All 2020 Concert Reviews

London Symphony Orchestra/Antonio Pappano – Ralph Vaughan Williams's Tallis Fantasia & Sixth Symphony – Vilde Frang plays Benjamin Britten's Violin Concerto
Sunday, March 15, 2020 (David Gutman) |  “British Roots” was the rubric chosen for marketing purposes but at least two-thirds of this LSO programme reflected a previous age of anxiety and uprootedness, the even darker years associated with the onset and aftermath of the Second World War. There was a time when such music was seen to pose the aesthetic difficulties pinpointed by a celebrated 1950s record guide: “The biggest name in contemporary English music … Vaughan Williams is now a solitary figure, for his influence has served but to produce a steady trickle of pentatonic wish-wash. In this form British music is demonstratively less vulgar than the bad music of other countries, but it is more soporific…”. Thankfully attitudes have moved on as has the interpretative response. 
Music Theatre Wales & London Sinfonietta – Philip Venables’s Denis & Katya
Saturday, March 14, 2020 (Nick Breckenfield) |  ★★★★☆ There is a current media trend for true-crime podcasts: Grand Guignol chunks with ‘atmospheric’ piano-heavy mood music, the sort of which has me screaming at the radio. Philip Venables and director and librettist Ted Huffman’s follow-up to their Sarah Kane opera, 4:48 Psychosis seems to grab this phenomenon by the scruff of its neck in Denis & Katya, and Venables provides a score that is much more involving, not least in his inspired choice of containing his palette to just four cellos. They bring a real-life story of teenage tearaways who hole up in a Russian house and are then surrounded by special forces and are killed. Or kill themselves. We don’t know. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Edward Gardner – Arnold Schoenberg, Oskar Fried, Franz Lehár, Johannes Brahms
Friday, March 13, 2020 (Peter Reed) |  If one ever wants reassurance about the value of the BBC, then listen to this exceptional BBCSO concert on the Radio 3 catch-up service [link below] and be duly thankful. Two versions of an ecstatic love poem, an extraordinary orchestral expansion of a chamber work, and a haunting rarity from the composer of The Merry Widow, all four pieces stoking the fires of late romanticism to white-hot. 
Royal Academy of Music – Jules Massenet's Chérubin
Wednesday, March 11, 2020 (Alexander Campbell) |  ★★★☆☆ Much of Jules Massenet’s operatic output remains hidden from view in the UK and elsewhere, with only Werther, Manon and Thaïs enjoying regular outings. Chérubin hasn’t been seen on the London stage since 1997 when The Royal Opera staged a revival of its colourful 1994 staging by Tim Albery. To a degree this relative neglect is understandable, for whilst there is great charm in some of the music, and some great opportunities for a few of the principals, the action takes some while to get going, is full of rather stock operatic situations and characters, and doesn’t much advance on the familiar plots of Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia and Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro. 
Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki – Johann Sebastian Bach’s St John Passion
Tuesday, March 10, 2020 (Peter Reed) |  One thing the Bach Collegium Japan’s performance of J. S. Bach’s St John Passion brought to mind was that the taste for staging Bach Passions (not to mention the Requiems by Verdi and Britten) seems to have receded, thank heavens. The aim was to make these Christian blockbusters more accessible, more ‘now’, but as the stagings careered towards emotional, empathising overload, the works themselves were diminished, even demeaned, as forcing the explicit upon what is implicit always does – a case of the way to Hell being paved with good intentions. 
London Handel Festival – Parnassos in celebration – Katie Bray, Charlotte Bowden, Keri Fuge, Jess Dandy
Tuesday, March 10, 2020 (Curtis Rogers) |  The 18th century knew how to do ‘royal weddings’ properly. With one of the greatest composers in Europe at their disposal, the Hanoverian court in England was able to call upon the services of Handel to provide this Serenata as part of the festivities for the marriage in 1734 of the Princess Royal, Anne (daughter of George II) to Prince William IV of Orange. As a Serenata, Parnasso in festa does not comprise a dramatic narrative as such, unlike an opera. But Handel’s score is more ambitious than his Italian stage works in many respects by utilising an expanded orchestra (with trumpets, horns, and timpani – only rarely used in the operas) in a musical sequence which features choruses among its various arias and therefore greater variety and flexibility than the usual format of opera seria at the time. 
Midori and Festival Strings Lucerne play Beethoven at Saffron Hall
Friday, March 06, 2020 (Ateş Orga) |  Occupying the high terraces of Elysium, this was one of those Beethoven nights you dream about. Midori – back in the eighties child extraordinaire of the Zubin Mehta / Leonard Bernstein days – is a sublime poet. She makes the most special dolce sound, seemingly small yet aristocratically riding the ensemble. Her violin – the 1734 Guarneri del Gesù 'ex-Huberman' – is a complete extension of her slight frame. Her every note and scale, stretched phrases and cadences, call and response, breathe with intensity. An imperious bowing arm, a beatific smile through eyes barely open, the furrowed brow, a long sigh from within trembling her dress – every emotion and heartbeat is there for the witnessing and hearing. Her upbows surge forwards, her whole body swaying into attack yet never once at the expense of the most exquisitely unforced tone, musicality at a premium. Queen of the pianissimo echo. 
The Metropolitan Opera – François Girard’s production of Richard Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman – Evgeny Nikitin, Anja Kampe, Franz-Josef Selig; conducted by Valery Gergiev
Friday, March 06, 2020 (Susan Stempleski) |  ★★★★☆ Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman), Wagner’s tale of the cursed sea captain doomed to sail the open ocean for eternity, and the earliest of the composer’s operatic creations to remain in the repertory, sails onto The Metropolitan Opera stage in this co-production of The Met, the Dutch National Opera, the Abu Dhabi Festival and L’Opéra de Québec. François Girard’s production, which had its world premiere last July in Quebéc City, places the action in the head of Senta, the young Norwegian beauty obsessed with the mysterious portrait of the ill-fated Dutchman and drawn into his ghostly world. 
Crystal Pite & Jonathon Young / Kidd Pivot at Sadler's Wells – Revisor
Wednesday, March 04, 2020 (G. J. Dowler) |  ★★★★★ Crystal Pite, one of the most innovative and consistently satisfying dance-makers of today, is essentially a choreographer of the mind. Movement in any context is normally the result of a thought, a motivation, a meaning yet much contemporary dance gives no explanation as to why the performers are doing what they do. The audience often searches for underlying meaning, so much so that it is hard to see a duet without investing it with some sentimental colouring and to see an emotional bond between the two dancers. Pite has observed that contemporary dance movement is often poor at narrative, so her current collaborations with playwright and actor Jonathon Young make for stimulating viewing, their collective efforts blurring the boundaries between the two forms. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra & Chorus/Donald Runnicles – Ludwig van Beethoven's Missa solemnis, with Elizabeth Llewellyn, Christine Rice, Thomas Atkins & Roderick Williams
Wednesday, March 04, 2020 (Peter Reed) |  No doubt there will be many performances of the Missa solemnis among Beethoven’s 250th birth year celebrations, but this one from the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Donald Runnicles (who replaced Richard Farnes) was exceptional, taking many factors in its stride. The most memorable impression was that it stayed close to Beethoven’s singular relationship with faith and rationalism. It seemed that all – and it’s quite an all-encompassing ‘all’ – Runnicles did was allow Beethoven’s grandest work to speak for itself without assuming the mantle of humbling monumentalism. The unique drama of the Christian Mass was there in all its majesty, but minus peripheral histrionics. Despite his scholarly observance of the conventions of setting the Mass to music – his preliminary research reaches back from Haydn and Mozart to the Renaissance masters – Beethoven’s voice and concerns here registered with astonishing directness. Runnicles and his forces encouraged us to infer that Beethoven’s way into understanding faith was filtered through his belief in humanity, and it was this, and the prominence Runnicles gave to the sombre pleas for mercy, that came across with such strength in this finely imagined and considered performance. 
Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos & Yo-Yo Ma at Carnegie Hall – All-Beethoven
Wednesday, March 04, 2020 (Susan Stempleski) |  For this concert, Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos and Yo-Yo Ma combined their ample star power to bring Beethoven brilliantly to life in the first of three scheduled programs of the composer’s cello and violin sonatas and piano trios. The presentations are part of Carnegie Hall's season-long Beethoven250 celebration, and they also mark the centenary of the late, great violinist Isaac Stern, who led the 1960 drive to save the Hall from demolition. The programs also pay homage to the legendary trio in which Stern, for over a quarter of a century, collaborated with pianist Eugene Istomin and cellist Leonard Rose. They echo the all-Beethoven series that that much-heralded ensemble performed at the Hall in 1970 during its 200th anniversary celebrations of Beethoven. On this evening, the close to three-thousand-seat Stern Auditorium was packed to capacity with the audience overflowing to three long rows of onstage seating 
Palm Beach Opera – Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville – Andrew Manea, Aleks Romano, Taylor Stayton, Renato Girolami & Timothy Bruno; directed by Helena Binder; conducted by David Stern
Friday, February 28, 2020 (David M. Rice) |  ★★★★★ Palm Beach Opera continues its 2020 season with a production of Gioachino Rossini’s Il barbieri di Siviglia that combines hilarious staging and comic acting with consistently outstanding music-making. Beginning with the familiar Overture, Chief Conductor David Stern leads a spirited account of the light-hearted score, with orchestra, chorus and cast all in fine form. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Osmo Vänskä – Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto with Jeremy Denk | Krzysztof Penderecki's In Memory of John Paul II | George Enescu's First Symphony
Friday, February 28, 2020 (Nick Breckenfield) |  Five concerts in to the London Philharmonic’s ‘2020 Vision’ series of 20 concerts, and, after a hiatus on Wednesday-last without Beethoven (Spohr was the substitute), here Osmo Vänskä – eschewing simple party pleasures on his 67th birthday – opened with Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto from 1805, aided and abetted by American pianist Jeremy Denk. This was no routine performance, even if Denk perhaps erred on the side of caution when it came to poetry. 
London Symphony Orchestra/Elim Chan & Lukáš Vondráček – James Albany Hoyle, Rachmaninov, Elizabeth Ogonek & Ravel
Thursday, February 27, 2020 (Brian Barford) |  The Czech pianist Lukáš Vondráček won the 2016 Queen Elizabeth Piano Competition with his performance of Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto, and he chose this work to make his debut with the LSO, conducted by Elim Chan. Performances of Rachmaninov’s mighty concerto seem to have got slower over the years, at least in comparison with Rachmaninov’s own recorded version with its swift, patrician avoidance of sentimentality. Vondráček‘s account was spacious at some forty-six minutes but there was a lot to admire in a performance of extremes. 
Viviana Durante Company at Barbican Centre – Isadora Now
Thursday, February 27, 2020 (G. J. Dowler) |  ★★★★☆ Viviana Durante has been a name in British dance for some time, for a long time as a much-loved artist at The Royal Ballet. In recent years, she has returned to the attention of the dance-going public with her recent appointment as Principal of the English National Ballet School and as a producer, bringing revivals/reconstructions of early Kenneth MacMillan works. A hastily cancelled run of his The Seven Deadly Sins at Wilton’s Music Hall last year seemed to indicate that all was not well, but then a tribute programme to one of modern dance’s great pioneers, Isadora Duncan, at the Barbican Theatre, has shown that she was back. It was a generally satisfying evening, with what felt like only an excerpt from Duncan’s 1911 Dance of the Furies alongside Frederick Ashton’s evocation of the great lady in the solo Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan before the interval and then a new commission, Unda, by Joy Alpuerto Ritter. 
Simon Trpčeski at Barbican Centre – Brahms, Liszt, Prokofiev & Mussorgsky
Tuesday, February 25, 2020 (Peter Reed) |  It has been five years since I last heard Simon Trpčeski in a solo recital, and it was reassuring that the pianist and general musical dynamo from Macedonia still radiates the freshness, insight and communicative skills that singled him out twenty years ago, when he was barely out of his teens. Perhaps one shouldn’t infer too much from body language and photographs, but they do imply a compelling mix of energy, quizzical humour, and a profound, far-sighted musical judgment. The humour was in evidence in the way he waited for a horde of late-comers to settle with a patient hauteur worthy of Dame Edna Everage – and it is probably no longer worth recording that the more eager fans were fearless in filming and recording him this evening. … 
NHK Symphony Orchestra at Royal Festival Hall – Paavo Järvi conducts Toru Takemitsu's How slow the wind, and Sergei Rachmaninov's Second Symphony – Sol Gabetta plays Robert Schumann's Cello Concerto
Monday, February 24, 2020 (Ateş Orga) |  The NHK Symphony Orchestra, established in 1926, is currently on a western European tour under its chief conductor, Paavo Järvi, taking in Tallinn, London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Cologne, Dortmund, Brussels and Amsterdam. Familiar from previous London visits and through their many videos and telecasts, they're a nurtured, disciplined ensemble, strong on etiquette, steeped in tradition and style, with little to choose between the sections. Yes, the strings excel – wires of gold, a supremely silken, tenuto body, glowing and beautiful in sound. … 
Budapest Festival Orchestra/Iván Fischer at Lincoln Center – Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony and Songs on the Death of Children with Gerhild Romberger
Monday, February 24, 2020 (Lewis M. Smoley) |  Kindertotenlieder is a seminal work in Mahler’s oeuvre. Motivic and melodic phrases as well as cadential passages from the song cycle cast a spell over his symphonies from the Fifth onward. Written contemporaneously, Kindertotenlieder and the Fifth Symphony share both musical material and a philosophical perspective driven by a profound desire to overcome tragedy. … 
Guildhall Opera – Lliam Paterson's The Angel Esmeralda
Monday, February 24, 2020 (Alexander Campbell) |  ★★★☆☆ It cannot be often that operas commissioned by major opera companies find their world premiere stage performances being given by those still learning their craft at one of London’s premiere music and drama colleges. So it is here, in the re-configured Silk Street Theatre, where the audience sits in banks to either side and opposite the main thrust stage but were a few scenes take place in other areas of the auditorium above or behind sections of the seating. This did not always aid homogeneity to some of the ensemble passages, particularly those involving the five Observers, who perform a narrative and commentary function throughout the piece, rather reminiscent of the Male and Female Chorus of Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia. … 
New World Symphony in Miami Beach | The French Voice – Nicholas Phan sings works by Camille Saint-Saëns, Francis Poulenc, Jake Heggie and Franz Schubert – Chamber music by Maurice Ravel and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Sunday, February 23, 2020 (David M. Rice) |  The New World Symphony, which describes itself as America’s Orchestral Academy, is a post-conservatory training program co-founded thirty-two years ago by Michael Tilson Thomas. After three years of working with conductors, visiting soloists and orchestral musicians, many NWS fellows go on to become members in orchestras around the United States and abroad. It is based in the magnificent and acoustically outstanding Frank Gehry-designed New World Center in Miami Beach. 
Alina Cojocaru and friends at Sadler's Wells
Saturday, February 22, 2020 (G. J. Dowler) |  ★★★★☆ There is something sad about Alina Cojocaru, by which I mean her dancing persona is often characterised by an underlying melancholy. She is not a naturally sunny ballerina (although she excelled when at The Royal Ballet in ‘happy’ roles by dint, one surmises, of her exceptional artistry), but is rather more a serious, introspective one, so it came as no surprise that her ‘show’ at the Sadler’s Wells was an intelligent, well thought-out presentation devoid of gratuitous effect or flummery… 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Jakub Hrůša – Gustav Mahler's Resurrection Symphony
Thursday, February 20, 2020 (Peter Reed) |  The Royal Festival Hall was full for Mahler’s blockbuster Resurrection Symphony, one of the late-romantic repertoire’s most fecund talismans. Less predictable, though, was how it would flow with the Philharmonia and its Principal Guest Conductor Jakub Hrůša in charge. The same forces’ Mahler Three, four years ago, had taken a while to come into focus, but then their Fifth , in 2018, made rare alchemy of how the second movement both shadows and intensifies the first. I have not heard Hrůša in the later symphonies, but, beyond any technical facility, he is obviously aware of what makes Mahler tick. So far, Hrůša’s discography is predominantly of his native Czech repertoire, in which he excels, and as Chief Conductor of the Bamberg Symphony (since 2016) it seems unlikely that he will be treadingany time soon the Mahler path taken so thoroughly by his predecessor Jonathan Nott – there is no Mahler in the current Bamberg season. … 
Västerås Sinfonietta at Turner Sims
Tuesday, February 18, 2020 (David Truslove) |  This debut appearance from one of Sweden’s oldest chamber orchestras gave a varied programme of nature-related music in the second of its UK concerts begun at St George’s Bristol and ending at London’s King Place. At Turner Sims, the 35-piece Västerås Sinfonietta, under chief conductor Simon Crawford-Phillips, filled the stage, its proximity bringing wind and brass into closer focus than one might normally hear, yet without loss to overall balance… 
The Academy of St Martin in the Fields at the Kravis Center, West Palm Beach – Joshua Bell conducts Ludwig van Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture and Johannes Brahms’s Fourth Symphony, and plays Niccolò Paganini’s Violin Concerto No.1
Tuesday, February 18, 2020 (David M. Rice) |  Joshua Bell’s brilliant performance of Paganini’s First Violin Concerto was the highlight and centerpiece of this entertaining concert by the Academy of St Martin in the Fields. Bell’s virtuoso mastery was nothing less than spectacular in the opening Allegro, as he rattled off its pyrotechnic succession of blazingly rapid runs and scales, interspersed with double stops, harmonics, trills and pizzicato notes, and capped off by his own cadenza, which if anything topped the technical challenges originally posed by Paganini. In the Adagio, Bell’s violin – the 1713 Huberman Stradivarius – sang out with a remarkably beautiful and powerful tone… 
The Royal Ballet – Jerome Robbins's Dances at a Gathering | Cathy Marston's The Cellist
Monday, February 17, 2020 (G. J. Dowler) |  Dances at a Gathering: ★★★★★
The Cellist: ★☆☆☆☆
Ballet double bills are difficult evenings to get right; directors do not have the luxury of “well, at least I liked the other two” they get with a triple. Both pieces have to be right, and the pairing must work. In yet another example of poor programming, The Royal Ballet juxtaposes an acknowledged masterpiece from one of the twentieth century’s greats alongside a new work from a choreographer who, although well-enough respected, is simply not in the same league, and who is making a main stage work at Covent Garden for the first time. It was not meant to be so… The Cellist’s greatest sin as a ballet is that it is irredeemably dull… 
Berlin State Opera – Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier; new production by André Holler & Xenia Hausner, conducted by Zubin Mehta
Sunday, February 16, 2020 (G. J. Dowler) |  ★★★☆☆ To stage Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier successfully one needs a steady and a judicious eye, and an ability to strike a balance between the often riotous ensembles and the work’s dominant conversation mode. It needs someone who can place the wistful melancholy of the Marschallin alongside the boorish lecherous buffoonery of Ochs without a perceptible gear-change, someone who can make a success of the great set pieces (the Presentation of the Rose, the great Act Three Trio) while giving due care and comic impetus to the caperings of the tavern ‘seduction’ scene. These are attributes that director André Heller, an Austrian artist, author, poet, singer, songwriter and actor (according to his Wikipedia entry) with no experience in opera whatsoever sorely lacks on the evidence of his new production for the Berlin State Opera, such is the sheer ineptitude of his treatment of the stage action.… 
LSO/Simon Rattle – Alban Berg's Lulu Suite and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony
Sunday, February 16, 2020 (Rob Pennock) |  ★★★★★ Just occasionally you go to a concert such as this where you know you have witnessed something quite extraordinary. Sir Simon Rattle opened with Berg’s 1934 Lulu Suite, which is a wonderful example of romantic serialism. … The moment the final chord died away quite rightly members of the audience were on their feet, and within 30 seconds just about everyone else had done the same. So, a great Ninth and a great concert. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Lahav Shani – Sergei Prokofiev's War and Peace and Romeo and Juliet – Kirill Gerstein plays Sergei Rachmaninov's Paganini Rhapsody – Philharmonia Chamber Players play String Quartets by Joseph Haydn and Leoš Janáček
Thursday, February 13, 2020 (Brian Barford) |  As a protégé of Daniel Barenboim and newly appointed chief conductor of both the Rotterdam Philharmonic and the Israel Philharmonic expectations are high for Lahav Shani, and he certainly didn’t disappoint here with the Philharmonia Orchestra. The evening was bookended by Prokofiev. War and Peace may be a fractured and uneven operatic masterpiece, but its overture is compact and cohesive. Shani made the most of the soaring string theme and drew out sonorities from the Philharmonia’s powerfully rounded brass.… 
LSO/Simon Rattle – Beethoven's Christ on the Mount of Olives – Lisa Batiashvili plays Alban Berg's Violin Concerto
Thursday, February 13, 2020 (Richard Whitehouse) |  Whatever the overkill, 2020 does enable a modicum of lesser-known works by Beethoven to gain high-profile performances – not least among them Christ on the Mount of Olives, which here given a repeat hearing from the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle. Of all the pieces written in the months prior to the Eroica Symphony, this oratorio (the composer’s only such designated work), whatever its intrinsic failings, points most clearly in the direction that Beethoven was headed over the ensuing decade. … 
New York Philharmonic – Jaap van Zweden conducts the world premiere of Tania León’s Stride & Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier – Janine Jansen plays Johannes Brahms’s Violin Concerto
Thursday, February 13, 2020 (Lewis M. Smoley) |  This unusually structured program opened with Brahms’s ever-popular Violin Concerto, with the Dutch violinist Janine Jansen. … After intermission the world premiere of a 15-minute composition: Stride by the Cuban-born composer Tania León, jointly commissioned by the NYP and The Oregon Symphony as part of Project 19, under which works were commissioned from 19 women composers to celebrate the centennial of women’s suffrage … The program concluded with a rather brash, sometimes bombastic rendition of Richard Strauss’s Suite from his opera Der Rosenkavalier… 
The Metropolitan Opera – David McVicar’s production of George Frideric Handel’s Agrippina – Joyce DiDonato, Kate Lindsey, Brenda Rae, Iestyn Davies, Matthew Rose; conducted by Harry Bicket
Thursday, February 13, 2020 (David M. Rice) |  ★★★★★ Agrippina was Handel’s first great operatic hit, its intrigue-filled plot about power struggles in ancient Rome so immediately successful with Venetian audiences that 27 performances were quickly scheduled at Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo, where it premiered. Now, just over three centuries later, David McVicar’s production is the opera’s first by The Metropolitan Opera. Its incorporation of present-day dress and modern technological touches makes the characters quite recognizable to today’s audiences, enabling the opera’s biting satire to come through marvelously.… 
English National Opera – Giuseppe Verdi's Luisa Miller, directed by Barbora Horáková
Wednesday, February 12, 2020 (Alexander Hall) |  ★★★★☆ When Schiller wrote his play Kabale und Liebe in 1784, the German-speaking world was still in the throes of the Sturm und Drang movement, itself a reaction to the restraint brought about the Enlightenment. When Verdi came to write his 15th opera, a commission by Teatro San Carlo in Naples, it was less the corrupt politics and class conflicts of the original play that attracted him – it would have been an impossible task getting that past the censors anyway – and much more the conflict between romantic and filial love. In any case, the extremes of emotion and calls for personal freedom in Schiller’s play sat very well with the rising tide of the Risorgimento in the yet-to-be-constituted Italian state. … 
Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch at Sadler's Wells – Bluebeard. While Listening to a Tape Recording of Béla Bartók’s “Duke Bluebeard’s Castle”
Wednesday, February 12, 2020 (G. J. Dowler) |  ★★★☆☆ Since the death of German choreographer Pina Bausch in 2009 no altar in her memory (outside her own company Tanztheater Wuppertal) has been better tended and yearly rituals observed more assiduously than by the Sadler’s Wells Theatre, where Artistic Director Alistair Spalding remains the most misty-eyed of devotees. Hence the breathless scheduling of Bluebeard (let us call it that for brevity’s sake) the moment it came out of musical copyright, the Béla Bartók estate having hitherto taken exception to Bausch’s stopping, starting and repeating of sections of the music. It is a work which has taken on almost mythical status among Bausch believers, partly because it has not been performed for over a quarter of a century, partly because it represents a transitional moment in the choreographer’s output showing her move from the earlier more dance-based approach to her later, freer, more vernacular style. So Bluebeard at the Wells is big news. 
The Bach Choir/David Hill – Johann Sebastian Bach's Mass in B-minor
Tuesday, February 11, 2020 (Kevin Rogers) |  For this, The Bach Choir’s 1050th concert, we heard J.S. Bach’s Mass in B minor, a piece that it has performed on 68 other occasions, not least for the Choir’s inaugural appearance back in 1876: the Mass is this choir’s raison d'être. Walking off from the busy streets and paths of life to hear such a monumental and accessible work such as this proved a great balm.… 
Paul Lewis & Steven Osborne at Wigmore Hall – Piano Music for Four Hands
Tuesday, February 11, 2020 (Alexander Hall) |  Memories of childhood was one discernible thread running through this recital, informed as it was by the late-19th century fashion for piano duets either written for or inspired by children. With Paul Lewis and Steven Osborne in charge, alternating in their roles as primo and secondo, one could almost guarantee a high level of stylish refinement. I do have a minor quibble, however. With the exception of one work by Stravinsky, whose links with Parisian society were admittedly more than transitory, this programme was designed around French composers. … 
Iceland Symphony Orchestra – Yan Pascal Tortelier conducts Anna Thorvaldsdóttir's Aeriality and Sergei Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet – Yeol Eum Son plays Maurice Ravel's Left Hand Concerto
Monday, February 10, 2020 (Ateş Orga) |  Making its first British tour but widely familiar from recordings, videos and a Prom visit in 2014 under Ilan Volkov, the Iceland Symphony Orchestra was established in 1950. A flagship ensemble nearly a hundred players strong, based since 2011 in the spectacular waterside Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavík, it operates as an autonomous public institution under the auspices of the Icelandic Ministry of Education – eye-wateringly, around four-fifths of its primary revenue comes from the Icelandic treasury, the rest from the City of Reykjavík. Used to high-profile collaborations – from Khachaturian, Rostropovich and Ashkenazy in the early years to, more recently, Sokolov, Kissin and Lugansky – its an orchestra with pedigree and class, and on this London showing fielding a notably strong string section, silky warmth and finesse at a premium. … 
LPO/Vladimir Jurowski – Beethoven's First and Alexander Scriabin's Second Symphonies | Péter Eötvös's Snatches of a Conversation
Saturday, February 08, 2020 (Richard Whitehouse) |  This concert by the London Philharmonic saw the start of 2020 Vision: Three Centuries Collide, in which Beethoven’s nine symphonies are juxtaposed with works composed one or two centuries hence. It is easy to forget that the modest formal dimensions of the First Symphony yield any number of tonal and expressive quirks which lack audacity only when compared to the chamber and piano pieces preceding it. Vladimir Jurowski presided over a lithe and agile reading – a little too headlong in the opening Allegro, with the fugal interplay of the Andante deftly pointed if lacking ingratiating wit, but the third movement evincing a buoyancy as made its ‘Menuetto’ heading more than usually inappropriate, then the finale having the right combination of energy and high-jinx prior to an ending of irresistible elan. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra & Chorus/Sakari Oramo – Felix Mendelssohn's Elijah – Elizabeth Watts, Claudia Huckle, Allan Clayton, Johan Reuter, Toby Davies
Friday, February 07, 2020 (Alexander Hall) |  In broadly biblical terms, Old Testament prophets don’t exactly have the best of reputations – hellfire and damnation, an eye for an eye – compared with the consolation and compassion offered by the New Testament. The prophet Elijah the Tishbite, one of the inhabitants of Gilead, is a slightly more nuanced character. Charged with the task of bringing to an end the idolatrous worship of the Canaanite god Baal, he also demonstrates the kind of integrity and forbearance which later led to him becoming the inspiration for the foundation of the religious Order of the Carmelites. … 
Evgeny Kissin plays Ludwig van Beethoven at Barbican Centre – Beethoven 250 – Pathétique, Tempest, and Waldstein Sonatas, and Eroica Variations
Thursday, February 06, 2020 (Kevin Rogers) |  ★★★★★ Evgeny Kissin gave this programme at Wigmore Hall as a charity concert in June 2019 – this recital in Barbican Centre’s Hall was similarly a sold-out affair – and he’d also just presented it in Paris. An expectant audience was here, palpably so, and they were not disappointed. Kissin appears the most private of pianists, at the service of the music, only here seeming to notice the audience firstly when acknowledging its applause for the Pathétique Sonata: he seemed taken aback that there were people ‘out there’, beyond the stage.… 
Michael Keegan-Dolan / Teaċ Daṁsa at Sadler's Wells — MÁM
Wednesday, February 05, 2020 (G. J. Dowler) |  ★★★★★ With Mám, his latest show at the Sadler’s Wells, Michael Keegan Dolan confirms not only his undimmed powers of choreographic and theatrical invention but also that the direction he has taken with his House of Dance (Teaċ Daṁsa) is most definitely the right one. In eighty minutes of music and movement, he presents a multi-layered, deliberately narratively opaque show which is so imbued with essential ‘irishness’ that the smell of peat which pervades the auditorium before its beginning is almost superfluous. 
The Royal Opera – Antony McDonald's production of Gerald Barry's Alice’s Adventures Under Ground
Monday, February 03, 2020 (David Truslove) |  ★★★★★ Gerald Barry’s music can be a heady concoction of pulsing rhythms, heavy-duty wind sonorities and cripplingly difficult vocal lines (not forgetting multiple cultural associations) which can make for a bewildering experience. For some it’s an assault on the senses, an exhausting roller-coaster ride. But Barry’s absurd musical language is perfectly suited to the anarchic world of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground – drawn from an early version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Through the Looking Glass – and its unbroken fifty-minute span at the Royal Opera House rushes past before you can exclaim “Curiouser and curiouser”, one of many well known phrases absent from this ingeniously conceived conflation. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski – Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen – 3/4: Siegfried
Saturday, February 01, 2020 (Peter Reed) |  After the outpourings of love and lyricism in Die Walküre, Wagner’s Ring cycle gets down to some serious, grinding unpleasantness in Siegfried. This jumped out at you in Vladimir Jurowski’s direction of the LPO in this one-off concert staging of the third instalment of their cycle, which started two years ago and ends next year. A toxic, squeezed splash of brass timbre at the start of the Act One Prelude instantly rewired our hearing to the LPO’s masterly handling of Wagner’s web of theme and motif, played with a flair and understanding that saturated the whole score and exposed its workings mercilessly. With such big forces (six harps, Wagner tubas, a phalanx of double-basses ranged along the back of the stage), Jurowski’s conducting style often looked primarily managerial, but it released authority, ear-tingling perceptiveness, abrasive humour, chamber-music delicacy, and, in Act 3, intense tragedy and grandeur. … 
BBC New Generation Artists 20th-Anniversary Celebration at Wigmore Hall – Meta4 and Khatia Buniatishvili play Jouni Kaipainen & César Franck
Saturday, February 01, 2020 (Brian Barford) |  César Franck’s Piano Quintet may be one of the great masterpieces of the nineteenth century French chamber repertoire but it doesn’t crop up that often. So it was good to see it featured in the opening performance of the 20th-Anniversary Celebrations for the BBC Radio Three New Generation Artists Scheme. Khatia Buniatishvili was a member of the scheme from 2009 to 2011 as were the Finnish string quartet Meta4 from 2008 to 2010. … 
English National Opera – Carmen
Saturday, February 01, 2020 (David Truslove) |  ★★★☆☆ Calixto Bieito’s direct and disturbing Carmen is now in its second revival. First shown at The Coliseum in 2012 (and much travelled since its launch thirteen years earlier at the Peralada Festival), this testosterone-fuelled production is set somewhere in Spain in the post Franco era. There’s nothing cosy here or anything to suggest sun-drenched, castanet-playing exotica. Instead, this Carmen inhabits a destructive realm of abuse, crime and sexual infatuation. … 
LSO/Gianandrea Noseda – Symphonies by Prokofiev & Shostakovich – Christian Tetzlaff plays Mozart | LSO Platforms: Guildhall Artist Kathy Chow plays Sonatas by Mozart and Prokofiev
Thursday, January 30, 2020 (Brian Barford) |  Gianandrea Noseda’s concert with the London Symphony Orchestra on Thursday presented an intriguing and well-planned programme that drew a near capacity audience. It was an evening of good humour, pastiche and high spirits that sometimes suggested darker moods. … Beforehand the young Australian pianist Kathy Chow offered a nicely judged introduction to the evening’s programme with sonatas by Mozart (No. 9) and Prokofiev (No.7) played with great freshness and spontaneity. 
New York Philharmonic – Simone Young conducts Benjamin Britten’s Four Sea Interludes and Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations – Alban Gerhardt plays Brett Dean’s Cello Concerto
Thursday, January 30, 2020 (Susan Stempleski) |  This concert marked Simone Young’s first visit to the New York Philharmonic since her April 2019 appearance, when – after not having appeared with the orchestra since her 1998 debut – she stepped in as a last-minute replacement for injured Music Director Jaap van Zweden to conduct Mahler's Sixth Symphony. This entirely different program nestled the New York Premiere of her fellow Australian Brett Dean's abstractly composed Cello Concerto between two works with more conspicuous programmatic content. … 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Karabits – Beethoven's First & Third Symphonies – Stefan Jackiw plays Igor Stravinsky's Violin Concerto
Wednesday, January 29, 2020 (David Truslove) |  If concert venues are going to overdose on Beethoven in this 250th anniversary year, it will be inevitable that some performances will outlast others. Some, like this one may rejuvenate familiar works but only partially illuminate others. There will be gains and losses. At the Lighthouse, Kirill Karabits and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra gave us a blameless Eroica, but breathed new life into the First Symphony, as if removing layers of grime from an old master. One work felt the hand of a light dusting, the other a loving restoration. … 
Igor Levit plays Dmitri Shostakovich's 24 Preludes and Fugues at Barbican Centre
Sunday, January 26, 2020 (Richard Whitehouse) |  During his career, Igor Levit has been at his most impressive when tackling the various pinnacles of the piano repertoire: the variation-sets by J.S. Bach, Beethoven, Frederic Rzewski and, more recently, Ronald Stevenson; the Partitas of Bach and late sonatas of Beethoven; or such compendious collections as the 24 Preludes and Fugues which Shostakovich essayed at the midpoint of the last century, a taking stock on reaching the ‘middle of life’, while surveying the broad extent of his compositional evolution in which the abstract and personal become inextricably fused. … 
Ensemble Productions at London's Coliseum – Ballet Icons Gala
Sunday, January 26, 2020 (G. J. Dowler) |  The likes of a traditional ballet gala are seen rarely on these shores; there are sometimes those by a company to celebrate some anniversary, but the bringing together of various international soloists for a single evening of dance is something that has fallen largely from favour. Ensemble Productions, a Russian promoter, continues to bring its Ballet Icons Gala generally once a year to the London Coliseum since its first such event in 2006; its galas give the opportunity for British balletomanes to see live some of ballet’s current stars from the world over; this year saw several Russian dancers (whom London does see courtesy of the Bolshoi and Mariinsky seasons at Covent Garden), but also some unfamiliar Italian artists, as well as some home-grown performers from national companies. Such events are, by their very nature, a mixed bag, invariably put on with minimum rehearsal and reliant on the dancers performing their tried and tested ‘party piece’. This year’s gala was somewhat different, however, with a fair smattering of contemporary work among the usual ‘warhorse’ pas de deux. … 
The Metropolitan Opera – Edward Gardner conducts Hector Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust – Bryan Hymel, Ildar Abdrazakov, Elīna Garanča & Patrick Carfizzi
Saturday, January 25, 2020 (Susan Stempleski) |  ★★★★☆ In this matinee concert performance, La damnation de Faust returns to the Met stage for the first time since 2009. The company’s decision to present Berlioz’s genre bending re-telling of Goethe’s monumental drama in an unstaged version – the way it has been performed throughout most of its history, and the way it was done in its 1896 Met premiere conducted by Anton Seidl – for this season’s run of four performances was due to unspecified technical issues in reviving Robert Lepage’s ambitious 2008 staging. … 
Miloš at Wigmore Hall – J. S. Bach, Enrique Granados, Manuel de Falla, Heitor Villa-Lobos, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison & Mathias Duplessy
Saturday, January 25, 2020 (Rob Pennock) |  The 36-year-old London-based Montenegrin, Miloš Karadaglić, is the world’s most famous classical guitarist, who has a string of best-selling albums to his name and, as here, plays to a packed auditorium wherever he appears. The markedly aslant way he holds the guitar is very different to the horizontal position favoured by such giants as Julian Bream, John Williams and Andrés Segovia, and the programme he played smoothly integrated various eras and styles. 
Orchestra of Five Senses Music – Giacomo Puccini's Gianni Schicchi at Grey Coat Hospital School
Saturday, January 25, 2020 (Alexander Campbell) |  ★★★★☆ It is September 1st, 1299, in Florence, and Buoso Donati has just breathed his last. Well, a rich man in those days probably wasn’t subject to a post-mortem, but here the audience was provided with a witty, informative and wryly articulated forensic musical dissection of aspects of Puccini’s marvellously melodic and comedic score by conductor Tom Seligman for 30 minutes before a full concert performance of the opera. With examples of musical interest played by small sections of the orchestra we got a reasonably detailed run-through the plot, introduction of the performers in their roles (including Felix Davis’s sparky Gherhardino who thus got to sing his two lines twice), thematic and other musical aspects and jokes to watch or listen out for. With all parties in close proximity, this was a fun immersive informative community experience. … 
The Cleveland Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst at the Adrienne Arsht Center – Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony
Saturday, January 25, 2020 (David M. Rice) |  For the Cleveland Orchestra’s second and concluding program of its annual Miami residency, Music Director Franz Welser-Möst led a rich and brilliant performance of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony that justified devoting the concert to a single work. Mahler divided its five movements into three Parts, with pairs of related movements forming Parts I and III, and the Scherzo – the longest single movement – standing alone as Part II. Welser-Möst’s reading clearly observed the Symphony’s trajectory arc, beginning in funereal darkness and ending with expressions of love and joy. … 
Palm Beach Opera – Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot – Alexandra Loutsion, Stefano La Colla, Leah Crocetto & Evgeny Stavinsky; directed by Keturah Stickann; conducted by David Stern
Friday, January 24, 2020 (David M. Rice) |  ★★★★★ Palm Beach Opera opens its 2020 season with a musically outstanding and visually attractive production of Giacomo Puccini’s last opera, Turandot. A uniformly excellent cast, orchestra and chorus are in fine fettle in this fairy-tale story depicting the transformation of the eponymous Princess from icy bloodthirstiness to submission to the power of love. Chief Conductor David Stern brings out the score’s varied moods, contrasting the chaotic populace with the contemplative reminiscences of the trio of officials, Ping, Pang and Pong, and the pathos of the plight of Timur and Liù.… 
New York Philharmonic – Gustavo Dudamel conducts Franz Schubert’s Fourth Symphony and Gustav Mahler’s The Song of the Earth with Michelle DeYoung & Andrew Staples
Thursday, January 23, 2020 (Lewis M. Smoley) |  Gustavo Dudamel’s latest venture in what is projected to be a complete Mahler symphony cycle was the main attraction of this program: Das Lied von der Erde – Mahler called it a symphony. Joining Dudamel and the New York Philharmonic: mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, who has had much experience performing Mahler’s music, and tenor Andrew Staples, who made his Met debut this season as Andres in Wozzeck—a last-minute substitute for the indisposed Simon O’Neill. … 
The Royal Ballet – John Cranko's Onegin
Saturday, January 18, 2020 (G. J. Dowler) |  ★★★★☆ This revival by The Royal Ballet of John Cranko’s Onegin is most welcome after several years’ absence. This commendably lean telling of Alexander Pushkin’s verse-drama has suited the company well since it was first acquired in 2001, and has provided a potent vehicle for several of the ensemble’s finest dance-actors since Tamara Rojo and Adam Cooper danced Tatiana and Onegin at the first performance. 
The Cleveland Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst at the Adrienne Arsht Center – Sergei Prokofiev’s Second Symphony & Romeo and Juliet Acts Three and Four
Friday, January 17, 2020 (David M. Rice) |  This first of two programs in The Cleveland Orchestra’s annual Miami residency was devoted to the music of Sergei Prokofiev – his Second Symphony and the final two Acts from his Romeo and Juliet ballet. With the orchestra in top form, music director Franz Welser-Möst plumbed the Symphony’s emotional extremes and brought out the narrative qualities in the composer’s portrayal of the Shakespearean drama. … 
English National Ballet at London Coliseum – 70th-Anniversary Gala
Friday, January 17, 2020 (G. J. Dowler) |  ★★★★☆ Happy Birthday English National Ballet! 2020 sees this at-times unstable company celebrate seventy years since its establishment as London’s Festival Ballet, then essentially a backing ensemble for the star dancers Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin. Its history has been rocky, with artistic and financial crises littering its path through the decades, but throughout it has been characterised by a raffish charm, an occasional belt-and-braces approach to getting show on, and the appearance of the greatest dancers of the time, unable to break through The Royal Ballet’s standing policy of ‘No Guests’. Certainly, the company seems in fine form at present, ensconced in its spacious new home in London’s East End and led by Tamara Rojo, star dancer and director of vision and fearsome determination. … 
Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich/Paavo Järvi in Vienna – Béla Bartók's Dance Suite and Pyotr Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony – Martin Fröst plays Aaron Copland's Clarinet Concerto [live webcast]
Thursday, January 16, 2020 (Ateş Orga) |  ★★★★★ Paavo Järvi likes working on large-scale long-term projects with his orchestras, immersing them in different styles and intensities – witness his Beethoven and Brahms symphonies with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Nielsen with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony, and Sibelius with the Orchestre de Paris. His recent appointment as Chief Conductor and Music Director of the prestigious Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich sees a new Tchaikovsky cycle get under way – a more than crowded field we need no reminding yet for all the distinguished competition, from Russian to European to American, one with room still for surprises and unexpected angles. … 
LSO/Simon Rattle & Dorothea Röschmann – Alban Berg's Seven Early Songs, Passacaglia & Three Orchestral Pieces; Beethoven's Seventh Symphony
Thursday, January 16, 2020 (Richard Whitehouse) |  Alban Berg and Beethoven have been part of Sir Simon Rattle's repertoire from the outset, though his often tortuous interpretive grappling with Beethoven has perhaps obscured the relative naturalness with which he has performed the music of Berg over several decades. … Whether juxtaposing these works with Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony was intended as a comment on the evolution of the Austro-German 'tradition', it was at the very least thought-provoking. … this was a finely prepared and often gripping account which warranted the enthusiastic reception it received. 
Philippe Jaroussk sings Franz Schubert with Jérôme Ducros at Wigmore Hall
Thursday, January 16, 2020 (Amanda-Jane Doran) |  Celebrated for his expressive and intelligent interpretations of baroque repertoire, countertenor Philippe Jaroussky has embarked on an unexpected project to perform Franz Schubert’s Lieder. He has strayed into nineteenth-century territory before with his recital partner, pianist Jérôme Ducros, exploring French song. His caressing tone has illuminated the sensual languorousness of the songs of Hahn in particular. How would he fare with Schubert’s tonal and emotional range, his poetic precision and intensity? … 
New York Philharmonic – Gustavo Dudamel conducts Charles Ives’s The Unanswered Question and Antonín Dvořák’s New World Symphony – Sergio Tiempo plays Esteban Benzecry’s Piano Concerto Universos infinitos
Wednesday, January 15, 2020 (Susan Stempleski) |  For the first time in over a decade, Gustavo Dudamel came to conduct the New York Philharmonic, for this well-curated program, the first of two scheduled for his two week-visit to Lincoln Center. The evening’s lineup revealed an obvious ‘New World’ theme, sandwiching the New York premiere of Esteban Benzecry’s blistering Universos infinitos, between two concert hall favorites with North American connections. … 
Ravi Shankar’s Sukanya at Southbank Centre – London Philharmonic Orchestra/David Murphy
Wednesday, January 15, 2020 (Amanda-Jane Doran) |  ★★★★☆ Ravi Shankar’s opera Sukanya was premiered in 2017 to great acclaim. It has been brought back for a reprise at the Royal Festival Hall with reduced forces, as part of the centenary celebrations of Shankar’s life and work. Parimal Sadaphal replaced Shankar’s daughter Anoushka as the key instrumentalist on the sitar alongside four other traditional Indian musicians in this semi-staged version of the opera. … 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Thierry Fischer – Nikolai Tcherepnin's Prelude to La Princess lointaine and Hector Berlioz's Fantastic Symphony – Andrei Korobeinikov plays Sergei Rachmaninov Paganini Rhapsody
Wednesday, January 15, 2020 (David Truslove) |  Stepping in for an indisposed Kees Bakels, Thierry Fischer coaxed playing of passionate commitment from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in a programme of mostly familiar repertoire spiced with one fascinating rarity that collectively formed an evening of tender dreams, scintillation and opium-filled fantasies. … Berlioz’s Fantastic Symphony was not entirely a flawless affair, but all the necessary ingredients were there to convey the composer’s wild imagination. … 
David Lang’s prisoner of the state – BBCSO/BBC Singers/Ilav Volkov at Barbican Centre with Julie Mathevet, Jarrett Ott, Alan Oke, Davóne Tines
Saturday, January 11, 2020 (Amanda-Jane Doran) |  ★★★★☆ David Lang’s ‘prisoner of the state’ is a “meditation” on Beethoven’s Fidelio, part-opera and part-oratorio. The work was premiered in New York last June, and Barbican Centre’s Hall was filled with expectant celebrities from the musical and media world for its first European performance. … 
English National Ballet at London's Coliseum – Le Corsaire
Friday, January 10, 2020 (G. J. Dowler) |  ★★★★★ How welcome the return of English National Ballet’s rollicking Romantic romp Le Corsaire; nothing prim or pastel, just full, bold technicolour dancing in the ultimate get-away-from-it-all, feel-good ballet. Don’t go for finely-wrought, filigree dancing but do go for knock-out pyrotechnics and bold gestures in the context of a barking story. Very loosely based on Lord Byron’s ‘The Corsair’, this ballet is a wonderful survivor of a particular dance style and aesthetic which go for all-out scenic effect, from Bob Ringwood’s ravishing period designs and colours, the rumbustious pick-and-mix score and the bravura dancing. In Le Corsaire, everything is writ large: gestures are forward and emotions intense – desire, despair, revenge and triumph – one can only sit back and let it wash over you like an early Hollywood exotic romp. 
The Royal Opera – Richard Jones's production of Giacomo Puccini's La bohème
Friday, January 10, 2020 (David Truslove) |  ★★★☆☆ Another year, another run of La bohème. Yet this second revival of Richard Jones’s 2017 staging needs a little more emotional clout if it’s to deliver something of lasting impact. Opening night offered reliable performances but nothing lingered in the memory other than a staging of striking contrasts marked by startling austerity and wilful extravagance that brought on a bout of visual indigestion. … 
The Metropolitan Opera – Michael Mayer’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata – Aleksandra Kurzak, Dmytro Popov, Quinn Kelsey; conducted by Karel Mark Chichon
Friday, January 10, 2020 (Susan Stempleski) |  ★★★★☆ In this revival of Michael Mayer’s sumptuous 2018 staging, La traviata – with a mostly new cast and a different conductor – is back at The Met. At the helm of the orchestra for the first time since his 2016 company debut, leading Madama Butterfly, Karel Mark Chichon uses his attentive baton to draw from the ensemble a subtle, shapely and theatrically alert performance of Verdi’s masterful score. … 
New York Philharmonic/Daniel Harding – Richard Strauss’s An Alpine Symphony – Paul Lewis plays Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto
Thursday, January 09, 2020 (Lewis M. Smoley) |  Paul Lewis joined the New York Philharmonic for a performance of Edvard Grieg's ever-popular Piano Concerto under the direction of his compatriot Daniel Harding. Although Lewis’s impressive technique and youthful ardor were apparent throughout the performance, he hyped up the dramatic character of strong passages with over-emphatic attacks and rigid articulation, especially in the principal themes of the outer movements. …  
LSO/Nathalie Stutzmann – Richard Wagner’s Overture and Venusberg Music from Tannhäuser & Johannes Brahms’s First Symphony – Alina Ibragimova plays Felix Mendelssohn’s E-minor Violin Concerto … LSO Platforms: Guildhall Artists
Thursday, January 09, 2020 (Alexander Hall) |  In programming terms, Wagner and Brahms might appear to be ideal stablemates. Full-blooded German Romanticism, you could argue. In fact, in Vienna, the hub of the musical world in the latter part of the 19th century, they were polar opposites, with their respective supporters all daggers drawn. What was it that had the two camps seething with scarcely contained mutual contempt? One of the many ironies of this particular episode is that Wagner, Brahms’s senior by more than twenty years, was actually the leader of the musical avant-garde, whereas the younger composer was regarded as the more conservative figure. Experimentation was pitched against tradition. … 
Mozart 250 – 1770: A Retrospective – The Mozartists/Ian Page at Wigmore Hall
Thursday, January 09, 2020 (Curtis Rogers) |  In 2020 the musical world at large may be celebrating the 250th anniversary of the birth of Beethoven, but ongoing sestercentennial celebration of the entire creative life of Mozart by The Mozartists continues its ineluctable progress by reaching 1770. That was an auspicious year in the 14-year-old’s already prodigious development, as it saw him make his first trip to Italy (begun in December 1769 and lasting until 1771) and premiere his first opera expressly written for that country. … 
The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in Miami – David Finckel & Wu Han play Cello Sonatas by Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn & Britten – Wu Han plays selections from Albéniz’s Suite española
Thursday, January 09, 2020 (David M. Rice) |  The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, after a twenty-year hiatus, resumed its annual residency at the Colony Theatre in Miami Beach with a pair of concerts, beginning aptly with this recital by the Society’s co-artistic directors, David Finckel and Wu Han. Their program spanned some 250 years from the Baroque (Bach) to twentieth-century Modern (Britten), with stops along the way in the Classical (Beethoven) and Romantic (Mendelssohn) periods, with an allusion to the surge of Nationalistic music in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (Albéniz). … 
London Schools Symphony Orchestra/Sian Edwards – Music from the Dark Side
Wednesday, January 08, 2020 (Nick Breckenfield) |  Hot on the heels of the National Youth Orchestra’s invigorating musical exploration of 20th-century revolutionary acts at the weekend, here the capital’s own spectacular array of young musicians – the London Schools Symphony Orchestra – upped the ante in this Faustian bargain of a concert entitled Music from the Dark Side. … 
Midori & Jean-Yves Thibaudet play Beethoven Violin Sonatas at the Kravis Center, West Palm Beach
Sunday, January 05, 2020 (David M. Rice) |  This delightful recital of Beethoven sonatas was among the earliest of the many performances that will commemorate the composer’s birth 250 years ago. Midori and Jean-Yves Thibaudet formed a perfect team for this music, in which the violin and piano are equal partners. … 
National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain at Barbican Hall – Rise Up! – Hanns Eisler's Sing in the Streets, Benjamin Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem, and Dmitri Shostakovich's The Year 1905 Symphony
Sunday, January 05, 2020 (Nick Breckenfield) |  The New Year wouldn’t be new year if the National Youth Orchestra didn’t throw down a gauntlet and challenge every other orchestra to match its enthusiasm and programming skill. Five days into 2020, this time proved no exception as 156 18-and-under year-olds crowded the extended Barbican Hall stage and urged the audience to ‘Rise Up!’ … 
New York Philharmonic – Jeffrey Kahane plays Mozart K482 and conducts Respighi's Trittico Botticelliano and Haydn's Miracle Symphony
Friday, January 03, 2020 (Susan Stempleski) |  This delightful concert opened with Jeffrey Kahane conducting Mozart’s stylish E-flat Concerto, K482, from the keyboard. The NYP musicians responded most expressively, with the wind players – especially the clarinets – displaying extraordinary eloquence in the gentle Andante. Altogether, this was an inspired reading, with the music from both the orchestra and piano unfolding gracefully and seamlessly. The opening Allegro was vigorous and tuneful, the slow middle movement deeply felt, and the finale appropriately buoyant. Kahane’s sensitive but unostentatious pianistic style and the orchestra’s flawless, dynamically-precise accompaniment conveyed all the joy and elegance of Mozart’s subtle and highly differentiated scoring. … 

 

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