All 2019 Concert Reviews

Academy of Ancient Music at Barbican Centre – Richard Egarr conducts Handel’s Brockes-Passion
Friday, April 19, 2019 |  I was not the only one to have moved from Maundy Thursday’s G&S fest with the OAE and John Wilson at QEH to the Barbican Hall on Good Friday, as I found myself in the company again of Robert Murray, the previous night’s reflective Colonel Fairfax (The Yeomen of the Guard) and impish Defendant (Trial by Jury), and here Handel’s Evangelist in a very special work. ... Handel’s Brockes-Passion was composed just over 300 years ago to a German text... ... It has remained extraordinarily little known since, especially in Britain, and it has been Richard Egarr’s and AAM’s long-held ambition to reinstate it in the repertoire. This Good Friday performance was recorded for release on the AAM’s own label in October... 
Deutsche Oper Berlin – Wagner’s Rienzi – Torsten Kerl, Martina Welschenbach, Annika Schlicht; directed by Philipp Stölzl; conducted by Evan Rogister
Thursday, April 18, 2019 |  Although Rienzi does not belong to the canon of Wagner's Bayreuth-worthy operas and does not receive many performances anyway, its Overture is encountered frequently enough in the concert hall. Another fact well-known to music lovers about Wagner's early attempt at grand opera – a format he soon superseded in favour of his more innovative theories around the organic unity of the arts in Gesamtkunstwerk (Total Art Form) starting with The Flying Dutchman – is that Adolf Hitler strongly identified with its heroic narrative of a would-be leader of the people in a time of social and political chorus... ... Philipp Stölzl's production will automatically lose the sympathy of those who would only countenance a 'normal' or 'straight' realisation. Locating this staging in the Nazi era will doubtless lose the interest of a few more... ... Musically the performance thrives under Evan Rogister's conducting... ... Thorsten Kerl leads the way amongst the singers with a portrayal that tends to carry such lyricism along... 
[email protected] – John Wilson conducts Gilbert & Sullivan, including Trial by Jury
Thursday, April 18, 2019 |  Squeezed in between Peter Sellars’s staged St John Passion that has recently toured Europe and Good Friday’s performance with Polyphony, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment let its hair down in this enjoyable evening devoted to Gilbert & Sullivan, conducted with dapper distinction by John Wilson, making his debut with the OAE. ... Following the interval, Trial by Jury weaved its merry topsy-turvy musical way, in a witty semi-staged performance, not credited. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Andrew Davis conducts The Rose Lake & Pelléas et Mélisande – Lisa Batiashvili plays Szymanowski
Wednesday, April 17, 2019 |  While BBC Proms 2019 was being launched at the Battersea Arts Centre, the BBC Symphony Orchestra – the “backbone” of any Proms season since its debut under Henry Wood at the Queen's Hall in August 1930 – was involved in this testing Barbican Hall outing with conductor laureate Sir Andrew Davis, another Proms stalwart. ... Inspired by Tadeusz Miciński's symbolist nature poem May Night, Szymanowski's pre-Revolution First Violin Concerto written in Ukraine (1916) witnessed the inspiring Lisa Batiashvili at her calm, gracious best... 
Merce Cunningham Trust, Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event
Tuesday, April 16, 2019 |  This was an intense, challenging and exhilarating evening. To mark the one-hundredth anniversary of the birth of the great dance philosopher-iconoclast-choreographer (he died in 2009), the Merce Cunningham Trust hit upon the brilliant idea of constructing a ‘happening’ (to use Cunningham’s own terminology) comprising one hundred solos from his vast repertoire which would take place on three stages well-known to the late dance-maker: the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA in Los Angeles, the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York, and London’s Barbican Theatre 
Javier Perianes at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Chopin Nocturnes & Sonata, Debussy Estampes, Falla Three-Cornered Hat
Tuesday, April 16, 2019 |  Every time I hear Javier Perianes, I think it can’t be long before he confirms expectations set up by his open, good-natured stage persona, but in the Chopin first half of his QEH recital (his debut, at last, in the International Piano Series) he focused on extending horizons within a mysteriously refined palette. ... Layers of ambiguity fell away in Perianes’s superb performance of Debussy’s Estampes, those souvenir engravings from China, Granada and Paris that from Perianes became impressions of impressions... ... On native soil, Perianes indulged the light-dark contrasts and Moorish flavouring of Manuel de Falla, deferring to the fireworks of Dances from The Three-Cornered Hat. 
Solomon’s Knot at Wigmore Hall – Johann Sebastian Bach’s St John Passion
Tuesday, April 16, 2019 |  Singing works from memory is nothing new, nor performing without a conductor, but Solomon’s Knot, a “baroque collective”, do both with thrilling results. Making its Wigmore Hall debut, this group (even without a ‘starter motor’) performed as a precision-engineered machine – a model of superb blend and ensemble, and, crucially, also with direct communication. ... This performance of J. S. Bach’s St John Passion was unusual for its use of the 1725 revision. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra in New York – Edward Gardner conducts Egmont & Mahler 1 – James Ehnes plays Sibelius’s Violin Concerto
Monday, April 15, 2019 |  This London Philharmonic concert – the second in its doubleheader at Lincoln Center this week – got off to a fine start with Edward Gardner leading a dramatic and disciplined account of Beethoven’s highly-charged Egmont Overture. ... In Sibelius’s Violin Concerto, the soloist was James Ehnes... 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Herbert Blomstedt conducts Mozart 40 & Beethoven’s Eroica | Philharmonia Winds – Robin O’Neill conducts his arrangements of Bach, Debussy & Bartók
Sunday, April 14, 2019 |  In a pre-concert performance, there were three highly imaginative wind-band arrangements based on music by Bach, Debussy and Bartók created and conducted by Robin O’Neill (the Philharmonia’s principal bassoon). ... Several of these Philharmonia players were then involved in Herbert Blomstedt’s reading of Mozart’s Fortieth Symphony. ... Increased to fuller strength for the ‘Eroica’ (only six double basses though) the Philharmonia’s powerful string section helped bring the sound forward to the early-nineteenth-century. 
Gavan Ring & Simon Lepper at Wigmore Hall – Schumann, Bodley, Larchet
Sunday, April 14, 2019 |  Gavan Ring (making his debut at Wigmore Hall) and Simon Lepper opened their recital with Robert Schumann’s Opus 39 Liederkreis, moody settings of Eichendorff’s poetry describing psychological and exterior landscapes... 
LSO – Mark Elder conducts Charles Ives’s Second Symphony – Kirill Gerstein plays Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto
Sunday, April 14, 2019 |  With Sir Mark Elder you always get a gentlemanly concert, physically less static than Boult but of a similar ilk. This was a beautifully prepared programme, emphasising elegance of ensemble, phrasing and links, not a join or dovetail missed. Nothing demonstrative or dynamically excessive, everything pointedly in place, stylistically responsive without affectation, a fireside single malt never far away. ... Not everything, though, won over the audience. Much of Kirill Gerstein's Beethoven – three cool curtain calls, no encore – was a conception rooted firmly in a pre-French Revolution world... ... Charles Ives's Second Symphony of 1899-1902 (revised circa 1950) made up partly for the absence of an overture or some such to open an otherwise terse concert. Happy that he still had an audience, he assured us that it would be “an entirely pleasurable experience”... 
Göteborgs Symfoniker – Santtu-Matias Rouvali conducts Orff's Carmina Burana [live webcast]
Saturday, April 13, 2019 |  Carl Orff's scenic cantata Carmina Burana, premiered in Frankfurt in June 1937, is one of those hardy perennials that from performance to performance – amateur to pro-am to pro... ... Santtu-Matias Rouvali's vernal way with big late-romantic northern and German canvasses ensured a fabulous experience. He's a veritable painter, delighting in the intricacies, twists and balances of the page. He created vast sweeps of pictorial sound... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Ludovic Morlot conducts Sebastian Currier’s Divisions & Prokofiev 5 – Hélène Grimaud plays Beethoven [live & recorded webcast]
Saturday, April 13, 2019 |  A Symphony written during World War Two and music composed to commemorate the First such conflict bookended one of the greatest solaces in musical literature, Beethoven’s poetic, lyrical and (finally) sparkling Fourth Piano Concerto... ... In this painterly scene, Ludovic Morlot’s forceful challenge, DSO strings brusque, found Hélène Grimaud with a rather matter-of-fact and even messy response... ... Meanwhile, back at the concert’s commencement, the Seattle Symphony co-commissioned (Morlot, music director) Sebastian Currier’s Divisions (2014, the centenary of the start of WWI... ... Now, fast-forward to the concert’s conclusion, Prokofiev 5... 
Komische Oper Berlin – Handel’s Poro – Dominik Köninger, Ruzan Mantashyan, Philipp Meierhöfer; directed by Harry Kupfer; conducted by Jörg Halubek
Saturday, April 13, 2019 |  It is an intriguing paradox that Handel – surely the most imaginative composer of opera seria – only set a few texts by Pietro Metastasio, the most prominent librettist of the age, and was not much fired to produce his greatest operas as a result. Poro (1731) has not captured the imagination of directors and audiences in the modern period either, which is perhaps surprising seeing that it is a well-drawn drama that concerns the political and amorous intrigues among the ancient Indian king, Porus, and his cohort, in the face of a campaign by Alexander the Great into that region. ... Poro certainly receives its due now, at one of the major European theatres, in a production by no less than Harry Kupfer, perhaps best-known for his Flying Dutchman and Ring for Bayreuth. 
National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain at Royal Festival Hall – Carlos Miguel Prieto conducts Sensemayá, Sinfonia India & Copland 3 – Xiayin Wang plays George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto
Friday, April 12, 2019 |  Take 170 young musicians, aged between fourteen and eighteen from across the nation, add a young pianist and a returning Mexican conductor and what do you get? Well this vibrant assault on one’s musical senses – the first concert of the Spring tour which follows this Royal Festival Hall performance... 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Herbert Blomstedt conducts Beethoven & Berlioz – Pastoral Symphony & Symphonie fantastique
Thursday, April 11, 2019 |  This considered coupling of two five-movement opuses also juxtaposed that in some respects ‘By the Brook’ from Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ Symphony influenced aspects of Berlioz’s ‘Scène aux champs’ (if with pastures new musically), the Frenchman’s fantastique composed in 1830 in the wake of François Habeneck – through either the Concert Spirituel or the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire – having introduced numerous Beethoven pieces to Paris, both Symphonies here further linked by the lively Herbert Blomstedt... 
The Royal Opera – David McVicar’s production of Gounod’s Faust – Michael Fabiano, Erwin Schrott, Mandy Fredrich, Stéphane Degout; conducted by Dan Ettinger
Thursday, April 11, 2019 |  David McVicar’s production of Gounod’s Faust, here seeing its fifth revival since its 2004 opening, remains one hell of a show... ... There was an extra sense of the improvisatory on this first night, for not only was Erwin Schrott craving indulgence for possible vocal roughness but Irina Lungu, recently announced as a replacement for Diana Damrau, had fallen ill on the morning. ... So Mandy Fredrich had been flown in... ... In contrast, and provocatively, Michael Fabiano contrives to bring Faust’s casual, selfish and less-appealing facets to the fore... 
Britten Sinfonia at Barbican Hall – Natalie Murray Beale conducts Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony & Joby Talbot’s A Sheen of Dew on Flowers, with Kelley O'Connor & Tobias Greenhalgh
Thursday, April 11, 2019 |  Like the sapphire and diamond coronet Prince Albert designed and had made for Queen Victoria, this Britten Sinfonia concert’s Joby Talbot commission was a multifaceted undertaking. ... He’s given the new work the uncatchy title of A Sheen of Dew on Flowers... ... Talbot’s output straddles almost any genre you care to mention – pop, film and TV scores (The League of Gentlemen and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), a choral meditation on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compestela, ballet-scores including those for the Royal Ballet’s full-length Alice and Winter’s Tale... ... Kelley O’Connor and Tobias Greenhalgh made the music very much their own and added a seductive brand of operatic ecstasy and Broadway glamour and directness. ... The concert opened with Mendelssohn’s ‘Scottish’ Symphony – the composer dedicated it to Queen Victoria... 
New York Philharmonic – Simone Young conducts Mahler 6
Thursday, April 11, 2019 |  As we become more and more pessimistic and cynical over the brutality and tyranny that surround us, so Mahler’s Sixth Symphony has a certain remedial quality. ... Jaap van Zweden had suffered a severe second-degree burn on his shoulder and told by his doctor not to conduct. Fortunately, Simone Young who has recorded Mahler 6 with the Hamburg Philharmonic was available to step in. 
Boston Symphony Orchestra – Roman Carnival & Cantata Criolla – Sergio Tiempo plays Ravel’s G-major Piano Concerto
Thursday, April 11, 2019 |  Due to injuries sustained from a fall he took last December, Gustavo Dudamel withdrew from this week's performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. BSO associate conductor Ken-David Masur and Tanglewood Festival Chorus director James Burton carried on in his stead. ... Sergio Tiempo’s poignant and dynamic interpretation of Ravel was the highlight. ... Following intermission Burton led Antonio Estévez’s Cantata Criolla... 
London Handel Festival at St Lawrence – Chandos Anthems conducted by Adrian Butterfield
Wednesday, April 10, 2019 |  The church of St Lawrence, Little Stanmore, with its Baroque interior, is all that survives of the estate built by James Brydges, the Duke of Chandos, for whom Handel worked from 1717 to 1718. It was apt, then, that the London Handel Festival should venture there for this concert featuring two of the eleven eponymous Anthems which the composer wrote for that very venue. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Shostakovich 1957 – Semyon Bychkov conducts Symphony 11 (The Year 1905) and Alexei Volodin plays Piano Concerto 2 & Glinka Variations
Wednesday, April 10, 2019 |  This Shostakovich concert veered between the very slight and the immensely portentous. These three works were all written in 1957. Stalin had died in 1953; there was the possibility of a less-malign Soviet authoritarianism hanging in the air; and this was blown away by the brutal suppression of Hungary in 1956. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Edward Gardner conducts Ibéria, Mother Goose & La mer – Stephen Hough plays Saint-Saëns’s Egyptian Piano Concerto
Wednesday, April 10, 2019 |  Few pianists make a better case for the five Piano Concertos of Camille Saint-Saëns than Stephen Hough, here playing the ‘Egyptian’. ... and was attentively supported by Edward Gardner and the LPO. ... However, La mer was a reading remarkable for sustaining a tense balance between delicacy and impulse... 
London Handel Festival – Handel versus Porpora – Giuseppina Bridelli with Le Concert de L’Hostel Dieu & Franck-Emmanuel Comte
Monday, April 08, 2019 |  For a period of four years in the 1730s, Handel – the one-man phenomenon who dominated the musical scene in London for half a century – faced stiff competition from a rival opera company, the Opera of the Nobility. One of his star singers, Senesino, defected to it, and the services of another prominent castrato, Farinelli, and of the increasingly famous composer, Nicola Porpora, were enlisted. Gruelling as that may have been, it spurred Handel on to compose some of his finest and most-enduring operas, such as Orlando, Ariodante, and Alcina. 
New World Symphony – Bernard Labadie conducts Handel, Haydn & Mozart
Sunday, April 07, 2019 |  The New World Symphony, a post-conservatory program for aspiring orchestra musicians co-founded three decades ago by Michael Tilson Thomas, was conducted by Bernard Labadie, with Nicole Trotier (from Les Violons du Roy) as guest-concertmaster. The musicians responded to Labadie’s tutelage with outstanding performances... 
JACK Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Elliott Carter’s Five String Quartets
Saturday, April 06, 2019 |  Over six years since his death and Elliott Carter shows few signs of falling into the oblivion (temporary or otherwise) as so often affects the music of those esteemed during their lifetime. The String Quartets, in particular, have secured canonical status such that several ensembles have performed and/or recorded all five. The JACK Quartet thus joins a distinguished roster of the Juilliard, Composers, Arditti and Pacifica ensembles by presenting an integral cycle, in the course of which the salient facets in Carter’s musical language can readily be discerned. 
Budapest Festival Orchestra at Carnegie Hall – Iván Fischer conducts Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle with Ildikó Komlósi & Krisztián Cser | Márta Sebestyén performs Romanian & Hungarian folksongs
Saturday, April 06, 2019 |  Bartók (with his friend Kodály) was an avid collector of Hungarian and Romanian folksongs, several of which he inimitably arranged for orchestra. The first part of this brilliantly conceived program juxtaposed Bartók’s compositions with the corresponding folk music, opening with a trio from the Budapest Festival Orchestra... ... Then Márta Sebestyén, a celebrated Hungarian vocalist, was the perfect choice for her country’s tradition. ... The second half was devoted to Duke Bluebeard’s Castle... ... Ildikó Komlósi and Krisztián Cser were well-suited to the word and idiom of Bluebeard’s Castle. 
Wigmore Hall – Vivaldi’s La Senna festeggiante – Arcangelo & Jonathan Cohen with Emőke Baráth, Anna Reinhold & Callum Thorpe
Friday, April 05, 2019 |  La Senna festeggiante (The Seine rejoicing) is one of three surviving serenatas by Vivaldi, a type of work lying between a cantata and opera in scale. Composed around 1726, this allegorical drama effectively constitutes a piece of eighteenth-century agitprop, glorifying Louis XV of France, as it was probably composed for the name-day of that monarch, celebrated at the French Embassy in Venice. The figures of the Age of Gold and Virtue are led by the River Seine to pay homage to the King... ... Arcangelo, with director Jonathan Cohen, gave a sincere performance of this all-too-rarely heard work, fortunately spared the embarrassment of having to take anything other than the musical dimension seriously. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Osmo Vänskä conducts Tintagel, Belshazzar’s Feast & Sibelius 5 – Jan Lisiecki plays Grieg
Friday, April 05, 2019 |  This concert in the London Philharmonic’s Isle of Noises series stopped off in Cornwall for Arnold Bax’s Tintagel... ... Osmo Vänskä and the LPO have recorded this tone-poem, from a 2007 concert, and their familiarity with Bax’s 1921, arch-romantic score added clarity and grandeur to this shamelessly epic vision... ... Jan Lisiecki – twenty-four, Polish-Canadian – featured in Grieg’s Piano Concerto in a performance distinguished by a strong but low-key rapport between him and Vänskä... 
The Metropolitan Opera – Verdi’s La traviata – Anita Hartig, Stephen Costello, Artur Ruciński; directed by Michael Mayer; conducted by Nicola Luisotti
Friday, April 05, 2019 |  Four months after its unveiling, Michael Mayer’s staging of La traviata returns to the Met with a different conductor and cast, most of whom bring exceptional power and passion to Verdi’s masterpiece. ... The singing is fine, but the most notable performance – vocally and dramatically – is from Anita Hartig in the challenging role of Violetta Valéry. 
English National Ballet at Sadler's Wells – She Persisted – Broken Wings | Nora | Le Sacre du printemps
Friday, April 05, 2019 |  An evening of works by three women choreographers should not make as much news as it does; paradoxically, it would have been perfectly possible in the 1960s when works by Bronislava Nijinska, Ninette de Valois and Andrée Howard were in the repertoire, but since then, matters have declined. It was in order to effect something of a correction that Tamara Rojo, English National Ballet’s indomitable director, scheduled She Said, an all-female evening in terms of dance-creation in 2016. This second programme follows up on its success, reviving Broken Wings, the most successful creation from the first, Pina Bausch’s mighty version of Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) and a new work Nora, by company dancer Stina Quagebeur. It is quite a success. 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Stanislav Kochanovsky conducts Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony – Denis Matsuev plays Prokofiev
Thursday, April 04, 2019 |  It looks as though the thirty-eight-year-old Russian Stanislav Kochanovsky (replacing Yuri Temirkanov) was making his Philharmonia, UK (and Classical Source) debuts in this Russian programme, and the result was electrifying. ... Prokofiev wrote his Piano Concertos with a keen awareness of his own prowess as a pianist, but the Second, in its revised version, is in a virtuoso league of its own, even for him. ... Step forward Denis Matsuev, who is no stranger to the weight-lifting end of the repertoire... ... There followed an exceptional outing for Shostakovich’s ‘Leningrad’ Symphony, one that took no prisoners, with Kochanovsky in total command of a work that is a memorial both to a city and to a culture. 
Mark Bebbington at St John’s Smith Square: Island Stories
Thursday, April 04, 2019 |  This, the second of Mark Bebbington’s three season-long Pianograms recitals was, like the first, subtly chosen – music “inspired by remote seascapes”. ... Nocturnes by Fauré and Chopin gently framed the programme... ... César Franck’s masterly Prélude, Choral et Fugue, notwithstanding its dimensions and frequent brilliance, can only be made fully coherent through a pianist who chooses the correct tempo for the final section... ... John Ireland’s tripartite Sarnia sequence is, thanks to the championship of such as Bebbington, by no means the rare visitor to recitals it once was... 
Hubert Parry’s Judith at Royal Festival Hall – William Vann conducts the first London performance since 1889
Wednesday, April 03, 2019 |  A week after Vasily Petrenko’s thrilling performance of Walton’s First Symphony with the London Philharmonic Orchestra the audience in the Royal Festival Hall was treated to another important work by a British composer of an earlier generation, Sir Hubert Parry. His oratorio Judith, conducted by the dynamic and young William Vann, was something of a revelation. 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra at Lighthouse – Kirill Karabits conducts Elgar – Lucas Debargue plays Saint-Saëns’s Egyptian Piano Concerto
Wednesday, April 03, 2019 |  The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Kirill Karabits got off to a zesty start, bringing out the youthful spontaneity and vibrant detail of Froissart – Elgar’s first major orchestral work... ... Saint-Saëns’s ‘Egyptian’ Piano Concerto (1896) is more of a musical travelogue, its Javanese, Middle Eastern and Spanish flavours woven into its stylistically far-reaching fabric... ... For his final essay in the genre Karabits and Lucas Debargue forged a convincing partnership marrying Saint-Saëns’s characteristic romantic impulse and classical restraint. 
OAE – Simon Rattle conducts Johann Sebastian Bach’s St John Passion; directed by Peter Sellars
Tuesday, April 02, 2019 |  This new-to-London St John Passion from Peter Sellars was far removed from any conventional concert-hall presentation as you can have without morphing into opera. But as a semi-staged performance (chorus and soloists singing from memory) recreating Christ’s final days was vividly characterised and as harrowing as any slab of verismo Puccini. ... Simon Rattle is fiercely dedicated to these immersive performances, but his micro-management is a shade overdone. Why conduct a chorus when it is facing away from you? 
Royal Academy of Music Song Circle at Wigmore Hall – Songs of Carl Loewe
Tuesday, April 02, 2019 |  Marking the 150th-anniversary of the death of Carl Loewe (1790-1869), the Royal Academy of Music Song Circle's “Loewe Liederabend”, hidden away among the billings, was a twenty-four-carat winner. ... Arguably the first such Loewe initiative in England, demonstrably the first in the 118-year history of the Wigmore Hall, the programme offered a discerning choice of nineteen songs and ballades, along with the 1836 Frauenliebe cycle setting lyric poems by Adelbert von Chamisso, written four years before Schumann’s Frauenliebe und -leben. 
Giorgio Moroder at Eventim Hammersmith
Tuesday, April 02, 2019 |  Giorgio Moroder, the creator of the “Sound of the Future”, the “Father of Disco”, three-time Oscar-winner, tricked-out in bomber jacket, red shoes, tache, and Aviator Sunglasses (a nod to Top Gun), treated us to an amuse-bouche of his lavish back-catalogue. ... ...three women dressed in flowing 1970s’ Zandra Rhodes/Ossie Clark maxi-frocks, sprung into the sunny classic Looky Looky; the song that paid Moroder’s rent for years and paid to set up his Musicland Munich studio which produced Led Zeppelin, Queen, The Rolling Stones, Elton John and Donna Summer, who approached him to create a sexy song Love to Love You Baby. 
Khatia Buniatishvili at Barbican Hall – Schubert & Liszt
Monday, April 01, 2019 |  In her London recital last year, Khatia Buniatishvili took quite a few risks with audience expectations and attention spans, a process she indulged even more in this Barbican Hall concert of Schubert and Liszt. 
LSO – Gianandrea Noseda conducts Moonlight Music, Don Juan & Till Eulenspiegel – Roman Simovic plays Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto
Sunday, March 31, 2019 |  What to do when you have a programme centred around a singer and she falls ill on the morning of the concert, rehearsals done? This was the dilemma faced by Gianandrea Noseda and the LSO when Diana Damrau felt unable to perform and thus the premiere of Iain Bell’s The Hidden Place, written for her, had to be shelved along with the Final Scene of Richard Strauss’s Capriccio. One felt sorry for Bell (his Jack the Ripper had premiered at ENO the previous evening) since this 2009 song-cycle has already had to wait for its first airing. 
Howard Shelley & London Mozart Players at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Haydn 95, Hummel, Mozart Haffner Symphony & Piano Concerto K488
Sunday, March 31, 2019 |  Haydn’s dramatic Symphony 95 – the only minor-key example among the twelve such works composed for London – suitably commenced this concert entitled “Celebrating Genius”... ... Supplemented by his two between-works talks succinctly describing the history and the nature of the music, Howard Shelley’s approach involved lucid balancing with notably clear definition of woodwind lines and sensitive phrasing... ... Shelley’s interpretation of Mozart’s A-major Piano Concerto was full of understanding and shapely current between piano and the London Mozart Players. 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Xian Zhang conducts Shostakovich 5 – Alina Pogostkina plays Brahms’s Violin Concerto
Sunday, March 31, 2019 |  An Overture would have helped. As it was we were thrust cold into the opening of Brahms’s grand Violin Concerto. Nevertheless, with every turn accented and punctuated the effect was visceral, an expansive orchestral introduction. Alina Pogostkina gave a quite superb account of the solo part... 
English National Opera – world premiere of Iain Bell’s Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel – directed by Daniel Kramer; conducted by Martyn Brabbins
Saturday, March 30, 2019 |  Expectations for Iain Bell’s new opera were running high, particularly after the success of In Parenthesis. The ever-intriguing subject of the Jack the Ripper serial killings of Victorian London provide the draw, but the theme is more the lives of the murderer’s victims. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s production of Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito – Matthew Polenzani, Joyce DiDonato, Elza van den Heever, Ying Fang, Emily D’Angelo, Christian Van Horn; conducted by Lothar Koenigs
Saturday, March 30, 2019 |  While it enjoyed popularity for a few decades after his death, Mozart’s final opera, La clemenza di Tito, commissioned in 1791 to celebrate the coronation of Emperor Leopold II as King of Bohemia in Prague, lay in neglect for about a century. Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s production, first staged for Cologne in 1969 and recreated in this 1984 Metropolitan Opera staging (as it was by many other major companies during that decade) helped bring the work back into its own. 
Berliner Philharmoniker – Daniel Harding conducts Three Places in New England & Mahler 1 – and Wozzeck Fragments with Dorothea Röschmann [live webcast]
Friday, March 29, 2019 |  The most-recent Berlin webcast was conducted by Simon Rattle (and included Helmut Lachenmann’s utterly compelling My Melodies). Now, and for the third time this week with this programme, the podium was occupied by Daniel Harding, mentored by Rattle (and Abbado for that matter, also with significant Berlin connections). ... Following several revamps Mahler’s debut Symphony was definitively published in 1899, no longer named ‘Titan’ and with the ‘Blumine’ movement dropped, and was heard in Berlin following music by Charles Ives (whose scores Mahler was taking an interest in) and Alban Berg. 
Finborough Theatre – Lionel Bart’s Maggie May
Friday, March 29, 2019 |  If for nothing else Lionel Bart will be remembered for writing Oliver!, arguably Britain’s most successful stage and film musical. That was in 1960, but before then he had written Lock Up Your Daughters and Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be. He was also known for penning hit songs for Cliff Richard, Tommy Steele, Anthony Newley and Shirley Bassey, as well as writing a title song for Matt Monro for the 007 film From Russia With Love. He never repeated the success of Oliver!. ... The 1964 London production had a cast headed by Rachel Roberts as Maggie, Kenneth Haigh as Casey and with Andrew Keir, Barry Humphries, John Junkin and Geoffrey Hughes. Georgia Brown eventually replaced Roberts and the show played for a respectable five-hundred performances at the Adelphi Theatre. 
Classical Opera at Cadogan Hall – Ian Page conducts Hasse’s Piramo e Tisbe
Thursday, March 28, 2019 |  By 1768, Johann Adolf Hasse was rather a hang-over from the Baroque era when he wrote what turned out to be his penultimate opera. ... It could be either a touching or an ironic gesture to include Hasse within The Mozartists’ ongoing celebration of Mozart... ... Ovid’s story of Pyramus and Tisbe will surely be best-known to many – even beyond the English-speaking world – through its comic send-up by Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. ... That provided a poised backdrop for the singers with the virtually equal accomplishment and vocal allure of Chiara Skerath and Kiandra Howarth as the titular lovers. 
Fiddler on the Roof at Playhouse Theatre – Andy Nyman & Judy Kuhn; directed by Trevor Nunn
Thursday, March 28, 2019 |  The Playhouse Theatre is obviously on a mission to bring the World to the West End. After the Young Vic’s transfer of The Jungle, transplanting audiences to the refugee camps in Calais, then the Chichester/Hampstead transfer of Caroline or Change, set in the oppressive humidity of 1960s’ Louisiana, we step further back in time and cross to the Russian steppes for the triumphant Trevor Nunn-directed Menier Chocolate Factory production of Fiddler on the Roof. 
LSO – Gianandrea Noseda conducts Islamey & Shostakovich 1 – Seong-Jin Cho plays Rachmaninov
Thursday, March 28, 2019 |  In his Piano Concerto No.2, Rachmaninov conflates soloist and orchestra into a symphonic texture, which meant that twenty-five-year-old Seong-Jin Cho, making his debut with the LSO, spent long passages of the first movement playing a quasi obbligato role, the LSO given its head by Gianandrea Noseda. ... Serendipitously, I once heard, in the 1970s, a Shostakovich First from a USSR orchestra and conductor, probably brokered by Victor Hochhauser, and I happened to be sitting next to Scott Walker, who was then moving on from pop stardom... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Vasily Petrenko conducts Spartacus & Walton 1 – George Li plays Tchaikovsky
Wednesday, March 27, 2019 |  Continuing to be billed as part of the LPO’s “Isle of Noises” series, one might wonder what particular ‘Isle’ unites these three very different works by three very different composers. The Tchaikovsky and Walton each inhabit the same extreme key of B-flat minor (most of the time) whilst the Khachaturian begins nearby in A-flat... ... But “the theme from The Onedin Line” it was, as though it were some kind of Love Island tune, which Petrenko shaped most admirably and the LPO played very beautifully. ... George Li was the soloist, more than ably partnered by Petrenko and the reduced string-strength LPO. For much of this still astonishingly original Concerto Li was wholly exceptional... ... Walton 1 ended the programme, a work that has appeared in more South Bank concerts this season than for many years past. As André Previn showed over half-a-century ago, Walton’s score is truly international in appeal – indeed, with pre-War performances by Koussevitzky in Boston and Furtwängler in Berlin, and by Karajan and Haitink post, this Symphony has always shone far beyond the British Isles – and it was a considerable attraction to hear how Petrenko tackled this fearsome masterpiece. 
London Handel Festival at The Royal Opera – Berenice – Claire Booth, Rachael Lloyd, Jacquelyn Stucker; conducted by Laurence Cummings; directed by Adele Thomas
Wednesday, March 27, 2019 |  Like the recent film about Queen Anne, The Favourite, Adele Thomas’s new production of Berenice (1737) for the London Handel Festival in conjunction with The Royal Opera engages with the eighteenth-century not so much to explore it sympathetically and to understand it, but to ironise, satirise, and exaggerate it. 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra at Lighthouse – Kirill Karabits conducts Saint-Saëns’s & Terterian’s Third Symphonies
Wednesday, March 27, 2019 |  Kirill Karabits has built impressive stats in creating enterprising programmes, and has now added the Armenian Avet Terterian (1929-1994) whose Third Symphony formed an arresting centrepiece to the more familiar world of Camille Saint-Saëns. ... Following the interval there was an enthusiastic rendition of the Frenchman’s Third Symphony, still misleadingly subtitled “Organ Symphony” rather than “with organ”, pointing to its use only in the second and final movements. ... Of Terterian’s eight Symphonies (composed over two decades from 1969), the Third from 1975 was awarded the State Prize of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic. To the work’s large forces, Terterian adds distinctive wind-colouring with the duduk (related to the medieval shawm) and the more-penetrating zurna (indigenous to Armenia). As a creative response to the genocide of 1.5-million Armenians during and after World War One, the work’s twenty-five minutes are uncompromising in emotional force... 
Emanuel Ax at Carnegie Hall
Wednesday, March 27, 2019 |  Emanuel Ax brought his customary warmth, eloquence and effortless pianism to this wide-ranging but well-integrated Carnegie Hall recital. ... George Benjamin’s brief (about one-minute each) and deceptively simple Piano Figures came next. ... Following intermission came a magical account of Ravel’s languorous Valses nobles and sentimentales, Ax displaying impeccable technique, exemplary taste and notable sophistication of touch, an apt entrée to the passionate expressivity of Chopin. 
Chelsea Opera Group at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Boito’s Mefistofele
Sunday, March 24, 2019 |  Boito’s Mefistofele gets relatively infrequent airings. Boito’s brilliance as a librettist for Verdi is often commented upon, but his working of the Goethe narrative of Faust for his own Mefistofele is curiously lacking in dramatic progression and sweep, seeming to rely on an expectation that we all know the plot. ... Chelsea Opera was lucky to engage Vazgen Gazaryan. Despite having the score he seldom used it. 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Douglas Boyd conducts Figaro Overture & Schubert’s Great C-major Symphony – Jonathan Biss plays Mozart Piano Concerto K453
Sunday, March 24, 2019 |  Performed with the suitably reduced string strength, the Overture to Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro at once displayed the characteristics of Douglas Boyd’s approach to music of the Classical era. ... Flowing and light-toned, the Philharmonia admirably supported Jonathan Biss in this sparkling performance. ... For the Schubert, the Philharmonia considerably increased string strength and also doubled woodwind and the horns. This gave an ideal sonority to the large-scale work. 
Berliner Philharmoniker – Simon Rattle conducts My Melodies & Schumann 2 [live webcast]
Saturday, March 23, 2019 |  Robert Schumann’s Second Symphony has featured nearly all this week at the Berliner Philharmonie. On Monday Jörg Widmann conducted it with the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie (in a concert that also showcased him as clarinettist and composer), and now, following his return to the Berliner Philharmoniker last week for Bach’s St John Passion (directed by Peter Sellars), here was Simon Rattle also leading it, and for the third time, this webcast being the last of three consecutive readings. ... First though, horns-a-plenty, eight of them required for Helmut Lachenmann’s My Melodies... ... If its alluring title suggests Your Hundred Best Tunes, you can forget that... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Mark Wigglesworth conducts Walk to the Paradise Garden & Vaughan Williams 5 – Simone Lamsma plays Sibelius’s Violin Concerto [live webcast]
Saturday, March 23, 2019 |  Two contemplative English pieces separated by Sibelius’s Violin Concerto, if thoughtfully linked given Ralph Vaughan Williams dedicated his Fifth Symphony to the Finn, albeit “without permission”, later granted. ... The Walk to the Paradise Garden comes between scenes V & VI of Frederick Delius’s Romeo and Juliet opera... ... Centrepiece, it was Simone Lamsma in Sibelius. The Dutch violinist was in top form technically... 
Bell, Denk, Isserlis & Ridout at Wigmore Hall – Fauré & Schumann
Saturday, March 23, 2019 |  The dominating aspect of this Schumann and Fauré recital was the calibre of Jeremy Denk’s role at the piano, which declared itself decisively with Joshua Bell in the Frenchman's A-major Violin Sonata. ... The freshness of the Trio continued into Isserlis’s duo with Denk in the Five Pieces in Folk Style, which succinctly give you the essence of Schumann’s expressive world. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Edward Gardner conducts Egmont Overture & Mahler 1 – Kian Soltani plays Elgar’s Cello Concerto
Saturday, March 23, 2019 |  This LPO concert illustrated why the trusty old formula of Overture-Concerto-Symphony works so well. Nowadays many attractive starters are neglected. Edward Gardner opened with Egmont, its opening chords delivered with granitic weight. ... Elgar’s Cello Concerto was played by Kian Soltani – born in Austria to a Persian family – who first came to public attention as principal cellist of Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra... ... The opening movement of Mahler’s First Symphony begins with an A, intended to conjure the Creation of the World. Gardner obtained a veritable miracle of raptness here... 
Palm Beach Opera – Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus – Emily Blair, Diana Newman, Stephanie Blythe, Jack Swanson, Tobias Greenhalgh & Zach Borichevsky; directed by Dona D. Vaughn; conducted by David Stern
Friday, March 22, 2019 |  Palm Beach Opera concludes its 2019 season with a delightfully effervescent production of Die Fledermaus. ... Dona D. Vaughn’s direction sustains the nonstop pace of the farcical plot and the choreography complements the music. David Stern’s brisk tempos generate high energy – from the Overture through to the final champagne toast. ... A bearded Stephanie Blythe, wearing a greatcoat decorated with medals, is convincing in the trouser-role of Orlofsky. Alongside the able Tobias Greenhalgh, her singing and acting are brilliant as she plays along with Dr Falke’s elaborate prank on Eisenstein... ... As the real Eisenstein, Zach Borichevsky is consistently entertaining... 
LSO – Bernard Haitink conducts Mahler 4 – Isabelle Faust plays Dvořák’s Violin Concerto [concert two, March 21]
Thursday, March 21, 2019 |  This concert, the last in Bernard Haitink’s ninetieth-birthday series with the LSO, might or might not mark a more significant farewell... ... Isabelle Faust is much acclaimed but it’s not always easy to discern a big personality in what she does. That her sound is not large was concealed by the reduced forces clustered on the platform. ... Any fears that we were going to be offered a reduced sort of Mahler Four were banished by a major reorganisation during the interval. 
Wigmore Hall – Christoph Prégardien, Pentaèdre & Joseph Petrič perform Normand Forget’s arrangement of Schubert’s Winterreise
Thursday, March 21, 2019 |  Schubert’s settings of twenty-four Wilhelm Müller poems, Winterreise, have undergone many genre-reassignments, the reward for being a work that can support many an nihilistic crisis – the cycle has been recomposed, filmed, danced to, absorbed into theatre, and there is this arrangement, for tenor, wind quintet and accordion by Normand Forget. It is now fifteen years old and has been recorded (in 2008 on the Atma label) by the same artists as in this Wigmore Hall concert. ... Christoph Prégardien has form in Winterreise, both with Schubert's piano and this version, and he was in marvellous voice. 
BCMG Murmurs with Wu Wei on sheng
Thursday, March 21, 2019 |  Now into its fourth decade, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group continues to set the pace with its programming and commissioning... ... the Chinese mouth organ known as the sheng only recently came to prominence in Western music – thanks in large part to the artistry of Wu Wei... ... Heard either side of these were works by Rebecca Saunders, long resident in Berlin and for several years a professor of composition in Hannover. CRIMSON – Molly's Song 1 (1995) is one of the pieces that brought her to international attention... ... Concluding this concert, murmurs (2009) might seem almost a conceptual continuation with its inspiration in Samuel Beckett... 
New York Philharmonic – Jaap van Zweden conducts Central Park in the Dark & Brahms 1 – Matthias Goerne sings The Wound-Dresser
Thursday, March 21, 2019 |  Charles Ives’s highly evocative Central Park in the Dark (1906), a companion to The Unanswered Question, purports to convey the sounds of nature and the happenings one would have heard while sitting on a park bench on a hot summer night in the late-1800s. ... The Wound-Dresser, John Adams’s setting of a fragment from Walt Whitman’s highly graphic and intimate poem about his experience as a volunteer, tending to wounded soldiers in military hospitals during the American Civil War, made a strong impact. ... With his darkly-rounded baritone, Matthias Goerne – singing with clarity, feeling and refinement – gave a powerfully moving rendition of Whitman’s poignant verses. ... Following intermission came a bold and brilliantly shaped reading of Brahms’s First Symphony, in which van Zweden’s robust conducting drew a rich and colorful response... 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra at Lighthouse – David Hill conducts Tallis Fantasia and A Child of Our Time
Wednesday, March 20, 2019 |  The combination of Michael Tippett and Ralph Vaughan Williams is a well-worn concert recipe, arising from their differing but related response to an inherited musical language as Vaughan Williams’s war-time gesture of goodwill when in 1943 he stood as a character witness for the conscientious objector... 
Vox Luminis at Wigmore Hall – Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Wednesday, March 20, 2019 |  The music of Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704) is undergoing something of a reassessment. During his lifetime he languished in the shadow of Lully’s monopoly and influence at the French court, and many of his operas and much of his theatrical music are lost. 
Mark Morris Dance Group at Sadler's Wells – Pepperland
Wednesday, March 20, 2019 |  The best choreographers create a world of movement which utterly convinces, which possesses an internal logic in which you accept everything wholeheartedly. Pepperland, initially created in Liverpool in 2017, shows that the American dance-creator Mark Morris is one such choreographer; he has created a quirky, at times zany, reaction to the music of the Beatles in the album ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ heard through the sound prism of composer Ethan Iverson’s creativity. It contains a glorious multiplicity of dance styles, from modern dance and ballet through vaudeville, soft shoe shuffle and on to Bob Fosse, the Charleston and cowboys’ hoe-down. That it works, and, indeed, works so well, is down to Morris’s inventiveness and his ability to match movement and music, which sounds all-too-obvious in print but which is a talent possessed by only a handful of those who style themselves as choreographers. 
Boston Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall – Richard Strauss – Andris Nelsons conducts Zarathustra, Renée Fleming sings Capriccio
Tuesday, March 19, 2019 |  This smartly-planned and highly satisfying Richard Strauss program featured music separated by forty-five years in the composer’s seven-decade career, and opened with a perfectly delicate account of the tender Sextet that introduces Strauss’s final opera, Capriccio... ... Conducting from a seated position, Andris Nelsons was completely at-one with the musicians. ... After a brief pause, the full Boston Symphony and Renée Fleming arrived. ... This concert was dedicated to the memory of André Previn... ... ...she sang a warm and heartfelt interpretation of ‘I can smell the sea air’, Blanche’s final aria from Previn’s 1995 opera, A Streetcar Named Desire... ... The second half was taken up with a sweeping and imaginatively detailed performance of one of Strauss’s first successes, Also sprach Zarathustra. 
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment at Royal Festival Hall – András Schiff conducts Schumann’s Rhenish & Fourth Symphonies and plays both of Brahms’s Piano Concertos [March 18 & 19]
Tuesday, March 19, 2019 |  Schumann and Brahms, the spiritual father-and-son giants of German symphonic classico-romanticism – the stuff of a Sunday roast. Pursuing its current season's theme of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” (American Declaration of Independence), the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment treated us to an assortment of valved and natural horns, natural trumpets, old timpani and gut strings... ... ...came to haunt watching András Schiff doubling as pianist and conductor. He found some stature, though not much gravitas, in the 'Rhenish' Symphony, at best in the intimacies of the third movement but content to do no more than wave through those 'cathedral' places calling otherwise for greater input. 
William Christie & Les Arts Florissants at Barbican Centre – J. S. Bach’s St John Passion
Tuesday, March 19, 2019 |  The vocal and instrumental ensemble Les Arts Florissants is celebrating its fortieth-birthday. Forsaking its trademark French Baroque repertoire, William Christie and his Paris-based forces delivered an efficient and intermittently inspired St John Passion. 
Jeremy Denk at Wigmore Hall – Bach & Schubert
Monday, March 18, 2019 |  Jeremy Denk opened this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall with G-major Bach... ... The Schubert, his second set of Impromptus, was also kept on the move, avoiding the torpor that can be apparent; each piece rippled with musical and emotional incident, songfulness too. 
The Phantom of the Opera – 1925 silent-film by Rupert Julian – to a score by Roy Budd
Monday, March 18, 2019 |  Roy Budd is probably best known for his soundtrack to Get Carter (1971), with its tingling harpsichord motif, although he composed some forty other film scores. He was also a leading jazz pianist who made his professional debut when he was six years old at the London Coliseum in 1953. He was obsessed since the age of eleven with the silent-film version of The Phantom of the Opera (1925) and in 1989 paid a large sum of money to buy the only surviving original print from a collector and spent a further considerable sum on having it restored. He composed a symphonic score to accompany the film... 
Royal Academy Opera – Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta & Ravel’s L’Enfant et les sortilèges
Monday, March 18, 2019 |  Tchaikovsky’s final opera Iolanta continues to linger on the fringes of the repertoire, despite its glorious music completely at the service of the symbolist story of a king’s daughter hidden away to keep her ignorant of the fact she is blind until a young count falls in love with her and gives her the will to see. The Sleeping Beauty meets the elusive world of Pelleas and Melisande... ... In the end, the production is a disappointment, playing as a ninety-minute second fiddle to a magnificent, enchanting staging of L’Enfant et les sortilèges, with designs that faultlessly enter the world of childhood. The puppetry is disarmingly low-tech and delightfully imaginative 
Dorothy Croft Trust at University of West London – Final Gala Celebration
Sunday, March 17, 2019 |  This interesting concert served two purposes: thanking those who helped the Dorothy Croft Trust for Young Musicians during its decade of existence, and celebrating the life of the Hungarian-born violin teacher Béla Katona, who died last year aged ninety-eight having taught several generations of students in Manchester and then London. 
LSO – Barbara Hannigan conducts and sings – Ligeti, Haydn, Berg, Gershwin – Concert românesc, Lulu, Girl Crazy
Sunday, March 17, 2019 |  Barbara Hannigan is one of the most fearless sopranos of her generation, unsparing of herself and audiences in gripping, virtuoso performances of big, psychologically complex roles. Sometimes I’ve found her focus and commitment almost too formidable, so I wondered what she would bring to her parallel career as a conductor in her LSO programme. 
Renata Pokupić & La Serenissima at Wigmore Hall – L’Amante Abbandonata: Italian Cantatas from the Settecento
Sunday, March 17, 2019 |  Cantatas by the Red Priest and his contemporaries were themed around the abandoned lover, brought vividly to life by Renata Pokupić. ... The verve of La Serenissima was fabulous, Adrian Chandler in masterful control. 
Matthias Goerne & Daniil Trifonov with members of the New York Philharmonic at the 92nd Street Y
Sunday, March 17, 2019 |  Matthias Goerne, a leading exponent of Schubert Lieder, has demonstrated an interest in exploring different sounds by transcribing the piano accompaniments for other instruments... ... Hanns Eisler’s Ernst Gesänge was completed a month before the end of his life... ... The two songs that concluded the first half were accompanied by Daniil Trifonov and Carter Brey. ... Brahms’s Opus 91 is of two songs he wrote some twenty years apart as gifts to his violinist collaborator Joseph Joachim, for whom a viola part – here superbly rendered by Cynthia Phelps – was added to the piano. Goerne and the instrumentalists approached the settings with a tenderness appropriate to their shared theme of sleep... ... Finally an engrossing account of the B-major Piano Trio, as Brahms revised forty-five years later. Trifonov, Huang and Brey exhibited excellent rapport... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Rafael Payare conducts Mahler 5 – Yoonshin Song plays Mozart’s Violin Concerto K219 [live webcast]
Saturday, March 16, 2019 |  Less than a fortnight ago Rafael Payare was in London for Mahler 5; now he was in Detroit with it, again with Mozart in fraternity, and this DSO webcast was the third and final performance. ... Hunter Eberly’s flawless trumpet solo (a militaristic flourish) cued Payare’s at-first unindulgent view of this three-part, five-movement Symphony... ... In the first half Yoonshin Song (DSO concertmaster, Kimberly Kaloyanides Kennedy taking that role, her recent Barber a standout) gave a stylish K219, matching the high bar she set in Bartók last April. 
Kensington Symphony Orchestra at St John’s Smith Square – Holly Mathieson conducts Enescu & Lutosławski, Julien Van Mellaerts sings Kindertotenlieder
Saturday, March 16, 2019 |  The combination of an on-form amateur orchestra and an energising young conductor in an intriguing programme looked hard to beat – and so it proved. Holly Mathieson made a considerable impression with her concern for clarity and elegance in all circumstances. ... Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsody No.1 is having a London renaissance... ... Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder is one of his most integrated compositions, the sparse scoring evoking an intimacy beyond that of his Symphonies. His settings of five poems by Friedrich Rückert lamenting the death of his two youngest children have a poignancy and sense of terror that looks forward to Das Lied von der Erde. ... Mathieson and Van Mellaerts are New Zealanders and this moving account was dedicated to the victims of Friday’s atrocities in Christchurch. 
Bury Court Opera’s swansong – Britten’s The Turn of the Screw
Saturday, March 16, 2019 |  Not only for the prostrate bodies of Miles and his Governess this was also the final curtain for Bury Court Opera, of inestimable value to young singers for twelve years. 
Sarah Connolly, Julius Drake & Emily Berrington at Wigmore Hall – Zemlinsky/Maeterlinck, Schumann/Mary Stuart, Argento/Virginia Woolf
Friday, March 15, 2019 |  Sarah Connolly and Julius Drake assembled a fascinating and intense programme for their Wigmore Hall recital exploring the interior world of women’s lives, as imagined by three very different male composers. ... Robert Schumann’s Mary Stuart settings were made in 1852, when he suffered from increasing mental instability. They share the emotional depth of the Zemlinsky settings... ... The recently-late Dominick Argento’s From the Diary of Virginia Woolf, composed for Janet Baker in 1974, with diary-readings interspersed, made for an hour-long second half. 
LSO – Bernard Haitink conducts Mahler 4 – Isabelle Faust plays Dvořák’s Violin Concerto
Thursday, March 14, 2019 |  If the remaining two presentations of this LSO programme (not requiring trombones or tuba) – whether at Philharmonie de Paris on the 18th or back at the Barbican on the 21st – are able to match this ‘first night’ then a great evening is in prospect, for this was a wonderful, if possibly perplexing, Mahler 4 and it didn’t overshadow Isabelle Faust’s magnetic playing of Dvořák. In the adorable Violin Concerto, Bernard Haitink conjured plenty of Slavonic if stately fieriness and eloquent lyricism... 
Orchestre de Paris – Herbert Blomstedt conducts Brahms 1 – Martin Helmchen plays Mendelssohn
Thursday, March 14, 2019 |  Opening and closing a week of nonagenarians, the London Symphony Orchestra and Bernard Haitink (ninety) and the Orchestre de Paris with Herbert Blomstedt (ninety-one) opted for interestingly similar programming and young soloist choices, the former favouring Austrian Concerto and Symphony, the latter German equivalents. ... This Paris concert, following four rehearsals and a first run the night before, offered Brahms on an imperially spacious scale. ... If Brahms's First Symphony was an hour-stopping masterclass of interpretation and execution, so, in a different way, was Mendelssohn's brief First Piano Concerto, premiered in Munich in 1831. ... Martin Helmchen, who won the 2001 Clara Haskil Competition, is a schooled, cultured pianist. 
English National Opera – Simon McBurney’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute – Rupert Charlesworth, Lucy Crowe, Thomas Oliemans, Brindley Sherratt, Julia Bauer; conducted by Ben Gernon
Thursday, March 14, 2019 |  Simon McBurney’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute is quite the Gesamtkunstwerk, with the orchestra pit inclusively raised to the same level as the stage, and the players often taking part in the action, major roles for video-design and sound-effects, and much fourth-wall dissolution as characters barge on to the stage through the stalls while other roles get absorbed into the orchestra. 
Russell Maliphant & Vangelis at Sadler's Wells – The Thread
Thursday, March 14, 2019 |  This is a curiosity indeed – a juxtaposition of traditional Greek folk dancing with Russell Maliphant’s particular contemporary idiom. It is a combination in which, in an evening of satisfying variety, the differences between them are not eliminated but rather highlighted, the movement qualities placed alongside each other rather than fused. The brainchild of a Greek promotion company, The Thread emerges from those unpromising beginnings to deliver an experience which is stimulating and often beautiful, down in no small part to the extraordinary lighting design by Michael Hulls, a true choreographer of light. 
New York Philharmonic – Manfred Honeck conducts Mozart – Richard Goode plays Piano Concerto K595
Wednesday, March 13, 2019 |  The first half of this Mozart evening was taken up by Richard Goode’s mostly sluggish rendition of the composer’s soft-spoken final Piano Concerto. ... Three funereal chimes set the somber tone that inhabited the second half the concert. Although Masonic Funeral Music was not, like the works that followed it on the program, a creation of 1791, it was the perfect mood-setter for the composer’s final sacred works. ... While we more often hear the efforts of Franz Xaver Süssmayr, who, at the request of Mozart's wife, Constanze, took on the task of completing the setting, on this occasion the Requiem was performed in the incomplete 1791 version, as the composer left it. 
Royal College of Music Opera Studio – Offenbach’s Robinson Crusoe – directed by Bill Bankes-Jones; conducted by Michael Rosewell
Wednesday, March 13, 2019 |  It seems something like a once-in-a-decade event that we get the chance to see Offenbach’s 1867 comic opera Robinson Crusoe... ... while now it’s the inspired latest choice by the Royal College of Music Opera Studio, directed by Tête-à-tête’s Bill Bankes-Jones (who also directed a production in 1995 for Harrow Opera). ... Suspend your disbelief: it’s Offenbach! 
Thomas Adès & Kirill Gerstein at Zankel Hall
Wednesday, March 13, 2019 |  Facing one another across the expanse of two pianos Thomas Adès and Kirill Gerstein communicated through nods and facial gestures that kept them on the same page – at least figuratively; while Adès played from printed scores (aided by a human page-turner), Gerstein went high-tech, using a pedal-controlled tablet. 
Maurizio Pollini at Royal Festival Hall – Chopin & Debussy
Tuesday, March 12, 2019 |  Chopin has long-been a major preoccupation with Maurizio Pollini, and while he plays this repertoire with deep affection (occasionally singing along) his approach remains unromantic, evident in his understated delivery of the two Opus 62 Nocturnes, withdrawn and almost severe, yet impressing in the first for the clarity of trills and articulation of passagework, and sense of line in the second. ... Following the interval Debussy’s Préludes (1909-10) silenced the persistent coughers, Pollini traversing Book One with barely a pause and bringing vivid colouration to the changing scenery. 
Philharmonia Orchestra at Lincoln Center – Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts The Oceanides & The Firebird, Truls Mørk plays Salonen’s Cello Concerto
Monday, March 11, 2019 |  Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia Orchestra wound-up their two-concert New York visit with a generous and imaginative mix. ... The concert opened with Sibelius: a rapturously atmospheric account of The Oceanides, drawn from the ancient Greek legend of Oceanus... ... Next, Truls Mørk to perform Salonen’s own restless, grandiose and dauntingly difficult Cello Concerto... ... An electrifying, richly characterized account of The Firebird rounded out the evening. 
Birmingham Opera Company & CBSO – Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk – directed by Graham Vick; conducted by Alpesh Chauhan
Monday, March 11, 2019 |  Is it really thirty-five years since your reviewer was at Tower Ballroom to hear The Smiths on their first UK tour? The venue has not changed so much in terms of its designer seediness, making it the ideal location for Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk as staged by Birmingham Opera Company, an organization which seeks to provoke at all costs, and if such an attitude can easily seem its own justification, the track-record of BOC’s successes – most recently with a timely and engrossing reappraisal of Michael Tippett’s much-maligned The Ice Break – cannot be gainsaid. 
LSO – Bernard Haitink conducts Bruckner 4 – Till Fellner plays Mozart Piano Concerto K482
Sunday, March 10, 2019 |  If (in Mahler’s words) a Symphony should contain the World, then Bruckner’s certainly attain that and, in their way, the greatest of Mozart’s Piano Concertos, of which K482 is one, with the wide emotional range that it charts, clinched by the unbearably poignant looking-over-the-shoulder in the last few bars which precede the final cadence. ... Having reached ninety years of age a week ago, Bernard Haitink has a huge lifetime of musical experience to draw upon... ... At the piano Till Fellner was a little more insistent and emphatic, arguably foursquare, in that just a touch more humour would have told all the better, in the Finale especially, if not the more martial first movement. ... Perhaps his most approachable Symphony, given its melodiousness and suggestive programmatic content, Bruckner’s Fourth received a yet more expansive account, more so even than when Haitink conducted it with the LSO in June 2011. 
Jubilee Quartet at Conway Hall – Haydn & Schubert
Sunday, March 10, 2019 |  The Jubilee Quartet provided the most stylish of Haydn performances and the musicians’ often very personal way of fashioning melodies never imposed upon eighteenth-century style... ... Coming between the two C-major works, Schubert’s C-minor Quartettsatz was superb. 
Philharmonia Orchestra at Lincoln Center – Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts Bruckner 7
Sunday, March 10, 2019 |  Two disparate approaches to conducting Bruckner’s Symphonies have developed over the years: one emphasizes the influence of Wagner, applying exceedingly broad tempos to give greater weight to the dramatic character of the music, enhancing its heroic bearing with overpowering outbursts reinforced by stentorian brass and rich lyricism with opulent strings; the other, more concerned with structural cohesion, setting brisk tempos and conjoining sections seamlessly to downplay Bruckner’s block-like sectionalism, sometimes at the expense of personality. ... Esa-Pekka Salonen’s reading of Bruckner’s Seventh utilized elements of both approaches. ... The Philharmonia Orchestra (from London) was in top form 
Rudolf Buchbinder plays & directs Beethoven's C-major & Emperor Piano Concertos with the Svetlanov Symphony Orchestra at Tchaikovsky Concert Hall [live webcast]
Sunday, March 10, 2019 |  Rudolf Buchbinder's Beethoven is a familiar feature of European concert life, from Vienna to Berlin and Istanbul, his approach reliable and forthright if not that given to poetic finesse or finer dynamics. ... The ‘Emperor’ – started with a nod, orchestra and leader left to take care of the cavalry charge – was bold and muscular... 
Berliner Philharmoniker – Kirill Petrenko conducts Tchaikovsky 5 – Patricia Kopatchinskaja plays Schoenberg’s Violin Concerto [live webcast]
Saturday, March 09, 2019 |  A week ago in webcast land it was Zubin Mehta conducting a compelling Scheherazade; now, remaining in Russian mode, the Berliner Philharmoniker’s chief conductor designate Kirill Petrenko tempted with Tchaikovsky, a distinctive if not always persuasive account of the Fifth Symphony. ... Arnold Schoenberg was three-year settled in California when he composed his Violin Concerto in 1936. It had to wait until late in 1940 for its premiere by Louis Krasner (who had commissioned Alban Berg), Stokowski conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra. Not many violinists have Opus 36 in their repertoire: Viktoria Mullova is one, Michael Barenboim another, and here was Patricia Kopatchinskaja. 
English Touring Opera at Hackney Empire – Verdi’s Macbeth
Saturday, March 09, 2019 |  Verdi’s Macbeth was the composer’s first Shakespeare opera and is so abbreviated as to be positively epigrammatic, but it is far from being Shakespeare- or Verdi-lite. If anything it gains in doom-laden density, without a hint of relief.

English Touring Opera similarly cuts to the chase in James Dacre’s taut new production... ... Grant Doyle combines Macbeth’s monstrous pessimism, his courage and agonising moments of self-knowledge with disarming directness. 

English Touring Opera at Hackney Empire – Mozart’s Idomeneo
Friday, March 08, 2019 |  Mozart’s Idomeneo, not always ‘up there’ as an audience favourite, is a tricky work to pull off from a theatrical perspective. It’s a striking choice for a touring company showing as it does a ruler making a rash decision and learning that this has unexpected ramifications and consequences for his family, his people, his country and his reign as fate and destiny decree. No qualms about relevance then! 
Berlioz 150 – John Nelson conducts Grande Messe des morts at St Paul’s Cathedral
Friday, March 08, 2019 |  I once heard Monteverdi’s Vespers in St Paul’s Cathedral that worked rather well, and have tried to sit in the same area (under the dome, towards the front) for other choral blockbusters, on the basis of what goes up must more or less come down. Sadly, for a work that in London fits better into the Albert Hall than the city’s cathedral, the results with this account of Berlioz’s Grande Messe des morts – marking to the day the 150th-anniversary of the composer’s death – were impressionist-realist... ... John Nelson has form in conducting Berlioz (his recording of The Trojans is marvellous) and he did rather a good job at embracing the cathedral’s mighty sound time-lags and decays to give due space to Berlioz’s devotional lingering – the performance came in pretty near the dot of ninety minutes. 
New World Symphony – Osmo Vänskä conducts Scottish Symphony – Dean Whiteside leads Winter Sky – Inon Barnatan plays Schumann
Friday, March 08, 2019 |  Kaija Saariaho’s Winter Sky, arranged by the composer from Orion as a stand-alone piece, found NWS conducting-fellow Dean Whiteside controlling gradually increasing textural density and dissonance with poise and precision... ... Inon Barnatan then gave a superb performance of Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto, Osmo Vänskä animated on the podium, setting lively tempos and drawing enthusiastic playing. ... Further Mendelssohn followed the interval: an atmospheric reading of his ‘Scottish’ Symphony. Vänskä’s engagement with the orchestra was all but tangible as he gestured dramatically... 
Philadelphia Orchestra at Carnegie Hall – Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts Liar & Schubert 9 – Jan Lisiecki plays Mendelssohn
Friday, March 08, 2019 |  The indisputable highlight of this oddly-programmed evening was Nico Muhly’s Liar. His opera Marnie – based on Winston Graham’s 1961 novel about an identity-swapping, sexually-repressed kleptomaniac, adapted to film by Alfred Hitchcock in 1964... ... Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra briskly launched into its spiky opening pages and moved seamlessly through the seething and spellbinding score. 
Arcadi Volodos at Barbican Hall – Schubert, Rachmaninov, Scriabin
Thursday, March 07, 2019 |  It has been a while (2015, also at the Barbican) since Arcadi Volodos last played in London, and I had forgotten just how completely this artist can draw you in with his extraordinary command of dynamics and tone. You think piano sound can’t get any quieter, but it does – and Volodos is no stranger to barn-storming heavy lifting. 
Boston Symphony Orchestra – Thomas Adès conducts Liszt & Tchaikovsky – Kirill Gerstein premieres Adès’s Piano Concerto
Thursday, March 07, 2019 |  Culminating his third year as the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s first-ever Artistic Partner – recently extended through the 2020-21 season – Thomas Adès delivered the world-premiere of his prickly and high-spirited Piano Concerto with Kirill Gerstein. 
Vienna Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall – Michael Tilson Thomas conducts Mahler 9
Wednesday, March 06, 2019 |  Mahler’s Ninth has long been considered his farewell Symphony, a backward look at life from a composer obsessed with death. A more enlightened viewpoint suggests Mahler’s obsession was really about life, and that in his final completed Symphony, he comes to terms with life’s many aspects. ... Michael Tilson Thomas focused on clarity of line and inner voices, sometimes at the expense of the work’s aesthetic core. 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Royal Festival Hall – Rafael Payare conducts Mozart & Mahler – Lise de la Salle plays K271
Tuesday, March 05, 2019 |  Dedicated to the memory of André Previn, the RPO’s Music Director from 1985 to 1992 who died last week, the Overture was particularly apt given Shrove Tuesday’s origins lie in the need for repentance and, in the opera, Don Giovanni refuses the Commendatore’s repeated injunctions “Pentiti” before being dragged down to Hell. Rafael Payare is a protégé of the late Lorin Maazel... ... Whichever view one takes, one slight fluff in the first movement aside, Lise de la Salle played it quite beautifully, clean ornaments, minimum pedalling and a better sense of Classical style than many pianists. 
London Symphony Chorus & Orchestra – Antonio Pappano conducts Ponchielli, Verdi and Puccini
Sunday, March 03, 2019 |  Three works on the outskirts of the outputs of three Italian opera masters – and it was all down to the alchemy between Antonio Pappano and the LSO that this concert was such a success. 
Itzhak Perlman & Rohan De Silva at Kravis Center, West Palm Beach
Sunday, March 03, 2019 |  Itzhak Perlman and Rohan De Silva began with a Suite compiled by Alfred Schnittke from music he had written for films, for the most part emulating Baroque style. ... There followed an engrossing account of Beethoven’s expansive ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata. 
Berliner Philharmoniker – Zubin Mehta conducts Intégrales & Scheherazade – Martin Grubinger plays Peter Eötvös's Speaking Drums [live webcast]
Saturday, March 02, 2019 |  In recent months Zubin Mehta has been cancelling more than conducting (most recently an Israel Philharmonic tour of North America followed by appearances with the New York Philharmonic), possibly due to unexpected complications of a shoulder operation from a year ago. Whatever the reason(s), it’s good to report that Mehta made it to Berlin... ... Mehta opened with Edgard Varèse’s Intégrales (1923), for winds and percussion, a composer he has long held a torch for, Webern similarly. ... Peter Eötvös’s Speaking Drums, from 2012, revised the following year, is a tour de force for any percussionist. Martin Grubinger was amazing... 
London Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Haydn’s The Seasons
Saturday, March 02, 2019 |  Vladimir Jurowski’s relationship with eighteenth-century performing style has been evident from his appearances with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and this account of Haydn’s Seasons made many concessions to period performing practice. ... From the dramatic realisation of the Prelude it was clear that the LPO would play colourfully throughout... ... The most striking incidents come in Autumn and here the ninety-strong London Philharmonic Choir unleashed its considerable power. 
English Touring Opera at Hackney Empire – Rossini’s Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra
Saturday, March 02, 2019 |  Long before Michael Curtiz’s film The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, Rossini tackled another episode in the contorted emotional world of England’s ‘Virgin’ Queen in Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra. It was the first of several operas he composed for Naples... ... James Conway’s new production for English Touring Opera (which, this season, features operas about kings and queens) does not really overcome that obstacle... ... Lucy Hall more convincingly inhabits the role of Matilde, alone amongst this cast in bringing her part to life as something approaching a well-rounded person, rather than a cardboard cut-out, demonstrating that something can be done with the wooden libretto. 
Glyndebourne – Howard Moody’s Agreed; directed by Simon Iorio; conducted by the composer
Saturday, March 02, 2019 |  Howard Moody’s community opera for Glyndebourne is called Agreed and is billed as “a new opera about love, loss and divided lands”, which braces you for anything from Romeo and Juliet to the very latest news bulletin. Moody then sharpens his focus in his and his librettist daughter Anna Moody’s collaboration on a heavily political story about a country split in two by the sea... 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Total Immersion: György Ligeti – final concert, Sakari Oramo, Augustin Hadelich, Nicolas Hodges, BBC Singers, Atmosphères, Clocks and Clouds, Violin Concerto, Piano Concerto, San Francisco Polyphony
Saturday, March 02, 2019 |  “You know”, George Benjamin remembers Ligeti saying, “I have no confidence in myself … I know I should, but I don't. I'm basically doing all I do in the most amateur way, just trying to realise something that I imagine in my ear, in dreams. I use techniques, of course, but I forget them after writing and I have no overall scheme or permanent procedures.” ... The BBC Symphony Orchestra, after two-and-a-half hours giving its all, punctuated with elaborate platform changes and delicate microphone repositioning (the engineering crew quietly unflustered), must have been exhausted. But, in time-honoured fashion, since Adrian Boult in the 1930s, principals and ranks rose brilliantly to the occasion. ... In best Boulez tradition, Sakari Oramo – hands only in the Concertos and in Clocks and Clouds – gave a conducting masterclass... ... Augustin Hadelich (1723 Ex-Kiesewetter Stradivarius) gave a seriously considered account, his belief in the work committed and intense, and his dispatch of Thomas Adès's arresting closing cadenza (replacing Ligeti/Gawriloff's in the published score), down to a nod from Enescu, absorbingly commanding. ... Nicolas Hodges worked notes, ensemble, the whirl of independent lives, hard, the all-too-present risk of “an exuberant machine whose many spinning cogs start to skitter out of control”... 
Boston Symphony Orchestra & Tanglewood Festival Chorus – Andris Nelsons conducts Dvořák’s Stabat Mater
Saturday, March 02, 2019 |  The evening opened on a suitably somber note, with a deeply moving account of ‘Nimrod’ from Elgar’s Enigma Variations, performed in memory of André Previn... ... After the Elgar came Dvořák’s Stabat Mater, a relatively early work, seldom heard. ... Andris Nelsons led an ardent, absorbing and extraordinarily well-paced performance. 
English National Opera – Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow – Sarah Tynan, Nathan Gunn; directed by Max Webster; conducted by Kristiina Poska
Friday, March 01, 2019 |  With a stated intent of reviving the operetta tradition that used to be part of the precursor company when it was housed at Sadler’s Wells, English National Opera has launched a new and glitzy (at least when we get to the residence of the fabulously wealthy Hanna Glawari) Merry Widow, replete with some great choreography including tap-dancing beavers, some slapstick comedy, and also some updating of the book... ... In the pit the ENO Orchestra responds well to Kristiina Poska, who possesses just the right lightness of touch and rhythmic flexibility for this music, catchy and wistful tunes beguiling the ear. ... The Merry Widow relies on the title heroine and in this version Sarah Tynan has even more to do than is usually the case... 
Pirates of Penzance at Wilton’s Music Hall
Thursday, February 28, 2019 |  I suppose February 28 is the perfect date to see The Pirates of Penzance in a non-leap-year since the plot rather hangs on the relative infrequency of Feb 29. Concerns that having an all-male cast might trip the presentation of the operetta far too far into the realm of camp and drag theatre, are unfounded. 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts Ibéria, ESA, Pines of Rome – Marianne Crébassa sings Berio’s Folk Songs & Ravel’s Shéhérazade
Thursday, February 28, 2019 |  The Philharmonia Orchestra was on a roll in this marvellous concert, a sequence of substantial twentieth-century French and Italian works, magnificently played and styled. Esa-Pekka Salonen guided his players through the highways and byways of Debussy’s Ibéria with as strong a feel for the first movement’s swagger and brilliance as for its more shadowy corners. ... Marianne Crébassa is also on a roll with opera and concerts, and it’s hard to resist her brand of engagement and personality. Berio’s LP of his Folk Songs, sung by his then-wife Cathy Berberian, was something of a cult when it first came out in the 1960s. ... Salonen gave a short address before ESA (In cauda V) by Franco Donatoni, one of the young Salonen’s composition teachers. Salonen related how he had commissioned this piece, which Donatoni then dedicated to him. Then the composer died, and Salonen assumed the work had died with him... 
LSO – Lahav Shani conducts Weill’s Second Symphony & Stravinsky’s Petrushka – Simon Trpčeski plays Paganini Rhapsody
Thursday, February 28, 2019 |  Lahav Shani – Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s successor in Rotterdam and designate music director of the Israel Philharmonic to follow Zubin Mehta – here made his LSO debut conducting Kurt Weill’s Second Symphony. ... In the Paganini Rhapsody Simon Trpčeski was in relaxed form, clearly at-one with Shani and his performance was marked by an emphasis on playfulness and light... 
Aylesbury Opera – Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila
Thursday, February 28, 2019 |  Although Camille Saint-Saëns composed numerous operas, only Samson et Dalila, 1877, remains in the repertoire. ... Aylesbury Opera engages professional soloists and conductors – that may turn into a real discovery and ones that you knew before they were famous. 
New York Philharmonic – Herbert Blomstedt conducts Peer Gynt & Dvořák 8 – Jean-Yves Thibaudet plays Grieg's Piano Concerto
Thursday, February 28, 2019 |  Herbert Blomstedt, now ninety-one, an outstanding representative of the European tradition of conductors, offered a program of old favorites, and it is remarkable to witness how much energy and vitality he can still muster on the podium, not to mention his alertness and faultless memory. Even if the program was far from adventurous, it was delightful to hear the First Suite from Grieg’s incidental music to Ibsen’s masterpiece Peer Gynt. ... In his reading of Grieg’s Piano Concerto, Jean-Yves Thibaudet reinforced the contrasts in dynamics and mood, as if to breathe new life into this well-worn masterpiece. 
Miserere – The Sixteen at Royal Academy of Arts
Wednesday, February 27, 2019 |  The Royal Academy of Arts is currently showing works by Michelangelo and Bill Viola which explore the power of art to illuminate faith and it was the neatest fit to employ The Sixteen to provide a complementary programme of devotional music. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Wagner & Brahms – Andreas Ottensamer plays Weber & Alice Mary Smith
Wednesday, February 27, 2019 |  This concert was presented as part of the LPO’s Isle of Noises series, a year-long celebration of over three centuries of “music in these [British] islands”, with the piece in focus being Alice Mary Smith’s arrangement of the slow movement from her Clarinet Sonata of 1873. It is music that, on this first hearing for me, conjured in Andreas Ottensamer’s exquisite playing a prayer to awakening nature... ... The hyper-sensual Overture to Wagner’s Tannhäuser opened the concert. Vladimir Jurowski presided – controlled is perhaps more apposite – over a rendition that whilst everything was there it never got quite to its flamboyant aspects. 
Guildhall School of Music & Drama – Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream – directed by Martin Lloyd-Evans; conducted by Dominic Wheeler
Wednesday, February 27, 2019 |  As is the way with college opera productions, after a run of a few days, they are never seen again. In the case of Britten’s transformation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Guildhall School, this is cause for regret, because Martin Lloyd-Evans and Ruari Murchison have come up with a staging that allows the various elements of the opera to make their points without banging on about a particular agenda... 
Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Adrienne Arsht Center, Miami – Riccardo Muti conducts Tchaikovsky 5 & Scheherazade
Wednesday, February 27, 2019 |  Following their Beethoven program in West Palm Beach, Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony travelled south to Miami for a concert epitomizing Russian Romanticism, sounding nothing short of spectacular in Knight Concert Hall. 
Angela Hewitt at Royal Festival Hall
Tuesday, February 26, 2019 |  Angela Hewitt began her International Piano Series recital with J. S. Bach, with whose music she first won hearts and minds. It is not so much that she reinvents Bach, it’s just that she absolutely ‘gets’ how Bach and the next composer in this programme, Beethoven, both transcend their period to become out-of-time figures, and her playing and insight layer both their context and hers. It makes for, particularly in Bach, one of the most convincing annexations of the high Baroque for our later, romantic, impressionistic and abstract times. 
Endellion String Quartet at Turner Sims
Tuesday, February 26, 2019 |  As part of the Endellion String Quartet’s fortieth year, its Turner Sims’s celebrations leapfrogged the centuries. 
Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Kravis Center, West Palm Beach – Riccardo Muti conducts Beethoven
Tuesday, February 26, 2019 |  Riccardo Muti led the Chicago Symphony in a vibrant concert of Beethoven masterworks. An expansive reading of Leonore No.3 showed off the Orchestra’s virtuosity while conveying the dramatic arc of Fidelio... 
Roderick Williams & Andrew West at Milton Court – Frauenliebe und -leben
Tuesday, February 26, 2019 |  Roderick Williams and Andrew West offered an eclectic and thought-provoking programme including Robert Schumann’s Frauenliebe und -leben (A woman’s love and life) imagined by a male composer and a male poet, Adalbert von Chamisso. 
Symphony Orchestra of India at Cadogan Hall – Martyn Brabbins conducts Oberon Overture & Rachmaninov 2 – Marat Bisengaliev plays Bruch
Monday, February 25, 2019 |  The understanding and interpretation of West European concert music is not the province of those from a particular geographical location, as the musicians of the Symphony Orchestra of India triumphantly proved on this occasion. ... ...such as to make this listener keen to hear them again – especially with that wholly exceptional conductor Martyn Brabbins. ... ...a perfect lead-in to Max Bruch’s G-minor Violin Concerto, in which the soloist was the SOI’s founding Music Director, Marat Bisengaliev. 
The Royal Opera – Jan Philipp Gloger’s production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte
Monday, February 25, 2019 |  The artificiality of the plot of Così fan tutte being juxtaposed with some of Mozart’s most sublime music and intricate ensembles is a directorial hurdle that has somehow to be surmounted – for the idea that women can change affection within twenty-four hours of a painful separation from their lovers sits uncomfortably with sensibilities, unless one makes the characters superficial and utterly clueless emotionally. 
Catherine Ennis at the Royal Festival Hall organ
Monday, February 25, 2019 |  Catherine Ennis is one of the great movers and shakers in the organ world. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra Winter Festival – Leonard Slatkin conducts American Panorama – 6/6 – Steve Reich, Philip Glass, John Luther Adams – Clapping Music, Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists, Become Ocean [live webcast]
Sunday, February 24, 2019 |  Minimalist music brings out the beast in me – foaming at the mouth, howling. I recently had a bad experience with Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians... ... At least his Clapping Music (1972) is short... ... Similar praise for their colleagues Jeremy Epp & James Ritchie, now with Leonard Slatkin and a large Detroit Symphony in attendance, playing Philip Glass – another composer rarely found on my radar (although I have a sneaking regard for his Walt Disney opera). Glass’s Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists and Orchestra (2000) – seven different-sized drums for one player, five for the other, positioned front-of-stage – has its moments... ... But all was saved by Become Ocean, John Luther Adams’s Pulitzer Prize-winning piece from 2014, commissioned by the Seattle Symphony and Ludovic Morlot... 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts Sibelius & Bartók, Truls Mørk plays Salonen’s Cello Concerto
Sunday, February 24, 2019 |  From the glinting Aegean as conjured by Sibelius’s mellifluous pair of flutes with piccolo piping in The Oceanides to the propulsive excitement at the end of Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen’s first return to the Philharmonia Orchestra in 2019 (and since the announcement of his departure in 2021) was a lesson in symbiotic chemistry between conductor and orchestra. ... Salonen’s Cello Concerto was written for Yo-Yo Ma, who brought it to London within three weeks of its March 2017 Chicago premiere, though with the New York Philharmonic on its final tour with Alan Gilbert. I was very impressed then, a view confirmed with the recording to be released next week (LA Phil, Ma and Salonen, as reviewed by our editor) and with this performance with Truls Mørk. 
Kirill Gerstein at Wigmore Hall – Eroica, Exterminating Angel, From the Street, Funérailles, Tombeau de Couperin
Sunday, February 24, 2019 |  At first glance Kirill Gerstein’s Wigmore Hall programme looked a bit too full of shorter pieces, but a thread emerged of heroism with a tendency to melancholy, giving way to mourning and last things. ... He opened both parts of his recital with Liszt... ... The ‘Eroica’ Etude led without a break into Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ Variations, on a Theme that makes the little Diabelli Waltz seem sophisticated... ... Gerstein has performed a lot of Thomas Adès’s music, and the latter’s reworking of the Berceuse from Act Two of The Exterminating Angel is completely at home on the piano... ... Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin ended the programme, the six friends, who all died in the First World War, pictured within with great subtlety and affection. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Javier Perianes plays Beethoven’s five numbered Piano Concertos, conducted by Juanjo Mena [February 22 & 23]
Saturday, February 23, 2019 |  Enjoying these days a high-profile international and recording career, the Spaniard Javier Perianes, very much a home-grown product who credits the advice of Daniel Barenboim, Richard Goode and Alicia de Larrocha in shaping his ideas, is a man of unfussy stage presence. Very much a player of level wrist and quiet action (Clementi's ‘coin on the back of hand’ technique), he doesn't emote, far from it (a good thing), he gets on with the notes, he delivers a reliable package. But at times his self-effacement goes against the grain. Confining himself to the canon of five, his Beethoven cycle across two evenings was efficiently clean and smooth yet not always as physically or ensemble engaged as it could have been. ... For one professing to admire Schnabel, Michelangeli, Hess, Pires and Lupu, I would somehow have expected heightened insight and 'grit', with Juanjo Mena, for all his palpably agreeable accompaniment and largely immaculate joins, in firmer symphonic charge. He did enough but could have done more, failing to meet his Celibidache-like stance. At reduced strength (strings at 12.10.8.6.4), the London Philharmonic reminded us occasionally that Beethoven's writing can still ensnare the unwary... 
The Royal Ballet – Carlos Acosta's production of Don Quixote
Saturday, February 23, 2019 |  Don Quixote is not a natural fit for the The Royal Ballet; it requires an almost brazen quality which makes the choreography sing and the audience forget the preposterous plot line, and brazen is rarely, if ever, something that can be pinned on this particular company. To give full credit, the current ensemble does its level best to mask their innate polite reserve, although there is always the nagging suspicion that this is not their natural approach. Carlos Acosta’s production is the company’s third after the ballet entered the repertoire in the 1980s, and was preceded by Mikhail Baryshnikov’s spartan version for American Ballet Theatre and then a dusty production of Nureyev’s, borrowed from Australian Ballet under the ill-fated tenure of director Ross Stretton. Neither was ever taken to heart by the audience… 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra Winter Festival – Leonard Slatkin conducts American Panorama – 5/6 – Dune Acres, 4’33”, Prelude, Fugue and Riffs, West Side Story, Kimberly Kaloyanides Kennedy plays Samuel Barber on The Henry Ford violin [live webcast]
Friday, February 22, 2019 |  Two-hundred-and-seventy-three seconds of ambience (whatever happens, happens), the Romeo and Juliet Story transferred to the West Side, a performance that owes to Henry Ford of a gorgeous Violin Concerto, a Prelude and Fugue that ends up doing Riffs, and the newest of the lot, Dune Acres: the latest instalment of American Panorama, the current Winter treat from Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. ... Kimberly Kaloyanides Kennedy (DSO Associate Concertmaster) then played Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto using the 1703 “Rougemont” Stradivarius on-loan from The Henry Ford... ... To close, some further evidence of Bernstein’s genius, music from West Side Story. 
Mark Elder at Royal Academy of Music – Lunchtime concert of Britten, Bax, Sibelius
Friday, February 22, 2019 |  Although only one titled as such, all three of these works – eloquently programmed together – act as a memorial: Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem dedicated to the memory of his parents; Arnold Bax’s clandestinely to the memory of his Irish friend Patrick Henry Pearse; and Sibelius’s final Symphony – at least from a modern perspective – a memorial to his own compositional career. ... ...Mark Elder opted to move from the largest to smallest orchestration... 
Sakari Oramo conducts BBC Symphony Orchestra in Haffner Symphony, Nocturne – Insomnia, and, with Elisabeth Kulman & Stuart Skelton, Das Lied von der Erde
Friday, February 22, 2019 |  Mozart and Mahler with Thomas Larcher as go-between – the course of this BBCSO programme ran smooth and true. And from the opening bars of Mozart’s gloriously confident ‘Haffner’ Symphony, you once again marvelled at Sakari Oramo’s genius for releasing the personality of whatever music he’s conducting. ... Over the past decade, the BBCSO has played a big part in bringing Thomas Larcher’s music to UK audiences. ... Oramo left us in no doubt of Das Lied von der Erde’s ability to open the floodgates of hope, loss, memory and delight. 
Palm Beach Opera – Mozart’s Don Giovanni – Andrei Bondarenko, Joshua Bloom, Caitlin Lynch, Danielle Pastin; directed by Kristine McIntyre; conducted by David Stern
Friday, February 22, 2019 |  Kristine McIntyre has transformed Mozart’s Don Giovanni into a film noir, with staging that mimics scenes from famous exemplars of that genre. ... Palm Beach Opera’s Chorus and Orchestra are in top form, and David Stern skillfully leads a version of the opera that adheres for the most part to the original Prague score... ... Andrei Bondarenko and Joshua Bloom as respectively the Don and his servant make a memorable pair, jousting with each other as well as with the other characters. Leporello’s ‘Catalogue’ aria is terrifically staged and sung... 
Daniil Trifonov at Berliner Philharmonie [live webcast]
Thursday, February 21, 2019 |  On February 9 Medici broadcast live this programme from Carnegie Hall, and less than two weeks later Daniil Trifonov was again beamed to the World, this time courtesy of the Berliner Philharmoniker’s Digital Concert Hall. ... With a Bösendorfer under his hands, Trifonov started with Beethoven, the ‘Andante favori’... ... Bunte Blätter may be a collection of miniatures, but if every one is played, as here and without pause, it becomes a significant and inimitable cycle, respectively dreamy, turbulent and heroic in the first three numbers (there are fourteen), these qualities recurring, differently expressed. Trifonov is impressively attuned to Schumann’s flights of fantasy and consciousness... 
Linbury Theatre at The Royal Opera – world premiere of The Monstrous Child
Thursday, February 21, 2019 |  Remember Loge, who gives Wotan the run-around in the Ring Cycle? Well, he’s back, this time as Loki, begetting hideous children with a giantess called Angrboda, one of which is the aptly-named Hel – half-girl, half-corpse, all-attitude. She is the Monstrous Child of Francesca Simon’s novel, which she has adapted and reduced as a libretto set by Gavin Higgins as the Royal Opera’s first production in its refurbished Linbury Theatre. ... Simon’s Horrid Henry books have been guiding children through the exigencies of growing up for more than twenty years. ...  
Philharmonia Orchestra – Philippe Herreweghe conducts Johann Sebastian Bach (BWV1068/Suite in D) & Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (K551/Jupiter Symphony) – Bertrand Chamayou plays Piano Concerto K488
Thursday, February 21, 2019 |  Working with Philippe Herreweghe, the Philharmonia Orchestra delivered inspirational readings of Bach and Mozart... ... The theme from the ‘Air (on the G-string)’, still able to evoke Hamlet cigars, was a line of spun silk, exquisitely controlled with nothing pedestrian and a gentle easing into cadences. ... By contrast, there followed a less-than-compelling performance of K488. Yes, it was neatly executed, phrases nicely turned, but the work’s sunny disposition never quite blossomed. Bertrand Chamayou has a solid reputation built on the French piano tradition and the Romantics. ... The ‘Jupiter’ Symphony rocked from start to finish 
Stephen Sondheim’s Follies at National Theatre
Thursday, February 21, 2019 |  Stephen Sondheim is divisive to both the listening public and critics alike. Comments on Twitter from the last outing of this Olivier Award-winning production of Follies in 2017 seldom mention the performance, only the music – boring and tuneless, or inspiring and magical. From the standing ovation, the Olivier Theatre was packed only with fans, the cast, many of whom were in the 2017 show, giving a sparkling display throughout two-and-a-quarter glorious hours. 
New York Philharmonic/Matthias Pintscher – Alborada del gracioso & The Firebird – Renaud Capuçon plays Mar’eh
Thursday, February 21, 2019 |  Matthias Pintscher, an extraordinarily gifted conductor/composer, returned to the New York Philharmonic and included his twenty-three-minute Mar’eh (2011) – meaning face or sign, in Hebrew – with Renaud Capuçon as soloist. ... As a curtain-raiser, a spirited, colorful and vibrant performance of Ravel’s Alborada del gracioso (from the piano cycle Miroirs, orchestrated by the composer), a song sung at dawn by a jester. ... It has become increasingly popular to feature the complete score of The Firebird ballet (1910) rather than one of the three Suites, which omit many interesting segments. 
Vienna Philharmonic at Barbican Centre – Ádám Fischer conducts Mahler 9
Wednesday, February 20, 2019 |  Ádám Fischer, the Vienna Philharmonic and Mahler’s Ninth Symphony was a formidable prospect. The Hungarian conductor’s career has shadowed aspects of Mahler’s, his repertoire is all-embracing, and his work, not least with the Vienna Philharmonic and State Opera, has fixed him at the centre of the European tradition. This Barbican Hall performance was not one that would lead the listener towards a contemplation of finality... 
An Italian Songbook at Milton Court
Tuesday, February 19, 2019 |  Played through without interval this was a moving and entertaining (laugh-out-loud) presentation of the forty-six songs of Hugo Wolf’s Italienisches Liederbuch in new, free and definitely whimsical translations by Jeremy Sams. ... Add a Don Alfonso-type player into the mix in the form of Roderick Williams, alternately egging the couples on or emotionally teasing or manipulating them and you get a general idea of the concept. ... All the singers displayed great skill in inflecting the texts with humour or point, whilst also showing their abilities to alter colours, dynamics and phrasing as mood demanded. Adding to the sense of cohesion was the superb playing of Christopher Glynn... 
The Keble Early Music Festival – Tallis Scholars & Peter Phillips
Tuesday, February 19, 2019 |  An artistic journey from Palestrina to J. S. Bach was the main thrust of this concert forming the opening event of The Keble Early Music Festival. In broad terms this 150-year choral traversal spot-lit the influence of Palestrina’s polychoral style and its ongoing development culminating in Bach’s contrapuntal mastery. Not so much Hannibal crossing the Alps... ... Led by Peter Phillips, The Tallis Scholars succeeded both in illustrative and musical terms... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra Winter Festival – Leonard Slatkin conducts American Panorama – 4/6 – George Gershwin, including Porgy and Bess, and the Piano Concerto with Jon Kimura Parker [live webcast]
Sunday, February 17, 2019 |  Although this very welcome six-programme American Panorama series from the DSO and Leonard Slatkin is not intended to be comprehensive of the country’s many musical riches, nor would it be possible to realise this through the current brief, I did wonder if a whole concert devoted to one composer was somewhat restrictive of repertoire. Nothing amiss with a George Gershwin evening of course... ... Who could ask for anything more? We got Porgy and Bess, as arranged by Robert Russell Bennett (1894-1981) into A Concert of Songs (he also compiled the splendid orchestral Symphonic Picture from the opera). ... As centrepiece, Jon Kimura Parker (replacing Jean-Yves Thibaudet) approached the Piano Concerto in a variety of guises... 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts Rameau to Ravel via Betsy Jolas and Poulenc, Daniil Trifonov plays Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G
Sunday, February 17, 2019 |  Superficially there seemed little to connect these works other that they were all written by French composers, though perhaps a concert does not need to forge explicit links from one item to the next. But it was satisfying to listen to the deeper cross-currents at play in the different styles and forms to reveal that common to the compositions is a certain mercurial sense of fantasy and things not being quite what they seem, conjured up with exquisite craftsmanship. ... The LSO captured those elements superbly with pinpoint precision. But the performances would have been merely mechanical and unengaging interpretations were it not for the infectious rhythmic urgency instilled into them by Simon Rattle... ... Daniil Trifonov’s remarkable artistry was ideally suited to this work. Once unleashed by the crack of the whip which launches the Concerto, his playing unfurled itself like a spring in a seamless volley of notes... 
John Lill in Liverpool – Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No.1 with RLPO & Michael Seal (including Korngold, Gary Carpenter, Britten) in Philharmonic Hall, and a recital in St George’s Hall
Sunday, February 17, 2019 |  As he approaches his seventy-fifth birthday (March 17), John Lill shows no signs of slowing down. In Liverpool he played the Tchaikovsky on Saturday night and then gave a demanding recital the following afternoon. The two venues are first-rate, both with fine acoustics, St George’s being a resplendent neoclassical circular room where Charles Dickens gave many of his readings. ... Gary Carpenter’s Ghost Songs received its third performance (the two previous outings were in November with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Thomas Søndergård). I am hard pressed to think of a new work that has made such a dramatic first impression. 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Jakub Hrůša conducts Dances of Galánta & Slavonic Dances – Denis Kozhukhin plays Grieg
Sunday, February 17, 2019 |  Jakub Hrůša followed-up his Philharmonia Orchestra concert from last November, which featured Dvořák’s First Set of Slavonic Dances as the unlikely yet effective second half. This time it was the turn of the Second and (when taken overall) less-familiar Set, but even finer musically. ... Earlier there was attentive support to Denis Kozhukhin in what was an engaging and insightful account of Grieg’s Piano Concerto... ... Hrůša had begun proceedings with Kodály’s Dances of Galánta (1933), now having regained much of its one-time familiarity in the concert hall. 
Can-Can! [Union Theatre, London]
Saturday, February 16, 2019 |  First of all, this is not Can-Can, the musical by Cole Porter that was staged in 1953 and 1954 with Gwen Verdon and Hans Conried and filmed in 1960 with Shirley MacLaine, Frank Sinatra, Juliet Prowse and Maurice Chevalier. Nor is it straight Offenbach... ... Researching the work of Jacques Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld and Cole Porter’s Can-Can, Willmott never found either of them satisfactory for a modern audience. He then set about creating his own version of the Belle Époque events by giving a nod to the music of Offenbach and other composers of the period in order to show how the times and public opinion began to change and find acceptance. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra Winter Festival – Leonard Slatkin conducts American Panorama – 3/6 – Age of Anxiety & Appalachian Spring, Adagios for Strings [live webcast]
Friday, February 15, 2019 |  Think Adagio for Strings and Samuel Barber comes to mind (most probably). ... Barber has recently been joined in (almost similar) titular terms by Cindy McTee... ... And to really pile-drive into one’s susceptibilities, there was also Appalachian Spring (water) – square-dances (take your partners) and hymn-tunes, yes, but Copland’s capacity to poignancy is here second-to-none... ... Not that susceptible reactions hadn’t already been under extreme pressure during this concert (given on the morning after the night before), a programme tailor-made for your correspondent, for it also included Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No.2, The Age of Anxiety (1949/65), based on the near-contemporaneous and Pulitzer Prize-winning “Baroque Eclogue” by W. H. Auden. ... Taking the pianistic role here, replacing the unwell Jean-Yves Thibaudet at short notice, was Orli Shaham (sister of Gil and married to David Robertson). She was terrific... 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Yannick Nézet-Séguin – Menuet antique, La mer, Prokofiev 5 [live webcast]
Friday, February 15, 2019 |  Away from his twin peaks of Philadelphia and the Met Opera, Yannick Nézet-Séguin opened this latest webcast from the Berliner Philharmoniker with Ravel’s Menuet antique, crisp outer sections encasing a liquid centre... ... La mer fared much better, the mysteries of the deep and surface sparkle well-handled, although the first transition was a little precipitate... ... Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony (1944) can be epic (Bernstein, Celibidache, Ormandy) or stealthy (Dorati, Szell) – all as recorded, ranging from under forty minutes to over fifty. Like many conductors, Nézet-Séguin was straight down the middle time-wise... 
Göteborgs Symfoniker – Santtu-Matias Rouvali conducts Daniel Nelson's Steampunk Blizzard & Sibelius 5 – Martin Grubinger plays Kalevi Aho's Sieidi [live webcast]
Friday, February 15, 2019 |  As big 'northern' programmes go – physically earthy, aspiring skywards, stirring blood and spirit, trembling the ground, incanting spells – the first half of this Gothenburg evening was up there with the best. ... Based in Sweden but American-born, Daniel Nelson studied at the Peabody Conservatory of Music and University of Chicago... ... Commissioned by the Orchestre National d’île de France, Steampunk Blizzard (2016) was premiered at the Paris Philharmonie in January 2017. ... The tour de force of the concert was Kalevi Aho's percussion concerto, Sieidi... ... ...an impassioned, extraordinarily involved collaborator in the Austrian Martin Grubinger. 
Stile Antico at Wigmore Hall – Arise, My Love – Sensuous Renaissance settings of the Song of Songs
Thursday, February 14, 2019 |  The erotic and sensual poems from the biblical Song of Songs found surprising and gorgeous expression in European sacred polyphony during the Renaissance. For Valentine’s Day at Wigmore Hall, Stile Antico made choice selections, composed in Northern and Southern climes by men and women in holy orders and those not, illuminated by their own intense and committed approach to this repertoire. 
New York Philharmonic/Thomas Dausgaard – Nielsen's Helios & Schumann 2 – Stephen Hough plays Beethoven
Thursday, February 14, 2019 |  For this traditionally formatted program, the New York Philharmonic welcomed Thomas Dausgaard, honorary conductor of the Danish National Symphony, conductor laureate of the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and chief conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony, and designate music director of the Seattle Symphony. He was replacing Zubin Mehta, his indisposition also removing Webern and Schubert. ... Stephen Hough delivered a forceful, dynamic reading of Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, his flawless technique and natural manner of expressivity occasionally spiced with artfully drawn nuances so lightly wrought that they enhanced rather than detracted from the flow of the music, all bolstered by Hough’s elegant manner. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Alexander Vedernikov conducts Vasks & Shostakovich – Helen Vollam premieres Gavin Higgins’s Book of Miracles
Wednesday, February 13, 2019 |  Pēteris Vasks’s love for, and identification with, his native Latvia – a land endowed with great natural beauty but also torn apart by political upheavals and war – are imbued in the rich textures of his Cantabile for Strings... ... Alexander Vedernikov was in-tune with the sentiments. ... A deeply equivocal mood also closes Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony. ... The central item was by Gavin Higgins (born 1983). Inspired by The Book of Miracles – a sixteenth-century German manuscript that depicts biblical stories from the Old Testament and the book of Revelation, as well as miracles and natural and supernatural phenomena – this substantial thirty-minute Concerto proved to be a perfect vehicle for Helen Vollam (BBCSO principal), her trombone ideally suiting the declamatory role. 
London Sinfonietta & Synergy Vocals at Royal Festival Hall – Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians
Tuesday, February 12, 2019 |  Repetition, pulsation and synchronisation characterised the nature and execution of this Steve Reich traversal, more than forty-five years of his creative energy with Music for 18 Musicians (1976) as the main attraction. So too, in a minor way, Clapping Music... ... Runner – for winds, percussion, pianos and strings – foregrounds melodic threads weaving in and out of ever-changing textures, lives up to its title... 
English National Opera – Phelim McDermott’s production of Philip Glass’s Akhnaten – Anthony Roth Costanzo; conducted by Karen Kamensek
Monday, February 11, 2019 |  Phelim McDermott’s production of Philip Glass’s Akhnaten, the second of the work by English National Opera, makes a welcome return to the Coliseum, the enormous stage of which is integral to realising the arrestingly beautiful designs and concepts of the staging. 
Benjamin Grosvenor, Doric Quartet & Laurène Durantel at Milton Court – Schubert, Chopin, Fauré
Monday, February 11, 2019 |  Schubert at his most tantalisingly incomplete, Chopin in reduced circumstances, and Fauré at his most expansive were all given revelatory performances by Benjamin Grosvenor, the Doric Quartet and, for the Chopin, Laurène Durantel on double bass. 
Khachatryan, Weilerstein, Barnatan, Currie, Gunnell & Walton at Wigmore Hall – Ghost Trio & Realismos mágicos, and transcriptions of Verklärte Nacht and Shostakovich 15
Monday, February 11, 2019 |  Wigmore Hall can have witnessed few concerts like this... ... Most often reserved for the close of a recital, Beethoven’s ‘Ghost’ Trio (1808) launched this concert in commanding fashion. Sergey Khachatryan, Alisa Weilerstein and Inon Barnatan set a bracing tempo for the initial Allegro... ... It is a tribute to the sensitivity of Eduard Steuermann that his 1932 arrangement of Verklärte Nacht (1899) left so idiomatic an impression. Schoenberg himself re-thought its string sextet texture extensively in his reappraisals for string orchestra... ... Following the interval, Colin Currie took the stage for Realismos mágicos (2014), eleven short stories for marimba by Rolf Wallin... ... Evocative is a term often used to describe Shostakovich’s Fifteenth Symphony (1971), even if what is being evoked has been debated from the outset. Victor Derevianko’s arrangement, made soon after the work’s completion and with the composer’s approval, in no way lessens this quality... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra Winter Festival – Leonard Slatkin conducts American Panorama – 2/6 – John Williams’s music for the concert-stage and the silver screen [live webcast]
Sunday, February 10, 2019 |  Danger lurks below, the celebrated two-note ostinato gives ominous warning of something fishy; why, it’s Jaws, your not-so-friendly neighbourhood shark, released into the water by Steven Spielberg during 1975 and given a customised soundtrack by John Towner Williams, just one of the cinematic courses served up here by the DSO and laureate chef Leonard Slatkin in this the second instalment of American Panorama. 
LSO – John Eliot Gardiner conducts Schumann’s Manfred Overture & Spring Symphony – Piotr Anderszewski plays Beethoven
Sunday, February 10, 2019 |  As with the LSO‘s previous Schumann-based concert conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner, the encore was as then, Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream ‘Scherzo’, a neat bit of cap-doffing between the two composers as well as a nod back to 2016 when the same forces had celebrated Mendelssohn so brilliantly. ... This concert had originally been programmed as all-Schumann, with Piotr Anderszewski playing the Piano Concerto, but for whatever reason he changed to Beethoven’s First... 
Members of the New World Symphony – Purcell, Beethoven’s Archduke Trio and, with Kelvin Thomas, Peter Maxwell Davies's Eight Songs for a Mad King
Sunday, February 10, 2019 |  The New World Symphony, which describes itself as America’s Orchestral Academy, is a post-conservatory training program co-founded thirty-one years ago by Michael Tilson Thomas. ... Next came a robust reading of Beethoven’s ‘Archduke’ Trio, the players well-coordinated, the two string instruments singing out with consistently beautiful tone. ... Eight Songs for a Mad King featured Kelvin Thomas, brilliant as George III, a role he has been performing for over thirty-five years, including collaborating with Peter Maxwell Davies on a recording in 2015, the year before his death. 
Scottish Opera's Anthropocene at Hackney Empire
Saturday, February 09, 2019 |  Hackney Empire continues its campaign to be the capital’s third opera house as it hosted London performances of Scottish Opera’s newest commission – hot on the tails of the world premiere performance in Glasgow on January 24 (and, in between times, in Edinburgh). Anthropocene is the fourth work by Stuart MacRae and librettist Louise Welsh for the company. 
Daniil Trifonov at Carnegie Hall [live webcast]
Saturday, February 09, 2019 |  At best Daniil Trifonov is phenomenal. At worst he's troubling. His gestures, gesticulations and grimaces disturb. I'd go so far as to say he's unwatchable, certainly in the spot-lit, emotionally bared, eyes-staring-out-of-socket-and-soul, limp-hair-brushing-the-keyboard close-up of live-streams such as the present Carnegie Hall/Medici one. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra Winter Festival – Leonard Slatkin conducts American Panorama – 1/6 – Gould, Tower, Bernstein, Thomson, and Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite [live webcast]
Friday, February 08, 2019 |  It’s about this time of year that the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Leonard Slatkin go into Winter Festival overdrive: six programmes over three weeks, played twice and with a webcast of each. This time Slatkin is ‘On the trail’ of a diverse selection of music by American composers. ... Forty-odd years after its composition, I am pleased to now catch up with Joan Tower’s Sequoia. Tower, one of several 1938 American babies who have grown to notable careers as composers – including Bolcom, Corigliano and Wuorinen – issued Sequoia as her first orchestral work... ... Ferde Grofé is best-remembered for scoring George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, first for Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra and then for generic symphony orchestra. His original music is often in Suite form, of which the five-movement Grand Canyon... 
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House concert – Antonio Pappano conducts Stravinsky & Tchaikovsky – Anita Rachvelishvili sings Rachmaninov
Friday, February 08, 2019 |  Antonio Pappano will be much missed during his upcoming sabbatical year. His presence guarantees standing room only even when the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House makes the transition from pit to stage as here in less-familiar fare. ... Rachmaninov, like Sibelius, was a first-rate composer of songs whose contributions to the genre have been held back by linguistic factors and the absence of customary transliterated titles and standard arrangements. ... Pappano, clearly irked initially by the clapping between numbers, managed to convey his preference for silent contemplation, while Anita Rachvelishvili shone in what must be congenial repertoire for all that she was positioned behind a music stand. ... Following the interval, Tchaikovsky’s masterly Third Suite lived up to expectations... 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Karina Canellakis conducts Beethoven 7, Thomas Oliemans gives UK premiere of Thomas Larcher’s Alle Tage
Friday, February 08, 2019 |  The final chords of Beethoven’s Symphony were not the last bit of business, for Karina Canellakis was presented with the Critics’ Circle’s Emerging Talent Award, and her relationship with the BBC Symphony Orchestra is developing nicely on this its third outing. ... Austrian Thomas Larcher has been championed by the BBCSO recently. This time his 2015 Alle Tage (Every Day, although I prefer All Days), Canellakis returning to the work having conducted it last August in its Austrian premiere at Bregenz. ... Harking back to two song-symphonies of a century ago – Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde and Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony – this is a substantial seven-movement work, lasting just over forty minutes, with three orchestral movements joining four settings of lyrics by fellow-Austrian Ingeborg Bachmann, one time librettist for Henze (Der Prinz von Homburg, and Der junge Lord). 
Steven Osborne at Kings Place – Piano Sonatas by Schubert (D960) & Prokofiev (6 & 7), and Morton Feldman’s Extensions 3
Friday, February 08, 2019 |  Over the past decade or so Steven Osborne has come up with some touchstone performances – Debussy Préludes, Vingt Regards, Pictures at an Exhibition come to mind – and in this Kings Place recital it was clear that his powers of perception continue to take his audiences with him. ... In the first movement of his ultimate Piano Sonata, Schubert lays out his material as though on an assembly line... ... It was the sort of performance that sends you out a better, wiser person at the end of a recital, but Osborne elected to give Prokofiev the last word in two of his formidable ‘War Sonatas’ (the other is No.8). ... In between the two Sonatas, Osborne played Morton Feldman’s Extensions 3, which in this context was like sound in profound trauma. 
Matt Bianco at Islington Assembly Hall
Friday, February 08, 2019 |  Then came the warm-up pre-recorded playlist of velvet Latin Jazz fusion hits: Shakatak's 'Easier Said Than Done', The Blow Monkeys’ 'Crying for the Moon', The Style Council's 'The Lodgers', Segio Mendes's 'Batucada', Marcos Valle's 'Crickets Sing for Anamaria', Joyce's 'Feminia' and finally the George Benson anthem 'Give Me The Night'. ... The stage was then set for double-bass Jeff Gaskin, drums Sebastiaan de Kroy, keyboards Graham Harvey, trumpet Martin Shaw, MD and tenor sax Dave O'Higgins, vocalist Elisabeth Troy, and lead singer and founding member of Matt Bianco, dapper in a three-piece tweed suit with velvet trim, Mark Reilly... 
Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra – Andrés Orozco-Estrada conducts Schicksalslied & Miraculous Mandarin – Lise de la Salle plays Brahms [live webcast]
Friday, February 08, 2019 |  A programme of unusually juxtaposed masterworks journeying tempestuousness, neon-lit brilliance, garish climax and the contemplation of middle age. ... I first came across Lise de la Salle in 2005... ... A youthfully impassioned artist playing an even younger composer tended to be her way with Brahms's D-minor Concerto, replacing an indisposed Leif Ove Andsnes. ... Under its Colombian/Austrian music director Andrés Orozco-Estrada, who succeeded Paavo Järvi in 2014, the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, richly padded with some pedigree principals, provided de la Salle with all the support she could wish for. ... Bartók's Miraculous Mandarin ballet-score – the complete version, premiered in Weimar Republic Cologne in 1926 – played to virtuosity and the temperament of Orozco-Estrada. ... Setting words by Hölderlin, Brahms's tripartite Schicksalslied (Song of Destiny), completed in 1871 post-German Requiem and Alto Rhapsody, less familiar these days, was supremely delivered. 
LSO – John Eliot Gardiner conducts Euryanthe Overture & Rhenish Symphony – Isabelle Faust & Kristian Bezuidenhout play Mendelssohn’s Double Concerto
Thursday, February 07, 2019 |  John Eliot Gardiner’s latest squeeze with the LSO is the Symphonies of Robert Schumann, wonders of the repertoire. Sir John Eliot took the ‘Rhenish’ by the scruff of the neck but without manhandling it. ... As centrepiece, Mendelssohn’s Concerto for Violin and Piano, an impressive piece, and not just because the composer was fourteen at the time... ... It received a sparkling and shapely outing, the soloists’ virtuosity serving the music – Kristian Bezuidenhout playing a handsome-looking and -sounding fortepiano and Isabelle Faust allowing herself some vibrato... ... The concert started with the Overture to Weber’s Euryanthe... 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Peter Eötvös conducts Schoenberg, Bartók, Stravinsky, and the UK premiere of his Multiversum
Thursday, February 07, 2019 |  Peter Eötvös, born in Transylvania in 1944, brought up in the fifties and sixties on a radical intake of Bartók, Ligeti and Kurtág, and a subsequent collaborator, in Cologne and Paris, of Stockhausen and Boulez, has long been an iconic contemporary force. ... For the UK premiere of his three-movement Multiversum (2017), a co-commission on a grandiose scale, a radically different order of three-dimensional spatial arrangement came into play, taking most of the interval to set up, reflecting the essence of the work's inspiration, the idea of separate rather than mixed sounds, of, Eötvös says, the theory of “universes [existing] side by side and independently of each other” – the multiverse. Accordingly, en bloc, strings were placed on the left of the conductor, woodwind to the right, with a phalanx of brass in front of the percussion in a west-north-east sonic trajectory. 
Beatrice Rana at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Chopin Studies, Ravel Miroirs, Stravinsky Firebird
Thursday, February 07, 2019 |  Beatrice Rana chose three works that traversed a century of developing virtuosity, including the piano as illustrator and all-encompassing of the orchestra, prefaced by Studies of visionary beauty: technical challenges elevated to unparalleled depth and feeling. ... Miroirs, Ravel’s paintings in sound from 1905, was further proof of Rana’s facility and filigree virtuosity. ... Then she unleashed her big guns for an eye-popping account of transcriptions from The Firebird. 
Sonatori de la Gioiosa Marca & Sonia Prina at Wigmore Hall: Vivaldi – The Muses
Thursday, February 07, 2019 |  The Muses referred to in this Wigmore Hall concert’s title were those three musicians who – hypothetically or in fact – inspired Vivaldi to compose the sort of items featured. His relations with the singer Anna Girò were the cause of salacious (though probably ill-founded) gossip, but it was clearly the source for some vivid vocal music. ... Both that and the aria from Griselda (to a text by the celebrated Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni) are furious, volatile settings. They brought out an androgynous quality from Sonia Prina as her forceful tone was reminiscent of a fuller-voiced, lower-range countertenor with its reedy intensity. 
New York Philharmonic – Jaap van Zweden conducts Brahms’s German Requiem
Thursday, February 07, 2019 |  Jaap van Zweden led the New York Philharmonic and Concert Chorale of New York in a distinctive reading of Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem. 
Mahler Chamber Orchestra & Mitsuko Uchida at Royal Festival Hall – Mozart Piano Concertos 19/K459 & 20/K466 and Berg’s Lyric Suite
Wednesday, February 06, 2019 |  Despite standing next to one another in numerical sequence, Mozart’s Piano Concertos in F-major and in D-minor are poles apart in the emotional worlds they inhabit, even if the latter’s minor-key turmoil is not necessarily as ruggedly raw and proto-Beethovenian as commentators often suggest – I think of Schumann’s words about the G-minor Symphony No.40 (possessing “Grecian lightness and grace”) as also applying here to some extent, rather than reading back into the work any Romantic angst which was alien to Mozart’s spirit. ... In directing the two Concertos from the piano, Mitsuko Uchida’s performances with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra imparted to both a certain flickering, nervous energy that brought them into somewhat closer proximity in expressive terms than might be expected. 
Israel Philharmonic/Yoel Levi at the Adrienne Arsht Center Miami – Schubert 3 & Bruckner 7
Wednesday, February 06, 2019 |  Stepping in for Zubin Mehta, whose indisposition has kept him from undertaking the Israel Philharmonic’s current North American tour, Yoel Levi led the Orchestra in a pair of Symphonies from opposite ends of the nineteenth-century. 
Evgeny Kissin at Barbican Hall – Chopin to Scriabin via Schumann and Debussy
Wednesday, February 06, 2019 |  The wunderkind prodigy is now forty-seven and well on track to grand seigneur status in the piano world, yet after nearly four decades of performing, an irresistible aura of inscrutability still clings to Evgeny Kissin. 
New York Philharmonic/Kahchun Wong – Lunar New Year Concert
Wednesday, February 06, 2019 |  The New York Philharmonic offered a diverse and interesting program to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Kahchun Wong, winner of the 2016 Gustav Mahler Conducting Competition and chief conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony, made his debut with the Philharmonic. ... Tan Dun is arguably the most frequently performed composer from China. His immensely creative, exploratory and deeply moving Violin Concerto is based upon Chinese ritual and court music... ... Bomsori Kim gave an impressive performance... ... So Young Park followed with a fine rendition of ‘Der Hölle Rache'. 
Corinthian Chamber Orchestra at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Michael Seal conducts Tintagel & Walton 1 – Zoë Beyers plays Britten’s Violin Concerto
Monday, February 04, 2019 |  The Corinthian Chamber Orchestra was formed in 1995 under the direction of the late Alan Hazeldine, and in the almost quarter-century of its existence it has developed into one of London’s finest amateur orchestras. Apart from what one might term a ‘normal’ concert season for a chamber orchestra, once a year additional instrumentalists are engaged to take part in a full orchestra concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. ... Britten’s Violin Concerto is very different music. ... ...it was patently clear from the first few pages of her initial entry that in Zoë Beyers the work had found an ideal interpreter. 
The Royal Opera – Janáček’s Katya Kabanova – Amanda Majeski, Pavel Černoch, Susan Bickley, Andrew Staples; directed by Richard Jones; conducted by Edward Gardner
Monday, February 04, 2019 |  I still think that Richard Jones’s much-ridiculed staging of the Ring Cycle for The Royal Opera got to the core of much of Wagner’s epic, and there are many other operas that have thrived on his maverick views of human nature underpinned by a profound sympathy and affection for particular characters. His new staging of Janáček’s Katya Kabanova, however, sometimes seems like Jones on autopilot. ... Amanda Majewski presents Katya as the out-of-step outsider very thoroughly, although she, rather than the direction, suggests a desire for empowerment more clearly than Janáček’s brilliantly crafted realisation of a heroine who gets her stature from vulnerability, imagination, innocence and a fatally big soul. ... And from the scene-setting Prelude onwards, Edward Gardner draws a depth of tenderness and at times unbearable lyricism from the Royal Opera Orchestra that anchor and support the staging with unerring insight and compassion. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Paavo Järvi – Coriolan & Rachmaninov 2 – Radu Lupu plays Beethoven
Sunday, February 03, 2019 |  The Lupu effect had the Royal Festival Hall sold out for the first half but somewhat emptier for the second. Those who left at the interval missed an involving, powerful performance of Rachmaninov's Second Symphony – uncut, if omitting the first-movement repeat, coming home in just under an hour. ... Paavo Järvi stamped the music with authority and a feeling for style and paragraphing... ... So, to the draw of the night, a rare, much anticipated appearance by Radu Lupu, held in awe by a younger generation endowing him with the mystique of a Lipatti or a Michelangeli... 
BBC Symphony Orchestra & Chorus – John Butt conducts Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in B-minor
Saturday, February 02, 2019 |  Under the leadership of John Butt, the BBC Symphony Chorus and Orchestra delivered a top-class performance of J. S. Bach’s Mass in B-minor, one that elevates the tradition of Leonhardt and Harnoncourt. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Robin Ticciati conducts Bruckner 7 – Christian Tetzlaff plays Sibelius’s Violin Concerto
Saturday, February 02, 2019 |  Two works beginning on the outer edge of audibility, one greeted with a spontaneous ovation, the other with more considered enthusiasm. Robin Ticciati and the LPO know each other well, and the result in this Sibelius and Bruckner programme was playing of superlative quality. ... ...Christian Tetzlaff, so completely inside the score’s majesty, intimacy and remoteness that he didn’t drop a stitch when a string snapped about four minutes in... 
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Juanjo Mena – Haydn Trauer, Janáček Vixen & Sinfonieta – Julian Rachlin plays Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto
Saturday, February 02, 2019 |  The evening began with Haydn’s E-minor ‘Mourning’ Symphony, one of his most serious excursions into the genre. The work acquired its title when, later in his life, the composer said he would like the lyrical third-movement Adagio played at his funeral. Juanjo Mena and the Boston musicians delivered a well-played and seamless account... ... Things livened up considerably when Julian Rachlin delivered a remarkably exuberant account of Mendelssohn’s E-minor Violin Concerto... 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Marek Janowski – Bruckner – Mass in E-minor & Symphony 6 [live webcast]
Friday, February 01, 2019 |  It was just a year ago that Mariss Jansons conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker in Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony; now it was Marek Janowski’s turn, a Bruckner statesman, not least in Geneva (Suisse Romande Orchestra) and Paris (Orchestre Philharmonique). ... The first half had consisted of the second of Bruckner’s three Mass settings, an elusive affair, maybe, but there is no doubting the composer’s sincerity – some might say blind belief – in which it seems that his signature style is masked by his Catholic devotion...  
BBC Singers/Andrew Griffiths at St Peter’s Eaton Square – Ralph Vaughan Williams & John Pickard
Friday, February 01, 2019 |  Studio concerts have long formed a significant though easily overlooked component of the BBC Singers' activities... ... Known primarily for his impressive sequence of orchestral and chamber works, John Pickard has written several major vocal compositions – including the Edward Thomas song-cycle The Borders of Sleep and Requiem after Sacheverell Sitwell entitled Agamemnon’s Tomb. Mass for Troubled Times is less a setting of the Mass than treatment of lines from that text... ... ...a tough assignment for any choir, but one that the eighteen-strong BBC Singers met with assurance as directed by Andrew Griffiths (a rising star among choral conductors). Prior to this, he had presided over a comparably fine account of Ralph Vaughan Williams's Mass in G-minor... 
Gandini Juggling and Alexander Whitley at Sadler's Wells – Spring
Thursday, January 31, 2019 |  Ever since the twelve princesses first lobbed ‘apples’ at each other in his 1910 The Firebird and ever since they dropped them, dance observers have warily eyed such activities. Fast forward to 2019 and here is Spring from Gandini Juggling, very much a contemporary ensemble of throwers and catchers, in collaboration with Alexander Whitley, a choreographer, and a few of his dancers. The premise behind this fusion is interesting enough – the use of rhythm and music to engender an hour-long mixed-media show – but in reality, despite the best efforts of lithe and supple jugglers, some of whom have gymnastic and acrobatic training, the two genres make uneasy bedfellows. 
Isle of Noises – London Philharmonic Orchestra – Roger Norrington conducts Handel’s Water Music and, with Marie-Claude Chappuis & Benjamin Appl, Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas
Wednesday, January 30, 2019 |  Presented as a part of its year-long “Isle of Noises” series which will feature “landmark classics inspired by the British Isles” since 1689, the London Philharmonic’s foray into the earliest part of that period oddly juxtaposed Purcell’s only fully-fledged opera, Dido and Aeneas, with Handel’s Water Music. Other than their both having been written in London, it is hard to see any other connection between them. ... Be all that as it may, the LPO clearly enjoyed preforming these classic Baroque works which are now otherwise virtually banished from the repertoire of symphony orchestras. Having tackled Die Walküre just a couple of days previously, the LPO under Sir Roger Norrington’s direction gave a delightfully poised account of Purcell’s short opera... 
The Metropolitan Opera – Michael Grandage’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni – Luca Pisaroni, Ildar Abdrazakov, Rachel Willis-Sørensen; conducted by Cornelius Meister
Wednesday, January 30, 2019 |  This was the first night of the Met’s third revival of Michael Grandage’s 2011 production of Don Giovanni. ... The performance is first-rate. Cornelius Meister, making his Met debut, draws nuanced and effortless playing and fine singing. 
New York Philharmonic/Jaap van Zweden – Mozart’s First & Final Symphonies – Emanuel Ax plays Haydn & Stravinsky
Wednesday, January 30, 2019 |  This program gave an opportunity to hear Jaap van Zweden’s approach to Classical repertory, spiced by Stravinsky. ... Emanuel Ax was an excellent choice for Haydn’s ultimate Piano Concerto and made the contrapuntal complexity of the first movement effortless... ... Mozart’s ‘Jupiter’ Symphony found van Zweden even more emphatic than in K16. He micro-managed virtually every nuance... 
1769: A Year in Music
Tuesday, January 29, 2019 |  1769 was, for Mozart, “unusually sparse” – as Ian Page explains in the programme for this 250th-anniversary retrospective – in that the significant parts of his output that year comprised three Serenades, two Masses, a couple of small-scale liturgical works, and perhaps the Symphony No.9. Not typical of the average thirteen-year-old in any age maybe, but if one had only heard the music by Wolfgang Amadeus performed in this concert it would not have been so obvious that here was an incipient genius, as was evident in some of the works he had already composed, and been performed by the Mozartists in this 250 series. 
Saint Petersburg Philharmonic at Royal Festival Hall – Vassily Sinaisky conducts Symphonies by Prokofiev & Tchaikovsky – Julia Fischer plays Mendelssohn
Tuesday, January 29, 2019 |  The Saint Petersburg Philharmonic rarely disappoints. Maybe a cold, snowy evening, maybe politics, kept the audience decent rather than generous, but those who made it were treated to a spectacular display of classic, high-octane Russian music-making. Not, true, quite the tantalising cocktail advertised originally – Vassily Sinaisky standing in for Yuri Temirkanov and Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto replacing Shostakovich's First... 
Florida Grand Opera – Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro – Calvin Griffin, Elena Galván, Jonathan Michie, Lyubov Petrova, Mariya Kaganskaya; directed by Elise Sandell; conducted by Andrew Bisantz
Tuesday, January 29, 2019 |  An excellent cast imbues this Florida Grand Opera production of The Marriage of Figaro with beauty and humor. ... Calvin Griffin and Elena Galván are marvelous as Figaro and Susanna, around whom the plot revolves... ... Lyubov Petrova’s voice is gorgeous in the melancholic renditions of ‘Porgi, amor’ and ‘Dove sono’... 
Russian Song at Wigmore Hall
Monday, January 28, 2019 |  The ongoing Russian Song Series at Wigmore Hall, curated by Iain Burnside, provided a tour d’horizon< from Glinka to Shostakovich with a generous helping of Medtner and Rachmaninov, the all-encompassing traversal in the first half furnishing a rare opportunity to hear seldom-performed settings by Glazunov, Glière and Grechaninov (amongst others) spotlighting European and Oriental influences with no hard borders. ... Three well-matched singers with impressive credentials offered contrasting tone and register, notwithstanding Sofia Fomina’s cold (announced by Burnside) that blurred her usually bright timbre but left intact her interpretative focus. Together with Oleksiy Palchykov’s clarion tenor and Rodion Pogossov’s generous baritone they breathed life into Romantic and Symbolist texts... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Karina Canellakis conducts Shostakovich 8 – Lise de la Salle plays Schumann’s Piano Concerto [live webcast]
Sunday, January 27, 2019 |  This Detroit Symphony concert, a webcast courtesy of the Al Glancy Control Room, paid tribute to its eponymous and recently deceased benefactor. ... In Orchestra Hall, Lise de la Salle and Karina Canellakis (conducting gracefully and with accommodation) essayed a malleable account of Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto. ... Shostakovich 8 dates from 1943 when World War Two was ablaze, mirrored in music that laments and erupts. Canellakis ensured a unanimous and intense lower-string start, then played the long game with the expansive first movement... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski – Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen – 2/4: Die Walküre
Sunday, January 27, 2019 |  On the same date last year, the LPO and Vladimir Jurowski launched their Ring Cycle, and they were back with the next instalment, Die Walküre... ... In that respect, the Siegmund-Sieglinde opening hour had a poleaxing candour about it that set pulses racing – and rather served the best wine first. Stuart Skelton’s magnificent Siegmund sounded much more focused, introspective and ardent than five months earlier at the Royal Opera House. ... It doesn’t look as though Svetlana Sozdateleva has sung Brünnhilde before, but she certainly has the vocal heft and stage presence for the role. 
Christian Blackshaw at Wigmore Hall – 70th-Birthday Recital – Mozart K475, Schubert D946, Franck, Schumann
Sunday, January 27, 2019 |  This finely-planned Wigmore Hall recital marked Christian Blackshaw’s Seventieth Birthday, which fell on January 18, and whose deep musicianship and technical command were demonstrated throughout the compelling programme. 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Alan Gilbert – Metacosmos & Symphonia Domestica – Lisa Batiashvili plays Prokofiev [live webcast]
Saturday, January 26, 2019 |  Let’s not worry about doing the washing up, bathing the baby, or Herr and Frau Strauss making love, and concentrate on the music of Symphonia Domestica, which transcends this day in the life of the named family. Not that it’s Richard Strauss’s greatest orchestral work (I might nominate Alpine Symphony as that), but Domestica has much going for it, especially in George Szell’s fabulous recording. ... ...Alan Gilbert and the Berliner Philharmoniker made a convincing case for Domestica as a score of considerable accomplishment. ... The concert opened with Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s Metacosmos... ... In his Second Violin Concerto, Prokofiev gives the limelight immediately to the soloist. Lisa Batiashvili was in command from her first sound... 
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra at Barbican Hall – Richard Strauss – Mariss Jansons conducts Ein Heldenleben, Diana Damrau sings Four Last Songs
Saturday, January 26, 2019 |  Given their theme of resignation and confrontation with death, it is odd that Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs often appear at the beginning of a concert. Here, though, those subjects appropriately – if unexpectedly – pervaded the epic second half, featuring the composer’s relatively youthful and virtuosic Ein Heldenleben. ... ...characterised with somewhat more clarity in tone and easefulness of pace under Mariss Jansons’s steady direction. ... In this, the second appearance of her current residency at the Barbican Centre, Diana Damrau showed a similar adaptability to the various registers of these settings... 
New York Philharmonic – Jaap van Zweden conducts Steven Stucky’s Elegy and Julia Wolfe’s Fire in my mouth – Anthony McGill plays Copland’s Clarinet Concerto
Saturday, January 26, 2019 |   The evening opened with a finely rendered performance of Elegy, the brief and doleful interlude from Steven Stucky’s 2008 oratorio August 4, 1964, written in honor of the centennial of the birth of the thirty-sixth US President, Lyndon B. Johnson. Next came a brighter, lighter piece, Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, featuring Anthony McGill, the Philharmonic’s principal. ... After intermission came the big event: the third performance of Fire in my mouth, Julia Wolfe’s massive, multimedia oratorio about the New York City 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which killed 146 garment workers... 
Cleveland Orchestra & Chorus at Adrienne Arsht Center Miami – Franz Welser-Möst conducts Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony
Saturday, January 26, 2019 |  Franz Welser-Möst led an incisive and gripping performance of Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony in which the Cleveland Orchestra not only created beautiful sounds but also played with great coherence and unity. ... Eschewing Mahler’s request for a pause of five minutes between the first two movements, Welser-Möst waited only long enough for Joélle Harvey and Sasha Cooke to enter... 
Malta Philharmonic Orchestra – Lawrence Renes conducts Bruckner's Romantic Symphony, Emma Bell sings Wagner’s Wesendonck-Lieder
Saturday, January 26, 2019 |  Half-Dutch, half-Maltese, based in Holland, Lawrence Renes is a conductor steeped in Austro-German repertory. ... Wagner's five Wesendonck-Lieder (1857-58) from the Tristan period – the fruit of a relationship with the well-endowed Swiss Wesendonck family involving financial commitment, extra-marital infatuation and poetic entwinement – displayed Renes's elegance from the opening murmurs of Felix Mottl's 1893 arrangement... ... Emma Bell, quintessentially the ideal kind of full, dark Wagner soprano, responded with queenly poise and command... ... With Bruckner Four, purportedly its Maltese premiere, Renes delivered an architecturally considered reading... ... Stiffened with a number of imported extra desks, led by Karen Shahgaldyan (a former member of Spivakov's Moscow Virtuosi), the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, following a week of rehearsals, rose to the occasion boldly... 
Roman Rabinovich at Wigmore Hall – Ligeti, Bach BWV828, Schubert D958
Friday, January 25, 2019 |  It was a treat to hear all eleven pieces from Musica Ricercata and especially so in this performance. With an attractive stillness and economy of movement, Roman Rabinovich was part of the machine and rarely can this hallowed venue have heard such extravagant at-the-edge-of-what-is-possible panoply of colour, shading and silence. ... One of life’s great pleasures is to sink into a Schubert Piano Sonata. In D958 Rabinovich dished up the goods... 
Tristia: Requiems for Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette – Le Concert Spirituel/Hervé Niquet at Barbican Hall
Friday, January 25, 2019 |  Requiem Masses for murdered royalty. Hervé Niquet and Le Concert Spirituel, the period-instrument orchestra he founded thirty years ago, have dedicated themselves to Baroque and early-Classical French repertoire, and they created a great deal of interest with their 2016 CD of Requiems for Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette by Cherubini and Charles-Henri Plantade (on the Alpha label), which the same forces brought to the Barbican Hall... ... This particular Cherubini Requiem is well-known and has been championed by such as Muti and Giulini. 
Palm Beach Opera – Verdi’s La traviata – Kristina Mkhitaryan, Alexey Tatarintsev, Massimo Cavalletti; directed by Fabio Ceresa; conducted by Antonello Allemandi
Friday, January 25, 2019 |  The success of any production of La traviata depends heavily on the singers in its three central roles. They are marvelous for Palm Beach Opera... ... Kristina Mkhitaryan, fresh from her Met debut last fall as Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi, gives a convincing portrayal of Violetta, both as a glamorous courtesan and in the deathbed scene. ... Alexey Tatarintsev’s bright tenor is richly melodic and thrilling at the top in Alfredo’s love-duets with Violetta... 
Graham Johnson Songmakers' Almanac at Wigmore Hall
Thursday, January 24, 2019 |  Another enterprising and eclectic mix of songs and readings from Graham Johnson’s Songmakers’ Almanac, this time in celebration of a myriad of musical anniversaries relating to January. Anna Huntley’s lush mezzo-soprano sounded particularly ravishing in Wigmore Hall’s acoustic. 
Valletta International Baroque Festival – Handel's Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno
Thursday, January 24, 2019 |  Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno, The Triumph of Time and Truth, was Handel's first oratorio, written in the spring of 1707 and premiered later that year at an unknown private location in Rome. Handel was just twenty-two, a Halle German at the Ruspoli court whose brilliance, virtuosity and theatrical flowering delighted the imagination of Italian audiences. ... In a largely Greek production, George Petrou and Armonia Atenea gave an account of transient beauty and highlights, with the second part, more naturally paced, succeeding better overall than the first. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Santtu-Matias Rouvali – La valse, Valse triste & Sibelius 1 – Alice Sara Ott plays Ravel
Thursday, January 24, 2019 |  Ravel and Sibelius were both danced into life by an irrepressible pirouetting Finn whose unstoppable energy brought characterful and mostly cohesive performances. If at times things were pulled out of shape the Philharmonia Orchestra was superbly responsive to Santtu-Matias Rouvali’s individual approach to form and content. ... It was brilliance of musicianship rather than excitement that characterised Ravel’s G-major Piano Concerto with Alice Sara Ott as a glittering soloist who sprinkled stardust over its toccata-like passages and jazzy rhythms. 
Jonathan Biss at Carnegie Hall – Beethoven Piano Sonatas, including the Hammerklavier
Thursday, January 24, 2019 |  For this Carnegie Hall concert, Jonathan Biss – stepping in for Leif Ove Andsnes who had to cancel his US tour because of an elbow injury – delivered virtuosic performances of four Piano Sonatas from several stages of Beethoven’s career. 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra at Lighthouse – Jacek Kaspszyk conducts Ravel & Rachmaninov – Benjamin Grosvenor plays Saint-Saëns
Wednesday, January 23, 2019 |  This concert’s rubric was “Backward Glimpses”, the performances of the Ravel and the Rachmaninov mainly dutiful and largely earthbound, the plum being a barnstorming account of Saint-Saëns with Benjamin Grosvenor. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Sakari Oramo conducts Richard Causton’s Ik zeg: Nu & Brahms 3 – Steven Isserlis plays Schumann
Wednesday, January 23, 2019 |  Born in London in 1971, Richard Causton has been reimagining, often subverting, musical perceptions since he made his first big mark with The Persistence of Memory, when he was twenty-four, and he made an even bigger impression with Millennium Scenes, a substantial orchestral work that cast a sharp, basilisk gaze on the start of the current century. ... Sakari Oramo and the BBCSO were completely inside Causton’s intensely atmospheric and shape-shifting score... ... Schumann is one of Steven Isserlis’s great heroes, and the Cello Concerto has been a core work for decades. 
Handel’s Alcina – David Bates conducts La Nuova Musica, with Lucy Crowe & Patrick Terry; narrated by Joanna Lumley
Tuesday, January 22, 2019 |  This odd presentation – in a sense, adaptation – of one of Handel’s greatest operas was served up as a prelude to this year’s London Handel Festival. But it is not clear at whom it was aimed, or who might benefit from it. Perhaps intending to make it ‘accessible’, all the recitatives were cut and substituted with some fruity and suggestive narration, delivered as such by Joanna Lumley. June Chichester’s text was a rather facile précis of events, very often simply paraphrasing the succeeding arias – in other words, pointlessly duplicating the programme notes and the translations of the arias therein. 
Kensington Symphony Orchestra at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Russell Keable conducts Kings Row & Daphnis et Chloé, Richard Uttley plays Gershwin’s Piano Concerto
Tuesday, January 22, 2019 |  The Kensington Symphony Orchestra has got previous form with Korngold – it gave the first UK concert performance of his Die tote Stadt in 1996, thirteen years before the Royal Opera’s staging. Now, as then, Russell Keable conducted. Kings Row is probably Korngold’s best known melody and John Williams pays an obvious debt to it in his Star Wars score. ... There is more than a touch of Hollywood glamour about George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto. ... Richard Uttley was light-fingered and brought a spring-heeled agility to the outer movements and never over-indulged the sentimentality in the slow one. ... Ravel’s complete score for Daphnis et Chloé is remarkable for its blend of mysticism, seductiveness and energy... 
Rafał Blechacz at Wigmore Hall – Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin
Monday, January 21, 2019 |  Rafał Blechacz swept the board with all five prizes at the International Chopin Competition in 2005, which has led in turn to a prestigious recording contract and an impressively full and world-wide diary. Thus elevated, aged twenty, into pianistic aristocracy, he has been talked about in the same breath as his Polish compatriot Krystian Zimerman... ... And unfortunately for this Wigmore Hall recital, events conspired against him, when the start was delayed by half-an-hour. 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts Bartók & Bruckner [Concert 2/January 20]
Sunday, January 20, 2019 |  Often regarded as the Cinderella among Bruckner’s mature symphonies (as even the composer himself also seemed to think in a roundabout way, calling it “Die Keckste” – the saucy or impertinent one, in a pun on its ordinal number in German, Die Sechste) No.6 appears to have gained more frequency in programming recently than it used to. Not only repeating this concert in London from a week ago, and taking it on tour to Hungary and Poland in between, with future presentations in Austria and Germany in late-February, Sir Simon Rattle promoted the work in 2016 with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and Daniel Barenboim also featured it at the Proms in the same year, for example. ... Rattle did not take it at quite such a speed with the LSO as he had previously with the OAE, but he used again the Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs edition as back then... ... In the first half came Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta. The strings were less lush, but this music generally demands something different from Bruckner’s sustained paragraphs of sound, although there is a similar contrast between the serious, the dance and the folk-like. Rattle achieved a compelling arc in each of the four movements... 
Endellion String Quartet fortieth-anniversary concert at Wigmore Hall – Haydn Rider, Bartók 2, Beethoven 131
Sunday, January 20, 2019 |  This was a genuine fortieth-anniversary concert, in that it was held on the same date as the Endellion Quartet’s very first rehearsal. ... The nickname ‘Rider’ for Haydn’s G-minor Quartet implies a rather athletic, outdoor work, and it certainly has elements of those qualities. ... Bartók has been an Endellion specialty from the beginning and the performance of the Second Quartet was also very elevated: the strange sense of dislocation at the start – Bartók partaking not just of Reger but of Schoenberg as well... ... It may be that Beethoven’s C-sharp minor Quartet is the greatest single musical work ever composed... 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Mariss Jansons – Zarathustra & Rienzi – Evgeny Kissin plays Liszt [live webcast]
Saturday, January 19, 2019 |  By turning concert convention on its head – starting with something symphonic and ending with an Overture – Mariss Jansons and the Berliner Philharmoniker signalled an opening Sunrise (as heisted by Kubrick for 2001) to launch Richard Strauss’s Nietzsche-inspired Also sprach Zarathustra. It was a glorious moment... ... Evgeny Kissin gave breadth to Liszt’s E-flat Piano Concerto... ... As for the Overture to Rienzi... 
The Royal Ballet – Liam Scarlett's Asphodel Meadows | Frederick Ashton's The Two Pigeons
Saturday, January 19, 2019 |  Yet again, The Royal Ballet management has succeeded in placing works alongside each other which really don’t go. Quite why anyone thought that preceding Frederick Ashton’s delightful romantic The Two Pigeons with Liam Scarlett’s cool and sombre Asphodel Meadows is anyone’s guess. … 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Ryan Wigglesworth conducts Schoenberg’s Pelleas und Melisande – James Ehnes plays Beethoven’s Violin Concerto
Friday, January 18, 2019 |  Lothar Koenigs, advertised for this BBC Symphony Orchestra concert, withdrew, and Ryan Wigglesworth stepped up to the mark. Like Koenigs, Wigglesworth has clout as an opera conductor, and I wondered how he would play off the Beethoven Violin Concerto’s ascendant lyricism against more formal considerations. ... Wigglesworth crucially made plenty of space for James Ehnes’s inimitable style, a style that implies big things in an unostentatious way. ... Schoenberg’s Pelleas und Melisande hasn’t stepped into the late-romantic limelight to the extent that his earlier Verklärte Nacht and later Gurrelieder have, despite Maeterlinck’s play being a decisive inspiration on that fin-de-siècle period. 
Britten Sinfonia at Barbican Hall – Mark Elder conducts Britten’s Suite on English Folk Tunes and Brahms’s Second Symphony – Paula Murrihy sings Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
Thursday, January 17, 2019 |  Benjamin Britten’s Suite on English Folk Tunes had its beginning in 1966 with a brief wind-band piece and it was expanded eight years later to a five-movement work for orchestra. ... Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen is a cycle of four songs and its theme, as so often in compositions of the nineteenth-century, is one of unrequited love. ... Paula Murrihy, at very short notice, stood in for Anna Stéphany, took a lyrical view of the texts, the German words flowed gracefully and the consonants were treated softly. ... ...refinement of playing and hushed beauty of melodic line typified Mark Elder’s sensitive view of the music. 
The Royal Opera – Richard Eyre’s production of Verdi’s La traviata – Ermonela Jaho, Charles Castronovo, Igor Golovatenko; conducted by Antonello Manacorda
Thursday, January 17, 2019 |  La traviata returns for its sixteenth revival since Richard Eyre’s production opened twenty-five years ago, and there is an impressive trio of leads and, making his Royal Opera debut, a fine conductor. Ermonela Jaho is well-known both as Violetta and to this staging – she first sang the role in the 2008 revival, when she replaced Anna Netrebko... ... Charles Castronovo looks personable and is attractively restrained as Alfredo... ... Antonello Manacorda delivers a detail-rich and responsive account of the score, which is beautifully played. 
London Sinfonietta at Queen Elizabeth Hall – London premiere of James Dillon’s Tanz/haus, world premiere of Shuffle and of Balloon, Harrison Birtwistle & Oliver Knussen
Thursday, January 17, 2019 |  Southbank Centre's Soundstate series continued with a concert from the London Sinfonietta as amounted to a conspectus of its programming past and present. Good to see that James Dillon, absent over many years from LS schedules following the disastrous premiere of Überschreiten in 1986, is now working again with this ensemble. Certainly there could be no-doubting its commitment in this realisation of Tanz/haus... 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra at The Anvil – Kirill Karabits conducts Richard Strauss's Symphonia Domestica – Augustin Hadelich plays Beethoven's Violin Concerto
Thursday, January 17, 2019 |  Kirill Karabits and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra have been exploring Richard Strauss’s symphonic poems for the last few seasons and have now reached the composer’s family portrait, first sketched in the Spring of 1902 while staying at the Ocean Hotel on the Isle of Wight. Judging from this riveting account I could hear no good reason why Symphonia Domestica should be such a rarity... ... Earlier, Augustin Hadelich wowed in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto; a flowing, stylish reading rendered with considerable poise and delicacy... 
English National Ballet at London's Coliseum – Kenneth MacMillan's Manon
Thursday, January 17, 2019 |  This is a fine revival of Kenneth MacMillan’s arguably most widely-loved full-length ballet; English National Ballet enter fully into its style and aesthetic even though, as a work, it is not part of the company DNA in the way it is with The Royal Ballet. The success is largely down to the impressive roster of coaches and teachers who have been called in: from the originator of the role of Des Grieux, Anthony Dowell, to Irek Mukhamedov, a great interpreter of that role and also the scheming Lescaut, and Viviana Durante, one of the finest ever Manons. Their careful work has borne fruit with a lively and focussed cast delivering MacMillan’s vision of Abbé Prévost’s tragic tale with style, and, even if the production (borrowed from Copenhagen) remains a shock to those used to Nicholas Georgiadis’s original, it produces a highly satisfying night at the theatre, down not least to an excellent quartet of main characters. 
Christian Gerhaher & Gerold Huber – Winterreise at Wigmore Hall
Wednesday, January 16, 2019 |  Christian Gerhaher and Gerold Huber could not have timed their Wigmore Hall Winterreise more poignantly, and with temperatures meteorological, spiritual and temporal dipping ever lower, the work and their performance of it only sharpened the existential desolation. Gerhaher must have sung Schubert’s and Wilhelm Müller’s great song-cycle hundreds of times... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Marin Alsop conducts five premieres – Gieshoff, Hillborg, Tüür, Andriessen, Grime – with Stewart McIlwham & Colin Currie
Wednesday, January 16, 2019 |  This remarkable concert – consisting entirely of premieres of various sorts – launched SoundState, the Southbank Centre’s enterprising five-day new-music festival. Multiple signifiers being everything these days, it also inaugurated the London Philharmonic’s year-long festival of British music, Isle of Noises – this apparently not only because it featured a new work by Helen Grime but also because the programme exemplified Alex Ross’s assertion that the UK is one of the best places in the World to create the latest music. It was also a very exciting concert, presided over with genial authority by Marin Alsop. 
Diana Damrau & Helmut Deutsch at Barbican Hall – Liszt, Richard Strauss, Wolf
Wednesday, January 16, 2019 |  Diana Damrau and Helmut Deutsch opened with Liszt and displayed vocal and pianistic pyrotechnics... ... A gorgeous bouquet of Richard Strauss songs combined passion and gentle wit with the madness of Ophelia. 
Juilliard String Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Beethoven, Bartók, Dvořák
Tuesday, January 15, 2019 |  The spirit of Beethoven hung over this recital, the first evening engagement played in Britain by the new line-up of the Juilliard String Quartet – there had been given a BBC lunchtime concert the previous day, also Wigmore Hall. Of the players who were in the ensemble the last time I saw them ‘live’, only veteran Ronald Copes remains: he has been in place since 1997. Leader Areta Zhulla joined at the start of this season, vastly experienced British violist Roger Tapping in 2013 and cellist Astrid Schween in 2016. 
Pavel Kolesnikov at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Brahms, Beethoven, Louis Couperin, Tchaikovsky
Tuesday, January 15, 2019 |  Extracts from an ode by Horace, about transience and hope, and from Joseph Brodsky’s poem Watermark, about love, were projected onto a screen before each half of Pavel Kolesnikov’s recital. The Queen Elizabeth Hall lighting was turned down low and applause was strictly controlled. This was Kolesnikov’s debut in the Southbank Centre’s indispensable International Piano Series... ... This worked very much to the advantage of the Suite in A (compiled by Kolesnikov) and Pavanne in F-sharp minor by Louis Couperin (François’s uncle) that deferred to Baroque keyboard registration and style without labouring the point. 
Robin Tritschler & Graham Johnson at Wigmore Hall – Schumann’s Spring and Fall
Monday, January 14, 2019 |  For his current residency at Wigmore Hall Robin Tritschler is investigating The Seasons in song and in this Robert Schumann recital included the timeless Opus 39 Liederkreis. ... Schumann’s later autobiographical songs have been neglected and Tritschler and Graham Johnson provided ample justification for their reassessment... 
The Royal Opera –Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades – Vladimir Stoyanov, Aleksandrs Antonenko, Eva-Maria Westbroek, Felicity Palmer; directed by Stefan Herheim; conducted by Antonio Pappano
Sunday, January 13, 2019 |  Tchaikovsky composed The Queen of Spades in the astonishingly short period of six weeks, and it is an unbeatable and taut realisation of obsession and betrayal... ... Gherman’s obsession and his increasingly frail hold on reality have delivered some excellent productions, and now there is Stefan Herheim’s... ... Things are not redeemed by the singing. Aleksandr Antonenko’s Gherman is a far remove from the tortured, socially inadequate misfit described in the opening scene, and his loutish presence is matched by some shockingly unruly singing. How, why was he cast? Eva-Maria Westbroek’s genius for getting inside a role is obliterated by the staging... ... You wonder about the role of Antonio Pappano in some of the casting and much of the staging... 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts Bartók & Bruckner [Concert 1/January 13]
Sunday, January 13, 2019 |  He may have come relatively late to Bruckner, but Simon Rattle has now conducted most of the later Symphonies and here tackled the Sixth (1881) which even some of this composer’s keenest advocates have avoided. The result proved to be a highlight of his LSO tenure so far. ... Bruckner Six may be a recent addition to Rattle’s repertoire, but Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (1936) has long been a part of it and this account was one of insight borne of experience. 
Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra 20th-Anniversary Concert @ Barbican Hall – Marios Papadopoulos conducts the Eroica Symphony – Mutter & Vengerov play Bach, Argerich plays Schumann
Saturday, January 12, 2019 |  Three distinguished soloists helped celebrate the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra’s twentieth-anniversary. To Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins (Marios Papadopoulos at the harpsichord) Anne-Sophie Mutter and Maxim Vengerov provided a masterclass in musicianship... ... Much the same could be said of Schumann’s Piano Concerto, Martha Argerich combining limpid beauty and sparkling brilliance... ... Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ gripped from the start, its first movement (without exposition repeat) crackling with energy, forward momentum and abundant detail. 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts Sibelius 7 & Nielsen’s Inextinguishable Symphony – Barbara Hannigan sings Hans Abrahamsen’s let me tell you
Thursday, January 10, 2019 |  The single movement Seventh Symphony of Sibelius has always seemed comprised of four different elements that could be regarded as the movements of a Symphony and in this expressive performance the character of each was clearly displayed. Simon Rattle shaped the melodies of the opening with care and great breadth and it was clear that this would be an expansive reading; the rich tone of the LSO strengthening this impression. ... Hans Abrahamsen’s thirty-five-minute let me tell you was composed with Barbara Hannigan in mind and is described as a “dramatic monologue”. Paul Griffiths’s words are said to be made up entirely from those spoken by Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet without in any way representing the play itself... ... Carl Nielsen’s ‘Inextinguishable’ was forceful. Unlike his interpretation of Sibelius, it was clear that Sir Simon chose to propel to the triumphant conclusion... 
Bundesjugendorchester at Berliner Philharmonie – Kirill Petrenko conducts West Side Story & The Rite of Spring – Wieland Welzel plays William Kraft’s First Timpani Concerto [live webcast]
Wednesday, January 09, 2019 |  In a venue that will soon become his second home when he assumes the role of chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker, Kirill Petrenko here inspired the Bundesjugendorchester (German National Youth Orchestra), this year celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, to impressive things. ... The Symphonic Dances from the Shakespeare-based West Side Story [...] was a terrific choice to open the concert... ... Step forward Wieland Welzel (principal timpanist of the Berliner Philharmoniker) for the Timpani Concerto by Chicago-born William Kraft... ... The Rite of Spring had been pertinently set up (Bernstein a constant champion of it, the orchestration including two sets of timpani), Stravinsky’s century-old but still new-sounding ballet score... 
Sunwook Kim at Wigmore Hall – Mozart, Beethoven, Donghoon Shin, Chopin
Tuesday, January 08, 2019 |  Twelve years on from winning the 2006 Leeds Competition, Sunwook Kim has lost none of the insight, intelligence and emotional range that mark him out as a remarkably complete, highly connective musician. ... At first I thought he was making a bit of a meal of the contrasts in Beethoven’s so-called ‘Tempest’ Sonata, the second of the pivotal and prophetic Opus 31 set written in the same year, 1802, as the composer’s Heiligenstadt crisis. Kim, though, was as persuasive as ever... ... Before that came the first performance of Songs and Games by Kim’s South Korean compatriot and contemporary Donghoon Shin. 
London Schools Symphony Orchestra at Barbican Centre – Ryan Wigglesworth conducts Death and Transfiguration & Twilight of the Gods – Rachel Nicholls sings Richard Strauss
Monday, January 07, 2019 |  The London Schools Symphony Orchestra has been nurturing young instrumentalists for some six decades... ... Ryan Wigglesworth joined a distinguished roster of conductors, and his communication skills were immediately apparent in a disciplined ensemble, some astonishingly responsive woodwind-playing, and a full, romantic string sound. ... Strauss was twenty-four, only a few years older than most of the LSSO players, when he wrote Death and Transfiguration... ... Rachel Nicholls was on superb form, and then she surpassed herself in Brünnhilde’s Immolation that brought the house down in Wigglesworth’s forty-minute précis of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung... 
National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain at Barbican Centre – Kirill Karabits conducts Science Fiction, Doctor Atomic Symphony, Sibelius 2
Saturday, January 05, 2019 |  Trust the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain to throw down a musical gauntlet to its professional peers like a New Year Resolution writ large. In this intriguingly programmed and invigoratingly performed concert, with Kirill Karabits, the 164 players gave the best possible musical start to 2019: a blast of orchestral excellence. ... The rest of the first half was given over to the real fears of the post-war era and the Cold War nuclear threat, in the form of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic Symphony, utilising themes and sections from his opera. Depicting J. Robert Oppenheimer in the run up to the first testing of his atomic bomb in the Nevada desert, Adams distils his stage-work into three seamless sections. 
New York Philharmonic – Paavo Järvi conducts Lemminkäinen and the Maidens of Saari, and Daphnis et Chloé Suite 2 – Gautier Capuçon plays Dvořák’s Cello Concerto
Thursday, January 03, 2019 |  Stepping in on two weeks’ notice for Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, but retaining her scheduled program, Paavo Järvi led the New York Philharmonic in dynamic and refreshing performances to begin New Year. ... Järvi partnered with Gautier Capuçon in an immaculate performance of Dvořák’s Cello Concerto... 

 

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