September 2018 Concert Reviews

October 2018 Concert Reviews
Philharmonia Orchestra – Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts Wagner, Schoenberg & Bruckner
Sunday, September 30, 2018 |  The Philharmonia Orchestra is opening 18-19 with two concerts that marry the music of the Bayreuth master, Wagner, with that of two of his most prominent Austrian devotees, Bruckner and Schoenberg. ... In this second concert, Esa-Pekka Salonen made the ‘Prelude and Liebestod’ from Tristan (the latter chunk without Isolde) a contrasting but ultimately complementary diptych... ... Unlike the Expressionistic, nightmarish vision of Erwartung which featured in the first concert, Schoenberg’s earlier Transfigured Night (1899) starts, like Tristan, in the depths of apparently hopeless gloom, but proceeds to a hopeful, even redemptive conclusion. The poem by Richard Dehmel that inspired the work relates a night-time walk through a wood by a man and woman during which the former learns that the latter is pregnant by another man... 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Semyon Bychkov – Glanert & Dvořák – Katia & Marielle Labèque play Bruch [live webcast]
Saturday, September 29, 2018 |  Semyon Bychkov often champions Detlev Glanert’s music, understandably so. Weites Land (Open Land, 2013) begins with a reference to the corresponding bars of Brahms’s Fourth Symphony... ... Arresting though its majestic opening is, Max Bruch’s Concerto for Two Pianos has no pretences beyond being enjoyable and well-crafted. ... ...Katia & Marielle Labèque gave a stylish account... ... Following the interval, Dvořák’s Magnificent Seven(th), soulful and hot-blooded music full of Czech characteristics and Slavic fervour. Bychkov, without denuding these qualities, went for an integrated symphonic approach... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Mozart K595 with Mitsuko Uchida and Das Lied von der Erde with Sarah Connolly & Stuart Skelton
Saturday, September 29, 2018 |  Mozart’s final Piano Concerto proved an interesting counterweight to Mahler’s late Symphony, Das Lied von der Erde, that summation of his preoccupation with the finality of death and the struggle of life itself. ... In K595, the LPO showed-off its chamber credentials with clockwork precision, an equal partner to Mitsuko Uchida. ... Stuart Skelton responded with febrile virility and enunciating every consonant. ... From Sarah Connolly ‘Der Einsame im Herbst’ (Autumn Loneliness) was at once plaintive and desolate. 
100 Years of Holst’s The Planets, presented by Professor Brian Cox, with BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ben Gernon
Saturday, September 29, 2018 |  This audio-visual spectacular embraced two distinct worlds: that of Astrology – in which Gustav Holst had a considerable interest – and science. Brian Cox is noted for his irrepressible passion for the latter subject... ... ...and that The Planets – first-performed exactly one-hundred years ago to the date, Adrian Boult conducting – was essentially founded on his knowledge of astrology. ... Ben Gernon and the BBCSO gave a lively and at times quite sensitive account of the score... 
New English Ballet Theatre – The Four Seasons | Remembrance
Saturday, September 29, 2018 |  The New English Ballet Theatre is a doughty little enterprise with a laudable aim – to commission and bring new work. But that, without the weight of a large organisation behind it, is no small ask, so whatever they achieve is somewhat against the odds. However, there is a great deal of choreographic dross out there and the number of dance creators is legion; quality control is essential. At least NEBT enlisted two respected choreographers, Jenna Lee and Wayne Eagling for its latest double bill, even if the outcome was perhaps less than the scintillating evening of dance it was intended to be. 
English National Opera – Richard Strauss’s Salome – Allison Cook, Michael Colvin, Susan Bickley, Stuart Jackson; directed by Adena Jacobs; conducted by Martyn Brabbins
Friday, September 28, 2018 |  We were promised a bold, feminist take on Richard Strauss’s and Oscar Wilde’s Salome in English National Opera’s season-launching new production from the Australian director Adena Jacobs... ... Allison Cook, looking impressively cool and gym-toned in figure-hugging, occasionally discarded, costumes, brilliantly emanates Salome’s frigid and repellent sexuality and is heroically athletic. ... I cannot remember when I last saw the ENO pit so full, and Martyn Brabbins does a great job keeping in close contact with the cast... 
The Metropolitan Opera – Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila – Roberto Alagna & Elīna Garanča; directed by Darko Tresnjak; conducted by Mark Elder
Friday, September 28, 2018 |  Darko Tresnjak’s new production of Camille Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila opens the Metropolitan Opera’s 2018-2019 season. The attractive and colorful staging has set- and costume-designs that evoke the time and place in which the familiar story from the biblical Book of Judges is drawn and lighting effects that serve to complement the action. ... Roberto Alagna and Elīna Garanča sing beautifully... ... Mark Elder gives the score a sensitive reading... 
Philharmonia Orchestra opening concert of 2018-19 season – Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts Wagner & Bruckner, Angela Denoke performs Schoenberg's Erwartung – Music of Today: Hans Zender & Philippe Manoury
Thursday, September 27, 2018 |  Believe it or not, this was the Philharmonia Orchestra’s 2018-19 season opener, with its charismatic principal conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen at the helm, yet it felt like a mid-term event and the RFH was far from full. The first of two Wagner/Schoenberg/Bruckner programmes, it should have been at least reliable box-office... ... The ensemble slimmed down very slightly for Schoenberg’s Erwartung (Expectation), his sex-and-death-and-atonality, stream-of-consciousness masterpiece... ... The role of The Woman was sung by Angela Denoke... ... To get us in the monodrama groove, the Music of Today recital, introduced by Unsuk Chin, presented two fairly recent works, by Hans Zender (born 1936 – his reworking of Winterreise was done in London two years ago) and Philippe Manoury (born 1952). 
New York Philharmonic – Jaap van Zweden conducts Conrad Tao’s Everything Must Go & Bruckner 8
Thursday, September 27, 2018 |  For his second program as music director of the New York Philharmonic, Jaap van Zweden combined the contemporary with the traditional, joining Conrad Tao’s Everything Must Go with Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony. ... The Finale, the beginning of which reminds of John Williams’s music for the Star Wars films, was ablaze with fervent intensity and fortified with magisterial power... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra opening concert of 2018-19 season – Stravinsky – Thomas Adès conducts Symphony in Three Movements & Lutosławski 3, and Kirill Gerstein plays Adès’s In Seven Days
Wednesday, September 26, 2018 |  The London Philharmonic’s Stravinsky series continued into the start of its 2018-19 season with a programme bookended by two major twentieth-century Symphonies that took their composers a long time to finish – 1942 to 1945 in the case of war-exiled Stravinsky composing in Los Angeles; 1972 to 1983 for Lutosławski in Poland – with results that took liberties with tradition while keeping faith with the symphonic spirit. Both are vividly theatrical, and both thrived under Thomas Adès’s sure-footed sense of drama. ... Glamour and energy played their part in the 2008 premiere of Adès’s creation-myth In Seven Days, described then as a Piano Concerto with Moving Image, since it was played in tandem with video-work by Adès’s then-partner Tal Rosner. It seemed that neither medium hit sparks off the other, and subsequent music-only performances have proved that the score holds its own, triumphantly so in Kirill Gerstein’s commanding and grand account of the piano’s role. 
Wars of the Three Kingdoms – Jordi Savall & Hespèrion XXI at Queen Elizabeth Hall
Tuesday, September 25, 2018 |  Belying a title (“Wars of the Three Kingdoms”) that looked as if it was straight out of Game of Thrones, Jordi Savall’s return to the Queen Elizabeth Hall – embarking on its first full season since its prolonged refurbishment – was mostly a rather intimate and sombre affair, with court compositions for up to five viols offering solace from war rather than any musical reportage from amidst the heat of battle. 
Christian Blackshaw & Soloists of the Berliner Philharmoniker at Turner Sims – Mozart’s Piano Quartets & Schubert’s Trout
Tuesday, September 25, 2018 |  As at Wigmore Hall the evening before, Christian Blackshaw and members of the Berliner Philharmoniker began with Mozart’s two Piano Quartets, the first significant forays into the medium. ... When a programme concludes with Schubert’s ‘Trout’ Quintet, the preceding music is somehow overshadowed. If that’s unfair to Mozart, there was no doubt of the ensemble’s newly-acquired spring-in-the-step manner – as if shaking hands with a much-loved friend. 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Daniel Harding – Bruckner 5 [live webcast]
Saturday, September 22, 2018 |  A single work, an epic one, Bruckner’s Fifth Symphony. This second performance of three by the Berliner Philharmoniker and Daniel Harding journeyed from ecclesiastical wonder to mighty-fortress conclusion with surety if not always the full Brucknerian message. 
New York Philharmonic – Jaap van Zweden conducts Ashley Fure’s Filament, The Rite of Spring, and Daniil Trifonov plays Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto
Friday, September 21, 2018 |  This stimulating program got off to an adventurous start with a reprise of Ashley Fure’s Filament, an ambitious combination of music, stagecraft and lighting-design. ... Next Beethoven, Daniil Trifonov the engaging if shy soloist in a refined and thoughtful reading of the ‘Emperor’ Concerto. ... Following intermission was an electrifying performance of The Rite of Spring. 
New York Philharmonic opening concert of 2018-19 season – Jaap van Zweden conducts premiere of Ashley Fure’s Filament, The Rite of Spring, and Daniil Trifonov plays Ravel
Thursday, September 20, 2018 |  This was Jaap van Zweden’s inaugural concert as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic. He began with Ashley Fure’s Filament... ... After this fourteen-minute curtain raiser, Daniil Trifonov gave a delightful performance of Ravel’s G-major Piano Concerto. ... Following intermission came The Rite of Spring, Stravinsky’s century-old work that still feels like new music. 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts Janáček & Sibelius – Janine Jansen plays Szymanowski
Wednesday, September 19, 2018 |  The highlight of this streamed programme was Janáček's 1926 Sinfonietta, his tribute to Brno – a compellingly thrilling reading, wisdom and mellowness shining through. Giving us essentially five linked tone-pictures, Simon Rattle has this music deep in his system. ... Sibelius's Fifth Symphony settled less easily... ... It was good to have Janine Jansen back in the spotlight, following recent illness and cancellations. I did wonder, though, if she is yet fully returned to her normal brilliant self. Szymanowski's single-movement First Violin Concerto... 
Renée Anne Louprette at Royal Festival Hall organ
Wednesday, September 19, 2018 |  It was no surprise to see French music figure prominently at Renée Anne Louprette’s Royal Festival Hall organ debut (in place of Stephen Cleobury). Don’t be misled – she was born in New York... 
Classical Opera at Wigmore Hall – Ian Page conducts Bastien und Bastienne & La Passione
Tuesday, September 18, 2018 |  Classical Opera’s continuing 250th-anniversary retrospective of the working life of Mozart reveals that, even as a boy of twelve, he was able to sustain as hectic and varied a compositional schedule as he would until the end of his short life. Having performed the prodigy’s first full-length Italian opera back in June, Ian Page and the Mozartists turned their attention to the charming Singspiel Bastien und Bastienne... ... ...1768 threw up one of Haydn’s early and great forays into the emerging Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress) movement in European culture with his Symphony No.49 which opened this concert, named ‘La Passione’ in recognition of its unusually volatile emotional content. 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts Dvořák & Janáček, and Britten’s Spring Symphony
Tuesday, September 18, 2018 |  Spring sprung again in the second of the LSO’s new-season concerts, with a more populist preface to Britten’s Spring Symphony than the one played two days earlier. Such is Simon Rattle’s cachet currently that the Barbican Hall was full for both concerts. 
John Eliot Gardiner conducts Verdi’s Requiem at Westminster Cathedral
Tuesday, September 18, 2018 |  The majestic marble columns of Westminster Cathedral framed the stage for a performance of Verdi’s Requiem in memory of Richard Fitzgerald and in support of Cancer Research UK. ... John Eliot Gardiner positioned trumpets at the front of the stage for the most dramatic moments. 
Ian Bostridge & Thomas Adès at Wigmore Hall – Schubert’s Winterreise
Monday, September 17, 2018 |  The Ian Bostridge/Thomas Adès duo has sustained both artists well into two decades, from their impetuous thirties into more considered fifties. Or so you might think. I clearly recall a recital they gave at Aldeburgh in 2004 that was so unguarded, intense and bruising, you wondered how they or the audience recovered, and it’s this approach that defined their hold on Schubert’s and Wilhelm Müller’s Winter Journey at Wigmore Hall... ... Winterreise, in various manifestations, is central to Bostridge, and his performances with Adès in particular have played fast and loose with trauma and psychosis. 
LSO opening concert of 2018-19 season – Simon Rattle conducts Birtwistle, Holst, Turnage, Britten
Sunday, September 16, 2018 |  It may be September and the summer in decline towards autumn, but the start of the London Symphony Orchestra’s concert schedule for 2018-19 looked to the season of beginnings and awakenings with Britten’s Spring Symphony (1948-9) as the climax of this programme. ... But for all the vivid detail pointed up by Simon Rattle and the LSO, with alternately atmospheric soundscapes and strongly-driven celebrations of the incoming of warmth and new life, the impression remained of a work that is burdened with far too much text... ... The concert opened with the premiere of Harrison Birtwistle’s Donum Simoni MMXVIII. ... Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Dispelling the Fears (1995) for orchestra and two trumpets has probably escaped any such confining categorisation... ... ...although the truculent performance by Philip Cobb (LSO) and Gábor Tarkövi (Berliner Philharmoniker) was often a striving against the orchestra... 
Berliner Philharmoniker/François-Xavier Roth – Stravinsky, Debussy, Ligeti – Carolin Widmann plays Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s Violin Concerto [live webcast]
Saturday, September 15, 2018 |  François-Xavier Roth is not the first conductor to intersperse Debussy’s three orchestral Images with other composers’ music, but maybe two of Ligeti’s rarefied soundscapes were making their debuts in such a context. ... The Violin Concerto (1950) by Bernd Alois Zimmermann (born 1918) opens with a flourish of energy to launch ‘Sonata’... ... Carolin Widmann poured flawless technique and huge commitment into a revealing traversal... 
Welsh National Opera – Prokofiev’s War and Peace; directed by David Pountney; conducted by Tomáš Hanus
Saturday, September 15, 2018 |  Like Lulu and Porgy and Bess, Prokofiev’s War and Peace is a magnum opus stymied by the lack of a definitive performing version. ... WNO has taken a different route, apparently returning to Prokofiev’s first thoughts... ... David Pountney, who includes too much of the dodgy patriotic element one might have expected him to cut regardless of composition date, skimps on more sympathetic later interpolations. 
Elisabeth Leonskaja at Wigmore Hall – Mozart, Schoenberg, Webern
Friday, September 14, 2018 |  Of Mozart’s numerous Piano Sonatas four are grouped consecutively by Ludwig Köchel, as programmed at Wigmore Hall by Elisabeth Leonskaja. Of infinite variety, too – after all, K331 opens with a ‘Theme and Variations’ and closes with the ‘Rondo alla Turca’ – and if interludial spice were needed, this was supplied by Wolfgang Amadeus’s fellow-Austrians Schoenberg and Webern... 
Natalia Osipova at Sadler’s Wells – Pure Dance
Thursday, September 13, 2018 |  But there is here a world of difference: firstly, those evenings usually comprise highlights of the repertoire, secondly this selection is presented by the Sadler’s Wells, the country’s self-anointed dance house, and thirdly it features such big names as Natalia Osipova (whose concept this all is) and David Hallberg. This disjunct between the promise of the list of collaborators (Alexei Ratmansky, Kim Brandstrup, among others) and the plodding reality could not be more marked. 
Berliner Philharmoniker/George Benjamin – Boulez, Ligeti – with Cédric Tiberghien playing Ravel [live webcast]
Sunday, September 09, 2018 |  ...all part of Pierre Boulez’s inimitable and complementary setting of the lower-case and fragmentary-word poet e. e. cummings... ... This was superb from the Berliner Philharmoniker, hard-hitting and vivid when required, solos impressive, not least from contrabassoon and its half-size brother. Cédric Tiberghien was the epitome of thoughtful and poised pianism... ... Clocks and Clouds is contemporary with the Boulez (1972), György Ligeti as choosy as the Frenchman with his instruments... ... To close, George Benjamin’s own Palimpsests (an ancient manuscript with writing upon writing accrued over centuries), which originally arrived in two parts [...] the first dedicated to Boulez. 
Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos & Yo-Yo Ma at Barbican Hall – Brahms’s Three Piano Trios
Sunday, September 09, 2018 |  This line-up of star soloists is something of a dream team. Leonidas Kavakos, Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax released their Sony recordings of Brahms’s Piano Trios towards the end of last year, took them on tour round the US, and this Barbican Hall concert was the last in a short European trip. 
Opening concert of Wigmore Hall’s 2018-19 season – Schumann Song Season (1/4) – Florian Boesch & Malcolm Martineau
Saturday, September 08, 2018 |  In this imaginatively-programmed recital, the unifying thread was the verse of Heinrich Heine, that burning star of German post-Romanticism. The opening section brought us nine poems from Heine’s 1827 Buch der Lieder, poems known to lovers of Robert Schumann’s Dichterliebe (Opus 48) – but here in settings by Robert Franz, whose many compositions elicited effusive admiration from Schumann himself, as well as Liszt and Mendelssohn. ... From the first note, Florian Boesch sprang into life, effortlessly filling Wigmore Hall... 
British Youth Opera – Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress
Thursday, September 06, 2018 |  A hugely enjoyable evening, and perhaps in these days of “fake news”, shadowy figures promising gifts and benefits in the near (though usually ever-distant) future, and a world that knows the price of everything but the value of nothing, Stravinsky’s opera has found its time and place. 
ENO Studio Live at Wilton’s Music Hall – Britten’s Paul Bunyan
Tuesday, September 04, 2018 |  English National Opera’s innovative series of ENO Studio Live productions comes to Wilton’s Music Hall, beyond the Tower of London, for the first time, although the oper(ett)a takes us west, not east – over the Atlantic not only to America, but also to a mythical past. Composed between late-1939 and early-1941, Paul Bunyan was the first full stage collaboration between W. H. Auden and Benjamin Britten (following on from their work for the GPO film unit and Britten’s incidental music for some of Auden’s plays) – variously described as a “school operetta” or an “opera for Broadway”. ... ...Paul Bunyan, a giant with a seven-mile-wide stride. So not your normal Broadway opening number, then – and Bunyan himself is never seen, although in Jamie Manton’s production he is represented by not only the recorded voice of Simon Russell Beale... 
Second inaugural concert of the 1st International Chopin Competition on Period Instruments [live webcast]
Monday, September 03, 2018 |  The Chopin Institute's latest foray, its first Competition on Period Instruments, with a handsome stable of finely restored or modern copies of keyboards from Chopin's era from which to choose... ... Janusz Olejniczak and Nikolai Demidenko, members of the competition jury, were born within a couple of years of each other, in Poland and Russia respectively. ... Trying to contain the unease, Grzegorz Nowak and the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century did what they could. ... The evening opened with Paweł Szymański's Proustian-titled À la recherche de la symphonie perdue, commissioned by the Chopin Institute and dedicated to the memory of Frans Brüggen... 

 

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