All 2020 Concert Reviews

The Royal Ballet – John Cranko's Onegin
Saturday, January 18, 2020 (G. J. Dowler) |  ★★★★☆ This revival by The Royal Ballet of John Cranko’s Onegin is most welcome after several years’ absence. This commendably lean telling of Alexander Pushkin’s verse-drama has suited the company well since it was first acquired in 2001, and has provided a potent vehicle for several of the ensemble’s finest dance-actors since Tamara Rojo and Adam Cooper danced Tatiana and Onegin at the first performance. 
The Cleveland Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst at the Adrienne Arsht Center – Sergei Prokofiev’s Second Symphony & Romeo and Juliet Acts Three and Four
Friday, January 17, 2020 (David M. Rice) |  This first of two programs in The Cleveland Orchestra’s annual Miami residency was devoted to the music of Sergei Prokofiev – his Second Symphony and the final two Acts from his Romeo and Juliet ballet. With the orchestra in top form, music director Franz Welser-Möst plumbed the Symphony’s emotional extremes and brought out the narrative qualities in the composer’s portrayal of the Shakespearean drama. … 
English National Ballet at London Coliseum – 70th-Anniversary Gala
Friday, January 17, 2020 (G. J. Dowler) |  ★★★★☆ Happy Birthday English National Ballet! 2020 sees this at-times unstable company celebrate seventy years since its establishment as London’s Festival Ballet, then essentially a backing ensemble for the star dancers Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin. Its history has been rocky, with artistic and financial crises littering its path through the decades, but throughout it has been characterised by a raffish charm, an occasional belt-and-braces approach to getting show on, and the appearance of the greatest dancers of the time, unable to break through The Royal Ballet’s standing policy of ‘No Guests’. Certainly, the company seems in fine form at present, ensconced in its spacious new home in London’s East End and led by Tamara Rojo, star dancer and director of vision and fearsome determination. … 
Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich/Paavo Järvi in Vienna – Béla Bartók's Dance Suite and Pyotr Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony – Martin Fröst plays Aaron Copland's Clarinet Concerto [live webcast]
Thursday, January 16, 2020 (Ateş Orga) |  ★★★★★ Paavo Järvi likes working on large-scale long-term projects with his orchestras, immersing them in different styles and intensities – witness his Beethoven and Brahms symphonies with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Nielsen with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony, and Sibelius with the Orchestre de Paris. His recent appointment as Chief Conductor and Music Director of the prestigious Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich sees a new Tchaikovsky cycle get under way – a more than crowded field we need no reminding yet for all the distinguished competition, from Russian to European to American, one with room still for surprises and unexpected angles. … 
LSO/Simon Rattle & Dorothea Röschmann – Alban Berg's Seven Early Songs, Passacaglia & Three Orchestral Pieces; Beethoven's Seventh Symphony
Thursday, January 16, 2020 (Richard Whitehouse) |  Alban Berg and Beethoven have been part of Sir Simon Rattle's repertoire from the outset, though his often tortuous interpretive grappling with Beethoven has perhaps obscured the relative naturalness with which he has performed the music of Berg over several decades. … Whether juxtaposing these works with Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony was intended as a comment on the evolution of the Austro-German 'tradition', it was at the very least thought-provoking. … this was a finely prepared and often gripping account which warranted the enthusiastic reception it received. 
New York Philharmonic – Gustavo Dudamel conducts Charles Ives’s The Unanswered Question and Antonín Dvořák’s New World Symphony – Sergio Tiempo plays Esteban Benzecry’s Piano Concerto Universos infinitos
Wednesday, January 15, 2020 (Susan Stempleski) |  For the first time in over a decade, Gustavo Dudamel came to conduct the New York Philharmonic, for this well-curated program, the first of two scheduled for his two week-visit to Lincoln Center. The evening’s lineup revealed an obvious ‘New World’ theme, sandwiching the New York premiere of Esteban Benzecry’s blistering Universos infinitos, between two concert hall favorites with North American connections. … 
Ravi Shankar’s Sukanya at Southbank Centre – London Philharmonic Orchestra/David Murphy
Wednesday, January 15, 2020 (Amanda-Jane Doran) |  ★★★★☆ Ravi Shankar’s opera Sukanya was premiered in 2017 to great acclaim. It has been brought back for a reprise at the Royal Festival Hall with reduced forces, as part of the centenary celebrations of Shankar’s life and work. Parimal Sadaphal replaced Shankar’s daughter Anoushka as the key instrumentalist on the sitar alongside four other traditional Indian musicians in this semi-staged version of the opera. … 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Thierry Fischer – Nikolai Tcherepnin's Prelude to La Princess lointaine and Hector Berlioz's Fantastic Symphony – Andrei Korobeinikov plays Sergei Rachmaninov Paganini Rhapsody
Wednesday, January 15, 2020 (David Truslove) |  Stepping in for an indisposed Kees Bakels, Thierry Fischer coaxed playing of passionate commitment from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in a programme of mostly familiar repertoire spiced with one fascinating rarity that collectively formed an evening of tender dreams, scintillation and opium-filled fantasies. … Berlioz’s Fantastic Symphony was not entirely a flawless affair, but all the necessary ingredients were there to convey the composer’s wild imagination. … 
David Lang’s prisoner of the state – BBCSO/BBC Singers/Ilav Volkov at Barbican Centre with Julie Mathevet, Jarrett Ott, Alan Oke, Davóne Tines
Saturday, January 11, 2020 (Amanda-Jane Doran) |  ★★★★☆ David Lang’s ‘prisoner of the state’ is a “meditation” on Beethoven’s Fidelio, part-opera and part-oratorio. The work was premiered in New York last June, and Barbican Centre’s Hall was filled with expectant celebrities from the musical and media world for its first European performance. … 
English National Ballet at London's Coliseum – Le Corsaire
Friday, January 10, 2020 (G. J. Dowler) |  ★★★★★ How welcome the return of English National Ballet’s rollicking Romantic romp Le Corsaire; nothing prim or pastel, just full, bold technicolour dancing in the ultimate get-away-from-it-all, feel-good ballet. Don’t go for finely-wrought, filigree dancing but do go for knock-out pyrotechnics and bold gestures in the context of a barking story. Very loosely based on Lord Byron’s ‘The Corsair’, this ballet is a wonderful survivor of a particular dance style and aesthetic which go for all-out scenic effect, from Bob Ringwood’s ravishing period designs and colours, the rumbustious pick-and-mix score and the bravura dancing. In Le Corsaire, everything is writ large: gestures are forward and emotions intense – desire, despair, revenge and triumph – one can only sit back and let it wash over you like an early Hollywood exotic romp. 
The Royal Opera – Richard Jones's production of Giacomo Puccini's La bohème
Friday, January 10, 2020 (David Truslove) |  ★★★☆☆ Another year, another run of La bohème. Yet this second revival of Richard Jones’s 2017 staging needs a little more emotional clout if it’s to deliver something of lasting impact. Opening night offered reliable performances but nothing lingered in the memory other than a staging of striking contrasts marked by startling austerity and wilful extravagance that brought on a bout of visual indigestion. … 
The Metropolitan Opera – Michael Mayer’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata – Aleksandra Kurzak, Dmytro Popov, Quinn Kelsey; conducted by Karel Mark Chichon
Friday, January 10, 2020 (Susan Stempleski) |  ★★★★☆ In this revival of Michael Mayer’s sumptuous 2018 staging, La traviata – with a mostly new cast and a different conductor – is back at The Met. At the helm of the orchestra for the first time since his 2016 company debut, leading Madama Butterfly, Karel Mark Chichon uses his attentive baton to draw from the ensemble a subtle, shapely and theatrically alert performance of Verdi’s masterful score. … 
New York Philharmonic/Daniel Harding – Richard Strauss’s An Alpine Symphony – Paul Lewis plays Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto
Thursday, January 09, 2020 (Lewis M. Smoley) |  Paul Lewis joined the New York Philharmonic for a performance of Edvard Grieg's ever-popular Piano Concerto under the direction of his compatriot Daniel Harding. Although Lewis’s impressive technique and youthful ardor were apparent throughout the performance, he hyped up the dramatic character of strong passages with over-emphatic attacks and rigid articulation, especially in the principal themes of the outer movements. …  
LSO/Nathalie Stutzmann – Richard Wagner’s Overture and Venusberg Music from Tannhäuser & Johannes Brahms’s First Symphony – Alina Ibragimova plays Felix Mendelssohn’s E-minor Violin Concerto … LSO Platforms: Guildhall Artists
Thursday, January 09, 2020 (Alexander Hall) |  In programming terms, Wagner and Brahms might appear to be ideal stablemates. Full-blooded German Romanticism, you could argue. In fact, in Vienna, the hub of the musical world in the latter part of the 19th century, they were polar opposites, with their respective supporters all daggers drawn. What was it that had the two camps seething with scarcely contained mutual contempt? One of the many ironies of this particular episode is that Wagner, Brahms’s senior by more than twenty years, was actually the leader of the musical avant-garde, whereas the younger composer was regarded as the more conservative figure. Experimentation was pitched against tradition. … 
Mozart 250 – 1770: A Retrospective – The Mozartists/Ian Page at Wigmore Hall
Thursday, January 09, 2020 (Curtis Rogers) |  In 2020 the musical world at large may be celebrating the 250th anniversary of the birth of Beethoven, but ongoing sestercentennial celebration of the entire creative life of Mozart by The Mozartists continues its ineluctable progress by reaching 1770. That was an auspicious year in the 14-year-old’s already prodigious development, as it saw him make his first trip to Italy (begun in December 1769 and lasting until 1771) and premiere his first opera expressly written for that country. … 
The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in Miami – David Finckel & Wu Han play Cello Sonatas by Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn & Britten – Wu Han plays selections from Albéniz’s Suite española
Thursday, January 09, 2020 (David M. Rice) |  The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, after a twenty-year hiatus, resumed its annual residency at the Colony Theatre in Miami Beach with a pair of concerts, beginning aptly with this recital by the Society’s co-artistic directors, David Finckel and Wu Han. Their program spanned some 250 years from the Baroque (Bach) to twentieth-century Modern (Britten), with stops along the way in the Classical (Beethoven) and Romantic (Mendelssohn) periods, with an allusion to the surge of Nationalistic music in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (Albéniz). … 
London Schools Symphony Orchestra/Sian Edwards – Music from the Dark Side
Wednesday, January 08, 2020 (Nick Breckenfield) |  Hot on the heels of the National Youth Orchestra’s invigorating musical exploration of 20th-century revolutionary acts at the weekend, here the capital’s own spectacular array of young musicians – the London Schools Symphony Orchestra – upped the ante in this Faustian bargain of a concert entitled Music from the Dark Side. … 
Midori & Jean-Yves Thibaudet play Beethoven Violin Sonatas at the Kravis Center, West Palm Beach
Sunday, January 05, 2020 (David M. Rice) |  This delightful recital of Beethoven sonatas was among the earliest of the many performances that will commemorate the composer’s birth 250 years ago. Midori and Jean-Yves Thibaudet formed a perfect team for this music, in which the violin and piano are equal partners. … 
National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain at Barbican Hall – Rise Up! – Hanns Eisler's Sing in the Streets, Benjamin Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem, and Dmitri Shostakovich's The Year 1905 Symphony
Sunday, January 05, 2020 (Nick Breckenfield) |  The New Year wouldn’t be new year if the National Youth Orchestra didn’t throw down a gauntlet and challenge every other orchestra to match its enthusiasm and programming skill. Five days into 2020, this time proved no exception as 156 18-and-under year-olds crowded the extended Barbican Hall stage and urged the audience to ‘Rise Up!’ … 
New York Philharmonic – Jeffrey Kahane plays Mozart K482 and conducts Respighi's Trittico Botticelliano and Haydn's Miracle Symphony
Friday, January 03, 2020 (Susan Stempleski) |  This delightful concert opened with Jeffrey Kahane conducting Mozart’s stylish E-flat Concerto, K482, from the keyboard. The NYP musicians responded most expressively, with the wind players – especially the clarinets – displaying extraordinary eloquence in the gentle Andante. Altogether, this was an inspired reading, with the music from both the orchestra and piano unfolding gracefully and seamlessly. The opening Allegro was vigorous and tuneful, the slow middle movement deeply felt, and the finale appropriately buoyant. Kahane’s sensitive but unostentatious pianistic style and the orchestra’s flawless, dynamically-precise accompaniment conveyed all the joy and elegance of Mozart’s subtle and highly differentiated scoring. … 

 

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