All 2018 Concert Reviews

Westminster Philharmonic at St John’s Waterloo – Jonathan Butcher conducts world premiere of David Hackbridge Johnson’s Ninth Symphony – Florian Mitrea plays Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto
Saturday, December 15, 2018 |  The Westminster Philharmonic is notably adventurous in its programming and large-scale music is widely featured; for example six Symphonies by Shostakovich and seven by Mahler are included in its repertoire. Certainly the WPO was fully capable of presenting the concert premiere of David Hackbridge Johnson’s expansive Ninth Symphony, already recorded on Toccata Classics. It was obvious that there is the closest of rapport between the WPO and its long-serving conductor Jonathan Butcher. His admirably straightforward reading of Brahms’s Academic Festival Overture was free from subjective whims... ... Romanian-born British resident Florian Mitrea then gave an illuminating performance of Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’ Concerto, given a vivid reading with speeds a little swifter than usual. ... Johnson’s Ninth Symphony was a welcome step towards rectifying the composer’s serious neglect. Johnson (born 1963) is very multi-talented... 
The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center at Alice Tully Hall – Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos
Friday, December 14, 2018 |  

Since 1993 and each year since, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center has performed J. S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos as a winter holiday tradition, keeping the performances remarkably fresh by introducing some new performers. At this, the first of three scheduled presentations for this season, nine of the musicians were new, and different players took the lead in five of the works. The resulting renditions were notably free and spirited. 

The Royal Opera – Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel – Hanna Hipp & Jennifer Davis; directed by Antony McDonald; conducted by Sebastian Weigle
Thursday, December 13, 2018 |  Strange but true, almost ten years ago to the day, the Royal Opera mounted its first Hansel and Gretel, the children’s opera that has become an international repertoire staple in its one-hundred-and-twenty-year lifetime. That production was deemed by sensitive souls so shocking that there was a great fuss when it was shown on television during Christmas... ... The new staging is assertively feel-good and child-friendly, directed and designed by Antony McDonald... ... The Pantomime that closes the first half is spellbinding: Hansel and Gretel fall asleep in the forest, guarded by familiar fairytale characters such as Snow White, Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood... ... The house looms out of the murk, rather like Norma Desmond’s mansion in Sunset Boulevard, and is itself the Bates Motel from Psycho with a cherry on top and a cake knife stuck into it... ... Hanna Hipp is a big-voiced, energised and convincing Hansel, Jennifer Davis slips easily into Brünnhilde-sized power as Gretel... 
33rd Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square: Christmas Music by Candlelight – Ex Cathedra
Thursday, December 13, 2018 |  Behind Ex Cathedra’s prosaically titled “Christmas Music by Candlelight” lay a wealth of choral and spoken delights – drawn from two centennial anniversaries – women’s right to vote and Armistice Day – the whole thoughtfully-packaged and directed with assurance by Jeffrey Skidmore. This was no regurgitation of perennial favourites but mostly an encounter with the new and lesser-known. When the familiar did appear (Away in a Manger, The Lamb) it left an indelible impression, and what a joy not to endure another round of Rutter or Chilcott, an evening in which one could sample a selection of fine wines. 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts Bartók, Szymanowski, Stravinsky, Bernstein – Katia & Marielle Labèque play Osvaldo Golijov’s Nazareno
Thursday, December 13, 2018 |  Simon Rattle’s latest return to the London Symphony Orchestra continues his focus this year – “Folk Roots, Urban Roots” – and contrasted central-European folk inspirations from Bartók and Szymanowski, with New World influences from Stravinsky, Golijov and Bernstein. ... Szymanowski’s ballet-score Harnasie – eight years in the making and something of a homage mash-up to Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Les noces – is a rarity, perhaps not surprising given its Polish text for chorus and tenor. 
New Adventures at Sadler's Wells – Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake
Wednesday, December 12, 2018 |  And so it returns, with new and improved sets, costumes and choreography, Matthew Bourne’s most famous, most successful show: Swan Lake. Few will not recognise the image of bare chested male swans in feather breeches and many are those for whom this dance piece remains a powerful memory in their life as a theatre-goer or a performer. First created in 1995, when the sight of powerful, male dancers was something genuinely new, it rapidly became something of a ‘classic’, attracting an enthusiastic audience for Bourne’s particular brand of danced drama.… 
LSO – Marin Alsop conducts Leonard Bernstein’s Candide – Leonardo Capalbo, Jane Archibald, Anne Sofie von Otter, Thomas Allen; directed by Garnett Bruce
Sunday, December 09, 2018 |  Leonard Bernstein’s 1950s' Voltaire-based opera/operetta/musical hybrid hedges its bets uneasily between theatre and opera-house, but on the strength of its music – wonderful tunes, an Overture as life-enhancing as that to The Marriage of Figaro, brilliant orchestration – it is too great a flawed masterpiece to pass by. ... This LSO version was devised by Garnett Bruce and Marin Alsop... ... Thomas Allen’s Narrator reined in Pangloss’s positivism in style – he referred to Candide as a “complete bastard”, with good reason... 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Vladimir Ashkenazy conducts Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage & Enigma Variations – Piotr Anderszewski plays Mozart K491
Sunday, December 09, 2018 |  This Philharmonia Orchestra concert opened with Mendelssohn’s not-often-performed but exceptionally attractive Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage. In Vladimir Ashkenazy’s beautifully moulded account, the heart-easing opening offered a palpable sense of benediction... ... In Mozart’s dark and turbulent C-minor Piano Concerto Piotr Anderszewski was always a stimulating and imaginative presence... ... The concert closed with that perennial favourite, Elgar’s Enigma Variations... 
Anna Netrebko & Malcolm Martineau at Carnegie Hall
Sunday, December 09, 2018 |  In this recital – Anna Netrebko’s Carnegie Hall solo debut – the soprano offered a generous assortment of songs and arias from the nineteenth- and twentieth-centuries in six languages. The twenty-three selections were grouped into two broad themes to reflect the “Day and Night” title. The wide-ranging program, carefully crafted to display the singer’s extraordinary vocalism and her equally affecting dramatic gifts, moved outside the usual frame of concert conventions. ... Malcolm Martineau accompanied Netrebko with delight and a wholehearted spirit of collaboration... 
London Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra – Stravinsky – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Aldous Huxley Variations & Threni, and Berio’s Sinfonia with The Swingles
Saturday, December 08, 2018 |  When the London Phil announced its year-long Stravinsky series I promised myself Threni, elusive in appearances and, at least to me, and years ago, doubtful of its musical attraction. In this final leg tracing the composer’s “Changing Faces”, Vladimir Jurowski has persuaded me otherwise... ... The concert opened with the Variations (completed in 1964) that Stravinsky had already started when he heard news that his friend Aldous Huxley, the author of Brave New World, had died on the same day in 1963 as President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. ... Tango (1940, for piano) has previously graced this series, twice, from Peter Donohoe as an encore (following Capriccio), and, as orchestrated by the composer, from Jurowski. Here it was an anonymous a cappella arrangement (beyond Stravinsky), the current members of The Swingles, microphones in hands, introducing themselves with consummate skill and also mimicking bass and cymbals, before taking part in Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia (1968, dedicated to Leonard Bernstein), in which Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring makes a guest appearance... 
Nash Ensemble & Roderick Williams at Wigmore Hall – German Romantics – Bruch, Brahms, Beethoven, Mendelssohn
Saturday, December 08, 2018 |  This season the Nash Ensemble is in German Romantic mood, exploring not just the mainliners but also a healthy and welcome dose of important others. ... Predictably, Roderick Williams stood out. In relaxed form and warm voice, he gave a commanding account of David Matthews's 2005 arrangement of six Brahms songs (commissioned for Wolfgang Holzmair and the Nash). When it comes to transcription, Matthews is an elegantly imaginative thinker... ... The late Max Bruch Quintet, cast in a language more to do with 1818 than a hundred years later, went through its playground of Haydnesque/Beethovenian/Schubertian key-relationships a third apart. 
Sibelius Birthday Concert from Helsinki – Finlandia, Nightride and Sunrise – Helsinki Philharmonic/Lawrence Renes with Ari Vilhjálmsson – Jaakko Kuusisto, Janáček [live webcast]
Saturday, December 08, 2018 |  This was one of those unexpected pleasures that you catch at the end of a long winter day with no expectation in mind other than the knowledge that fine music in reliable hands is on offer. We know the Dutch-Maltese conductor Lawrence Renes to be assertively a man of the theatre, a devotee of John Adams, and a tight-reined modernist, with a quiet gift for the spectacular. ... With Finlandia he took an old warhorse and found new dimensions. ... Letting fly the cellular, repetitive world of Janáček, living the notion of seeds growing into mighty oaks, breathing the music as one might privately murmur or publicly orate, produced a magnificent Sinfonietta. ... The not inconsiderable matter, in the first half, of Jaakko Kuusisto's 2011 Violin Concerto, in the composer's presence, took us on other adventures. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Carlos Miguel Prieto conducts Beethoven 5 – Christian Tetzlaff plays Brahms’s Violin Concerto [live webcast]
Friday, December 07, 2018 |  Some sort of overture would have been welcome to start this DSO morning programme – Force of Destiny, Merry Wives of Windsor, Oberon... too many short excellent pieces going for nought these days in concerts – so it was straight into Brahms’s Violin Concerto, Carlos Miguel Prieto summoning a spacious, somewhat solemn introduction, only livening – quickening with a vengeance – when Christian Tetzlaff entered, almost with an impatient put-down to those first few minutes. 
Mitsuko Uchida plays Schubert Piano Sonatas at Royal Festival Hall – 2 – D537, D840, D960
Friday, December 07, 2018 |  Mitsuko Uchida, who turns seventy just before Christmas, is halfway through her international Schubert tour, and her powers of insight, energy and intelligence are undiminished. 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Santtu-Matias Rouvali conducts Richard Strauss – Der Rosenkavalier & Alpine Symphony – Sophie Bevan sings Four Last Songs
Thursday, December 06, 2018 |  Despite the variety of forms in this Richard Strauss concert – opera reduced into a suite, orchestral songs, and a symphonic tone-poem – there was a logical trajectory in theme, from the resignation of the Marschallin to the process of ageing and surrendering her younger lover; the succumbing to death of the Four Last Songs; and man’s confrontation with the indomitable, eternal force of Nature in the Alpine Symphony... ... The thoughtfulness and maturity of Santtu-Matias Rouvali’s interpretations belied his youthfulness. ... The Four Last Songs fared significantly better. ... Sophie Bevan sang with pure-voiced freshness... 
Endellion String Quartet & Friends at Wigmore Hall – Bach, Mozart, Barber, Beethoven – Celebrating Neil Black
Thursday, December 06, 2018 |  This concert was held to celebrate the life of Neil Black (1932-2016), the great oboist and, from all accounts, a lovely man. ... I think Black would have been pleased by the playing of Jonathan Kelly, oboist of the Berlin Philharmonic, in the first two items. First we had the opening movement of J. S. Bach’s ‘Ich habe genug’, with Roderick Williams and Kelly standing at the front of the stage. Behind them were the Endellion Quartet... 
New York Philharmonic/Jaap van Zweden with Matthias Goerne
Thursday, December 06, 2018 |  This unusual program opened with a calm, almost minimalist-sounding account of Webern's scholarly arrangement of music from J. S. Bach’s Musical Offering. Following which Matthias Goerne joined Jaap van Zweden and the New York Philharmonic for orchestral arrangements of Lieder by Schubert and Richard Strauss and including original scoring by the latter. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Freischütz & Bruckner 2 – Alena Baeva plays Tchaikovsky
Wednesday, December 05, 2018 |  Vladimir Jurowski and the LPO continued their lengthy Bruckner traversal with the Second Symphony in its 1877 revision. Unlike its immediate two predecessors, the Second was not so much rewritten in revision as truncated... ... In the first half, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto was given a confident while not especially insightful reading from Alena Baeva... 
Mitsuko Uchida plays Schubert Piano Sonatas at Royal Festival Hall – 1 – D568, D784, D959
Tuesday, December 04, 2018 |  In the first of two Southbank Centre recitals this week, Mitsuko Uchida returns to her adored Schubert. “Beethoven's vision is of the cosmos”, she says, setting the stage. “Mozart is about the drama and entanglements of human life and love. Schubert's music is between life and death; he dreams with his eyes on the far horizon. His music is at once personal and profound. Every note speaks and touches your soul.” 
Glyndebourne Tour Golden Anniversary concert at Queen Elizabeth Hall
Tuesday, December 04, 2018 |  Glyndebourne, both in Festival and Tour mode, has a presence that now spreads over seven months. ... The overture in question was The Marriage of Figaro, played by the Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra with period tact and conducted by Louis Langrée at a pace that flattered its wit. To remind us that Mozart is central repertoire, Thomas Allen sang the Count’s Act Two aria, recalling his spellbinding grip of authority, outrage and puzzlement in the role, adding seduction to the list in Don Giovanni’s ‘Là ci darem la mano’, with Rosa Feola (Glyndebourne’s most recent Susanna) piling on the charm. She later brought the house down with a ravishing account of La bohème’s ‘Mi chiamma Mimì’. 
The Royal Opera – Barrie Kosky’s production of Bizet’s Carmen – Gaëlle Arquez, Brian Jagde, Eleonora Buratto, Alexander Vinogradov; conducted by Keri-Lynn Wilson
Tuesday, December 04, 2018 |  Let’s assert straightaway that the playing and singing in this first revival of Barrie Kosky’s Carmen (unleashed in February this year) are very impressive, holding the ear across the evening. No weak links in the vocal chain and fine, vigorous conducting from Keri-Lynn Wilson prioritise orchestral delights with additional music reclaimed in Michael Rot’s edition. Had this production made a similar impact visually, its three hours might have sailed by – as it is I longed for Carmen to be killed off at the end of Act Two – so restless did I feel about this over-animated opera-meets-music-theatre extravaganza. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Verdi’s La traviata – Diana Damrau, Juan Diego Flórez, Quinn Kelsey; directed by Michael Mayer; conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Tuesday, December 04, 2018 |  Michael Mayer’s production of La traviata is Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s first appearance as the Met’s music director. But it is not the first time he has conducted Verdi’s beloved opera. In March of 2013 he led the company in Willy Decker’s stark and contemporary staging with Diana Damrau. She again sings Violetta and it is also a reunion with Mayer. 
OAE/John Butt at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Handel & Telemann
Monday, December 03, 2018 |  Vivaldi may be famed for the vast number of his Concertos, many of which utilise an array of different and unusual instruments, either alone or in ensemble. But north of the Alps his slightly younger German contemporaries Telemann and Handel were equally resourceful in adapting their music imaginations to the requirements of putting various timbres into the spotlight. 
The Royal Ballet – The Nutcracker
Monday, December 03, 2018 |  The Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker is, like mince pies and a flaming pud, the real taste of Christmas. More than that, it is the real taste of the Royal Ballet, and rich and indulgent it may be, its myriad of natural ingredients […] As a production, it encapsulates much of what made and still makes this a world-class ensemble: keen acting skills, a genuine sense of company and, in the danced sections, an unforced and elegant lyricism. … 
Jonathan Plowright at Wigmore Hall – Brahms Plus… Bach
Sunday, December 02, 2018 |  Jonathan Plowright completed his survey of Brahms’s piano music about a year ago (for BIS), and this recital marked the first in a series of six “Brahms Plus” programmes at Wigmore Hall, which runs through to 2020. 
Symphonia Boca Raton at Roberts Theatre – Gerard Schwarz conducts Piston, Carter & Mozart – Marika Bournaki plays K466
Sunday, December 02, 2018 |  Gerard Schwarz began with Walter Piston’s engaging 1941 Sinfonietta. ... Marika Bournaki’s development as a prodigy is chronicled in the film, I am Not a Rock Star. Now in her late-twenties, she demonstrated artistic maturity in K466. ... Following intermission the strings gave Elliott Carter’s Elegy (1939) a heartrending reading, and completed the concert with Mozart’s ‘Linz’ Symphony. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Martyn Brabbins conducts November Woods & Vaughan Williams 4 – Marcus Farnsworth gives the premiere of Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s Last Man Standing
Friday, November 30, 2018 |  I hope Martyn Brabbins will take this as a huge compliment, that he is the Sir Adrian Boult for our time. His versatility and consummate embrace of a wide range of repertoire – Guillaume de Machaut and Byrd to Birtwistle and Ferneyhough, opera-house to concert-hall, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Tippett – suggests him as such... ... They also have Bax and Vaughan Williams in common. The former’s November Woods (1917) doesn’t get out much... ... When Bax composed November Woods the Great War was at its height. Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s thirty-five-minute Last Man Standing, to a libretto “by Tamsin Collison inspired by WW1 texts and personal testimonies” acknowledges the end of this conflict in 1918. ... Marcus Farnsworth’s diction and mellifluous musicianship were impeccable in a piece that might be considered a counterpart to John Adams’s The Wound-Dresser... ... Brabbins has started a BBCSO Vaughan Williams Symphony cycle for Hyperion – five-star reviews for the first two, links below – and numbers 3 (Pastoral) & 4 were recorded just a few days ago, awaiting release. 
New Sussex Opera at Cadogan Hall – Stanford’s The Travelling Companion
Friday, November 30, 2018 |  New Sussex Opera continues to set the pace in terms of unfamiliar operas, imaginatively staged, with this production (the first for decades) of The Travelling Companion being no exception. This last of Charles Villiers Stanford’s operas, completed in 1916 but only posthumously staged, typified the career of one whose early immersion in the genre should have enabled him to blaze a trail for modern British opera. That he failed to do so is usually attributed to his failings as a composer which, as NSO here demonstrated, may not be entirely the case. Taking its cue from a story by Hans Christian Andersen, and with a workable if often gauche libretto from Henry Newbolt, Stanford’s opera welds elements dealing with coming of age, divine intervention, chivalrous conduct and supernatural hokum... 
Academy of Ancient Music/Michael Collins at Milton Court – Mozart – Nicola Boud plays the Clarinet Concerto & Soraya Mafi sings arias, plus Salieri & Amalia
Thursday, November 29, 2018 |  Salieri’s music is rarely heard in concert but this courtly three-movement Symphony from 1786 certainly charmed the ear. ... In Michael Collins’s sparkling interpretation he observed first repeats only (as per the Ricordi score) and not both (as per Bärenreiter). ... All the orchestral music here is in three movements and the three pieces sung by Soraya Mafi followed the pattern – a comfortable sequence with two operatic excerpts surrounding a concert aria. ... Amalia (1739-1807) – Duchess Anna Amalia of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel – had a most interesting life... ... Originally, Collins was to have played Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto but illness prevented his full attention to preparing it. Nicola Boud replaced him... 
LSO – Kristjan Järvi conducts Charles Coleman & Steve Reich – Simone Dinnerstein plays Philip Glass
Thursday, November 29, 2018 |  In a concert rather opaquely tagged “Divine Geometry” Kristjan Järvi’s avowed intent was to bring together, by way of their similar motivic insistence and defined chordal structures, music separated by over three centuries: Baroque and Minimalism. ... Charles Coleman – a co-founder of Järvi’s Absolute Ensemble, but also championed by both Paavo and Neeme Järvi – composed his Handel Water Music homage Drenched and his Bach Inspired suite of four pieces in 2014. ... Kristjan likened the exact contemporaries of the Baroque – born less than 200 kms apart (Bach in Eisenach; Handel in Halle) – to the much closer geographical near-contemporaries from New York City Steve Reich (born 1936) and Philip Glass (1937). Glass’s Third Piano Concerto – a commission by twelve organisations – closed the first half, with dedicatee Simone Dinnerstein. 
New York Philharmonic/Jaap van Zweden – Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony – Simone Lamsma plays Britten’s Violin Concerto
Thursday, November 29, 2018 |  Jaap van Zweden’s coupling of Britten’s Violin Concerto and Shostakovich’s ‘Leningrad’ Symphony was a good conception, composers with much in common and well-acquainted, each holding fast to tonality to communicate reactions to contemporary times. ... Simone Lamsma gave a stunning performance... ... The New York Philharmonic played superbly. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Andrés Orozco-Estrada conducts Romanian Rhapsody, La valse, Martinů 4 – Viktoria Mullova & Matthew Barley play At Swim-Two-Birds
Wednesday, November 28, 2018 |  Martinů’s Fourth Symphony is such a great work, and its conclusion so exhilarating, that to follow it with anything else is almost criminal. La valse (1920) may be of equal distinction in terms of musical quality... ... Andrés Orozco-Estrada led a graphically detailed (tuba especially) account... ... In the first half, with the composer in attendance, Pascal Dusapin’s intriguingly-titled At Swim-Two-Birds, owing to the 1939 eponymous “experimental” novel by Flann O’Brien... ... ...Viktoria Mullova and Matthew Barley meaningfully entwined... 
Guildhall Symphony Orchestra & Takuo Yuasa at Barbican Hall – Rite of Spring & Mahler 4
Wednesday, November 28, 2018 |  The Rite of Spring suits youth orchestras and Pierre Boulez and Simon Rattle have given memorable performances of it with the NYO of GB. The Guildhall Symphony Orchestra followed suit under Takuo Yuasa in a performance that was devoid of a single moment of routine playing. ... Mahler’s Fourth Symphony calls for a different set of musical values... 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Karabits at Lighthouse – Pulcinella & Shostakovich 1 – Johannes Moser plays Walton’s Cello Concerto
Wednesday, November 28, 2018 |  Three distinctive musical personalities, immediately evident in the Suite from Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, a “ballet with song” reimagining music wrongly attributed to Pergolesi (with references to other Italians), a shoplifting of Baroque styles. ... Kirill Karabits coaxed primary colours and rhythmic precision... ... Stravinsky’s capacity for reinventing himself was not a primary concern for William Walton... ... Nothing could be further from the truth as this Cello Concerto... ... When played with such conviction and passion as it was here by Johannes Moser there can be no doubt of the work’s integrity and emotional power. 
The Royal Ballet – Triple Bill – The Unknown Soldier | Infra | Symphony in C
Wednesday, November 28, 2018 |  It is hard to fathom the process by which The Royal Ballet decides upon the composition of its mixed evenings of dance – a good triple bill possesses an internal logic and thought as to its internal dynamic. However, in recent years at Covent Garden, the overriding principle seems to owe more to Chaos Theory. And so it proved with the latest combination, bringing a new work by Alastair Marriott to a commissioned score from film composer Dario Marinelli together with a revival of Wayne McGregor’s rebarbative Infra set to Max Richter and sundry electronic scrapings and George Balanchine’s lustrous white tutu extravaganza Symphony in C set to Bizet. 
Kensington Symphony Orchestra at St John’s Smith Square – Russell Keable conducts The Perfect Fool, Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances & Vaughan Williams's Job
Monday, November 26, 2018 |  The Kensington Symphony Orchestra was at its largest for this generous and typically enterprising programme (requiring at some point a piano, two harps, alto saxophone, celesta and organ), Rachmaninov seeming rather a gooseberry in relation to the friends that were Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams, and – pertinent to your reviewer – the players and Russell Keable were up against definitive recordings, Ormandy’s of Symphonic Dances and Boult’s fourth and final taping of Job. 
Royal College of Music – Sir Thomas Allen directs Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro; conducted by Michael Rosewell
Monday, November 26, 2018 |  With good reason, Figaro and Susanna survey with horror the dump of a room they’ve been allocated by the Count for the start of married life. That is the first thing we see in Thomas Allen’s RCM staging of The Marriage of Figaro, and it sets the scene for a sparkling evening as well as neatly summing up the opera’s political idée fixe of rulers and the ruled. 
English National Opera – Jonathan Miller’s production of Puccini’s La bohème – Natalya Romaniw & Jonathan Tetelman; conducted by Alexander Joel
Monday, November 26, 2018 |  Jonathan Miller’s 2009 La bohème is now enjoying its fourth revival... ... A buzzing Café Momus is stylishly decked out (you can almost smell the coffee and Gauloises), a brazier, lofty balloons and flower-seller add verisimilitude, and the ENO Chorus and the children are in commendable form. ... As Mimi, Natalya Romaniw brings cool restraint, vulnerability... ... No such reservations mark Jonathan Tetelman’s performance as Rodolfo... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Tai Murray & Silke Avenhaus – Grieg, Philip Glass, Saint-Saëns
Monday, November 26, 2018 |  It’s very easy for performers to go overboard with the big romantic stuff, so in many ways the achievement of Tai Murray and Silke Avenhaus’s superb Grieg at Wigmore Hall was in its restraint. ... There is – no doubt surprising to many people – also quite a bit of dramatic chopping and changing in Philip Glass’s Pendulum (2010) written to celebrate an anniversary of the American Civil Liberties Union... 
The Metropolitan Opera – Jack O’Brien’s production of Puccini’s Il trittico – Il tabarro, Suor Angelica, Gianni Schicchi; conducted by Bertrand de Billy
Monday, November 26, 2018 |  Jack O’Brien’s production of Il trittico, one of the most appealing in the Met’s repertory, is receiving a terrific revival after a nine-year absence. Bertrand de Billy leads a masterful realization of Puccini’s scores... ... And not the least of the enjoyable features is the portrayal of Gianni Schicchi by Plácido Domingo. ... As the curtain rises on Il tabarro to reveal a freeze-frame tableau, we are drawn instantly into the milieu of hard-working bargemen along the Seine in 1927 Paris... ... The first half of Suor Angelica is taken up with the everyday goings-on in the convent to which she, marvelously portrayed by Kristine Opolais, was banished by her noble family after she bore an illegitimate child. ... The best of Il trittico comes with Gianni Schicchi, the hilarious yarn carried off with precise comic timing, ensuring that every punch-line and sight-gag lands with maximum impact. 
Wimbledon International Music Festival – Philharmonia Orchestra – Robin O’Neill conducts Langsamer Satz & Eroica Symphony – Zuill Bailey plays Schumann’s Cello Concerto
Sunday, November 25, 2018 |  Wimbledon is iconic around the World for all tennis fans. It is surely joined now, after ten years of existence, by the Wimbledon International Music Festival, at least for music enthusiasts. ... Anyone with any knowledge of twentieth-century music might, therefore, have approached the opening work by Anton Webern, with a degree of trepidation. Langsamer Satz is, in fact, a final statement he made in the romantic style he inherited in his youth from Wagner in particular. ... Robin O’Neill (the Philharmonia's principal bassoonist) has arranged this ‘slow movement’ originally written for string quartet. ... If this is Webern’s farewell to the Romantic era, then Beethoven’s consummate ‘Eroica’ Symphony is a precursor to a different age in which he grew up. ... In between, the American cellist Zuill Bailey performed Robert Schumann’s Cello Concerto. 
Elgar Sinfonia of London – Adrian Brown conducts an Elgar programme at St John’s Waterloo – Music in the Shadow of World War One
Sunday, November 25, 2018 |  Clearly, the Elgar Sinfonia is going to play Elgar’s music, and before anyone claims that his orchestral music is often played, there are quite a few fine and characteristic works by him that are hardly ever heard. Adrian Brown was a long-term pupil of Sir Adrian Boult: with regard to Elgar’s music he could not have had a more sympathetic mentor. ... From the unknown to the familiar: Elgar’s Cello Concerto, with Daniel Benn as soloist, followed. I have not encountered this cellist before, but I have a mental note to seek him out in future. 
Marin Alsop conducts Chichester Psalms at Chichester Cathedral
Saturday, November 24, 2018 |  This final hurrah for Leonard Bernstein brought to a close Chichester’s year-long centennial celebration of the composer whose Chichester Psalms had its first UK performance there in 1965, commissioned by Dean Walter Hussey whose chutzpah had given life to music, among others, from Britten, Finzi and Walton and art-works from Marc Chagall, John Piper and Graham Sutherland. ... Marin Alsop – a Bernstein pupil – spoke about her mentor... 
Nash Ensemble & Christine Rice at Wigmore Hall – German Romantics – Schumann, Wagner, Brahms
Saturday, November 24, 2018 |  The Nash Ensemble’s German Romantics season is currently showing off how late-Classical style stoked the fires of Romanticism into white-hot Expressionism. ... Beethoven casts a long shadow at one end of the series’ reach, darkened by Wagner at the other, in this recital with the Wesendonck-Lieder. Christine Rice might just as well have been singing them lying on a psychiatrist’s couch, such was her uncanny identification with the five songs’ angst-ridden eroticism... 
Time Unwrapped at Kings Place – Aurora Orchestra with Iestyn Davies & Nico Muhly – Old Bones
Friday, November 23, 2018 |  All music contains and is contained by time; the Time Unwrapped series at Kings Place has investigated this existential role. This Aurora Orchestra programme was devised by Iestyn Davies and Nico Muhly, intelligently contrasting vocal and chamber works, fusing elements of polyphony and medieval love poetry with the recent music of Muhly and Thomas Adès. 
Americana '18 at St John’s Smith Square – Thanksgiving – ORA Singers/Suzi Digby
Thursday, November 22, 2018 |  Americana ’18 is now approaching the end of its year-long celebration of music from across the pond. Using Thanksgiving Day as a stimulus, the ORA Singers delivered a “Mass of Thanksgiving”, built on a framework that, with notable exceptions, placed works by contemporary English and American composers between movements from William Byrd’s Mass for Five Voices. There were some neat couplings with settings of identical Eucharistic texts by Thomas Tallis and Steven Stucky and by Palestrina and Paolo Prestini, also recently commissioned works. 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Jakub Hrůša conducts The Mystery of Time & Slavonic Dances – Simon Trpčeski plays Shostakovich
Thursday, November 22, 2018 |  Principal guest conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, Jakub Hrůša continued his productive association with it - opening with a major piece by arguably the leading post-war Czech composer who nonetheless remains virtually unknown outside of his native country. ... The career of Miloslav Kabeláč (1908-79) was one of constant antagonism with the Czech state... ... If the remainder of this concert consisted of lighter fare, it in no way reflected on the quality – or lack thereof – of the music in question. It is a measure of Shostakovich’s stature that so accessible a piece as his Second Piano Concerto (also 1957) should be so wholly characteristic. In the hands of Simon Trpčeski , the initial Allegro proved weightier and more ambivalent than is often the case... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra & Opera Rara – Mark Elder conducts Puccini’s Le Willis
Wednesday, November 21, 2018 |  The draw was the reconstruction by Martin Deasy of the original one-Act version of Puccini’s first operatic venture, Le Willis, composed in 1883 for a competition. ... Mark Elder, his career-long opera-house experience persuasively bringing out all the felicities of Deasy’s reconstruction, ensured that dramatic facets were explored whilst also pointing out originalities and influences. The LPO responded enthusiastically... ... Ermonela Jaho is justifiably famous for her Puccini interpretations and superb vocalism. 
The English Concert/Harry Bicket at Wigmore Hall – Bach Cantatas – Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland
Tuesday, November 20, 2018 |  Advent was launched in fine style by The English Concert and Harry Bicket with Johann Sebastian Bach’s three surviving Cantatas for this time of year. ... Philipp Heinrich Erlebach was regarded as one of the most important German composers and Kapellmeisters in the generation before Bach. 
Alexandre Tharaud at Wigmore Hall
Monday, November 19, 2018 |  Alexandre Tharaud is a gift to classical-music marketing. He’s tall, with model-like looks and slimness, and, on the cusp of turning fifty, he is cultivating a guru-like gravitas among his fans – and Wigmore Hall was sold out. ... His self-imposition was even more marked in two of the final Beethoven Sonatas... 
Gary Numan & The Skaparis Orchestra at Royal Albert Hall, with Chris Payne
Monday, November 19, 2018 |  Vertical red-strip lighting and an operatically huge curtain pulsing with blue flowers was the eerie backdrop for warm-up artist, ex-Numan Band member, Chris Payne and his wife Dominique (vocals) both evoking Celtic mysticism with songs (lyrics inaudible). ... A huge blue iris projection, repeating harp solo, foreboding double bass, shrieking electric violins, fraying mummy-like men staggering onto the stage like a 1920s’ horror montage! Then the dark lord himself Gary Numan strolled on with his unmistakable black quiff... 
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons at Carnegie Hall – Mahler’s Fifth Symphony – Håkan Hardenberger plays HK Gruber’s Aerial
Monday, November 19, 2018 |  Boston Symphony Orchestra music director Andris Nelsons’s pairing of HK Gruber’s Aerial with Mahler’s Fifth Symphony proved to be an interesting if not a perfect fit. Both works do have common elements, not least radical shifts in tempo and mood. Aerial calls for a trumpet (in C rather than B-flat), a piccolo trumpet and a cow’s horn as well as different mutes; Håkan Hardenberger, for whom the work was written, skillfully maneuvered his instruments.  
English National Opera stages Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem; directed by Daniel Kramer; designed by Wolfgang Tillmans; conducted by Martyn Brabbins
Friday, November 16, 2018 |  English National Opera has form with staging tried and tested Christian choral works, and it could only be a matter of time before its tally included Britten’s fifty-year-old-plus War Requiem, in an elaborate staging from Daniel Kramer... ... Martyn Brabbins (ENO Music Director) often makes the main orchestra sound as intimate and detailed as the soldiers’ chamber group... ... Emma Bell, cast as an angel-human hybrid, fills the Coliseum with glorious sound. David Butt Philip and Roderick Williams, both in wonderful, tender voice, sum up human frailty and love. 
L’invitation au Voyage – Sarah Connolly, James Newby & Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall
Friday, November 16, 2018 |  As part of Wigmore Hall’s Ravel Song Series, Sarah Connolly and James Newby shared a French programme, two contrasting versions of ‘L’invitation au Voyage’, both from 1870, framing settings of Symbolist verses by Ravel’s predecessors and contemporaries; a mélange of dreams and fantasies, erotic and nightmarish, leavened by the humorous and vividly-imagined Histoires naturelles. 
Philharmonia Orchestra – John Wilson conducts Richard Rodney Bennett & Walton – Louis Schwizgebel plays Gershwin
Thursday, November 15, 2018 |  The opening piece, Richard Rodney Bennett’s Celebration (1991, for the Maryland Symphony Orchestra) was stunningly well played. John Wilson is engaged in recording for Chandos a series of Bennett’s orchestral works, and whose command of this by no means easily-playable score was total. ... George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto remains, after more than ninety years, a wholly unique and original masterpiece... ... This first movement remains the first and only wholly successful symphonic Charleston, and with Louis Schwizgebel a clean-fingered and hugely stylish soloist, it was wholly successful... 
The Royal Opera – Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra – Carlos Álvarez, Ferruccio Furlanetto, Hrachuhi Bassenz; directed by Elijah Moshinsky; conducted by Henrik Nánási
Thursday, November 15, 2018 |  After a day of real-life politics in and around Westminster there was a certain irony to spending an evening at the Royal Opera House for a work largely concerned with politics beset by factionalism, ruthless ambition, old enmities, financial corruption and their impact on personal lives and relationships. However, there were rewards! Elijah Moshinsky’s 1991 staging of Simon Boccanegra, seen in many revivals over its twenty-seven years, wears its age lightly. ... At the centre of the cast is Carlos Álvarez’s Simon, one of the best performances he has given for the company... ... Counter to this is the implacable Fiesco of Ferruccio Furlanetto. 
Die Stadt ohne Juden – 1924 film with music by Olga Neuwirth
Thursday, November 15, 2018 |  Die Stadt ohne Juden (City Without Jews) is an Austrian film made in 1924 by Hans Karl Breslauer. It was adapted by Breslauer and the playwright and screenwriter Ida Jenbach from the best-selling novel of the same name by Hugo Bettauer. Bettauer’s novel is speculative fiction in the vein of H. G. Wells or G. K. Chesterton whereas the film is a satirical comedy with a few Expressionistic touches that suggest Robert Weine’s The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. ... Olga Neuwirth is a natural cinephile. She studied both music and film at university and has been inspired by film throughout her career, most notably in her video-opera based on David Lynch’s Lost Highway. 
BBC Symphony Chorus & Orchestra – Martyn Brabbins conducts Ethel Smyth’s Mass in D – Pavel Kolesnikov plays Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto
Thursday, November 15, 2018 |  Just to give you an idea of the popularity in the UK, or curiosity about, Dame Ethel Smyth’s Mass in D – the best of her, as she thought – it has been performed once, at the Proms, in 1930. Sakari Oramo, who was originally due to conduct this BBCSO concert, is a fan... ... was inevitable that the Russian’s First Piano Concerto, especially in the astonishing account from Pavel Kolesnikov, would obliterate the impact of Smyth’s Mass. 
Royal Academy of Music – Handel’s Semele – Lina Dambrauskaitė, Ryan Williams, Frances Gregory, Olivia Warburton; directed by Olivia Fuchs; conducted by Laurence Cummings
Wednesday, November 14, 2018 |  After the premiere of Deidamia in early 1741, Handel composed no more operas as such, concentrating instead on creating a series of unstaged music-dramas based on the Bible or occasionally, as in Semele (1744), on episodes from Classical mythology for the edification of Christian audiences during Lent. Charles Jennens (librettist for some of these works, but not Semele) described it as “no oratorio but a baudy [sic] opera”. He was quite right to notice its full theatrical potential, but it is surprising that the po-faced Evangelical proselytiser failed to see beyond the exuberance of the score and plot to the latent moral. ... It is not clear, however, that Olivia Fuchs’s production really takes seriously or recognises either facet... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Oleg Caetani conducts Hymne & Symphonie fantastique – Roberto Prosseda plays Gounod’s Concerto for Pedal Piano
Wednesday, November 14, 2018 |  What an extraordinary concert. Rarely have I entered a hall with such a buzz going on around the stage, though one glance was enough to see what warranted such attention: the towering edifice that is a pedal piano. It’s like a Steinway smash up... ... Our soloist, Roberto Prosseda, who for the last seven years has made this instrument something of his speciality, implied that, as far as he knew, this marked the instrument’s debut in modern times in Britain. ... Gounod’s Concerto for Pedal Piano and Orchestra is a four-movement work in the genial style of Saint-Saëns... ... Oleg Caetani, reminding me of another tall Italian conductor, one Carlo Maria Giulini, conducting without a score (and with the players using his own set of parts), fashioned an idiomatic account of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique that cleared the fustiness of sloppy past performances. 
LSO – François-Xavier Roth conducts Faune & Zarathustra – Jean-Guihen Queyras plays Dvořák
Wednesday, November 14, 2018 |  The Dvořák Concerto and French cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras were rightly the London Symphony Orchestra's advertised attraction of this concert. He's a charismatic, impeccable artist, a gentleman player, whose facility, musical imagination and intellect make for powerful chemistry. ... François-Xavier Roth, winner, the programme book reminded us, of the 2000 Donatella Flick competition and these days joint principal guest conductor of the LSO, supported in style... ... Orchestrally, inevitably, the poem of the evening was Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune... ... Nietzsche's “book for all and none”, Also sprach Zarathustra released the LSO‘s full, crowded strength, the nobility and cadence of Richard Strauss's opening and rejoinder reaching for epic territory... 
Mark Bebbington at St John’s Smith Square – Pianograms I: Scenes from the opera, plus Sonatas by Schubert & Scarlatti
Wednesday, November 14, 2018 |  On paper, a programme which seemed somewhat oddly juxtaposed and titled (just half the pieces played referred directly to opera) proved to be far more than a collection for specialists. Mark Bebbington may have a reputation as a British-music champion – of which he is, no shame in that – but this recital (the first of three themed recitals to be given at St John’s Smith Square) demonstrated further less-appreciated aspects of this wholly gifted artist’s musicianship. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Penny Woolcock’s production of Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles – Pretty Yende, Javier Camarena, Mariusz Kwiecien & Alexander Birch Elliott, and Nicolas Testé; conducted by Emmanuel Villaume
Wednesday, November 14, 2018 |  This production of Bizet’s Pearl Fishers provides the most spectacularly beautiful visual effect that I have experienced in any opera. ... The story is about two lifelong friends, Nadir and Zurga, who became rivals when both fell in love with Leïla, a Hindu priestess, but who now renew their friendship in the celebrated duet, ‘Au fond du temple saint’, gloriously sung by Javier Camarena and Mariusz Kwiecien. ... Unfortunately, early on, Kwiecien was momentarily troubled, and although he sang through the problem well-enough, he was unable to return following intermission. He was ably replaced by his cover, Alexander Birch Elliott... 
Artemis Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Haydn’s Rider, Demetz’s Broken Islands, Schumann’s A-minor
Tuesday, November 13, 2018 |  Haydn’s Opus 74/3 is entitled ‘Der Reiter’ because of the equestrian rhythms that pervade the Finale (and to a lesser extent the opening Allegro). It enjoyed great popularity dating from its presentation in 1793 at London’s Hanover Square Rooms – the same venue that had witnessed the premieres of the first six of the composer’s ‘London’ Symphonies. The Artemis Quartet was admirably straightforward in approach... ... Broken Islands by Eduard Demetz (born 1958) is in the rare but logical form of five movements, three of them preceded by a half-minute bridge acting both as an introduction to what follows and as a postlude to the previous music. 
Paul Lewis at Royal Festival Hall – Beethoven, Haydn, Brahms – 3/4
Tuesday, November 13, 2018 |  Haydn’s Piano Sonatas are becoming increasingly popular, but they still have a whiff of special interest about them. Like many pianists, Paul Lewis is a great enthusiast, and throughout this year’s International Piano Series – an indispensable element in the classical music firmament – he has been featuring them in the context of short pieces by Brahms and Beethoven. This Royal Festival Hall recital proved that he is completely inside their astonishing originality. 
Philadelphia Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin at Carnegie Hall – Lohengrin, Fountains of Rome, Anthology of Fantastic Zoology – Joyce DiDonato sings Poème de l’amour et de la mer
Tuesday, November 13, 2018 |  A diverse combination of works displaying a variety of colors and adventurous harmonic ideas. From the ethereal atmosphere of the Prelude to Lohengrin through the imaginative if devilish humor of Mason Bates’s Anthology of Fantastic Zoology, from the late-romantic ambiance of Chausson to Respighi’s Fountains of Rome, there was much to savor. The Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin succeeded equally well in creating just the right aesthetic aura for each of these distinctive pieces. 
Mark Morris Dance Group & Silkroad Ensemble at Sadler's Wells – Layla and Majnun
Tuesday, November 13, 2018 |  Mark Morris stands as one of the great current dance creators, a choreographer with an artistic field of vision of extraordinary breadth and displaying uncommon musicality. His creativity is fired by a myriad of influences, and his choice of subject matter remains ever-surprising, the product of the most catholic of aesthetic tastes. And so it proves with his latest presentation at Sadler’s Wells after an absence from the UK of over five years: Layla and Majnun is an old story of unfulfilled love from the Middle East and Central Asia, dating back centuries. 
Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Lisa Batiashvili & Gautier Capuçon at Barbican Hall – Shostakovich, Ravel, Mendelssohn
Monday, November 12, 2018 |  The Piano Trio is such an unforgiving medium, with problems of texture, balance and dominance based around an instrument that can easily vault from salon intimacy to near-symphonic weight. It was clear that Lisa Batiashvili, Gautier Capuçon and Jean-Yves Thibaudet, all of them formidable soloists, have given all this much thought in their London recital, towards the end of their ten-city Europe tour. 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Jonathan Biss plays Haydn & Schumann
Monday, November 12, 2018 |  If the bottomless complexity of the Schumann (and Jonathan Biss’s particularly strong association with this composer) meant that the Haydn risked being something of an amuse-bouche, any worries on that count were unfounded. 
Symphony of Sorrowful Songs
Sunday, November 11, 2018 |  Prefaced by the briefest of brief fanfares, Penderecki’s new Fanfare – premièred across the World today as the part of a lavish Polish-sponsored celebration of the centenary of Polish Independence (which coincides with the Armistice), and a speech by the Polish Ambassador to the UK, Arkady Rzegocki, this midday-starting concert focussed on a work that also aptly encapsulates the mood for the commemoration of the centenary of the Armistice, Górecki’s aching symphonic lament, his Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. 
[email protected] – Marin Alsop conducts Tallis Fantasia & German Requiem
Sunday, November 11, 2018 |  On the resonant centenary of the Armistice Marin Alsop and the OAE presented a programme representing the quintessence of English and German spirituality. The pendant piece to Brahms’s profound and expansive Requiem was Vaughan Williams’s Tallis Fantasia. 
LSO – François-Xavier Roth conducts Lontano, Cantata profana and Nelson Mass
Sunday, November 11, 2018 |  It was apt that Haydn’s 'Nelson' Mass – the Mass “in dire straits”, written in 1798 when Napoleon and France were at their most predatory – should take its place among the Armistice Centenary events, and there was also a Hungarian connection, albeit a loose one, with the other works. ... This LSO concert and its Principal Guest Conductor had opened with Ligeti’s Lontano... ... After a decade-long gestation, Bartók completed his Cantata profana in 1930... ... With a smaller orchestra (four double basses) and a chamber pipe-organ, the LSO slipped into Classical style for Haydn's 'Nelson' Mass 
Oratorio Society of New York/Kent Tritle at Carnegie Hall – Górecki, Szymanowski, Vaughan Williams
Sunday, November 11, 2018 |  Commemorating the centenaries of the World War One Armistice and the independence of the Republic of Poland, the Oratorio Society of New York and its long-time conductor Kent Tritle included masterworks by Karol Szymanowski and Henryk Górecki, followed by Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Dona nobis pacem. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Debussy, Janáček’s The Eternal Gospel, Stravinsky, and the premiere of Magnus Lindberg’s Triumph to Exist
Saturday, November 10, 2018 |  On the eve of the Armistice Centenary, Vladimir Jurowski and the LPO opened this considered concert with Debussy, his Berceuse héroïque (1915), an orchestration and expansion of a piano piece he wrote “to pay homage to H. M. King Albert I of Belgium and his soldiers”. ... Then the premiere of Magnus Lindberg’s Triumf att finnas till… (Triumph to Exist...) setting words by Edith Södergran... ... The LPC then became Latin scholars for Stravinsky’s Requiem Canticles... ... Good concert this for adventurous programming and excellence of performance, and, like Stravinsky (at any time of his long career), Janáček is also inimitable, if not consistently so during The Eternal Gospel (1914/17), although leader Pieter Schoeman gave a charismatic cameo of the recent The Fiddler’s Child and there is no doubt that this is the composer of such pending scores as Taras Bulba and Glagolitic Mass. 
Cédric Tiberghien at Wigmore Hall – Armistice Recital
Saturday, November 10, 2018 |  The scope of events, in any medium you care to mention, marking the Armistice Centenary takes your breath away, and Wigmore Hall contributed with Cédric Tiberghien’s exceptional recital of music composed during the years of World War One, by composers from Britain, France, Germany and Poland. 
New York Philharmonic/Iván Fischer with Miah Persson & Anthony McGill – Schubert & Beethoven
Saturday, November 10, 2018 |  Schubert’s Fifth Symphony offers some of the loveliest melodies in the repertory, and Iván Fischer gave them room to blossom. ... More Schubert followed – Miah Persson’s fine account of The Shepherd on the Rock in the scoring by Carl Reinecke (1824-1910, conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra for three decades). Anthony McGill’s superb playing of Schubert’s original clarinet obbligato was the highlight of the concert... 
Denis Matsuev at Carnegie Hall
Friday, November 09, 2018 |  In this Carnegie Hall recital Denis Matsuev displayed prodigious technique, tremendous power and colossal sound. ... Rachmaninov’s Corelli Variations is based on ‘La folia’, which was not created by Arcangelo Corelli but used by him in a Violin Sonata. Among the Variations were the forcefully thumped Fifth... ... Most memorable and startling was the last: Grigory Ginzburg’s flamboyant transcription of ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’ from Grieg’s music for Ibsen’s Peer Gynt. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Cristian Măcelaru conducts Carnival Overture & Andrew Norman’s Play – Emanuel Ax plays Beethoven [live webcast]
Friday, November 09, 2018 |  That’s the first paragraph of Grand Rapids-born (in 1979), LA-based Andrew Norman’s introduction to Play (2013/16). ... In the presence of the composer the DSO and Cristian Măcelaru appeared well off the ropes... ... The centrepiece of the concert (its second outing on this day) was Beethoven’s C-major Piano Concerto. Măcelaru conjured an introduction that was crisp and classical (the music does majesty, too, if not here) which agreeably set up Emanuel Ax for a sparkling and modulated account... 
The Metropolitan Opera – Robert Carsen’s production of Boito’s Mefistofele – Christian Van Horn, Michael Fabiano & Angela Meade; conducted by Carlo Rizzi
Thursday, November 08, 2018 |  Best-known today for his librettos for Verdi’s Otello and Falstaff, Arrigo Boito’s Mefistofele (his only opera, first staged in 1868 and then revised) was a staple at the Met in the early-1920s, often pairing Beniamino Gigli as Faust and Fyodor Chaliapin in the title-role, but it vanished, not returning until 1999 in this production by Robert Carsen... ... In his first leading role at this house, Christian Van Horn projects powerfully yet with much nuance... ... Michael Fabiano’s voice rings out with thrilling quality, but he had occasional difficulty with intonation, though was back on form in the final Act and the Epilogue. His Faust leans more toward the philosophical than the romantic... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Klein & Janáček, Borodin Quartet plays Schulhoff & Martinů
Wednesday, November 07, 2018 |  This outstanding concert, given to mark the emergence of the state of Czechoslovakia after World War One, was recorded... ... As soon as Vladimir Jurowski entered, things started looking up. The first half of the concert was devoted to composers who were victims of the Holocaust. Readers may wonder why they have not heard of a Partita for strings by Gideon Klein (1919-45). ... Erwín Schulhoff (1894-1942) was a brilliant pianist and a composer whose music chimed with several trends of the interwar years, including jazz and neo classicism, although he had an orthodox German training from Fritz Steinbach and Max Reger among others. His Concerto pits a string quartet against an ensemble of woodwinds including bass clarinet, two each of horns, trumpets and trombones, and tuba. It was first heard on 9 November 1932 from the Ondříček Quartet of Czech Radio and the Czech Philharmonic under Václav Talich. I know it only from recordings, where it is easy to balance. At the start, I wondered if even the magnificent Borodin Quartet – probably in the best formation right now – would be heard... 
René Pape & Julien Salemkour at Wigmore Hall
Tuesday, November 06, 2018 |  You wonder if singers you know first through Lieder will be as strong in opera (I’m thinking of Gerhaher), and, in the case of René Pape, whether the great opera bass-baritone of his generation will translate to the intimacy and exposure of the recital. Only half-joking, a bass-baritone once told me that, after opera, recitals were too much like hard work. Pape was last at Wigmore Hall in 2016 (his debut) in a programme of songs of faith and death, and here he expanded into love, wonder and a little humour. ... Julien Salemkour (replacing Camillo Radicke, who had hurt his hand) was as effective in the spare desolation of Wolf’s piano-writing as he was in the more orchestral Sibelius settings, and he is a highly responsive Schubert player. 
Guildhall School of Music & Drama – Mozart’s Così fan tutte – directed by Oliver Platt; conducted by Dominic Wheeler
Monday, November 05, 2018 |  There is almost too much talent to be spotted in this Così fan tutte from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama Opera Course, some of the cast (with a second line-up taking over two of the four performances) familiar from GSMD operas earlier this year, all six names here working as effectively in ensembles as in solo work. Guglielmo and Ferrando, the two men in Mozart’s and Da Ponte’s pitiless exposé of the supposed fickleness of young love are played by New Zealanders Benson Wilson and Filipe Manu in a sharply directed appraisal of the boundaries of male friendship, while vocally both singers are ideally suited. 
Birmingham Royal Ballet at Sadler's Wells – The King Dances | Ignite | La Fille mal gardée
Monday, November 05, 2018 |  With Birmingham Royal Ballet in something of a state of flux at present, it was good to take stock of the current health of the company during its short Sadler’s Wells visit. What emerged was a lively and alert ensemble who dance with engagement and a strong sense of theatre. 
LSO – Gianandrea Noseda conducts James MacMillan premiere & Shostakovich 4
Sunday, November 04, 2018 |  A packed Barbican Hall gave a heartfelt endorsement to both parts of this stimulating programme of similarities and contrasts. James MacMillan’s All the Hills and Vales Along is described as an oratorio. The texts are five poems of Charles Hamilton Sorley killed in 1915 at the battle of Loos and offer a bleak commentary on the futility and cost, human and otherwise, of the Great War... ... Ian Bostridge got the second movement, ‘Rooks’. ... Then a blistering performance of Shostakovich’s monumental Fourth Symphony – a work he “voluntarily” shelved in 1936 following his “officially sanctioned” denunciation following Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. That it only achieved its first performance in 1961 still seems astonishing. The abrupt and unsettling switches of tempo and mood were deftly negotiated by Gianandrea Noseda and the LSO was admirable. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Vladimir Jurowski conducts The Rake’s Progress
Saturday, November 03, 2018 |  No directorial credit was provided for the LPO’s semi-staged performance of Stravinsky’s ever-compelling opera. Whoever was responsible should take considerable credit for their suggestive, alternatively witty and chilling, deft handling of the action. ... The London Philharmonic was on fine form. Jurowski is very adept at clarity of texture in this repertoire. ... Toby Spence brought Tom Rakewell vividly to life... ... The trump card was Matthew Rose’s Nick Shadow. 
Roderick Williams & Iain Burnside with Sorcha Cusack at Kings Place – Before Life and After – Thomas Hardy settings by Finzi, Ireland, Britten, Ian Venables and John Dankworth
Friday, November 02, 2018 |  As part of the year-long “Time Unwrapped” series at Kings Place, Iain Burnside and Roderick Williams examined settings of the master of nostalgia and pathos, Thomas Hardy. Between the songs, by way of a more-contemporary poetic and female parenthesis, Sorcha Cusack read poems by Elaine Feinstein, Sharon Olds, W. B. Yeats, Hardy and others. 
Trevor Horn at Queen Elizabeth Hall
Friday, November 02, 2018 |  This sell-out Trevor Horn gig generously launched with guitar duo Nicholas Ball and Max Radford – both highly competent. Nicholas repeatedly declared that it was an honour to perform at Queen Elizabeth Hall... ... The concert was an admix of Horn's stellar back catalogue and his new album "Trevor Horn Reimagines The Eighties”. The lights burst into Technicolor as the band rocked up: including Lol Creme the bass guitarist of 10cc and Godley & Creme, Phil Palmer the guitarist of Dire Straits and for Eric Clapton, Steve Ferrone, drummer of the Bee Gees and Tom Petty, Simon Bloor of Lana Del Rey, Alan Clark Hammond of Dire Straits... ... Molloy delivered a phenomenal force-of-nature interpretation. This singer is a revelation, on a par with Tom Jones and Freddie Mercury, and he went on to Money for Nothing; superlative. 
A Centenary of Polish Independence – BBC Symphony Orchestra/Michał Nesterowicz – Janina Fialkowska plays Paderewski – Elgar, Pawel Szymański premiere, Lutosławski
Friday, November 02, 2018 |  The centenary of Poland becoming an independent country has been commemorated through numerous cultural events this past year; this concert by the BBC Symphony Orchestra being not only apposite but enterprising in the music which was chosen to mark this event. ... Elgar's music written during the First World War has come in for deserved reappraisal over recent years, with Polonia (1915) arguably his most impressive such piece... ... Orchestra and conductor were duly joined by Janina Fialkowska in the Piano Concerto (1888) by Ignacy Jan Paderewski – pianist, composer, statesman and philanthropist. ... Now in his mid 60s, Pawel Szymański is a name largely unfamiliar in the UK. His Fourteen Points: Woodrow Wilson Overture (2018) reveals a composer still intent on evolving the sonorist thinking of the previous Polish generation... ... The evening ended in an all too infrequent revival of Lutosławski's First Symphony (1947), a work whose protracted gestation across the Second World War is balanced by that innate classicism which informs even the most radical of his later works. 
Raphael Mostel’s The Travels of Babar
Friday, November 02, 2018 |  This updated production by Raphael Mostel of his Travels of Babar is musically and visually engaging. An octet accompanies a recitation of the 1932 novel, the second of Jean de Brunhoff’s picture-books about Babar, the king of the elephants... ... There is much musical interest, including allusions to Bach, Chopin, Stravinsky, the Second Viennese School and Minimalism... 
Mariinsky Orchestra/Valery Gergiev at Carnegie Hall – Ein Heldenleben – Nelson Freire plays Brahms
Thursday, November 01, 2018 |  This second of two Carnegie Hall appearances by Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra opened with Nelson Freire’s ebullient rendition of Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto... ... Following intermission, Gergiev, standing on the stage floor, led a thrilling account of Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben... 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Edward Gardner conducts Ein Heldenleben, Leif Ove Andsnes plays Brahms; Philharmonia Chamber Players
Thursday, November 01, 2018 |  Two heroic works, one titled thus, and the other has been described as “the Eroica among piano concertos”. Brahms’s epic Opus 15 didn’t quite hit the spot, perhaps epitomised by the introduction: purpose and majesty, yes, but too much dreamy reflection, but there was nothing to doubt the Philharmonia’s honed response to Edward Gardner’s conducting, nor Leif Ove Andsnes’s dovetailed first entry. ... If the Brahms hadn’t always engaged, despite the expertise and camaraderie on display, Heldenleben was a triumph, graphic and vivid. ... Quite a performance then, gripping from start to finish and an impressive showcase for Gardner and the Philharmonia, and of course when Strauss wrote Heldenleben he had several decades of creativity ahead of him (and Salome, Elektra and Rosenkavalier were waiting in the wings). Fast-forward to 1945, the end of World War Two on the horizon, Europe in conflict and the now-aged Strauss surrounded by destroyed German culture. His musical response was Metamorphosen. ... To open this early-evening, free and informal, recital, one of Luigi Boccherini’s two-cello Quintets, if not the one containing The Ladykillers Minuet (that’s to be found in Opus 11/5, famed since 1955 in the filmic company of Alec Guinness, Herbert Lom and Peter Sellers). 
Federico Colli at Wigmore Hall – Scarlatti, Mozart, Brahms, Bach-Busoni
Thursday, November 01, 2018 |  Federico Colli, winner of the 2011 Salzburg Mozart Competition and Leeds 2012, is a musicianly thinker with clear ideas on what he wants from the audience – no applause until the end of the second half was a request, a shaking of the head a cue to silence nervous clappers following the first of the Domenico Scarlatti Sonatas (F-minor, Kk19). To the point of tonal tautology, his recital made for a predominantly D-minor traversal, with prolonged emphasis on shades and tricks of pianissimo, some remarkably whispered, others on the threshold of keyboard response. 
The Royal Ballet – La Bayadère – Marianela Nuñez & Vadim Muntagirov
Thursday, November 01, 2018 |  It has been five years since La Bayadère has been seen performed by The Royal Ballet here at Covent Garden in Natalia Makarova’s production, so its return to the repertoire is most welcome, particularly on the evidence of a meticulously prepared first night which saw the company field some of its most illustrious star dancers. The break in time allows for some perspective to be taken on its worth, and it emerges as a splendid gauge of the company’s health, given the considerable demands it places both on the corps de ballet as well as the soloists and principals. 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/James Feddeck at Lighthouse – Vyšehrad & Inextinguishable Symphony – Saleem Ashkar plays Grieg
Wednesday, October 31, 2018 |  Any concert at the Lighthouse with James Feddeck at the helm is a hotly-anticipated event, and this one was no exception. It began with ‘Vyšehrad’ in an account involving nicely dovetailed episodes and well-paced climaxes... ... Grieg’s Piano Concerto drew a powerful and unindulgent account from Saleem Ashkar who served the music’s grandeur and contemplation with varying degrees of success. ... Carl Nielsen’s ‘Inextinguishable’ Symphony erupted with striking force, Feddeck eager to confront the music’s wilful belligerence and emotional instability. 
Inon Barnatan at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Ravel & Mussorgsky
Wednesday, October 31, 2018 |  Inon Barnatan is becoming increasingly well-known in London, with two recent Wigmore Hall recitals and a couple of Proms under his belt. He takes on a lot of contemporary music and has proved a creative foil to the maverick cellist Alisa Weilerstein. He has declared an intuitive bond with the music of Ravel, and you might wonder if his dapper, well-tailored appearance echoes the French composer’s legendary fastidiousness. ... Ravel’s inimitable and ambiguous sensibility seemed to suit Barnatan’s coolness well enough, but the latter didn’t always show Mussorgsky’s Pictures in the best light. 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Royal Festival Hall – Lionel Bringuier conducts Rachmaninov, Valery Sokolov plays Shostakovich
Tuesday, October 30, 2018 |  A rather disappointing concert, this, though not with regard to the playing of the RPO, which was, throughout, of a consistently high international standard. ... Shostakovich’s uniquely planned First Violin Concerto is an exceptionally challenging work... ... ...Valery Sokolov (who has manifestly mastered the myriad technical difficulties of the work) was not so consistently audible. ... Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony was a more serious disappointment. The string strength now enlarged with additional desks in each section, it was clear from the opening pages that Lionel Bringuier’s grasp of the work was not as complete as we have a right to expect. 
The English Concert/Harry Bicket at Wigmore Hall – The Art of the Arrangement – Haydn & Mozart
Sunday, October 28, 2018 |  Arrangements of eighteenth-century music were often a significant factor in bringing the attention of audiences to works unfamiliar at the time but which are central to today’s orchestral repertoire. ... Famous examples are reconstructions for a few instruments of Haydn’s Twelve London Symphonies, made by Johann Peter Salomon... ... Harry Bicket had positive ideas about tempo but unfortunately they did not work in the Minuet... ... In 1790 Mozart was commissioned to write for Flötenuhr (mechanical clock) – which became K594 – by Joseph Count Deym von Střítež, a colourful figure... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Rafael Payare – Academic Festival Overture & Sibelius 2 – Alexander Gavrylyuk plays Tchaikovsky
Sunday, October 28, 2018 |  This Philharmonia Orchestra programme was a successful example of the tried and tested Overture-Concerto-Symphony format. Brahms’s Academic Festival Overture is frequently despatched with undue haste in a flurry of hyperactivity. ... There followed a totally memorable performance of the Tchaikovsky, often a battle royal between soloist and orchestra. On this occasion the protagonists were equally matched, the Philharmonia – the all-important woodwinds superbly poetic and the strings, led by Laura Samuel, were especially lustrous. Alexander Gavrylyuk is a formidable pianist. ... Rafael Payare may not be the most obvious Sibelius conductor... 
Czech Philharmonic/Semyon Bychkov at Carnegie Hall – Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony
Sunday, October 28, 2018 |  The Czech Philharmonic and Semyon Bychkov celebrated the centenary of the Czech Republic’s independence with a splendid performance of Mahler’s Second Symphony. Known familiarly as the ‘Resurrection’ Mahler neither created nor approved of this subtitle. Mahler’s Second offers a personal perspective on humankind’s relation to the divinity, music of universal appeal that transcends humanistic and religious principles. 
London Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra – Gustavo Gimeno conducts Rossini’s Petite messe solennelle
Saturday, October 27, 2018 |  Neither small nor solemn, once you get to know Rossini’s teasingly-titled if consciously misnomered Petite messe solennelle, whether in the original intimate scoring for voices with two pianos and harmonium or in the composer’s full orchestration, it issues an invitation to return. ... Gustavo Gimeno [...] led an account that captured the work’s curiosities in enjoyable sit-up-and-listen fashion, well-prepared and punctilious while retaining the composer’s twinkle-in-the-eye approach to Latin profundity. 
Chelsea Opera Group at Cadogan Hall – Bellini’s Norma – Helena Dix; conducted by Dane Lam
Saturday, October 27, 2018 |  Bellini’s Norma can suffer from directorial impositions on the drama for it is a relatively straightforward tale; how the characters, particularly Norma herself, react to their situations provides the theatrical core. ... Norma is often a challenge to mount as the three principal roles are all demanding. This full-blooded and direct performance was full of fire and verve; the only cavil was that at times the spirited playing of the Chelsea Opera Group Orchestra threatened to overwhelm both us and singers. Dane Lam conducted a generally fleet and forthright account... ... Helena Dix provided these facets with considerable aplomb. Her voice at its creamiest has allure, grace and poise and these were evident in ‘Casta diva’. 
Arcadian Opera at Stowe School – Ethel Smyth’s The Wreckers – Brian Smith-Walters, Jennifer Parker, Steven East, April Fredrick; directed by Ali Marshall; conducted by Justin Lavender
Saturday, October 27, 2018 |  Saint-Saëns apparently told Ethel Smyth that “it is bad when they don’t perform your operas, but when they do it’s far worse.” If Smyth has not exactly had the benefit of the last laugh she would, at any rate, have seen that all but one of Saint-Saëns’s stage-works have failed to maintain any foothold in the repertoire. ... Arcadian Opera make a convincing demonstration that Smyth’s third opera, The Wreckers (1906), is worthy of occasional revival at the least... ... Justin Lavender – who sang in the 1994 Proms performance of The Wreckers – and the Arcadian Opera Orchestra took all these elements in their stride with a powerfully-driven account... ... Like Siegmund and Sieglinde, Mark and Thirza (the latter also already married, in this case to the village pastor, Pascoe) turn away from their violent, hypocritical society that survives on the spoils of the wreckage from ships which run aground on the treacherous, rocky shore where their village is located. The ardour of Brian Smith-Walters and Jennifer Parker’s singing well-matched their dramatic situation... 
Czech Philharmonic/Semyon Bychkov at Carnegie Hall – Dvořák – with Alisa Weilerstein
Saturday, October 27, 2018 |  On the eve of the centennial celebration of the Czech Republic’s independence, the Czech Philharmonic – which debuted under Dvořák in 1896 – and Semyon Bychkov brought two of the composer’s masterworks to Carnegie Hall, the first of thirteen concerts on a US tour of nine cities, opening with a vigorous and colorful rendition of the Cello Concerto. Alisa Weilerstein successfully conveyed the excitement and ardor of the music... 
Garrick Ohlsson at 92nd Street Y – Brahms Exploration I
Saturday, October 27, 2018 |  This recital launched Garrick Ohlsson’s traversal of the complete solo piano works of Brahms, four concerts spread over this and the 2019-20 season. ... In Book One of the Paganini Variations (on the Theme) Ohlsson was nothing short of devilish... 
Endellion String Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Mendelssohn, Britten, Beethoven
Friday, October 26, 2018 |  Formed forty years ago, the current and long-serving members of the Endellion Quartet walk more gingerly onto the platform than of yore... ... I used to make it almost a life’s work to disagree with the late Hans Keller, but I was forced to admit that he had a point when he bemoaned the lack of attention given to Mendelssohn’s String Quartets. ... Benjamin Britten’s Third Quartet was written at Hans Keller’s suggestion for another ensemble in its fourth decade, the Amadeus, and Keller received the dedication. The Endellion musicians have always played it well... ... Beethoven’s Second ‘Razumovsky’ sounded thoroughly authentic... 
LSO/Dirk Brossé at Royal Albert Hall – A Celebration of John Williams's Film Music – Close Encounters ... Star Wars
Friday, October 26, 2018 |  John Williams has a long history of association with the London Symphony Orchestra going back over forty years. He first recorded a score with it in 1977 (Star Wars, still the biggest-selling instrumental-only soundtrack of all time) and their first concert together took place on 16 February 1978. In all, twelve of his scores have been recorded with the LSO. There was an initial sense of disappointment at the Royal Albert Hall as the eighty-six-year-old Williams was forced to cancel through illness, to be replaced by Dirk Brossé, but Williams sent a message inviting the LSO to “raise the roof” and it duly obliged. 
Handel’s Serse – Maxim Emelyanychev directs Il Pomo d’Oro – with Franco Fagioli, Vivica Genaux & Inga Kalna
Friday, October 26, 2018 |  With his antepenultimate opera, Serse (1738), Handel created a work that was less formal and stylised than his previous opere serie, but took inspiration from a particular type of Venetian opera (going back to Monteverdi) that mixed comic and serious elements. ... It was curious then that Il Pomo d’Oro adopted a more grandiloquent, Mannerist approach to the work than it probably warrants, as the cast generally took a starkly defined attitude to each aria in the tradition of opera seria proper, underlined by Maxim Emelyanychev’s frequently impulsive interpretation... 
Michaela Schuster & Matthias Veit at Wigmore Hall
Thursday, October 25, 2018 |  Michaela Schuster has for some years been a prominent presence on stages, notable for bringing some of opera’s witches and bitches to vivid theatrical life. Her rich and powerful voice allied to her strong sense of theatre might suggests the intimate setting of Wigmore Hall as not her natural venue, but in this thoughtfully conceived programme interspersing settings by Mahler, Reger and Weill throughout Korngold’s 1933 cycle Unvergänglichkeit (Permanence) she demonstrated great communicative skill. 
LSO – Philippe Jordan conducts Night on Bare Mountain & Tchaikovsky 5 – Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider plays Szymanowski
Thursday, October 25, 2018 |  The Mussorgsky was certainly an ear-opener, however. His original version of Night on Bare Mountain is radically different from the Rimsky-Korsakov revision. After hearing it in so committed a performance one wonders why anyone plays the Rimsky any more. ... Szymanowski’s Second Violin Concerto, his last major work and making particular use of folksongs which the composer had noted down on his stays in Zakopane in the Tatra mountains, is relatively neglected, so all credit to Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider for tackling it... 
Brian Tyler Returns to Royal Festival Hall – Philharmonia Orchestra
Thursday, October 25, 2018 |  Brian Tyler is the ultimate blockbuster film composer. Hollywood goes to him for car chases, pile-ups, explosions and intergalactic time travel. He has produced scores for television, console games and the theme music for Formula One. In a parallel life , he is DJ Madsonik. ... Tyler returned to the Royal Festival Hall following a previous concert with the Philharmonia Orchestra in 2016. 
English National Opera – Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor – Sarah Tynan, Lester Lynch, Eleazar Rodriguez; directed by David Alden; conducted by Stuart Stratford
Thursday, October 25, 2018 |  There is blood, there is thunder, there is incest, sacrifice, death and madness. David Alden’s production of Donizetti’s romantic shocker Lucia di Lammermoor returns to the Coliseum, trailing gothic clouds of darkness, after an absence of eight years. ... Alden and his designers have updated Walter Scott’s tragic novel (based on fact) to a solid, bourgeois Victorian period, dressed in black bonnets, top hats and crinolines, set within the walls of a grand but severely distressed interior, all of it starkly lit. ... Sarah Tynan, singing Lucia for the first time, steers things back to Donizetti with her lovely, light soprano... 
Royal College of Music – John Wilson conducts A Pastoral Symphony & La valse, Nikola Avramovic plays Ravel’s Left-hand Piano Concerto
Thursday, October 25, 2018 |  As part of the Royal College of Music’s “Passing Youth” series, this programme brought reflections on the Great War, its spiritual and physical loss encoded in works written within a decade of one another by two composers who served their respective countries. ... John Wilson sought to underline Ravel’s description of his choreographic poem as an “impression of a fantastic, fatal whirling motion”... ... Ravel’s music brings solace, brutal eruptions, mechanistic jazz and virtuosic pianism. RCM alumnus Nikola Avramovic (who took a while to settle) fashioned a dark-hued account of considerable power... ... For all the surface tranquillity evoked by the title of Vaughan Williams’s Third Symphony, the work’s pastoral glow is far more elegiac, its tragic undertow memorial in tone. 
New York Philharmonic/Tugan Sokhiev – In the Steppes of Central Asia & Tchaikovsky 4 – Gil Shaham plays Prokofiev
Thursday, October 25, 2018 |  In this concert, his debut with the New York Philharmonic, Tugan Sokhiev conducted a Russian program. The evening opened with an atmospheric rendering of the Borodin... ... Then Gil Shaham gave an exceptionally warm and characterful performance of Prokofiev. ... Following intermission was a commanding account of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony. 
The Metropolitan Opera – David McVicar’s production of Puccini’s Tosca – Sondra Radvanovsky, Joseph Calleja & Željko Lučić; conducted by Carlo Rizzi
Thursday, October 25, 2018 |  The Met is reviving David McVicar’s production of Puccini’s Tosca with Sondra Radvanovsky and Joseph Calleja as the ill-fated lovers. ... Željko Lučić, who sang Scarpia last season when Bryn Terfel withdrew, once again stepped into the role, for this performance only. ... The Met Chorus and Children are in fine form, and the Orchestra plays gorgeously for Carlo Rizzi. 
Czech Philharmonic at Royal Academy of Music – Semyon Bychkov conducts Smetana & Dvořák, with Alisa Weilerstein
Wednesday, October 24, 2018 |  ...the Czech Philharmonic brought its distinctive sound and patriotic pride to Duke’s Hall. No better indigenous start than the Overture to Smetana’s Bartered Bride, articulate rather than frenzied from Semyon Bychkov... ... The rest was Dvořák. Following a potent introduction Alisa Weilerstein (no stranger to this work or this ensemble), if entering a hairsbreadth prematurely, gave a vivid and robust account of the expansive Cello Concerto... 
Queen’s Hall String Quartet at Storey’s Field – Beethoven & Robert Matthew-Walker – Harp, Quartetto Conciso, Serioso
Wednesday, October 24, 2018 |  This notable event was of several ‘firsts’. Eddington is a district just north-west of Cambridge, having been earmarked for extensive development a few years ago. ... We were fortunate to be present at the debut concert of The Queen’s Hall String Quartet, founded by John Boyden. Two Beethoven Quartets, Opuses 74 and 95, surrounded the new Quartetto Conciso by Robert Matthew-Walker. 
Ralph van Raat at Weill Recital Hall – Andriessen, Alkan, Debussy, Boulez
Wednesday, October 24, 2018 |  Ralph van Raat is quite exceptional, a much sought-after recitalist and soloist, a highly regarded musicologist and a respected teacher. The works on this program are related to the etude. Van Raat opened with Louis Andriessen. ... Charles-Valentin Alkan’s Symphony for Solo Piano came next. Alkan (1813-1888) was a remarkably gifted pianist and an extraordinarily creative composer. A child prodigy, earning many awards at the Paris Conservatoire, in which he was enrolled at the age of six, Alkan had a wide circle of friends... ... The concert concluded with an early (1944) and unpublished work by Pierre Boulez. The influence of Olivier Messiaen is apparent... 
Australian Chamber Orchestra – Mountain
Tuesday, October 23, 2018 |  Jennifer Peedom’s Mountain is guaranteed to bring on vertigo. The camera soars, leaps into space and hangs at extraordinary angles over stupendous mountain landscapes. One breathtaking image follows another. This seventy-four-minute documentary, shown in modified form for live performance, was suggested to Peedom by Richard Tognetti. The film explores humanity’s relationship with Nature... 
The Royal Opera – Antonio Pappano conducts Verdi’s Requiem
Tuesday, October 23, 2018 |  At the close of this exceptional performance of Verdi’s Requiem, following Lise Davidsen’s muttered supplication of “Libera me” had died away, Antonio Pappano kept a long, long silence, so that we could take stock of what had unfolded in the previous ninety minutes. This was one of the occasions when the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House takes centre stage, here to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the granting of the company’s royal charter, and also, as Pappano announced in his brief introduction, the centenary of the end of the First World War as well as to pay tribute to absent friends, not least the recently late Montserrat Caballé. 
Hilary Hahn plays Johann Sebastian Bach at Alice Tully Hall
Tuesday, October 23, 2018 |  As part of Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival, Hilary Hahn put us into a trance with a demanding program of J. S. Bach. 
Jasmin Vardimon Company at Sadler's Wells – Jasmin Vardimon's Medusa
Tuesday, October 23, 2018 |  Shape-shifting is something that dancers do rather well, so an exploration of Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’, that brilliant catalogue of how the gods change human beings at a whim, often for punishment, sometimes for their own safety. Buried deep in Book Four is the tale of Medusa, better known to us for her dispatch at the hands of Perseus, and it is she who is the focus of choreographer Jasmin Vardimon, marking twenty years of creations with her eponymously-named company. 
Australian Chamber Orchestra at Milton Court – Richard Tognetti directs Mozart’s Final Three Symphonies – 39, 40 & 41 (Jupiter)
Monday, October 22, 2018 |  Richard Tognetti’s approach to Mozart is full of detailed phrasing and incorporates personal touches which illuminate the dramatic aspect of these masterpieces. The members of the Australian Chamber Orchestra stood to play - there seems no great advantage in this – but the acoustic of Milton Court certainly enhanced the sound, which, despite the modest number of strings, gave power to these fully-scored Symphonies. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Nico Muhly’s Marnie – Isabel Leonard, Christopher Maltman & Iestyn Davies; directed by Michael Mayer; conducted by Robert Spano
Monday, October 22, 2018 |  The Met is giving Nico Muhly’s Marnie a stylish production that debuted at English National Opera last year, and Robert Spano makes his much-belated house debut in this run. ... ...a tour de force for Isabel Leonard as Marnie, who steals from her employers and then moves to a different town, each time assuming a new identity. 
Joseph Phibbs’s Juliana – Cheryl Enever & Samuel Pantcheff; directed by Richard Williams; conducted by George Vass
Sunday, October 21, 2018 |  Ever since Strindberg’s play Miss Julie was first staged, in Copenhagen in 1889, its shocker status has seeped into the theatrical subconscious, as much for its class and political concerns as for its erotic thrust. ... Juliana, by Joseph Phibbs and Laurie Slade, was first seen, aptly, for a one-night-stand at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, and this was its London one-night-stand. ... Cheryl Enever and Samuel Pantcheff piled on the agony as the coked-up, traumatised and abused Juliana and Juan, circling each other with explicitly acted lust and power-games. ... George Vass, with his customary thoroughness, kept things close and oppressive... 
2018 Richard Tucker Gala at Carnegie Hall
Sunday, October 21, 2018 |  The forty-three-year-old Richard Tucker Music Foundation, which perpetuates the legacy of the beloved American tenor (his 10 January 1975 funeral, held at the Met, was attended by more than 3,000 mourners) always promises a line-up of stars for its annual concert. 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Paavo Järvi – Lutosławski & Brahms [live webcast]
Saturday, October 20, 2018 |  The Berliner Philharmoniker and Paavo Järvi (a regular guest) pounded their way into the ‘Intrada’ of the Lutosławski (1950-54), intensely moulding the lines and emphasising rhythms, taking the music out of the showpiece category and into the symphonic one, vividly detailed and emotionally engaging... ... I have previously had misgivings about Järvi’s approach to Brahms 2... 
Guys and Dolls at Royal Albert Hall
Saturday, October 20, 2018 |  The Royal Albert Hall staged three performances of Guys and Dolls (this was the second) with a starry cast that would be impossible to employ for an extended run. ... It looks as if Frank Loesser’s show will be with us for as long as there is theatre. ... As Sky Adrian Lester brings musical authority to numbers such as ‘My time of day’, ‘I’ve never been in love before’, ‘Luck be a lady’ and ‘I’ll know’. Jason Manford is hilarious as poor put-upon Nathan and is excellent in the explanatory title song and his duet with Adelaide in ‘Sue me’. Adelaide herself, as depicted by the brilliant Meow Meow, is the epitome of a long-suffering fiancée and screamingly funny in her numbers ‘A bushel and a peck’, ‘Adelaide’s lament’ (in which “a person can develop a cold”) and ‘Take back your mink’, all of which are an absolute joy. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Fabien Gabel conducts The Tempest, Song of the Nightingale and The Firebird – Hunter Eberly plays Tomasi’s Trumpet Concerto [live webcast]
Friday, October 19, 2018 |  Fabien Gabel’s latest visit to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra opened with one of Tchaikovsky’s three Shakespeare settings (the others being Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet). The Tempest is the least-played of this trilogy... ... Henri Tomasi (1901-71) composed his neoclassical/jazzy Trumpet Concerto in 1948. It was deemed unplayable on first sight, although a couple of brave souls managed early on. It may be a challenge for a trumpeter – if not Hunter Eberly (DSO principal) who sailed through the demands with aplomb – but no problems for the listener... ... Following the interval, Stravinsky. The opening bustle of Song of the Nightingale (Hans Christian Andersen) was well-conveyed... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Alondra de la Parra conducts Glinka & Tchaikovsky – Benjamin Grosvenor plays Rachmaninov
Friday, October 19, 2018 |  Demonstrating a strong rapport with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Alondra de la Parra drew soulful and bracing performances, the evening off to a bristling start with Glinka’s opera Overture, de la Parra securing drama and charm... ... If the Glinka was notable for irrepressible bonhomie, the Rachmaninov was largely characterised by its controlled passions, with a slightly less than impeccable Benjamin Grosvenor bringing undemonstrative candour to the Second Piano Concerto. ... In Tchaikovsky the strings brought depth of tone to an interpretation built on notions of tragedy that became fiercely optimistic invigorated by de la Parra’s exuberance – at times a tigress on the podium. 
BBC Singers & Academy of Ancient Music/Sofi Jeannin at Milton Court, with Akademi – Lully & Rameau
Friday, October 19, 2018 |  An intriguing and colourful juxtaposition of music and dance styles, this combination of Indian classical dance with Baroque vocal music was inspired by the collaboration of the BBC Singers in Sukanya, Ravi Shankar’s opera. ... The first half of the concert opened with Lully’s Te Deum... ... The focus shifted to Rameau’s operas. The dancers’ technical grace and expressivity complimented the orchestral writing and the lovely communicative singing, whether from solo or corporate Singers. 
Britten Weekend at Snape Maltings – Opening Concert – Britten, Copland, Korngold, Woolrich
Friday, October 19, 2018 |  There were some nice symmetries in this programme that kicked off Aldeburgh Music’s Britten Weekend, bookended by the Doric Quartet and featuring two other string ensembles as well as an oboist and a pianist. ... In among this material of the 1920s and 1930s came a new piece, John Woolrich’s Badinerie... 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra at Lighthouse – Marta Gardolińska conducts Mozart & Rachmaninov – Nikita Boriso-Glebsky plays Bruch
Wednesday, October 17, 2018 |  Stepping in for Ben Gernon, this concert propelled Marta Gardolińska into the limelight. ... Performances of Max Bruch’s First Violin Concerto (there are two others) can sometimes be over-indulgent. This was an exception. Those with a sweet tooth, musically speaking, might have been taken aback by this solid account from Nikita Boriso-Glebsky. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Sakari Oramo conducts Shostakovich 9 & Prokofiev 6 – Martin Fröst plays Copland’s Clarinet Concerto
Wednesday, October 17, 2018 |  With its five short movements, the last three of which form a mini-suite and opening with a Classical creation complete with exposition repeat, it must have seemed that Shostakovich in Symphony No.9 was positively courting Soviet disapproval... ... As you might expect from a conductor for whom the devil is in the detail, Sakari Oramo was merciless in his exposing this allegedly light work’s Haydnesque invention. ... Martin Fröst is a scorcher of a performer, all the more visceral for not seeming contrived, and he was on top form in Aaron Copland’s 1947 Clarinet Concerto, which slides happily from prairie to Benny Goodman jazz-club (it was written for him) via a preposterously virtuoso cadenza. 
Nana Mouskouri in Concert at Royal Festival Hall – part of Forever Young tour
Wednesday, October 17, 2018 |  The auditorium was plunged into darkness as a video of one of the all-time greatest female artists was shown... ... The lights went up as Nana Mouskouri, recently turned eighty-four – swathed in an elegant floor-length black gown with white knot panel flowing into a dramatic sari – ambled onto the stage... 
American Symphony Orchestra & Bard Festival Chorale/Leon Botstein at Carnegie Hall – A Walt Whitman Sampler – Schoeck, Weill, Schreker, Vaughan Williams’s Sea Symphony
Wednesday, October 17, 2018 |  Since becoming music director of the American Symphony Orchestra in 1996, Leon Botstein has shown impressive creativity in fashioning interesting programs, usually focusing on a single subject, consisting of seldom-performed works that deserve a hearing. This program is an excellent example. In “A Walt Whitman Sampler” (possibly a pun on the famous box of chocolate delights), Botstein gathered together four works based upon and inspired by Whitman’s poetry... ... Ralph Vaughan Williams’s A Sea Symphony, for soprano, baritone, chorus and orchestra, first-performed in 1910 and also setting passages from Leaves of Grass, is an impressive debut Symphony, one of the most successful attempts at a musical setting of Whitman’s poetry... 
Stephen Sondheim’s Company at Gielgud Theatre – Rosalie Craig and Patti LuPone – directed by Marianne Elliott; conducted by Joel Fram
Tuesday, October 16, 2018 |  On hearing that Bobby [Robert], the main character in Stephen Sondheim’s Company was going to be called Bobbie [Roberta?] and played by an actress, my immediate thought was why? Then a feeling that it will never work came over me... ... One by one or two by two, or, as the song has it ‘Side by side by side’, they depict their home lives. In ‘The little things you do together’, Joanne (a wickedly acidic but hilarious Patti LuPone) explains what it’s like to be married... ... The cast work well together, making the comedy ring true. Mel Giedroyc as Sarah is on a diet but addicted to cakes while hubby Harry (Gavin Spokes) is on the wagon but sneaking shots of bourbon. But it is Rosalie Craig as Bobbie who holds everything together... 
Kensington Symphony Orchestra/Russell Keable at St John’s Smith Square – Joan Tower, Leonard Bernstein, John Adams’s Doctor Atomic Symphony, William Schuman's Third
Monday, October 15, 2018 |  Opening its 18-19 (and sixty-third) season, and also contributing to St John’s Smith Square’s year-long Americana festival, Russell Keable and the Kensington Symphony Orchestra get my vote for including music by New Yorker William Schuman (1910-92), composer and administrator, not least of the Juilliard School and of Lincoln Center, his Third Symphony being the main event. ... When John Adams led the world premiere of his Doctor Atomic Symphony (from the Oppenheimer opera) at the 2007 BBC Proms it took a debilitating fifty minutes. At least he cut it down, but even at Keable’s thirty, tedium set in for your correspondent with ten to go. 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Nicholas Daniel & Charles Owen
Monday, October 15, 2018 |  Not only is the oboe recital a relatively rare beast, but Nicholas Daniel and Charles Owen brought to Wigmore Hall a delightfully mixed programme of ear-opening novelty. 
LSO – Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider conducts Smetana’s Má vlast
Sunday, October 14, 2018 |  Smetana’s Má vlast (My Country) begins with the harps, the bard’s prelude to the songs he will sing of castles, knights and their ruin, of rivers and dancing, of the extreme vengeance of a woman spurned, of the homeland and its romantic countryside and the bloody wars of its early patriots. ... The great flowing theme of ‘Vltava’ was smooth and shining in the hands of the LSO strings, the polka a little sturdy, but the passage where the river hits the rapids was breathtakingly exciting... ... The tale was very effectively narrated by Nikolai Szeps-Znaider... 
John Eliot Gardiner conducts Berlioz at Carnegie Hall with Lucile Richardot and Antoine Tamestit
Sunday, October 14, 2018 |  For the first of two Berlioz concerts at Carnegie Hall, John Eliot Gardiner and Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique opened with an exuberant and swashbuckling rendition of Le Corsaire. ... Next, Lucile Richardot for The Death of Cleopatra, Berlioz’s third failed bid for the prestigious Prix de Rome, and the first of two death scenes on this program, each depicting the suicide of an African queen; Richardot was mesmerizing. ... Finally, a highly theatrical, eye-opening rendition of Harold in Italy. Throughout, Antoine Tamestit wandered around the stage... 
Southbank Sinfonia/Alexander Walker at Cadogan Hall – Dvořák 8 – Alda Dizdari plays Elgar
Sunday, October 14, 2018 |  Although this concert gave considerable enjoyment to the audience – and to this writer – both performances were problematic in different ways. The Elgar Violin Concerto was extremely interesting and so was the soloist. Alda Dizdari is from Albania, the daughter of a composer, and has been based in Britain for some time. She has made a special study of the Elgar and at the concert she was launching her book Kiss Me Again: A Memoir of Elgar in Unusual Places. ... Following the interval Walker and his players, all recent music college graduates, tackled Dvořák’s greatest, most characteristic and most loveable Symphony. 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Jakub Hrůša – The Golden Spinning Wheel & Taras Bulba – Frank Peter Zimmerman plays Martinů [live webcast]
Saturday, October 13, 2018 |  Tales to be told, if not before bedtime, essayed vividly by the Berliner Philharmoniker and Jakub Hrůša – Dvořák’s orchestral setting of a gruesome and surreal folk-ballad by Erben (murder, deception, the deceased brought back to life by mystical means) and Janáček’s Gogol-based Taras Bulba... ... As for Martinů’s Violin Concerto, it was composed in 1933 to a commission from Samuel Dushkin but not played... ... Frank Peter Zimmermann gave a spotless music-focussed performance... 
Welsh National Opera at New Theatre Oxford – Prokofiev’s War and Peace; directed by David Pountney; conducted by Tomáš Hanus
Saturday, October 13, 2018 |  The vast sprawl that is Prokofiev’s adaptation of Tolstoy’s literary masterpiece, War and Peace, with its composer’s various revisions and additions, means that it is unlikely there will ever be a definitive performing version; and it remains to be seen if there is any appetite for adopting Prokofiev’s suggestion at one time that the work be performed over two nights. 
Glyndebourne Tour 2018 – Massenet’s Cendrillon – Alix Le Saux, Eléonore Pancrazi, William Dazeley, Agnes Zwierko, Caroline Wettergreen; directed by Fiona Shaw; conducted by Duncan Ward
Saturday, October 13, 2018 |  Massenet’s Cendrillon was a triumph at its Paris premiere in 1899, but, like other Massenet operas, it has not exactly thrived. In the British Isles over the past twenty-five years or so, it has appeared at Wexford, WNO, Royal Academy of Music (twice) and in a star-studded Laurent Pelly production that touched down at Covent Garden in 2011. Three of my opera reference books don’t even mention it. As far as Massenet is concerned, Manon and Werther rule, with Don Quichotte a long stop. ... Fiona Shaw’s new staging for Glyndebourne (its first), on tour this autumn then at the 2019 Summer Festival, has provided Perrault’s Cinderella story with contemporary stiffening and an Angela Carter-ish fairy-tale reinterpretation that captures its sadness and comedy. 
Pascal Dusapin's Passion at Queen Elizabeth Hall
Saturday, October 13, 2018 |  The post-war history of French music has been one of refashioning the past in the process of embracing the future and there is no more creative figure than Pascal Dusapin, whose carving out of an independent role has resulted in an output second to none in its expressive scope. ... There have been few opportunities, however, to experience them in the UK – so making this production by Music Theatre Wales of Passion the more valuable. ... As a production this proved ideally suited to the Queen Elizabeth Hall... 
London Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra – Jérémie Rhorer conducts Poulenc’s Stabat Mater & Orff’s Carmina Burana
Saturday, October 13, 2018 |  Given its penchant for titles I wondered whether the LPO should have gone with “Sacred and Profane” for this programme, instead of the more cumbersome “Life, Death and Shameless Excess”. ... twentieth-century choral pieces setting medieval texts in Latin and/or German, with a religious connection, even if the only real connection Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana texts have to the spiritual is due to the monastic collection from which came the sometimes-bawdy lyrics. 
Glyndebourne Tour 2018 – Tom Cairns’s production of Verdi’s La traviata – Mané Galoyan, Emanuele D’Aguanno, Noel Bouley; conducted by Christoph Altstaedt
Friday, October 12, 2018 |  Tom Cairns’s no-frills production of La traviata, first unveiled at Glyndebourne in 2014, enjoys a new cast, but the abstract sets and near-contemporary costumes conceived by Hildegard Bechtler remain. ... Violetta’s tragedy is placed at the centre of this staging, her universal humanity underlined by an unspecified timeframe and the trappings of tuberculosis traded for an incurable illness suggested by fainting fits. ... And making her Glyndebourne debut as Violetta, Mané Galoyan is a real find... ... The whole is given flamboyant conducting from Christoph Altstaedt... 
The Royal Opera presents Handel’s Solomon – Lawrence Zazzo, Sophie Bevan, Susan Bickley, Ed Lyon & Richard Burkhard; conducted by Christian Curnyn
Thursday, October 11, 2018 |  The Royal Opera House is undertaking a cycle of the stage-works by Handel associated with its eighteenth-century predecessor on the same site, the Covent Garden Theatre. ... This cycle started near the end of Handel’s career with the oratorio Solomon... ... If Theresa May wants a new Festival of Britain to celebrate the supposed achievements of Brexit one could, perhaps, do worse than start with this work. ... This one-off concert performance by the Royal Opera Chorus and the Early Opera Company with the latter’s director Christian Curnyn was good, if rarely much better than routine. 
English National Opera – The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess – Eric Greene & Nicole Cabell; directed by James Robinson; conducted by John Wilson
Thursday, October 11, 2018 |  In a close-knit community on the east coast a storm necessitates the occupants to huddle together for safety. The door opens and in strides an outsider come for his human chattel, the atmosphere leavened by a popular song. There’s even a black marketeer peddling his drugs. Ring any bells? I’m hoping you have immediately plumped for Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, but I’m thinking of an opera composed a decade earlier: the Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. ... James Robinson, artistic director of the Opera Theatre of St Louis, makes his UK debut and John Wilson makes his first appearance at ENO. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Karina Canellakis conducts Sibelius & Bartók – Pierre-Laurent Aimard plays Dvořák
Wednesday, October 10, 2018 |  Karina Canellakis has experience and background: spotted by Simon Rattle when she was with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchester-Akademie, she studied conducting at the Juilliard School, mentored by Alan Gilbert and Fabio Luisi, and won the Georg Solti Conducting Award in 2016. ... The opening of Pohjola's Daughter, “maiden of the north country”, premiered in St Petersburg in 1906, a piece that still assails the senses for its impact and imagination, caught a perfect soundworld... ... Dvořák's problematic 1876 Piano Concerto fared less persuasively... ... Favouring an undistinguished Yamaha, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, who some years ago recorded the work with Harnoncourt, wasn't in the best of form. 
András Schiff at Wigmore Hall – Schubert Piano Sonatas D845, D850, D894
Wednesday, October 10, 2018 |  Of all the composers András Schiff has championed – Bach, Bartók, Beethoven, Schubert, for starters – it’s the latter that seems to engage him the most. Perhaps it is because Schubert’s music positively resists a grandstanding approach... ... Wigmore Hall was sold out, and the audience was notably quiet and attentive throughout – the first half lasted an hour and twenty minutes, with D850 following D845 without Schiff taking a pause, and all the repeats observed – the event ending just before 10 p.m., late enough for Radio 3 to pass on Schiff’s substantial encore. 
New York Philharmonic/David Robertson – Louis Andriessen & Sibelius – Garrick Ohlsson plays Paganini Rhapsody
Wednesday, October 10, 2018 |  The New York Philharmonic is presenting “The Art of Andriessen” to celebrate the music of the inestimable Louis Andriessen... ... David Robertson led the Philharmonic... ... Andriessen’s TAO (The Way, 1996) was first up. ... Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini followed. Garrick Ohlsson negotiated the more challenging variations with masterful skill... 
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/Andris Nelsons at Royal Festival Hall (2) – Māra & Mahler 1 – Kristine Opolais sings Tchaikovsky
Tuesday, October 09, 2018 |  There was prolonged applause as the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra entered for the second of its pair of London concerts. For one listener, at least, the temperature then dropped for Māra by Andris Dzenītis, Andris Nelsons’s forty-year-old fellow-Latvian. ... There were no identity problems with the Tchaikovsky extracts – two heroines in thrall to mad, bad or sad men, with Kristine Opolais taking no prisoners in Lisa’s Act One scena from The Queen of Spades, and ‘Tatyana’s Letter Scene’ from Eugene Onegin. 
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/Andris Nelsons at Royal Festival Hall (1) – Mahler 5 – Håkan Hardenberger plays Bernd Alois Zimmermann's Nobody knows de trouble I see
Monday, October 08, 2018 |  The Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, founded in 1743, the world's oldest civic orchestra, deals in gold and plush velvet, steel and thunder, cannonades and silk tresses. ... Andris Nelsons is the orchestra's twenty-first Gewandhauskapellmeister, the second youngest in its history (the first having been Mendelssohn in 1835). He takes on a daunting responsibility, his twentieth-century predecessors having included the cream of central Europe on either side of two world wars, from Nikisch, Furtwängler and Bruno Walter to Konwitschny and Masur. ... Given the might and armoury of the machine on the platform, Mahler's Fifth Symphony had its epic minutes, huge dynamic range and pulverising climaxes enfolding the drama, without ever being as electrifying or cogently welded as one knows it can be. ... Bernd Alois Zimmermann's Trumpet Concerto (1954) doesn't get many airings in London – it was last done at the Proms in 2012, and before that in 1997 with the LPO under Masur – but it's widely popular around Europe. Denunciating racial hatred and discrimination, and based on 'Nobody knows de trouble I see'... ... A staple of Håkan Hardenberger's repertory, the performance was glossy and slick... 
The Metropolitan Opera – Giancarlo del Monaco’s production of Puccini’s La fanciulla del West – Eva-Maria Westbroek, Željko Lučić & Yusif Eyvazov; conducted by Marco Armiliato
Monday, October 08, 2018 |  Giancarlo del Monaco’s 1991 production of Puccini’s La fanciulla del West, last revived in 2011, returns to the Met, where the opera was premiered in 1910, Toscanini conducting. ... During the atmospheric introduction, Rance sits alone as Nick the bartender prepares for the inrush of miners. Željko Lučić sings strongly and cuts an imposing figure, but his declaration of love for Minnie triggers a brawl (effectively staged), culminating in a wonderful moment when she enters firing a rifle, bringing hostilities to a sudden halt. Eva-Maria Westbroek is a charming Minnie... 
The Royal Ballet – Kenneth MacMillan's Mayerling [Ryoichi Hirano & Natlaia Osipova]
Monday, October 08, 2018 |  Mayerling is perhaps the most dense, most intricate ballet in the repertoire, a vast canvas on which interweaving themes of love, lust, despair, political struggle and alienation are played out; it is the antithesis of the clean lines of Balanchinean abstraction. Much criticised for its sprawling, complicated narrative when premiered in 1978, it is work that has come of age, a ballet that is now rightly considered a jewel in The Royal Ballet’s repertoire. Much of the reasoning for such status is the role of Crown Prince Rudolf which, because of its extreme physical and dramatic demands, is seen as the ‘Hamlet’ of roles for male dancers and is as coveted as Juliet for their female counterparts. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Leonard Slatkin conducts The Seventh Trumpet & Enigma Variations – Gil Shaham plays Prokofiev [live webcast]
Sunday, October 07, 2018 |  Having had to bypass engagements in recent months, a repaired and hearty Leonard Slatkin returned to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, now as Music Director Laureate... ... Donald Erb (1927-2008, a native of Ohio) was first on with The Seventh Trumpet (1969), following The Star-Spangled Banner. ... Following which Gil Shaham gave a sweetly lyrical account of the outer movements of Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto... ... Slatkin recorded Enigma Variations some years ago (with the London Philharmonic), not a one-off for this imperishable masterpiece, for it’s a regular in his repertoire... 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Sakari Oramo – Peer Gynt & Lemminkäinen – Alban Gerhardt plays Brett Dean’s Cello Concerto [live webcast]
Saturday, October 06, 2018 |  Peer Gynt and Lemminkäinen on their travels, arriving in Berlin, their composers’ Scandinavian compatriot Sakari Oramo conjuring vivid details and much evocation, opening with a rapturous, woodwind-distinguished, ‘Morning Mood’ from Grieg’s music for Ibsen’s play... ... Sibelius’s Lemminkäinen Legends are from early in his output (if revised) and predate his Seven Symphonies. The named Kalevala-enshrined hero, the work opening with baleful, attention-commanding horns, becomes passionate with the ‘Maidens of Saari’. ... This programme’s third outing was also streamed to the World, extending the audience, not least for Brett Dean’s new-this-year Cello Concerto, written for Alban Gerhardt and premiered a few weeks ago in Sydney... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Orpheus & Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus, with Theater Trikster
Saturday, October 06, 2018 |  We’ve reached post-war 1940s in the LPO’s year-long survey of Stravinsky’s output. Vladimir Jurowski decided to pair the mercurial composer’s sparse ballet-score Orpheus (for Balanchine, 1948) with another dance-related creation based on classical Greek mythology, Beethoven’s The Creatures of Prometheus. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Cristian Măcelaru conducts Beethoven's Creatures of Prometheus & Mason Bates’s Anthology of Fantastic Zoology – Jeremy Denk plays the Emperor Concerto
Friday, October 05, 2018 |  Beethoven may have been the most-familiar name here, but this was an evening about Mason Bates, Cristian Măcelaru and Jeremy Denk. ... Creatures from classical antiquity were followed by a more-contemporary imagination in Bates’s Anthology of Fantastic Zoology, evocations of bizarre beings familiar and unknown. First-performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Riccardo Muti in 2015, this glitzy work is based on a story by the Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges. 
San Francisco Symphony/Michael Tilson Thomas at Carnegie Hall – Stravinsky program with Leonidas Kavakos
Thursday, October 04, 2018 |  For the second of their two Carnegie Hall concerts, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony turned to Stravinsky. ... From the opening bars of the Violin Concerto, written with significant input from Samuel Dushkin who premiered it in 1931, it is unmistakably from the same composer’s hand. Leonidas Kavakos found the abounding wit of the rhythmically fascinating ‘Toccata’... 
William Forsythe at Sadler's Wells – A Quiet Evening of Dance
Thursday, October 04, 2018 |  The news that choreographer William Forsythe is in town is big news indeed, so Sadler’s Wells has pulled off something of a coup to secure him for a full evening of his work. He is a cerebral dance-maker, one whose thought-processes, experimentations and musings on the art form of ballet have enriched the repertoire. A Quiet Evening of Dance is no different – a subtely concentrated series of works culminating in a new creation which acts as a synthesis of what we have witnessed before. For this successful evening, Forsythe has assembled some of his most trusted and attuned dance collaborators who, between them, notch up decades of experience of his way of working and his own particular aesthetic – it is simply a joy to see them move and bringing all they know of him and his ways to their performances. 
Llŷr Williams at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms
Wednesday, October 03, 2018 |  Llŷr Williams opened with his signature composer, Beethoven, his C-minor Variations in which the pianist immediately found qualities of touch and tone, exact balance between hands, and a wholesome appreciation of the music’s ground-plan... ... On a larger scale and more-extensive range, Robert Schumann’s relatively rare Humoreske, opening in dreamy nostalgia and then a showcase of mercurial moods... ... ...this is young man’s music yet it came across more as “blue remembered hills” (Housman rather than Dennis Potter). 
Carnegie Hall’s Opening Night Gala – San Francisco Symphony/Michael Tilson Thomas with Renée Fleming & Audra McDonald
Wednesday, October 03, 2018 |  The San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas, Renée Fleming and Audra McDonald launched Carnegie Hall 18-19. Bookending the program were works by George Gershwin, and including McDonald’s sultry rendition of ‘Summertime’ from his and Ira’s Porgy and Bess; there were also songs from Broadway shows. 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra 18-19 opener at Lighthouse – Kirill Karabits conducts Ligeti’s Lontano & Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony
Wednesday, October 03, 2018 |  Kirill Karabits was unafraid to start with something almost glacial in its focus on sonority and timbre, György Ligeti’s Lontano (distant), here brilliantly throwing into relief Mahler’s life-affirming ‘Resurrection’ Symphony. 
Robin Tritschler & Malcolm Martineau at Wigmore Hall – Schubert
Wednesday, October 03, 2018 |  Robin Tritschler and Malcolm Martineau's Wigmore Hall Schubert recital delighted the head and heart as his sweet lyrical tenor illuminated an eclectic choice of Lieder, a programme divided into Solitude, Childhood, Death, and Lost Love. 
A funeral for the Queen of Carthage – Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas – Academy of Ancient Music/Richard Egarr, with Caitlin Hulcup, Rowan Pierce, Ashley Riches & Neal Davies; directed by Thomas Guthrie
Tuesday, October 02, 2018 |  Following last year’s inane directional intervention by Daisy Evans into King Arthur, turning it into a drama about Brexit (although even then it would have been difficult to believe that that political process could become the theatrical charade it has become in reality) one might have feared what Thomas Guthrie would make of Dido and Aeneas in this presentation by the Academy of Ancient Music as the last part of its cycle of some of Purcell’s stage-works. 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Chiaroscuro Quartet – Joke & Rosamunde
Monday, October 01, 2018 |  The last-minute withdrawal of Annelien Van Wauwe also meant the disappearance of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet from the Chiaroscuro Quartet’s Wigmore Hall concert. But there was nothing at all to disappoint in the programme that the Chiaroscuro members delivered: first (as advertised) concise, almost stylised Haydn, and then (Mozart’s replacement) a much more expansive Schubert. 
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... 
Valletta 2018 European Capital of Culture – world premiere of Aħna Refuġjati: a Maltese Opera
Friday, August 31, 2018 |  “An unassuming family, whose members, through no fault of their own, find themselves caught up in the eye of the storm. The grief of a man who loses his wife, the pain of a youth who watches his people suffer, a young woman who cannot stand to see more injustice … profoundly touching themes because we are, after all, made of the same flesh and blood, the same pain, the same joys and hopes.” The film producer and director Mario Philip Azzopardi, the librettist of Aħna Refuġjati (We are Refugees) agrees his subject matter is “very difficult” – his backcloth “politics, religion, war, the past, beliefs and faith”, his arena “one of the biggest tragedies of our time: the plight of refugees.” 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Kirill Petrenko – Opening concert of 2018-19 season – Richard Strauss & Beethoven [live webcast]
Friday, August 24, 2018 |  A year away from becoming the next chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker, following Rattle, Abbado and Karajan, designate Kirill Petrenko was able to open the current season, and did so with Richard Strauss’s Don Juan (based on Lenau’s telling of the tale), measured but purposeful, honed and precise... 
I Wish My Life Were Like a Musical – Alexander S. Bermange at The Crazy Coqs
Wednesday, August 15, 2018 |  Composer and lyricist Alexander S. Bermange is noted for producing topical comic songs and singing them on radio and latterly on cruises. During of one of his shows at sea, Bermange observed how interested the audience was in the lives of his performers... ... The result is I Wish My Life Were Like a Musical, in which four characters go through the motions of telling it like it really is. ... Suzie Mathers has Wicked and Mamma Mia! under her belt, Madalena Alberto has done Piaf, Cats and Les Misérables, Lucas Rush we know from Thoroughly Modern Millie, Cabaret, Grease, and Fame, and Cedric Neal was in the original London cast of Motown, as well as King, and Porgy and Bess. 
Grimeborn Opera Festival – Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Greek
Monday, August 13, 2018 |  The two previous times I’ve been walloped by Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Greek, I thought it would have gone better in a smaller space – it is definitely not an opera-house opera. The Arcola’s Studio 1 certainly provides that, and the result is claustrophobic, to put it mildly. It suits the work, but you’d think twice about sitting in the front row with the performers only a couple of feet away. Greek is now a venerable thirty years old, and although it’s specifically set in working-class London (references to Islington and Arsenal abound) in the 1970s, it had its premiere in Munich and has thrived internationally. Turnage and Steven Berkoff have reworked the Oedipus myth among the ‘loveable’ rogues of east London, with the plague of Sophocles’s original replaced by evil capitalist greed, and the piece as a whole is a frothing Berkoffian rant against Thatcherism. 
Snape Proms – Trio Isimsiz – Haydn, Mendelssohn & Brahms
Friday, August 10, 2018 |  Nuzzled by the shallow boats of the River Alde, the occasional Thames barge, sails furled, tied up by the Plough and Sail, looking out across the wilderness and reed-beds of Snape Marshes to the leafy secrets of Iken Hoo, Aldeburgh and the German Ocean to the east – there's nowhere quite so atmospheric as Snape Maltings for concerts or recording... ... To what extent, if at all, the Trio Isimsiz responded to the light and breath of this landscape (Turner loved this countryside famously) is debateable. Occasionally, yes, you'd catch glimpses of smoke and magic hidden away among the curtains of notes and repeats, Brahms benefitting the most, Mendelssohn to a lesser extent. 
Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart – Louis Langrée conducts Meistermusik & Requiem – Stephen Hough plays K467
Friday, August 10, 2018 |  In the penultimate concert of this year’s Mostly Mozart Festival, Louis Langrée opened with Meistermusik, a somber and austerely beautiful piece for male chorus and orchestra, composed for a Masonic installation ceremony during 1785... ... Also from 1785 but in a more lyrical vein was Stephen Hough’s eloquent, fresh and graceful rendition of the C-major Piano Concerto, its slow movement so memorably used in the 1967 film Elvira Madigan. 
Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart – Mark Morris Dance Group – Love Song Waltzes | I Don’t Want to Love | The Trout
Thursday, August 09, 2018 |  The Mark Morris Dance Group performed three works choreographed by its founder, with varying colors and intensity of lighting set against a plain backdrop. ... Love Song Waltzes is set to Brahms’s first set of Liebeslieder-Walzer. ... A rather different, but equally excellent, array of voices and instrumentalists accompany the dancers in I Don’t Want to Love, a translation of ‘Non voglio amare’, the first of the seven selected Madrigals by Claudio Monteverdi. ... Following intermission the premiere of The Trout, inspired by Schubert’s eponymous composition, given a notable reading by Inon Barnatan and friends. 
Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart – Louis Langrée conducts The Chairman Dances & Beethoven 1 – Daniel Lozakovich plays Mozart K216
Tuesday, August 07, 2018 |  The joyfully syncopated The Chairman Dances (Foxtrot for Orchestra), John Adams’s 1985 elaboration of material from Nixon in China, was the invigorating opener of this Mostly Mozart program. ... Next, seventeen-year-old Daniel Lozakovich playing Mozart. 
Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2018 – Samuel Barber’s Vanessa – Emma Bell, Virginie Verrez, Edgaras Montvidas, Rosalind Plowright; directed by Keith Warner; conducted by Jakub Hrůša
Sunday, August 05, 2018 |  Apart from a Barbican concert performance under Leonard Slatkin in 2003, Samuel Barber’s Vanessa has received scant high-profile exposure in the UK. ... Keith Warner does not alter the plot. However, he does supply apocryphal hints and suggestions to supply motivation... ... The cast is strong, even if the age gap between Vanessa, expertly incarnated by Emma Bell, and the Erika of Virginie Verrez seems implausibly slight... 
Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart – Christian Zacharias & Rosa Feola
Friday, August 03, 2018 |  This nicely balanced program, representing Mozart’s work in Vienna and Prague, opened with a refreshing account of the majestic and expansive C-major Piano Concerto. Christian Zacharias was the meticulous soloist... ... Rosa Feola sang the lover’s lament with the perfect balance of sophistication and passion... ... The concert ended with a graceful reading of the ‘Prague’ Symphony. presented in that city as an envoi to Le nozze di Figaro. 
Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart – Louis Langrée conducts Tromba Lontana & Brahms 2 – Joshua Bell plays Bruch
Tuesday, July 31, 2018 |  A fanfare is usually a rousing affair. Not so with John Adams’s enigmatic Tromba Lontana. As the ‘Distant Trumpet’ title suggests, this short work never rises above mezzo piano... ... Louis Langrée led a graceful rendition... ... Joshua Bell was in splendid form for Max Bruch’s G-minor Violin Concerto... 
Greenwich Festival 2018 – Delius, Mahler, Barber – world premiere of Robert Matthew-Walker’s April in Appalachia
Saturday, July 28, 2018 |  This concert was given in St Alfege’s Church, whose magnificent acoustics have remained unchanged for almost 300 years. In earlier times, Thomas Tallis (who is buried here) was in charge of music there... ... The Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony is well-known... ... Robert Matthew-Walker’s April in Appalachia was preceded by a short talk from the composer. Written for bassoonist Matthew Petrie (the conductor’s brother), this fifteen-minute one-movement fantasy is based on the opening of Delius’s Appalachia... ... Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings was equally expressive in this acoustic, but the surprise was Eric Fenby’s transcription of Delius’s 1916 String Quartet... 
Longborough Festival Opera – Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea – Sofia Troncoso, Anna Harvey, Maria Ostroukhova, Matthew Buswell; directed by Jenny Miller; conducted by Jeremy Silver
Saturday, July 28, 2018 |  Jenny Miller’s production of Monteverdi’s unflinching portrayal of the amorous and political machinations at the Roman Imperial court of Nero is a rather confused affair with little sense of any particular period and place. ... They are also inanely called upon to write down on a board as graffiti various words and phrases which appear important to the director and apparently need to be brought to the attention of an addled audience failing to engage with a cast of other characters who are not much distinguished from each other... ... Fortunately the vitality of Monteverdi’s score remains more or less intact in Jeremy Silver’s reading with the Instruments of Time and Truth. 
Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart – Richard Egarr conducts Handel & Bach
Friday, July 27, 2018 |  Richard Egarr, making his debut with the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, led this high-spirited program of Baroque favorites. ... Then seven selections from Water Music were given with vitality and elegance... ... For J. S. Bach a septet of players delivered an especially lithe and sprightly account of the Fifth Brandenburg Concerto, supposedly written to show the Margave of Brandenburg what a splendid keyboard player Bach was. Taking on that role, Egarr gave a performance that was absolutely breathtaking... 
Castalian String Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Haydn – the last three Quartets of Opus 76
Wednesday, July 25, 2018 |  This was the final concert in Wigmore Hall’s Haydn String Quartet Series in which a considerable number of these compositions have been given by various performers, and many reviewed here on Classical Source (search “Haydn String Quartets Wigmore Hall Classical Source”). Differences of approach by distinguished ensembles have helped to illuminate the essence of these masterpieces. The Castalian String Quartet previously performed the first three of Opus 76 – memorable for a superb interpretation of the ‘Emperor’ Quartet – and its completion of the set was of a similar high standard and full of insight. 
Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart – Louis Langrée conducts Candide Overture & An American in Paris – Emanuel Ax plays Mozart K453
Tuesday, July 24, 2018 |  The “Americans in Paris” theme of this concert offered a salute to the Leonard Bernstein centennial celebrations, Louis Langrée and the MMF Orchestra opening with a joyful and rhythmically seductive account of the brilliant Overture to Candide. ... Next, Emanuel Ax delivered a tender and highly expressive rendering of Mozart’s mercurial G-major Piano Concerto... ... The final offering was a dazzling outing for George Gershwin’s An American in Paris, using a recent edition including more-dissonant taxi horns. 
Igor Levit at Wigmore Hall – Bach/Brahms, Busoni, Schumann, Wagner/Liszt, Liszt/Busoni
Saturday, July 21, 2018 |  In this demanding Wigmore Hall recital, searching-inward pieces comprised the first half, and works that exude outwards filled the second. Igor Levit’s almost diabolic mastery of tone production and his meticulous voicing of polyphony mark him out. ... Liszt’s Solemn March to the Holy Grail is not a transcription but rather it plucks out some Parsifal motifs. 
Chineke! and Wayne Marshall at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Julian Joseph premiere, Stewart Goodyear plays Rhapsody in Blue
Saturday, July 21, 2018 |  There was an exuberant and theatrical vibe at the Queen Elizabeth Hall for Chineke!’s most-recent outing; this time the emphasis was on jazz. The curtain-raiser was Aaron Copland’s Music for the Theater... ... George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue followed, in its original scoring for Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra. ... ...Stewart Goodyear thrilled... ... Julian Joseph’s Carry that Sound encompasses the musical language of symphony orchestra, big band and chamber ensemble...  
Bampton Classical Opera – Isouard’s Cendrillon
Friday, July 20, 2018 |  Rossini had a knack for taking on and ousting established favourites of the operatic repertoire. Just as his settings of The Barber of Seville and, to some extent, Armida, knocked earlier versions of those dramas firmly into the shadows, so his treatment of the Cinderella story (La Cenerentola) quickly and comprehensively overtook the earlier and celebrated setting by Nicolo Isouard (1810) whose libretto was also the source for Rossini’s stage-work. 
Blackheath Community Opera – Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas
Friday, July 20, 2018 |  With Blackheath Halls undergoing its transformation (the refurbished facilities are due to open in September), this year’s Community Opera moved down the road to the Albany Theatre, Deptford and marked the UK debut of German mezzo Idunnu Münch as Dido. I noticed on the walls of the Albany a poster for Wynton Marsalis, proudly announcing that he made his UK debut at the venue, so may the auspices be good for Münch. 
Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2018 – Handel’s Saul – Markus Brück, Iestyn Davies, Allan Clayton, Karina Gauvin; directed by Barrie Kosky; conducted by Laurence Cummings
Thursday, July 19, 2018 |  Conducted with period panache and punch by Laurence Cummings (who led the 2015 Glyndebourne Tour of the production), Barrie Kosky’s colourfully detailed staging of Handel’s Saul makes a relatively speedy return to the Glyndebourne Festival and can be greeted as a long-lost friend. 
Gabriela Montero at Wigmore Hall – K330, Waldstein Sonata, Kreisleriana
Thursday, July 19, 2018 |  In choosing three such well-known works, this fiery and politically-charged Venezuelan seemed set on showcasing her credentials as a ‘serious’ artist. Yet the Mozart failed to make much impression, Gabriela Montero’s take-it-or-leave-it approach short on charm... ... But it was a far more idiomatic Montero we heard in Beethoven. The ‘Waldstein’ started with rugged authority. ... Given the huge performance-history of Kreisleriana (Horowitz, Argerich, Lupu, to name but three giants), it was hard to see Montero’s reading as more than work in progress. 
Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart – La Fura dels Baus’s production of Haydn’s The Creation; directed by Carlus Padrissa; conducted by Laurence Equilbey
Thursday, July 19, 2018 |  Lincoln Center’s venerable Mostly Mozart Festival has reduced its concert offerings and added some adventurous theater and dance projects, such as this performance of Haydn’s magnificent 1798 oratorio, The Creation, a multimedia staging by Carlus Padrissa of the Barcelona-based La Fura dels Baus, which has already toured much of Europe and reaches North America for the first time. 
Opera Rara at Royal Opera House – world premiere of Donizetti’s L’Ange de Nisida – conducted by Mark Elder
Wednesday, July 18, 2018 |  It isn’t every day that we get a world-premiere of a Donizetti opera – 180 years after it was written! – one requiring detective work and archaeology to reconstruct it from various source materials. ... L’Ange de Nisida, commissioned by Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris, was not staged because the house had gone bankrupt... ... Mark Elder and the Royal Opera House Orchestra certainly give the piece every chance to shine... 
Opera Holland Park – Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos – Mardi Byers, Kor-Jan Dusseljee, Jennifer France, Julia Sporsén; directed by Antony McDonald; conducted by Brad Cohen
Tuesday, July 17, 2018 |  With German repertoire not looming large at Opera Holland Park (apart from Mozart, only Fidelio, and Hansel and Gretel), there is an inescapable sense of confidence saturating the company’s first foray into Richard Strauss with Ariadne auf Naxos, for many his most beautiful stage-work. 
Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart – Leonard Bernstein’s Mass; Nmon Ford as Celebrant; conducted by Louis Langrée
Tuesday, July 17, 2018 |  With the cancellation of the Lincoln Center Festival, Mostly Mozart, now in its fifty-second year, has partially filled the void by expanding this summer’s repertoire, adding theater and dance productions to its customary fare, including Leonard Bernstein’s gargantuan Mass... ... Conducted by Louis Langrée and featuring over two-hundred participants, the nearly two-hour marathon showcases some of the strengths and many of the flaws of its creator... 
Robin Tritschler & Jonathan Ware at Wigmore Hall – Family Ties
Sunday, July 15, 2018 |  It has been some years since I’ve heard Robin Tritschler, and memories of an elegant, attractive tenor were rapidly updated to take in a voice and style impressively more layered, substantial, open to suggestion and earthed. He had devised a programme on the theme of related composers... ... Tritschler had a lot to compete with – Wimbledon, World Cup and sizzling heat – but he didn’t hold back on well-served, back-of-the-net communication and involvement. 
Opera Holland Park – Mascagni’s Isabeau – Anne Sophie Duprels, David Butt Philip, Mikhail Svetlov, George von Bergen; directed by Martin Lloyd-Evans; conducted by Francesco Cilluffo
Saturday, July 14, 2018 |  One of the pleasures of Opera Holland Park has been its scheduling of Italian stage-works that have little or no performance history in the UK (or, for that matter, outside of Italy). Isabeau is no exception: the tenth of Pietro Mascagni's sixteen operas, successfully launched in Buenos Aires in 1911, it was warmly received in Italy (as well as the United States) and stayed in the repertoire there until the Second World War. 
Tanglewood – Andris Nelsons conducts Puccini's La bohème – Kristine Opolais & Jonathan Tetelman
Saturday, July 14, 2018 |  At Tanglewood Andris Nelsons conducted the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Puccini’s La bohème, Piotr Beczala withdrawing to replace Roberto Alagna in Bayreuth’s Lohengrin, and Elliot Madore taking Schaunard in place of Davide Luciano, who encountered a visa-related issue. ... Jonathan Tetelman and Kristine Opolais gave touching portrayals. 
Bennewitz Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Haydn
Friday, July 13, 2018 |  The Bennewitz Quartet has a notably warm sound which makes exciting forte passages glow brightly. There is a unified quality to this ensemble and on the occasions where the leader had solo moments, his sound rose above the others because of colourful tone – not by mere loudness. ... Haydn’s Opus 1/2, notable for his use of pizzicato in the central Adagio, still shows signs of Baroque influence... 
Longborough Festival Opera – Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos – Helena Dix, Jonathan Stoughton, Robyn Allegra Parton, Clare Presland, Darren Jeffery; directed by Alan Privett; conducted by Anthony Negus
Friday, July 13, 2018 |  Richard Strauss’s conflation of buffa and seria could have been written with summer festivals in mind, with an entertainment specifically planned for post-dinner-interval uplift mirrored by the Opera’s unseen guests dining during the short Prologue in the 1916 version – the 1912 original started with Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s version of Molière’s Le bourgeois gentilhomme leading into Strauss’s opera seria about Ariadne abandoned by Theseus on the island of Naxos, and it apparently lasted six hours. 
Buxton International Festival 2018 – Verdi’s Alzira – Kate Ladner, James Cleverton, Jung Soo Yun; directed by Elijah Moshinsky; conducted by Stephen Barlow
Friday, July 13, 2018 |  Succinctness is usually a positive quality of Verdi’s operas, with a fine balance struck between musical interest and dramatic efficiency. In the case of his eighth stage-work, Alzira (1845), concision has been pushed too far, as any detailed psychological examination of the characters is rather lacking. ... Based on a play by the unorthodox Enlightenment thinker, Voltaire, it is an odd scenario for both him and the sceptical, anti-clerical Verdi to have chosen... ... Elijah Moshinsky’s production does its best to restore something of a political bearing by projecting BBC, CNN and ABC news footage of a Latin American uprising in the 1980s... 
Buxton International Festival 2018 – Brescianello’s Tisbe – Julia Doyle, Hilary Summer, Robert Murray & Morgan Pearse; directed by Mark Burns; conducted by Adrian Chandler
Thursday, July 12, 2018 |  Indefatigable in its championing of rare repertoire, Buxton International Festival has brought out from oblivion the only opera by the little-known Giuseppe Brescianello on the occasion of its tercentenary anniversary. Adrian Chandler goes so far to claim that it is “a candidate for the finest Baroque opera ever”. It is hardly that: although boasting an imaginatively varied and well-written series of arias, and two fully-fledged choruses, the numbers do not quite reach the same level of inspiration of Handel’s operas, even the weakest of which can always muster at least one or two memorable pieces. The duet for Tisbe and the dying Pyramo, for example, with its attractive lilting rhythm in compound time is comparable to ‘Per le porte’ from Handel’s Sosarme, but fails to ravish to the same degree. 
Tanglewood – Bernstein Centennial Summer – including Trouble in Tahiti
Thursday, July 12, 2018 |  This program of Leonard Bernstein’s vocal music was highlighted by Trouble in Tahiti, directed by Jamie Bernstein, the composer’s daughter. ... Beforehand she introduced nine of her father’s songs, for which Alexandra Silber and Nathan Gunn were joined by the other singers, with Craig Ketter on piano. 
Barry Humphries’ Weimar Cabaret at Barbican Theatre
Thursday, July 12, 2018 |  Having temporarily retired his alter egos, Dame Edna Everage, Sir Les Patterson, Sandy Stone, et al, Barry Humphries has turned to the music of the Weimar Republic in order to revive interest in this long-forgotten period that was so rich in what it produced between the end of World War One and the rise of Hitler in 1933. ... The word ‘cabaret’ has perhaps lately lost its true meaning and become associated solely with the title of the Kander & Ebb musical based on John Van Druten’s play I Am a Camera which in turn was taken from the Goodbye to Berlin stories of Christopher Isherwood. ... The programme begins with probably the most famous tune by the least-forgotten of these composers, ‘Mack the Knife’ from Weill’s The Threepenny Opera, which completely sums up memories of the Weimar Republic... 
Grange Park Opera – Novaya Opera’s production of Konstantin Boyarsky’s Pushkin – Peter Auty, Julietta Avanesyan; directed by Igor Ushakov; conducted by Jan Latham-Koenig
Wednesday, July 11, 2018 |  Pushkin’s writings have given rise to over a hundred operas, most of them Russian, to which tally this newcomer by Konstantin Boyarsky and Marita Phillips can be added. Their opera covers the last decade of Pushkin’s life – his return from exile (imposed for his radical and divisive Ode to Liberty, which incidentally saved him from the Decembrist Uprising); the vain efforts by the new Tsar, Nicholas I, to use Pushkin’s popularity; and, above all, the circumstances leading to his death (in the winter of 1837), as the result of a duel he fought with his brother-in-law, Georges d’Anthès, whom he suspected of infidelity with his wife Natalya. The project has been some fifteen years in the making, and Phillips’s libretto has gathered extra authenticity from the fact that she is the great-great-great-granddaughter of both the Tsar and Pushkin. Boyarsky, a viola-player in the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, became involved in 2012, and Pushkin had its premiere in a concert performance by Novaya Opera in February last year. 
Tanglewood – Jeremy Denk at Seiji Ozawa Hall
Wednesday, July 11, 2018 |  In a spoken introduction, Jeremy Denk said he juxtaposed the first three works to contrast their composers’ different perceptions of time. He began with Mozart... ... and he then threw himself into Visions fugitives – twenty varied vignettes – with great intensity... ... Following intermission, Denk announced that he would not play Liszt’s transcription of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte (his Opus 98), but explained why he “would have played” that work, illustrating the connection between the song-cycle and Schumann’s Fantasy... 
Grange Festival 2018 – Leonard Bernstein’s Candide
Sunday, July 08, 2018 |  The austere magnificence of The Grange sits a little oddly with the eclecticism and informality of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide but if this one-off, not-quite concert performance fell between several stools no-one seemed to mind. The last event in this year’s Grange Festival it was rapturously received by a packed house... ... Candide is famously a problem piece whose dissemination was boosted by an original Broadway cast recording starring Max Adrian, Robert Rounseville and the much-missed Barbara Cook. ... Veteran Richard Suart took on the narrating as well as the roles of Pangloss and Martin. 
Anita Lasker-Wallfisch at Wigmore Hall
Sunday, July 08, 2018 |  Wigmore Hall’s director John Gilhooly is to be commended for conceiving this bold event. "After I saw Anita Lasker-Wallfisch's address to the Bundestag, I felt it had to be heard in London... This is such an important message to hear, as history has shown, time and again, that where anti-Semitism, racism and extreme views are on the rise, dark times are usually never far behind.“ ... Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, herself a fine cellist, quite literally owes her life to music. 
Steven Osborne at Wigmore Hall – Debussy, Berg, Prokofiev
Saturday, July 07, 2018 |  With Steven Osborne you get a no-frills pianist of integrity and enquiry, willing to explore and take risks, no repertory too little or too large, no style beyond his understanding. ... On the face of it, a couple of prefatory French Preludes, and three uncompromising Sonatas, landmarks of the twentieth-century though they might all be, make for unlikely planning. ... Thus the vertical C-major cadence of 'La cathédrale engloutie' transmogrified into the horizontal G-C opening of the Berg. The lingering, tonally conflicting Zarathustrian C/B close of the Berg morphed into the rapid C-B quavers at the start of Prokofiev Seven. 'Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir' led directly, inevitably even, into the A-major of Prokofiev Six... 
The Royal Opera – Robert Carsen’s production of Verdi’s Falstaff – Bryn Terfel; conducted by Nicola Luisotti
Saturday, July 07, 2018 |  The second of this year’s revived Shakespeare-in-opera offerings from Robert Carsen (after English National Opera’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Spring), is the second revival of The Royal Opera’s co-production of Verdi’s valedictory Falstaff... ...  
Tanglewood – Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town – Brandon Victor Dixon, Andy Karl, Christian Dante White; Boston Pops conducted by Keith Lockhart
Saturday, July 07, 2018 |  It is fitting for Tanglewood to host a celebration of the Leonard Bernstein centennial, since he played a major role in the development of this great music center, and it in turn was instrumental in his career development. His Tanglewood activities spanned a half-century, from his joining the inaugural class of the Berkshire Music Center in 1940 as a student of conducting (with Serge Koussevitzky) and composition (with Aaron Copland) ... Keith Lockhart conducted members of the Boston Pops Orchestra in a delightful production of On the Town, Bernstein’s first Broadway show. ... Brandon Victor Dixon was outstanding as Gabey... ... Broadway veterans Andrea Martin and Marc Kudisch also gave terrific performances... 
Boston Symphony Orchestra Opening Night at Tanglewood – Andris Nelsons conducts Magic Flute Overture & Tchaikovsky 5 – Lang Lang plays Mozart K491
Friday, July 06, 2018 |  This was the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s “Opening Night at Tanglewood”, beginning with Andris Nelsons leading a lively rendition of the Overture to The Magic Flute. Lang Lang, sidelined for a year and a half by an arm injury, then entered. There was nothing flamboyant in his appearance, demeanor or playing, and he gave a restrained reading of K491. ... Following intermission, Nelsons led an account of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony (included to mark Leonard Bernstein’s centenary, he conducted the work three times at Tanglewood) that brought out its variety of rhythm and tonal colors and the unifying impact of the thematic material. 
Cheltenham Music Festival – BBCNOW/Martyn Brabbins – Higgins, Howells, Holst, and Parry’s Jerusalem – Sheku Kanneh-Mason plays Elgar, Daniel Pioro plays The Lark Ascending
Friday, July 06, 2018 |  The opening concert of this year’s Cheltenham Music Festival appeared more attractive on paper than it proved to be in performance – at least, as broadcast by BBC Radio 3. ... purely musical terms Velocity was overshadowed by the first public performance in over ninety years of Herbert Howells’s Pastoral Rhapsody, dating from 1923. ... ...Martyn Brabbins was superb in building the later growth and inner life of this unfairly neglected score... ... Elgar’s Cello Concerto followed, with Sheku Kanneh-Mason. ...  
Guildhall School of Music & Drama – Fiddler on the Roof
Friday, July 06, 2018 |  Fiddler on the Roof is a musical set in 1905 in the village of Anatevka in the Pale of Settlement, a western region of Imperial Russia within which Jews were allowed to live. Some (educated) Jews and others resided outside the area; but otherwise residency was restricted to areas beyond the Pale (the derivation of the term). ... It opened with Zero Mostel as Tevye, while later in London it starred with Topol and ran for over 2,000 presentations. ... It is a show that needs a star performer in the role of Tevye, and in Alex James-Cox this Guildhall School production has certainly found one. ... Written in a Jewish style and played by both an orchestra and a Klezmer band, they come over as an important part of the proceedings, such as ‘Tradition’, ‘If I Were a Rich Man’, ‘To life’, ‘Do You Love Me?’ and ‘Sunrise, Sunset’. They are played and sung with great vivacity... 
Sandrine Piau & Susan Manoff at Wigmore Hall – Chimère
Friday, July 06, 2018 |  Baroque specialist Sandrine Piau turned her attention to more-recent repertoire with an emotionally probing and vocally sparkling Wigmore Hall recital, a spellbinding and intimate programme entitled “Chimère”, of nineteenth- and twentieth-century song by European and American composers exploring the sublime joy of physical love and the despair of abandonment, with all the dizzying stages in between. 
Garsington Opera at Wormsley – The Skating Rink
Thursday, July 05, 2018 |  A murder mystery doesn’t necessarily sound like an idea that will work, but there have been stranger inspirations for opera plots. Rory Mullarkey has adapted Roberto Bolaño’s novel skilfully. ... Since there is a murder we also need to know who stabbed the mezzo-soprano and that is revealed at the end (in opera it’s never over until…). The plot revolves round the differently focussed desires of two men, Remo and Enric, for the ice-skater Nuria. ... Within the structure imposed by the libretto David Sawer has also woven in some clever stylistic repetitions, adding a satisfying cohesiveness. 
[email protected] – Schiff’s Surprise – András Schiff plays and conducts Haydn, Surprise Symphony & Harmoniemesse)
Wednesday, July 04, 2018 |  Apart from single works such as The Creation, Haydn concerts with orchestra are surprisingly rare. The chamber music fares slightly better, but the keyboard music is still on the specialist end of the spectrum. András Schiff, newly appointed as a Principal Artist with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, continues to be a tireless promoter of the Sonatas. Haydn’s irresistible, slightly maverick sophistication is hardwired into his musical psyche – Schiff well knows the music’s capacity to beguile, amuse and move. 
Bartlett Sher’s production of The King and I at the London Palladium
Wednesday, July 04, 2018 |  To really enjoy The King and I it is probably best to put the politics to one side and instead marvel at Rodgers & Hammerstein’s immortal music and lyrics. ... In Kelli O’Hara the production has arguably the best casting it has ever had... 
Kensington Symphony Orchestra/Russell Keable at St John’s Smith Square – Delius, Bridge, Sibelius
Tuesday, July 03, 2018 |  The Kensington Symphony Orchestra blew hot and cold in this its final concert of the 17-18 season: hot in Delius contrasted by the “cold water” (the composer’s description) of Sibelius’s Sixth Symphony, and in between a variety of moods from Frank Bridge’s impressions of The Sea, Russell Keable in complete musical control, such is the typicality of the KSO’s enterprising programmes. 
Royal College of Music double-bill – Huw Watkins’s In the Locked Room and Peter Maxwell Davies’s The Lighthouse; directed by Stephen Unwin; conducted by Michael Rosewell
Monday, July 02, 2018 |  Huw Watkins’s In the Locked Room first cast its bleak, ambiguous spell in 2012, and it does more of the same in the Royal College of Music’s production, a primitive affair with a door standing alone on the stage, the scene changes slickly managed by the stage crew. The story is a blur of obsession, violence, fantasy and reality, a chip off the Pelléas et Mélisande block. ... The staging is marginally more elaborate for Peter Maxwell Davies’s The Lighthouse, the business end of the lighthouse itself, with the keepers’ quarters underneath. Maxwell Davies’s treatment of the true story of the three men who vanished from the Flannan Isles lighthouse for no discernible reason 118 years ago has become a classic. It is nearly forty years old, and one can only marvel at the eloquence of his libretto... 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Pinchas Zukerman – Summer Music Festival at Cadogan Hall (3) – Bear & Italian Symphonies and a Haydn Violin Concerto
Saturday, June 30, 2018 |  Haydn’s Symphony 82 is the first of six composed for Paris in 1786 where some years later the title ‘L’Ours’ was added. ... In performance, horns in C-alto, especially when supported by timpani, give a brilliant effect so it is difficult to understand why, having chosen to use trumpets, Pinchas Zukerman also included two horns and had them play the same parts an octave lower. ... In great contrast, Zukerman then gave a reading of Haydn’s First (and most popular) Violin Concerto which was notable for its period style. ... The repeat of the exposition in Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ Symphony is one of the most important in symphonic repertoire... 
LSO at Tate Modern – Et exspecto & Gruppen – Simon Rattle, Matthias Pintscher & Duncan Ward
Saturday, June 30, 2018 |  If one of Simon Rattle's intentions as Music Director of the LSO is to take it to non-standard concert venues, then this programme in Turbine Hall at Tate Modern was a notable statement of intent. ... Admittedly the event did not get off to the most auspicious of starts with Messiaen's Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum (1964-5), of which Rattle has been a champion throughout his career. ... Fortunately this venue proved more responsive to those very different spatial requirements of Stockhausen's Gruppen (completed in 1957), which has retained much of its capacity to provoke more than six decades on. 
Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2018 – Debussy Pelléas et Mélisande – John Chest, Christina Gansch, Christopher Purves; directed by Stefan Herheim; conducted by Robin Ticciati
Saturday, June 30, 2018 |  Audiences have ever got lost in and tormented by the tissues of deceit, violence, tenderness and obliqueness that float into every crevice of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, the opera about two brothers in love with the girl lost in a forest, the two title-roles tragic victims of what they have unwittingly initiated. These aspects are usually enough for any staging but are put on the back-burner in Glyndebourne’s new production from Stefan Herheim... ... With the lovers rendered virtually anonymous, Christina Gansch’s beautifully sung, idiomatic Mélisande would be the highlight of a less-contrived staging, but here exasperation leads to impatience. John Chest has similar identity problems as Pelléas... ... Under Robin Ticciati’s unflagging attention to the singers, to colour and detail, and to the articulation of the music’s momentum, the London Philharmonic played with a glow and richness that at times gets close to Wagner. 
Pupils of The Yehudi Menuhin School at Wigmore Hall
Friday, June 29, 2018 |  Pride, panache and professionalism is what the Yehudi Menuhin School is all about. In the words of its inspiringly supportive director of music, Òscar Colomina i Bosch, the annual end-of-the-year seniors/leavers concerts are invariably events “of great musical intensity, when the School showcases the work and musical talent of its students in one of the most prestigious concert venues in the world.” Yielding a jewel or two is nothing surprising. 
The Royal Opera – Kasper Holten’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni – Mariusz Kwiecień, Ildebrando D’Arcangelo, Rachel Willis-Sørensen, Anatoli Sivko; conducted by Marc Minkowski
Friday, June 29, 2018 |  With a mostly new cast and conductor – Marc Minkowski bringing energy and grandeur to the pit – Kasper Holten’s 2014 Don Giovanni is in its second revival at the Royal Opera House. It’s a glitzy visual experience with eye-catching projections, and within the cast there are some strong performances and vivid characterisations. ... Making a deeper impression are the singers, and chief amongst them is Mariusz Kwiecień. He makes a dashing philanderer... 
Summer Music in City Churches – St Giles Cripplegate
Friday, June 29, 2018 |  A new festival has been launched, Summer Music in City Churches, here commemorating the centenary of the First World War, with an emphasis on British composers affected by the Great War. ... George Butterworth’s settings from Housman’s A Shropshire Lad followed in a sensitive arrangement for strings by Roderick Williams. ... George Butterworth’s The Banks of Green Willow (1913) provided folksong in sophisticated musical clothes and Elgar’s Chanson de matin anchored us securely in his Edwardian soundworld, and then Ruth Rogers transported us to the skies with her delicate impersonation of The Lark Ascending. 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Pinchas Zukerman – Summer Music Festival at Cadogan Hall (2) – Mozart – with Fumiaki Miura playing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto
Thursday, June 28, 2018 |  This, the second concert of the Pinchas Zukerman-led Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Summer Music Festival, found him launching boldly into Mozart’s ‘Haffner’ Symphony in a style that made it larger in scale than usual. ... Classical stylishness was also in evidence in Fumiaki Miura’s interpretation of Mendelssohn’s E-minor Violin Concerto. 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder
Thursday, June 28, 2018 |  The Philharmonia Orchestra’s programming of Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder (1900-1910), just a few days after Midsummer, neatly mimicked the paradoxes and ironies of the work itself. The dawning of a new day and of Summer comes only at the end of the work (having started at dusk) through the death of Tove and the mystical union of Waldemar with her, heralding the renewal of nature; and Schoenberg’s vast score, ending with its ravishing blaze of C-major, represents one of the last affirmations – or gasps – of musical Romanticism (Schoenberg returned to Gurrelieder after he had embarked on his development of atonalism). ... For all the headiness of the work’s gothic scenario, and the tensions at play within its music and wider cultural context, Esa-Pekka Salonen’s interpretation was generally equable and lustrous right from the bouncy, sprung rhythms of the Philharmonia’s playing of the optimistic opening... ... The massed choirs of London’s four conservatoires presented a spectacle in the Royal Festival Hall... 
CBSO/Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla – Funeral Song & Rite of Spring – Nicola Benedetti plays Shostakovich
Wednesday, June 27, 2018 |  The CBSO’s final programme of its 17-18 season centred on Russian music, opening with Stravinsky’s Funeral Song (1908). This memorial to Rimsky-Korsakov has been widely heard since its discovery at the St Petersburg Conservatoire after being presumed lost for over a century. ... Harmonic elements derived from Scriabin open-out the expressive range of a piece that Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla gave with telling understatement... ... There is nothing stylistically tentative about Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto... ... Nicola Benedetti has performed it often... 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Pinchas Zukerman – Summer Music Festival at Cadogan Hall (1) – Mendelssohn & Mozart, with Viviane Hagner
Tuesday, June 26, 2018 |  Music composed in their teenage and early-adult years by child prodigies provided the programme of this first orchestral concert (there are also three chamber-music programmes) of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s Summer Music Festival at Cadogan Hall headed by Pinchas Zukerman. ... In Mozart’s K364, from their subdued joint entry Zukerman and Viviane Hagner displayed great connection throughout... 
English National Opera at Regent’s Park Theatre – Britten’s The Turn of the Screw – Rhian Lois, Rachael Lloyd, William Morgan; directed by Timothy Sheader; conducted by Toby Purser
Tuesday, June 26, 2018 |  The production starts splendidly, even informally, with Elgan Llŷr Thomas standing within the audience as he gives us The Prologue to events about to be unfolded – lively and unaffected singing, quite different from the arch tone of Peter Pears and others. Tapping on the closed book in his hands, Thomas draws us into Henry James’s story, albeit “in faded ink”. 
Grange Park Opera – Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette – David Junghoon Kim, Olena Tokar; directed by Patrick Mason; conducted by Stephen Barlow
Tuesday, June 26, 2018 |  Given that the productions I’ve seen of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette have solidly serviced the opera’s nineteenth-century, insatiable grand-opera demands, Grange Park has proved that, despite the music’s cleverly crafted, guileless melodiousness and limpid sentimentality, along with the libretto’s rigorous filleting of Shakespeare’s original, Gounod’s take on the tragedy still comes up with its character and flavour intact – at least, this is the case in Patrick Mason’s new staging. 
[email protected] – Dangerous Liaisons
Tuesday, June 26, 2018 |  Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment presented a fascinating recreation of Baroque music and dance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. There was a glimpse of the glamour at the Court of Versailles and the Sun King’s obsession with elegant ballet, performed here with historical and refined accuracy, the three dancers dressed in pastel silks, with forty short pieces of music gathered thematically into scenes describing the course of a love affair. 
Nederland Dans Theater 1 at Sadler's Wells – Shoot the Moon | Woke up Blind | The Statement
Tuesday, June 26, 2018 |  Nederlands Dans Theater is, more than anything else, an ensemble of superlative dancers – each one appearing in their mixed bill at Sadler’s Wells possesses clear individual talents and a welcome personal quality to their artistry. This is important as NDT is very much not a classical company, working on a more intimate scale than that required for the repertoire of full-length works but rather appearing in small groupings in works that are decidedly contemporary. The overarching aesthetic is determined by the William and Mary of the contemporary dance world, Paul Lightfoot and Sol León, who, together, are joint choreographers of a growing corpus of pieces and, separately, artistic director and advisor respectively,. Their creations dominate the performing schedule, although both Crystal Pite and Marco Goecke are company associates. 
Berliner Philharmoniker – Simon Rattle and Magdalena Kožená at the Waldbühne [live webcast]
Sunday, June 24, 2018 |  So, like Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) in Casablanca, “I was misinformed”, the Mahler 6 a few nights ago wasn’t quite Simon Rattle’s farewell as chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker... ... Then the gentle curves of Fauré’s Pavane were followed by a selection of Joseph Canteloube’s Songs of the Auvergne, including of course ‘Baïlèro’, all finding Magdalena Kožená giving renditions of spirit, relish and sensitivity... 
LSO – Gianandrea Noseda conducts Shostakovich – Symphony 10 & Nicola Benedetti in Violin Concerto 1
Sunday, June 24, 2018 |  There is nothing like a sold-out Shostakovich concert, and a queue for returns comprising both the young and the old, to restore one’s faith that we are au fond a healthy society. First up was the First Violin Concerto which, following the mad but dangerous denouncements in 1948 of formalism, Shostakovich kept under wraps for seven years until he could see the lay of the land after Stalin’s death. That history will always lurk over this music, but it is to Nicola Benedetti’s credit that it sounded fresh, contemporary and forward-looking. ... In the Tenth Symphony Noseda had a tendency to hold back and admire the landscape. 
Grange Festival 2018 – Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio – Kiandra Howarth, Daisy Brown, Ed Lyon, Paul Kurievici, Jonathan Lemalu, Alexander Aldreou; directed by John Copley; conducted by Jean-Luc Tingaud
Sunday, June 24, 2018 |  A Turkish potentate tries to have his wicked way with a morally resolute European noblewoman, imprisoned in his harem, his passion rapaciously mirrored in his servant’s lecherously unabashed designs on her servant, the ticklish situation solved by the noblewoman’s dashing and enlightened suitor and his crafty servant. What, directorially, could possibly go wrong? 
Chelsea Opera Group at Cadogan Hall – Massenet’s Thaïs – Paula Sides, Michel de Souza; conducted by Stephen Higgins
Saturday, June 23, 2018 |  Chelsea Opera Group has brought many of Massenet’s less-familiar works to the concert stage, and this Thaïs was on good and sometimes great form. ... Paula Sides stepped in, new to the score, and delivered an interpretation so full of drama as well as surmounting all the technical challenges. 
Longborough Festival Opera – Verdi’s La traviata – Claire Egan, Peter Gijsbertsen, Mark Stone; directed by Daisy Evans; conducted by Thomas Blunt
Saturday, June 23, 2018 |  Longborough’s emotionally-charged La traviata relocates and updates pleasure-seeking Paris of the 1850s to the “here today, gone tomorrow” atmosphere of Hollywood’s film industry a century later. Sex is still for sale, but it’s now packaged in celluloid form. It’s a thought-provoking transformation as director Daisy Evans re-imagines Verdi’s Violetta not as a high-class courtesan and ailing consumptive but a film goddess whose decision to relinquish both her illusory life and lover Alfredo prompts depression (no tuberculosis here) and an early death. Evans's new production draws parallels between the fictional Violetta and the real-life Marilyn Monroe. ... Leading the strong cast is the exceptional talent of Claire Egan who pours her heart into Violetta, singing with complete assurance...  
Semperoper Ballett of Dresden at Sadler's Wells – All Forsythe – In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated | Neue Suite | Enemy in the Figure
Friday, June 22, 2018 |  William Forsythe stands as one of the most accomplished and, indeed, talented choreographers alive in the world today. At a time when dance makers of the most modest of talents can be in global demand, jetting from continent to continent, creating their empty little works and being lauded as giants of the art form, he continues to be the real deal, a genuine creative force who, far from being an iconoclast, uses his deep understanding of classical dance to further it. In this, he is as far as possible from the kindergarten choreographers who smash and hurl around the idiom like toddlers in a porcelain shop. 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Simon Rattle – Mahler 6 [live webcast]
Wednesday, June 20, 2018 |  In 1987 Simon Rattle, then a few years into his Birmingham days, made his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan still at the helm. The work was Mahler 6 (already a significant part of Rattle’s repertoire), and it was this single piece that now brought to a close his tenure (since 2002) as principal conductor of the Berliners. 
Opera North at the London Coliseum – Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate
Wednesday, June 20, 2018 |  In 1948 Broadway audiences must have wondered what had hit them when faced with Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate with its two stories in one show. They had been used to some of Porter’s innocuous musical comedies in which generally silly plots were wrapped around Cole’s fantastic music and lyrics. The master of both disciplines, Porter was once asked who wrote ‘Some Enchanted Evening’. His answer: “Rodgers and Hammerstein, if you can imagine it taking two men to write one song.” ... When librettist Bella Spewack offered Porter the idea of a musical based on The Taming of the Shrew, Cole really needed a hit show to put him back on top after a number of flops. Rather than convert the Shakespeare script into a straight musical, the idea was to have a theatrical company mount it against a backstage story of the two leading performers, once married, now divorced, but still fighting one another, just as Petruchio and Katherine battle it out in the play. 
Peter Donohoe at Wigmore Hall – Sixty-fifth-birthday recital
Monday, June 18, 2018 |  On the day itself Peter Donohoe marked his sixty-fifth birthday with a generous recital at Wigmore Hall, juxtaposing Scriabin and Ravel, then Mozart with Schubert. 
Garsington Opera at Wormsley – Verdi’s Falstaff – Henry Waddington; directed by Bruno Ravella; Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Richard Farnes
Monday, June 18, 2018 |  Verdi was nearly eighty when he completed his third Shakespearean opera – following Macbeth and Otello. For this new Garsington production of Falstaff Bruno Ravella sets this great comedy with late-Victorian costumes vividly imagined by Giles Cadle. ... To this challenge Henry Waddington’s characterisation is only partially achieved... ... Richard Farnes conducts a stirring account and the Philharmonia Orchestra responds to the brilliance of Verdi’s scoring with relish... 
The Wind in the Willows, narrated by Simon Callow
Sunday, June 17, 2018 |  The much-loved children’s classic Wind in the Willows still weaves its magic of life on the riverbank. Richard Birchall’s delightful entertainment is appropriately nostalgic in style... ... ...Simon Callow perfectly judged all that he did. 
John Eliot Gardiner conducts Bach Cantatas at Barbican Centre – III
Sunday, June 17, 2018 |  The final Cantata concert of John Eliot Gardiner’s Bach Weekend opened in colourful and dramatic style with BWV19, a celestial battle between St Michael and various monsters. The Monteverdi Choir wove an energetic fugue as martial brass depicted the struggle. ... Gardiner dedicated the performance to John Julius Norwich... 
Way Out East: Frank Denyer – A Portrait – Octandre Ensemble
Sunday, June 17, 2018 |  Housed in the quondam cinema, the Coronet in Notting Hill, I knew The Print Room as the adopted home of its eponymous vibrant experimental theatre company, but it was new to me as a concert venue. Perhaps appropriately, then, both ensemble and composer at this concert were also new to me – and indeed all three are new to Classical Source reviews – so it’s a pleasure to extend a warm and appreciative welcome to them all. ... Introduced by Octandre’s co-artistic director, Christian Mason, who interviewed Frank Denyer (born 1943) at the start of the concert... 
John Eliot Gardiner conducts Bach Cantatas at Barbican Centre – II
Saturday, June 16, 2018 |  As part of the Barbican Centre’s “Bach Weekend with Sir John Eliot Gardiner” (seven recitals including the Goldberg Variations, Jean Rondeau, and the Cello Suites, Jean-Guihen Queyras), this was the second of three Cantata concerts. ... This programme traversed two Cantatas for the Third Sunday after Easter, one for Pentecost and one for the First Sunday after Trinity – Ascension notably absent. ... Always ready to recycle his music when the occasion demanded, Bach did so for BWV34, written for Pentecost Sunday in 1727. In addition to its blazing choruses (tongues of fire graphically conveyed in the opening number), Bach writes a rewarding alto aria... 
Birmingham Royal Ballet at Sadler's Wells – Polarity and Proximity – Kin; Embrace; In the Upper Room
Saturday, June 16, 2018 |  Quite what ‘Polarity and Proximity’ actually means as the title of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s triple bill at London’s Sadler’s Wells is anybody’s guess, but whatever its meaning, it cannot disguise an inconsequential evening of dance. Certainly, the days of the well-crafted mixed bill appear to be firmly in the past at BRB as at Covent Garden, with seemingly random choices of works placed together. So it proves again here with a bizarre juxtaposition of three ballets which does nothing to highlight similarities or differences, either choreographically or musically… 
The Royal Opera at Hackney Empire – Na’ama Zisser’s Mamzer Bastard; directed by Jay Scheib; conducted by Jessica Cottis
Friday, June 15, 2018 |  Despite its blunt and near-tautological title, Na’ama Zisser’s new opera – the fruit of her “young composer residency” at The Royal Opera – is diffuse and elusive. In some ways it is meant to be, as the central character, Yoel, has fled his Jewish Hasidic home in New York during a blackout on a summer night in 1977, prior to his arranged marriage, which prompts his urge towards some drastic soul-searching. 
Robert Smith's Meltdown at Royal Festival Hall – The Church and The Psychedelic Furs
Friday, June 15, 2018 |  Thirty-eight years on and The Church continues its active service as the most self-renewing band from that faraway time of the first psychedelic revival. This Royal Festival Hall gig may have been intended as little more than warm-up for two successive evenings at Bush Hall, but this still provided the opportunity to hear its current take on songs old and new, familiar and deep-catalogue obscure. ... A pity that not a few punters had remained bar-bound during this set before taking their seats for that by The Psychedelic Furs. 
Garsington Opera at Wormsley – Mozart’s The Magic Flute – Benjamin Hulett, Louise Alder, Jonathan McGovern, Sen Guo; directed by Netia Jones; conducted by Christian Curnyn
Thursday, June 14, 2018 |  Greeting you as you walk into the auditorium at Garsington’s Magic Flute is a continuation of the landscape garden’s topiary, its symmetrical boxed hedges fronting an imposing white facade. ... Dominating both Acts is the paraphernalia of freemasonry (square and compass providing a visual reminder of Mozart’s own association with this society) with Act Two set in a David Lynch-style Lodge with lookalike brothers attired in moustaches and 1970s’ glasses. To the blatant symbolism Jones adds distracting references to Peter Greenaway’s The Draughtsman’s Contract and the television adaptation of Margaret Attwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. 
Jakub Józef Orliński & Michał Biel at Wigmore Hall
Wednesday, June 13, 2018 |  The Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński’s star has been on the rise for three years or so, with many an award, an exclusive recording contract with Erato (his debut album is due soon) and opera roles both sides of the Atlantic. His most recent big thing was the title role in Handel’s Rinaldo for Frankfurt Oper, which apparently astounded as much for his singing as for his athleticism. ... This sold-out Wigmore Hall recital marked the centenary of Poland regaining independence, and there was a speech from the Polish ambassador. To judge from his engaging stage manner, Orliński is a natural opera animal, with the Baroque as his bread-and-butter repertoire. He was much more at ease with the direct emotionalism of the Handel and Purcell arias... 
CBSO/Ilan Volkov – Simon Holt & Brahms/Schoenberg – Alisa Weilerstein plays Shostakovich
Wednesday, June 13, 2018 |  This concert found Ilan Volkov at the helm of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra for a typically arresting programme... ... Sixty this year, Simon Holt has long had a fascination with Spanish culture as is borne out in Surcos (2016) – a brief yet eventful piece, modestly and resourcefully scored, that takes as its basis the poem November 1913 by Antonio Machado... ... Strange that the programme’s introductory paragraph should describe as “punchy” Shostakovich’s Second Cello Concerto... ... ...Alisa Weilerstein brought out its wealth of expressive shades from the outset... ... That Schoenberg’s 1937 orchestration of Brahms’s First Piano Quartet (1861) has become a part of the repertoire owes not least to Simon Rattle’s advocacy in the early years of his CBSO tenure. 
Aldeburgh Festival 2018 – To See the Invisible
Monday, June 11, 2018 |  Dystopian visions of autocratic/fascist societies squeezing the life out of errant but sympathetic individuals are hard-wired into all the art forms, to the extent you wonder if there is anything new to be said in this miserabilist genre. Emily Howard’s To See the Invisible, which has just had its world premiere, keeps company with Aldeburgh’s most celebrated outsider, Peter Grimes, albeit on a much smaller scale. 
ENO Studio Live at Lilian Baylis House – Handel’s Acis and Galatea – Alexander Sprague, Lucy Hall; directed by Sarah Tipple; conducted by Nicholas Ansdell-Evans
Monday, June 11, 2018 |  Welcome to Arcadia! Or Mountain Media’s midsummer party, in Sarah Tipple’s modern re-imagining of Ovid’s pastoral landscape as filtered through eighteenth-century sensibilities and Handel’s first dramatic setting in English, long before his development of the English Oratorio. Indeed, ENO’s debut production of Acis and Galatea celebrates the 300th-anniversary of its première and is presented at Lilian Baylis House. 
Aldeburgh Festival 2018 – Simon Holt’s Llanto (para las chumberas) and Bach’s Goldberg Variations
Monday, June 11, 2018 |  Dmitri Sitkovetsky’s 1984 string-trio version of the Goldberg Variations is one of the great Bach transcriptions, and this superb, late-night performance, in Aldeburgh’s packed Parish Church, confirmed its place... ... It was neatly set up by the first performance of Simon Holt’s Llanto (para las chumberas), Lament (for the prickly pears). 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Jader Bignamini conducts Puccini’s Turandot – Othalie Graham, Jonathan Burton, Morris Robinson, Guanqun Yu [live webcast]
Sunday, June 10, 2018 |  The DSO ended its 17-18 season in grand-opera style, Puccini's Turandot originally scheduled for Leonard Slatkin, here replaced by Jader Bignamini, recently in London (my neck of the woods) to conduct an evening with Anna Netrebko in the Royal Albert Hall. ... Jonathan Burton was an heroic Calaf, his warm expressive tenor making a considerable impression – ‘Nessun dorma’ well done... ... ...although it is the compassionate Liù of Guanqun Yu – such sensitivity – that leaves the biggest impression... ... Although I didn’t hang on the presenters’ every word [...] I heard no mention of Luciano Berio’s relatively recent completion of Act Three. Puccini left Turandot unfinished at his death... 
Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2018 – Handel’s Giulio Cesare – Sarah Connolly, Joélle Harvey, Patricia Bardon, Christophe Dumaux; directed by David McVicar; conducted by William Christie
Sunday, June 10, 2018 |  It is testament to the ever-widening reception of Handel’s stage-works that even a major opera festival such as Glyndebourne can programme two revivals of the composer’s dramas in one season. David McVicar’s production of Giulio Cesare was seen previously in 2005, 2006 and 2009, in between which have also come Rinaldo and Saul, the latter also being revived this year. ... Sarah Connolly seemed to be under the weather as her performance on this opening night was oddly under-powered and reticent... ... Joélle Harvey is a fresh and clean-voiced Cleopatra... ... In the pit, William Christie directs the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in a lithe and well-driven interpretation of Handel’s eclectic score... 
Grange Festival 2018 – Rossini’s The Barber of Seville – Charles Rice, John Irvin, Josè Maria Lo Monaco, Riccardo Novaro; directed by Stephen Barlow; conducted by David Parry
Saturday, June 09, 2018 |  Circumstantially this Barber of Seville promises something of interest. A huge curly moustache adorns one of the facades of the Grange, perhaps hinting at a satire on the present fashion for facial hair amongst young (and not so young) men. And before the curtain rises, the surtitles screen announces “The Barber of Seville in England 1818 to 2018”, alluding to the fact that it was first performed in this country exactly two hundred years ago (two years after the first presentation in Italy) which might have betokened an imaginative exploration of changing perceptions of this now-perennial opera. ... ...a clumsy sixth-form attempt to ape Monty Python-style surrealism. 
Grange Park Opera – Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera – Vincenzo Costanzo, Roland Wood, Claire Rutter; directed by Stephen Medcalf; conducted by Gianluca Marcianò
Saturday, June 09, 2018 |  Grange Park’s Theatre in the Woods, now in its second season, is scrubbing up well with a new brick facade and new facilities. Once the interior is finished, this tiered opera house, neatly triangulated between Covent Garden and Glyndebourne, will be one of the prettiest. This year’s first opera (the company opened with Oklahoma!) is Verdi’s A Masked Ball, in its alternative version with the lead role of King Gustave III of Sweden replaced by Riccardo, governor of Boston in the United States, made for censorship reasons at the time of its premiere in 1859. ... Stephen Medcalf has recycled the imposing fixed set that he and Jamie Vartan created for Grange Park’s staging of Wagner’s Die Walküre last year. ... Teresa Gevorgyan is in fine coloratura voice as Oscar, billed as Riccardo’s page, but presented as a gender-bending, gun-totin’ riff on Wild Bill Hickok... 
Grange Festival 2018 – Handel’s Agrippina – Anna Bonitatibus, Raffele Pe, Christopher Ainslie, Ashley Riches, Stefanie True; directed by Walter Sutcliffe; conducted by Robert Howarth
Friday, June 08, 2018 |  Walter Sutcliffe’s new production of Agrippina represents a mischievous – if also somewhat self-deprecating – triumph for the Grange Festival in that it turns Handel’s opera about the unedifying political and sexual schemes to catapult Nerone (Nero) to the Roman throne into an allegory for nothing more or less than this Festival’s control over the premises at The Grange in Northington, following the acrimonious departure of Grange Park Opera a couple of years ago. 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Christoph von Dohnányi conducts Haydn 12 & Beethoven 5, Arabella Steinbacher plays Mozart K219 – Music of Today Composers’ Academy
Thursday, June 07, 2018 |  It was good to welcome Christoph von Dohnányi back to London, he has been absent here and elsewhere for a while recovering from injury. Surprising to note (unless I have missed something) that the Philharmonia Orchestra’s Honorary Conductor for Life has no London engagements next season... ... Meanwhile Haydn’s low-number Symphony 12 (low given he reached three figures in this genre, and how) was the perhaps-unlikely starter to this current concert. Dohnányi judged the three movements to a nicety... ... There followed K219 with Arabella Steinbacher, elegantly and crisply introduced by the Philharmonia... ... Beethoven 5, the familiar refreshed and persuasive at every turn... ... The evening started with the final Music of Today recital of the season... 
The Royal Opera – Wagner’s Lohengrin – Klaus Florian Vogt, Christine Goerke, Jennifer Davis, Georg Zeppenfeld, Thomas J. Meyer; directed by David Alden; conducted by Andris Nelsons
Thursday, June 07, 2018 |  Wagner’s Lohengrin is often considered a prime example of echt-romantic German operas, given its historical Middle-Ages setting and its succession of scenes and that comprise the drama. ... For much of the first Act of this new staging (admittedly the first half is one long exposition of the back-plot) David Alden seems to be content to do just that within Paul Steinberg’s monumental sets... ... Luckily the musical offering is outstanding. Under Andris Nelsons we have an interpretation contrasting luminous and warm string playing against darkly threatening and sombre woodwinds and thrillingly intense militaristic brass... ... As Lohengrin, Klaus Florian Vogt demonstrates why he is in much demand... 
Würth Philharmonic Orchestra at Cadogan Hall – Rumon Gamba conducts Tallis Fantasia & Enigma Variations, John Lill plays Rachmaninov
Wednesday, June 06, 2018 |  There’s no point grabbing a map to find Würth, for Reinhold Würth – a very successful German businessman and a dedicated collector of art – has philanthropically put some of his riches into an orchestra... ... ...this London appearance was the only one with Rumon Gamba as part of the orchestra’s UK tour. ... Opening with the Tallis Fantasia immediately showed the mettle of the strings, as many as the Cadogan Hall stage can accommodate. ... As centrepiece, John Lill revived (medically and spiritually) Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto. 
Longborough Festival Opera – Wagner’s Flying Dutchman – Simon Thorpe, Kirstin Sharpin, Jonathan Stoughton, Richard Wiegold; directed by Thomas Guthrie; conducted by Anthony Negus
Wednesday, June 06, 2018 |  Since this opera festival started twenty years ago, Wagner has loomed large, with two Ring cycles (and a third starting next year), Tannhäuser, and Tristan and Isolde, all marvellously and movingly tailored to Longborough’s scale and style, powerfully conveyed by Anthony Negus’s conducting, and delivering major performances. ... Longborough’s new staging, by Thomas Guthrie, of the earliest of the accepted canon of music-dramas, The Flying Dutchman – here played as three Acts to accommodate the dinner interval – is a disappointment. 
Classical Opera at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Ian Page conducts Mozart’s La finta semplice
Wednesday, June 06, 2018 |  Classical Opera’s Mozart 250 retrospective brings us to the twelve-year-old composer’s first full-length stage-work, La finta semplice (1768) marking an early milestone in a remarkable creative life. ... With his orchestra, The Mozartists, Ian Page leads off with a brisk, no-nonsense account of the three-movement Overture. ... In a score of melodic abundance, the singers clearly relish the opportunities given for ornate display, none more so than Regula Mühlemann as Rosina, the pretend or disingenuous simpleton of the opera’s title (really a Hungarian baroness) who plays off the brothers Don Cassandro and Polidoro against each other as she entertains their not entirely welcome affections... 
English National Ballet – Kenneth MacMillan's The Sleeping Beauty
Wednesday, June 06, 2018 |  Kenneth MacMillan, the innovator, the experimenter, the iconoclast was also an intensely Classical ballet choreographer who held few, if any, ballets in higher esteem than Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty. So much is clear from his own production of this great work which remains in the repertoire of English National Ballet and is now revived for a two-week airing at London’s Coliseum. It is a handsome affair on all counts – the old master’s choreography treated with due respect and the sets and costumes, by Peter Farmer and Nicholas Georgiadis no less, a sumptuous mise en scène for this pinnacle of Classical dance. Here and there MacMillan tweaked small details, but in essence, this is a production true to the heritage of the work as staged by the old Imperial ballet régisseur Nicholas Sergeyev for Ninette de Valois. 
Paul Lewis at Royal Festival Hall – Beethoven, Haydn, Brahms – 2/4
Tuesday, June 05, 2018 |  Unable to get to the Royal Festival Hall as planned, I took advantage of Radio 3’s broadcast of Paul Lewis’s second programme of four exploring Beethoven, Brahms and Haydn... ... It’s good that Lewis, like his mentor Alfred Brendel, is championing (and recording) Haydn Sonatas. ... Opus 119 is Brahms’s ultimate set of Pieces for piano alone, three Intermezzos and a Rhapsody. 
Yuja Wang at Barbican Hall – Rachmaninov, Scriabin, Ligeti, Prokofiev
Tuesday, June 05, 2018 |  Tigers and dragons immediately sprang to mind listening to Yuja Wang’s inflammatory recital. Much of this covered what might be described as classic Horowitz territory. 
Würth Philharmonic Orchestra with Stamatia Karampini & Maxim Vengerov at The Anvil Basingstoke
Tuesday, June 05, 2018 |  Bankrolled by tools-manufacturer Reinhold Würth, the Philharmonic Orchestra that bears his name (its home located near Stuttgart) was formed last year. This Anvil appearance was the third leg... ... Stamatia Karampini conducted the first half. It got off to a rousing start with the Overture to Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, its exuberance well-served. Max Bruch’s G-minor Violin Concerto (the first of his three) was given an expansive outing, somewhere between leisurely and grandiose and grew in stature. Maxim Vengerov beguiled from the outset... ... Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony found Vengerov on the podium. 
The MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall – Michael Tilson Thomas conducts Ruggles, Mozart & Mahler, with Pretty Yende
Tuesday, June 05, 2018 |  Michael Tilson Thomas’s debut concert with the MET Orchestra included two composers for whom he has a special affinity: Ruggles and Mahler. ... Following a witty introduction to Carl Ruggles’s music and his methods of composition, MTT launched a glowing performance of the aptly-titled Evocations. ... The demanding vocal part of Mozart’s teenage Exsultate, jubilate was taken by Pretty Yende... 
Joyce & Tony at Royal Opera House
Monday, June 04, 2018 |  Recitals with opera singers and a piano used to be a regular feature of Royal Opera House... ... Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano, vivid communicators both, have a great and intuitive rapport... ... After the interval we were in more impressionistic territory with Shéhérazade. All the exoticism of Ravel’s writing (more frequently heard in its orchestral form) was there in Pappano’s superb playing... 
Paul Hindemith and Lennox Berkeley opera double-bill at Guildhall School – The Long Christmas Dinner, A Dinner Engagement
Monday, June 04, 2018 |  With a few exceptions, one-Act operas lead a threadbare existence on the outer edges of the repertoire, receiving the occasional blast of oxygen from the music colleges. This is the case with the Guildhall School’s double-bill of Paul Hindemith and Lennox Berkeley... ... Hindemith wrote The Long Christmas Dinner in 1962 (the year before he died), based on Thornton Wilder’s play of the same title... ... Substance isn’t an issue in Berkeley’s hour-long A Dinner Engagement... ... The opera handsomely showcases singing and acting much more overtly than the Hindemith, with Lucy Anderson brilliantly channeling Mary Berry as the Countess and Samuel Carl’s Earl faintly evoking the hapless Johnnie Craddock, both of them sharp comedians. Emily Kyte shamelessly ramps up class divisions as Mrs Kneebone, a neatly judged riff on Mrs Overall and very well sung, as the Dunmow’s lady-who-does. 
London Mozart Players & Simon Callaghan at Conway Hall
Sunday, June 03, 2018 |  This skilled ensemble from the London Mozart Players successfully revealed the inner workings of well-known musical masterpieces through interesting arrangements. The players opened with a spick and span Eine kleine Nachtmusik. ... The arrangement by Vinzenz Lachner (1811-1893) of Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto was published in 1881... ... Simon Callaghan’s interpretation was superb... ... Haydn had barely completed his final visit to London before a publication entitled “XII Grand Symphonies, by Haydn, arranged as Quintets, by J. P. Salomon” became available. 
LSO – Gianandrea Noseda conducts Rapsodie espagnole & Pictures, Yefim Bronfman plays Beethoven
Sunday, June 03, 2018 |  Prior to Bangkok and China, Rapsodie espagnole, Ravel’s evocation of all things Spanish– he was born in the Pyrenees to a Madrileño mother. It was played beautifully by the LSO, Ravel’s sumptuous colours superbly realised, if a little too harried by the ever-excitable Gianandrea Noseda. ... Noseda’s muscular approach to the opening of the minor-key Beethoven did not sit well, but then the control of Yefim Bronfman’s first utterance proved the ideal foil to such flamboyance... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Paavo Järvi – Sorcerer’s Apprentice & Symphonie fantastique – Denis Kozhukhin plays Rachmaninov
Sunday, June 03, 2018 |  Were it not for The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (and Walt Disney’s Fantasia with Mickey Mouse), the very self-critical Paul Dukas would probably be only known to those familiar with La Péri, Ariane et Barbe-bleue or the Symphony in C. Paavo Järvi conjured an assured and atmospheric Sorcerer... ... Much the same could be said for a gripping performance of Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto – an Everest. Yet its fearsome demands are tempered by a dreaming delicacy; two facets superbly articulated by Denis Kozhukhin... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Robert Spano conducts Luster & Rite of Spring – Seong-Jin Cho plays Chopin [live webcast]
Friday, June 01, 2018 |  The Rite of Spring, and Robert Spano’s conducting of it, elevated this DSO morning concert. Spano (replacing Leonard Slatkin) opened with the second performance (of three) of Jared Miller’s Luster... ... For the Chopin, Spano (long-serving maestro in Atlanta) ensured a purposeful well-integrated introductory tutti, if a little routine, setting up Seong-Jin Cho to play all the notes... 
Bavarian State Orchestra at Barbican Hall – Kirill Petrenko conducts Mahler 7
Friday, June 01, 2018 |  The last time I was present to hear Mahler’s Seventh Symphony in the erratic acoustic of the Barbican Hall the conductor was Gianandrea Noseda and his orchestra the LSO, an ensemble with a higher international profile than that taking the stage here, at least when functioning away from the Bavarian State Opera. ... That Kirill Petrenko has risen to the top of his profession without the usual publicity drives and record deals has added to his mystique... 
Garsington Opera at Wormsley – Richard Strauss’s Capriccio – Miah Persson, Sam Furness, Gavan Ring, Andrew Shore, William Dazeley, Hanna Hipp; directed by Tim Albery; conducted by Douglas Boyd
Friday, June 01, 2018 |  Richard Strauss’s Capriccio is the ultimate natural fit for summer opera in the country. This “conversation piece”, Strauss's final stage-work, is set in a chateau near, if not too near, Paris, and its impact depends greatly on an Agatha Christie-like isolation from the real world. The three Gs – Glyndebourne, Grange Park and Garsington – have mounted it, and now Garsington is back for seconds in collaboration with Santa Fe Opera. 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Simon Rattle at Royal Festival Hall (2) – Widmann, Lutosławski, Brahms
Thursday, May 31, 2018 |  If you ever fancy dancing on a volcano to musical accompaniment then Jörg Widmann’s Tanz auf dem Vulkan should be on your playlist. ... ...when Simon Rattle arrived he feigned indignity that the Philharmoniker was doing just fine without him. ... Also ending as it begins, wrapping the whole, is Witold Lutosławski’s Third Symphony (1983), written for Chicago and Georg Solti. ... Brahms also took the long view with his debut Symphony, it’s not Opus 68 for nothing... 
Quatuor Mosaïques at Wigmore Hall – Haydn & Wölfl
Thursday, May 31, 2018 |  The integrated sound of the Quatuor Mosaïques represented an ideal basis for the opening of Haydn’s rather serious C-minor String Quartet. ... To include lesser-known contemporaries in concerts of eighteenth-century music is always exciting. From his dates (1773-1812) Joseph Wölfl might be expected to have some similarity to Beethoven... 
Opera Holland Park – Mozart’s Così fan tutte – Nick Pritchard, Nicholas Lester, Eleanor Dennis, Kitty Whately, Sarah Tynan, Peter Coleman-Wright; directed by Oliver Platt; conducted by Dane Lam
Thursday, May 31, 2018 |  Mozart’s Così fan tutte can seem a problematic work to modern sensibilities. The music largely and clearly rests in a comic tradition and yet there is a painful and emotionally dark side that is inescapable, particularly if the director remains true to the strong words of Lorenzo Da Ponte’s text. In his new Opera Holland Park staging Oliver Platt achieves this... 
Nicola Benedetti & AAM/Richard Egarr at Barbican Hall – Telemann & Vivaldi
Thursday, May 31, 2018 |  In this belated celebration of Telemann following the 250th-anniversary of his death last year, Nicola Benedetti joined the Academy of Ancient Music to demonstrate the cosmopolitan character of his music through juxtaposition with his most prominent Italian contemporary. 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Simon Rattle at Royal Festival Hall (1) – Hans Abrahamsen’s Three Pieces and Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony with Performing Version of the Finale
Wednesday, May 30, 2018 |  This was the first of two London concerts in Sir Simon Rattle’s parting-company tour with the Berlin Philharmonic, where he has been in charge since 2002. They prefaced Bruckner’s Ninth with the second performance (and UK premiere) of Three Pieces for Orchestra by Hans Abrahamsen... ... One thing that the 2012 “Conclusive Revised Edition” of the Finale to Bruckner 9 (by Nicola Samale, John A. Phillips, Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs and Giuseppe Mazzuca, attached, presumably to the Nowak edition of the other three movements) demonstrates that the composer never solved what even for worshippers at the Bruckner shrine is his Finale ‘problem’. 
The MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall – Gianandrea Noseda conducts Mahler 5 – James Ehnes plays Mozart K219
Wednesday, May 30, 2018 |  This MET Orchestra concert opened with Mozart’s K219 Violin Concerto with James Ehnes, the delicate character of his expression somewhat at odds with the bold introduction conjured by Gianandrea Noseda. ... Noseda’s approach to Mahler’s Fifth combined nervous energy with brash, over-the-top dynamic levels within a basically straightforward reading. 
Akram Khan's XENOS at Sadler's Wells
Wednesday, May 30, 2018 |  Akram Khan’s latest work is his last as a solo performer and, if it did nothing else, XENOS is powerful evidence of his considerable performing talents. But it is more, much more. It is a dark, sombre piece, a 65-minute solo for Khan who holds the stage and our attention throughout, which tackles large questions of history, time, myth, politics, war and humanity. Inspired by the untold story of the 4.5 million ‘foreign’ soldiers who died in The Great War (of whom 1.5 million were Indian), it focusses on Khan’s ‘character’ of an un-named sepoy who has been, before the conflict, a dancer in India.… 
Opera Holland Park – Verdi’s La traviata – Lauren Fagan, Matteo Desole, Stephen Gadd; directed by Rodula Gaitanou; conducted by Matthew Kofi Waldren
Tuesday, May 29, 2018 |  A bout of amplified heavy-breathing opens Opera Holland Park’s 2018 season – its third as an independent company – to get us in the tubercular groove for its new production of Verdi’s La traviata. There are a few more directorial interjections to come, but otherwise Rodula Gaitanou’s staging is broadly traditional. ... Lauren Fagan is on commanding form as Violetta... 
Iestyn Davies & Fretwork at Milton Court – Michael Nyman & Henry Purcell
Monday, May 28, 2018 |  Michael Nyman has highlighted the special qualities of the countertenor throughout his career. In the intimate acoustic of Milton Court Iestyn Davies and Fretwork gave a summary of his works for this voice-type and viol consort, interspersed with miniature masterpieces by Purcell. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Peter Oundjian conducts Diamond Rain & Pathétique Symphony – Jennifer Koh plays Christopher Cerrone’s Breaks and Breaks [live webcast]
Saturday, May 26, 2018 |  Peter Oundjian led a carefully enunciated account of the first movement of the ‘Pathétique’, Robert Williams’s wonderful bassoon solo at the beginning suitably doleful... ... Oundjian was standing in for Leonard Slatkin... ... Roshanne Etezady (born 1973) is one of several beneficiaries of Slatkin’s season-long initiative to commission pieces from pupils of composers he has championed over the years; Etezady’s biography includes William Bolcom... ... Born in 1984, Christopher Cerrone’s new Violin Concerto – which plays continuously – starts favourably... 
The Sistine Chapel Choir at Westminster Cathedral
Saturday, May 26, 2018 |  The Sistine Chapel Choir has been in London, performing at Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral. It has raised its profile in recent years under the tireless leadership of Monsignor Massimo Palombella... ... Palombella, with his unrivalled access to the Vatican’s manuscripts, is responsible for unearthing the earliest edition of Allegri’s Miserere. 
Opera North – Cole Porter’s Kiss me, Kate
Friday, May 25, 2018 |  Porter needed a boost and when Bella Spewack approached him with an idea for adapting Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, history has shown that was the boost he required. ... From the first notes of the Overture to the Finale two-and-a-half hours later, this Opera North production bristles and fizzes... 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Daniele Gatti conducts Mendelssohn & Brahms – Music of Today: Christian Mason
Thursday, May 24, 2018 |  Daniele Gatti signed in with the most economical of gestures to launch a rather wonderful account of Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ Symphony, the Philharmonia Orchestra in vital and vivid form. ... Earlier in the evening, and just as rewarding, the Philharmonia’s invaluable Music of Today series continued, the spotlight this time on Christian Mason... ... While the platform was being re-set, David Harsent (of much musical collaboration, particularly with Harrison Birtwistle) read with dignity his three poems – Ocean, Rainforest, Icefield – that Mason has set in Man Made. Anu Komsi is no stranger to cutting-edge music... 
CBSO/Ludovic Morlot – Dumbarton Oaks & Prokofiev 5 – Tasmin Little plays Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade
Thursday, May 24, 2018 |  Ludovic Morlot has given some memorable concerts with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and this one was no exception in combining pieces from before, during and after the Second World War for a programme offering a judicious perspective on mid-twentieth-century musical culture. ... Time was when Bernstein’s Serenade (1954) was a rarity... ... Tasmin Little entered fully into its spirit... 
New York Philharmonic – Semyon Bychkov conducts Berio’s Sinfonia & Strauss’s Alpine Symphony
Thursday, May 24, 2018 |  Semyon Bychkov is rounding out a fortnight's stint as guest conductor of the New York Philharmonic with two works he has long championed. Also on this evening the Philharmonic honored four of its musicians for twenty-five years’ service as well as several retiring musicians and staff members, an apt occasion for Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia... ... Bychkov gave Alpine Symphony an enthralling outing. 
With a Little Bit of Lerner – BBC Concert Orchestra/Larry Blank at Royal Festival Hall
Wednesday, May 23, 2018 |  Alan Jay Lerner was born on 31 August 1918 into a wealthy family of shopkeepers. ... ...he met Austrian composer Frederick Loewe... ... ...My Fair Lady... ... Just imagine hearing all those marvellous songs for the first time sung by Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews. ... Gigi was a great success as an original film musical, winning nine Academy Awards, although its subsequent adaptation for the stage was less happy. Maybe it had something to do with the film’s stars, Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Louis Jourdain and Hermione Gingold and their director Vincente Minnelli, as much as the Lerner & Loewe score. 
Britten Sinfonia/Thomas Adès – Beethoven Symphony Cycle & Gerald Barry at Barbican Centre – 3/Symphonies 4 & 5 ... Nicolas Hodges plays Barry’s Piano Concerto
Tuesday, May 22, 2018 |  Thomas Adès and the Britten Sinfonia’s leisurely three-year chronological progress through the Beethoven Symphonies picked up again with the first instalment of year two. With immaculate timing, a mobile-phone chirrup coincided with Symphony 4’s solemn opening B-flat unison... ... This series is also a showcase for Gerald Barry’s music, which Adès has championed. The Piano Concerto, first heard in 2012, takes the traditional Concerto principle of the one pitted against the many to extremes in violent clashes of material and within the orchestra itself. ... The Piano Concerto starts conventionally enough with some gleaming brass fanfares making way for Nicolas Hodges to assert himself with some pulverising forearm clusters. 
Tetzlaff Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Beethoven – Opuses 130, 132 & 133
Sunday, May 20, 2018 |  In Beethoven’s late A-minor String Quartet standard sonata-form is changed and expanded: themes suddenly appear, basic rhythms alter and questioning phrases occur. The Tetzlaff Quartet displayed these characteristics by permitting the disruptive moments to speak for themselves. ... Originally the Grosse Fuge concluded the B-flat Quartet, Opus 130. 
Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2018 – Richard Jones’s production of Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier – Rachel Willis-Sørensen, Elizabeth Sutphen, Kate Lindsey, Brindley Sherratt; conducted by Robin Ticciati
Sunday, May 20, 2018 |  Largely recast, Glyndebourne’s first revival of Richard Jones’s 2014 staging of Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier comes up freshly minted and emerges as a more thoughtful and likeable production than it did when new... ... Part of the credit must go to Robin Ticciati and the London Philharmonic Orchestra... ... Kate Lindsey is a vocally warm and tireless Octavian... ... The Marschallin is beautifully sung by Rachel Willis-Sørensen... ... Elizabeth Sutphen is a bright, light and occasionally spiky Sophie. ... ...Brindley Sherratt is such a vocally strong Baron Ochs... 
LSO – Michael Tilson Thomas conducts Beethoven’s Missa solemnis
Sunday, May 20, 2018 |  Beethoven’s Missa solemnis had its origin in 1819 when Archduke Rudolf of Austria was elected Archbishop of Olmütz in Moravia. ... Any performance of the Missa solemnis should be an event and this LSO account undoubtedly was exactly that. The London Symphony Chorus... ... Michael Tilson Thomas is nothing if not adept at controlling large forces, and Beethoven usually brings out the best in him. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy: Voices of Revolution Russia 1917 – Prokofiev – Pekka Kuusisto plays Violin Concerto No.1
Sunday, May 20, 2018 |  Bringing to a close his 1917 Russian Revolution series Vladimir Ashkenazy turned back to Prokofiev. ... Ashkenazy generously rehabilitated them, in the Concerto with the quixotic help of Pekka Kuusisto... ... The concert started and ended in choral cacophony. For Seven, They Are Seven the steely tenor of David Butt Philip was on hand... ... It’s also an ideal partner for the October Cantata, which dispenses with a vocal soloist, but demands (for a couple of lines) a Lenin impersonator (here Aidan Oliver in a Lenin cap and using an old-style megaphone to bellow his words), a military band and – all-but-hidden amidst the strings – an accordion group... 
Jonas Kaufmann sings Richard Strauss, including Four Last Songs – BBC Symphony Orchestra/Jochen Rieder – Schauspiel Ouvertüre, Intermezzo, In the South
Saturday, May 19, 2018 |  Rescheduled from February last year, this interesting and experimental programming of Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs has now arrived. Jonas Kaufmann... ... Under Jochen Rieder the BBC Symphony Orchestra delivered of its best... 
Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2018 – Puccini’s Madama Butterfly – Olga Busuioc, Joshua Guerrero, Elizabeth DeShong, Michael Sumuel; directed by Annilese Miskimmon; conducted by Omer Meir Wellber
Saturday, May 19, 2018 |  This revival of Madama Butterfly is a welcome reboot of Glyndebourne’s 2016 touring production – then the company’s first-ever staging of Puccini’s tragedy. Exceptionally well cast and thoughtfully directed by Annilese Miskimmon... ... Taking the title-role is Olga Busuioc whose emotional journey from girl to woman is painfully convincing. ... The superbly gifted Joshua Guerrero makes a hugely sympathetic Pinkerton... 
Richard Goode at Wigmore Hall – Byrd, Bach, Beethoven, Debussy
Friday, May 18, 2018 |  Richard Goode is one of the least flamboyant pianists. This great artist is rising seventy-five, but that hasn’t deterred him recently from taking on some substantial programmes, either those that re-examine established connections, or, as in this Wigmore Hall recital, suggest with his inimitable, lightly-worn breadth of experience how vastly differing styles fire each other up. 
MET Orchestra/Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla at Carnegie Hall – Debussy's Faune & Tchaikovsky 4 – Anita Rachvelishvili in Mussorgsky's Songs and Dances of Death
Friday, May 18, 2018 |  MET Orchestra concerts at Carnegie Hall usually fill up the house, so I was surprised to see a fair number of empty seats. Perhaps Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla is not yet a familiar name to New York audiences, or it may be that the ongoing, headline-making legal battle between the Metropolitan Opera and James Levine is keeping concertgoers away. In any case, I hadn't yet had the opportunity to hear the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra's newish music director... ... Playing Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune in New York City is always a bold move... ... Curiously, Gražinytė-Tyla took a similar approach to Shostakovich's orchestration of Mussorgsky's Songs and Dances of Death. This music is bleak, sharp-edged, and ink-black, but here it was painted in mostly muted colors with broad strokes and a surprisingly soft brush. This fitted with Anita Rachvelishvili's understated reading... ... After intermission came Tchaikovsky's Fourth. 
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment does Der Rosenkavalier
Thursday, May 17, 2018 |  The strong narrative and visual qualities in scores such as Don Quixote and Ein Heldenleben have led some writers to feel that Richard Strauss was the greatest film composer who never was. Concertgoers had the opportunity to put this theory to the test when his only score composed exclusively for film received an airing from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. ... Hugo von Hoffmannsthal, the Rosenkavalier librettist, dreamt up the idea of a film version to give the material further life. 
LSO – Sibelius – Michael Tilson Thomas conducts Symphonies 6 & 7, Ray Chen plays the Violin Concerto
Thursday, May 17, 2018 |  The LSO has form in Sibelius, but his music hasn’t been core repertoire for its Conductor Laureate Michael Tilson Thomas. ... Nor was it that of Ray Chen, who, in his LSO debut, was replacing Janine Jansen. The personable violinist has showmanship and glamour to spare. He plays the 1715 ‘Joachim’ Stradivarius (which once belonged to Joseph of that name) from which he draws an incomparably warm and majestic sound... ... The LSO’s strings were at their most luminous for the lovely opening of Sibelius’s Symphony No.6, which MTT went on to shape with disciplined mobility. 
The Royal Ballet – Swan Lake – A new production by Liam Scarlett
Thursday, May 17, 2018 |  The months, if not years, of meticulous planning, the design and creation of new outfits, the choreography and the rehearsals are finally over: not The Royal Wedding but The Royal Ballet’s new production of Swan Lake, the first in a generation, which has finally opened. And it is a success, albeit with some small reservations. [...] an extremely handsome production from John Macfarlane [...] a version which shows great respect for the company’s tradition in this ballet but which also bears Scarlett’s clear choreographic imprint. ... 
BBC Symphony Orchestra & Chorus – Sakari Oramo conducts Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius – with Stuart Skelton, Alice Coote and Alan Ewing
Wednesday, May 16, 2018 |  The day before this concert, the BBC Symphony Orchestra announced that Sakari Oramo has renewed his contract as its Chief Conductor, until 2022. Lucky BBCSO, and lucky us, on the strength of this beautifully prepared and profoundly imagined performance of The Dream of Gerontius... ... Stuart Skelton was sparing with his Heldentenor virility, making the first part’s moments of high-voltage anguish all the more visceral. ... As Gerontius’s guardian angel, Alice Coote combined her mezzo’s bloom and shadow with an unaffected immediacy and excellent clarity of words. ... The 120-strong BBC Symphony Chorus was sensational... 
CBSO/Reinhard Goebel – J. C. Bach & Mozart – Mirijam Contzen plays K271a
Wednesday, May 16, 2018 |  Orchestral programmes devoted to the Classical era are hardly frequent and this CBSO concert was the more memorable for being conducted by Reinhard Goebel, director of Musica Antiqua Köln for over three decades and whose commitment is evident in every bar. ... Championed by Enescu and his protégé Yehudi Menuhin... ... ...not least when rendered with such conviction as by Mirijam Contzen. ... There has never been any doubt over the authorship of the ‘Linz’ Symphony... ... It may have appeared just two years later, but Mozart’s Idomeneo proved a game-changer in terms of his output as in that of opera as a genre. 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Krzysztof Urbański – Scherzo à la russe & The Firebird – Kirill Gerstein plays Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto
Wednesday, May 16, 2018 |  Stravinsky described The Firebird (1910), his first notable score, as “Rimsky-Korsakov with pepper” and the debt is obvious in the orchestration. There are also echoes of Scriabin and Glazunov, thoughts prompted by this compelling reading given by Krzysztof Urbański and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. ... And in support of Kirill Gerstein in the ‘Emperor’, he went for mellowness rather than heroic attack and, although some more rehearsal would not have gone amiss, nuance and detail was not amiss. 
William Tuckett's Elizabeth at the Barbican
Wednesday, May 16, 2018 |  Elizabeth I would not feature high in many people’s choices as the subject for a dance work, but for William Tuckett, her relationship with the many men who featured in her life, from Walter Raleigh to the Duc d’Anjou, from the Earl of Leicester to the Earl of Essex, fired his choreographic imagination. Created in 2013 in Covent Garden’s Linbury Theatre, Elizabeth is now revived at the Barbican, and comfortably fills the larger auditorium with focussed lighting and performances. […] The quality of the performance itself could not be faulted, but the work remains resolutely dramatically low-key; admirable rather than enjoyable. 
Spira mirabilis at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Beethoven 7
Tuesday, May 15, 2018 |  Formed in Italy and with residences in various European venues, Spira mirabilis is a group of young professional musicians many of whom play in leading orchestras. ... At the Queen Elizabeth Hall it was Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Schumann Quartet
Monday, May 14, 2018 |  If Shostakovich’s Seventh String Quartet is much slighter than Schubert’s ‘Rosamunde’ in running time, it more than compensates with a rawness of feeling – even desperation – that the Schumann Quartet brought out with precision as well as sympathy. 
Ligeti in Wonderland – Concertos – Aimard, Neunecker, Kopatchinskaja, Aurora Orchestra/Collon
Sunday, May 13, 2018 |  This final instalment of the Southbank Centre’s Ligeti in Wonderland weekend focussed on four of the numerous Concertos which extend over the greater part of the composer’s output and which are a pertinent indicator to those stylistic changes that inform his eventful career. 
Ligeti in Wonderland – Pierre-Laurent Aimard plays the piano Études
Saturday, May 12, 2018 |  György Ligeti’s eighteen piano Études (divided into three books, the third left incomplete when the composer died) are spoken of in the same breath as those by Chopin, Liszt and Debussy... ... The overriding factor that Pierre-Laurent Aimard – a friend and champion of the composer – made clear was how far removed the Études are from the irony and anarchy of larger-scale Ligeti works such as Le grand macabre. 
Ligeti in Wonderland – Horn Trio
Friday, May 11, 2018 |  Long associated with a proposed second opera based on Alice in Wonderland (later taken up by his pupil Unsuk Chin), György Ligeti (1923-2006) is a composer who had a reputation not only of titanic rages but also playful wit, and it was this latter side that was the focus in the first of Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s trio of concerts he has curated under the apt title Ligeti in Wonderland. 
Andrè Schuen & Gerold Huber at Wigmore Hall – Schumann
Friday, May 11, 2018 |  Andrè Schuen’s dramatic presence and self-assurance were evident from the start, as he and Gerold Huber embarked on a storm-tossed journey through Robert Schumann’s melded world of emotions. ... The Ladino numbers which followed are wistful love-songs and lullabies... 
The Royal Opera – world premiere of George Benjamin’s Lessons in Love and Violence; directed by Katie Mitchell; conducted by the composer
Thursday, May 10, 2018 |  Expectations could not have been higher for this new opera, given the phenomenal international success of George Benjamin’s Written on Skin. The premiere of Lessons in Love and Violence played to a sold-out house... ... The story is loosely based on Marlowe’s 1594 play Edward II... ... ...the themes of love, lust and violence are universal and timeless. ... Aggression and cruelty are present but never overblown in Martin Crimp’s sensitive and evocative text... ... Benjamin conducts with pinpoint precision and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House plays with controlled abandon... ... Barbara Hannigan is thoroughly at home... 
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Daniele Rustioni – Shéhérazade, Musica notturna, Pines of Rome – Avi Avital plays Avner Dorman’s Mandolin Concerto
Wednesday, May 09, 2018 |  In a programme that travelled westwards from Arabia to Italy, Daniele Rustioni returned to the BBC Symphony Orchestra... ... and started this concert with both another rarity and first (in this case, orchestral) piece: Ravel’s ‘Fairy Overture’ Shéhérazade. ... Any sense that the instrumental resources were undernourished for the next piece – for string accompaniment (indeed the composer sanctions performances with string quintet) – were quickly disproved by Avner Dorman’s own soundworld, starting with the tremolos for mandolin, gently amplified by a single speaker beside Avi Avital’s seat. ... Almost sixty years older than the Mandolin Concerto, Giorgio Federico Ghedini’s Musica notturna found the strings now complemented by wind-players... ... The crowd-pleaser (if not, in this instance, the crowd-puller) was left to the end: Respighi’s Pines of Rome... 
Khatia Buniatishvili at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Liszt
Wednesday, May 09, 2018 |  There are so many factors jostling for attention in Khatia Buniatishvili’s playing that it’s difficult to get a hold on her style and personality. Her technique is fabulous, she relishes taking risks... ... The Brahms was a fine example of this. She slapped down the gauntlet in its mighty, ‘Hammerklavier’-like opening gesture to capture the essence of the young Brahms at his most heroic and invincible... ... Mikhail Pletnev’s transcription of seven numbers from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker spares nothing in terms of virtuosic glitter... 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra at Lighthouse – Kirill Karabits conducts Elgar & Walton – Simon Trpčeski plays Tchaikovsky
Wednesday, May 09, 2018 |  Elgar’s In the South – long associated with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra since Constantin Silvestri’s 1968 recording –was given an impassioned account, Kirill Karabits galvanising his forces to produce a glowing picture-postcard of sweeping panoramas, grandeur and tenderness... ... Nikolai Rubinstein thought Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto as “unplayable and worthless”. Simon Trpčeski gave the lie to that in no uncertain terms... ... Having performed and recorded both of William Walton’s Symphonies, the latter issued recently (review-link below), Karabits was now returning to the First. 
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan at Sadler's Wells – Formosa
Wednesday, May 09, 2018 |  Cloud Gate is known for its rather contemplative, often slo-mo shows, a direct reflection of the deep Buddhist faith of the company’s founder and choreographer Lin Hwai-min. Lin has announced that he is to step-down in 2019 and that Formosa may well be his last new work for the ensemble; for that event, he has departed from his trademark style imbued with meditative and breathing techniques to create something considerably more vigorous, more contemporary. […] The entire undertaking is essentially a musing on Taiwan, formerly Formosa, known as the Beautiful Island, and its conflicting elements: of the past and modernity, of conflict and community, of water and rain, of traditions both lost and preserved… 
Oratorio Society of New York at Carnegie Hall
Monday, May 07, 2018 |  The long-established Oratorio Society of New York closed its current season with Kent Tritle leading American music with a shared message: the human spirit cannot be conquered. ... Iranian-born Behzad Ranjbaran’s twenty-minute We Are One, though premiered in New York, was commissioned by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra in honor of Martin Luther King on the fiftieth anniversary of his death. ... Following intermission, Sanctuary Road. In a little less than an hour, it brought to life an abundant collection of personal histories, interviews, letters, and other texts from William Still’s 1872 memoir, The Underground Railroad Records. 
LSO/Simon Rattle at Lincoln Center (3) – Mahler 10
Monday, May 07, 2018 |  Simon Rattle has championed Deryck Cooke’s performing version of Mahler 10 throughout his career and recorded it twice. ... This LSO performance began with a mildly sorrowful rendition of the violas’ Andante theme. ... The Finale opens with a powerful and continuing punctuating strokes on a muffled drum, a jolt each time. Rattle imbued the eerie opening with otherworldly disquietude. Soft rising-sevenths lead into one of the most beautiful themes Mahler ever wrote, played sublimely by flautist Gareth Davies. 
LSO/Simon Rattle at Lincoln Center (2) – Das Lied von der Erde, with Stuart Skelton & Christian Gerhaher
Sunday, May 06, 2018 |  The LSO, making its first visit to New York with Simon Rattle as music director, has programmed Gustav Mahler’s final three Symphonies... ... Das Lied von der Erde is a Symphony structured as a six-movement song-cycle... ... Stuart Skelton more than held his own against the powerful orchestration of the first setting... ... In ‘Der Einsame im Herbst’ (The Solitary One in Autumn) and ‘Von der Schönheit’ (Of Beauty), Gerhaher used his lyric qualities to essay softer, yet vivid word-pictures. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – John Storgårds conducts Rhapsodic Overture, Cantus Arcticus, Sibelius 7 – Louis Lortie plays Beethoven [live webcast]
Saturday, May 05, 2018 |  To give something or somebody “the bird” is a term of derision. Conversely, for Cantus Arcticus (1972), Einojuhani Rautavaara adds self-made recorded birdsong from the Arctic Circle and the upper reaches of Finland as a haunting addition to the orchestra. John Storgårds ensured a meeting and interaction of Nature and Man... ... The concert opened with Carl Nielsen’s Journey to the Faroe Islands, as imagined. ... Sonically things then improved for the centrepiece, a magnificent Beethoven C-minor from Louis Lortie... 
Borodin Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Haydn, Wolf, Borodin
Saturday, May 05, 2018 |  The Borodin Quartet takes a lively view of Haydn’s Opus 33: rhythmically firm in rhythm and always forward-moving in tempo. This approach is well-suited to these works... ... In Hugo Wolf’s Italian Serenade the Molto vivo marking was taken note off and the richness of melodic invention exploited... ... Less frequently programmed than the Second Quartet, Alexander Borodin’s No.1 initially suffered a strange setback... 
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Mariss Jansons at Carnegie Hall (2) – Mahler 7
Saturday, May 05, 2018 |  If the increasing frequency of performances of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony is any indication, this too-often-maligned work – discombobulated, convoluted and unduly diffuse, say its critics – may have achieved at last a more positive acceptance. It would seem that those who hold on to a negative opinion focus on the allegedly bombastic and certainly confusing Finale, with its many twists and turns, sudden shifts of mood and false or incomplete cadences. ... With this account Mariss Jansons has solved the problem of the Seventh... 
Los Angeles Philharmonic/Gustavo Dudamel at Barbican Hall (3) – Chichester Psalms & Choral Symphony
Friday, May 04, 2018 |  The third and final day of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s residency at the Barbican Centre represented a triumphant conclusion to a daringly original sequence of musical events. In the morning, Gustavo Dudamel had led an open rehearsal... ... It therefore was particularly fitting that the evening concert should commence with a piece by Leonard Bernstein whose enthusiastic work as an educator was a feature of his career. ... Chichester Psalms features highly original use of percussion... ... The power of the LSC and the brilliance of the LA Phil made the pending performance of Beethoven’s ‘Choral’ Symphony an exciting prospect... 
LSO/Simon Rattle at Lincoln Center (1) – Mahler 9
Friday, May 04, 2018 |  Simon Rattle and the LSO’s return to New York City was a masterclass in Mahlerian color... 
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Mariss Jansons at Carnegie Hall (1) – William Tell & Eroica Symphony – Frank Peter Zimmermann plays Prokofiev
Friday, May 04, 2018 |  Mariss Jansons was on the Carnegie Hall stage with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra for this exciting program, the first of two. The evening started with the Overture to Rossini’s final opera, William Tell. ... Frank Peter Zimmermann infused Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto with lyrical nuances and great technical virtuosity. ... Jansons and his musicians made Beethoven’s poignant and noble ‘Eroica’ Symphony leap to life... 
Los Angeles Philharmonic/Gustavo Dudamel at Barbican Hall (2) – Rzewski, Eastman, Hearne
Thursday, May 03, 2018 |  As with its previous visits to the Barbican, the Los Angeles Philharmonic is bringing a wide variety of repertoire, which again features an example of its ground-breaking Green Umbrella series. ... I was surprised by the almost-Coplandesque soundscape of Frederic Rzewski’s Attica... ... There is a more overt shock in Julius Eastman’s Evil Nigger... ... Following the interval, the stage had been cleared of pianos and set – quite far back – for an ensemble of eighteen string-players ( for Law of Mosaics, which Hearne himself introduced... 
CBSO/Edward Gardner – Death and Transfiguration & Sibelius 2 – Baiba Skride plays Prokofiev
Wednesday, May 02, 2018 |  His six-year stint as Principal Guest Conductor may have ended in 2016, but Edward Gardner is still a regular visitor to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and here directed a generous programme with matters of life and death intermittently to the fore. ... It might frequently have fallen victim to accusations of false profundity, but Richard Strauss’s Death and Transfiguration (1889) remains as assured a statement by a composer ‘on the rise’ as there has been... ... Such issues were ostensibly far from Prokofiev’s mind while he essayed his Second Violin Concerto... ... ...its emotional ambiguities are everywhere to be heard and Baiba Skride duly underlined these... 
Los Angeles Philharmonic/Gustavo Dudamel at Barbican Hall (1) – Pollux, Amériques, Shostakovich 5
Wednesday, May 02, 2018 |  This was the first event in the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel’s three-day stay in London... ... This distinctive orchestra started with Pollux by Esa-Pekka Salonen, the LA Phil’s Conductor Laureate. Pollux is the first part in a projected diptych... ... If anything, there is too much voice and style in the French-born, US-naturalised Edgard Varèse’s half-hour Amériques, the anarchic progeny of The Rite of Spring... ... You think Shostakovich’s Fifth is edging towards an agenda, when the composer abruptly whips it away... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Łukasz Borowicz conducts Panufnik & Prokofiev, Anne-Sophie Mutter plays Penderecki
Wednesday, May 02, 2018 |  Crowned by an exalted performance of Penderecki's Second Violin Concerto, played by the dedicatee Anne-Sophie Mutter in the presence of the composer, the London Philharmonic's closing concert of its current season took excellence and courageous programme planning to levels of expectation and emotional intensity more than once defying belief. Here was an orchestra in terrific form, working with a new conductor, Łukasz Borowicz... ... Andrzej Panufnik's Heroic Overture – sketched in 1939 in solidarity with the Polish resistance, selected by the authorities for performance in the run-up to the 1952 Helsinki Olympics but then banned for being formalistic... 
Pavel Kolesnikov at Wigmore Hall
Monday, April 30, 2018 |  As the lights dimmed, there was a disembodied announcement on the Wigmore Hall’s PA system by Pavel Kolesnikov about theatricality, links and purity, along with a request not to applaud between the thirteen short pieces in the first part of his recital... ... Kolesnikov juxtaposed experiments in the elemental with three pieces from Ein Kinderspiel (one of them, ‘Schattentanz’, played twice) by Helmut Lachenmann, the veteran German composer of instrumental musique concrète, interleaved with the six pieces of Debussy’s Children’s Corner, played in their published order, and, in a way suggesting that the child is father to the man, forays into non-childish Chopin, Liszt and Bach... ... There was just as strong a how-far-can-I-go feeling to Schumann’s Fantasy in C... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Hille Perl & Lee Santana
Monday, April 30, 2018 |  If our stereotyped image of Louis XIV’s court is one of politesse and exaggerated empty ritual, this is belied by its music: much of the repertoire is deeply intellectual, even formally subversive, and often brims with wit. At Wigmore Hall, Hille Perl and Lee Santana displayed its variety and depth compellingly... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Fabien Gabel conducts Accursed Hunter, Nocturnes, La valse – Nicolas Altstaedt plays Dutilleux’s Tout un monde lointain … [live webcast]
Sunday, April 29, 2018 |  Belgian-born, French-converted César Franck’s Chasseur maudit (1882) is making a comeback – performances have been spotted recently – and was often found in the recording studio, witness great vinyl from Ansermet, Fournet and Munch. Fabien Gabel opened this DSO webcast with it... ... Henri Dutilleux’s Tout un monde lointain … – completed in 1970 for Rostropovich and inspired by Baudelaire’s poetry – opens with a cymbal shimmer... ... ...Nicolas Altstaedt technically secure... ... Debussy may not have been keen on the impressionism tag, but his Nocturnes can be heard as painting in music – and, anyway, Whistler is cited... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy – Voices of Revolution Russia 1917 – Shostakovich, Symphony 4, James Ehnes plays Violin Concerto 1
Sunday, April 29, 2018 |  Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Philharmonia Orchestra coupled two works Shostakovich initially withdrew... ... Completed in 1948, the First Violin Concerto was premiered by dedicatee David Oistrakh in 1955. James Ehnes took the honours here... ... The Fourth Symphony (1936, held-back for twenty-five years) has an uncompromisingly pessimistic outlook that overrides false smiles and the Finale’s half-hearted optimism. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Gergely Madaras conducts Tombeau de Couperin, Wound-Dresser, Tallis Fantasia, Face
Saturday, April 28, 2018 |  Events marking the centenary of the end of the First World War included this BBC Symphony Orchestra concert, concerned predominantly with enduring human goodness. Both Ravel and Vaughan Williams served as volunteers at the Front, as did Walt Whitman (set by John Adams in The Wound-Dresser) in the American Civil War, and Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin is dedicated to friends killed in action. ... Gergely Madaras had very clear, elegantly expressed ideas of phrase... ... Ross Harris is a rangy, articulate, seventy-two-year-old New Zealander. Face is a thirty-five-minute cantata for three singers, choir and orchestra, and it must be the first work inspired by plastic surgery, in this instance the pioneering work carried out by Harold Gillies and his team on facial reconstruction. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Thomas Søndergård conducts Faune & Dvořák 8, Luca Buratto plays Prokofiev
Friday, April 27, 2018 |  We all know Boulez's cosy generalisation about Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune being the “awakening of modern music” (wasn't that the ‘Eroica’ ninety years before?)... ... Acknowledging the centenary of Debussy's death, Thomas Søndergård, replacing the previously advertised Alondra de la Parra, directed a searching and poetic, impeccably structured interpretation... ... Luca Buratto, winner of the 2015 Honens International Piano Competition, is a determined Italian... ... Everyone these days seems to be programming Prokofiev's Second Piano Concerto... ... Dvořák Eight – what a perfectly formed, balanced and prepared Symphony this is. Søndergård, always the cultured musician, not given to histrionics or excessive point-making, delivered an account pre-occupied with detail... 
An Evening with Danielle de Niese at Queen Elizabeth Hall
Friday, April 27, 2018 |  An evening of intense feeling and colourful theatricality. Alongside Danielle de Niese, two veteran musicians were included, Menahem Pressler and James Galway. 
Evgeny Kissin and Emerson String Quartet at Carnegie Hall – Mozart, Fauré, Dvořák
Friday, April 27, 2018 |  Making a rare sortie into chamber music, Evgeny Kissin teamed up with the Emerson String Quartet at Carnegie Hall. 
Los Angeles Philharmonic/Gustavo Dudamel at Lincoln Center – Pollux, Amériques, Shostakovich 5
Friday, April 27, 2018 |  Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic opened the first of two Lincoln Center concerts with Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Pollux... ... Edgard Varèse found his true identity with Amériques, the first piece he wrote after moving from France to New York in 1915... 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts Woven Space & Mahler 9 (II)
Thursday, April 26, 2018 |  For the second time of asking in the Barbican Hall Simon Rattle led Mahler 9 – not the end of the LSO’s current Mahlerian story, for Lincoln Center beckons ... Beforehand, Helen Grime’s Woven Space (given its premiere a week ago), music inspired by sculptures made from natural materials by Laura Ellen Bacon. 
Benjamin Grosvenor at Queen Elizabeth Hall
Thursday, April 26, 2018 |  Benjamin Grosvenor seems to be surviving unscathed the rigours and weight of prize-winning, promotion and expectation... ... Brahms’s late piano music can be so inward and melancholy that the pianist has his or her work cut out conveying its extremes of privacy in a concert hall. Grosvenor compounded this potential problem by alternating each of the Opus 119 Pieces with the three that make up Brett Dean’s Hommage à Brahms. ... By contrast, Leonard Borwick’s 1919 transcription of Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune brilliantly reinvents it for piano... ... ...Grosvenor capped it with an incandescent account of Gaspard de la nuit. 
Matthias Goerne & Alexander Schmalcz at Wigmore Hall – Brahms
Thursday, April 26, 2018 |  In this Brahms selection Matthias Goerne explored the depths vocally and emotionally of this supremely melancholy and philosophical repertoire... 
Vertavo String Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Haydn
Wednesday, April 25, 2018 |  The Vertavo Quartet played the bold introductory chords of Opus 71/1 firmly but slightly softened the last of the five before launching into the rich melodies of the first movement. ... Haydn may have established the rules for String Quartets but he was also forever breaking them. 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/James Feddeck at Lighthouse – Four Sea Interludes & Death and Transfiguration – Daniel Müller-Schott plays Dvořák
Wednesday, April 25, 2018 |  Fifty years separate the first two works in this “Notes of Nostalgia” concert, homesickness the common denominator, Britten’s beloved Suffolk and Dvořák’s native Bohemia; both works conceived respectively in California and New York. Perhaps then it was appropriate for New Yorker James Feddeck to be at the helm of this Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra programme. ... Dvořák’s Cello Concerto has unearthed some wonderful performers in its hundred-year-plus history. Daniel Müller-Schott is no exception... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Robert Trevino conducts Mahler 5, Arseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev plays Rachmaninov 2
Wednesday, April 25, 2018 |  Last June, Robert Trevino made his London debut with Mahler’s Third Symphony (replacing Daniel Harding at the LSO). This time he was conducting the London Philharmonic in the Fifth Symphony and accompanying the grandson of Tatiana Nikolaeva in one of the most popular of Piano Concertos. ... Arseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev delivered the opening chords of Rachmaninov’s Second Concerto in a rather striking way... 
William Whitehead at Royal Festival Hall organ
Tuesday, April 24, 2018 |  William Whitehead brought the current season of Royal Festival Hall organ recitals to a spectacular close with a programme covering the main schools except French romantic and modern, in which, incidentally, he excels. ... With the latest instalment of Whitehead’s Orgelbüchlein Project supplying a trio of premieres, Bach was inevitably the ghost in the machine... ... Liszt’s ‘Ad nos’ Fantasia and Fugue is in the same league as, say, his Piano Sonata in B-minor or the amazing De profundis (piano and orchestra), and Whitehead matched it with an electrifying performance... 
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House – Antonio Pappano conducts Metamorphosen & Enigma Variations, Christian Gerhaher sings Frank Martin & Shostakovich
Monday, April 23, 2018 |  In one of their occasional translations from pit to stage, the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House and Antonio Pappano again presented a cleverly thought-through programme. ... Strauss’s Metamorphosen is a lament for the destruction and betrayal of European culture in the Second World War, and with the way things currently are it stands equally tragically as an anthem to the failure of the European ideal. ... The Strauss connection continued tangentially with the cycle of Six Monologues from Jedermann by the Swiss composer Frank Martin, written around the same time as Metamorphosen. Jedermann (Everyman) is a morality play by Hugo von Hofmannsthal... ... Christian Gerhaher didn’t seem an ideal fit... ... The full ROH Orchestra finally made its mark in Elgar’s Enigma Variations... 
The Metropolitan Opera – Bartlett Sher’s production of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette – Ailyn Pérez & Andrea Shin; conducted by Plácido Domingo
Monday, April 23, 2018 |  Plácido Domingo conducted a fine first-night performance of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, with Ailyn Pérez and Andrea Shin. This is the first revival of Bartlett Sher’s production for La Scala, which opened at the Met on New Year’s Eve 2016. Shin went on in place of the ailing Charles Castronovo, himself engaged to replace Bryan Hymel... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Gent, Truscott, Manson, Pinnock
Monday, April 23, 2018 |  Trevor Pinnock and his harpsichord were often content to toil away in the background while the string-players took the limelight. But if a single star of the show emerged it was Pinnock, with a compelling account of the Froberger... 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts The Rose Lake & Mahler 10
Sunday, April 22, 2018 |  Simon Rattle ended his traversal of Mahler’s late symphonic works by returning to the piece he has championed for over four decades, during which time the Tenth Symphony – heard in Deryck Cooke’s performing version – has established itself firmly within the Mahler canon. ... Rattle paired the Mahler with Michael Tippett’s The Rose Lake on the basis of their both evincing a transcendence as comes only with the wisdom of ‘last things’, a ruse wholly justified by the excellence of the latter piece as it emerged here. ... A superb response from the LSO... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Ode, and Falik & Hillborg, Gil Shaham plays Beethoven
Saturday, April 21, 2018 |  The London Philharmonic’s “Changing Faces: Stravinsky’s Journey” continues its forensic exploration. The evening began with Yuri Falik’s quarter-hour Elegiac Music... ... There followed Anders Hillborg’s Mantra, a concise and eventful work. ... In the Beethoven Gil Shaham drew on a range of colour, from lustrous to sweet-toned to fashion a first movement of aristocratic poise... 
Malta International Music Festival/Armenian Cultural Days in Malta – Armenian State Symphony Orchestra/Sergey Smbatyan – Rachmaninov – Nikolai Lugansky plays Paganini Rhapsody
Friday, April 20, 2018 |  Back-to-back with Karl Fiorini's more modest International Spring Orchestra Festival, the Malta International Music Festival, organised by the European Foundation for Support of Culture and the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, is an aggressively large-scale enterprise... ... Founded in 2005, the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra – despite its old-fashioned 'Soviet' labelling not to be confused with the venerated Armenian National Philharmonic of Spendiaryan, Gergiev and Tjeknavorian memory... ... Wanting in charisma, its founder and music director, Sergey Smbatyan, is a busy, flapping presence on the podium... ... Playing a balanced but indifferent Fabbrini Steinway shipped in from Italy, Nikolai Lugansky, every now and again raced uncomfortably, dispatched a coolly efficient Paganini Rhapsody... 
Alina Ibragimova & Cédric Tiberghien play Brahms’s Three Violin Sonatas at Wigmore Hall
Friday, April 20, 2018 |  Some of his songs and the late piano pieces notwithstanding, Brahms’s three Violin Sonatas are probably the closest you are going to get to the notoriously private composer – a subjective view, perhaps, but one confirmed by Alina Ibragimova’s and Cédric Tiberghien’s performances of all three at Wigmore Hall... 
Colin Currie & Nicolas Hodges at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Birtwistle, Feldman, Stockhausen
Thursday, April 19, 2018 |  While the BBC was launching Proms 2018, and Simon Rattle was conducting Mahler 9 with the LSO and Kenneth Woods dealing into Americana ‘18 at St John’s (to name just three events in London on this evening), Colin Currie and Nicolas Hodges were gracing the Queen Elizabeth Hall with their brand of pianistic and percussive magic. The first half was a neatly constructed and unbroken thirty-minute sequence (a request for no applause duly observed) of short pieces by Birtwistle, Feldman and Stockhausen; the second half, a little longer, consisted of the latter’s Kontakte. 
Americana ’18 at St John’s Smith Square – English Symphony Orchestra/Kenneth Woods – Emma Johnson plays Copland
Thursday, April 19, 2018 |  Programmes of worthwhile American music don’t come around that often, so this concert by the English Symphony Orchestra and Kenneth Woods at St John’s Smith Square deserved a fuller audience at this fine venue – now, it appears, in serious danger of being closed permanently in the wake of official ‘decisions’ by various bodies not to give any grants towards ensuring its survival. ... Emma Johnson was the wonderful soloist in Aaron Copland’s great Clarinet Concerto, a masterpiece fully worthy to stand alongside those by Nielsen, Hindemith and Finzi. 
New York Philharmonic/Christoph Eschenbach – Bruckner 9 – Till Fellner plays Mozart K482
Thursday, April 19, 2018 |  This concert opened with Till Fellner making an impressive New York Philharmonic debut in a sparkling performance of majestic Mozart. ... Christoph Eschenbach proved a vibrant and supportive partner... ... Following intermission Eschenbach led a dignified and inspired reading of Bruckner’s left-unfinished Ninth Symphony... 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts Woven Space & Mahler 9 (I)
Thursday, April 19, 2018 |  It was with Mahler that Simon Rattle first announced his presence on the conducting scene well over four decades ago, thus it made sense that this composer dominate his first season as Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra with the valedictory final three of Mahler's symphonic works. ... The first half provided further evidence of Rattle's commitment to new music with a first hearing for Woven Space, the latest and most ambitious orchestral work by Helen Grime. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Symphony in C & Tango, and Shostakovich 6, Leif Ove Andsnes plays Debussy
Wednesday, April 18, 2018 |  The LPO’s Stravinsky series continues. A week ago it was Perséphone, two days later Jeu de cartes, and now Symphony in C, all neoclassical. The Symphony (1940, Chicago) has many challenges for even the best of orchestras. The LPO was put on its mettle by Vladimir Jurowski’s challengingly quick tempo for the opening movement... ... Debussy was less than pleased with his Fantaisie... ... ...Leif Ove Andsnes did the revisions published in 1968 proud...  
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Karabits at Lighthouse – Rachmaninov – Nemanja Radulović plays Tchaikovsky
Wednesday, April 18, 2018 |  There is much to admire in Rachmaninov’s First Symphony – unfairly deemed a ‘Cinderella’ work in respect of its disastrous premiere at the hands of Glazunov – and was here given a sure-footed account under Kirill Karabits that periodically blazed with sweeping conviction. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra responded to its dark colours with warmth and gusto... ... Following the interval came a riveting account of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, given by an inspired Nemanja Radulović... 
Castalian String Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Haydn – the first three Quartets of Opus 76
Tuesday, April 17, 2018 |  Haydn’s Opus 76/1 dates from 1797 and was his first String Quartet since ‘Der Reiter’ (The Horseman) created five years earlier during his London visit. The sunny opening Allegro con spirito proved an ideal vehicle to display the Castalian Quartet’s vivid approach to Haydn’s swifter movements. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Laurent Pelly’s production of Massenet’s Cendrillon – Joyce DiDonato, Alice Coote, Kathleen Kim, Stephanie Blythe & Laurent Naouri; conducted by Bertrand de Billy
Tuesday, April 17, 2018 |  Jules Massenet’s Cendrillon is being performed at the Met for the first time in this stylish production by Laurent Pelly that captures the wittiness of this fairy-tale opera. With the Orchestra in fine form Bertrand de Billy leads a strong cast in an effervescent account... ... The unusual pairing of two mezzo-sopranos – Joyce DiDonato in the title role and Alice Coote as her Prince Charming – is gorgeous... 
London Handel Festival – Occasional Oratorio
Monday, April 16, 2018 |  The occasion was the second Jacobite rebellion of 1745, in which Bonnie Prince Charlie’s forces came as far south through England as Derby. Handel quickly stitched together Occasional Overture to rally support for the government of George II, before the Duke of Cumberland was despatched to defeat the uprising at Culloden the next year. ... Laurence Cummings directed the London Handel Orchestra in a performance which was both stately and spirited... 
The Metropolitan Opera – Phelim McDermott’s production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte – Amanda Majeski, Serena Malfi, Ben Bliss, Adam Plachetka, Christopher Maltman & Kelli O’Hara; conducted by David Robertson
Monday, April 16, 2018 |  Così fan tutte’s focus on human behavior, emotions and foibles is independent of time and place. Phelim McDermott’s colorful setting in the amusement park of Coney Island in the 1950s provides added dimensions to the Da Ponte-Mozart masterpiece. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Esa-Pekka Salonen – Biber, Beethoven, Unsuk Chin – Music of Today: Vito Žuraj
Sunday, April 15, 2018 |  Vito Žuraj is Slovenian, thirty-nine, and charged with a freakishly acute ear. The Philharmonia Orchestra gave three of his works in its Music of Today slot. ... In the main concert, Esa-Pekka Salonen guided two antiphonal groups of strings standing either side of a harpsichord through Biber’s Battalia... ... You can’t help but admire Unsuk Chin’s layered and lucid writing for orchestra and her confident handling of large forms, and her Ligeti-like spectral glittering is very seductive. I do miss, however, a discernible personality and that vital grit – and all of this applies to Le chant des enfants des étoiles (2016), a meditation on humanity’s relationship to the universe, no less. This choral work with a huge orchestra and a Messiaen-like title is very ambitious... 
Villiers Quartet at Pushkin House – Shostakovich, Josephson, David Matthews, Tischenko
Sunday, April 15, 2018 |  The Villiers Quartet is a champion of the unfamiliar (Naxos recordings of music by Robert Still and Peter Racine Fricker, for example) as well as pieces by living composers. This Pushkin House recital was a marathon event... ... Nors S. Josephson is perhaps best-known for his completion of the Finale to Bruckner Nine. ... David Matthews was clearly delighted by the performance of his Eighth Quartet (1997). He said a few words beforehand... ... The late Boris Tishchenko’s compositions deserve to be much better known. His Fifth Quartet (1984) is a quirky but structurally-coherent opus... 
LSO – Susanna Mälkki conducts Sibelius 5 & Patrick Giguère’s Revealing – Daniel Müller-Schott plays Elgar
Sunday, April 15, 2018 |  Susanna Mälkki made her LSO debut last March, standing in for Valery Gergiev in Brahms and Richard Strauss, but this bill of fare more obviously played to her strengths... ... ...Mälkki will have been unfazed by the understated idiom of Revealing, a shadowy five-minute processional from French-Canadian Patrick Giguère. ... It is easy to forget that Elgar’s Cello Concerto received little immediate exposure after its disastrous 1919 premiere... ... In recent years German critics have given a similar reception to Daniel Müller-Schott’s Orfeo production... 
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Closing Concert – Dimitri Scarlato conducts...
Saturday, April 14, 2018 |  Karl Fiorini's twelfth International Spring Orchestra Festival, “Revolution and its Composers”, his most ambitiously planned to date, has seen a week of premieres and risks, late Bartók featuring high on the agenda, with a challenging roster of artists ranging from Joaquín Achúcarro (the veteran of the field) to Daphne Delicata (not yet twelve but a pianist to watch). ... Based in London, Dimitri Scarlato (born 1977) studied in Rome at the Conservatorio di Musica Santa Cecilia and the Università La Sapienza (graduating with a dissertation on Wittgenstein and Webern); and in London at the Guildhall School and the Royal College of Music (working with Kenneth Hesketh and Mark-Anthony Turnage). ... Bartók's Divertimento and Lutosławski's Musique funèbre – twentieth-century string-orchestra classics written respectively either side of World War Two – exemplified Scarlato's priorities. ... Scarlato's own In Limbo (2018) draws its inspiration from the 2017 book of the same title by the Italian translator Elena Remigi. This gathers stories of European citizens in the UK following the June 2016 Brexit vote. 
The Royal Ballet – Triple Bill of works by Resident Choreographers – Obsidian Tear; Marguerite and Armand; Elite Syncopations
Saturday, April 14, 2018 |  This latest triple bill by The Royal Ballet just goes to show that live performance can confound all expectations, with a work one remembers as strong proving to be far from it, and another which are over-familiar, new-minted. As a programme, it is a distinctly odd affair, with three works so utterly different that one can discern almost no points of cross-reference whatsoever. That, in itself, could be a virtue, establishing interest in their very lack of commonality [...] After the high emotion of Marguerite and Armand, it was good to have Kenneth MacMillan’s 1975 ragtime romp Elite Syncopations to finish [...] Sheer bliss. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – John Storgårds conducts Jeu de cartes, Rachmaninov 3, and Bryce Dessner’s Concerto for Two Pianos with the Labèque sisters
Friday, April 13, 2018 |  Bryce Dessner wrote his Concerto for Two Pianos for Katia & Marielle Labèque last year. ... Stravinsky deals a far more appealing hand in Jeu de cartes, completed in 1936 for choreography by George Balanchine. There have been more scintillating accounts than this (Charles Munch’s recording, for example), but John Storgårds poker-faced reading, rather too deliberate at times, nevertheless offered numerous rewards... 
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Somogyi String Quartet plays Bartók & Stravinsky
Friday, April 13, 2018 |  Concerts come no more refined or brilliantly executed than this. The members of the Somogyi String Quartet, formed in 1997 by former graduates of the Liszt Academy in Budapest, are contemporary specialists of the highest order. 
Academy of Ancient Music at Milton Court – Richard Egarr plays and conducts Haydn & Dussek
Friday, April 13, 2018 |  The Academy of Ancient Music provided a convincingly eighteenth-century sound... ... The slightly rustic timbre was very appropriate and it certainly suited Richard Egarr’s forthright reading of Haydn 93... ... Accompanied on the fortepiano by Egarr, Daniela Lehner charmed us with a selection from Dussek’s Six Canzonets. ... The opening of Dussek’s G-minor Piano Concerto immediately brought to mind that of Beethoven’s C-minor Third with which it is precisely contemporary. ... Directing from the keyboard, with the leader also placed in clear view of colleagues, Egarr shaped the music firmly... 
Igor Levit at Wigmore Hall – Rzewski, Mendelssohn, Mahler/Stevenson
Friday, April 13, 2018 |  Igor Levit has achieved guru-like status in a relatively short time, and his reputation ensures faithful audiences willing to go the distance with him. Levit put that loyalty to the test with Frederic Rzewski’s Ages... ... After such a work-out, the piano sounded in good nick for three of Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words... ... And they led without a break back into the world of large-scale expression. Ronald Stevenson (the Scottish musical polymath who died in 2015, aged eighty-seven) was a Marxist, a pacifist and a prolific composer. His best-known work is probably the eighty-minute Passacaglia on DSCH, and Levit has the Peter Grimes Fantasy in his repertoire. ... Stevenson was also an epic transcriber and in 1987 turned his attention to the Adagio from Mahler’s Tenth Symphony. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Andrew Davis conducts Starlight Express, The World Was Once All Miracle, Out of the Mist, Spirit of England
Friday, April 13, 2018 |  But, with an absorbing link to events around one-hundred years ago, Sir Andrew Davis’s return to the Barbican Hall proved to be the most satisfyingly cohesive and intelligently planned concert in a while. ... We might not think of him as such, but Elgar – if not Janus-faced – was at least much more than one-sided. The works here first showed his lighter side, hankering after childhood, in selections from The Starlight Express and the patriotic, more-public side in The Spirit of England, separating Raymond Yiu’s tribute to Anthony Burgess as well as Lilian Elkington’s sombre if Out of the Mists, which we should count ourselves very lucky to be able to hear. 
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons at Carnegie Hall (3), with Yo-Yo Ma & Steven Ansell – Mozart 23, Jörg Widmann’s Partita, Richard Strauss’s Don Quixote
Friday, April 13, 2018 |  The evening opened with a vigorous performance of Mozart’s brief D-major Symphony (K181)... ... Andris Nelsons chose the work because of the affinity of its second-movement oboe theme with the ‘Dulcinea’ melody in Strauss’s Don Quixote... ... Jörg Widmann’s Partita is a BSO-Leipzig Gewandhaus commission celebrating the recently established partnership between the orchestras. Last month Nelsons led the first performance in Leipzig and US premiere in Boston. The forty-minute piece references music history, especially Leipzig, with echoes of Bach, Mendelssohn and Wagner... ... In his affectionate musical portrait of Cervantes’s knight-errant battling windmills, routing a flock of sheep, dreaming of his darling Dulcinea, and conversing with his trusty squire, Sancho Panza, on the merits of chivalric life, Richard Strauss allots a cello (Yo-Yo Ma) as Don Quixote, and a viola (BSO principal Steven Ansell) as Panza. 
English National Ballet at Sadler's Wells – Voices of America – Fantastic Beings; Approximate Sonata 2016; The Cage; Playlist (Track 1,2)
Friday, April 13, 2018 |  It was a brave move to schedule a ballet programme entitled Voices of America and not to include a work by George Balanchine, the man credited with establishing Classical dancing in the USA. But Tamara Rojo, English National Ballet’s doughty Director often thinks outside the obvious and puts together interesting and sometimes arresting works to create a cogent whole. [...] [With William Forsythe's new work] ENB has itself an instant hit, a perfect closing piece to send their audiences out in a state of elation, and a work by one of the world’s most justifiably revered current dance makers. 
London Handel Festival – Teseo – Patrick Terry, Leila Zanette & Meinir Wyn Roberts; La Nuova Musica/David Bates
Thursday, April 12, 2018 |  Teseo (premiered 1713) is, in a sense, the closest Handel came to composing a French opera in that its libretto is based upon one originally written for Lully, and its Classical mythological subject (rare for Handel) retains the characteristic five-Act structure, unique among his stage-works. ... David Bates and the cast of young singers from Royal Academy Opera brought those off superbly, with their robust, full-blooded account of this drama, which constitutes Handel’s second ‘magic’ opera, in reference to the spells cast by Medea. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Esa-Pekka Salonen – Mahler 1 – David Fray plays Beethoven
Thursday, April 12, 2018 |  Esa-Pekka Salonen’s latest slow traversal of Mahler’s Symphonies turned the clocks back to first base in this concert, with the First Symphony – the third of six performances (following Leicester and Basingstoke – both with David Fray and preceding a short European tour to Paris, Antwerp and Essen, where the Mahler is prefaced by Beethoven’s Second Symphony). ... David Fray, seated on two stacked chairs, presented Beethoven’s first-written numbered Piano Concerto... 
The Royal Opera – Richard Jones’s production of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk – Eva-Maria Westbroek, Brandon Jovanovich, John Tomlinson, John Daszak; conducted by Antonio Pappano
Thursday, April 12, 2018 |  Richard Jones’s 2004 production of Shostakovich’s big, shabby shocker Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk was the first time the 1934 original had been staged by The Royal Opera, and it hasn’t been mounted since its first revival in 2006. Despite the twelve-year gap, two of the 2006 principals – Eva-Maria Westbroek as the fatally bored merchant’s wife Katerina Ismailova and John Tomlinson (marking his fortieth anniversary with the Company) as her singularly repulsive father-in-law – return with overwhelming results. ... The more Antonio Pappano accommodated the music’s lyricism, the more painful it became... 
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Aquilon Trio
Thursday, April 12, 2018 |  Sandwiched between three twentieth-century landmarks of the clarinet-trio repertory, Karl Fiorini's Lamina and Timothy Salter's Triptych stand at opposite ends of the stylistic spectrum – one attempting to break chains, nearer the “Revolution” theme of this year's International Spring Orchestra Festival, the other retrospective and restricted. ... Repetitive Tango and stiffly 'polite' Devil apart, the clipped manner and secco verve of Stravinsky's Soldier’s Tale arrangement made for an appealing centrepiece (even if it'll never replace the original instrumentation). Bartók's Contrasts, too, had classiness. Yet, ultimately, this was a reading more restrained than released, not so much abandoned as careful. What impacts about the composer's 1940 recording with Goodman and Szigeti is its curvaceous liberty... 
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons at Carnegie Hall (2) – Act II of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde; Jonas Kaufmann & Camilla Nylund
Thursday, April 12, 2018 |  In Tristan und Isolde, Wagner sought to elucidate what absolute, unrestrained Love might be like and how it approaches self-annihilation. There is much Freudian psychology in this approach (Eros and Thanatos merging). ... Andris Nelsons assembled some of the best Wagner singers available, and offered the core second Act of this masterwork. Jonas Kaufmann and Camilla Nylund brought to their roles substantial vocal gifts. 
London Handel Festival – Giulio Cesare – Tim Mead & Anna Devin; Early Opera Company/Christian Curnyn
Wednesday, April 11, 2018 |  Only last autumn English Touring Opera undertook the heroic task of presenting the complete score of Handel’s longest opera seria, albeit divided into a more manageable two parts. This latest concert performance (for the London Handel Festival) necessarily made some cuts and stood in stark contrast with ETO’s efforts by showing how the drama of Julius Caesar’s conquering of Egypt – and its Queen, Cleopatra – can be made more persuasively succinct... ... Christian Curnyn’s account with the Early Opera Company was generally brisk, driving the pace of the drama with vigour. ... If Shakespeare has Enobarbus praise Cleopatra’s “infinite variety”, it was Tim Mead who brought to bear a correspondingly impressive diversity and range in his personification of Caesar. 
OAE @ QEH – Mozart – Roger Norrington conducts Symphonies 33 & 36, Roger Montgomery plays Horn Concertos 1 & 4
Wednesday, April 11, 2018 |  The Queen Elizabeth Hall ideally accommodates the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and enhances the excellent quality of the strings, justifying Roger Norrington’s conviction that freedom of vibrato is an essential part of ‘authentic’ performance. ... Matters of balance, tempo and general sound were thoroughly attended to, demonstrating the joyful nature of Symphony 33 and the grandeur of the ‘Linz’. ... Roger Montgomery then gave an eloquent account of K495 – the long melodic lines sensitively phrased, the flowing ease of his playing remarkable, and the jollity of the Finale ideally conveyed. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Thomas Adès conducts Perséphone, and his Powder Her Face Suite & Gerald Barry’s Organ Concerto
Wednesday, April 11, 2018 |  For those who can’t get enough of Thomas Adès’s Powder Her Face, there is the original four-hander chamber opera itself, first seen in 1995, then in 2007 a short set yoking together the Overture, Waltz and Finale arranged for large orchestra, and now the fleshing out of the 2007 material with more numbers, including instrumental versions of vocal solos. ... Adès is a friend of Gerald Barry and a champion of his music... ... Take his Organ Concerto, first heard in Birmingham, with Thomas Trotter fearlessly taking the instrument (Barry’s own when he was a boy and a young man) beyond our and its experience. ... Adès’s finesse of ear and pace was to the fore in a rare performance of Stravinsky’s Perséphone... ... Kristin Scott Thomas’s recitation, in flawless French, as Persephone was both cool and passionate... ... Toby Spence was on sweet and warm form... 
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons at Carnegie Hall (1) – Leonard Bernstein’s Age of Anxiety with Jean-Yves Thibaudet & Shostakovich 4
Wednesday, April 11, 2018 |  This highly rewarding program opened with a brilliantly expressive performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Second Symphony, titled ‘The Age of Anxiety’ after W. H. Auden’s Pulitzer-prize winning poem... ... the most striking feature is the inclusion of an elaborate piano part, on this occasion performed by Jean-Yves Thibaudet who delivered a ravishing account. ... ...a lively partnership with Andris Nelsons. ... After intermission came an overwhelmingly intense performance of Shostakovich’s audacious Fourth Symphony... 
JACK Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Brian Ferneyhough, Julian Anderson, Marcos Balter, Amy Williams
Wednesday, April 11, 2018 |  Recent seasons have seen appreciably greater emphasis on contemporary music at Wigmore Hall, with recitals by the New York-based JACK Quartet becoming a regular fixture. ... In what was an exact reversal of the programme originally detailed, the evening opened with Dum transisset (2006) by Brian Ferneyhough. ... There are no detectable influences at work in Julian Anderson’s Third String Quartet (2018), though the musical possibilities explored remain wide. 
Different Trains @ Queen Elizabeth Hall
Tuesday, April 10, 2018 |  With the newly reopened Queen Elizabeth Hall barely two days old, one of its established regular series – the International Chamber Music Season – celebrated its return to home base with a thirtieth-anniversary performance of Steve Reich’s Different Trains... ... In between came a work for soloists from the London Contemporary Orchestra – Mica Levi’s You belong to me, which looks to the 1950s’ titular ballad by Chilton Price, as well as another classic Reich score, Electric Counterpoint, for multiple electric guitars, but only one played live. 
Philadelphia Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin at Carnegie Hall – Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, Tod Machover’s Philadelphia Voices, and Pictures at an Exhibition
Tuesday, April 10, 2018 |  Tod Machover’s Philadelphia Voices, in its New York premiere, is a truly contemporary work catering to today’s audiences who crave the familiar over the artistic. ... One of Leonard Bernstein’s masterpieces, Chichester Psalms, opened the concert. With a strong emphasis on sonic power, heavenly serenity and propulsive energy, Nézet-Séguin led a most impressive performance. ... The second part, based mostly upon the text of Psalm XXIII, featured Dante Michael DiMaio. ... The familiar Ravel orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition gave the Philadelphia Orchestra a chance to show how its once-famous timbre has at last returned. Although the Philadelphia sound created by Stokowski and maintained by Ormandy will probably never quite be duplicated, the Orchestra on this occasion played brilliantly. 
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Pianos and Percussion – Lièvre, Conil, Bartók
Monday, April 09, 2018 |  Living up to the nightly challenge that is Malta's International Spring Orchestra Festival – its artistic director, Karl Fiorini, is defiantly proud that his innovative programming does not “give the crowd what it wishes for”, that he will “never go mainstream” – this recital boldly combined the defining, ever-brilliant, two-piano-and-percussion classic of the twentieth-century, Bartók’s Sonata, with a pair of new French works for the same combination. 
Queen Elizabeth Hall reopens – Chineke! Orchestra
Monday, April 09, 2018 |  The Queen Elizabeth Hall has reopened in exuberant style... ... Chineke! is one of Southbank Centre’s newest Associate Orchestras... ... Daniel Kidane’s Dream Song followed, its texts taken from Martin Luther King’s speeches. Roderick Williams delivered the lines almost as Sprechstimme... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Javier Perianes
Monday, April 09, 2018 |  Javier Perianes presented two pairs of composers – Debussy/Chopin and Debussy/Falla – as studies in contrasts and similarities for his Wigmore Hall recital. 
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Joaquín Achúcarro plays Chopin, Debussy & Falla
Sunday, April 08, 2018 |  Eighty-six this year (in November), the legendary Basque Spanish pianist Joaquín Achúcarro brings something of the old-world weight and charisma of the trans-Atlantic heroes of the pre-/post-war period – Rubinstein, Horowitz, Cherkassky, Iturbi, Bolet, Arrau. 
LSO – Gianandrea Noseda conducts Shostakovich 8, Nikolai Lugansky plays Beethoven 4
Sunday, April 08, 2018 |  Beethoven at his most benign and apollonian coupled with Shostakovich at his most epic, oblique and brutalising. The contrast was similar to that in the Andante of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, writ large. I love the way the piano has the first word in the opening movement and the last in the second, Nikolai Lugansky serving them both with serene authority... ... Gianandrea Noseda, one of the LSO’s Principal Guest Conductors, made room for Lugansky’s conversational rubato... ... Shostakovich 8 takes no prisoners. Its canvas of alienation, bitter irony, banality and aimlessness, with titanic climaxes merely piling more corpses onto its war-time pyrrhic victories... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Leonard Slatkin conducts Zeal, Siegfried Idyll, Till Eulenspiegel – Yoonshin Song plays Bartók [live webcast]
Saturday, April 07, 2018 |  For the third time of asking (twice the day before) this DSO programme opened with Steven Bryant’s Zeal. ... Yoonshin Song is DSO concertmaster (that role traded to Kimberly Kaloyanides Kennedy on this occasion). She has the full measure of Bartók’s very demanding Second Violin Concerto, completed in 1938 for Zoltán Székely... ... Before the concert’s part two, which contrasted rapture with mischief, Leonard Slatkin was presented with a Detroit Music Award... ... Richard Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll was unveiled privately on Christmas morning 1870, Cosima Wagner’s birthday... ... As for Richard Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel... 
Leonard Bernstein’s Mass at Royal Festival Hall; directed by Jude Kelly; conducted by Marin Alsop
Friday, April 06, 2018 |  Caught between ambition and megalomania, assertively liberal and me-me-me-centred, petulant, and desperate to be loved, Leonard Bernstein’s Mass continues to maintain its universality despite aspiring to be, like the rock-musical Hair, one of the emblematic summings-up of the 1960s (the premiere of Mass was in 1971, commissioned by Jacqueline Kennedy to mark the opening of the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC). The Kennedy era and ensuing trauma, Martin Luther King, Vietnam, Flower Power and a fast-forward through to Obama, Trump, gun control and #metoo are all covered in the visual references, on four big screens above the stage, that weaponise the work’s context, in Jude Kelly’s straightforward staging... ... ...also with Marin Alsop in charge... 
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Opening Concert – Brian Schembri conducts Karl Fiorini's Pentimenti, Honegger 2 and Shostakovich 14
Friday, April 06, 2018 |  Given the restless,refined imagination of its Paris-based artistic director, Karl Fiorini, the International Spring Orchestra Festival in Valletta, now in its twelfth season, is about discernment. ... Commissioned by the Valletta 2018 Foundation (Valletta is this year's European Capital of Culture), Pentimenti turns to painting for its stimulus – in this case pentimento, that technique, from Van Eyck and Caravaggio to Picasso... ... Shostakovich's uncompromising Fourteenth Symphony is laden with intensity, nuances, and associations of history. Solzhenitsyn thought it unduly pessimistic... 
Stephen Hough at Royal Festival Hall – Debussy, Schumann, Beethoven’s Appassionata
Thursday, April 05, 2018 |  “Give Me the Moonlight” sang Frankie Vaughan, and Stephen Hough did just that, three shafts of celestial illumination courtesy of Debussy, beginning with ‘Clair de lune’... 
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons – Wagner – Siegfried Idyll & Tristan und Isolde; Jonas Kaufmann & Camilla Nylund
Thursday, April 05, 2018 |  This Boston Symphony Wagner concert opened with one of the composer's few instrumental works still heard today, Siegfried Idyll... ... Taking a relatively slow tempo, Andris Nelsons drew a heartfelt and richly-contoured account... ... Following intermission, the BSO and a stellar cast of singers gave a stirring account of Tristan and Isolde, the second Act, in which the doomed lovers finally succumb to their irresistible passion... ... Jonas Kaufmann was taking on Tristan for the first time, and Camilla Nylund was also making her debut as Isolde. 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Thomas Dausgaard – Four Sea Interludes & Symphonic Dances – Steven Isserlis plays Elgar
Wednesday, April 04, 2018 |  Sixty-five years ago, when your correspondent first began going to concerts reasonably regularly, a programme such as this would have meant a box-office disaster. In 1953, Britten’s opera Peter Grimes, from which the ‘Four Sea Interludes’ are taken, was only eight years old, and better-known through two 78rpm sets, one conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent, the second by Eduard van Beinum. The technical difficulties these pieces present were then not so readily playable by every orchestra, professional or largely amateur, as they are today. ... Steven Isserlis is probably the finest living interpreter of Elgar’s Cello Concerto... 
Bertrand Chamayou plays Liszt at Wigmore Hall
Wednesday, April 04, 2018 |  This was the first time I have heard Bertrand Chamayou live. His recordings of Schubert, Ravel, Debussy and Liszt have held their own in a crowded market, and this recital at Wigmore Hall – where he made his London debut right at the end of 2010 – proved he is a force to be reckoned with. Liszt’s piano music appears often in programmes, but it rarely gets a whole evening to itself, even if Chamayou leavened things with a first half given over to transcriptions of music by Chopin, Schumann, and his son-in-law Wagner. 
Opéra national de Paris – Bluebeard’s Castle & Voix humaine – Ekaterina Gubanova, John Relyea, Barbara Hannigan; directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski; conducted by Ingo Metzmacher
Wednesday, April 04, 2018 |  This is a revival (the same forces sung with Esa-Pekka Salonen in 2015) and these productions still leap off the page, the music as vital as the day these scores were written. Here Ingo Metzmacher takes the helm, eliciting refined sounds. ... In the ‘Prologue’ to Bluebeard, John Relyea appears as a magician, charming us in his beguilingly-virile bass-baritone voice... ... Gubanova’s darkly-hued voice connects ideally with the role of Judith... ... ... and cleverly they link us also to the Cocteau libretto of La voix humaine.and cleverly they link us also to the Cocteau libretto of La voix humaine. ... Barbara Hannigan appeared at the end of Bluebeard, presenting herself half-sacrificially, half-innocently, as the next victim, walking awkwardly on her high heels... 
English National Opera – Fiona Shaw’s production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro – Thomas Oliemans, Rhian Lois, Lucy Crowe, Ashley Riches; conducted by Martyn Brabbins
Thursday, March 29, 2018 |  Musical values are to the fore in this second revival of Fiona Shaw’s 2011 production of The Marriage of Figaro. Martyn Brabbins leads a fleet account of the score with a strong sense of immediacy and response between pit and stage... ... At the heart of this revival are two very strong performances, by Lucy Crowe and Ashley Riches as Countess and Count Almaviva. Crowe’s voice is developing remarkably... ... This is a cast that really knows how to sing in English and deliver the text of Jeremy Sams’s witty translation to the full. 
Evgeny Kissin at Barbican Hall – Hammerklavier Sonata & Rachmaninov Preludes
Thursday, March 29, 2018 |  When Evgeny Kissin gives a recital, there's a buzz in the hall, an air of expectation. The kind of wonderment that comes from greatness before us. It sends a shiver. Redolent of times long ago with Rubinstein, Horowitz, Małcużyński, Richter, Gilels, Michelangeli... ... Starting with the 'Hammerklavier' was a feat in itself. Kissin met it head on, giving us what the composer wrote... ... With the Rachmaninov Preludes – I-VII of Opus 23 (1901-03) and X, XII & XIII of Opus 32 (1910) – images of darkness and desolation, walls of granite, the malachite mines of the Urals, unrequited kisses, epic horizons consumed and held the minutes. 
The Royal Opera at Barbican Theatre – Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Coraline
Thursday, March 29, 2018 |  Mark-Anthony Turnage‘s fourth opera, Coraline, marks quite a departure for him, written with a family audience in mind. How would he respond to a well-known gothic children’s story, which has already been adapted into a successful animated film? 
Bayerische Staatsoper at Carnegie Hall – Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier – Adrianne Pieczonka, Angela Brower, Hanna-Elisabeth Müller, Peter Rose; conducted by Kirill Petrenko
Thursday, March 29, 2018 |  Over the past couple of weeks New York City audiences have enjoyed several wide-ranging operas, including a new Così fan tutte at the Met, a concert of Handel’s Rinaldo, and Vittorio Grigolo’s fearless Edgardo in the Met’s Lucia di Lammermoor. Another spectacular event took place at Carnegie Hall, where Kirill Petrenko led Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. 
The Royal Ballet – Manon [Francesca Hayward & Federico Bonelli]
Thursday, March 29, 2018 |  It is difficult to imagine that Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon, now a staple in the repertoire of well over twenty companies worldwide, was given a decidedly mixed reception when it was first performed in 1973; it now seems absolutely right, a perfect balance of the intimate and the larger scale, the downfall of an amoral yet adorable heroine and her obsessed lover set against the seediness of France during the Régence. And it is good to report that given by The Royal Ballet, one can witness it better and more authentically performed than anywhere else. This most recent revival demonstrates that, in this particular work, and in the realm of dance narrative as a whole, this ensemble remains untouchable, such is the depth of understanding of the detail and nuance of successful story-telling through the medium of dance. 
Bayerisches Staatsorchester/Kirill Petrenko at Carnegie Hall – Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony & Brahms's Double Concerto with Julia Fischer & Daniel Müller-Schott
Wednesday, March 28, 2018 |  Brahms’s Double Concerto (his final orchestral work) has as many detractors as it does advocates. ... Julia Fischer and Daniel Müller-Schott offered much more than their extraordinary technical skills. ... Under the guidance of a sympathetic conductor, such as Kirill Petrenko, these outstanding instrumentalists gave the interweaving passages an especially fine integral fluidity. ... The Bavarian State Orchestra is one of the oldest ensembles... ... responded to Petrenko’s vigorous direction with resilience and generating as much power as it could to comport with Tchaikovsky’s dynamic demands in Manfred. 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Rafael Payare, with Alban Gerhardt & Abigail Fenna – Richard Strauss & Mozart – Don Juan, Haffner Symphony, Don Quixote
Tuesday, March 27, 2018 |  Replacing Charles Dutoit (see below for a link to a Statement by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra), Rafael Payare has a striking appearance and a vigorous conducting style... ... Nonetheless the RPO was on excellent form and brought off a dashing Don Juan... ... Where the Strauss had been vivid and purposeful, Mozart’s ‘Haffner’ Symphony felt like a limp watercolour... ... Then back to Spain for one of the most loveable literary characters, Don Quixote, Strauss’s Variations relating to episodes from Cervantes’s epic tale that portrays Quixote and his long-suffering servant Sancho Panza. For this occasion, it was Alban Gerhardt who brought much refinement... 
Orchestre de l'Opéra de Paris/Philippe Jordan at Philharmonie de Paris – Tchaikovsky Symphonies 2 & 4 [deferred webcast]
Tuesday, March 27, 2018 |  This season Philippe Jordan, currently Music Director of the Opéra National de Paris, Chief Conductor of the Wiener Symphoniker, and Music Director elect of the Wiener Staatsoper, is presenting a Tchaikovsky cycle at the Opéra Bastille and the Philharmonie de Paris. 
OAE – Johann Sebastian Bach’s St Matthew Passion – Mark Padmore & Roderick Williams
Monday, March 26, 2018 |  If experimental readings of J. S. Bach’s monumental B-minor Mass, using choirs of one to a part, have rendered it a “madrigal” as some have quipped, the limited resources for this OAE performance of the St Matthew Passion with its generally cool, casual realisation of the music, gave it all the decorous modesty of a drawing room partsong. The eight principal soloists were divided into two groups of four, mirroring the ripieno choirs, one singer to a part (and even then not distributed across the stage in the usual SATB arrangement). 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Danny Driver
Monday, March 26, 2018 |  Perhaps the relatively small crowd at Wigmore Hall for Danny Driver was down to the three composers topping the programme, but more-conservative listeners need not have been overly deterred. The chosen Prélude is early Messiaen... ... It ends with a glissando, a point of commonality with Kaija Saariaho’s Ballade (for Emanuel Ax)... ... Driver turned in an utterly different direction for the biggest piece, Schumann’s Kreisleriana, executed with equal sympathy... 
The Royal Opera – Phyllida Lloyd’s production of Verdi’s Macbeth – Željko Lučiċ & Anna Netrebko; conducted by Antonio Pappano
Sunday, March 25, 2018 |  This revival of Phyllida Lloyd’s 2002 production of Macbeth includes Željko Lučiċ as the Scottish thane and Anna Netrebko as his consort with Antonio Pappano conducting. Lučiċ has been heard in the Royal Opera House in several Verdi roles and his singing has always been treasurable. ... Netrebko’s Lady Macbeth is on this level too. 
LSO – François-Xavier Roth conducts Boulez, Debussy & Stravinsky, and the premiere of Ewan Campbell’s Frail Skies – Renaud Capuçon plays Bartók
Sunday, March 25, 2018 |  In planning this concert, the third and last of his Debussy and Beyond series with the LSO, François-Xavier Roth opted for a programme featuring music by those he considers Debussy's “sons”, in this case a span of composers from Bartók to Ewan Campbell. In an over-long evening, with arguably one work too many, the two clear masters were Debussy himself and Boulez. The latter's Livre pour cordes... ... Bartók originally wanted his 1937-38 Second Violin Concerto to be a set of variations, but Zoltán Székely, who commissioned it, insisted on a traditional three-movement format. Bartók complied but not without compromise … plus some orchestral asides playing to the gallery that stylistically I've never really warmed to. Renaud Capuçon has recently recorded it with Roth and the LSO... ... Marking the death of Debussy a century ago, to the day, almost the hour, La mer was all that was to be expected of the LSO in the hands of a conductor as cultured, nuanced and experienced as Roth. 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Karl-Heinz Steffens plays and conducts Brahms – Clarinet Quintet & German Requiem
Sunday, March 25, 2018 |  Karl-Heinz Steffens has established a firm relationship with the Philharmonia Orchestra since he first worked with it in 2014, replacing Christoph von Dohnányi. For this concert there was the added attraction of his reverting to his previous job (as clarinettist with the Berlin Philharmonic), which he left in 2007 to focus on conducting, in a performance of Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet with four of the Philharmonia’s principals as an extended preface to the German Requiem. 
Handel’s Rinaldo at Carnegie Hall – Harry Bicket directs The English Concert with Iestyn Davies, Joélle Harvey, Jane Archibald & Sasha Cooke
Sunday, March 25, 2018 |  This performance of Rinaldo was the sixth in a nearly annual series of Handel operas and oratorios presented by The English Concert at Carnegie Hall, launched in 2013 with Radamisto and which continues next season with Semele, in April. Harry Bicket has led accounts of three great Italian operas written by Handel in the 1730s. With Rinaldo, Bicket returned to the beginning of Handel’s career in London; Rinaldo premiered at the Queen’s Theatre, Haymarket in 1711. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Thierry Fischer conducts Symphony of Psalms & Violin Concerto – with Patricia Kopatchinskaja – and Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms
Saturday, March 24, 2018 |  The latest leg of the London Philharmonic’s Stravinsky series lost its original guide, Andrés Orozco-Estrada... ... was Thierry Fischer (Utah music director) to the rescue... ... Symphony of Psalms (1930) was composed for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Koussevitzky... ... Similarly to Symphony of Psalms, Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms (1965), of Hebraic settings, didn’t reach its commissioner immediately. ... In the second movement (‘The Lord is my shepherd’) fourteen-year-old William Davies, slightly overawed maybe, was singularly impressive in poise and pitching, and the music, essentially a West Side Story cast-off... ... Rather special too was Patricia Kopatchinskaja’s appearance for Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Jukka-Pekka Saraste conducts Pohjola’s Daughter & Beethoven 7 – Augustin Hadelich plays Britten's Violin Concerto [live webcast]
Saturday, March 24, 2018 |  This attractive programme was beamed to all in typical Detroit Symphony Orchestra style... ... In Detroit, guest Jukka-Pekka Saraste opened with one of Sibelius’s greatest pieces, Pohjola’s Daughter... ... Following the interval Beethoven 7 responded well to Saraste’s directness and rhythmic clarity... ... In between these mighty fortresses, Benjamin Britten’s Violin Concerto, completed in 1939, the World on the cusp of War, and attracting much attention these days (there was a presentation in London very recently from Vilde Frang). It only reached the DSO in 2013, and this time its ominous soundings, troubled lyricism and raging intensity engrossed Augustin Hadelich. 
London Handel Festival – Amadigi di Gaula – Michal Czerniawski; Opera Settecento/Leo Duarte
Saturday, March 24, 2018 |  London was recently treated to a concert performance of Handel’s first ‘magic’ opera, Rinaldo, by the English Concert. The London Handel Festival – presumably coincidentally – happens to present this year the two examples which followed soon after that, starting with Amadigi... 
Midsummer Opera – Verdi’s Luisa Miller – Emma Dogliani, Andrew Mayor, Stephen Holloway, John Upperton; directed by Lynne McAdam; conducted by David Roblou
Friday, March 23, 2018 |  With an output of numerous operas (and substantive revisions of some) it is perhaps not surprising, if regrettable, that even such an above-average example by Verdi as Luisa Miller is overlooked in favour of a number of his others. Dating from 1849 it stands on the cusp of the breakthrough to indisputable artistic maturity which Verdi achieved in Rigoletto, with only Stiffelio coming in between, but already it anticipates the former masterpiece with its fluid structures where formal numbers are more seamlessly integrated within the dramatic framework. ... David Roblou’s conducting of Midsummer Opera grasped that convincingly with an interpretation of considerable heft... 
Palm Beach Opera – Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro – Marko Mimica, Janai Brugger, David Adam Moore, Irene Roberts, Caitlyn Lynch; directed by Stephen Lawless, conducted by Antonino Fogliani
Friday, March 23, 2018 |  When the stars are in alignment, as they are here, The Marriage of Figaro is the most magical of operas. In this Palm Beach production, co-owned with three other companies, a strong cast and the excellent chorus and orchestra bring Mozart’s music and Da Ponte’s comedy and social commentary vividly to life. 
London Handel Festival – Esther – Erica Eloff; conducted by Adrian Butterfield
Thursday, March 22, 2018 |  Having opened with Acis and Galatea, the London Handel Festival continued its examination of the year 1718 with this performance of the composer’s first attempt at English Oratorio, based on an Old Testament story. ... The sequence followed in this putative tercentenary anniversary performance at Wigmore Hall was that assembled by John Butt... ... The reduced forces of this performance by the London Handel Orchestra under Adrian Butterfield’s direction recalled the sort of limited resources Handel himself had to work with during his time at Cannons... ... Erica Eloff was impressive in her forthright, extrovert depiction of Esther who manages to work her charm on the Persian king Ahasverus, so as to avert the genocidal inclinations of the chief minister... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy – Voices of Revolution Russia 1917 – Mosolov’s Iron Foundry & Glière’s Red Poppy, Behzod Abduraimov plays Prokofiev, Nadezhda Gulitskaya sings Coloratura Soprano Concerto
Thursday, March 22, 2018 |  This Philharmonia Orchestra concert, halfway through its excellent Russia 1917 series, may well turn out to be the most fascinating piece of programming, although the music, with one short, loud exception, is the least overtly revolutionary. Alexander Mosolov (1900-73) is remembered in the decadent West mainly for his brutal explosion of industrial Soviet modernism The Iron Foundry... ... ...grinding brass, woodwind shrieks and implacable percussion kept firmly in place by the eighty-year-old Vladimir Ashkenazy... ... Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.3 is infinitely more ingratiating. ... ...Behzod Abduraimov left us in no doubt of his stupendous virtuosity. ... The second half of the concert was devoted to the music of Reinhold Glière (1875-1956), whose career was at the heart of Soviet music. His Concerto for Coloratura Soprano and Orchestra, despite the arch-conservatism of its style, is still oddly subversive... ... Nadezhda Gulitskaya (replacing Ailish Tynan) was magnificent... 
Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman & Rohan De Silva at Carnegie Hall
Thursday, March 22, 2018 |  Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman began this Carnegie Hall recital with Johann Gottlieb Goldberg’s Sonata for Two Violins. Long attributed to J. S. Bach as BWV1037 it has only recently been re-ascribed to his pupil Goldberg, primarily remembered for lending his name to the Goldberg Variations. This charming piece is in four movements, alternately slow-fast. The violinists brought the slow ones to life with affection and embraced the others with wholehearted joyousness, Rohan De Silva (replacing Martha Argerich, her absence generating a change of program and the addition of Zukerman) a mostly discreet supporter. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Andrés Orozco-Estrada conducts Apollon musagète, Schubert 3, and Peter Donohoe plays Capriccio and Weber’s Konzertstück
Wednesday, March 21, 2018 |  It was pleasing to end this fresh-faced London Philharmonic concert with Schubert’s ebullient Third Symphony (when it turns up at all it is invariably the starter course), a sunny contrast to the severe beauty of (current LPO project) Stravinsky’s Apollon musagète. Andrés Orozco-Estrada gave an upbeat account of the Schubert... ... In place of a grand Piano Concerto, two concertante works in which Peter Donohoe was simply terrific. Weber’s Konzertstück (1821), a gem, opened with beguiling woodwinds... ... Usually Konzertstück is paired – Alfred Brendel used to couple it with Liszt No.2 – and here it was Stravinsky’s Capriccio... 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Sakari Oramo conducts This Midnight Hour & Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony – Vilde Frang plays Britten’s Violin Concerto
Wednesday, March 21, 2018 |  The British-born (in 1980), New York-resident Anna Clyne has developed a formidable reputation. ... All of this, and a lot more, are there for hearing in This Midnight Hour... ... Clyne’s brand of sonic visualisation complements Britten rather neatly. His much-revised Violin Concerto is increasingly being recognised as one of his major scores. Sakari Oramo, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Vilde Frang presented it as such. ... The strings stayed at the same strength (based on eight double basses) for Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ Symphony, in which Oramo focused on instrumental balance and detail... 
Schubert Ensemble at Wigmore Hall – Chausson, Schubert’s Trout Quintet, Judith Weir
Wednesday, March 21, 2018 |  After three-and-a-half decades of existence and twenty-three years without a personnel change, this concert marked the Schubert Ensemble’s farewell to London. A suitably packed Wigmore Hall included many of the Great and Good of music... ... Following the interval the string-playing sounded just that vital shade more colourful in the Ensemble’s signature work, Schubert’s ‘Trout’ Quintet. ... But the players still had one or two cards up their sleeves, including a premiere. As a composer of Scots ancestry, Judith Weir (present in the audience) might have been expected to produce a pipe tune... 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Litton at Lighthouse – Outdoor Overture & Pathétique Symphony – Stefan Jackiw plays Korngold
Wednesday, March 21, 2018 |  It’s thirty years since Andrew Litton took up the reins of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and here, making a rare appearance as Conductor Laureate, he presided over a programme that tugged at the heartstrings, but got off to a breezy start with An Outdoor Overture... ... From quintessential American to adopted American, there followed Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Violin Concerto... ... ...admirably served by Stefan Jackiw... ... The encore provided a foretaste of the sobriety that arrived in Tchaikovsky’s ‘Pathétique’ Symphony... 
George Li at St John’s Smith Square – Beethoven, Chopin, Rachmaninov, Liszt
Tuesday, March 20, 2018 |  George Li is Chinese-American, aged twenty-two and won the Silver Medal at the 2015 Tchaikovsky Competition. All very impressive, but his distinguished background doesn’t prepare you for the vigour, imagination and affection of his playing. 
London Handel Festival – Acis and Galatea – Nick Pritchard & Lucy Page; directed by Martin Parr; conducted by Laurence Cummings
Monday, March 19, 2018 |  Anniversary mania has gripped the London Handel Festival this year such that, for its staged production of a dramatic work in its opening week, it jettisons the presentation of one of the composer’s thirty-nine surviving full-length Italian opera serie in favour of the English masque or serenata, Acis and Galatea... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Stile Antico
Monday, March 19, 2018 |  Even the lightest music could have deadly serious implications in the England of Elizabeth I, as some composers discovered to their cost; the politics of the English Reformation and the constant jockeying for court favouritism lie so often in the background when we listen to an apparently ethereal Anthem or carefree Madrigal. ... ...well brought out by Stile Antico – a twelve-strong, director-less, a cappella ensemble – at Wigmore Hall. 
Soraya Mafi & Graham Johnson at Wigmore Hall – The Lure of the East
Sunday, March 18, 2018 |  Soraya Mafi gave a sparkling performance at Wigmore Hall choosing songs reflecting her Persian heritage. Our voyage to the East opened with Schumann’s emotionally intense Byron setting ‘Aus den hebräischen Gesängen’. The chromatic introduction was beautifully detailed by Graham Johnson... ... Add sweetness for ‘The Sun Whose Rays’ from Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado, but the frenzied speed and subsequent lack of clear diction of Noël Coward’s ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen’ made it the only disappointment... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Sleeping Beauty & Fairy’s Kiss, Daniil Trifonov plays Tchaikovsky
Saturday, March 17, 2018 |  This latest instalment in the London Philharmonic’s year-long “Changing Faces: Stravinsky’s Journey” series focussed on The Fairy’s Kiss, drawing on Tchaikovsky’s piano music and songs, written in 1927 at the behest of dancer Ida Rubinstein, and seldom performed complete (Stravinsky fashioned a Divertimento from it). Vladimir Jurowski conducted a vivid account... ... The evening had begun with Stravinsky’s re-orchestrations of selections from The Sleeping Beauty... ... The Piano Concerto began in business-like fashion, Jurowski seemingly impatient to launch it, Daniil Trifonov ploughing through thunderous chords on a bright-sounding Fazioli. 
Kuss Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Haydn – Joke, Frog
Friday, March 16, 2018 |  The Kuss Quartet’s rich, colourful sound suited and indeed enhanced these searching interpretations of Haydn. Frequently, the musicians’ expressive style revealed inner meanings within the pieces, a characteristic at once evident in the ‘Joke’ Quartet... ... The so-called ‘Frog’ Quartet was treated in a different manner and apart from a sturdy and stylish Minuet and Trio the Kuss Quartet considered the remaining movements almost as tone-poems... 
English National Opera – Verdi’s La traviata – Claudia Boyle, Lukhanyo Moyake, Alan Opie; directed by Daniel Kramer; conducted by Leo McFall
Friday, March 16, 2018 |  It started so well – an intensely beautiful Act One Prelude (thankfully, in the light of what followed, with no directorial intervention) that covers all the bases of the tragedy of Verdi’s Violetta. And it was all downhill from there. Daniel Kramer’s new (to London; it has been mounted in Basel) staging of La traviata is his first opera in the post as Artistic Director of ENO. 
SWR Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart at Cadogan Hall – Roger Norrington conducts Beethoven – Prometheus, Eroica, with Francesco Piemontesi in Piano Concerto 3
Friday, March 16, 2018 |  Great to see that Sir Roger has kept faith with the amalgam (as conductor emeritus) having been in charge of the previous Stuttgart forces between 1998 and 2011, and back with Beethoven, still finding new ways to present his music. ... For the Overture Norrington stood, leaning against the piano, the SWR Orchestra producing a refreshingly punchy sound, the first chord pinged off, but finding a natural bloom in Cadogan Hall’s acoustic. ... For the Third Piano Concerto Norrington sat on a swivel chair in the midst of the orchestra, smiling beatifically on. Francesco Piemontesi was the crystalline soloist... ... The ‘Eroica’ was similarly propulsive... 
Haydn’s Applausus – Classical Opera/Ian Page at Cadogan Hall
Thursday, March 15, 2018 |  Classical Opera’s Mozart 250 project unearthed for this anniversary exploration of 1768 Haydn’s little-known allegorical cantata Applausus. It was composed to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the taking of monastic vows by Rainer Kollmann, abbot of the Cistercian monastery in Zwettl (Lower Austria). There is no drama as such but rather the personifications of the four Cardinal virtues assembled to discuss and recommend their qualities, moderated (in both senses of the term) by Theology (also described as Wisdom in the score, allowing a de-Christianised, more purely philosophical reading of the work if desired). 
European premiere of Sondheim on Sondheim – BBC Concert Orchestra/Keith Lockhart
Thursday, March 15, 2018 |  So you see: there is an insatiable desire to see Sondheim in all his glory and he is particularly well-suited for compilations. His range of musicals is so wide and, as he is so original, he never repeats himself. Spot the differences between West Side Story, Gypsy, Pacific Overtures, Company, Sweeney Todd, Follies, Passion, Merrily We Roll Along, A Little Night Music, Sunday in the Park With George, Into the Woods, and it is difficult to believe they were written by the same man, a true master of both his art and his craft and undoubtedly America’s greatest lyricist and composer of the twentieth-century. ... At the Royal Festival Hall the six excellent singers did the material very proud indeed in solos, duets and ensembles. Julian Ovenden was particularly strong in ‘Epiphany’ (Sweeney Todd), while Tyrone Huntley gave a truly impassioned version of ‘Being alive’ (Company). ... It is always a pleasure to hear the BBC Concert Orchestra in whatever it does, here doing very well indeed with Keith Lockhart. 
The Royal Ballet – Leonard Bernstein Centenary – Yugen; The Age of Anxiety; Corybantic Games
Thursday, March 15, 2018 |  Quite why The Royal Ballet and, indeed, the Royal Opera House have been moved to mark the centenary of Leonard Bernstein is not exactly clear. The American composer/conductor seems never to have appeared in Bow Street in either capacity, and yet here we have, with great fanfare, our premier dance company’s tribute to him. Indeed, until the first night of this new triple bill, his only presence in the repertoire was through Liam Scarlett’s The Age of Anxiety, itself as recently created as 2014, forming the central section of this programme. … 
Heath Quartet & Nils Mönkemeyer at Wigmore Hall – Haydn, Widmann, Bruckner
Wednesday, March 14, 2018 |  The Heath Quartet took a forthright view of the Haydn which dates from 1793, lying between his two visits to England. Here was a positive approach with securely sustained tempos and every instrumental line firmly projected... ... Born in Munich in 1973, Jörg Widmann is a distinguished clarinettist and conductor – currently principal in the latter with the Irish Chamber Orchestra. He sometimes presents his music as a sequence of works; there is an orchestral trilogy and this Fourth String Quartet from 2005 is one of six conceived as a cycle which began two years previously. ... Bruckner’s String Quintet has all the characteristics of his Symphonies apart from instrumentation. ... Nils Mönkemeyer played first viola and was ideally expressive in the solo during the Adagio... 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Thierry Fischer at Lighthouse – Ives & Brahms – Stephen Hough plays Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto
Wednesday, March 14, 2018 |  This evening of music that poses questions coincided with the death of the visionary physicist Stephen Hawking... ... At the Lighthouse what became the ‘Emperor’ was given an emphatic account by Stephen Hough with an unfailingly supportive and decisive Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Thierry Fischer. ... Following the interval, Charles Ives’s The Unanswered Question, which poses “the perennial question of existence”, the BSO strings at their smoothest. Despite best efforts too from the woodwind quartet and off-stage trumpeter, the coughers and hackers did their best to shatter the mood of haunting mysticism. 
Maurizio Pollini at Royal Festival Hall – Schumann & Chopin
Tuesday, March 13, 2018 |  Robert Schumann’s Arabeske made for a gently beguiling opening to Maurizio Pollini’s latest Royal Festival Hall recital, his Fabbrini Steinway very responsive to a range of touches to illuminate the music’s contemplation and depth of perspective, coming to rest with magical distance, and then contrasted with the B-minor Allegro’s drama, unrest and poetic distinctions... 
Philadelphia Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin at Carnegie Hall – Rachmaninov 2 – Janine Jansen gives New York premiere of Michel van der Aa’s Violin Concerto
Tuesday, March 13, 2018 |  Michel van der Aa’s Violin Concerto was written in 2014 for his Dutch compatriot Janine Jansen. ... Yannick Nézet-Séguin took the Finale as if it were marked ‘as fast as possible’, which allowed the Philadelphia Orchestra to demonstrate incredible virtuosity. ... Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony is operatic in scope with an abundance of compelling melodies. Nézet-Séguin was at home... 
Handel’s Rinaldo at Barbican Hall – Harry Bicket directs The English Concert with Iestyn Davies, Joélle Harvey, Jane Archibald & Sasha Cooke
Tuesday, March 13, 2018 |  Visitors to the recent Opera exhibition mounted by the Victoria and Albert Museum will have learnt how the twenty-six year old Handel took London by storm with Rinaldo (1711) on his first trip to England... ... As with Brexit today, so the forces of reaction at that time decried the introduction of such cosmopolitanism from abroad... ... These had to be left to the imagination in this Barbican Hall performance of Rinaldo, but the English Concert conjured the drama out of the music vividly under Henry Bicket’s fastidious direction. ... In the title role, Iestyn Davies displayed his clarity and ardour of tone that embodied effortless control of Handel’s tricky writing... 
John Chest & Marcelo Amaral at Wigmore Hall – A Winter Journey
Tuesday, March 13, 2018 |  John Chest impressed in Cardiff Singer of the World last year and he brought a finely wrought wintery programme to Wigmore Hall. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Patrice Chéreau’s production of Richard Strauss’s Elektra – Sabine Hogrefe; conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Monday, March 12, 2018 |  Word came that Christine Goerke was ill and would be replaced as Richard Strauss’s Elektra by Sabine Hogrefe... ... In the opening scene of the late Patrice Chéreau’s suitably stark and ill-omened production Hogrefe was at times overbalanced by the Orchestra... ... ...but she warmed up and did not disappoint, singing with confidence and power... ... The biggest star on this evening was the Orchestra, playing for music director designate Yannick Nézet-Séguin with utter conviction and focus... 
LSO – John Eliot Gardiner conducts Schumann, Ann Hallenberg sings Nuits d’été
Sunday, March 11, 2018 |  In the first slice of this four-part Schumann exploration John Eliot Gardiner and a mostly standing LSO gave compelling accounts of the Second Symphony and the Overture to Genoveva. While the stage was being re-set for the Berlioz Sir John Eliot made a historical and musical case for performing thus, arguing that it brings better interaction and more-soloistic playing, although these qualities were not lost in the seated rendition of Les Nuits d'été. ... Not so here in these brilliantly effective readings enshrined in Ann Hallenberg’s love of the music and her engagement with it. 
Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Gala Concert – Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts Cutler, Čiurlionis & Ravel – Andrei Ivanov plays Chopin
Sunday, March 11, 2018 |  Amidst all the doom and gloom surrounding UK music education, Birmingham City University has done a remarkable thing. By investing fifty-seven million in a new purpose-built building for Royal Birmingham Conservatoire the University has completely bucked the trend. ... Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla led a programme both challenging and intriguing. ... The soloist in Chopin’s Piano Concerto No.2 was Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s Belarusian student Andrei Ivanov, whose appearance reminded me of the young John Ogdon. 
Kensington Symphony Orchestra – Michael Seal conducts Bruckner 8
Saturday, March 10, 2018 |  The Kensington Symphony Orchestra regularly features guest conductors, and this concert saw Michael Seal at the helm. Associate Conductor of the CBSO, Seal has never shirked a challenge as was evident in this performance of Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony. 
Göteborgs Symfoniker – Santtu-Matias Rouvali conducts Der Rosenkavalier & Sibelius 1 – Hélène Grimaud plays Beethoven [live webcast]
Friday, March 09, 2018 |  Concert programmes may be getting shorter, dispensing with openers, but not this one. Here was a positively roast beef helping of Straussian opulence, Beethoven Concerto and Sibelius Symphony, showcasing this pedigree orchestra at its solo and corporate best, the high-definition webcast catching the depth and resonance of Gothenburg's 1935 Konserthus with stunning clarity and visual engagement. ... Displaying a nostalgia and nuances seemingly beyond Santtu-Matias Rouvali's years, the Suite from Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier (not made by the composer but attributed to Artur Rodziński) was in many ways the highlight... ... This season Hélène Grimaud is Artist-in-Residence with the Gothenburg Symphony. In Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto, an old staple of hers, she had her moments... 
Florian Boesch & Malcolm Martineau at Wigmore Hall – Schubert
Friday, March 09, 2018 |  Florian Boesch presented an individual exploration of Schubert’s final songs, collected posthumously as Schwanengesang. Boesch and Malcolm Martineau retained the separation of the Rellstab and Heine poems, here interspersed by settings of Goethe, but the order in which they were sung was different from the published sequence. 
BBC Concert Orchestra and Jane Glover with Ilona Domnich: International Women's Day Concert from LSO St Luke’s
Thursday, March 08, 2018 |  Although the designation of March 8 as what one assumes will become a globally-marked annual International Women’s Day (it has been going for over a century, with celebrations of different significance on various days in the calendar) is as good a reason as any for the BBC to mount a programme such as this... The single-movement Allegro feroce by Augusta Holmès (1847-1903, born in Paris) may well have been – so we were informed – receiving its world premiere performance... ... This was a superb performance from the BBC Concert Orchestra and Jane Glover. ... The second half opened with the earliest music: two arias from the oratorio Sant’ Elena al Calvario by Marianna Martines (1744-1812, born in Vienna to a Spanish/Italian heritage), which was consistently the best music in the concert. ... Finally, the longest work – a Symphony by the Russian who is best remembered – if at all – as Stravinsky’s piano teacher. The old toad dismissed his teacher’s musicianship in his memoirs, but Leokadiya Kashperova (1872-1940, St Petersburg) must have been a fine musician... 
Music by Louise Farrenc & Beethoven – Insula Orchestra/Laurence Equilbey at Barbican Hall, with Alexandra Conunova, Natalie Clein & Elisabeth Brauss
Thursday, March 08, 2018 |  Marking International Women's Day, the players wearing white suffragette ribbons, this was the kind of inspirational Insula Orchestra venture and programming you might expect to find at the Philharmonie in Paris but rarely on any of the main London stages. Under Laurence Equilbey this French period-band invariably rises to the occasion... ... The interest of the evening centred on Louise Farrenc (1804-75), a Parisian who studied with Hummel, Moscheles and Reicha and was the only woman to hold a teaching chair at the Conservatoire during the nineteenth-century. ... Variously imposing, singing and Hungarian, Beethoven's Triple Concerto in the first half – a handsomely veneered 2.5-metre 1882 Érard centre-stage – introduced us to a musically refined, sympathetic line-up of soloists: the Moldavian violinist Alexandra Conunova (playing a 1735 Venetian instrument by Santo Seraphin), the British cellist Natalie Clein, and the German pianist Elisabeth Brauss... 
Pierre-Laurent Aimard at Carnegie Hall
Thursday, March 08, 2018 |  Fortunately for New York audiences, Pierre-Laurent Aimard appears here fairly frequently. ... Aimard began with pieces by the early avant-garde Russian Nikolai Obukhov (1892-1954) who studied with Rimsky-Korsakov. However, his music is experimental and steeped in religious mysticism... ... Without a break the ferocious opening of Scriabin’s Fifth Sonata was upon us... ... It all came together with the ‘Hammerklavier’. 
The Royal Opera – Janáček’s From the House of the Dead; directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski; conducted by Mark Wigglesworth
Wednesday, March 07, 2018 |  The last of Janáček's operas, From the House of the Dead, is also the last of his five great dramas to have reached The Royal Opera (indeed, productions in the UK have been notable for their infrequency), but anyone anticipating a revelatory take on one of the supreme (and supremely relevant) such works from the twentieth-century is likely to have been bitterly disappointed. ... At least the failure for this can be levelled directly at the production team. Impressive though his directing CV may be (not least an award for his 2010 staging of The Makropoulos Case), Krzysztof Warlikowski's directorial debut for The Royal Opera is inept and ill-conceived. 
Welsh National Opera at Birmingham Hippodrome – John Caird’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni – Gavan Ring; conducted by James Southall
Wednesday, March 07, 2018 |  John Caird’s 2011 production set in stylish, flexible, imposing Rodin-inspired designs by John Napier presents Don Giovanni as the Dramma giocoso of Mozart’s designation. ... From a vocal perspective there are many other felicities, not least the Donna Elvira of Elizabeth Watts and the Leporello of David Stout. 
Welsh National Opera at Birmingham Hippodrome – Verdi’s Force of Destiny; conducted by Carlo Rizzi; directed by David Pountney
Tuesday, March 06, 2018 |  Welsh National Opera, ever-adventurous, here demonstrates that even Verdi’s more-problematic works have considerable appeal in this striking new staging by David Pountney. 
The Metropolitan Opera – John Copley’s production of Rossini’s Semiramide – Angela Meade, Javier Camarena, Elizabeth DeShong, Ildar Abdrazakov; conducted by Maurizio Benini
Tuesday, March 06, 2018 |  Premiered in Venice in 1823, and a popular vehicle for great voices throughout the nineteenth-century, Rossini’s Semiramide was all but forgotten through much of the twentieth. More than one-hundred years ago Metropolitan Opera presented a run of eight performances (with Nellie Melba in the title role), after which the work disappeared, reappearing only in 1990 when Lella Cuberli headlined John Copley’s current production. ... As Semiramide, Angela Meade gives an impressive account... 
British Ballet Columbia at Sadler's Wells – Triple Bill: 16 + a room; Solo Echo; Bill
Tuesday, March 06, 2018 |  In the dance world currently, having a work by Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite is something akin to having a golden Ticket to Willy Wonka’s factory. And so it proves with sell-out houses for British Ballet Columbia’s first UK appearances at Sadler’s Wells before a country-wide tour. And, in the context of this satisfying triple bill, one can confirm that there is ample reason behind all the fuss, for, despite the qualities of its two companion pieces, her Solo Echo stands on a different, altogether higher level.… 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Leon McCawley
Monday, March 05, 2018 |  At Wigmore Hall, Leon McCawley focussed on central European repertoire and provided within it much stylistic variety. 
Manhattan Chamber Players with Marcy Rosen – Chiaroscuro
Monday, March 05, 2018 |  Manhattan Chamber Players is a collective of string and wind musicians of the highest caliber, founded in 2015 by Luke Fleming, and Chiaroscuro is a stylistic term principally derived from a sixteenth-century woodcut technique that used multiple blocks to create a variety of coloristic effects... 
Philharmonia at the Movies – Greta Garbo – Carl Davis conducts his scores for The Mysterious Lady and The Divine Woman
Sunday, March 04, 2018 |  Carl Davis has said that film scores are “operas without the singing” and he demonstrates that emphatically in The Mysterious Lady. The spirit of Puccini runs through the music in the same way that Beethoven dominates his score for Abel Gance’s Napoleon. Greta Garbo is in full diva mode. She is first encountered in lingering profile at a box at the Vienna State Opera watching a performance of Tosca. ... Beforehand, the only surviving fragment of The Divine Woman was aired. A soldier on leave spends a night with a rising young actress (Garbo) who persuades him to stay rather than rejoin his regiment. It has some similarities to Carmen and Davis’s score has more than a touch of Bizet... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Antonio Pappano conducts Elgar's In the South & Brahms 2 – Diana Damrau sings Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs
Saturday, March 03, 2018 |  When in London Antonio Pappano is to be found mostly at Covent Garden, or in the company of the visiting Santa Cecilia Orchestra, and away from these twin peaks he regularly appears with the LSO. If not quite his debut with the London Philharmonic – there was an Aldeburgh liaison in August 2015 – this Royal Festival Hall concert suggests a further thriving relationship is in the making. ... Edward Elgar and Richard Strauss are sometimes compared stylistically, not least when discussing the former’s In the South... ... Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs (1948, premiered posthumously in 1950) benefitted from a singer-friendly conductor and the inestimable presence of Diana Damrau. 
Steven Osborne at Wigmore Hall – Debussy, Prokofiev, Ravel
Saturday, March 03, 2018 |  This was a challenging recital (which may have in-part accounted for the number of empty seats) in which Steven Osborne imaginatively juxtaposed a series of diverse early-to-mid-twentieth-century masterworks, starting with Prokofiev’s magnificent Sarcasms. ... Ravel’s Miroirs are evocations of specific scenes, and here Osborne was less successful. ... Finally there was Prokofiev’s Eighth Piano Sonata, which Sviatoslav Richter hailed as his greatest, “an abundance of riches.” 
English Touring Opera at Hackney Empire – Puccini’s Il tabarro and Gianni Schicchi; conducted by Michael Rosewell
Friday, March 02, 2018 |  To keep its new production of The Marriage of Figaro company, English Touring Opera has revived two-thirds of Puccini’s Il trittico – Il tabarro and Gianni Schicchi – directed respectively by James Conway (ETO’s long-standing general director) and Liam Steel. The company’s weekend in Hackney starts a Spring tour that runs until early June and goes as far north as Perth and as far south as Truro, twenty-one venues and fifty-five performances. 
Mitsuko Uchida at Carnegie Hall – Schubert Piano Sonatas, D575, D845 & D850
Friday, March 02, 2018 |  In this, the second of her two Carnegie Hall programs of Schubert Piano Sonatas in the same week, Mitsuko Uchida confirmed her status as one of his most-acclaimed interpreters. ... Following intermission was the D-major Sonata written in 1825 during Schubert’s sojourn in the spa resort of Gastein, south of Salzburg. 
Mark Viner at Wigmore Hall – Alkan, Chopin, Liszt, Thalberg
Friday, March 02, 2018 |  Mark Viner is Chairman of the Liszt Society so it was fitting that his Wigmore Hall recital included this composer. Berlioz completed Benvenuto Cellini in 1838 but it wasn’t well-received, and in 1851 Liszt offered to revive it and suggested some changes. ... Following the interval, Thalberg’s Fantasy on Themes from Moses. For all its grand title and quarter-of-an-hour duration, Thalberg selected just two of Rossini’s ideas – a chorus and a prayer – and, never short of ego, added material of his own. ... Finally Liszt’s impossibly grand Réminiscences de Norma, a fantasy on seven themes from Bellini’s 1831 opera. 
English National Opera – Robert Carsen’s production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; conducted by Alexander Soddy
Thursday, March 01, 2018 |  For the older opera-lover, mention of Peter Hall’s classic Glyndebourne staging of Benjamin Britten’s only Shakespeare opera is likely to squeeze out a fond tear of nostalgia, while for the slightly younger generation, Robert Carsen’s production has proved it has the magic and ‘legs’ to become one of the Dream’s touchstone productions. ... And this is before you get to the music. Alexander Soddy is currently music director at Mannheim’s National Theatre and, in his ENO debut, is very fine. 
Doric String Quartet at Wigmore Hall – The last three Quartets of Haydn’s Opus 64
Wednesday, February 28, 2018 |  The Doric Quartet’s refined tone combined with attention to strong dynamic contrasts means that forte passages had considerable strength combined with great warmth. ... Constancy of pulse also characterised the approach to the ‘Lark’ Quartet which captures the attention at once... 
New York Philharmonic/Jaap van Zweden – Prokofiev 5 – Yuja Wang plays Brahms
Wednesday, February 28, 2018 |  Yuja Wang is one of the stellar pianists of the younger generation, combining dazzling technical prowess and expressive character with insightful interpretation in a wide-ranging repertory. Her reading of Brahms’s First Piano Concerto was intensely passionate while also delicately refined... ... The New York Philharmonic under Jaap van Zweden’s sure hand had luster and played with commitment and enthusiasm. ... Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony was written in 1944 when the composer was in the midst of writing his opera War and Peace. 
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment at Royal Festival Hall – Ádám Fischer conducts Prague & Drum Roll Symphonies, Stéphanie d'Oustrac sings Haydn & Mozart
Tuesday, February 27, 2018 |  Ádám Fischer’s reading of the Adagio introduction to Mozart’s ‘Prague’ Symphony gripped the attention and the Allegro was dramatic with much attention given to dynamic contrast enhanced by the wind instruments of the OAE giving a convincingly ‘period’ flavour to the performance. Although the applause immediately following the movement was irritating, worse was to come... 
Jeremy Denk & Britten Sinfonia at Milton Court – Stravinsky Piano Concerto, La Création du monde, Rhapsody in Blue
Tuesday, February 27, 2018 |  Jeremy Denk has a prodigious technique and musical interests ranging from the staple classics to the deep space of the repertoire. ... ...programme with the Britten Sinfonia of jazz-infused works from the early-1920s by Stravinsky, Milhaud and Gershwin... ... So far, there had been almost too much information, and the concert at last gelled with an excellent performance of Darius Milhaud’s La Création du monde... ... The full saxophone complement, including some expressive grunting from the baritone, were evident for George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, twenty-four players as scored for Paul Whiteman... 
Guildhall School – Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites; directed by Martin Lloyd-Evans; conducted by Dominic Wheeler
Monday, February 26, 2018 |  This Guildhall School production of Poulenc’s only full-length opera reasserts its place as one of the great theatre works of the post-war twentieth century. ... It is a mere six years since the Guildhall School last mounted Dialogues des Carmélites, and with seventeen nuns in the cast it gives five of the School’s current batch of female singers significant leading roles. ... Martin Lloyd-Evans’s unfussy production of the twelve scenes has flow and immediacy... ... The orchestra, thoroughly trained by Dominic Wheeler, is completely at home with Poulenc’s style at this period of his life – there are the ghosts of Debussy and Stravinsky... 
Daniel Cook at the Royal Festival Hall organ
Monday, February 26, 2018 |  Daniel Cook, who recently moved from Westminster Abbey to become Master of the Choristers and Organist at Durham Cathedral, opened his Royal Festival Hall recital with J. S. Bach. 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Aleksandar Madžar plays Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata
Monday, February 26, 2018 |  Beethoven’s ‘Hammerklavier’ Sonata is a fearsome peak for any pianist to scale, not least because it requires ascent up so many contrasting paths: the high drama of the first bars, the fugal counterpoint, the melancholia of the slow movement, and the awkward brevity (in this context) of the second. ... Aleksandar Madžar didn’t quite make it to the summit unscathed... 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Simon Rattle – Dvořák & Janáček – Daniel Barenboim plays Bartók [live webcast]
Saturday, February 24, 2018 |  It was 1964, Daniel Barenboim made his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker playing Bartók’s First Piano Concerto, Pierre Boulez conducting, and a lifelong friendship ensued between the Argentinean and the Frenchman. Fifty-plus years later Barenboim was back in Berlin with the Bartók, numerous appearances there as pianist and conductor in between of course, this time with Simon Rattle, but not before the Opus 72 set of Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances had been dispensed. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra French Festival – 6/6: Leonard Slatkin conducts Flammenschrift & Symphonie fantastique – Benjamin Beilman plays Saint-Saëns & Ravel [live webcast]
Saturday, February 24, 2018 |  The final leg (this concert a second performance) of the DSO’s French Festival opened with Flammenschrift (Written in Flame, 2012), Guillaume Connesson’s brilliantly orchestrated and energetic showpiece... ... Once again Benjamin Beilman substituted for the indisposed Renaud Capuçon. ... And it’s to Lyon my thoughts turned regarding the Berlioz, for Symphonie fantastique has featured extensively in Leonard Slatkin’s repertoire there... 
Welsh National Opera – John Caird’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni – Gavan Ring; conducted by James Southall
Saturday, February 24, 2018 |  This revival of John Caird’s 2011 Don Giovanni, rebooted by Caroline Chaney, is no less darkly oppressive in its heavy, neo-Baroque and Rodin-inspired designs. His Gates of Hell looms over proceedings... ... Chief amongst these connections is the strong pairing of David Stout’s well-defined Leporello and Gavan Ring whose Don Giovanni shows much promise... ... However, from the women, it is Elizabeth Watts as the betrayed Donna Elvira who most impresses... 
Chelsea Opera Group at Cadogan Hall – Rossini’s Mosè in Egitto
Saturday, February 24, 2018 |  Appropriately for the season of Lent, Chelsea Opera Group presented this powerful performance of Rossini’s Biblical epic Mosè in Egitto, first offered by the composer during the same time of year in Naples where secular dramatic subjects were not permitted during the solemn period before Easter... 
Vienna Philharmonic/Gustavo Dudamel at Carnegie Hall – Mahler & Berlioz
Saturday, February 24, 2018 |  The connection between these two works, bookending the Romantic era, might seem puzzling, but they are steeped in psychological conceptions. Mahler began the Tenth Symphony (left unfinished) parallel to seeking advice from Sigmund Freud about his troubled marriage. ... The basis of Symphonie fantastique is even more psychologically based, riddled with effects which vividly describe a distraught lover’s drug-induced visions and fuelled by Berlioz’s real-life obsessive attraction to the actress Harriet Smithson. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra French Festival – 5/6: Leonard Slatkin conducts Rabaud’s Procession & Debussy’s Faune and La mer – Benjamin Beilman plays Saint-Saëns [live webcast]
Friday, February 23, 2018 |  This morning concert (given the night before, too) opened with Nocturnal Procession by Henri Rabaud (1873-1949). Maybe he’s a shadowy figure... ... It was a compelling start to the fifth instalment of the DSO’s French Festival, all being conducted by Leonard Slatkin, and continued with Saint-Saëns’s B-minor Violin Concerto, written in 1880 for Sarasate (at this time of creativity new violin music was composed either for the Spaniard or for Joachim). Renaud Capuçon was booked but was unwell, giving an opportunity to Benjamin Beilman... ... As for the Debussy pieces, wonderful. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Vasily Petrenko conducts Les noces & Song of the Nightingale, and Scheherazade, Andreas Brantelid plays Elgar’s Cello Concerto
Friday, February 23, 2018 |  Rimsky-Korsakov said in his autobiography: “Listen to Scheherazade and your imagination will be set free to roam alone at will.” He might have had Vasily Petrenko’s reading in mind... ... Stravinsky’s debt to Rimsky is evident in the exotic and fantastical Song of the Nightingale culled from his Hans Andersen opera. ... In this context Elgar initially seemed a strange if contemporaneous bedfellow but with Andreas Brantelid the Cello Concerto soon cast its spell. ... Prior to the concert Petrenko conducted Stravinsky’s Les noces as part of a Foyle Future Firsts programme. 
Vienna Philharmonic/Gustavo Dudamel at Carnegie Hall – Brahms
Friday, February 23, 2018 |  The Vienna Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel launched their American tour with this Brahms program at Carnegie Hall... 
Palm Beach Opera – Leonard Bernstein’s Candide – Miles Mykkanen, Alisa Jordheim, Ron Raines & Denyce Graves; directed by Jay Lesenger; conducted by David Stern
Friday, February 23, 2018 |  The evolution of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide is better suited for a PhD thesis than a review. Palm Beach Opera is presenting the first full-staging of the adaptation created for the New York Philharmonic in 2004 by Lonny Price... ... Miles Mykkanen’s bright voice and comic sensibility make him an appropriately ingenuous Candide. ... The versatile Ron Raines is excellent as both Voltaire and Dr. Pangloss, singing resonantly in ‘The Best of All Possible Worlds’... 
Doric String Quartet at Wigmore Hall – The first three Quartets of Haydn’s Opus 64
Thursday, February 22, 2018 |  The dark opening of Opus 64/1 provided a reminder of the silky tone of the Doric Quartet and in Haydn the musicians adapted their euphonious nature to the style of the music and here is a movement that responds to their expressive approach. 
LSO – Lionel Bringuier conducts Métaboles & Daphnis et Chloé – Alina Ibragimova plays Brahms
Thursday, February 22, 2018 |  The Frenchman Lionel Bringuier has already made his mark in the UK in guest appearances with the BBCSO and the Philharmonia, and this concert was his debut with the LSO, replacing Robin Ticciati... ... I had expected the main interest would lie in the French second half of his somewhat changed programme (no opening Fauré), but there was a special quality he and the LSO delivered in Brahms’s Violin Concerto, which provided an ideal foil for Alina Ibragimova at her most searching and soul-bearing. 
New York Philharmonic/Joshua Gersen – Adagio for Strings, West Side Story, Copland 3
Thursday, February 22, 2018 |  Joshua Gersen, assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic, led masterworks by three musicians whose contribution to American history is immeasurable... ... Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings was well-paced... ... the Symphonic Dances based on West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein’s masterpiece for the theater, consists of nine sections without pause. ... Aaron Copland’s Third, one of the great American Symphonies, was composed during the early-to-mid nineteen-forties for Koussevitzky and incorporates the earlier-written Fanfare for the Common Man. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Juanjo Mena conducts The Rite of Spring, and Debussy & Delius, Benedetto Lupo plays Ravel's Left-hand Concerto
Wednesday, February 21, 2018 |  Spring came early courtesy of the London Philharmonic, but not without the violent upheaval of Winter as the year-long “Changing Faces: Stravinsky's Journey” series continued, here with Juanjo Mena leading a superb Rite. Beforehand the season arrived in more tranquil circumstances, first with Debussy’s Printemps... ... Delius was well-looked-after, too, his rather lovely 1889 Idylle de Printemps... ... Ravel’s Left-hand Piano Concerto fared less well. It was Davies who opened The Rite of Spring so lyrically, a presage of Mena’s finely considered roots-searching conducting of it, notable for lucid enunciation, fine blends and good balances. Here was a Rite that could be danced to, as well as being thrilling... 
UK premiere of Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking – Joyce DiDonato & Michael Mayes; BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mark Wigglesworth
Tuesday, February 20, 2018 |  The workings of the opera world are impossible to fathom. Here is Jake Heggie’s and Terrence McNally’s Dead Man Walking, first performed in San Francisco in 2000, subsequently played some three-hundred times all over the world, and receiving its long-overdue UK premiere... ... With her uncanny genius for getting inside a character, Joyce DiDonato presented Sister Jean’s diffidence, faith and unaffected humanity with devastating accuracy... 
The Metropolitan Opera – François Girard’s production of Wagner’s Parsifal – Klaus Florian Vogt, Peter Mattei, René Pape, Evelyn Herlitzius, Evgeny Nikitin, Alfred Walker; conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Tuesday, February 20, 2018 |  This performance of Wagner’s Parsifal was the three-hundredth in the Met’s history. François Girard’s 2013 production is a masterstroke. ... The casting is almost flawless. René Pape, whose rich, deep and secure voice and brilliant acting skills make him a strong, sturdy Gurnemanz, may well be second to none in this role. ... Evelyn Herlitzius gave an estimable account of Kundry, whose hysterics are often exaggerated... ... Klaus Florian Vogt handled the title-role admirably... ... The real star was Yannick Nézet-Séguin (the Met’s music director designate). 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Ashley Riches & Joseph Middleton – A Musical Zoo
Monday, February 19, 2018 |  If Ashley Riches’s and Joseph Middleton’s recital was rather more lightweight than some of the Wigmore Hall Monday lunchtime series, you might not have guessed it from the opening Schubert... ... entertaining account of Vernon Duke’s Ogden Nash’s Musical Zoo. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra French Festival – 4/6: Leonard Slatkin conducts Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Gymnopédies & Gaité Parisienne – Michelle & Christina Naughton play Carnival of Animals [live webcast]
Sunday, February 18, 2018 |  Dukas, let alone Goethe, couldn’t have envisaged Walt Disney’s Fantasia, and that the Sorcerer’s Apprentice would be cartooned by Mickey Mouse, no more than Jacques Offenbach could have anticipated his music being used for a ballet entitled Gaité Parisienne. Add in Saint-Saëns’s Carnival of Animals and much fun was to be had from the Detroit Symphony and Leonard Slatkin in their latest French Festival programme. ... There’s a thin line between comedy and tragedy – there was poignancy too, for the two Erik Satie Gymnopédies that Debussy orchestrated were dedicated to the victims of the recent shooting atrocity at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida... 
LSO – Daniel Harding conducts Richard Strauss’s Alpine Symphony & Helen Grime’s Virga – Leonidas Kavakos plays Prokofiev
Sunday, February 18, 2018 |  For a concert whose two major works relate to, or imply, some journey or travel, it was an amusing false start that Daniel Harding’s best foot was definitely not set forwards at the opening as he inadvertently advanced to the podium before the leader of the LSO had taken his seat. ... Harding launched the LSO in a confident account of Helen Grime’s Virga... ... Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No.2 (1935) marked the composer’s return to Soviet Russia after nearly two decades away, and also his rapprochement with a generally more traditional, Romantic vein in his musical style. Despite the strongly melodic bent of the Concerto, Leonidas Kavakos avoided any gushing or sentimentalised projection of its themes... ... Richard Strauss’s Alpine Symphony (1915) is not only a musical distillation of a trek up a mountain and the experience of such a landscape over the course of a day, but it can also be construed as a philosophical, Nietzschean allegory for the ascent and moral progress of a soul. 
The Royal Opera – Jonathan Kent’s production of Puccini’s Tosca – Martina Serafin, Riccardo Massi, Marco Vratogna; conducted by Plácido Domingo
Saturday, February 17, 2018 |  First seen in 2006 and now in its ninth revival, Jonathan Kent’s direction of Tosca is a no-frills, conventional presentation. ... Martina Serafin makes a creditable Tosca... ... She is well-matched vocally by Riccardo Massi’s admirable Cavaradossi... ... Chemistry between them convinces, more so than their confrontations with a rich-toned Marco Vratogna as Scarpia. ... At the helm (and also for four further evenings) is Plácido Domingo... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra French Festival – 3/6: Leonard Slatkin conducts A Frenchman in New York & An American in Paris, and La Création du monde – Michelle & Christina Naughton play Poulenc [live webcast]
Friday, February 16, 2018 |  The Frenchman is Darius Milhaud, the American being George Gershwin. Musically they travelled richly to each other’s countries, as did this DSO webcast to an Englishman in London, staying awake into the small hours, but the DSO and Leonard Slatkin have stamina, too, for they had played this concert in the morning as well. ... As for A Frenchman in New York, the remarkably prolific Milhaud (he got to at least Opus 443) wrote it during 1962 commissioned by RCA Victor for Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops... ... Earlier, the pianos looked similar, so too Michelle and Christina Naughton, twins, for Poulenc. 
Diana Damrau, Jonas Kaufmann & Helmut Deutsch at Barbican Hall – Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook
Friday, February 16, 2018 |  Hugo Wolf’s Lieder output is usually heard in venues that are smaller and perhaps acoustically better suited to the art of song than the Barbican Hall. Transcending its size Diana Damrau, Jonas Kaufmann and Helmut Deutsch brought intimacy to their performance of the Italian Songbook... 
Patricia Kopatchinskaja & Polina Leschenko at Wigmore Hall – Violin Sonatas by Debussy, Poulenc & Schumann and Pieces by Kurtág & Enescu
Friday, February 16, 2018 |  The mercurial, magisterial, miraculous, mysterial Patricia Kopatchinskaja was in town for a Wigmore Hall happening. ... Opening this recital, Schumann's First Violin Sonata (1851) – its second high-profile London airing in ten days, following Jansen and Argerich at the Barbican – started silkily out of nowhere. But then turned into something altogether more tensioned and psychologically uneasy... ... With György Kurtág's aphoristic Tre pezzi (1979) Kopatchinskaja went up a gear... ... Kopatchinskaja's partner, collaborator and re-creative genius was the St Petersburg-born Polina Leschenko. She's a powerful force of nature... 
Mozart at St Martin-in-the-Fields – Locrian Ensemble, Rimma Sushanskaya, John Lenehan
Thursday, February 15, 2018 |  Virtually every evening at St Martin-in-the-fields in Trafalgar Square there are concerts, mostly of popular pieces – The Four Seasons, Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, Eine kleine Nachtmusik... ... ...such as this Mozart programme by the twenty-six-strong Locrian Ensemble under Rimma Sushanskaya, with John Lenehan. ... Sushanskaya, the last violin pupil of David Oistrakh in Brezhnev’s USSR, is now making a name for herself as a conductor... ... ...a performance of the ‘Elvira Madigan’ Concerto (a nod to modern-day popularity) that was wholly exceptional. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Jakub Hrůša – Mahler 5 – Piotr Anderszewski plays Beethoven
Thursday, February 15, 2018 |  Mahler’s Fifth Symphony can be a difficult piece to bring off, often seeming disjointed. Here it emerged resplendent but above all quite unusually coherent, a trajectory from darkness to light, from the shadows of its opening funeral march to the sunlit uplands of the Finale. The Philharmonia Orchestra was at its considerable best, with a notably rich string sound. Jakub Hrůša is Chief Conductor of the Bamberg Symphony... ... Unfortunately Piotr Anderszewski’s account of Beethoven’s C-major Piano Concerto was far less convincing. 
Ruby Hughes & Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall – Songs for New Life and Love – Schumann, Mahler, Ives, Grime, Britten
Thursday, February 15, 2018 |  Robert Schumann’s Frauenliebe und -Leben has been criticised for its male perspective on the intimacies of the female heart, but Ruby Hughes at Wigmore Hall dispelled any such doubts... ... As with ‘Träumerei’, Joseph Middleton, who had welded reverie and sadness in the Kinderszenen excerpt, particularly impressed in the interludes of ‘Er, der Herrlichste von allen’... ... Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder took us further into the grief allied to parenthood. ... Helen Grime’s Bright Beginnings, to five poems by Fiona Benson, chart the interior and exterior worlds of pregnancy and motherhood and its delights and vulnerabilities. 
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Riccardo Muti at Kravis Center, West Palm Beach – Verdi & Britten – Stephen Williamson plays Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto and Clémentine Margaine sings Chausson’s Poème de l’amour et de la mer
Thursday, February 15, 2018 |  Riccardo Muti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a richly entertaining concert that showed off their strong rapport... ... Then Stephen Williamson joined his colleagues for a wonderful performance of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. ... ...Clémentine Margaine brought a dusky voice to Chausson... ... Finally, a glowing account of the ‘Sea Interludes’ from Britten’s Peter Grimes... 
New York Philharmonic/Jaap van Zweden – John Luther Adams’s Dark Waves & Act I of Die Walküre
Wednesday, February 14, 2018 |  John Luther Adams, born 1953, writes for many media, including television and film, utilizing voice, acoustic instruments, orchestra and electronics. ... His twelve-minute Dark Waves (2007) finds the orchestra adding textural substance and a vibrating resonance to electronic patterns, evoking an immense undulating seascape... ... Given its juxtaposition with Die Walküre, Dark Waves might seem like a modernistic reworking of the opening to Das Rheingold. 
English National Opera – Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolanthe; directed by Cal McCrystal; conducted by Timothy Henty
Tuesday, February 13, 2018 |  Professional productions of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolanthe are relatively infrequent. ... The designs of the late Paul Brown, set under a gleaming gilded proscenium arch of a Victorian theatre are colourful and opulent and manage the transitions from fairy-ring to pastoral Arcadia and later from without the Palace of Westminster to various settings within it very effectively. ... There is much to enjoy from the pit too – with Timothy Henty relishing his chance to show Sullivan’s masterful orchestration using a new edition. ... As a specialist in buffo roles Andrew Shore is an excellent Lord Chancellor. ... All good so far, BUT … but the staging is very busy, and there is re-writing and additions to the dialogue. Does Gilbert’s innuendo really need enhancing in such a nudge-nudge wink-wink way? 
The Royal Ballet – The Winter's Tale
Tuesday, February 13, 2018 |  ”If you say it often enough, then it must be true”. Following this dubious maxim, The Royal Ballet insists that Christopher Wheeldon’s The Winter’s Tale is a “modern classic”, that it is already, since its premiere in 2014, a cornerstone of the repertoire. Certainly, it has been revived several times since then by a determined management, always with a fanfare about how this is a truly 21st century ballet. In reality, the jury is still out. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra French Festival – 2/6: Leonard Slatkin conducts Saint-Saëns with George Li playing Piano Concerto No.2 [live webcast]
Sunday, February 11, 2018 |  It’s all Camille Saint-Saëns’s fault! ... The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix took a back seat to allow in, serendipitously, Holst (in planetary guise), Debussy (Munch’s version of Images), Prokofiev (Nevsky), Tchaikovsky (Swan Lake)... ... ...I later discovered and loved Frank Sinatra and Buddy Rich, but it took a while to appreciate Chopin, Delius and Viennese Waltzes... ... The DSO’s latest winter festival – very much a French Connection – continued here with music by the long-lived Saint-Saëns... ... Yes, there was a Saint-Saëns concert in Detroit. Here goes. Leonard Slatkin got things started with Marche heroïque... ... From Bachian stateliness to moto perpetuo bravura via the playful/witty/light-hearted second movement, George Li had the measure of the G-minor Piano Concerto. 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Lahav Shani conducts Mendelssohn & Mahler, Chen Reiss sings Richard Strauss
Sunday, February 11, 2018 |  Lahav Shani won the Bamberg Mahler Competition in 2013 and has just been appointed Zubin Mehta’s successor at the Israel Philharmonic. ... By comparison with The Hebrides and A Midsummer Night’s Dream or even with Ruy Blas, Mendelssohn’s Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage is probably the least-familiar of his Overtures... ... The sequence of six Richard Strauss songs was drawn from right across his career. Quite frankly Chen Reiss has one of the most perfect Strauss voices one could wish for... 
Christian Tetzlaff Focus at Wigmore Hall – Schubert – Schwanengesang with Julian Prégardien & Martin Helmchen and String Quintet
Sunday, February 11, 2018 |  Singers often strive to create a narrative out of Schubert’s Schwanengesang to match those of Winterreise and Die schöne Müllerin, and the strength of this soul-searching from Julian Prégardien and Martin Helmchen was that the switches of mood and intensity spoke for themselves. ... This was the first concert in Wigmore Hall’s Christian Tetzlaff Focus, with the violinist leading his group – including his sister Tanja and Helmchen’s wife Marie-Elisabeth Hecker on cellos – in an extraordinarily powerful performance of Schubert’s String Quintet. 
LSO/Mark Elder – Dvořák & Elgar – Nikolaj Znaider plays Bruch
Sunday, February 11, 2018 |  This second LSO evening featuring Elgar’s completed Symphonies under Sir Mark Elder included a searing account of No.2 that made it difficult to believe the work misfired at its premiere. ... ...Nikolaj Znaider had been outstanding in Bruch... ... The evening had begun with Dvořák’s Othello Overture... 
BBC Singers & St James’ Baroque at Milton Court – Peter Dijkstra conducts Mendelssohn’s edition of J. S. Bach’s Matthew Passion
Sunday, February 11, 2018 |  Felix Mendelssohn’s sawn-off version of Bach’s St Matthew Passion removes the more-reflective arias and half-a-dozen chorales for the groundbreaking 1829 performance in Berlin. Certainly Mendelssohn’s reductions make for a more compact experience, the drama more tightly drawn... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Petrushka, and a Liadov threesome, Ray Chen plays Prokofiev
Saturday, February 10, 2018 |  With their ongoing series this year, “Changing Faces: Stravinsky's Journey”, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Vladimir Jurowski (and guest conductors) have come up with another innovatively planned series of programmes refreshing perceptions and airing neglected corners of the repertory. ... Liadov's rarely heard three tone poems, dating from 1904 to 1909, made for an inspiring opener... ... Redolent of Mussorgsky, The Enchanted Lake has always been a special jewel of late-Romantic Russian imagination. Way back Svetlanov did magical things with its world. In Jurowski's hands it unfolded with profound, sonorous gravity... ... ...a contender to write Diaghilev's Firebird. ... Strong on melody, exchange and attack, Prokofiev's Second Violin Concerto, premiered in Madrid in 1935, was a tour de force for both soloist and orchestra. Ray Chen, another of the Curtis Institute's Far Eastern alumni, has been on the international circuit for near enough a decade... ... With surtitles to guide the audience, the original 1911 version of Petrushka, was an upfront, Technicolor reading... 
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Riccardo Muti at Carnegie Hall (2) – Verdi & Brahms – and the New York premiere of Samuel Adams’s many words of love
Saturday, February 10, 2018 |  Samuel Adams (born 1985 in San Francisco) has received much attention since he was appointed co-composer-in-residence (with Elizabeth Ogonek) to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. His twenty-minute many words of love was inspired by Schubert’s ‘Der Lindenbaum’ from Winterreise. The poem by Wilhelm Müller describes the wanderer who carves “many words of love” on a linden tree. ... The concert began with a fine performance of the Overture to The Sicilian Vespers. ... Following intermission, Brahms’s Second Symphony in which Riccardo Muti’s approach to this treasured masterwork was essentially traditional... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra French Festival – 1/6: Leonard Slatkin conducts Ravel with Jean-Efflam Bavouzet playing both Piano Concertos [live webcast]
Friday, February 09, 2018 |  The latest DSO winter festival – three weeks, six programmes, twelve concerts, much more – concerns musical matters à la française. ... Maurice Ravel’s music made for an enticing entrée in this morning-after-the-night-before concert in snowbound Detroit... ... first with Menuet antique, tart in its outer sections if harmonically affecting, soft-centre alluring in the Trio, Leonard Slatkin leading a tempo-related account without compromising expression... ... For all that Ravel’s two Piano Concertos are contemporaneous, they could not be more different. The G-major is light and jazzy if with recesses into a more-interior world, whereas the Left-hand is dark and disturbing. Jean-Efflam Bavouzet has rather monopolised both... ... Finally the closing part of Daphnis et Chloé... 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – James Feddeck conducts Samuel Barber’s First Symphony, Icarus in Orbit and Pictures at an Exhibition – Javier Perianes plays Ravel
Friday, February 09, 2018 |  The New Yorker James Feddeck’s invitations to conduct this side of the Atlantic are piling up and he has already made his mark in the UK with Birmingham, Bournemouth and BBC orchestras. His debut with the BBC Symphony Orchestra was further evidence that he is a name to follow... ... This quickly became clear in Samuel Barber’s Symphony No.1... ... Then Javier Perianes bustled on for a brilliantly spirited account of Ravel’s G-major Piano Concerto... ... The American composer, pianist and academic George Walker was born in 1922, only twelve years after his fellow-countryman Samuel Barber, and will be ninety-six later this year. His music had its Proms debut last year (with his best-known work, Lyric, given by Chineke!), and this UK premiere of Icarus in Orbit (written in 2004) nudged the concert-hall door a fraction more open on this prolific creator. ... There was also plenty of bold colour in Ravel’s scoring of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. 
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Riccardo Muti at Carnegie Hall (1) – Scherzo fantastique & Four Sea Interludes, the New York premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s Low Brass Concerto, and Clémentine Margaine sings Chausson’s Poème de l’amour et de la mer
Friday, February 09, 2018 |  The Chicago Symphony Orchestra returned to Carnegie Hall for a pair of programs. ... Jennifer Higdon’s new Low Brass Concerto features the famed backbone of the CSO. ... ...special moments are given to Gene Pokorny, making easy work of virtuosic scales, and Jay Friedman... ... Every time I hear something by Ernest Chausson I am reminded how tragic his early passing was. Poème de l’amour et de la mer presages much of what Poulenc would channel into his opera Dialogues des Carmelites. To her credit Clémentine Margaine performed the outer movements as art songs... ... The ‘Sea Interludes’ from Peter Grimes brought to bear a previously unheard level of sophistication and specificity... ... ...Riccardo Muti, an opera-conductor’s opera conductor, sprang to life... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Juraj Valčuha – Kodály & Bartók – Evgeni Bozhanov plays Beethoven … Music of Today with Irvine Arditti – Cattaneo & Sciarrino
Thursday, February 08, 2018 |  This attractive, well-designed main programme – Bartók and Kodály were folksong-collecting friends – opened with the latter’s Dances of Galánta... ... If Juraj Valčuha (geographically well-placed, he’s Slovakian, and it appears that Galánta is more Slovak these days than Hungary) didn’t quite alter the above positioning, then he certainly invested intensity into proceedings... ... As centrepiece, Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, which Valčuha introduced as minor-key tragic and gravely dark. I am not convinced that he and Evgeni Bozhanov (from Bulgaria) quite saw eye-to-eye... ... Earlier in the evening the Philharmonia’s invaluable Music of Today series continued, this time helping to mark Irvine Arditti’s sixty-fifth birthday... 
LSO/Mark Elder – Janáček & Elgar – Francesco Piemontesi plays Bartók
Thursday, February 08, 2018 |  While the Brexit dividend has never existed and probably never will, the music of Elgar is enjoying a renaissance with Brits and non-Brits alike. The LSO’s current (very) mini-series with Sir Mark Elder includes the two completed Symphonies... ... But we began with a rarity, what survives of Janáček’s incidental music for a Gerhardt Hauptmann play with a plot akin to Beckett's Waiting for Godot. ... Bartók, by contrast, was aiming at least in part for commercial success at the end of his life and the Third Piano Concerto, wonderful as it is, can sound insubstantial in the wrong hands. The cosmopolitan Swiss Francesco Piemontesi had his own mix of solutions... 
CBSO/Pablo González – May Night, Night on a Bare Mountain, Pictures at an Exhibition – Javier Perianes plays Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain
Wednesday, February 07, 2018 |  The last-minute indisposition of Constantinos Carydis saw Pablo González take the helm for this concert by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, which meant the loss of Skalkottas’s Four Images (hopefully another occasion?) for the Overture to May Night (1879). This second of Rimsky-Korsakov’s operas is seldom revived in the West... ... Itself a work which fell from prominence during the latter twentieth-century, Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain (1915) has returned to favour. ... This reading was notable for its precision across and between movements – Javier Perianes melding into a discourse that brought out the ominous undertow of the opening ‘Generalife’... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Scherzo fantastique, Funeral Song and The Firebird, Alexander Ghindin plays Rimsky-Korsakov’s Piano Concerto
Wednesday, February 07, 2018 |  The London Philharmonic reached the second leg of its year-long “Stravinsky’s Journey”. Scherzo fantastique was written when Stravinsky was studying with Rimsky-Korsakov and is lavishly scored and inspired by Maurice Maeterlinck’s The Life of Bees. Vladimir Jurowski drew clear and vigorous playing... ... Rimsky’s Piano Concerto (dedicated to Liszt) is a rarity nowadays... ... Alexander Ghindin supplied precision and glitter... ... The complete Firebird (for Diaghilev) can be a tricky piece to pull off in a concert when devoid of dance and decor... 
Martin Helmchen at St John’s Smith Square – Schumann Novelletten & Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations
Wednesday, February 07, 2018 |  Every time I hear Martin Helmchen I am seduced by a remarkable musician... ... He opened this recital with four of Schumann’s eight Novelletten... ... It was cold in St John’s, the heating was making a low noise, and many in the large audience kept their coats on. There was a faintly English whiff of eccentricity about things that leaked into my perception of Helmchen’s stupendous account of Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations... 
The Royal Opera – Bizet’s Carmen – Anna Goryachova, Francesco Meli, Kostas Smoriginas, Kristina Mkhitaryan; directed by Barrie Kosky; conducted by Jakub Hrůša
Tuesday, February 06, 2018 |  Since its disastrous premiere, Carmen has been such a success that there have been as many manifestations as there are art forms to hang it on. ... The latest contender to throw a hat into the Seville bullring is Barrie Kosky... ... Carmen makes her grand entrance doing a striptease out of a gorilla suit... ... The alluring, petite – and this is a staging that demands a bit of a looker in the title role – Anna Goryachova’s sumptuous mezzo and mocking reserve single her out as a formidable outsider, and she deals elegantly with directorial demands. Francesco Meli is marvellous as Don José... ... Jakub Hrůša, at last making his Royal Opera debut, goes to the core of Bizet’s wonderful, ‘new’ but familiar, score... 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Ilan Volkov – From the Cradle to the Grave & Mahler 1 – Pavel Kolesnikov plays Beethoven
Tuesday, February 06, 2018 |  Liszt’s rarely-heard From the Cradle to the Grave was composed in 1882 – a quarter of a century after he had completed his previous twelve symphonic poems, and was not given its première until forty-five years later. ... From Pavel Kolesnikov’s firm yet gentle beginning it was clear that this would be a sensitive interpretation of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto. ... Sensitivity was also the essence of Ilan Volkov’s approach to Mahler. 
Janine Jansen, Mischa Maisky & Martha Argerich at Barbican Hall – Violin & Cello Sonatas, Piano Trios
Tuesday, February 06, 2018 |  As rewardingly imagined programmes go this ranked high in the satisfaction stakes – even if it would have been welcome to hear the originally advertised Tchaikovsky Piano Trio. Joining the vintage partnership of Mischa Maisky and Martha Argerich, Janine Jansen brought a starry new light to the mix. 
Marin Alsop conducts Beethoven with Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment – Nicola Benedetti plays the Violin Concerto
Sunday, February 04, 2018 |  It is less frequent in recent years for concerts to commence with an Overture and here was another example; it is also unusual to find the evening ending with a Concerto. Perhaps Marin Alsop’s reading of the Symphony could be thought of as the required prelude: in her hands it was not so much a grand statement and more a clear representation of the lyrical side of Beethoven’s nature spiced with urgency. ... The talking point in Nicola Benedetti’s beautiful and most-sensitive account of the Violin Concerto concerns the first-movement cadenza. Beethoven did not write one and those by Joachim or Kreisler are usually chosen. 
LSO – Semyon Bychkov conducts Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony
Sunday, February 04, 2018 |  Semyon Bychkov’s downbeat to start Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony was like a spade slicing deep into the earth for the composer’s hero’s grave, and, ignoring the advice “when you’re in a hole, stop digging”, Bychkov never let up in a searing performance... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – The Fairytale Begins – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Symphony No.1, Kristóf Baráti plays Glazunov, Angharad Lyddon sings Faun and Shepherdess
Saturday, February 03, 2018 |  Here was a refreshingly different concert, no Mahler or Shostakovich, or indeed any ‘standard’ Stravinsky, although the latter will turn up as part of the London Philharmonic’s year-long survey of his music... ... ...the Largo, darkly soulful and dramatic, benefitted from Vladimir Jurowski’s flowing tempo that avoided sagging and overblown climaxes... ... In the Opus Two Pushkin setting Angharad Lyddon was a persuasive advocate for the randy Faun and the innocent Shepherdess... ... We did indeed begin with a Fairy Tale, Rimsky’s Skazka (1880), to an unspecified programme but with words from Pushkin heading the score. ... There is much to love about Glazunov’s Violin Concerto... ... Kristóf Baráti brought easeful technique, honeyed tone and affectionate phrasing to this adorable music... 
Florida Grand Opera – Richard Strauss’s Salome – Melody Moore, Mark Delavan, John Easterlin, Elizabeth Bishop; directed by Bernard Uzan; conducted by Timothy Myers
Saturday, February 03, 2018 |  Florida Grand Opera assembled a fine cast for Richard Strauss’s Salome, and Timothy Myers conducted an excellent traversal of the score... ... In the title role Melody Moore surged powerfully and was outstanding dramatically. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Andrew Davis conducts Shostakovich 10 – Paul Watkins plays Gerald Finzi’s Cello Concerto ... Singers at Six, Paul Spicer conducts...
Friday, February 02, 2018 |  This BBC Symphony Orchestra programme was built on two works belonging to the 1950s that share an emotional intensity from composers stylistically worlds-apart. ... Written in 1955 after he had been diagnosed with leukaemia, Gerald Finzi’s Cello Concerto is his last major work... ... There is an assurance too in the rhapsodic and virtuosic cello-writing, its bravura elements mostly overcome by Paul Watkins. ... Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony from 1953 is an emotional rollercoaster – brooding, ferocious and, sharing with the Finzi, a dark and, at times, haunting lyricism. Sir Andrew brought a natural sense of progression to the arch-like first movement... ... Earlier, sacred and secular music by Finzi alongside two of his erstwhile composition teachers Ernest Farrar and Edward Bairstow shaped an hour with the BBC Singers. 
Cleveland Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst at Adrienne Arsht Center – Beethoven
Friday, February 02, 2018 |  During this its centennial year the Cleveland Orchestra and Franz Welser-Möst are “examining Beethoven’s music anew”, leading up to a season-ending festival entitled “The Prometheus Project” that will include the Nine Symphonies to be performed first at home and then in Vienna and Tokyo. ... This Miami concert was a sneak preview of what will be the third program, the Coriolan Overture, written for Heinrich Joseph von Collin’s 1804 adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus an apt starter – for the reverberation of Knight Concert Hall made the measures of silence as dramatic as the powerful opening chords... 
English National Opera – Phelim McDermott’s production of Philip Glass’s Satyagraha – Toby Spence as Gandhi; conducted by Karen Kamensek
Thursday, February 01, 2018 |  It was once said of Hubert Parry that, given enough time, he would set the entire Bible to music. Had he done so, one wonders whether and how he would have created a convincing score out of the sequence of discrete aphorisms which constitute the Book of Proverbs.The question similarly arises in respect of Phelim McDermott’s production of Philip Glass’s Satyagraha (opening in its third revival by English National Opera). ... Toby Spence brings off the potent force of Gandhi’s non-violent personality patiently and skilfully... ... Although a historical figure, Spence’s Gandhi stands here in a continuum of time with other gurus or sages, representing past, present, future (in respect of Gandhi’s own biography at least) as the figures of Tolstoy, Rabindranath Tagore, and Martin Luther King each hover in the background... 
Michael Tippett’s Symphony in B-flat – Martyn Brabbins conducts BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra – Petrushka, and Alberto Menéndez Escribano plays Mozart
Thursday, February 01, 2018 |  Martyn Brabbins's cycle of Tippett Symphonies with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra reached its conclusion here by going back to the beginning, and the first performance in over eight decades of a Symphony in B-flat with which the composer had intended to announce his arrival. Its genesis is hardly less fascinating than its content. ... Mention of Stravinsky brings one onto Petrushka, which occupied the second half. ... In between, the orchestra's principal horn Alberto Menéndez Escribano took the floor for a fluent and appealing account of Mozart's Fourth Concerto... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Paavo Järvi – Dvořák – Carnival, Symphony 7 and Gautier Capuçon playing the Cello Concerto
Thursday, February 01, 2018 |  With Paavo Järvi in top form and Gautier Capuçon aristocratically proud, a gilt-edged programme was promised. ... The Cello Concerto needed a while to settle, a certain inertness clouding the opening pages. From the development of the first movement, however, the vision clarified into something remarkably special. Between them Capuçon and Järvi forged no war-horse encounter but, rather, a gloriously grained poem... ... The Philharmonia Orchestra dug deep, the strings bronzed, the woodwinds characterful and fresh-sounding, the climaxes full-throated and grounded, Järvi's body language shaping the sound-picture with unfussy authority. 
Royal College of Music – Bernard Haitink conducts Richard Strauss’s Alpine Symphony and Mozart’s K491 with Martin James Bartlett
Thursday, February 01, 2018 |  These Royal College of Music concerts steered by top-name conductors have set a very high standard in the student-orchestra market, with results leaving reviewers at a loss for superlatives – memories of Bruckner’s Eighth, Mahler’s Seventh and Daphnis et Chloé still linger, these three, as it happens, conducted by Bernard Haitink, who masterminded this Mozart and Strauss programme... ... I had not heard Martin James Bartlett live before... ... The orchestra almost doubled for Richard Strauss’s mighty Alpine Symphony, replete with all the grandiloquent paraphernalia of off-stage horns, cowbells, thunder sheet, wind-machine and, I think, the first public outing of the RCM’s new concert organ... 
Phantom Thread at Royal Festival Hall – Paul Thomas Anderson’s film with score by Jonny Greenwood
Wednesday, January 31, 2018 |  It was a full house at the Royal Festival Hall for the preview of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread prior to its general release. Anderson and the film’s Oscar-nominated composer Jonny Greenwood were interviewed by Mark Kermode before the screening with Greenwood invoking the lush string arrangements of Nelson Riddle as a source of inspiration. ... Set in 1950s’ London, renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day Lewis) and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) are at the centre of fashion-designing for royalty, socialites and debutants. Woodcock, with more than a passing resemblance to Norman Hartnell, is noted for his icy control over all aspects of his life and work. 
Angelika Kirchschlager & Julius Drake at Wigmore Hall – the final concert in Schubert: The Complete Songs series
Wednesday, January 31, 2018 |  Franz Schubert’s latest birthday was celebrated in fine style at Wigmore Hall, as a delectable selection of Lieder concluded the Complete Songs. Angelika Kirchschlager’s expansive, burnished mezzo filled the venue supported by Julius Drake’s nuanced and characterful accompaniment; voice and piano inseparably communicative. 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Karabits at Lighthouse – Lyatoshinsky’s Third Symphony – Sunwook Kim plays Brahms
Wednesday, January 31, 2018 |  This was a special event in the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s one-hundred-and-twenty-fifth season, and included the unveiling of a brand-new Steinway D selected by Sunwook Kim. ... Kim is no stranger to Brahms’s demanding D-minor Piano Concerto, having won the prestigious Leeds Competition with it in 2006... ... You won’t see Boris Lyatoshinsky often in concert programmes, and it’s a sign of confidence in Karabits that this Ukrainian composer (1895-1968) did not deter the locals. Lyatoshinsky’s Third Symphony (there are five) was completed in 1951 but, under official pressure – it was deemed anti-Soviet – its final movement was revised to comply with the Party line. 
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir at Milton Court Concert Hall
Tuesday, January 30, 2018 |  Hot on the heels of Finland’s independence centenary (December 6), comes the centenary of Estonia proclaiming its independence, and this concert – in the presence of Estonia’s Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, and its Ambassador to Great Britain, Tina Intelmann – opened a British celebration of that centenary, with a particular concentration on the fabulous tradition of choral singing (the first Song Festival was held in 1869). It couldn’t have been given a more auspicious start, in the assured voices of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir under its Latvian artistic director Kaspars Putninš. 
Escher Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Borodin, Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky
Monday, January 29, 2018 |  The Escher Quartet members have impressed me in concert and on record – their series of the Mendelssohn Quartets for BIS is probably the best available. So this Russian evening at Wigmore Hall held out high hopes for a similar triumph. The first crack in my confidence came when I realised not only that Aaron Boyd, the exceptional second violin, had recently left the group, but that his successor Danbi Um was not appearing... ... Borodin’s Second Quartet, a work demanding superhuman tonal and ensemble control, suffered almost immediately from harsh violin tone... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Apollon Musagète Quartet
Monday, January 29, 2018 |  Puccini is so little associated with chamber music that his Crisantemi (Chrysanthemums) was an unexpected highlight of the Apollon Musagète Quartet’s recital at Wigmore Hall... ... Earlier we heard Sibelius’s Andante festivo in its original version... 
Palm Beach Opera – Puccini’s Tosca – Keri Alkema, Riccardo Massi, Michael Chioldi; directed by Fenlon Lamb; conducted by David Stern
Sunday, January 28, 2018 |  Palm Beach Opera’s staging of Puccini’s Tosca is a delight to eye and ear. Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s designs, originally created for San Francisco, provide magnificent representations of the three locales in Rome at which the action of this political thriller takes place... ... Keri Alkema portrays Floria Tosca as a true diva... ... Her ‘Vissi d’arte’, in Act Two when she is in the company of Scarpia, Cavaradossi being tortured by the Baron’s henchmen, is artfully phrased – powerful and moving. Another highlight is her gloriously sung Act Three duet with Riccardo Massi, a terrific Cavaradossi. ... Michael Chioldi’s Scarpia commands the stage... 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Mariss Jansons – Bruckner 6 – Daniil Trifonov plays Schumann [live webcast]
Saturday, January 27, 2018 |  Eschewing an overture or short opening piece, a regrettable feature of too many concerts today, it was straight into Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto. The opening was promising, Daniil Trifonov’s first notes impressively poised if deliberate... ... Mariss Jansons conducted Bruckner’s Fourth, Seventh and Ninth Symphonies in Amsterdam and brought them to London with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in April 2014. His Berliner Philharmoniker account of No.6 was generally impressive. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Nikolaj Znaider conducts Elgar 2 – Saleem Ashkar plays Mozart K466 [live webcast]
Saturday, January 27, 2018 |  Conducting Edward Elgar’s Second Symphony is a ‘big ask’ for even a seasoned maestro, it’s a musically and emotionally complex masterpiece, and as yet Nikolaj Znaider doesn’t have all the answers; and when we finally got started – Znaider quite rightly waited for the audience to settle (this happens quite often in Detroit following intermission) – he launched the work in rather too easy a fashion... ... ...we got a Mozart Piano Concerto with a pared-down orchestra, strings on the thin side but aiding clarity and highlighting some expressive woodwind contributions. It was all very musical, not least from Saleem Ashkar whose technical fluency was admirable... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski – Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen – 1/4: Das Rheingold
Saturday, January 27, 2018 |  In case any justification were needed for the initiation of a ‘Ring’ cycle by the London Philharmonic Orchestra (not yet having had the opportunity to do so in its residence at the Glyndebourne Festival) the cause for it now is to celebrate Vladimir Jurowski’s ten years as the LPO’s Principal Conductor. ... Only in Scene Three was there a moment of vocal weakness at the point by which Alberich has become irredeemably evil. Matthias Goerne – the only singer to perform from a score – sounded already wearily noble and withdrawn from the world, even tentative and nervous in his depiction of Wotan... ... The other roles were generally well cast. Among the gods was a steely Fricka from Michelle DeYoung; sweet-toned radiance in Lyubov Petrova’s portrayal as Freia; efficiency and clarity in Allan Clayton’s brief appearance as Froh; and sufficient weight from Stephen Gadd’s Donner... 
Cleveland Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst at Adrienne Arsht Center – Mahler 9
Friday, January 26, 2018 |  Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, his final completed work (the Tenth was left unfinished), formed the first of two programs in the Cleveland Orchestra’s annual Miami residency. ... Franz Welser-Möst led the Clevelanders along a scenic route... 
LSO/François-Xavier Roth and Cédric Tiberghien – Debussy
Thursday, January 25, 2018 |  I asked Classical Source why no review of this concert, given the LSO features regularly in its coverage and the turnaround for write-ups is so quick, the next day usually, and was advised that on this night no reviewer was available. Would I like to write some coverage, if I was there? Well, I was, but I am no critic... ... Debussy is a favourite composer, La mer knocked me for six back in the 1960s, so a whole concert of his music appealed, and I have become a big admirer of François-Xavier Roth. He has built a notable rapport with the LSO and this was immediately evident in Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune... ... Yet when a pianist of the stature of Cédric Tiberghien champions it then it’s worth a listen... 
La Scala Philharmonic/Riccardo Chailly at Barbican Hall – Rossini & Tchaikovsky – Benjamin Grosvenor plays Grieg
Wednesday, January 24, 2018 |  Our Classical Source editor would have been very pleased, for we got a second Overture as a generous encore; indeed one that returned a second side-drum player to the stage. So to counterbalance the antiphonal side drums that rat-a-tat at the opening of Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie, we had the more dangerously sinister militaristic tattoos in Verdi’s The Sicilian Vespers, both thrilling in execution as one might expect with an ensemble of such operatic credentials as La Scala Philharmonic. 
London Sinfonietta Fiftieth-Anniversary Concert
Wednesday, January 24, 2018 |  50 years to the day since the orchestra played its first concert, the London Sinfonietta celebrates its birthday with the music that has shaped its identity – past, present and future. Co-founder David Atherton joins George Benjamin and Vladimir Jurowski in conducting a journey that begins with the music of Stravinsky, Ligeti and Birtwistle, courses through to the London premiere of Hans Abrahamsen's piano concerto 'Left, alone' and peers into the future with a new commission by RPS Music Award-winning composer Samantha Fernando. 
Paul Lewis at Royal Festival Hall / Concert cancelled
Tuesday, January 23, 2018 |  Unfortunately Paul Lewis was taken ill shortly before the recital’s start “due to an acute and sudden onset of a virus with extreme vertigo.” 
The Mozartists & Ian Page at Wigmore Hall – 1768
Tuesday, January 23, 2018 |  This varied confection successfully continued “Mozart 250”, here celebrating the music of 1768. ... 1768 was at the height of the Sturm und Drang period, usually applied to Haydn’s music, but at the time this striking philosophy became evident in all the arts. Haydn’s ‘Lamentatione’ Symphony forcefully represents this style and Ian Page took a suitably furious pace for the opening movement... ... A similar calmness was evoked by J. C. Bach’s melodious Flute Concerto played expressively by Katy Bircher... ... The Jommelli aria is from the opera Fetonte notable for its extravagant staging including an earthquake, a battle and Phaeton driving his chariot across the skies but the lyrical aria sung with the greatest elegance by Chiara Skerath... 
Kensington Symphony Orchestra/Russell Keable at Cadogan Hall – Schubert’s Great C-major Symphony – Fenella Humphreys plays Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto
Tuesday, January 23, 2018 |  The Kensington Symphony Orchestra is one of London’s most enterprising ensembles, and while this programme revealed little sense of adventure there was no small degree of ambition in coupling Stravinsky’s nowhere-to-hide Violin Concerto with Schubert’s epic symphonic journey. ... We have become used to hearing lean and athletic performances of Schubert ‘Great C-major’ Symphony (Mackerras and Norrington spring to mind) and Russell Keable’s expansive account, all repeats observed (a departure from ten years ago), inclined towards light textures, togetherness and near-faultless intonation. ... Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto (1931) – written for Samuel Dushkin – is scored with multitudinous wind sonorities, which both support the soloist and act as a foil. Balance can be problematic. Here everything coalesced remarkably well, the interplay between individuals and groups was sure-footed, a good demonstration of KSO’s excellence, complementing Fenella Humphreys who embraced the Concerto with vigour and authority... 
Cleveland Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst at Carnegie Hall – Johannes Maria Staud's Stromab & Mahler 9
Tuesday, January 23, 2018 |  This first of two Carnegie Hall concerts celebrating the Cleveland Orchestra’s centennial paired music based upon a bizarre tale of horror with the vision of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, Franz Welser-Möst conducting. ... Johannes Maria Staud’s fifteen-minute Stromab (Downstream) was inspired by Algernon Blackwood’s The Willows... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Inon Barnatan
Monday, January 22, 2018 |  The highlight of Inon Barnatan’s contrapuntal feast at Wigmore Hall was Samuel Barber’s Piano Sonata, which tied in nicely with the preceding César Franck and J. S. Bach through its fugal Finale, and there was much to please and intrigue the listener throughout... 
The Metropolitan Opera – David McVicar’s production of Verdi’s Il trovatore – Jennifer Rowley, Quinn Kelsey, Yonghoon Lee, Anita Rachvelishvili; conducted by Marco Armiliato
Monday, January 22, 2018 |  On this first night of the Met’s revival of David McVicar’s 2009 production of Verdi’s Il trovatore, three of the four principals made auspicious role debuts. The biggest triumph was Anita Rachvelishvili’s brilliant portrayal of Azucena, the opera’s central character. Dolora Zajick has all but owned the role here... ... Jennifer Rowley as Leonora and Quinn Kelsey as Count di Luna gave excellent performances that largely met the daunting challenge of succeeding such artists as Anna Netrebko, Sondra Radvanovsky and Dmitri Hvorostovsky. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Pablo Heras-Casado – Faune, Mother Goose, La mer – Pierre-Laurent Aimard plays Ravel
Sunday, January 21, 2018 |  Pablo Heras-Casado and the Philharmonia Orchestra’s French programme opened with Debussy’s Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, a turning point in the history of music when it was premiered in 1894. Samuel Coles gave a beautiful rendering of the opening flute solo... ... Ravel composed his G-major Piano concerto (completed in 1931) following a tour of the United States where he became impressed with the rhythmic and harmonic richness of jazz. Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s rendition was simply brilliant. ... The concert concluded with Debussy’s La mer – the sea in many moods... 
LSO/François-Xavier Roth – Wagner, Debussy, Massenet – Edgar Moreau plays Lalo’s Cello Concerto
Sunday, January 21, 2018 |  The recent appointment of François-Xavier Roth as a principal guest conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra hopefully means that more programmes such as this will be possible... ... This programme was centred around the British premiere of the Première Suite d'Orchestre on which Debussy worked during 1883 and 1884 before setting it aside. ... When was the last time that the complete Ballet Music from Massenet's Le Cid (1885) was heard at a 'serious' concert in London? 
Royal Academy of Music Richard Lewis Song Circle at Wigmore Hall – Venice
Sunday, January 21, 2018 |  A crop of gorgeous voices from the Royal Academy of Music was on display at Wigmore Hall in a programme united by a Venetian theme, a journey through this gothic, timeless city. 
Louise Alder & James Baillieu at Wigmore Hall – Chants d’amour – From Mozart to Richard Strauss
Saturday, January 20, 2018 |  Nothing became Louise Alder’s Wigmore Hall recital like the leaving of it. Clamour for an encore at the end of an eclectic evening was rewarded by ‘Les Filles de Cadix’ (The Girls of Cadiz), a strutting bolero by Léo Delibes sung to a thrumming, guitar-like piano accompaniment. ... Of the three songs by Bizet only one, ‘Adieux de l’hôtesse arabe’ (Farewell of the Arabian hostess), made much impact, not least in its hypnotically melismatic envoi, although all of them sat well in Alder’s voice. The same could not be said for Fauré’s Cinq mélodies ‘de Venise’, the five Verlaine settings that include ‘Mandoline’ and ‘Green’. ... As for Richard Strauss, a quartet of his most enchanting songs, all magically sung and played, were worth the price of admission and then some. 
Jonas Kaufmann & Helmut Deutsch at Carnegie Hall – Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin
Saturday, January 20, 2018 |  Helmut Deutsch is one of the greatest collaborative pianists. His ability to diversify and inflect even the most repetitive figuration truly transformed this Carnegie Hall performance of Die schöne Müllerin with Jonas Kauffman. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Josep Pons conducts El amor brujo & Goyescas
Friday, January 19, 2018 |  It is curious how much music with Spanish influence is composed by non-natives – by Ravel, Rimsky-Korsakov, Chabrier and Debussy, as well as a certain opera by Bizet! Does the genuine flavour of the Iberian peninsula emerge from these works? In this imaginative double-bill the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Josep Pons demonstrated that the answer may be no! ... Granados’s Goyescas, first staged at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in January 1916 to some success with a cast including Giuseppe de Luca and Giovanni Martinelli, has a curious background. ... The evening’s first half comprised the original, longer, version of Manuel de Falla’s El amor brujo (Love, the magician), played with bravura, with the truly authentic, earthy and sultry-voiced, Maria Toledo, impressive in her spoken narrative.  
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Dirk Brossé – Organ Spectacular with James O’Donnell – Bach, Saint-Saëns, Fauré, Jongen
Friday, January 19, 2018 |  Dirk Brossé has a huge career that roams between conducting, composing and education, between ‘art’ (for want of a better word) and film music (he wrote the excellent score for the BBC’s equally excellent Parade’s End)... ... There was no shortage of cinematic glamour, opulence and impressively communicated craft in this LPO “Organ Spectacular” programme. ... Westminster Abbey’s music supremo James O’Donnell rolled out ‘that’ Toccata and Fugue on the Royal Festival Hall’s instrument bathed in a roseate glow (the organ, not O’Donnell), sexing-up Johann Sebastian Bach’s (or is it?) stridently fantasia-like Toccata with dashing decorations and flourishes... ... then O’Donnell was back in more of a starring role in Joseph Jongen’s Symphonie concertante, the work commissioned in 1926 by Wanamaker’s store in Philadelphia to christen its proposed new organ, the biggest and no doubt the best in the World – imagine a six-manual behemoth serenading you in John Lewis’s as you contemplated soft furnishings. Because he was Belgian, lived in Liège and was a celebrated organist, his name is inevitably linked with César Franck’s, although on the evidence of this worldly, often brilliant piece, Jongen’s music is a far remove from Franck’s seraphic opacity. 
The Royal Ballet – Giselle – Marianela Nuñez & Federico Bonelli
Friday, January 19, 2018 |  Perhaps it is churlish not to greet the return of Giselle to Covent Garden with great enthusiasm but the ballet has been presented there so frequently in recent years that perhaps another full-length work from the company’s unenviably rich repertoire would have been welcome in a season distinctly short on interest – Ashton’s Ondine, perhaps or Coppélia. But Giselle it is. Not that there is too much wrong with the version given in Sir Peter Wright’s now venerable production which, one is compelled to note, now runs for over ten minutes longer than when it was premièred in 1986 – slower tempi and a longer interval, no doubt. 
Behzod Abduraimov at Barbican Hall
Thursday, January 18, 2018 |  I last heard the Tashkent-born Behzod Abduraimov six years ago, in London, when the then twenty-two-year-old wizard was still in the public’s eye as winner of the London International Piano Competition (which no longer features, I notice, in his biography). Since then there have been thrilling Proms appearances, and his international star is well and truly risen. That 2012 concert was memorable for Abduraimov’s outgoing confidence and youthful derring-do. This Barbican recital (a stalls-only event) was much more revelatory for the interior quality of his musicianship. ... Abduraimov is something of a piano whisperer, an approach that worked wonders with Liszt’s transcription of the ‘Liebestod’... ... It was fascinating how the prevailing mood of the evening lingered in Prokofiev’s Sonata No.6, the first of the composer’s ‘War’ Sonatas. There was plenty of weight and authority, but the dazzling pugnacity also admitted an effortfulness that gave the music a deepening context. 
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Daniele Gatti at Carnegie Hall (2) – Mahler 1 – Janine Jansen plays Bruch
Thursday, January 18, 2018 |  The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra concluded its first visit to New York with Daniele Gatti, coupling two late-nineteenth-century ‘Firsts’. ... ... Janine Jansen gave a highly romantic performance of Max Bruch’s G-minor Violin Concerto... ... Following intermission, the Mahler began auspiciously as the strings gradually emerged from silence, then joined by the birdsong of the woodwinds... 
English National Ballet at London's Coliseum – Le jeune homme et la mort
Thursday, January 18, 2018 |  What a good ballet Roland Petit’s Le jeune homme et la mort is, and, over 70 years since its creation, a precious surviving example of the whole French post-war aesthetic, an aesthetic suffused with existentialism, surrealism and symbolism; one only has to think of the magnificent films of the forties and fifties to evoke that particular brand of stylised chic. And so it is with Jeune Homme, which received a welcome revival by English National Ballet as the ‘opener’ for the second week of La Sylphide at the Coliseum. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Mikhail Agrest conducts Spartacus & Tchaikovsky 4 – Andrey Gugnin plays Rachmaninov
Wednesday, January 17, 2018 |  Conducted by Mikhail Agrest, the London Philharmonic presented a programme of popular Russian music, opening with a polished account of a famous excerpt from Khachaturian’s ballet-score for Spartacus (1954), the ‘Adagio’ perhaps better-known as the theme music for BBC TV’s 1970s’ The Onedin Line. ... Then Andrey Gugnin made an impressive appearance in Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto, a work of formidable demands and titanic performances. This account was beautifully understated and fluent... 
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Daniele Gatti at Carnegie Hall (1) – Parsifal & Bruckner 9
Wednesday, January 17, 2018 |  Few composers have idolized another one as much as Bruckner did Wagner; he was immersed in Wagner’s art, applying it to symphonic form with dedication but without losing stylistic individuality. Comparing the final works of these two creators provides ample evidence of how much Bruckner owed to Wagner’s melodic and harmonic gifts; the spiritual nature of Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony seems to have its roots in Parsifal, described by Wagner as a Bühnenweihfestspiel, a Sacred Festival Play. ... The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra has a long association with the music of Bruckner and Wagner. ... Daniele Gatti, in his second year as the RCO’s chief, has had much experience with Parsifal... 
Royal Festival Hall concert in aid of the Refugee Council – Edward Gardner conducts Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time – Hilary Hahn plays Mendelssohn
Monday, January 15, 2018 |  In September 2015, photographs of a three-year-old Syrian refugee, Alan Kurdi, whose body was washed up on a Turkish beach, prompted international anger, despair and a call for action. Alan’s death was a shocking individual tragedy... ... Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time, written during World War Two, also reflects a historical moment and speaks for ‘our time’. Tippett explained that the motivation for the Oratorio was the shooting of a German diplomat in Paris... ... At this fundraising concert, Tippett’s impassioned musical account of oppression, injustice, catastrophe, moral growth and reconciliation perfectly embodied the vision, values and mission of the Refugee Council... ... The two halves of the concert were prefaced by spoken presentations: at the start, Judith Kerr read an extract from her semi-autobiographical account of a young Jewish girl and her family escaping the Nazis, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit... ... The evening had begun with Mendelssohn’s (second) Violin Concerto, a work which evinces the freshness, impetuousness and vitality of youth. Hilary Hahn offered a surprisingly reflective, ‘mature’ interpretation... 
LSO/Simon Rattle – Janáček, Carter, Bartók – Isabelle Faust plays Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto
Sunday, January 14, 2018 |  Sir Simon Rattle’s revival of the portmanteau seven-composer Genesis Suite elicited much domestic press attention but it’s the more orthodox repertoire from his recent mini-series at the Barbican that the LSO now takes to Cologne and Hamburg. ... In Janáček’s final operatic Overture (presumably as edited by Charles Mackerras) that peculiar combination of monothematic claustrophobia and heroic defiance grabbed the lapels... ... All the music presented was in some literal sense ‘late’ without being consistently autumnal in manner. Elliott Carter (a late addition to the bill lest his presence deter the punters) was represented by Instances... ... Isabelle Faust may lack Gil Shaham’s warmth of tone or Anne-Sophie Mutter’s sheer command of the instrument but her spacious, lapidary interpretation of Berg’s Violin Concerto is arguably the most distinguished of our time. 
Modigliani Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Haydn 54/1 & Rider and Brahms 51/1
Sunday, January 14, 2018 |  The Modigliani Quartet is well-suited to Haydn’s classically structured music; importantly, the musicians do not take liberties with tempo yet the deeply-felt elements of his compositions are expounded expressively without hindering forward progress. ... The so-called ‘Rider’ Quartet is even more dramatic and the equestrian nature of the brilliant Finale was evoked by strongly stressed rhythms. ... A characteristic of the players’ style being the clear assertion of inner parts, Brahms’s very different C-minor Quartet benefitted greatly. ... After Brahms in complex mood the Modigliani players found an ideal encore to conclude the thought-provoking programme and presented Puccini’s Crisantemi (Chrysanthemums). 
François Couperin: Lumière et Ombre [Les Talens Lyriques & Christophe Rousset at Milton Court]
Sunday, January 14, 2018 |  Debussy is not the only significant French composer with an anniversary in 2018 – the birth of François Couperin 350 years ago gave an excuse for this examination of the most prominent member of a family who were as important in the musical life of their country as the Bachs were in theirs. ... That has to do with the fact that, as mentioned by Christophe Rousset in the panel discussion with BBC Radio 3’s Andrew McGregor, and Berta Joncus, his undoubted achievement in writing sensitively and idiomatically for the instruments of his time – above all the harpsichord – has meant that his music is more limited in impact in that it hasn’t attained the same widespread appeal of his contemporaries, J. S. Bach, Handel, and Domenico Scarlatti... 
Budapest Festival Orchestra/Iván Fischer at Lincoln Center – Bach & Rachmaninov – Dénes Várjon plays Beethoven
Sunday, January 14, 2018 |  Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra offered a well-balanced program. Fischer directed J. S. Bach’s B-minor Orchestral Suite from the keyboard, facing a small ensemble including a second harpsichord and with Gabriella Pivon brilliant in the flute part. ... Dénes Várjon’s masterful technique and interpretative sensibilities merged perfectly in an outstanding performance of Beethoven’s C-minor Piano Concerto... ... Following intermission, Fischer and the BFO took on Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony, frequently played but all-too-often without much insight. Fischer paid insistent attention to detail... 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Antonio Pappano – Ravel, Mussorgsky, Scriabin – Véronique Gens sings Duparc [live webcast]
Saturday, January 13, 2018 |  It’s twelve years since Antonio Pappano last conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker, a surprising statistic maybe until one considers the time he spends with opera at Covent Garden and with the symphonic repertoire in Rome with the Santa Cecilia Orchestra. ... Then four rapturously beautiful and transporting Mélodies by Henri Duparc, noted for his songs and not just because that’s all he wrote and then only a relative handful of them, Baudelaire being one of his chosen poets. They were sung and conducted lovingly, Véronique Gens caressing the (for her, native) French words... ... It’s always a treat to hear Night on the Bare Mountain as Mussorgsky conceived it... ... Finally Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy, erotic and volatile... 
LSO/Simon Rattle – Genesis Suite and Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra
Saturday, January 13, 2018 |  Written about far more than it has been heard, the Genesis Suite (1945) is a product of that brief yet potent phase at the end of the Second World War when a new beginning seemed possible in all senses. Composer, conductor and cultural entrepreneur, Nathaniel Shilkret (1889-1982) had such in mind when commissioning this by no means blithely optimistic concept from several composers based in America... ... ...and was given as an elaborate mixed-media presentation featuring the London Symphony Orchestra and Simon Rattle. ... The inevitable exception was Schoenberg – who, replacing an ailing Bartók at short notice, came up with a 'Prelude' whose glimpsing of order out of chaos is couched in his late idiom where tonal and serial possibilities maintain uneasy accord.... ... Something which Alexandre Tansman does rather more subtly in 'Adam and Eve'... ... Darius Milhaud then contributes 'Cain and Abel', a short but dramatic section... ... An audio-visual element was present at the start of the second half, with a recording (by Simon Callow) of a moving letter from Bartók to Joseph Szigeti while working on his Concerto for Orchestra (1943). 
Orchestre Pasdeloup/Elena Schwarz at Philharmonie de Paris – Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique – Gaspard Dehaene plays Liszt
Saturday, January 13, 2018 |  No history of French music during the latter half of the nineteenth-century or following World War One is without reference to France's oldest premier orchestra, the Pasdeloup, founded in 1861. ... Liszt and Berlioz were the Young Turks of Parisian Romanticism. And 1830 was their hour. ... This packed-out Pasdeloup concert, accenting youth and virtuosity, was in many ways the perfectly planned programme, organic and compelling at a variety of levels. Gaspard Dehaene is a cultured pianist. ... Having benefited from masterclasses with Haitink and Neeme Järvi as well as contact with Peter Eötvös, Elena Schwarz, Geneva-trained, is currently Mikko Franck's assistant at the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France... ... Her handling of the Symphonie fantastique was controlled, balanced and spot-lit... 
BBC National Orchestra of Wales at Hoddinott Hall – Martyn Brabbins conducts Tippett’s Suite in D & Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra – Huw Watkins plays Britten’s Piano Concerto
Friday, January 12, 2018 |  What better choice of music to showcase the talents of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (in its ninetieth year) in a programme curated by its Composer-in-Association Huw Watkins. Tippett and Britten have been strong influences on Watkins’s compositional style and were revealed here to brilliant effect. Michael Tippett’s Suite for the Birthday of Prince Charles (1948), first-conducted by Sir Adrian Boult, is timely in a year when its dedicatee celebrates three-score-years-and-ten... ... Britten’s Piano Concerto doesn’t get that many outings, or belong to many pianists’ repertoire, so it was particularly impressive to see Huw Watkins play without a score. ... Martyn Brabbins building the movement’s emotional trajectory with compelling force, and with luminous strings in the concluding bars. ... Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra is not the first of its kind (Hindemith’s precedes it by twenty years, and Bartók’s fellow-Hungarian Kodály had also composed one). This account – brimming with intensity and superbly executed solos – was meticulously prepared... 
Orchestre de Paris/Christoph Eschenbach at Philharmonie de Paris – La valse & New World Symphony – Julian Steckel plays Bloch’s Schelomo
Thursday, January 11, 2018 |  When the Orchestre de Paris was founded in 1967 Christoph Eschenbach had just started conducting lessons with George Szell but was otherwise a star pianist of independent personality ranking high in the Deutsche Grammophon stable (his first Concerto recording for the marque was with Karajan). A previous music director of this orchestra (2000-10), he retains the affection and expectation of Parisian audiences... ... His view of Dvořák's ‘New World’ Symphony emphasised scale and poetics. ... If Bloch's Schelomo was more low-key maybe it was because the orchestra knows it less well (previously in 1999 under Dohnányi), and because Julian Steckel opted for a restrained approach... 
LSO/Simon Rattle – Unfinished Symphony & Les Boréades – Magdalena Kožená sings Rückert-Lieder & Handel arias
Thursday, January 11, 2018 |  It is probably a moot point whether the works in a concert programme should forge connections among themselves or form a single overarching idea, when the two substantial compositions here (both in the first half) were apparently selected by virtue of the fact that there was seemingly no manifest purpose to their creation in the first place. Schubert failed to complete his B-minor Symphony for reasons that will likely never be known, whilst the collection of five songs by Mahler (grouped together as Rückert-Lieder) conspicuously avoid constituting a coherent cycle... ... Whether by accident or design, Simon Rattle’s interpretation of Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ seemed to testify to the perceived futility of its original inchoate creation. The London Symphony Orchestra’s hushed, but matter-of-fact opening set the mood... ... In Rückert-Lieder, the LSO was often raptly integrated in its delicate accompaniments, especially in ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’ to conclude, forming a poised backdrop for Magdalena Kožená. ... The LSO can have even fewer opportunities to perform Rameau but the required musicians evidently enjoyed the vivid harmonies, melodies and rhythms afforded by this eclectic collection of dances and interludes from the composer’s final opera, Les Boréades. 
New York Philharmonic/Susanna Mälkki – Helix and La mer – Baiba Skride plays Tchaikovsky
Thursday, January 11, 2018 |  Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto is core repertoire for orchestras large and small. For a piece I imagine the New York Philharmonic has performed dozens of times, I was shocked by the wholly unacceptable intonation from a group of this caliber. ... Baiba Skride is often quite the communicator... ... To her credit, Skride refused to slow down when the orchestra and/or Susanna Mälkki underestimated her quickest tempos. ... Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Helix (2005) is a great partner for La mer. The former has a touch of Ravel’s Boléro as it relies on ostinatos that ascend and intensify. 
The Royal Opera at the Roundhouse – Monteverdi’s The Return of Ulysses / Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria – Roderick Williams; directed by John Fulljames; conducted by Christian Curnyn
Wednesday, January 10, 2018 |  For the second time, the Royal Opera has joined forces with the Roundhouse for another Monteverdi opera, The Return of Ulysses, performed, like Orfeo, in the round – although it’s difficult to imagine how else it would be done in this iconic space – with significant input from local groups making up the chorus, beefed up by singers from the Guildhall School. ... There was quite a lot getting in the way of seamless theatre, however, not least the throat-infected Christine Rice, who was nevertheless well-enough to mime the role of Penelope to Caitlin Hulcup’s glorious singing from the pit. ... It’s Roderick Williams’s Ulysses, though, that takes the production’s variable sense of direction onto another plane and centres it. 
Ante Terminum Productions presents Benjamin Britten’s Curlew River [at the Church of St Bartholomew the Great]
Tuesday, January 09, 2018 |  Ante Terminum Productions, a new London-based opera company, launched in style with Britten’s Curlew River, which had its premiere in St Bartholomew’s, Orford, in 1964, and, over half a century later, has alighted for a short run (until January 13) at the mysterious and magnificent church of St Bartholomew the Great, in Smithfield. 
Allan Clayton & James Baillieu at Wigmore Hall – Purcell & Schubert and Schumann's Kerner-Lieder
Tuesday, January 09, 2018 |  Spearheading the younger generation of outstanding British tenors, Allan Clayton has impressed with his charismatic musical personality, such as Hamlet in Brett Dean’s opera at Glyndebourne last year. His dramatic gifts were on display this time in the more intimate environment of Wigmore Hall, James Baillieu matching, balancing and supporting Clayton’s persuasive and illuminating readings of Purcell, Schubert and Schumann. ... Robert Schumann’s Kerner-Lieder (1840) filled the recital’s second half. He had long been drawn to the “mysterious unearthly power” of Justinus Kerner’s poetry... 
English National Ballet at London's Coliseum – Song of the Earth and La Sylphide
Tuesday, January 09, 2018 |  There can be no more emphatic way to blow away the final balletic tinsel of Christmas than with a performance of Kenneth MacMillan’s profound and monumental Song of the Earth, set to Mahler’s remarkable Das Lied von der Erde. And there is no better way to lay down one’s balletic credentials either, especially so when the company, here English National Ballet, gives a performance of such rare clarity and depth. [...] [Of La Sylphide], the somewhat thick orchestral sound from the Coliseum’s pit and over-emphatic conducting did little to make the case for Løvenskiold’s deliciously period score. 
Piers Lane at Wigmore Hall – Scarlatti, Well-Tempered Clavier, Nocturnes, Appassionata Sonata, Chopin Variations
Monday, January 08, 2018 |  This Wigmore Hall recital celebrated Piers Lane’s sixtieth birthday, to the date. The choice of repertoire seemed a little odd until we discovered Lane had a not too distant relationship with Dame Myra Hess... ... After such sweet-meat beginnings came the altogether bigger challenge of mid-career Beethoven, the ‘Appassionata’ Sonata. ... It was then a pleasure to experience Lane in a work that clearly means a lot to him, the wonderful Chopin Variations by Rachmaninov. 
The Royal Opera – David McVicar’s production of Richard Strauss’s Salome – Malin Byström, Michael Volle, John Daszak, Michaela Schuster; conducted by Henrik Nánási
Monday, January 08, 2018 |  David McVicar’s blockbuster production of Richard Strauss’s Salome (new in 2008 and back for its third revival, slickly directed by Bárbara Lluch) goes over the top in displaying the story’s grim depravity – nudity, Jokanaan’s severed head, epic varieties of abuse – all of it effortlessly keeping pace with Strauss’s superbly lurid score. ... It is also strongly cast. Compared with McVicar’s two other singers in the title role, Malin Byström gets nearest to not sounding overwhelmed by the vocal demands. ... John Daszak’s complicated, fatally compromised Herod is a masterly portrayal of guilt and feckless decadence... ... Henrik Nánási manages the balance between stage and pit to their mutual advantage, and the detail is spellbinding... 
National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain at Barbican Hall – Mark Elder conducts The Enchanted Lake, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and, with Robert Hayward & Rinat Shaham, Duke Bluebeard’s Castle
Sunday, January 07, 2018 |  It’s a sobering thought that most of the NYO’s intake of new players were born during this century, and given the doom-laden opinions about the current state of music education in the UK, it’s also an inspiration that these one-hundred-and-sixty teenagers play so well and so responsively. ... osphere of enchantment with a trowel. The former’s Enchanted Lake is a lovingly crafted piece of Russian impressionism, and Mark Elder drew a satisfying spaciousness of texture and colour from his charges. ... Sir Mark presided over a strongly told, humorous account of Dukas’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice. ... I have yet to see a full staging of Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle that has worked – it is as much a hostage to directors as its own conflation of myth and reality. A semi-staging in a concert hall, such as this one from Daisy Evans, can also have a distancing effect. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – James Gaffigan conducts Britta Byström’s Many Yet One & Lorin Maazel’s Ring Without Words – Stephen Hough plays Liszt [live webcast]
Sunday, January 07, 2018 |  The DSO welcomed James Gaffigan as guest-conductor. He opened the programme with the second outing for Many, Yet One by Britta Byström (born in Sweden in 1977), which is “dedicated to Detroit Symphony Orchestra in return of receiving the Elaine Lebenbom Memorial Award.” ... Over similar dimensions, Liszt’s First Piano Concerto fits the bill, four movements in one, with ideas transformed as the piece moves along. Stephen Hough gave a classy account of the solo part... ...’s another DSO blockbuster, Gaffigan working wonders with the late Lorin Maazel’s seventy-minute Ring Without Words, Wagner's many-hours music-dramas compressed and, as has been suggested, the forerunner of Tolkien and Game of Thrones. 
Arcangelo/Jonathan Cohen at Milton Court with Christopher Purves – Handel
Sunday, January 07, 2018 |  There was an expectant buzz at Milton Court as Handel-lovers gathered to hear the fruits of the latest collaboration between Jonathan Cohen’s Arcangelo and Christopher Purves who shot to operatic superstardom for his mesmerising portrayal of Saul (Handel again) at Glyndebourne in 2015 and central roles George Benjamin’s Written on Skin and Philip Glass’s The Perfect American, the latter being Walt Disney. 
Symphonia Boca Raton & David Kim at Roberts Theatre – Grieg, Mendelssohn, Barber, Piazzolla, Dvořák
Sunday, January 07, 2018 |  Symphonia Boca Raton performed superbly with David Kim, concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, either leading or taking the soloist’s position for Mendelssohn and Piazzolla. They opened with a delightful account of Grieg’s Holberg Suite... 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Sakari Oramo conducts Sibelius 2 & 7 – Anu Komsi sings Luonnotar and Ekho
Saturday, January 06, 2018 |  Sakari Oramo’s BBCSO Sibelius cycle culminated with a magnificent Symphony No.2... ... Opening the evening was an equally absorbing account of Sibelius’s Last Word on the Symphony as a hallowed form... ... As centrepieces, Anu Komsi delighted first with Luonnotar, Sibelius’s remarkable soprano-and-orchestra piece (1913) that is so inventive and singular. The source is the Finnish staple, the Kalevala, the legend being the creation myth. ... And following the interval, a wonderful discovery from Aarre Merikanto (1893-1958), a native of Helsinki, his Ekho (1922), rather belatedly getting its UK premiere. 
András Schiff at Wigmore Hall – from Geister to Les adieux
Friday, January 05, 2018 |  András Schiff has had an association with Wigmore Hall for nearly forty years and while his creative universe has been largely dominated by the works of J. S. Bach and Beethoven it was the 'late' flowering of Brahms that helped shaped this recital. 
Schumann Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Haydn
Wednesday, January 03, 2018 |  Formed in 2007, the Schumann Quartet comprises three brothers and the viola-player Liisa Randalu who joined them in 2012. Rarely have I heard an ensemble so completely at one with each other. ... Particular characteristics of these musicians’ approach to Haydn were at once apparent... 


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