September 2017 Concert Reviews

October 2017 Concert Reviews
Tasmin Little & Piers Lane at Wigmore Hall
Saturday, September 30, 2017 |  Courtesy of Tasmin Little and Piers Lane, Wigmore Hall played host to Violin Sonatas by two Brits, a Pole, and a Belgian-Frenchman. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Bruckner’s Fifth – Richard Goode plays Mozart K466
Saturday, September 30, 2017 |  Vladimir Jurowski’s leisurely Bruckner traversal (taking almost a decade even if he excludes the ‘Studien-symphonie’ and ‘Die Nullte’, along with those various revisions known to have been approved by the composer) continued here with the Fifth Symphony; given here in what was billed as its “1878 version”... ... In the first half Richard Goode essayed Mozart’s Twentieth Piano Concerto... 
Acosta Danza Debut at Sadler's Wells
Friday, September 29, 2017 |  Acosta Danza’s ‘Debut’ may not have been perfect, but it has shown that Acosta’s vision for dance in his home country is becoming a reality, and that his talents include genuine artistic leadership. 
Philharmonia Orchestra opening concert of the 2017-18 season – Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts Sibelius 6 & 7 and Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s Aeriality – Pekka Kuusisto plays Daníel Bjarnason’s Violin Concerto
Thursday, September 28, 2017 |  With Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony ringing in my ears from twenty-four hours earlier, conducted in the Barbican Hall by Sakari Oramo, it was good to now encounter his final two such masterworks from Esa-Pekka Salonen to open the Philharmonia Orchestra’s London season and also cue Southbank Centre’s Nordic Music Days. 
Robert Holl & András Schiff at Wigmore Hall – Schubert Songs
Thursday, September 28, 2017 |  With so varied and vast a body of work as Schubert’s six-hundred or so Lieder, it is inevitable that not all songs live up to the exalted level of others. This instalment of Wigmore Hall’s Schubert Song series felt like an exercise in mopping up some of the less prominent or memorable items... ... Robert Holl may not be blamed for that... ... Certainly he projected a powerful yet lyrical voice and he also brought down his hefty, authoritative presence to a more fitting level of youthful guilelessness and candour for ‘Der blinde Knabe’, underpinned by the complementary (and in the context, by no means ironic) radiant glow of András Schiff’s accompaniment. 
English National Opera – Verdi’s Aida – Latonia Moore, Gwyn Hughes Jones, Michelle DeYoung; directed by Phelim McDermott; conducted by Keri-Lynn Wilson
Thursday, September 28, 2017 |  Musically, English National Opera’s season-launching Aida is often inspired. It is, though, a difficult enough work to mount without imposing a staging, by Phelim McDermott, that manages to be both hectic and static. The director of ENO’s Satyagraha and Akhnaten is no stranger to spectacle, but things do not gel in this production. ... Latonia Moore has form as Aida... ... Gwyn Hughes Jones is a stand-and-deliver Radamès... ... Keri-Lynn Wilson, who was terrific conducting ENO’s La fanciulla del West, produces similarly superb results with Aida. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra opening concert of the 2017-18 season – Sakari Oramo conducts Death and Transfiguration & Sibelius 5 – Alina Pogostkina plays Berg’s Violin Concerto
Wednesday, September 27, 2017 |  If Death, albeit with a Transfiguration, and an in memoriam Violin Concerto, its composer to die soon after completing it, seems a too solemn way to open the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s new season, then that is to reckon without Richard Strauss’s and Alban Berg’s capacity to write ecstatic masterpieces. ... Sakari Oramo presided over a compelling account of Death and Transfiguration... ... Alina Pogostkina gave an intimate and sweet-toned account of the solo part... 
Cristian Sandrin at Wigmore Hall – Brahms, Beethoven, Schumann
Wednesday, September 27, 2017 |  For his debut recital at Wigmore Hall, supported by the Kirckman Concert Society, Romanian pianist Cristian Sandrin took us on a tour of German Romanticism, with late works by Brahms and Schumann framing two masterpieces which in contrasting ways reach towards emotional extremes and delineate temperamental narratives. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Silvestrov’s Eschatophony & Janáček’s Taras Bulba – Jan Vogler plays Britten’s Cello Symphony
Wednesday, September 27, 2017 |  The Cello Symphony, for me, is Britten’s most secretive work. From what he said about it to Rostropovich, for whom he wrote it in 1963, it seems that the score had a life of its own... ... ...but, as the superbly musical, intelligent and intuitive Jan Vogler demonstrated, no performer is going to have the last word. ... The Soviet Russia element stayed in place for Valentin Silvestrov’s Symphony No.3. Jurowski translates ‘Eschatophony’ as the “sound for the end of times”, Messiaen-like apocalyptic, but it is really to do with the Ukrainian composer, then aged twenty-nine, turning his back on avant-garde orthodoxies and going into a period of purdah... ... We lingered in Ukraine, but in the seventeenth-century, for Janáček’s Taras Bulba... 
The Metropolitan Opera – Julie Taymor’s production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte – Charles Castronovo, Markus Werba, Kathryn Lewek, Golda Schultz & Ashley Emerson; conducted by James Levine
Wednesday, September 27, 2017 |  The Metropolitan Opera’s new-season opening-week continues with Julie Taymor’s striking production of Mozart’s Magic Flute. James Levine was in the pit, leading a cast that brought out brilliantly all of the score’s humor, lyricism and drama. 
The Royal Ballet – Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Wednesday, September 27, 2017 |  Wheeldon’s Alice stays resolutely a one-dimensional entertainment and cannot be said to afford the artists roles in which they can grow and develop. This ballet resembles nothing so much as a large, elaborate, multi-coloured confection which looks scrumptious, except that someone has forgotten the filling. It gets three stars … just. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Bartlett Sher’s production of Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann – Vittorio Grigolo, Laurent Naouri, Erin Morley, Oksana Volkova, Anita Hartig & Tara Erraught; conducted by Johannes Debus
Tuesday, September 26, 2017 |  Following the opening-night gala featuring a new production of Bellini’s Norma, the Metropolitan Opera got down to regular business with a revival of Bartlett Sher’s 2009 staging of Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann. ... Vittorio Grigolo, in excellent voice, ably conveyed Hoffmann’s shifting moods, from ardent to despondent. 
London premiere of Sally Beamish’s Judas Passion – OAE/Nicholas McGegan
Monday, September 25, 2017 |  Was Judas’s betrayal of Jesus, the son of God, part of God’s plan? Without that fatal kiss, Christianity’s road to redemption would have had to be redirected. And if Judas was set up from the start, born a sinner and destined to become the world’s most infamous hate-figure, what does that tell the rest of us about divine mercy and love? ... It is a conundrum that must keep theologians awake at night, and Sally Beamish’s new Judas Passion, with a text by David Harsent derived from the usual Gospel sources and, unusually, from a second-century Gospel of Judas discovered in 1978 in Egypt, puts the betrayer, with his kiss, his thirty pieces of silver, his suicide and the field of blood, centre-stage as the all-too-human pawn in the conflict between God and the Devil. 
Simon Johnson at the Royal Festival Hall organ
Monday, September 25, 2017 |  The Royal Festival Hall acoustic giveth and also taketh away; no more glaringly than in the case of organ music... ... This was illustrated – happily, only up to a point – in this recital by Simon Johnson, organist of St Paul’s Cathedral. 
London Schools Symphony Orchestra/Peter Ash – Four Sea Interludes & Brahms 4 – Julien Libeer plays Beethoven
Monday, September 25, 2017 |  Although the London Schools Symphony Orchestra is also administered by the Guildhall School, the Londoners had given up part of their summer holidays to prepare. ... Nonetheless, it was a somewhat risky proposition to open the programme with the ‘Four Sea Interludes’ from Britten’s Peter Grimes... ... Beethoven’s C-major Piano Concerto was in many ways a clever choice, but the twenty-nine-year-old Julian Libeer was, on the whole, disappointing. 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Amatis Piano Trio – Haydn & Mendelssohn
Monday, September 25, 2017 |  Not too many years separate the Haydn and Mendelssohn which the Amati Piano Trio gave us at Wigmore Hall... 
This is Rattle: Harrison Birtwistle curates
Saturday, September 23, 2017 |  This ancient and modern programme chosen by Sir Harrison Birtwistle completed the quartet of Milton Court “curates” concerts that have been related to the “This is Rattle” series that inaugurated Sir Simon’s music directorship of the LSO, the first night including music by Helen Grime, Oliver Knussen, Thomas Adès and Birtwistle, they in turn returning the complement. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra opening concert of the 2017-18 season – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Enescu’s Oedipe
Saturday, September 23, 2017 |  Last summer, The Royal Opera mounted the first British staging of George Enescu’s Oedipe. It was one of those evenings, unforgettable as it was, from which you were more likely to emerge humming the scenery, so a major point of this London Philharmonic concert performance was to hear how the music stands on its own. ... and while Vladimir Jurowski drew out marvellous sonorities from the woodwinds, there aren’t any sizzling scoring surprises. .... Paul Gay’s portrayal of Oedipe kept growing in stature, not only in terms of Wagnerian heft but also in the many passages of tenderness and puzzled introspection... 
Vassily Sinaisky conducts the Guildhall Symphony Orchestra at Milton Court – Nicolai’s Mondchor, Vaughan Williams’s Serenade to Music, and Elgar’s Enigma Variations
Friday, September 22, 2017 |  ‘Mondchor’ from Otto Nicolai’s The Merry Wives of Windsor opens the final scene of the opera, set at night in Windsor Forest; the members of the chorus are the townspeople, gathered to witness Falstaff’s humiliation. ... Vaughan Williams’s Serenade to Music is one of his unalloyed masterpieces. It exists in four versions: for sixteen solo singers and orchestra (the original, written for Henry Wood)... ... In Enigma Variations the Orchestra came into its own, though once again Sinaisky was unable to create the proper atmosphere in the first half of the work... 
English National Ballet at Sadler’s Wells – Giselle
Friday, September 22, 2017 |  Akram Khan’s Giselle for English National Ballet returns to Sadler’s Wells trailing prizes and plaudits, and it is easy to see why: it is a rare unqualified success as a modern work, a synthesis of high quality stagecraft, lighting, musical composition, dramaturgy and choreography… 
This is Rattle – Simon Rattle conducts the LSO in Stravinsky’s Firebird, Petrushka and Rite of Spring
Thursday, September 21, 2017 |  Climaxing the “This is Rattle” festivities, albeit with a second performance and a “Birtwistle curates” recital still to come, this astonishing evening offered Stravinsky's first three ballets at a single sitting – a long-held wish of Simon Rattle's amounting to extraordinary vision, bravura and memory... 
This is Rattle: Helen Grime curates
Wednesday, September 20, 2017 |  The installation of Simon Rattle as LSO supremo continued apace with this Britten Sinfonia concert put together – or, as we must say these days, curated – by Helen Grime, the young Edinburgh composer who wrote the Fanfare that opened the “This is Rattle” series. 
Joseph Tong at St John’s Smith Square – Grieg, Schumann, Sibelius
Wednesday, September 20, 2017 |  Here was a programme, quite out of the ordinary in terms of piano recitals, which in terms of musical interest held the attention throughout and saw Joseph Tong’s undoubted qualities displayed in admirable fashion. 
Senza sangue & Bluebeard’s Castle at Hackney Empire, conducted by Peter Eötvös
Tuesday, September 19, 2017 |  When Senza sangue (Without Blood) received its UK premiere (a concert performance by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Simone Young), it garnered mixed notices possibly because the work is so plainly conceived as an upbeat to Bluebeard’s Castle. 
106 All-Stars: Opening Concert of the New York Philharmonic’s 2017-18 season – Jaap van Zweden conducts Mahler 5
Tuesday, September 19, 2017 |  Neville Cardus called Mahler’s Fifth Symphony “one of the seven wonders of the symphonic world.” Listening to its passage from tragedy to joy can be a thrilling experience and was the single work with which to commence the New York Philharmonic’s new season with Jaap van Zweden as Music Director designate. 
This is Rattle: Thomas Adès curates
Monday, September 18, 2017 |  Part of the extraordinary celebrations for the arrival of Sir Simon Rattle at the helm of the LSO, this programme put together by Thomas Adès was typically varied. 
Classical Opera/The Mozartists at Wigmore Hall
Monday, September 18, 2017 |  Ian Page realised that Classical Opera is no longer a suitable name for his concert chamber orchestra, therefore The Mozartists is the name under which its new identity was launched at Wigmore Hall. ... Mozart's Sinfonia concertante K364 featured leader Matthew Truscott and first viola Alonso Leal del Ojo. ... Louise Alder sang the two extensive recitative-and-arias vibrantly using a modest touch of vibrato and never allowing the cadenza-like moments to be vocal virtuosity for its own sake. 
This is Rattle – Simon Rattle conducts the LSO in Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust
Sunday, September 17, 2017 |  Sir Simon Rattle pulled off a remarkably vigorous account of The Damnation of Faust, all the performers producing an electrifying response to both Berlioz and the conductor... 
Ebracher Musiksommer – Gerd Schaller conducts Bruckner’s Third Symphony
Sunday, September 17, 2017 |  The comparison between Bruckner’s Third Symphony as presented in Nowak’s score of the ‘third version’, 1889, and that published by Rättig in 1890 reveals only minor but nevertheless interesting differences... ... Gerd Schaller’s Bruckner performances at the Ebrach Music Summer have already presented a fine account of this Symphony as it stood in 1874... 
This is Rattle: Oliver Knussen curates
Saturday, September 16, 2017 |  Two nights ago Simon Rattle in his first concert as music director of the LSO included pieces by Helen Grime, Thomas Adès, Harrison Birtwistle and Oliver Knussen. In turn they are complementing the occasion with programmes of their own, beginning with Knussen as conductor, composer and champion of causes. ... Birtwistle’s Silbury Air, for large ensemble (including brass, percussion, piano and harp), retains its thrall after forty years... ... The London premiere of O Hototogisu! (part of an intended bigger work) was slightly delayed by celestial noises-off. Once cleared this Haiku-inspired creation proved irresistible... ... Knussen’s Stravinsky selections included two pre-Rite song-cycles – one Balmont, one Japanese – all five settings epigrammatic if with so much to say especially when sung so delectably by Claire Booth... 
The Grange Festival 2017 – Jonathan Dove’s Mansfield Park – Martha Jones, Henry Neill; directed by Martin Lloyd-Evans; conducted by David Parry
Saturday, September 16, 2017 |  Jonathan Dove’s Jane Austen opera Mansfield Park was first performed in 2011 in a touring production with piano-duet accompaniment from Heritage Opera (which also opened the 2011 Grimeborn season), and there have been two other productions. Closing its 2017 season, this Grange Festival staging, in a new chamber orchestration for thirteen players, should go a long way to consolidate its worth as a finely crafted, instantly attractive opera with two strongly written leads and a retinue of equally well-drawn other roles. 
This is Rattle – LSO opening concert of the 2017-18 season – Simon Rattle conducts Helen Grime, Thomas Adès's Asyla, Oliver Knussen & Elgar's Enigma Variations, and Christian Tetzlaff plays Harrison Birtwistle’s Violin Concerto
Thursday, September 14, 2017 |  “This is Rattle” – a rather inelegant title... ... Simon Rattle needs no introduction... ... Thomas Adès’s Asyla (Latin plural for asylum, here meaning both sanctuary and madhouse) has certainly caught on... ... To close part one [...] was Harrison Birtwistle’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (2010) written for Christian Tetzlaff... ... Following the interval, it was good to once again hear Oliver Knussen’s 1979 Third Symphony... ... As for Enigma Variations (recorded by Rattle during his CBSO days) – well, I really don’t know. 
Göteborgs Symfoniker – Opening Concert of the 2017-18 Season – Santtu-Matias Rouvali conducts Sibelius’s Kullervo
Thursday, September 14, 2017 |  “A new symphony, completely in the Finnish spirit” (Sibelius), Kullervo has found a currency of acceptance largely denied to it during the composer's lifetime. ... Since Berglund there has been no shortage of distinguished Kullervo champions – Neeme Järvi, Panula, Salonen, Saraste, Vänskä and Segerstam, more recently Oramo, especially springing to mind. With this concert, opening the 2017-18 season of the Gothenburg Symphony, “the National Orchestra of Sweden” (founded 1905), its newly appointed Chief Conductor, Santtu-Matias Rouvali, shows he has the mettle, confidence and attitude to take up the challenge. ... Taking the roles of Kullervo and his Sister (the beggar-maiden he seduces unknowingly), Ville and Johanna Rusanen (real-life siblings), making their slow entrance in the largely 5/4 third movement, proved an affective combination... 
Woyzeck in Winter [Barbican Theatre]
Thursday, September 14, 2017 |  Schubert’s Winterreise has come in for its share of performance enhancement – Ian Bostridge filmed in an asylum, Peter Pears filmed looking like a glum Sherlock Holmes, Simon Keenlyside in a dance version, Mark Padmore sharing it with an actor reciting Samuel Beckett (who was obsessed by Winterreise) – so there is a provenance of sorts for Woyzeck in Winter. Conall Morrison has grafted Schubert’s song-cycle onto Georg Büchner’s play Woyzeck... ... ...there was a moment with a singing monkey that could have come straight out of Cabaret, or a Sondheim musical, even the world of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. 
Doric String Quartet at Wigmore Hall – The first three Quartets of Haydn’s Opus 20
Wednesday, September 13, 2017 |  Expressiveness is the basis of the Doric Quartet’s approach to Haydn. Every phrase is carefully shaped and presented in a most meaningful way. As a result, slow movements often have an almost magical quality. 
The Royal Opera – David McVicar’s production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte; conducted by Julia Jones
Tuesday, September 12, 2017 |  Here in its sixth revival since 2003 is David McVicar’s rather dark-hued conception of Die Zauberflöte and which still provides an evening of both intelligence and geniality. ... From an orchestral perspective Julia Jones and the ROH Orchestra provide crisp airy textures and a fleetness that only seldom wants an element of gravitas. ... Tamino’s portrait aria, ‘Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön’, sung by Mauro Peter, really got things going. ... Roderick Williams was a charmer of a Papageno, too, and didn’t overplay the comic business... ... Pamina was sung, with attractive silvery tone and with great poise, by Siobhan Stagg. 
Bampton Opera at St John’s Smith Square – Salieri’s La scuola de’ gelosi/The School of Jealousy
Tuesday, September 12, 2017 |  Not seen in London since its original performance in 1786, Salieri’s The School of Jealousy returns under the infectious zeal of Bampton Classical Opera. It continues the company’s concentration on eighteenth-century opera, including a number of UK premieres. 
The Royal Opera – Puccini’s La bohème – Nicole Car, Michael Fabiano, Mariusz Kwiecień, Simona Mihai; directed by Richard Jones; conducted by Antonio Pappano
Monday, September 11, 2017 |  Once you have got used to his trademark stylisations and visual jokes, Richard Jones has also always revealed a cleverly tailored affection for whichever opera he is directing, but it took a while, towards the end of Act Two, for this to register in Puccini’s La bohème. ... Nicole Car performed Mimì as a grey wraith, with a tenuous hold on life from the start. 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Sophie Bevan & Sebastian Wybrew
Monday, September 11, 2017 |  Sophie Bevan and Sebastian Wybrew kicked off the latest season of BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recitals at Wigmore Hall... 
British Youth Opera at Peacock Theatre – Mozart’s Don Giovanni
Saturday, September 09, 2017 |  In its thirtieth year, British Youth Opera offered, as usual, the opportunity to come across some talented young singers. Here there was the bonus of a rare chance to experience the Vienna version of Don Giovanni, historically, the less successful of Mozart’s versions of the work... 
Wigmore Hall – Opening Concert of the 2017-18 Season – Robin Tritschler & Julius Drake
Saturday, September 09, 2017 |  It fell to Robin Tritschler to step in at twenty-four hours’ notice for an indisposed Gerard Finley to open Wigmore Hall’s 2017-18 season. It took a few songs before the singer and Julius Drake (scheduled with Finley) were truly together, breathing as one. 
Russian State Opera at Cadogan Hall – Puccini’s Tosca
Saturday, September 09, 2017 |  The Russian State Ballet and Opera certainly works hard for a living. Its schedule for this autumn is all-round Britain, and this indefatigable touring company has been doing much the same for the past decade. And who knows what it gets up to in the rest of Europe. ... For Tosca at Cadogan Hall... 
British Youth Opera at Peacock Theatre – Judith Weir’s The Vanishing Bridegroom
Wednesday, September 06, 2017 |  The Vanishing Bridegroom’s last appearance in the UK seems to have been as a concert performance during the BBC’s Judith Weir weekend in 2008, and this British Youth Opera staging is a leap of faith in a work that, unlike her A Night at the Chinese Opera, hasn’t flourished since its 1990 premiere. 

 

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