New Babylon has recently been premiered in London). But in addition to the indefatigable Carl Davis (most recently for Abel Gance’s Napoleon), even recent releases are soon accompanied live – The Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Harry Potter – while bands such as Asian Dub Foundation and British Sea Power have an alternative career providing new scores for old films. 
Early Adventures of Matthew Bourne at Sadler's Wells
Tuesday, April 04, 2017 |  It is thirty years since Matthew Bourne started choreographing, and what successes he has achieved in that time [...] Bourne's dancers give their considerable all throughout, with some delightful characterisations along the way, but any one of these three works would have had more effect if presented alongside work from other stages in Bourne's creative output. As it is, the relentless series of 'numbers' in all three reduces the impact of each work and the dancers' own irreproachable efforts. 
Munich Philharmonic/Valery Gergiev at Carnegie Hall – 1 – La valse & Eroica Symphony – Pierre-Laurent Aimard plays Ravel
Monday, April 03, 2017 |  In the first of two Carnegie Hall concerts, Valery Gergiev, in his second season with the Munich Philharmonic, led an engaging program of Ravel and Beethoven... ... Such frenzy was followed by the sparkling and bluesy Piano Concerto in G, in which Pierre-Laurent Aimard played brilliantly and with fluidity. ... Following intermission, for Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ Symphony, Gergiev’s emphasis was on intensity and sensational effect. 
New Sussex Opera – Delius’s A Village Romeo and Juliet [at Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne]
Sunday, April 02, 2017 |  Opera among the Sussex Downs doesn’t necessarily mean Glyndebourne, but rather, on this occasion, the annual production of the well-established New Sussex Opera (based in Lewes), which has been on tour around the South East (including Cadogan Hall in London) with Delius’s seldom-staged A Village Romeo and Juliet... ... Here it was presented in reduced scoring (for twenty-four players) by Lee Reynolds, which inevitably had an impact upon Delius’s original ‘large’ orchestration... ... ...not least in the interlude between the final two scenes, ‘The Walk to the Paradise Garden’ (the local pub), where Sali and Vreli merely ambled around indecisively. 
New York Philharmonic/Alan Gilbert at Barbican Centre – 3 – John Adams’s The Chairman Dances & Harmonielehre – Yo-Yo Ma plays Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Cello Concerto
Sunday, April 02, 2017 |  Music from thirty years ago (Esa-Pekka Salonen wrote in his programme note for his Cello Concerto that some of its ideas go back to the mid-eighties, when John Adams composed both The Chairman Dances and Harmonielehre) was the focus for the final concert of the New York Philharmonic’s latest Barbican Centre residency, the last of out-going music director Alan Gilbert’s tenure. ... Salonen’s Cello Concerto (completed this year for Yo-Yo Ma) was conducted by the composer in its Chicago world-premiere a few weeks ago, and New York heard it soon after, Gilbert presiding. .... Either side of the Salonen, John Adams held his own with infectious rhythms. The Chairman Dances, his study for the third Act of Nixon in China, is a suite of dances (eventually choreographed by Mark Morris) that continue to beguile... 
New York Philharmonic/Alan Gilbert at Barbican Centre – 2 – Absolute Jest & Symphonie fantastique
Saturday, April 01, 2017 |  John Adams’s Absolute Jest owes to Beethoven but is independent of him, the use of his music absorbed and integral. Composed in 2012, it is for string quartet and large orchestra... ... Following the interval, the Berlioz was, for the most part, a good listen. At the outset Alan Gilbert caught well the restless imaginings, a cue for passions to be revealed... ... ...the New York Philharmonic is in great shape... 
The Royal Ballet – George Balanchine's Jewels
Saturday, April 01, 2017 |  On the occasion of its fifty years, George Balanchine's Jewels, the first abstract three-act ballet, returns to Covent Garden, and scores only a partial success. [...] Quicksilver pianism from Robert Clark in the Stravinsky, and fully engaged orchestral playing under Pavel Sorokin – Koen Kessels's musical directorship is already paying audible dividends as the Covent Garden orchestra now bring its considerable talents to the consistent delivery of fine musical ballet performances. ... 

 

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