January 2019 Concert Reviews

February 2019 Concert Reviews
Gandini Juggling and Alexander Whitley at Sadler's Wells – Spring
Thursday, January 31, 2019 |  Ever since the twelve princesses first lobbed ‘apples’ at each other in his 1910 The Firebird and ever since they dropped them, dance observers have warily eyed such activities. Fast forward to 2019 and here is Spring from Gandini Juggling, very much a contemporary ensemble of throwers and catchers, in collaboration with Alexander Whitley, a choreographer, and a few of his dancers. The premise behind this fusion is interesting enough – the use of rhythm and music to engender an hour-long mixed-media show – but in reality, despite the best efforts of lithe and supple jugglers, some of whom have gymnastic and acrobatic training, the two genres make uneasy bedfellows. 
Isle of Noises – London Philharmonic Orchestra – Roger Norrington conducts Handel’s Water Music and, with Marie-Claude Chappuis & Benjamin Appl, Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas
Wednesday, January 30, 2019 |  Presented as a part of its year-long “Isle of Noises” series which will feature “landmark classics inspired by the British Isles” since 1689, the London Philharmonic’s foray into the earliest part of that period oddly juxtaposed Purcell’s only fully-fledged opera, Dido and Aeneas, with Handel’s Water Music. Other than their both having been written in London, it is hard to see any other connection between them. ... Be all that as it may, the LPO clearly enjoyed preforming these classic Baroque works which are now otherwise virtually banished from the repertoire of symphony orchestras. Having tackled Die Walküre just a couple of days previously, the LPO under Sir Roger Norrington’s direction gave a delightfully poised account of Purcell’s short opera... 
The Metropolitan Opera – Michael Grandage’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni – Luca Pisaroni, Ildar Abdrazakov, Rachel Willis-Sørensen; conducted by Cornelius Meister
Wednesday, January 30, 2019 |  This was the first night of the Met’s third revival of Michael Grandage’s 2011 production of Don Giovanni. ... The performance is first-rate. Cornelius Meister, making his Met debut, draws nuanced and effortless playing and fine singing. 
New York Philharmonic/Jaap van Zweden – Mozart’s First & Final Symphonies – Emanuel Ax plays Haydn & Stravinsky
Wednesday, January 30, 2019 |  This program gave an opportunity to hear Jaap van Zweden’s approach to Classical repertory, spiced by Stravinsky. ... Emanuel Ax was an excellent choice for Haydn’s ultimate Piano Concerto and made the contrapuntal complexity of the first movement effortless... ... Mozart’s ‘Jupiter’ Symphony found van Zweden even more emphatic than in K16. He micro-managed virtually every nuance... 
1769: A Year in Music
Tuesday, January 29, 2019 |  1769 was, for Mozart, “unusually sparse” – as Ian Page explains in the programme for this 250th-anniversary retrospective – in that the significant parts of his output that year comprised three Serenades, two Masses, a couple of small-scale liturgical works, and perhaps the Symphony No.9. Not typical of the average thirteen-year-old in any age maybe, but if one had only heard the music by Wolfgang Amadeus performed in this concert it would not have been so obvious that here was an incipient genius, as was evident in some of the works he had already composed, and been performed by the Mozartists in this 250 series. 
Saint Petersburg Philharmonic at Royal Festival Hall – Vassily Sinaisky conducts Symphonies by Prokofiev & Tchaikovsky – Julia Fischer plays Mendelssohn
Tuesday, January 29, 2019 |  The Saint Petersburg Philharmonic rarely disappoints. Maybe a cold, snowy evening, maybe politics, kept the audience decent rather than generous, but those who made it were treated to a spectacular display of classic, high-octane Russian music-making. Not, true, quite the tantalising cocktail advertised originally – Vassily Sinaisky standing in for Yuri Temirkanov and Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto replacing Shostakovich's First... 
Florida Grand Opera – Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro – Calvin Griffin, Elena Galván, Jonathan Michie, Lyubov Petrova, Mariya Kaganskaya; directed by Elise Sandell; conducted by Andrew Bisantz
Tuesday, January 29, 2019 |  An excellent cast imbues this Florida Grand Opera production of The Marriage of Figaro with beauty and humor. ... Calvin Griffin and Elena Galván are marvelous as Figaro and Susanna, around whom the plot revolves... ... Lyubov Petrova’s voice is gorgeous in the melancholic renditions of ‘Porgi, amor’ and ‘Dove sono’... 
Russian Song at Wigmore Hall
Monday, January 28, 2019 |  The ongoing Russian Song Series at Wigmore Hall, curated by Iain Burnside, provided a tour d’horizon< from Glinka to Shostakovich with a generous helping of Medtner and Rachmaninov, the all-encompassing traversal in the first half furnishing a rare opportunity to hear seldom-performed settings by Glazunov, Glière and Grechaninov (amongst others) spotlighting European and Oriental influences with no hard borders. ... Three well-matched singers with impressive credentials offered contrasting tone and register, notwithstanding Sofia Fomina’s cold (announced by Burnside) that blurred her usually bright timbre but left intact her interpretative focus. Together with Oleksiy Palchykov’s clarion tenor and Rodion Pogossov’s generous baritone they breathed life into Romantic and Symbolist texts... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Karina Canellakis conducts Shostakovich 8 – Lise de la Salle plays Schumann’s Piano Concerto [live webcast]
Sunday, January 27, 2019 |  This Detroit Symphony concert, a webcast courtesy of the Al Glancy Control Room, paid tribute to its eponymous and recently deceased benefactor. ... In Orchestra Hall, Lise de la Salle and Karina Canellakis (conducting gracefully and with accommodation) essayed a malleable account of Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto. ... Shostakovich 8 dates from 1943 when World War Two was ablaze, mirrored in music that laments and erupts. Canellakis ensured a unanimous and intense lower-string start, then played the long game with the expansive first movement... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski – Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen – 2/4: Die Walküre
Sunday, January 27, 2019 |  On the same date last year, the LPO and Vladimir Jurowski launched their Ring Cycle, and they were back with the next instalment, Die Walküre... ... In that respect, the Siegmund-Sieglinde opening hour had a poleaxing candour about it that set pulses racing – and rather served the best wine first. Stuart Skelton’s magnificent Siegmund sounded much more focused, introspective and ardent than five months earlier at the Royal Opera House. ... It doesn’t look as though Svetlana Sozdateleva has sung Brünnhilde before, but she certainly has the vocal heft and stage presence for the role. 
Christian Blackshaw at Wigmore Hall – 70th-Birthday Recital – Mozart K475, Schubert D946, Franck, Schumann
Sunday, January 27, 2019 |  This finely-planned Wigmore Hall recital marked Christian Blackshaw’s Seventieth Birthday, which fell on January 18, and whose deep musicianship and technical command were demonstrated throughout the compelling programme. 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Alan Gilbert – Metacosmos & Symphonia Domestica – Lisa Batiashvili plays Prokofiev [live webcast]
Saturday, January 26, 2019 |  Let’s not worry about doing the washing up, bathing the baby, or Herr and Frau Strauss making love, and concentrate on the music of Symphonia Domestica, which transcends this day in the life of the named family. Not that it’s Richard Strauss’s greatest orchestral work (I might nominate Alpine Symphony as that), but Domestica has much going for it, especially in George Szell’s fabulous recording. ... ...Alan Gilbert and the Berliner Philharmoniker made a convincing case for Domestica as a score of considerable accomplishment. ... The concert opened with Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s Metacosmos... ... In his Second Violin Concerto, Prokofiev gives the limelight immediately to the soloist. Lisa Batiashvili was in command from her first sound... 
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra at Barbican Hall – Richard Strauss – Mariss Jansons conducts Ein Heldenleben, Diana Damrau sings Four Last Songs
Saturday, January 26, 2019 |  Given their theme of resignation and confrontation with death, it is odd that Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs often appear at the beginning of a concert. Here, though, those subjects appropriately – if unexpectedly – pervaded the epic second half, featuring the composer’s relatively youthful and virtuosic Ein Heldenleben. ... ...characterised with somewhat more clarity in tone and easefulness of pace under Mariss Jansons’s steady direction. ... In this, the second appearance of her current residency at the Barbican Centre, Diana Damrau showed a similar adaptability to the various registers of these settings... 
New York Philharmonic – Jaap van Zweden conducts Steven Stucky’s Elegy and Julia Wolfe’s Fire in my mouth – Anthony McGill plays Copland’s Clarinet Concerto
Saturday, January 26, 2019 |   The evening opened with a finely rendered performance of Elegy, the brief and doleful interlude from Steven Stucky’s 2008 oratorio August 4, 1964, written in honor of the centennial of the birth of the thirty-sixth US President, Lyndon B. Johnson. Next came a brighter, lighter piece, Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, featuring Anthony McGill, the Philharmonic’s principal. ... After intermission came the big event: the third performance of Fire in my mouth, Julia Wolfe’s massive, multimedia oratorio about the New York City 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which killed 146 garment workers... 
Cleveland Orchestra & Chorus at Adrienne Arsht Center Miami – Franz Welser-Möst conducts Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony
Saturday, January 26, 2019 |  Franz Welser-Möst led an incisive and gripping performance of Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony in which the Cleveland Orchestra not only created beautiful sounds but also played with great coherence and unity. ... Eschewing Mahler’s request for a pause of five minutes between the first two movements, Welser-Möst waited only long enough for Joélle Harvey and Sasha Cooke to enter... 
Malta Philharmonic Orchestra – Lawrence Renes conducts Bruckner's Romantic Symphony, Emma Bell sings Wagner’s Wesendonck-Lieder
Saturday, January 26, 2019 |  Half-Dutch, half-Maltese, based in Holland, Lawrence Renes is a conductor steeped in Austro-German repertory. ... Wagner's five Wesendonck-Lieder (1857-58) from the Tristan period – the fruit of a relationship with the well-endowed Swiss Wesendonck family involving financial commitment, extra-marital infatuation and poetic entwinement – displayed Renes's elegance from the opening murmurs of Felix Mottl's 1893 arrangement... ... Emma Bell, quintessentially the ideal kind of full, dark Wagner soprano, responded with queenly poise and command... ... With Bruckner Four, purportedly its Maltese premiere, Renes delivered an architecturally considered reading... ... Stiffened with a number of imported extra desks, led by Karen Shahgaldyan (a former member of Spivakov's Moscow Virtuosi), the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, following a week of rehearsals, rose to the occasion boldly... 
Roman Rabinovich at Wigmore Hall – Ligeti, Bach BWV828, Schubert D958
Friday, January 25, 2019 |  It was a treat to hear all eleven pieces from Musica Ricercata and especially so in this performance. With an attractive stillness and economy of movement, Roman Rabinovich was part of the machine and rarely can this hallowed venue have heard such extravagant at-the-edge-of-what-is-possible panoply of colour, shading and silence. ... One of life’s great pleasures is to sink into a Schubert Piano Sonata. In D958 Rabinovich dished up the goods... 
Tristia: Requiems for Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette – Le Concert Spirituel/Hervé Niquet at Barbican Hall
Friday, January 25, 2019 |  Requiem Masses for murdered royalty. Hervé Niquet and Le Concert Spirituel, the period-instrument orchestra he founded thirty years ago, have dedicated themselves to Baroque and early-Classical French repertoire, and they created a great deal of interest with their 2016 CD of Requiems for Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette by Cherubini and Charles-Henri Plantade (on the Alpha label), which the same forces brought to the Barbican Hall... ... This particular Cherubini Requiem is well-known and has been championed by such as Muti and Giulini. 
Palm Beach Opera – Verdi’s La traviata – Kristina Mkhitaryan, Alexey Tatarintsev, Massimo Cavalletti; directed by Fabio Ceresa; conducted by Antonello Allemandi
Friday, January 25, 2019 |  The success of any production of La traviata depends heavily on the singers in its three central roles. They are marvelous for Palm Beach Opera... ... Kristina Mkhitaryan, fresh from her Met debut last fall as Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi, gives a convincing portrayal of Violetta, both as a glamorous courtesan and in the deathbed scene. ... Alexey Tatarintsev’s bright tenor is richly melodic and thrilling at the top in Alfredo’s love-duets with Violetta... 
Graham Johnson Songmakers' Almanac at Wigmore Hall
Thursday, January 24, 2019 |  Another enterprising and eclectic mix of songs and readings from Graham Johnson’s Songmakers’ Almanac, this time in celebration of a myriad of musical anniversaries relating to January. Anna Huntley’s lush mezzo-soprano sounded particularly ravishing in Wigmore Hall’s acoustic. 
Valletta International Baroque Festival – Handel's Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno
Thursday, January 24, 2019 |  Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno, The Triumph of Time and Truth, was Handel's first oratorio, written in the spring of 1707 and premiered later that year at an unknown private location in Rome. Handel was just twenty-two, a Halle German at the Ruspoli court whose brilliance, virtuosity and theatrical flowering delighted the imagination of Italian audiences. ... In a largely Greek production, George Petrou and Armonia Atenea gave an account of transient beauty and highlights, with the second part, more naturally paced, succeeding better overall than the first. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Santtu-Matias Rouvali – La valse, Valse triste & Sibelius 1 – Alice Sara Ott plays Ravel
Thursday, January 24, 2019 |  Ravel and Sibelius were both danced into life by an irrepressible pirouetting Finn whose unstoppable energy brought characterful and mostly cohesive performances. If at times things were pulled out of shape the Philharmonia Orchestra was superbly responsive to Santtu-Matias Rouvali’s individual approach to form and content. ... It was brilliance of musicianship rather than excitement that characterised Ravel’s G-major Piano Concerto with Alice Sara Ott as a glittering soloist who sprinkled stardust over its toccata-like passages and jazzy rhythms. 
Jonathan Biss at Carnegie Hall – Beethoven Piano Sonatas, including the Hammerklavier
Thursday, January 24, 2019 |  For this Carnegie Hall concert, Jonathan Biss – stepping in for Leif Ove Andsnes who had to cancel his US tour because of an elbow injury – delivered virtuosic performances of four Piano Sonatas from several stages of Beethoven’s career. 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra at Lighthouse – Jacek Kaspszyk conducts Ravel & Rachmaninov – Benjamin Grosvenor plays Saint-Saëns
Wednesday, January 23, 2019 |  This concert’s rubric was “Backward Glimpses”, the performances of the Ravel and the Rachmaninov mainly dutiful and largely earthbound, the plum being a barnstorming account of Saint-Saëns with Benjamin Grosvenor. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Sakari Oramo conducts Richard Causton’s Ik zeg: Nu & Brahms 3 – Steven Isserlis plays Schumann
Wednesday, January 23, 2019 |  Born in London in 1971, Richard Causton has been reimagining, often subverting, musical perceptions since he made his first big mark with The Persistence of Memory, when he was twenty-four, and he made an even bigger impression with Millennium Scenes, a substantial orchestral work that cast a sharp, basilisk gaze on the start of the current century. ... Sakari Oramo and the BBCSO were completely inside Causton’s intensely atmospheric and shape-shifting score... ... Schumann is one of Steven Isserlis’s great heroes, and the Cello Concerto has been a core work for decades. 
Handel’s Alcina – David Bates conducts La Nuova Musica, with Lucy Crowe & Patrick Terry; narrated by Joanna Lumley
Tuesday, January 22, 2019 |  This odd presentation – in a sense, adaptation – of one of Handel’s greatest operas was served up as a prelude to this year’s London Handel Festival. But it is not clear at whom it was aimed, or who might benefit from it. Perhaps intending to make it ‘accessible’, all the recitatives were cut and substituted with some fruity and suggestive narration, delivered as such by Joanna Lumley. June Chichester’s text was a rather facile précis of events, very often simply paraphrasing the succeeding arias – in other words, pointlessly duplicating the programme notes and the translations of the arias therein. 
Kensington Symphony Orchestra at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Russell Keable conducts Kings Row & Daphnis et Chloé, Richard Uttley plays Gershwin’s Piano Concerto
Tuesday, January 22, 2019 |  The Kensington Symphony Orchestra has got previous form with Korngold – it gave the first UK concert performance of his Die tote Stadt in 1996, thirteen years before the Royal Opera’s staging. Now, as then, Russell Keable conducted. Kings Row is probably Korngold’s best known melody and John Williams pays an obvious debt to it in his Star Wars score. ... There is more than a touch of Hollywood glamour about George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto. ... Richard Uttley was light-fingered and brought a spring-heeled agility to the outer movements and never over-indulged the sentimentality in the slow one. ... Ravel’s complete score for Daphnis et Chloé is remarkable for its blend of mysticism, seductiveness and energy... 
Rafał Blechacz at Wigmore Hall – Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin
Monday, January 21, 2019 |  Rafał Blechacz swept the board with all five prizes at the International Chopin Competition in 2005, which has led in turn to a prestigious recording contract and an impressively full and world-wide diary. Thus elevated, aged twenty, into pianistic aristocracy, he has been talked about in the same breath as his Polish compatriot Krystian Zimerman... ... And unfortunately for this Wigmore Hall recital, events conspired against him, when the start was delayed by half-an-hour. 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts Bartók & Bruckner [Concert 2/January 20]
Sunday, January 20, 2019 |  Often regarded as the Cinderella among Bruckner’s mature symphonies (as even the composer himself also seemed to think in a roundabout way, calling it “Die Keckste” – the saucy or impertinent one, in a pun on its ordinal number in German, Die Sechste) No.6 appears to have gained more frequency in programming recently than it used to. Not only repeating this concert in London from a week ago, and taking it on tour to Hungary and Poland in between, with future presentations in Austria and Germany in late-February, Sir Simon Rattle promoted the work in 2016 with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and Daniel Barenboim also featured it at the Proms in the same year, for example. ... Rattle did not take it at quite such a speed with the LSO as he had previously with the OAE, but he used again the Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs edition as back then... ... In the first half came Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta. The strings were less lush, but this music generally demands something different from Bruckner’s sustained paragraphs of sound, although there is a similar contrast between the serious, the dance and the folk-like. Rattle achieved a compelling arc in each of the four movements... 
Endellion String Quartet fortieth-anniversary concert at Wigmore Hall – Haydn Rider, Bartók 2, Beethoven 131
Sunday, January 20, 2019 |  This was a genuine fortieth-anniversary concert, in that it was held on the same date as the Endellion Quartet’s very first rehearsal. ... The nickname ‘Rider’ for Haydn’s G-minor Quartet implies a rather athletic, outdoor work, and it certainly has elements of those qualities. ... Bartók has been an Endellion specialty from the beginning and the performance of the Second Quartet was also very elevated: the strange sense of dislocation at the start – Bartók partaking not just of Reger but of Schoenberg as well... ... It may be that Beethoven’s C-sharp minor Quartet is the greatest single musical work ever composed... 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Mariss Jansons – Zarathustra & Rienzi – Evgeny Kissin plays Liszt [live webcast]
Saturday, January 19, 2019 |  By turning concert convention on its head – starting with something symphonic and ending with an Overture – Mariss Jansons and the Berliner Philharmoniker signalled an opening Sunrise (as heisted by Kubrick for 2001) to launch Richard Strauss’s Nietzsche-inspired Also sprach Zarathustra. It was a glorious moment... ... Evgeny Kissin gave breadth to Liszt’s E-flat Piano Concerto... ... As for the Overture to Rienzi... 
The Royal Ballet – Liam Scarlett's Asphodel Meadows | Frederick Ashton's The Two Pigeons
Saturday, January 19, 2019 |  Yet again, The Royal Ballet management has succeeded in placing works alongside each other which really don’t go. Quite why anyone thought that preceding Frederick Ashton’s delightful romantic The Two Pigeons with Liam Scarlett’s cool and sombre Asphodel Meadows is anyone’s guess. … 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Ryan Wigglesworth conducts Schoenberg’s Pelleas und Melisande – James Ehnes plays Beethoven’s Violin Concerto
Friday, January 18, 2019 |  Lothar Koenigs, advertised for this BBC Symphony Orchestra concert, withdrew, and Ryan Wigglesworth stepped up to the mark. Like Koenigs, Wigglesworth has clout as an opera conductor, and I wondered how he would play off the Beethoven Violin Concerto’s ascendant lyricism against more formal considerations. ... Wigglesworth crucially made plenty of space for James Ehnes’s inimitable style, a style that implies big things in an unostentatious way. ... Schoenberg’s Pelleas und Melisande hasn’t stepped into the late-romantic limelight to the extent that his earlier Verklärte Nacht and later Gurrelieder have, despite Maeterlinck’s play being a decisive inspiration on that fin-de-siècle period. 
Britten Sinfonia at Barbican Hall – Mark Elder conducts Britten’s Suite on English Folk Tunes and Brahms’s Second Symphony – Paula Murrihy sings Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
Thursday, January 17, 2019 |  Benjamin Britten’s Suite on English Folk Tunes had its beginning in 1966 with a brief wind-band piece and it was expanded eight years later to a five-movement work for orchestra. ... Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen is a cycle of four songs and its theme, as so often in compositions of the nineteenth-century, is one of unrequited love. ... Paula Murrihy, at very short notice, stood in for Anna Stéphany, took a lyrical view of the texts, the German words flowed gracefully and the consonants were treated softly. ... ...refinement of playing and hushed beauty of melodic line typified Mark Elder’s sensitive view of the music. 
The Royal Opera – Richard Eyre’s production of Verdi’s La traviata – Ermonela Jaho, Charles Castronovo, Igor Golovatenko; conducted by Antonello Manacorda
Thursday, January 17, 2019 |  La traviata returns for its sixteenth revival since Richard Eyre’s production opened twenty-five years ago, and there is an impressive trio of leads and, making his Royal Opera debut, a fine conductor. Ermonela Jaho is well-known both as Violetta and to this staging – she first sang the role in the 2008 revival, when she replaced Anna Netrebko... ... Charles Castronovo looks personable and is attractively restrained as Alfredo... ... Antonello Manacorda delivers a detail-rich and responsive account of the score, which is beautifully played. 
London Sinfonietta at Queen Elizabeth Hall – London premiere of James Dillon’s Tanz/haus, world premiere of Shuffle and of Balloon, Harrison Birtwistle & Oliver Knussen
Thursday, January 17, 2019 |  Southbank Centre's Soundstate series continued with a concert from the London Sinfonietta as amounted to a conspectus of its programming past and present. Good to see that James Dillon, absent over many years from LS schedules following the disastrous premiere of Überschreiten in 1986, is now working again with this ensemble. Certainly there could be no-doubting its commitment in this realisation of Tanz/haus... 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra at The Anvil – Kirill Karabits conducts Richard Strauss's Symphonia Domestica – Augustin Hadelich plays Beethoven's Violin Concerto
Thursday, January 17, 2019 |  Kirill Karabits and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra have been exploring Richard Strauss’s symphonic poems for the last few seasons and have now reached the composer’s family portrait, first sketched in the Spring of 1902 while staying at the Ocean Hotel on the Isle of Wight. Judging from this riveting account I could hear no good reason why Symphonia Domestica should be such a rarity... ... Earlier, Augustin Hadelich wowed in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto; a flowing, stylish reading rendered with considerable poise and delicacy... 
English National Ballet at London's Coliseum – Kenneth MacMillan's Manon
Thursday, January 17, 2019 |  This is a fine revival of Kenneth MacMillan’s arguably most widely-loved full-length ballet; English National Ballet enter fully into its style and aesthetic even though, as a work, it is not part of the company DNA in the way it is with The Royal Ballet. The success is largely down to the impressive roster of coaches and teachers who have been called in: from the originator of the role of Des Grieux, Anthony Dowell, to Irek Mukhamedov, a great interpreter of that role and also the scheming Lescaut, and Viviana Durante, one of the finest ever Manons. Their careful work has borne fruit with a lively and focussed cast delivering MacMillan’s vision of Abbé Prévost’s tragic tale with style, and, even if the production (borrowed from Copenhagen) remains a shock to those used to Nicholas Georgiadis’s original, it produces a highly satisfying night at the theatre, down not least to an excellent quartet of main characters. 
Christian Gerhaher & Gerold Huber – Winterreise at Wigmore Hall
Wednesday, January 16, 2019 |  Christian Gerhaher and Gerold Huber could not have timed their Wigmore Hall Winterreise more poignantly, and with temperatures meteorological, spiritual and temporal dipping ever lower, the work and their performance of it only sharpened the existential desolation. Gerhaher must have sung Schubert’s and Wilhelm Müller’s great song-cycle hundreds of times... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Marin Alsop conducts five premieres – Gieshoff, Hillborg, Tüür, Andriessen, Grime – with Stewart McIlwham & Colin Currie
Wednesday, January 16, 2019 |  This remarkable concert – consisting entirely of premieres of various sorts – launched SoundState, the Southbank Centre’s enterprising five-day new-music festival. Multiple signifiers being everything these days, it also inaugurated the London Philharmonic’s year-long festival of British music, Isle of Noises – this apparently not only because it featured a new work by Helen Grime but also because the programme exemplified Alex Ross’s assertion that the UK is one of the best places in the World to create the latest music. It was also a very exciting concert, presided over with genial authority by Marin Alsop. 
Diana Damrau & Helmut Deutsch at Barbican Hall – Liszt, Richard Strauss, Wolf
Wednesday, January 16, 2019 |  Diana Damrau and Helmut Deutsch opened with Liszt and displayed vocal and pianistic pyrotechnics... ... A gorgeous bouquet of Richard Strauss songs combined passion and gentle wit with the madness of Ophelia. 
Juilliard String Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Beethoven, Bartók, Dvořák
Tuesday, January 15, 2019 |  The spirit of Beethoven hung over this recital, the first evening engagement played in Britain by the new line-up of the Juilliard String Quartet – there had been given a BBC lunchtime concert the previous day, also Wigmore Hall. Of the players who were in the ensemble the last time I saw them ‘live’, only veteran Ronald Copes remains: he has been in place since 1997. Leader Areta Zhulla joined at the start of this season, vastly experienced British violist Roger Tapping in 2013 and cellist Astrid Schween in 2016. 
Pavel Kolesnikov at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Brahms, Beethoven, Louis Couperin, Tchaikovsky
Tuesday, January 15, 2019 |  Extracts from an ode by Horace, about transience and hope, and from Joseph Brodsky’s poem Watermark, about love, were projected onto a screen before each half of Pavel Kolesnikov’s recital. The Queen Elizabeth Hall lighting was turned down low and applause was strictly controlled. This was Kolesnikov’s debut in the Southbank Centre’s indispensable International Piano Series... ... This worked very much to the advantage of the Suite in A (compiled by Kolesnikov) and Pavanne in F-sharp minor by Louis Couperin (François’s uncle) that deferred to Baroque keyboard registration and style without labouring the point. 
Robin Tritschler & Graham Johnson at Wigmore Hall – Schumann’s Spring and Fall
Monday, January 14, 2019 |  For his current residency at Wigmore Hall Robin Tritschler is investigating The Seasons in song and in this Robert Schumann recital included the timeless Opus 39 Liederkreis. ... Schumann’s later autobiographical songs have been neglected and Tritschler and Graham Johnson provided ample justification for their reassessment... 
The Royal Opera –Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades – Vladimir Stoyanov, Aleksandrs Antonenko, Eva-Maria Westbroek, Felicity Palmer; directed by Stefan Herheim; conducted by Antonio Pappano
Sunday, January 13, 2019 |  Tchaikovsky composed The Queen of Spades in the astonishingly short period of six weeks, and it is an unbeatable and taut realisation of obsession and betrayal... ... Gherman’s obsession and his increasingly frail hold on reality have delivered some excellent productions, and now there is Stefan Herheim’s... ... Things are not redeemed by the singing. Aleksandr Antonenko’s Gherman is a far remove from the tortured, socially inadequate misfit described in the opening scene, and his loutish presence is matched by some shockingly unruly singing. How, why was he cast? Eva-Maria Westbroek’s genius for getting inside a role is obliterated by the staging... ... You wonder about the role of Antonio Pappano in some of the casting and much of the staging... 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts Bartók & Bruckner [Concert 1/January 13]
Sunday, January 13, 2019 |  He may have come relatively late to Bruckner, but Simon Rattle has now conducted most of the later Symphonies and here tackled the Sixth (1881) which even some of this composer’s keenest advocates have avoided. The result proved to be a highlight of his LSO tenure so far. ... Bruckner Six may be a recent addition to Rattle’s repertoire, but Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (1936) has long been a part of it and this account was one of insight borne of experience. 
Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra 20th-Anniversary Concert @ Barbican Hall – Marios Papadopoulos conducts the Eroica Symphony – Mutter & Vengerov play Bach, Argerich plays Schumann
Saturday, January 12, 2019 |  Three distinguished soloists helped celebrate the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra’s twentieth-anniversary. To Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins (Marios Papadopoulos at the harpsichord) Anne-Sophie Mutter and Maxim Vengerov provided a masterclass in musicianship... ... Much the same could be said of Schumann’s Piano Concerto, Martha Argerich combining limpid beauty and sparkling brilliance... ... Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ gripped from the start, its first movement (without exposition repeat) crackling with energy, forward momentum and abundant detail. 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts Sibelius 7 & Nielsen’s Inextinguishable Symphony – Barbara Hannigan sings Hans Abrahamsen’s let me tell you
Thursday, January 10, 2019 |  The single movement Seventh Symphony of Sibelius has always seemed comprised of four different elements that could be regarded as the movements of a Symphony and in this expressive performance the character of each was clearly displayed. Simon Rattle shaped the melodies of the opening with care and great breadth and it was clear that this would be an expansive reading; the rich tone of the LSO strengthening this impression. ... Hans Abrahamsen’s thirty-five-minute let me tell you was composed with Barbara Hannigan in mind and is described as a “dramatic monologue”. Paul Griffiths’s words are said to be made up entirely from those spoken by Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet without in any way representing the play itself... ... Carl Nielsen’s ‘Inextinguishable’ was forceful. Unlike his interpretation of Sibelius, it was clear that Sir Simon chose to propel to the triumphant conclusion... 
Bundesjugendorchester at Berliner Philharmonie – Kirill Petrenko conducts West Side Story & The Rite of Spring – Wieland Welzel plays William Kraft’s First Timpani Concerto [live webcast]
Wednesday, January 09, 2019 |  In a venue that will soon become his second home when he assumes the role of chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker, Kirill Petrenko here inspired the Bundesjugendorchester (German National Youth Orchestra), this year celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, to impressive things. ... The Symphonic Dances from the Shakespeare-based West Side Story [...] was a terrific choice to open the concert... ... Step forward Wieland Welzel (principal timpanist of the Berliner Philharmoniker) for the Timpani Concerto by Chicago-born William Kraft... ... The Rite of Spring had been pertinently set up (Bernstein a constant champion of it, the orchestration including two sets of timpani), Stravinsky’s century-old but still new-sounding ballet score... 
Sunwook Kim at Wigmore Hall – Mozart, Beethoven, Donghoon Shin, Chopin
Tuesday, January 08, 2019 |  Twelve years on from winning the 2006 Leeds Competition, Sunwook Kim has lost none of the insight, intelligence and emotional range that mark him out as a remarkably complete, highly connective musician. ... At first I thought he was making a bit of a meal of the contrasts in Beethoven’s so-called ‘Tempest’ Sonata, the second of the pivotal and prophetic Opus 31 set written in the same year, 1802, as the composer’s Heiligenstadt crisis. Kim, though, was as persuasive as ever... ... Before that came the first performance of Songs and Games by Kim’s South Korean compatriot and contemporary Donghoon Shin. 
London Schools Symphony Orchestra at Barbican Centre – Ryan Wigglesworth conducts Death and Transfiguration & Twilight of the Gods – Rachel Nicholls sings Richard Strauss
Monday, January 07, 2019 |  The London Schools Symphony Orchestra has been nurturing young instrumentalists for some six decades... ... Ryan Wigglesworth joined a distinguished roster of conductors, and his communication skills were immediately apparent in a disciplined ensemble, some astonishingly responsive woodwind-playing, and a full, romantic string sound. ... Strauss was twenty-four, only a few years older than most of the LSSO players, when he wrote Death and Transfiguration... ... Rachel Nicholls was on superb form, and then she surpassed herself in Brünnhilde’s Immolation that brought the house down in Wigglesworth’s forty-minute précis of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung... 
National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain at Barbican Centre – Kirill Karabits conducts Science Fiction, Doctor Atomic Symphony, Sibelius 2
Saturday, January 05, 2019 |  Trust the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain to throw down a musical gauntlet to its professional peers like a New Year Resolution writ large. In this intriguingly programmed and invigoratingly performed concert, with Kirill Karabits, the 164 players gave the best possible musical start to 2019: a blast of orchestral excellence. ... The rest of the first half was given over to the real fears of the post-war era and the Cold War nuclear threat, in the form of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic Symphony, utilising themes and sections from his opera. Depicting J. Robert Oppenheimer in the run up to the first testing of his atomic bomb in the Nevada desert, Adams distils his stage-work into three seamless sections. 
New York Philharmonic – Paavo Järvi conducts Lemminkäinen and the Maidens of Saari, and Daphnis et Chloé Suite 2 – Gautier Capuçon plays Dvořák’s Cello Concerto
Thursday, January 03, 2019 |  Stepping in on two weeks’ notice for Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, but retaining her scheduled program, Paavo Järvi led the New York Philharmonic in dynamic and refreshing performances to begin New Year. ... Järvi partnered with Gautier Capuçon in an immaculate performance of Dvořák’s Cello Concerto... 

 

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