March 2018 Concert Reviews

April 2018 Concert Reviews
English National Opera – Fiona Shaw’s production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro – Thomas Oliemans, Rhian Lois, Lucy Crowe, Ashley Riches; conducted by Martyn Brabbins
Thursday, March 29, 2018 |  Musical values are to the fore in this second revival of Fiona Shaw’s 2011 production of The Marriage of Figaro. Martyn Brabbins leads a fleet account of the score with a strong sense of immediacy and response between pit and stage... ... At the heart of this revival are two very strong performances, by Lucy Crowe and Ashley Riches as Countess and Count Almaviva. Crowe’s voice is developing remarkably... ... This is a cast that really knows how to sing in English and deliver the text of Jeremy Sams’s witty translation to the full. 
Evgeny Kissin at Barbican Hall – Hammerklavier Sonata & Rachmaninov Preludes
Thursday, March 29, 2018 |  When Evgeny Kissin gives a recital, there's a buzz in the hall, an air of expectation. The kind of wonderment that comes from greatness before us. It sends a shiver. Redolent of times long ago with Rubinstein, Horowitz, Małcużyński, Richter, Gilels, Michelangeli... ... Starting with the 'Hammerklavier' was a feat in itself. Kissin met it head on, giving us what the composer wrote... ... With the Rachmaninov Preludes – I-VII of Opus 23 (1901-03) and X, XII & XIII of Opus 32 (1910) – images of darkness and desolation, walls of granite, the malachite mines of the Urals, unrequited kisses, epic horizons consumed and held the minutes. 
The Royal Opera at Barbican Theatre – Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Coraline
Thursday, March 29, 2018 |  Mark-Anthony Turnage‘s fourth opera, Coraline, marks quite a departure for him, written with a family audience in mind. How would he respond to a well-known gothic children’s story, which has already been adapted into a successful animated film? 
Bayerische Staatsoper at Carnegie Hall – Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier – Adrianne Pieczonka, Angela Brower, Hanna-Elisabeth Müller, Peter Rose; conducted by Kirill Petrenko
Thursday, March 29, 2018 |  Over the past couple of weeks New York City audiences have enjoyed several wide-ranging operas, including a new Così fan tutte at the Met, a concert of Handel’s Rinaldo, and Vittorio Grigolo’s fearless Edgardo in the Met’s Lucia di Lammermoor. Another spectacular event took place at Carnegie Hall, where Kirill Petrenko led Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. 
The Royal Ballet – Manon [Francesca Hayward & Federico Bonelli]
Thursday, March 29, 2018 |  It is difficult to imagine that Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon, now a staple in the repertoire of well over twenty companies worldwide, was given a decidedly mixed reception when it was first performed in 1973; it now seems absolutely right, a perfect balance of the intimate and the larger scale, the downfall of an amoral yet adorable heroine and her obsessed lover set against the seediness of France during the Régence. And it is good to report that given by The Royal Ballet, one can witness it better and more authentically performed than anywhere else. This most recent revival demonstrates that, in this particular work, and in the realm of dance narrative as a whole, this ensemble remains untouchable, such is the depth of understanding of the detail and nuance of successful story-telling through the medium of dance. 
Bayerisches Staatsorchester/Kirill Petrenko at Carnegie Hall – Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony & Brahms's Double Concerto with Julia Fischer & Daniel Müller-Schott
Wednesday, March 28, 2018 |  Brahms’s Double Concerto (his final orchestral work) has as many detractors as it does advocates. ... Julia Fischer and Daniel Müller-Schott offered much more than their extraordinary technical skills. ... Under the guidance of a sympathetic conductor, such as Kirill Petrenko, these outstanding instrumentalists gave the interweaving passages an especially fine integral fluidity. ... The Bavarian State Orchestra is one of the oldest ensembles... ... responded to Petrenko’s vigorous direction with resilience and generating as much power as it could to comport with Tchaikovsky’s dynamic demands in Manfred. 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Rafael Payare, with Alban Gerhardt & Abigail Fenna – Richard Strauss & Mozart – Don Juan, Haffner Symphony, Don Quixote
Tuesday, March 27, 2018 |  Replacing Charles Dutoit (see below for a link to a Statement by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra), Rafael Payare has a striking appearance and a vigorous conducting style... ... Nonetheless the RPO was on excellent form and brought off a dashing Don Juan... ... Where the Strauss had been vivid and purposeful, Mozart’s ‘Haffner’ Symphony felt like a limp watercolour... ... Then back to Spain for one of the most loveable literary characters, Don Quixote, Strauss’s Variations relating to episodes from Cervantes’s epic tale that portrays Quixote and his long-suffering servant Sancho Panza. For this occasion, it was Alban Gerhardt who brought much refinement... 
Orchestre de l'Opéra de Paris/Philippe Jordan at Philharmonie de Paris – Tchaikovsky Symphonies 2 & 4 [deferred webcast]
Tuesday, March 27, 2018 |  This season Philippe Jordan, currently Music Director of the Opéra National de Paris, Chief Conductor of the Wiener Symphoniker, and Music Director elect of the Wiener Staatsoper, is presenting a Tchaikovsky cycle at the Opéra Bastille and the Philharmonie de Paris. 
OAE – Johann Sebastian Bach’s St Matthew Passion – Mark Padmore & Roderick Williams
Monday, March 26, 2018 |  If experimental readings of J. S. Bach’s monumental B-minor Mass, using choirs of one to a part, have rendered it a “madrigal” as some have quipped, the limited resources for this OAE performance of the St Matthew Passion with its generally cool, casual realisation of the music, gave it all the decorous modesty of a drawing room partsong. The eight principal soloists were divided into two groups of four, mirroring the ripieno choirs, one singer to a part (and even then not distributed across the stage in the usual SATB arrangement). 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Danny Driver
Monday, March 26, 2018 |  Perhaps the relatively small crowd at Wigmore Hall for Danny Driver was down to the three composers topping the programme, but more-conservative listeners need not have been overly deterred. The chosen Prélude is early Messiaen... ... It ends with a glissando, a point of commonality with Kaija Saariaho’s Ballade (for Emanuel Ax)... ... Driver turned in an utterly different direction for the biggest piece, Schumann’s Kreisleriana, executed with equal sympathy... 
The Royal Opera – Phyllida Lloyd’s production of Verdi’s Macbeth – Željko Lučiċ & Anna Netrebko; conducted by Antonio Pappano
Sunday, March 25, 2018 |  This revival of Phyllida Lloyd’s 2002 production of Macbeth includes Željko Lučiċ as the Scottish thane and Anna Netrebko as his consort with Antonio Pappano conducting. Lučiċ has been heard in the Royal Opera House in several Verdi roles and his singing has always been treasurable. ... Netrebko’s Lady Macbeth is on this level too. 
LSO – François-Xavier Roth conducts Boulez, Debussy & Stravinsky, and the premiere of Ewan Campbell’s Frail Skies – Renaud Capuçon plays Bartók
Sunday, March 25, 2018 |  In planning this concert, the third and last of his Debussy and Beyond series with the LSO, François-Xavier Roth opted for a programme featuring music by those he considers Debussy's “sons”, in this case a span of composers from Bartók to Ewan Campbell. In an over-long evening, with arguably one work too many, the two clear masters were Debussy himself and Boulez. The latter's Livre pour cordes... ... Bartók originally wanted his 1937-38 Second Violin Concerto to be a set of variations, but Zoltán Székely, who commissioned it, insisted on a traditional three-movement format. Bartók complied but not without compromise … plus some orchestral asides playing to the gallery that stylistically I've never really warmed to. Renaud Capuçon has recently recorded it with Roth and the LSO... ... Marking the death of Debussy a century ago, to the day, almost the hour, La mer was all that was to be expected of the LSO in the hands of a conductor as cultured, nuanced and experienced as Roth. 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Karl-Heinz Steffens plays and conducts Brahms – Clarinet Quintet & German Requiem
Sunday, March 25, 2018 |  Karl-Heinz Steffens has established a firm relationship with the Philharmonia Orchestra since he first worked with it in 2014, replacing Christoph von Dohnányi. For this concert there was the added attraction of his reverting to his previous job (as clarinettist with the Berlin Philharmonic), which he left in 2007 to focus on conducting, in a performance of Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet with four of the Philharmonia’s principals as an extended preface to the German Requiem. 
Handel’s Rinaldo at Carnegie Hall – Harry Bicket directs The English Concert with Iestyn Davies, Joélle Harvey, Jane Archibald & Sasha Cooke
Sunday, March 25, 2018 |  This performance of Rinaldo was the sixth in a nearly annual series of Handel operas and oratorios presented by The English Concert at Carnegie Hall, launched in 2013 with Radamisto and which continues next season with Semele, in April. Harry Bicket has led accounts of three great Italian operas written by Handel in the 1730s. With Rinaldo, Bicket returned to the beginning of Handel’s career in London; Rinaldo premiered at the Queen’s Theatre, Haymarket in 1711. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Thierry Fischer conducts Symphony of Psalms & Violin Concerto – with Patricia Kopatchinskaja – and Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms
Saturday, March 24, 2018 |  The latest leg of the London Philharmonic’s Stravinsky series lost its original guide, Andrés Orozco-Estrada... ... ...it was Thierry Fischer (Utah music director) to the rescue... ... Symphony of Psalms (1930) was composed for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Koussevitzky... ... Similarly to Symphony of Psalms, Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms (1965), of Hebraic settings, didn’t reach its commissioner immediately. ... In the second movement (‘The Lord is my shepherd’) fourteen-year-old William Davies, slightly overawed maybe, was singularly impressive in poise and pitching, and the music, essentially a West Side Story cast-off... ... Rather special too was Patricia Kopatchinskaja’s appearance for Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Jukka-Pekka Saraste conducts Pohjola’s Daughter & Beethoven 7 – Augustin Hadelich plays Britten's Violin Concerto [live webcast]
Saturday, March 24, 2018 |  This attractive programme was beamed to all in typical Detroit Symphony Orchestra style... ... In Detroit, guest Jukka-Pekka Saraste opened with one of Sibelius’s greatest pieces, Pohjola’s Daughter... ... Following the interval Beethoven 7 responded well to Saraste’s directness and rhythmic clarity... ... In between these mighty fortresses, Benjamin Britten’s Violin Concerto, completed in 1939, the World on the cusp of War, and attracting much attention these days (there was a presentation in London very recently from Vilde Frang). It only reached the DSO in 2013, and this time its ominous soundings, troubled lyricism and raging intensity engrossed Augustin Hadelich. 
London Handel Festival – Amadigi di Gaula – Michal Czerniawski; Opera Settecento/Leo Duarte
Saturday, March 24, 2018 |  London was recently treated to a concert performance of Handel’s first ‘magic’ opera, Rinaldo, by the English Concert. The London Handel Festival – presumably coincidentally – happens to present this year the two examples which followed soon after that, starting with Amadigi... 
Midsummer Opera – Verdi’s Luisa Miller – Emma Dogliani, Andrew Mayor, Stephen Holloway, John Upperton; directed by Lynne McAdam; conducted by David Roblou
Friday, March 23, 2018 |  With an output of numerous operas (and substantive revisions of some) it is perhaps not surprising, if regrettable, that even such an above-average example by Verdi as Luisa Miller is overlooked in favour of a number of his others. Dating from 1849 it stands on the cusp of the breakthrough to indisputable artistic maturity which Verdi achieved in Rigoletto, with only Stiffelio coming in between, but already it anticipates the former masterpiece with its fluid structures where formal numbers are more seamlessly integrated within the dramatic framework. ... David Roblou’s conducting of Midsummer Opera grasped that convincingly with an interpretation of considerable heft... 
Palm Beach Opera – Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro – Marko Mimica, Janai Brugger, David Adam Moore, Irene Roberts, Caitlyn Lynch; directed by Stephen Lawless, conducted by Antonino Fogliani
Friday, March 23, 2018 |  When the stars are in alignment, as they are here, The Marriage of Figaro is the most magical of operas. In this Palm Beach production, co-owned with three other companies, a strong cast and the excellent chorus and orchestra bring Mozart’s music and Da Ponte’s comedy and social commentary vividly to life. 
London Handel Festival – Esther – Erica Eloff; conducted by Adrian Butterfield
Thursday, March 22, 2018 |  Having opened with Acis and Galatea, the London Handel Festival continued its examination of the year 1718 with this performance of the composer’s first attempt at English Oratorio, based on an Old Testament story. ... The sequence followed in this putative tercentenary anniversary performance at Wigmore Hall was that assembled by John Butt... ... The reduced forces of this performance by the London Handel Orchestra under Adrian Butterfield’s direction recalled the sort of limited resources Handel himself had to work with during his time at Cannons... ... Erica Eloff was impressive in her forthright, extrovert depiction of Esther who manages to work her charm on the Persian king Ahasverus, so as to avert the genocidal inclinations of the chief minister... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy – Voices of Revolution Russia 1917 – Mosolov’s Iron Foundry & Glière’s Red Poppy, Behzod Abduraimov plays Prokofiev, Nadezhda Gulitskaya sings Coloratura Soprano Concerto
Thursday, March 22, 2018 |  This Philharmonia Orchestra concert, halfway through its excellent Russia 1917 series, may well turn out to be the most fascinating piece of programming, although the music, with one short, loud exception, is the least overtly revolutionary. Alexander Mosolov (1900-73) is remembered in the decadent West mainly for his brutal explosion of industrial Soviet modernism The Iron Foundry... ... ...grinding brass, woodwind shrieks and implacable percussion kept firmly in place by the eighty-year-old Vladimir Ashkenazy... ... Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.3 is infinitely more ingratiating. ... ...Behzod Abduraimov left us in no doubt of his stupendous virtuosity. ... The second half of the concert was devoted to the music of Reinhold Glière (1875-1956), whose career was at the heart of Soviet music. His Concerto for Coloratura Soprano and Orchestra, despite the arch-conservatism of its style, is still oddly subversive... ... Nadezhda Gulitskaya (replacing Ailish Tynan) was magnificent... 
Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman & Rohan De Silva at Carnegie Hall
Thursday, March 22, 2018 |  Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman began this Carnegie Hall recital with Johann Gottlieb Goldberg’s Sonata for Two Violins. Long attributed to J. S. Bach as BWV1037 it has only recently been re-ascribed to his pupil Goldberg, primarily remembered for lending his name to the Goldberg Variations. This charming piece is in four movements, alternately slow-fast. The violinists brought the slow ones to life with affection and embraced the others with wholehearted joyousness, Rohan De Silva (replacing Martha Argerich, her absence generating a change of program and the addition of Zukerman) a mostly discreet supporter. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Andrés Orozco-Estrada conducts Apollon musagète, Schubert 3, and Peter Donohoe plays Capriccio and Weber’s Konzertstück
Wednesday, March 21, 2018 |  It was pleasing to end this fresh-faced London Philharmonic concert with Schubert’s ebullient Third Symphony (when it turns up at all it is invariably the starter course), a sunny contrast to the severe beauty of (current LPO project) Stravinsky’s Apollon musagète. Andrés Orozco-Estrada gave an upbeat account of the Schubert... ... In place of a grand Piano Concerto, two concertante works in which Peter Donohoe was simply terrific. Weber’s Konzertstück (1821), a gem, opened with beguiling woodwinds... ... Usually Konzertstück is paired – Alfred Brendel used to couple it with Liszt No.2 – and here it was Stravinsky’s Capriccio... 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Sakari Oramo conducts This Midnight Hour & Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony – Vilde Frang plays Britten’s Violin Concerto
Wednesday, March 21, 2018 |  The British-born (in 1980), New York-resident Anna Clyne has developed a formidable reputation. ... All of this, and a lot more, are there for hearing in This Midnight Hour... ... Clyne’s brand of sonic visualisation complements Britten rather neatly. His much-revised Violin Concerto is increasingly being recognised as one of his major scores. Sakari Oramo, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Vilde Frang presented it as such. ... The strings stayed at the same strength (based on eight double basses) for Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ Symphony, in which Oramo focused on instrumental balance and detail... 
Schubert Ensemble at Wigmore Hall – Chausson, Schubert’s Trout Quintet, Judith Weir
Wednesday, March 21, 2018 |  After three-and-a-half decades of existence and twenty-three years without a personnel change, this concert marked the Schubert Ensemble’s farewell to London. A suitably packed Wigmore Hall included many of the Great and Good of music... ... Following the interval the string-playing sounded just that vital shade more colourful in the Ensemble’s signature work, Schubert’s ‘Trout’ Quintet. ... But the players still had one or two cards up their sleeves, including a premiere. As a composer of Scots ancestry, Judith Weir (present in the audience) might have been expected to produce a pipe tune... 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Litton at Lighthouse – Outdoor Overture & Pathétique Symphony – Stefan Jackiw plays Korngold
Wednesday, March 21, 2018 |  It’s thirty years since Andrew Litton took up the reins of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and here, making a rare appearance as Conductor Laureate, he presided over a programme that tugged at the heartstrings, but got off to a breezy start with An Outdoor Overture... ... From quintessential American to adopted American, there followed Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Violin Concerto... ... ...admirably served by Stefan Jackiw... ... The encore provided a foretaste of the sobriety that arrived in Tchaikovsky’s ‘Pathétique’ Symphony... 
George Li at St John’s Smith Square – Beethoven, Chopin, Rachmaninov, Liszt
Tuesday, March 20, 2018 |  George Li is Chinese-American, aged twenty-two and won the Silver Medal at the 2015 Tchaikovsky Competition. All very impressive, but his distinguished background doesn’t prepare you for the vigour, imagination and affection of his playing. 
London Handel Festival – Acis and Galatea – Nick Pritchard & Lucy Page; directed by Martin Parr; conducted by Laurence Cummings
Monday, March 19, 2018 |  Anniversary mania has gripped the London Handel Festival this year such that, for its staged production of a dramatic work in its opening week, it jettisons the presentation of one of the composer’s thirty-nine surviving full-length Italian opera serie in favour of the English masque or serenata, Acis and Galatea... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Stile Antico
Monday, March 19, 2018 |  Even the lightest music could have deadly serious implications in the England of Elizabeth I, as some composers discovered to their cost; the politics of the English Reformation and the constant jockeying for court favouritism lie so often in the background when we listen to an apparently ethereal Anthem or carefree Madrigal. ... ...well brought out by Stile Antico – a twelve-strong, director-less, a cappella ensemble – at Wigmore Hall. 
Soraya Mafi & Graham Johnson at Wigmore Hall – The Lure of the East
Sunday, March 18, 2018 |  Soraya Mafi gave a sparkling performance at Wigmore Hall choosing songs reflecting her Persian heritage. Our voyage to the East opened with Schumann’s emotionally intense Byron setting ‘Aus den hebräischen Gesängen’. The chromatic introduction was beautifully detailed by Graham Johnson... ... Add sweetness for ‘The Sun Whose Rays’ from Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado, but the frenzied speed and subsequent lack of clear diction of Noël Coward’s ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen’ made it the only disappointment... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Sleeping Beauty & Fairy’s Kiss, Daniil Trifonov plays Tchaikovsky
Saturday, March 17, 2018 |  This latest instalment in the London Philharmonic’s year-long “Changing Faces: Stravinsky’s Journey” series focussed on The Fairy’s Kiss, drawing on Tchaikovsky’s piano music and songs, written in 1927 at the behest of dancer Ida Rubinstein, and seldom performed complete (Stravinsky fashioned a Divertimento from it). Vladimir Jurowski conducted a vivid account... ... The evening had begun with Stravinsky’s re-orchestrations of selections from The Sleeping Beauty... ... The Piano Concerto began in business-like fashion, Jurowski seemingly impatient to launch it, Daniil Trifonov ploughing through thunderous chords on a bright-sounding Fazioli. 
Kuss Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Haydn – Joke, Frog
Friday, March 16, 2018 |  The Kuss Quartet’s rich, colourful sound suited and indeed enhanced these searching interpretations of Haydn. Frequently, the musicians’ expressive style revealed inner meanings within the pieces, a characteristic at once evident in the ‘Joke’ Quartet... ... The so-called ‘Frog’ Quartet was treated in a different manner and apart from a sturdy and stylish Minuet and Trio the Kuss Quartet considered the remaining movements almost as tone-poems... 
English National Opera – Verdi’s La traviata – Claudia Boyle, Lukhanyo Moyake, Alan Opie; directed by Daniel Kramer; conducted by Leo McFall
Friday, March 16, 2018 |  It started so well – an intensely beautiful Act One Prelude (thankfully, in the light of what followed, with no directorial intervention) that covers all the bases of the tragedy of Verdi’s Violetta. And it was all downhill from there. Daniel Kramer’s new (to London; it has been mounted in Basel) staging of La traviata is his first opera in the post as Artistic Director of ENO. 
SWR Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart at Cadogan Hall – Roger Norrington conducts Beethoven – Prometheus, Eroica, with Francesco Piemontesi in Piano Concerto 3
Friday, March 16, 2018 |  Great to see that Sir Roger has kept faith with the amalgam (as conductor emeritus) having been in charge of the previous Stuttgart forces between 1998 and 2011, and back with Beethoven, still finding new ways to present his music. ... For the Overture Norrington stood, leaning against the piano, the SWR Orchestra producing a refreshingly punchy sound, the first chord pinged off, but finding a natural bloom in Cadogan Hall’s acoustic. ... For the Third Piano Concerto Norrington sat on a swivel chair in the midst of the orchestra, smiling beatifically on. Francesco Piemontesi was the crystalline soloist... ... The ‘Eroica’ was similarly propulsive... 
Haydn’s Applausus – Classical Opera/Ian Page at Cadogan Hall
Thursday, March 15, 2018 |  Classical Opera’s Mozart 250 project unearthed for this anniversary exploration of 1768 Haydn’s little-known allegorical cantata Applausus. It was composed to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the taking of monastic vows by Rainer Kollmann, abbot of the Cistercian monastery in Zwettl (Lower Austria). There is no drama as such but rather the personifications of the four Cardinal virtues assembled to discuss and recommend their qualities, moderated (in both senses of the term) by Theology (also described as Wisdom in the score, allowing a de-Christianised, more purely philosophical reading of the work if desired). 
European premiere of Sondheim on Sondheim – BBC Concert Orchestra/Keith Lockhart
Thursday, March 15, 2018 |  So you see: there is an insatiable desire to see Sondheim in all his glory and he is particularly well-suited for compilations. His range of musicals is so wide and, as he is so original, he never repeats himself. Spot the differences between West Side Story, Gypsy, Pacific Overtures, Company, Sweeney Todd, Follies, Passion, Merrily We Roll Along, A Little Night Music, Sunday in the Park With George, Into the Woods, and it is difficult to believe they were written by the same man, a true master of both his art and his craft and undoubtedly America’s greatest lyricist and composer of the twentieth-century. ... At the Royal Festival Hall the six excellent singers did the material very proud indeed in solos, duets and ensembles. Julian Ovenden was particularly strong in ‘Epiphany’ (Sweeney Todd), while Tyrone Huntley gave a truly impassioned version of ‘Being alive’ (Company). ... It is always a pleasure to hear the BBC Concert Orchestra in whatever it does, here doing very well indeed with Keith Lockhart. 
The Royal Ballet – Leonard Bernstein Centenary – Yugen; The Age of Anxiety; Corybantic Games
Thursday, March 15, 2018 |  Quite why The Royal Ballet and, indeed, the Royal Opera House have been moved to mark the centenary of Leonard Bernstein is not exactly clear. The American composer/conductor seems never to have appeared in Bow Street in either capacity, and yet here we have, with great fanfare, our premier dance company’s tribute to him. Indeed, until the first night of this new triple bill, his only presence in the repertoire was through Liam Scarlett’s The Age of Anxiety, itself as recently created as 2014, forming the central section of this programme. … 
Heath Quartet & Nils Mönkemeyer at Wigmore Hall – Haydn, Widmann, Bruckner
Wednesday, March 14, 2018 |  The Heath Quartet took a forthright view of the Haydn which dates from 1793, lying between his two visits to England. Here was a positive approach with securely sustained tempos and every instrumental line firmly projected... ... Born in Munich in 1973, Jörg Widmann is a distinguished clarinettist and conductor – currently principal in the latter with the Irish Chamber Orchestra. He sometimes presents his music as a sequence of works; there is an orchestral trilogy and this Fourth String Quartet from 2005 is one of six conceived as a cycle which began two years previously. ... Bruckner’s String Quintet has all the characteristics of his Symphonies apart from instrumentation. ... Nils Mönkemeyer played first viola and was ideally expressive in the solo during the Adagio... 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Thierry Fischer at Lighthouse – Ives & Brahms – Stephen Hough plays Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto
Wednesday, March 14, 2018 |  This evening of music that poses questions coincided with the death of the visionary physicist Stephen Hawking... ... At the Lighthouse what became the ‘Emperor’ was given an emphatic account by Stephen Hough with an unfailingly supportive and decisive Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Thierry Fischer. ... Following the interval, Charles Ives’s The Unanswered Question, which poses “the perennial question of existence”, the BSO strings at their smoothest. Despite best efforts too from the woodwind quartet and off-stage trumpeter, the coughers and hackers did their best to shatter the mood of haunting mysticism. 
Maurizio Pollini at Royal Festival Hall – Schumann & Chopin
Tuesday, March 13, 2018 |  Robert Schumann’s Arabeske made for a gently beguiling opening to Maurizio Pollini’s latest Royal Festival Hall recital, his Fabbrini Steinway very responsive to a range of touches to illuminate the music’s contemplation and depth of perspective, coming to rest with magical distance, and then contrasted with the B-minor Allegro’s drama, unrest and poetic distinctions... 
Philadelphia Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin at Carnegie Hall – Rachmaninov 2 – Janine Jansen gives New York premiere of Michel van der Aa’s Violin Concerto
Tuesday, March 13, 2018 |  Michel van der Aa’s Violin Concerto was written in 2014 for his Dutch compatriot Janine Jansen. ... Yannick Nézet-Séguin took the Finale as if it were marked ‘as fast as possible’, which allowed the Philadelphia Orchestra to demonstrate incredible virtuosity. ... Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony is operatic in scope with an abundance of compelling melodies. Nézet-Séguin was at home... 
Handel’s Rinaldo at Barbican Hall – Harry Bicket directs The English Concert with Iestyn Davies, Joélle Harvey, Jane Archibald & Sasha Cooke
Tuesday, March 13, 2018 |  Visitors to the recent Opera exhibition mounted by the Victoria and Albert Museum will have learnt how the twenty-six year old Handel took London by storm with Rinaldo (1711) on his first trip to England... ... As with Brexit today, so the forces of reaction at that time decried the introduction of such cosmopolitanism from abroad... ... These had to be left to the imagination in this Barbican Hall performance of Rinaldo, but the English Concert conjured the drama out of the music vividly under Henry Bicket’s fastidious direction. ... In the title role, Iestyn Davies displayed his clarity and ardour of tone that embodied effortless control of Handel’s tricky writing... 
John Chest & Marcelo Amaral at Wigmore Hall – A Winter Journey
Tuesday, March 13, 2018 |  John Chest impressed in Cardiff Singer of the World last year and he brought a finely wrought wintery programme to Wigmore Hall. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Patrice Chéreau’s production of Richard Strauss’s Elektra – Sabine Hogrefe; conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Monday, March 12, 2018 |  Word came that Christine Goerke was ill and would be replaced as Richard Strauss’s Elektra by Sabine Hogrefe... ... In the opening scene of the late Patrice Chéreau’s suitably stark and ill-omened production Hogrefe was at times overbalanced by the Orchestra... ... ...but she warmed up and did not disappoint, singing with confidence and power... ... The biggest star on this evening was the Orchestra, playing for music director designate Yannick Nézet-Séguin with utter conviction and focus... 
LSO – John Eliot Gardiner conducts Schumann, Ann Hallenberg sings Nuits d’été
Sunday, March 11, 2018 |  In the first slice of this four-part Schumann exploration John Eliot Gardiner and a mostly standing LSO gave compelling accounts of the Second Symphony and the Overture to Genoveva. While the stage was being re-set for the Berlioz Sir John Eliot made a historical and musical case for performing thus, arguing that it brings better interaction and more-soloistic playing, although these qualities were not lost in the seated rendition of Les Nuits d'été. ... Not so here in these brilliantly effective readings enshrined in Ann Hallenberg’s love of the music and her engagement with it. 
Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Gala Concert – Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts Cutler, Čiurlionis & Ravel – Andrei Ivanov plays Chopin
Sunday, March 11, 2018 |  Amidst all the doom and gloom surrounding UK music education, Birmingham City University has done a remarkable thing. By investing fifty-seven million in a new purpose-built building for Royal Birmingham Conservatoire the University has completely bucked the trend. ... Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla led a programme both challenging and intriguing. ... The soloist in Chopin’s Piano Concerto No.2 was Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s Belarusian student Andrei Ivanov, whose appearance reminded me of the young John Ogdon. 
Kensington Symphony Orchestra – Michael Seal conducts Bruckner 8
Saturday, March 10, 2018 |  The Kensington Symphony Orchestra regularly features guest conductors, and this concert saw Michael Seal at the helm. Associate Conductor of the CBSO, Seal has never shirked a challenge as was evident in this performance of Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony. 
Göteborgs Symfoniker – Santtu-Matias Rouvali conducts Der Rosenkavalier & Sibelius 1 – Hélène Grimaud plays Beethoven [live webcast]
Friday, March 09, 2018 |  Concert programmes may be getting shorter, dispensing with openers, but not this one. Here was a positively roast beef helping of Straussian opulence, Beethoven Concerto and Sibelius Symphony, showcasing this pedigree orchestra at its solo and corporate best, the high-definition webcast catching the depth and resonance of Gothenburg's 1935 Konserthus with stunning clarity and visual engagement. ... Displaying a nostalgia and nuances seemingly beyond Santtu-Matias Rouvali's years, the Suite from Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier (not made by the composer but attributed to Artur Rodziński) was in many ways the highlight... ... This season Hélène Grimaud is Artist-in-Residence with the Gothenburg Symphony. In Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto, an old staple of hers, she had her moments... 
Florian Boesch & Malcolm Martineau at Wigmore Hall – Schubert
Friday, March 09, 2018 |  Florian Boesch presented an individual exploration of Schubert’s final songs, collected posthumously as Schwanengesang. Boesch and Malcolm Martineau retained the separation of the Rellstab and Heine poems, here interspersed by settings of Goethe, but the order in which they were sung was different from the published sequence. 
BBC Concert Orchestra and Jane Glover with Ilona Domnich: International Women's Day Concert from LSO St Luke’s
Thursday, March 08, 2018 |  Although the designation of March 8 as what one assumes will become a globally-marked annual International Women’s Day (it has been going for over a century, with celebrations of different significance on various days in the calendar) is as good a reason as any for the BBC to mount a programme such as this... The single-movement Allegro feroce by Augusta Holmès (1847-1903, born in Paris) may well have been – so we were informed – receiving its world premiere performance... ... This was a superb performance from the BBC Concert Orchestra and Jane Glover. ... The second half opened with the earliest music: two arias from the oratorio Sant’ Elena al Calvario by Marianna Martines (1744-1812, born in Vienna to a Spanish/Italian heritage), which was consistently the best music in the concert. ... Finally, the longest work – a Symphony by the Russian who is best remembered – if at all – as Stravinsky’s piano teacher. The old toad dismissed his teacher’s musicianship in his memoirs, but Leokadiya Kashperova (1872-1940, St Petersburg) must have been a fine musician... 
Music by Louise Farrenc & Beethoven – Insula Orchestra/Laurence Equilbey at Barbican Hall, with Alexandra Conunova, Natalie Clein & Elisabeth Brauss
Thursday, March 08, 2018 |  Marking International Women's Day, the players wearing white suffragette ribbons, this was the kind of inspirational Insula Orchestra venture and programming you might expect to find at the Philharmonie in Paris but rarely on any of the main London stages. Under Laurence Equilbey this French period-band invariably rises to the occasion... ... The interest of the evening centred on Louise Farrenc (1804-75), a Parisian who studied with Hummel, Moscheles and Reicha and was the only woman to hold a teaching chair at the Conservatoire during the nineteenth-century. ... Variously imposing, singing and Hungarian, Beethoven's Triple Concerto in the first half – a handsomely veneered 2.5-metre 1882 Érard centre-stage – introduced us to a musically refined, sympathetic line-up of soloists: the Moldavian violinist Alexandra Conunova (playing a 1735 Venetian instrument by Santo Seraphin), the British cellist Natalie Clein, and the German pianist Elisabeth Brauss... 
Pierre-Laurent Aimard at Carnegie Hall
Thursday, March 08, 2018 |  Fortunately for New York audiences, Pierre-Laurent Aimard appears here fairly frequently. ... Aimard began with pieces by the early avant-garde Russian Nikolai Obukhov (1892-1954) who studied with Rimsky-Korsakov. However, his music is experimental and steeped in religious mysticism... ... Without a break the ferocious opening of Scriabin’s Fifth Sonata was upon us... ... It all came together with the ‘Hammerklavier’. 
The Royal Opera – Janáček’s From the House of the Dead; directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski; conducted by Mark Wigglesworth
Wednesday, March 07, 2018 |  The last of Janáček's operas, From the House of the Dead, is also the last of his five great dramas to have reached The Royal Opera (indeed, productions in the UK have been notable for their infrequency), but anyone anticipating a revelatory take on one of the supreme (and supremely relevant) such works from the twentieth-century is likely to have been bitterly disappointed. ... At least the failure for this can be levelled directly at the production team. Impressive though his directing CV may be (not least an award for his 2010 staging of The Makropoulos Case), Krzysztof Warlikowski's directorial debut for The Royal Opera is inept and ill-conceived. 
Welsh National Opera at Birmingham Hippodrome – John Caird’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni – Gavan Ring; conducted by James Southall
Wednesday, March 07, 2018 |  John Caird’s 2011 production set in stylish, flexible, imposing Rodin-inspired designs by John Napier presents Don Giovanni as the Dramma giocoso of Mozart’s designation. ... From a vocal perspective there are many other felicities, not least the Donna Elvira of Elizabeth Watts and the Leporello of David Stout. 
Welsh National Opera at Birmingham Hippodrome – Verdi’s Force of Destiny; conducted by Carlo Rizzi; directed by David Pountney
Tuesday, March 06, 2018 |  Welsh National Opera, ever-adventurous, here demonstrates that even Verdi’s more-problematic works have considerable appeal in this striking new staging by David Pountney. 
The Metropolitan Opera – John Copley’s production of Rossini’s Semiramide – Angela Meade, Javier Camarena, Elizabeth DeShong, Ildar Abdrazakov; conducted by Maurizio Benini
Tuesday, March 06, 2018 |  Premiered in Venice in 1823, and a popular vehicle for great voices throughout the nineteenth-century, Rossini’s Semiramide was all but forgotten through much of the twentieth. More than one-hundred years ago Metropolitan Opera presented a run of eight performances (with Nellie Melba in the title role), after which the work disappeared, reappearing only in 1990 when Lella Cuberli headlined John Copley’s current production. ... As Semiramide, Angela Meade gives an impressive account... 
British Ballet Columbia at Sadler's Wells – Triple Bill: 16 + a room; Solo Echo; Bill
Tuesday, March 06, 2018 |  In the dance world currently, having a work by Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite is something akin to having a golden Ticket to Willy Wonka’s factory. And so it proves with sell-out houses for British Ballet Columbia’s first UK appearances at Sadler’s Wells before a country-wide tour. And, in the context of this satisfying triple bill, one can confirm that there is ample reason behind all the fuss, for, despite the qualities of its two companion pieces, her Solo Echo stands on a different, altogether higher level.… 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Leon McCawley
Monday, March 05, 2018 |  At Wigmore Hall, Leon McCawley focussed on central European repertoire and provided within it much stylistic variety. 
Manhattan Chamber Players with Marcy Rosen – Chiaroscuro
Monday, March 05, 2018 |  Manhattan Chamber Players is a collective of string and wind musicians of the highest caliber, founded in 2015 by Luke Fleming, and Chiaroscuro is a stylistic term principally derived from a sixteenth-century woodcut technique that used multiple blocks to create a variety of coloristic effects... 
Philharmonia at the Movies – Greta Garbo – Carl Davis conducts his scores for The Mysterious Lady and The Divine Woman
Sunday, March 04, 2018 |  Carl Davis has said that film scores are “operas without the singing” and he demonstrates that emphatically in The Mysterious Lady. The spirit of Puccini runs through the music in the same way that Beethoven dominates his score for Abel Gance’s Napoleon. Greta Garbo is in full diva mode. She is first encountered in lingering profile at a box at the Vienna State Opera watching a performance of Tosca. ... Beforehand, the only surviving fragment of The Divine Woman was aired. A soldier on leave spends a night with a rising young actress (Garbo) who persuades him to stay rather than rejoin his regiment. It has some similarities to Carmen and Davis’s score has more than a touch of Bizet... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Antonio Pappano conducts Elgar's In the South & Brahms 2 – Diana Damrau sings Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs
Saturday, March 03, 2018 |  When in London Antonio Pappano is to be found mostly at Covent Garden, or in the company of the visiting Santa Cecilia Orchestra, and away from these twin peaks he regularly appears with the LSO. If not quite his debut with the London Philharmonic – there was an Aldeburgh liaison in August 2015 – this Royal Festival Hall concert suggests a further thriving relationship is in the making. ... Edward Elgar and Richard Strauss are sometimes compared stylistically, not least when discussing the former’s In the South... ... Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs (1948, premiered posthumously in 1950) benefitted from a singer-friendly conductor and the inestimable presence of Diana Damrau. 
Steven Osborne at Wigmore Hall – Debussy, Prokofiev, Ravel
Saturday, March 03, 2018 |  This was a challenging recital (which may have in-part accounted for the number of empty seats) in which Steven Osborne imaginatively juxtaposed a series of diverse early-to-mid-twentieth-century masterworks, starting with Prokofiev’s magnificent Sarcasms. ... Ravel’s Miroirs are evocations of specific scenes, and here Osborne was less successful. ... Finally there was Prokofiev’s Eighth Piano Sonata, which Sviatoslav Richter hailed as his greatest, “an abundance of riches.” 
English Touring Opera at Hackney Empire – Puccini’s Il tabarro and Gianni Schicchi; conducted by Michael Rosewell
Friday, March 02, 2018 |  To keep its new production of The Marriage of Figaro company, English Touring Opera has revived two-thirds of Puccini’s Il trittico – Il tabarro and Gianni Schicchi – directed respectively by James Conway (ETO’s long-standing general director) and Liam Steel. The company’s weekend in Hackney starts a Spring tour that runs until early June and goes as far north as Perth and as far south as Truro, twenty-one venues and fifty-five performances. 
Mitsuko Uchida at Carnegie Hall – Schubert Piano Sonatas, D575, D845 & D850
Friday, March 02, 2018 |  In this, the second of her two Carnegie Hall programs of Schubert Piano Sonatas in the same week, Mitsuko Uchida confirmed her status as one of his most-acclaimed interpreters. ... Following intermission was the D-major Sonata written in 1825 during Schubert’s sojourn in the spa resort of Gastein, south of Salzburg. 
Mark Viner at Wigmore Hall – Alkan, Chopin, Liszt, Thalberg
Friday, March 02, 2018 |  Mark Viner is Chairman of the Liszt Society so it was fitting that his Wigmore Hall recital included this composer. Berlioz completed Benvenuto Cellini in 1838 but it wasn’t well-received, and in 1851 Liszt offered to revive it and suggested some changes. ... Following the interval, Thalberg’s Fantasy on Themes from Moses. For all its grand title and quarter-of-an-hour duration, Thalberg selected just two of Rossini’s ideas – a chorus and a prayer – and, never short of ego, added material of his own. ... Finally Liszt’s impossibly grand Réminiscences de Norma, a fantasy on seven themes from Bellini’s 1831 opera. 
English National Opera – Robert Carsen’s production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; conducted by Alexander Soddy
Thursday, March 01, 2018 |  For the older opera-lover, mention of Peter Hall’s classic Glyndebourne staging of Benjamin Britten’s only Shakespeare opera is likely to squeeze out a fond tear of nostalgia, while for the slightly younger generation, Robert Carsen’s production has proved it has the magic and ‘legs’ to become one of the Dream’s touchstone productions. ... And this is before you get to the music. Alexander Soddy is currently music director at Mannheim’s National Theatre and, in his ENO debut, is very fine. 

 

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