All 2019 Concert Reviews

The Royal Opera – Donizetti's Don Pasquale – Bryn Terfel, directed by Damiano Micheletto; conducted by Evelino Pidò
Monday, October 14, 2019 |  Donizetti’s Don Pasquale was an instant success at its premiere … The pivotal moment here is the moment where Norina slaps Don Pasquale about the face in the early stages of the third Act – a shocking juncture that also suspends the musical action. Here you need to feel a sense of outrage for him but simultaneously note that she has misgivings about her actions and some sympathy for him. In Damiano Micheletto’s staging we get this twice. … Musically, the evening is in the deft hands of Evelino Pidò… 
Glyndebourne on Tour 2019 – Donizetti’s L'elisir d'amore – Benedetta Torre, Sehoon Moon, Matthew Durkan; directed by Annabel Arden; conducted by Ben Glassberg
Sunday, October 13, 2019 |  Annabel Arden’s production of L’elisir d’amore returns to Glyndebourne, this time as a vehicle for two emerging singers Benedetta Torre and Sehoon Moon. 
Berliner Philharmoniker – Paavo Järvi conducts Tapiola & Rhenish Symphony – Janine Jansen plays Tchaikovsky [live webcast]
Saturday, October 12, 2019 |  No sooner had Paavo Järvi opened the Tonhalle’s season (October 2-4) than he was in London for unfinished business as part of a fifty-year celebration (October 6) – links below – and now Berlin for three concerts (10-12). ... Opening Sibelius’s final major work, Tapiola, was a made-distinct timpani motto... ... By contrast the first movement of the ‘Rhenish’ Symphony was a joyous outburst... ... It has been an on-off year for Janine Jansen in terms of appearances. Here she radiated positivity and gave a fabulous account of the Tchaikovsky... 
Westminster Philharmonic at St John’s Waterloo – Jonathan Butcher conducts Shostakovich 9 & Brahms 2 – Charlie Lovell-Jones plays Peter Maxwell Davies’s First Violin Concerto
Saturday, October 12, 2019 |  Picture a dark and desolate northern landscape with icy winds blowing in from storm-tossed seas, and your ears can then slowly begin to adjust to the musical landscape of Peter Maxwell Davies’s First Violin Concerto, commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to celebrate its fortieth-anniversary and given its premiere by the dedicatee, Isaac Stern, in 1986, André Previn conducting. ... In this performance given by the Westminster Philharmonic Orchestra under Jonathan Butcher, the soloist was Cardiff-born Charlie Lovell-Jones... 
Boston Symphony Orchestra – Dima Slobodeniouk conducts Pohjola’s Daughter & Nielsen 5 – Truls Mørk plays Elgar’s Cello Concerto
Saturday, October 12, 2019 |  This intriguing program combined Elgar’s contemplative Cello Concerto with two works less often heard in Symphony Hall. The concert opener was Sibelius’s Pohjola’s Daughter, last played by the BSO under Colin Davis in 1980... ... Dima Slobodeniouk led the BSO in an energetic and compelling account. ... Good things continued to happen when Truls Mørk delivered a remarkably poised and poetic account of Elgar’s Cello Concerto... ... Finally an energetic and engrossing account of Carl Nielsen’s momentous Fifth Symphony, last given by the BSO – conducted by Simon Rattle – in 1993.  
Chelsea Opera at Cadogan Hall – Verdi’s Un giorno di regno
Saturday, October 12, 2019 |  Un giorno di regno (King for a day), Verdi’s second opera and his only other comedy other than his glorious swansong Falstaff often has a rather bad press. ... Chelsea Opera, doing what it does best, showed that this work is as good as many of its predecessors and is to be treasured. 
London Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra – Edward Gardner conducts Verdi’s Requiem
Saturday, October 12, 2019 |  This was the second of four LPO concerts this season with its Principal Conductor designate Edward Gardner, who, when he takes over in 2021, joins a very distinguished maestro elite. On the evidence of this Verdi Requiem, the LPO has chosen very well... 
Glyndebourne on Tour 2019 – Verdi’s Rigoletto – Nikoloz Lagvilava, Matteo Lippi, Vuvu Mpofu; directed by Christiane Lutz; conducted by Thomas Blunt
Friday, October 11, 2019 |  Verdi’s Rigoletto is so taut and doom-laden as the anti-hero is reeled in by Monterone’s curse that it’s a wonder that directors find any room for manoeuvre. Glyndebourne’s new production for this year’s Tour is the company’s first staging of this opera, entrusted to the German director Christine Lutz (recently married to Jonas Kaufmann) and her design team in their Glyndebourne debuts. 
Athens Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall – Yiannis Hadjiloizou conducts Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony
Thursday, October 10, 2019 |  Yiannis Hadjiloizou and the Athens Philharmonic made their Carnegie Hall debut with works by himself, his father Michael Hadjiloizou, and Gustav Mahler. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Edward Gardner conducts Bartók’s Dance Suite & Nielsen’s Inextinguishable Symphony – James Ehnes plays William Walton’s Violin Concerto
Wednesday, October 09, 2019 |  Bartók’s Dance Suite dates from 1923 and celebrates the creation of Budapest, combining towns from either side of the Danube. ... Edward Gardner, using his economical and very clear technique, ensured that the LPO achieved stunning accuracy when dealing with complex rhythms. ... When first hearing William Walton’s Violin Concerto with Alan Loveday as soloist and Sir Malcolm Sargent conducting, my reaction was: “this is modern music” and the impression still remains. The three-movement structure includes wide variation of mood and tempo but James Ehnes also explored the more romantic elements. ... Gardner launched Carl Nielsen’s ‘Inextinguishable’ Symphony with speed and force. 
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Tuesday, October 08, 2019 |  In its day Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was a popular musical. It later became a vehicle for Marilyn Monroe when 20th Century Fox cast her in the film version opposite Jane Russell. The show dates from 1949 when it ran for over 700 performances in its Broadway premiere. It is based on comic stories by Anita Loos (1889-1981), the prolific American author of films, plays, novels and memoirs. She wrote Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in 1925. Subtitled “The Illuminating Diary of a Professional Lady”, the book’s genesis was a series of humorous sketches which appeared in Harper’s Bazaar magazine. The sketches were all about love and how to get it but done in a non-prurient way. The eventual book became a bestseller and continued to be so through eighty-five editions and was translated into fourteen languages. 
Moscow Philharmonic @ The Anvil Basingstoke – Yuri Simonov conducts Tchaikovsky & Shostakovich – Natalia Lomeiko plays Prokofiev
Tuesday, October 08, 2019 |  It’s just over two years since the Moscow Philharmonic last played at the Anvil. This was another Russian programme and the playing under Yuri Simonov was totally committed and wonderfully polished. ... Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto was a less-involving affair with Natalia Lomeiko technically accomplished but wanting in variety and communication. 
Wigmore Hall – Handel’s Brockes-Passion – Arcangelo & Jonathan Cohen with Sandrine Piau, Stuart Jackson & Konstantin Krimmel
Tuesday, October 08, 2019 |  The Brockes Passion – a rare instance of Handel (perhaps one should say Händel) setting words in his native German – has received a flurry of interest this year, on the occasion of the 300th-anniversary of its only documented performance during the composer’s lifetime. Its origins are cloaked in some mystery as history fails to record exactly when and why it was written. It was likely composed a few years earlier, but it is known that Handel sent it (from England) to Hamburg for a performance, and that Bach was sufficiently impressed by it to own a copy himself... ... Jonathan Cohen’s account with Arcangelo took a few movements to settle down from its not entirely assured opening, with slightly rough-edged strings, and oboes not quite poised in the triple-time lilt of the first aria for the Daughter of Zion. Thereafter their interpretation became more dramatically responsive to the import of the text... ... The Evangelist is every much as central and demanding a part as that in Bach’s Passions. Stuart Jackson was a fairly cool, non-committed exponent of the part until recounting the sufferings of Jesus on the Cross. 
Elizabeth Watts & Julius Drake @ Wigmore Hall – Berg, Chaminade, Rachmaninov, Strauss
Monday, October 07, 2019 |  

Elizabeth Watts and Julius Drake devised a dreamy Wigmore Hall programme of song to chase away the cold and damp of a London Autumn evening. Watts’s lithe and rich soprano took flight immediately with a group of seven Lieder by Richard Strauss... 

Detroit Symphony Orchestra 2019-20 Season Opener – Michael Francis conducts Oberon Overture & Beethoven 5 – Christina & Michelle Naughton and David Fung play Concertos for Two Pianos (Mozart) and Three (Bach) [live webcast]
Sunday, October 06, 2019 |  The Detroit Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1887, moved into Orchestra Hall 100 years ago. This purpose-built venue was erected in less than five months at the stipulation of Ossip Gabrilowitsch (1878-1936) before he accepted the position of Music Director... ... Michael Francis (formerly a bassist in the LSO and these days chief conductor of Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz and music director of The Florida Orchestra) crafted a fine account of the Overture to Oberon... ... As centrepieces, Concertos for multiple pianos. The Mozart started in stately fashion, but the Naughton sisters (twins) raised the stakes... 
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra – Zubin Mehta conducts Beethoven 7 – Pinchas Zukerman plays Elgar's Violin Concerto [ live webcast]
Saturday, October 05, 2019 |  The Israel Philharmonic and Zubin Mehta are busy-busy at the moment – eight concerts (each a different programme) over seventeen days, culminating on the Twentieth with Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony, with which Mehta steps down as Music Director after four decades; given Mehta first conducted the IPO in 1961 (and a title was bestowed on him in 1969), the relationship is even longer. ... This second programme of the current eight paired Elgar and Beethoven and reunited Pinchas Zukerman with Mehta... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Susanna Mälkki conducts Britten & Sibelius – Sheku Kanneh-Mason plays Elgar’s Cello Concerto
Saturday, October 05, 2019 |  Spare a thought for emerging artists. Expectations can easily be ratcheted up, especially when the individual quickly comes to be associated with one particular work. Sheku Kanneh-Mason, now widely recognised as one of the UK’s leading young musicians, has already taken Elgar’s Cello Concerto on a number of outings. How would he fare in partnership with Susanna Mälkki and the London Philharmonic? 
English National Opera – Jacques Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld
Saturday, October 05, 2019 |  Just how sharp or hard-hitting do you perceive the satire of operetta should be? This is the question that will largely decide how one might react to English National Opera’s new staging of Orpheus in the Underworld... 
English Touring Opera @ Hackney Empire – Kurt Weill’s Der Silbersee/The Silver Lake
Saturday, October 05, 2019 |  Even by English Touring Opera’s standards, this is adventurous – an epic pre-war German work that has rarely seen the light of day since its premiere. Der Silbersee was the last thing Kurt Weill wrote before he and his wife Lotte Lenya fled to Paris, then on to the United States, where he reinvented himself. 
Christian Gerhaher & Gerold Huber @ Wigmore Hall
Friday, October 04, 2019 |  Christian Gerhaher’s facility to suffuse his singing with often revelatory textual insight, particularly in his native German, is acknowledged. He has an unerring ability to draw an audience in, and to create a wonderful sense of the intimate, as here at Wigmore Hall... 
English Touring Opera @ Hackney Empire – Mozart’s Il Seraglio
Friday, October 04, 2019 |  The opulent red and gold interior of Hackney Empire made a perfect setting for the launch of ETO’s production of Mozart’s knockabout Seraglio. Written in 1782 as an escape drama, and set in a sultan’s harem, the opera deals with issues as contemporary as Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments. 
Cleveland Orchestra at Carnegie Hall – Franz Welser-Möst conducts Mahler 5 – Yefim Bronfman plays Jörg Widmann’s Trauermarsch
Friday, October 04, 2019 |  Both of these works address the theme of farewell. Jörg Widmann’s Trauermarsch, a piano concerto in all but the title, was inspired by the ‘funeral march’ that opens Mahler’s Fifth Symphony and was written for Yefim Bronfman. ... Trauermarsch offers a great deal for listeners and performers to appreciate, and Franz Welser-Möst was kept amply busy throughout. 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra at Cadogan Hall – Kirill Karabits conducts Hummel, Liszt & Strauss
Friday, October 04, 2019 |  As Gerard McBurney pointed out in his pre-concert talk, providing essential context of the importance of Weimar in the German consciousness of art over the last few centuries, Liszt – “Kapellmeister Extraordinaire” for twenty-four years in Weimar – was such a prolific composer that works are still being unearthed in archives. While Kirill Karabits has been music director in Weimar he has been on a mission to discover more Liszt and has revived after 160 years the curious melodrama Vor hundert Jahren (A Hundred Years Ago) which Liszt composed for a celebration of the centenary of birth of Friedrich Schiller. 
OAE @ RFH – Masaaki Suzuki conducts Mendelssohn’s Elijah
Thursday, October 03, 2019 |  Masaaki Suzuki joined the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment for a fascinating reading of Mendelssohn’s dramatic Elijah. 
The Royal Ballet – Manon [Sarah Lamb & Vadim Muntagirov]
Thursday, October 03, 2019 |  Another season, another run of Manon at Covent Garden. It shouldn’t feel routine or safe or predictable, but it does, and if the decision to open with Kenneth MacMillan’s ever-popular take on the Abbé Prévost’s eternal tale of the downfall of the irresistible convent girl and her infatuated lover was made for box office reasons, then it is a decision which has blown up in their face, given the empty seats visible on this first night. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra Opening Concert of 2019-20 Season – Sakari Oramo conducts William Alwyn’s Miss Julie
Thursday, October 03, 2019 |  It is no wonder that August Strindberg’s Miss Julie has generated, at last count, four operas – this BBCSO season-launcher by William Alwyn, by Ned Rorem, Philippe Boesmans, and, most recently, Joseph Phibbs – since the 1888 play, which not surprisingly fell foul of the censors, first appeared in Copenhagen. ... It was a bold move on the part of the BBCSO and Sakari Oramo to present this rarely performed British opera by a composer whose considerable output is well-represented by recordings, less so in the concert hall. 
New York Philharmonic – Jaap van Zweden conducts Symphonie fantastique – Augustin Hadelich plays Sibelius
Thursday, October 03, 2019 |  Now in his thirties, German-born violinist, Augustin Hadelich, has reached a level of musical sophistication and technical proficiency that are both extraordinary and impressive. Especially noteworthy is his combination of pinpoint accuracy and a cultured sweetness of tone. These two characteristics worked well for Hadelich in a splendid performance of Sibelius’s masterful Violin Concerto. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Franco Zeffirelli’s production of Puccini’s Turandot – Christine Goerke, Eleonora Buratto, Yusif Eyvazov, James Morris; conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Thursday, October 03, 2019 |  In this fifteenth revival of Franco Zeffirelli’s shimmering staging of Puccini’s final masterpiece, Turandot, Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts his first Puccini opera at the Met and does an unequivocally masterful job of coordinating the orchestral and vocal forces. 
Cleveland Orchestra at Carnegie Hall – Franz Welser-Möst conducts Merry Wives & Rosenkavalier – Beethoven with Yefim Bronfman, Anne-Sophie Mutter & Lynn Harrell
Thursday, October 03, 2019 |  On Carnegie Hall’s 19-20 opening night, launching a season-long Beethoven 250 celebration, Franz Welser-Möst led the Cleveland Orchestra in a genial program with a distinct Viennese flavor. The occasion was dedicated to Jessye Norman, who died earlier this week. 
Gerald Barry’s The Intelligence Park @ Linbury Theatre
Wednesday, October 02, 2019 |  Gerard Barry’s first opera, The Intelligence Park, has taken just shy of thirty years to attain its second staging – the first being at the Almeida Theatre in 1990. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Richard Strauss’s Alpine Symphony – Nicola Benedetti plays Edward Elgar’s Violin Concerto
Wednesday, October 02, 2019 |  Following hot on the heels of Antonio Pappano and the National Youth Orchestra of the USA at this year’s Proms, Vladimir Jurowski led the LPO on a similarly brisk traversal of the Alps in Richard Strauss’s final great tone poem. ... Equally impressive was the reading of Elgar’s Violin Concerto. Nicola Benedetti has only recently taken it up and hers may still be an interpretation in progress but it was a notably passionate performance... 
Academy of Ancient Music – Richard Egarr conducts Dussek’s Mass in G & Beethoven’s complete Egmont music with narration by Stephen Fry
Wednesday, October 02, 2019 |  The Academy of Ancient Music launched its 2019-20 season with a Missa solemnis not heard for two centuries by one of the music world’s more scandalous mavericks. It sounded too good to miss. Jan Ladislav Dussek (1760-1812) wowed audiences throughout Europe as a piano virtuoso... ... Not surprisingly, Beethoven’s music is incidental in a particularly noticeable way, and the nine numbers were linked by a narration that followed Egmont from triumph to the greater glory of his martyrdom. Stephen Fry was marvellous... 
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra – Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts Ruth Gipps’s Second Symphony and Walton’s Troilus & Cressida – Alison Balsom plays Thea Musgrave’s Trumpet Concerto
Wednesday, October 02, 2019 |  Thea Musgrave’s Trumpet Concerto (2019) was premiered at this year’s Cheltenham Festival by Alison Balsom. Readers will recall the clutch of concertante works that Musgrave wrote in the late-1960s and early-1970s... ... Beforehand, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla made a persuasive case for the Second Symphony (1945) by one-time CBSO oboist Ruth Gipps... ... While it has enjoyed several revivals, William Walton’s opera Troilus and Cressida (1954) has never quite recovered from the lukewarm reception as meted out (by public and critics alike) at its premiere. 
Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich – Paavo Järvi’s first concert as Chief Conductor and Music Director – Arvo Pärt’s Wenn Bach Bienen gezüchtet hätte & Sibelius’s Kullervo
Wednesday, October 02, 2019 |  The veteran Tonhalle Orchestra, founded in 1868, isn't one to rest on its laurels. ... With Paavo Järvi taking up the reins as chief conductor, a grounded new chapter is under way. 
English National Opera – Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice – Alice Coote, Sarah Tynan & Soraya Mafi; directed by Wayne McGregor; conducted by Harry Bicket
Tuesday, October 01, 2019 |  First, full marks to ENO for programming. Having chosen the myth of Orpheus as a theme for its new season, the company opens with the earliest of the operas to be presented, Gluck’s seminal Orpheus and Eurydice (1762) which ushered in a reform of the genre in favour of a more direct and simple form of expression. But in the year which also marks the 150th-anniversary of the death of Berlioz, whose own original (in both senses) operas have come under greater scrutiny as a result, it is apt that his version of the work is the one presented. 
Yulianna Avdeeva @ Queen Elizabeth Hall – Chopin, Schumann, Schubert
Tuesday, October 01, 2019 |  This was Yulianna Avdeeva’s fifth London recital since she won the 2010 Chopin Competition. The Russian artist was only the second woman to win it (Argerich was the first, in 1965), and she beat Daniel Trifonov, Lukas Geniusas and Ingolf Wunder, so she keeps good company. Her repertoire, ranging wide over the past nine years, has included rather than showcased Chopin, and that has raised questions about preferences and affinities. 
Ian Bostridge, Steven Isserlis & Olli Mustonen @ Wigmore Hall
Monday, September 30, 2019 |  A re-sculpted programme framed a new piece by Olli Mustonen. The tone was set with seven of Bartók’s For Children miniatures, based on meticulous transcriptions of folk tunes. Mustonen’s percussive attack rang around Wigmore Hall gathering vertiginous speed for the penultimate piece. Steven Isserlis then joined Mustonen for Sibelius’s Malinconia...  
Ballet Preljocaj at Sadler's Wells – La Fresque
Monday, September 30, 2019 |  Ostensibly, La Fresque (The Painting on the Wall) is French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj’s treatment of an ancient Chinese story concerning the traveller Chu’s interactions with a wall-painting of five women – in contemplating the image, he enters it and spends years there only to return to the world of humans and to discover that only seconds have passed. It is a variation on the ‘portal’ narrative in which a human being passes into another dimension where not only time but all aspects of reality are different, and which has always been a magnet for creative artists to flex the muscles of their imagination and to indulge in flights of fantasy that lend themselves in a theatrical context to special effects and striking tableaux. 
Weimar Berlin: The Party’s Over: Philharmonia Orchestra – Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts Busoni’s Two Studies for Doktor Faust, Berg’s Lulu-Suite & Hindemith’s Das Nusch-Nuschi – Christian Tetzlaff plays Weill’s Violin Concerto
Sunday, September 29, 2019 |  The Philharmonia Orchestra’s survey of music in the Weimar period has thrown up a few contradictions in the past week’s trio of concerts, mainly in the style-versus-content area. Apart from Dagmar Manzel’s singing, the Cabaret evening was something of a museum piece of the Berlin club scene for our edification, and the two later concerts, including this one, revolved around two works, both by Alban Berg, that are in the period but not exactly of it. ... Salonen was superb in the Lulu-Suite... ... The concert ended with some more extracts, three Dances from Hindemith’s show Das Nusch-Nuschi... 
Berliner Philharmoniker – Iván Fischer conducts Rautavaara, Debussy & Ravel – Anna Vinnitskaya plays Prokofiev [live webcast]
Saturday, September 28, 2019 |  It should have been Mikko Franck conducting, but he phoned in sick, and the Berliner Philharmoniker secured the services of Iván Fischer for three evenings (this Digital Concert Hall webcast was of the third). ... It was the late Finn’s Apotheosis that opened the evening, the final movement of Symphony 6 (Vincentiana, 1992, itself entangled with Rautavaara’s van Gogh opera). ... Turning to matters French, the second half juxtaposed relatively rare Debussy with ‘everyday’ Ravel. ... As centrepiece Berlin Phil-debutant Anna Vinnitskaya (winner of the 2007 Queen Elisabeth Competition) gave a powerfully communicative account of Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra opening concert of 2019-20 season – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Scriabin Settings & Pathétique Symphony – Julia Fischer plays Britten’s Violin Concerto
Friday, September 27, 2019 |  “Isle of Noises” was the banner under which this concert launched the LPO’s 2019-20 season though ‘Jurowski’s greatest hits’ might have done just as well. ... Vladimir Jurowski’s advocacy of Russian music is well-known but he has probably accompanied more top-flight renditions of Britten’s once unfairly neglected Violin Concerto than any comparable maestro... ... Performing in an off-the-shoulder shimmering number of dark Brunswick green, Julia Fischer took a while to warm up. 
Göteborgs Symfoniker – Santtu-Matias Rouvali conducts Pohjola’s Daughter & Nielsen’s Inextinguishable Symphony – Anu Komsi sings Magnus Lindberg’s Accused [live webcast]
Thursday, September 26, 2019 |  Magnus Lindberg's Accused was premiered by Barbara Hannigan with the LPO and Vladimir Jurowski at the Royal Festival Hall in January 2015. The singer associated with it exclusively since has been Anu Komsi – in November she'll be bringing it to Stockholm, Paris and Berlin conducted by Sakari Oramo. ... In a pre-concert interview Santtu-Matias Rouvali, favouring the longer option, sought to emphasise the underlying emotion, the late-romanticism, of the trilogy, in places demonstrably Berg-like in descent. 
Wigmore Hall – Handel’s Aci, Galatea e Polifemo – laBarocca & Ruben Jais with Roberta Mameli, Sonia Prina & Luigi De Donato
Thursday, September 26, 2019 |  A little over a decade before Handel composed his now-famous English masque Acis and Galatea, he had set the Classical myth in 1708 as a serenata (or extended dramatic cantata) in Italian during his period of study and work there. As a private entertainment for Neapolitan aristocracy it is a small-scale opera in all but name... ... Aci, Galatea e Polifemo – the Italian original giving more prominence to the ungainly figure of the cyclops than the masque – was performed at Wigmore Hall by the three singers and laBarocca with the dramatic verve which might be expected of a staged work... 
Weimar Berlin: Angels and Demons: Philharmonia Orchestra – Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts Hindemith’s Rag Time & Mathis der Maler Symphony and Bach/Schoenberg Chorale Preludes – Christian Tetzlaff plays Berg’s Violin Concerto
Thursday, September 26, 2019 |  It is not so many years ago that the Philharmonia and Esa-Pekka Salonen were playing a significant role in the Southbank Centre’s survey of twentieth-century music, and now, with one more concert to go, the same forces are refining their focus specifically on the Weimar period... ...Much nearer the mark are Schoenberg’s transcriptions of two of Bach’s organ Chorale Preludes, which both fragment and glorify the originals... ... Bach is the end-game of Berg’s Violin Concerto, and the more Christian Tetzlaff and Salonen took “the memory of an angel” to distracted extremes... ... The Symphony Hindemith drew from his opera about the German artist Matthias Grünewald is rarely programmed, but Salonen’s expansive conducting ensured that both music and painting complemented each other... 
New York Philharmonic – Jaap van Zweden conducts Erwartung & Bluebeard’s Castle – Katarina Karnéus, Nina Stemme & Johannes Martin Kränzle; directed by Bengt Gomér
Thursday, September 26, 2019 |  Jaap van Zweden, in his second year as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, continues to present fascinating programs. With three superb singers in productions by Bengt Gomér, contemporaneously composed operas by Arnold Schoenberg and Béla Bartók were coupled. 
Ailish Tynan, Raphael Wallfisch & John York at Wigmore Hall
Wednesday, September 25, 2019 |  The passionate and sophisticated music of Rebecca Clarke formed the core of this thoughtfully assembled Wigmore Hall programme. ... There were more discoveries the songs of two other female composers were highlighted, not least Muriel Herbert’s, many of which were not published in her lifetime in spite of approval from her teacher Charles Villiers Stanford... 
Britten-Shostakovich Festival Orchestra @ Anvil Basingstoke – Jan Latham-Koenig conducts Peter Grimes, Hamlet & 1812 Overture – Jennifer Pike plays Lark Ascending
Tuesday, September 24, 2019 |  This was the penultimate leg of the newly formed Britten-Shostakovich Festival Orchestra’s UK tour. It’s a collaborative ensemble (arising out of the UK-Russia Year of Music 2019) comprising British and Russian musicians currently attending conservatoires in their respective countries. Their Artistic Director Jan Latham-Koenig put together an oddly assembled programme which tipped the musical scales in favour of Shostakovich. It was Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending with Jennifer Pike as the eloquent soloist that left the most favourable impression... 
The Royal Opera – Handel’s Agrippina – Joyce DiDonato, Franco Fagioli, Lucy Crowe, Iestyn Davies; directed by Barrie Kosky; conducted by Maxim Emelyanychev
Monday, September 23, 2019 |  Handel’s Agrippina (1709) constitutes a pivotal moment in the composer’s biography as well as in the history of opera. At the age of twenty-four it was his sixth stage-work, but the first that was a solid success for him, being premiered at a prestigious theatre in Venice during his extended period of study in Italy. That then buoyed his confidence to sustain a career in writing Italian opera in England which lasted three decades. The drama itself looks back to the same period in ancient Roman history already treated by Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea and serves as the prequel in relating the events that put Nero on the throne. No doubt for both Monteverdi’s and Handel’s Venetian audiences these operas served as a satirical comment upon the political intrigues which beset Papal-dominated Rome at that time as well as other Italian states, compared with the rational and virtually incorruptible constitution of The Most Serene Republic, where government couldn’t be prorogued at will. ... Hardly any of that registers in Barrie Kosky’s new production of Agrippina which is over-acted and over-sung, with gratuitous yelps, whimpers, and irritating pauses from the singers for good measure – and they’re the good things going for it. 
Metropolitan Opera’s Opening Night – The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess – Eric Owens & Angel Blue; directed by James Robinson; conducted by David Robertson
Monday, September 23, 2019 |  Metropolitan Opera premieres James Robinson’s lively production of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, and David Robertson sure-handedly brings out the scale of this masterpiece, as well as the many popular tunes and jazz and gospel influences. ... Eric Owens and Angel Blue give terrific performances. 
Philharmonia Orchestra & Esa-Pekka Salonen @ Queen Elizabeth Hall – Weimar Berlin: To the Cabaret!
Monday, September 23, 2019 |  The second, final leg of the Philharmonia Orchestra’s centennial Weimar Berlin series opened with the ninety-minute To the Cabaret! in the atmosphere-resistant Queen Elizabeth Hall. The evening was one of Gerard McBurney’s immersive, educative, multi-media projects, along the lines of his Beyond the Score events. 
Berliner Philharmoniker – Santtu-Matias Rouvali conducts Klami & Sibelius – Alice Sara Ott plays Ravel [live webcast]
Saturday, September 21, 2019 |  Based on these two final movements, it’s a pity that Santtu-Matias Rouvali (on his Berliner Philharmoniker debut, for the third time this week) couldn’t have conducted the whole of Uuno Klami’s Kalevala Suite... ... After just ten minutes of music (further evidence, surely, that we could have had all the Klami), Alice Sara Ott (also BP debut) settled in for an interesting Ravel G-major... ... Rouvali has recorded Sibelius 1 in Gothenburg, an interpretation in progress. In Berlin Wenzel Fuchs intoned the clarinet opening with a degree of mystery... 
John Sturges’s The Great Escape – Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough – Elmer Bernstein’s score played live by BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Peter Bernstein
Saturday, September 21, 2019 |  The Great Escape is a staple of Bank Holiday television and is regularly voted one of the top three films that families like watching together, along with The Sound of Music and It’s a Wonderful Life. Its most-famous components are Elmer Bernstein’s main-title theme, beloved of English footie fans, and the sequence of Steve McQueen jumping his motorbike over barbed-wire fences on the Swiss border. Seeing the movie again after a long period on a big screen with a live orchestra conducted by the composer’s son Peter reminded me that there is a lot more to the film than just those elements. 
Buffalo Philharmonic 2019-20 season opener – JoAnn Falletta conducts Rossini & Dvořák, with Tianwa Yang in Saint-Saëns & William Wolfram playing Liszt
Saturday, September 21, 2019 |  JoAnn Falletta began her twentieth season as music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic with Rossini’s Overture to Semiramide. 
RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra – Leonard Slatkin conducts Kinah & Brahms 4 – Xiayin Wang plays Samuel Barber’s Piano Concerto [live webcast]
Friday, September 20, 2019 |  

Irish Eyes are Smiling on Leonard Slatkin: no sooner does he make his debut with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra (May just gone, link below) than he is invited straight back and he also has an imminent third gig on the Emerald Isle, a Beethoven affair on January 31. ... The centrepiece this time was Samuel Barber’s Piano Concerto... ... Step forward Xiayin Wang. ... Barber was bookended by Brahms. That may not be obvious from the listing, but Slatkin’s Kinah embraces Brahms’s final orchestral work, the Double Concerto (for violin and cello, Opus 102) for reasons both musical and personal. 

New York Philharmonic 2019-20 opener – Jaap van Zweden conducts Philip Glass’s King Lear Overture & Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet – Kelli O’Hara sings Barber's Knoxville
Friday, September 20, 2019 |  For the third time of asking, one of four such concerts, the New York Philharmonic and Jaap van Zweden opened the 2019-20 season, the centerpiece being Knoxville, Samuel Barber’s genial representation of life in the rural American South a century ago, with Kelli O’Hara evocatively singing texts drawn from a James Agee poem. 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony – Emanuel Ax plays Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto [Concert II, September 19]
Thursday, September 19, 2019 |  The magisterial playing of Emanuel Ax in Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto – notoriously fiendish to interpret convincingly and technically challenging – was exemplary in its clarity, sense of line and phrase, dynamic control and astounding variation in touch. ... It was indeed calm before the overtly romantic performance of Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony with waves and swathes of sound engulfing the auditorium. Rattle’s interpretation was only just the right side of indulgent... 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony – Emanuel Ax plays Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto [Concert I, September 18]
Wednesday, September 18, 2019 |  Fortunately, Brahms and his music did not suffer the vilification heaped on Rachmaninov all those years ago. I can recall the young Emanuel Ax performing Concertos in those days almost exclusively in the Royal Festival Hall as all London’s orchestras fought to perform there. It was therefore a great pleasure to welcome back a stalwart of this repertoire to give us his view of the taxing Second Piano Concerto... 
English National Ballet at Sadler's Wells – Akram Khan's Giselle
Wednesday, September 18, 2019 |  There are essentially two sorts of new ballet: the ones you see once and never need or wish to see again, their qualities (if they have any) revealed entirely at first viewing, and the ones which bear, demand even, second and repeated exposure, such are their complexities and rewards. The latter are considerably rarer than the former but include Akram Khan’s Giselle for English National Ballet. It has become, since its creation in 2016, something of a classic. 
The 23 String Orchestra & David Cutts @ Cadogan Hall – debut concert – Elgar, Shostakovich/Barshai, Janáček
Tuesday, September 17, 2019 |  I hope nothing like that happens to the 23 String Orchestra, for the result of the demise of those earlier orchestras has been far less concentration on this music in concert programmes than is warranted – for composers, musicians and – not least – audiences. A new body of players, formed to programme this repertoire, is to be welcomed, underlined by the undoubted musicianship of each member, their corporate artistry (led by Paul Barritt) and of David Cutts’s conducting. 
The Royal Opera – Benoît Jacquot’s production of Massenet’s Werther – Juan Diego Flórez, Isabel Leonard, Jacques Imbrailo, Heather Engebretson; conducted by Edward Gardner
Tuesday, September 17, 2019 |  This is the fourth time round for Benoît Jacquot’s 2004 staging of Massenet’s Werther, the French composer’s version of the 1774 novel by the German Goethe that played a key role in kick-starting the whole Romantic movement. For this revival, Juan Diego Flórez is in charge of the eponymous poet who, hopelessly in love with dutiful, married Charlotte, shoots himself, and ears were primed to hear how this peerless bel canto tenor would expand from Rossini and Donizetti high jinks to Werther’s meatier lyricism. 
Stephen Waarts & Gabriele Carcano at Wigmore Hall – Fauré, Szymanowski, Bartók
Tuesday, September 17, 2019 |  American-Dutch violinist Stephen Waarts and Italian pianist Gabriele Carcano chose for their impressive Wigmore Hall debut a programme drawn across a period of forty years either side of the Great War which consciously forged divergent stylistic paths away from the Austro-Germanic tradition. 
The Royal Opera – Kasper Holten’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni – Erwin Schrott, Roberto Tagliavini, Malin Byström, Myrtò Papatansiu; conducted by Hartmut Haenchen
Monday, September 16, 2019 |  In Kasper Holten’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, the concept rather takes precedence over the opera’s dramatic thrust. Lists of the dissolute one’s victims are projected by video display upon the flat planes of the panelled set, and they recur throughout the performance, along with other abstract illuminated patterns (sometimes illustrating the sung words) as though the producers have only recently discovered such a technique and become fixated with it. 
Iestyn Davies Fortieth-Birthday Concert at Wigmore Hall – Handel – with The English Concert & Trevor Pinnock
Monday, September 16, 2019 |  Forty is regarded as the new twenty these days, and Iestyn Davies chose to mark his new decade with the first recital of his Wigmore Hall residency, here with Trevor Pinnock reunited with his old gang The English Concert. As birthdays go, this was rather a solemn affair, at least with Davies’s choice of Handel... 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts Messiaen’s Éclairs sur l’Au-delà
Sunday, September 15, 2019 |  At the outset of the new concert season, Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra paradoxically turned their minds to final things in Olivier Messiaen’s last completed orchestral work, translated as ‘Illuminations of the Beyond …’ (1988-91). Their robust performance reminded, however, that this is no starry-eyed, cotton-wool-inhabited adumbration of eternity, but a highly intense and colourful vision of the hereafter, rooted in this-World experiences. 
Wigmore Hall’s Beethoven 250 – From An die ferne Geliebte to Mahler’s Adagietto via Janáček’s Intimate Letters and Berg’s Violin Concerto – Appl, Bezuidenhout, Škampa, Widmann
Saturday, September 14, 2019 |  Beethoven’s foundational song-cycle An die ferne Geliebte, his expansive and contemplative paean to love, found Benjamin Appl and Kristian Bezuidenhout launching proceedings. ... Passion conveyed with a wilder complexity followed, with Janáček’s 'Intimate Letters'. From the opening bars this was a reading of dynamic commitment by the Škampa Quartet. 
LSO – Opening Concert of 2019-20 season – Simon Rattle conducts Emily Howard’s Antisphere & William Walton’s First Symphony | Leila Josefowicz plays Colin Matthews’s Violin Concerto
Saturday, September 14, 2019 |  Opening their new season with two contemporary works and one of the twentieth-century’s great masterpieces, the LSO and Sir Simon Rattle hit the ground running with the commission from Emily Howard, Antisphere... ... The gestural aspect of Antisphere came into harder focus in the robust dialogue of Colin Matthews’s Violin Concerto, which had its premiere in Birmingham in 2009, its London debut at the Proms in 2010 (both conducted by Oliver Knussen), and further performances in Europe and the US, all with Leila Josefowicz. ... William Walton’s First Symphony plays to all the LSO’s considerable strengths. 
BBC Philharmonic – Omer Meir Wellber plays & conducts Mozart, Schoenberg & Schumann – Jacob Reuven plays Vivaldi’s Summer on a mandolin [live BBC webcast]
Friday, September 13, 2019 |  More hall of mirrors than comfortable visiting card, this late-afternoon concert – Omer Meir Wellber's home-turf debut as principal conductor of the BBC Philharmonic – took listeners down some radical roads. Schoenberg's Five Orchestral Pieces, in the original 1909 scoring, came over as polished and disciplined if at times cool... ... Mozart's 'little' A-major Piano Concerto – in Wellber's view “a Concerto with a lot of space” – set off like any other day, all smiles and 1782 civilisation, cellos and basses to the right, keyboard (a mild-mannered centrally positioned Steinway) facing into the ensemble. Reduced strings, a Bärenreiter score on the music stand. But – Kuusisto and Kopatchinskaja, Fazil Say, scarcely a hair's breath away – the image was short-lived. An explosion of extremist cadenzas covering the three movements... ... In Vivaldi's ‘Summer’, arranged for mandolin, he drove matters hard, Jacob Reuven, using a big-projection Arik Kerman instrument, coping manfully if not always comfortably... 
Opening of Wigmore Hall 2019-20 season – Benjamin Britten song-cycles: Lullabies, Island, Sonnets, Proverbs – Alder, Baillieu, Clayton, Johnston, Newby
Friday, September 13, 2019 |  As the four voice-types deepened, so did the atmosphere of the Wigmore Hall’s season-opening recital – four of Benjamin Britten’s song-cycles, culminating in the dark seriousness of the William Blake settings. Britten wrote each cycle with specific singers in mind, and they rely on a sequence of mood and contrast rather than narrative, something that the performers here and James Baillieu registered strongly. 
Berliner Philharmoniker – Peter Eötvös conducts Xenakis’s Shaar & Varèse’s Amériques – Isabelle Faust gives the German premiere of Eötvös’s Alhambra [live webcast]
Sunday, September 08, 2019 |  Peter Eötvös not only embraces the new in music, he contributes to it, with distinction. I had the pleasure of reviewing his recent Alhambra, written for Isabelle Faust, when it received its UK premiere at the Proms. ... Interval time; and following it, Iannis Xenakis’s Shaar, an extravaganza for string orchestra... ... Add in the rest of the Philharmoniker (the platform now packed to the gunnels) for my second Amériques in two days. Following Alan Gilbert in Hamburg (link below), Eötvös and the Berliners also served up an aural feast of Edgard Varèse’s American soundscape, this time in its original incarnation, completed in 1921... 
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester – Alan Gilbert conducts the opening concert of the 2019-20 season – Brahms 1, Unsuk Chin Frontispiece, Bernstein Jeremiah, Ives Unanswered Question, Varèse Amériques [ARTE Concert live webcast]
Friday, September 06, 2019 |  It’s not often that Brahms’s First Symphony opens a concert – although there are precedents from Ashkenazy, Maazel and Masur (other conductors too no doubt) – which here signalled Alan Gilbert’s first appearance as Chief Conductor of the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester. ... A Big Question was being asked by Bernstein, yet none more so than by Charles Ives, to be forever Unanswered. ...and then, with the players restored to the stage, Amériques by Edgard Varèse, a Frenchman in America, a wall of sound, a theatre of urban noises (including sirens) contrasted with Impressionistic brushstrokes and cataclysmic eruptions. 
Lucerne Festival 2019 – Bernard Haitink’s Retirement Concert – Vienna Philharmonic performs Bruckner 7 | Emanuel Ax plays Beethoven [NPO Radio 4 live relay]
Friday, September 06, 2019 |  Whether Bernard Haitink will now retire from conducting permanently or merely take a sabbatical, this was his last concert for the foreseeable future, repeating earlier forays into the same repertoire with the same performers over the last couple of weeks. There was no sense of final thoughts, however, in these two masterworks, of which Haitink has been a pre-eminent interpreter for over half-a-century. Rather, utterly authoritative and compelling accounts which yet revealed a lively mind still at play, bringing freshness and illumination to these compositions. ... The Vienna Philharmonic achieved a seamlessly blended timbre, though still encompassing Mozartean clarity in detailing, paving the way for Emanuel Ax’s crisp and deliberate execution of the solo part, its grace complementing the orchestral texture rather than working against it. ... Such timbral luminosity as featured in the Concerto was raised by at least a power of two in this performance of Bruckner’s generally radiant Seventh Symphony. 
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at Sadler's Wells – Lazarus | Revelations | EN | The Call | Juba
Thursday, September 05, 2019 |  ‘A black man in a white man’s world’, the title of one of the songs in Lazarus, a new work for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, just about sums up the company itself, a doughty ensemble which has brought black American dance and dancers to the fore for the past sixty years. 
Salzburg Festival 2019 – Bernard Haitink conducts the Vienna Philharmonic in Bruckner 7 – Emanuel Ax plays Beethoven [ live webcast]
Saturday, August 31, 2019 |  “I won’t say any official goodbyes, but the fact is that I won’t conduct anymore.” The final week of Bernard Haitink's long career, reaching back to the fifties, is upon us. Three concerts with the Vienna Philharmonic. Salzburg, the Proms, Lucerne. Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto, Bruckner's Seventh Symphony... ... Emanuel Ax, replacing Murray Perahia, temporarily teased by arpeggiating the opening chord, treating his entry less as the pondered germ of a work than some Golden Age 'prelude' sounding-out the instrument... 
Riga Jūrmala Music Festival – Zubin Mehta conducts Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique with the Israel Philharmonic [ live webcast]
Sunday, August 25, 2019 |  Jūrmala is a resort to the west of Riga, Latvia’s capital. From the Riga Jūrmala Music Festival, Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic – currently touring the starry summer shindigs (such as Lucerne and Salzburg) – presented one work (at least that’s all that was broadcast), Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique. 
CBSO – Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts Mother Goose, Firebird, and Mahler 4
Sunday, August 25, 2019 |  An ‘additional’ concert by the CBSO with music director Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, following their Proms appearance three days ago and before their brief European tour next week, during which the three pieces heard here will feature. ... After the interval, Mahler’s Fourth Symphony (1901) continued this mood of sophisticated make-believe. Its opening movement had no lack of ingratiation or suavity, but MGT was keen to emphasise those more ominous aspects which come to the fore in a development of visceral immediacy so that the equanimity of what followed could not outface. 
Presteigne Festival of Music and the Arts – Mathilde Milwidsky, Sarah-Jane Bradley & Alice Neary
Saturday, August 24, 2019 |  Situated twenty minutes or so from Presteigne, in the fold of gently rising hills, is the church of St Mary Magdalene, Bleddfa, which has served a tiny community for 700 years and is blessed with a near-perfect acoustic. 
Presteigne Festival of Music and the Arts – Albion Quartet with Rozenn Le Trionnaire – Dvořák American, Frances-Hoad Invisible, Walton A-minor
Saturday, August 24, 2019 |  The Albion Quartet’s evening appearance at the Presteigne Festival was notable for scrupulous preparation and subtlety of execution. ... American nostalgia shifted to something more ambiguous in the shape of Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s impressive clarinet quintet, Tales of the Invisible (the title after Gazmend Kapllani). The work’s stimulus came from Nicholas Murray’s meditative travel book, Crossings... 
Berliner Philharmoniker – Opening of 2019-20 season – Kirill Petrenko conducts Berg’s Lulu-Suite & Beethoven’s Choral Symphony [live webcast]
Friday, August 23, 2019 |  The Berliners are back: the Berliner Philharmoniker 2019-20 season starts here. Kirill Petrenko is now Chief Conductor having been designated as such for a while. For his first concert in the role he programmed Berg’s femme fatale opera (in which Lulu meets Jack the Ripper) coupled with Beethoven’s Schiller-inspired celebration of brotherhood. 
Presteigne Festival of Music and the Arts – George Vass conducts Adrian Williams, Britten, Copland and Mathias
Friday, August 23, 2019 |  Now in its thirty-seventh year, the Presteigne Festival continues to attract artistic talent and imaginatively conceived programmes devised by George Vass – to once more bring a cultural shot in the arm to this unassuming Welsh border town. 
London Bel Canto Festival – Bellini’s Beatrice di Tenda
Thursday, August 22, 2019 |  Despite showcase scenes for soprano and bass, Bellini’s Beatrice di Tenda remains something of a rarity, although there are recordings by Sutherland and Gruberová. ... This first of two performances was very assured indeed, largely owing to Simone Victor as the eponymous heroine. She has a beautiful silvery voice, perfectly placed and ideally toned for the role... 
Edinburgh International Festival 2019 – Doric String Quartet & Brett Dean at Queen’s Hall – Haydn’s Joke, Dean’s Hidden Agendas, Brahms’s G-major Quintet
Tuesday, August 20, 2019 |  Visiting Edinburgh, the Doric String Quartet opened with a smile, the listener’s reaction to Haydn’s false ending. ... Brett Dean’s Third String Quartet, just a few weeks old in terms of its Australian world-premiere (by the Doric) is a politics-inspired score, opening aggressively and at pace, a surge of reaction to politician personalities and, not least, their use of Twitter... 
New Adventures at Sadler's Wells – Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet
Wednesday, August 14, 2019 |  The Matthew Bourne machine rolls on with a new production filling the Sadler’s Wells Theatre every night for most of August. This time, Sir Matthew has turned his attention to Romeo and Juliet, that staple of the ballet world, but given it a particular slant – his cast is purposefully youthful, his own company members joined by very young trainee dancers (as young as 16) to create a tale of adolescent desire and anger. It is an approach which works for the most part, bringing an undeniable vitality to the stage, but which also means that subtleties and characterisation remain largely unexplored – this is broad brush-stroke dance-making. 
Edinburgh International Festival 2019 – Meta4 at Queen’s Hall – Fanny Mendelssohn, Kaija Saariaho, Robert Schumann
Tuesday, August 13, 2019 |  Fanny Mendelssohn (sister of Felix, and sadly as short-lived as he) wrote her sole String Quartet as a married woman (a Hensel). The opening movement is soulful, inwardly expressive, beautifully played by Meta4, the group going on to show precise teamwork in the scampering second movement... 
Edinburgh International Festival 2019 – Maxim Emelyanychev & SCO Friends at Queen’s Hall – Schumann, Brahms, Dohnányi
Monday, August 12, 2019 |  In charge was the newly appointed Russian conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Maxim Emelyanychev, born in 1988, a former student of Rozhdestvensky in Moscow. Trained as a pianist and harpsichordist, he's an efficient player without, on present evidence, going for much individuality. ... Ernö Dohnányi's Sextet, completed in 1935, ranges far, the skilled craftsmanship resolutely old world in reference. Brahms lurks in the wings (the Clarinet Trio in the third movement), and there's plenty of spring and giocoso spirit in the Finale... 
Edinburgh International Festival 2019 – Llŷr Williams at Queen’s Hall – Grieg, Liszt, Wagner
Friday, August 09, 2019 |  Nine of Grieg’s numerous Lyric Pieces graced the first half of Llŷr Williams’s Edinburgh Festival recital, perfect morning listening, especially when played with such affection, sensitivity and, when required, technical wizardry... ... As centrepiece, Williams played an original Wagner piece for piano, a single-movement Sonata for the poet and author Mathilde Wesendonck... 
Fulham Opera @ Greenwood Theatre – Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg – directed by Paul Higgins; conducted by Ben Woodward
Friday, August 09, 2019 |  Fulham Opera, formed in 2011, is a relative newcomer to the London amateur-professional fringe. Under its artistic director Ben Woodward, the company already has a Ring, the Dutchman, Puccini and Verdi under its belt, and its latest, equally ambitious project is this Meistersinger, performed at the modern Greenwood Theatre near London Bridge station, not the usual base at St John’s Church, Fulham, with its smaller capacity, wallowy acoustic and awkward sightlines. 
Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart – Louis Langrée conducts Haydn, Schnittke & the Haffner Symphony – Steven Osborne plays Shostakovich
Friday, August 09, 2019 |  Next Steven Osborne delivered an articulate and electrifying rendition of Shostakovich’s Second Piano Concerto, a piece written as a nineteenth-birthday present for the composer’s son, Maxim. The rollicking outer movements bristled with wit and rhythmic vitality, and with wonderfully supportive accompaniment from Louis Langrée and the MMFO... 
Edinburgh International Festival 2019 – Michael Volle & Helmut Deutsch at Queen’s Hall – Schiller/Schubert | Wunderhorn | Rückert/Strauss & Mahler
Thursday, August 08, 2019 |  You know you are in the company of great artistry when within a second you are drawn completely into music that you don’t know – such was the case when Michael Volle and Helmut Deutsch launched their Edinburgh Festival morning recital with Schubert’s Schiller-inspired twenty-seven verse Der Taucher... 
Tȇte à Tȇte Opera Festival 2019 – For Peace and Country by Isabella Gellis
Thursday, August 08, 2019 |  In summer, with the country-house operas either over or coming to an end, the Grimeborn and Tȇte à Tȇte festivals, in London, rush in to fill the vacuum with short runs (Grimeborn) and one-offs (Tȇte à Tȇte), with fairly basic staging and a fringy feel geared to accessibility for what is deemed a ‘difficult’, exclusive entertainment. ... Isabella Gellis’s half-hour For Peace and Country is the result of her discovery of a long-forgotten video her sister made as a child of her production of the battle between the king and queen (two stuffed toy pugs) and the marauding Elephantonia... 
Tȇte à Tȇte Opera Festival 2019 – Her Face was of Flowers by Elfyn Jones
Thursday, August 08, 2019 |  Elfyn Jones is a Welsh composer and soundscape artist and he has used a story from the Mabinogion, the compendium of ancient Welsh myth and magic, for Her Face was of Flowers, a three-hander relating the sad tale of Blodeuwedd, unhappily married to Lleu, and her mystical attraction to the stranger Gronw, a story similar to Siegmund’s and Sieglinde’s, but without the incest. 
Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2019 – Robert Carsen’s production of Handel’s Rinaldo – Jakub Józef Orliński, Kristina Mkhitaryan, Giulia Semenzato, Tim Mead; conducted by Maxim Emelyanychev
Thursday, August 08, 2019 |  Robert Carsen's production of Handel's first London opera, Rinaldo (1711) – revived here for the second time by Glyndebourne – has already acquired a certain renown, even notoriety, for its re-imaging of a fictional mediaeval Christian knight's crusade as a schoolboy's dream of heroic adventures against various fantastical and improbable enemies in the form of his disguised masters and contemporaries. ... This revival has taken on an apparently additional alluring dimension in that, as some media excitably reported, the break-dancing countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński stepped up to assume the title role after Elizabeth DeShong dropped out. ... Maxim Emelyanychev sustains a fairly sober, but never staid, account, the Orchestra of the Age Enlightenment largely avoiding bold Affekt in the arias or excessive contrast... 
Edinburgh International Festival 2019 – Cuarteto Casals at Queen’s Hall – Haydn Bird, Bartók 3, Beethoven F-major Razumovsky
Tuesday, August 06, 2019 |  An attractive 11 a.m.-starting programme on paper, and even more so in the listening, complemented by Radio 3 presenter Donald Macleod being so dignified with his words... ... ...Cuarteto Casals made a wonderful job of Haydn’s ‘Bird’... ... Following the interval (which for me was twenty minutes of silence, further music not wanted) was the First of Beethoven’s ambassadorial-named ‘Razumovsky’ Quartets, expansive enough to be the combined length of the preceding Haydn and Bartók... 
Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart – Louis Langrée conducts Prague Symphony & Dances of Galánta – Joshua Bell plays Dvořák's Violin Concerto
Tuesday, August 06, 2019 |  This MMFO program, a gem of imagination and sequence, presented a Central European kaleidoscope, offering a glittering combination of urban refinement and rural tradition representing three nationalities within the Austro-Hungarian Empire. 
Edinburgh International Festival 2019 – Steven Osborne at Queen’s Hall – Schubert & Messiaen
Monday, August 05, 2019 |  This mid-morning recital was to have seen Beatrice Rana play Chopin, Ravel and Stravinsky. Faced with her unfortunate indisposition at less than twenty-four hours notice, Steven Osborne stepped into the breach, opting, however, for a radically different programme, less virtuosic than spiritual, substituting Schubert's final Piano Sonata (1828) and five of Messiaen's Vingt Regards sur l'enfant-Jésus... 
Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart – Takács Quartet & Jeremy Denk –Mozart, Beethoven, Dohnányi
Monday, August 05, 2019 |  Excellent performances by the Takács Quartet of Mozart and Beethoven; and, with Jeremy Denk, a delightful romp through Ernö Dohnányi’s Opus 1. 
Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart – Budapest Festival Orchestra – Iván Fischer conducts Haydn & Mozart – Jeanine De Bique sings Handel
Sunday, August 04, 2019 |  A glowing account of Haydn’s exuberant and alluring Symphony 88 opened. With Iván Fischer in complete control the playing was precise, nuanced and perfectly balanced... ... The centerpiece was three Handel arias – each exhibiting a different mood and aspect of the composer’s style – sung by Jeanine De Bique. 
Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart – Gianandrea Noseda conducts Schubert – Pierre-Laurent Aimard plays Beethoven
Friday, August 02, 2019 |  Pierre-Laurent Aimard opened with an exceptionally well-crafted and -performed recital of about twenty numbers from Schubert’s more than three-hundred dances. ... The main event began with a spontaneous, crisply articulated and masterful rendition of Beethoven’s G-major Piano Concerto. Aimard opened the expansive first movement with tenderness, and with Gianandrea Noseda and the MMFO providing a matching accompaniment... ... The echoes of Beethoven were apparent in a magisterial account of Schubert’s ‘Great C-major’ Symphony... 
Grimeborn – Das Rheingold
Wednesday, July 31, 2019 |  This production of Das Rheingold is Grimeborn’s first venture into Wagner, and it is the biggest thing this ever-adventurous festival has crammed into the larger of the Arcola’s studios. The preliminary evening to the Ring Cycle is performed in the reduced version (of score, cast and orchestra) devised by Jonathan Dove in the 1990s... 
Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart – Louis Langrée conducts Don Giovanni Overture & Brahms 3 – Martin Helmchen plays K466
Tuesday, July 30, 2019 |  Since his 2002 appointment as Music Director of the Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, Louis Langrée has worked closely with Artistic Director Jane Moss. They have brought fresh thinking and much-needed vigor to this series. This fifty-third season Langrée continues his four-summer exploration of Brahms’s Symphonies along with imaginative inter-connected programming. ... Then Martin Helmchen played K466. 
Longborough Festival Opera 2019 – Cavalli’s La Calisto – directed by Mathilde Lopez; conducted by Lesley Anne Sammons
Monday, July 29, 2019 |  Of nearly thirty surviving operas by Cavalli, La Calisto (1651) remains, so far, about the only one to have secured a regular place in the repertoire, notwithstanding sporadic outings for Giasone and Hypermestra. Mathilde Lopez’s Longborough production ingeniously demonstrates that this bawdy re-telling of a Classical myth is readily adaptable to the modern age, as the narrative of Jupiter’s seduction of the nymph Calisto (who has vowed to become a virgin follower of the hunter-goddess Diana) is transplanted to a contemporary setting in what appears to be a seedy private club. 
Grimeborn – Violetta
Monday, July 29, 2019 |  Grimeborn Opera launches its summer season with Alison Thorman’s Violetta, her reduction of Verdi’s La traviata, which also marked Opera Allegra’s debut at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe. It runs for ninety minutes straight through, and gives the two leads the chance to showcase their talents in familiar numbers. 
Chiaroscuro Quartet @ Wigmore Hall – Beethoven C-minor 18/4 & Schubert Death and the Maiden D810 [live webcast]
Sunday, July 28, 2019 |  Playing to a rapt full house, this final concert of the current Wigmore season, a morning affair, proved something of a gold-plated experience. Unsurprisingly, given the four pedigree European players making up the always welcome Chiaroscuro Quartet, getting on now for fifteen years together. 
West Green House Opera – Rossini’s La Cenerentola – directed by Victoria Newlyn; conducted by Matthew Kofi Waldren
Saturday, July 27, 2019 |  Rather than focus so much on the physical, personal transformation of Cinderella (Angelina) from the scruffy servant girl (as she is treated) in Don Magnifico’s household, to princess, via her mysterious appearance, incognito, at the ball, it is the contrast effected by her rags to riches story which remains the abiding idea of Victoria Newlyn’s production of Rossini’s opera. 
West Green House Opera – Rossini’s L’Inganno Felice – directed by Mark Burns; conducted by Oliver Gooch
Saturday, July 27, 2019 |  Different summer opera festivals tend to ring the changes imaginatively from each other in terms of repertoire, according to the resources at hand. With its delightful and intimate gardens, West Green has been able to make a worthwhile foray into smaller-scale one-Act stage-works, alongside the main couple of productions offered annually in its larger auditorium. ... Complementing Rossini’s La Cenerentola this year is his earlier farsa L’Inganno Felice... 
Verbier Festival 2019 – Sergei Redkin plays Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev & Rachmaninov [live Medici webcast]
Friday, July 26, 2019 |  St Petersburg rather than Moscow trained, the Siberian pianist and composer Sergey Redkin was joint-bronze medallist at the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition. A studious, bespectacled young man, given to neither emoting nor posturing, he's an artist of refined finish, inventive resource, and story-telling imagination. 
Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart | Andrew Manze, Pekka Kuusisto & Knut Erik Sundquist | Romanian Folk Dances, The Four Seasons, Music from Finland & Norway
Friday, July 26, 2019 |  In his opening remarks, Andrew Manze said this concert was going to be unusual. In fact it was totally original, presenting two familiar works in an unconventional framework. ... Pekka Kuusisto and Knut Erik Sundquist seamlessly interspersed folk-inspired improvisations between each number... ... As varied and enjoyable as this was, The Four Seasons was even more remarkable. Manze’s vivacious conducting and Kuusisto’s affectionate/faultless playing were spectacularly effective... 
Mark Padmore & Paul Lewis at Wigmore Hall – Rückert-Lieder & Dichterliebe
Wednesday, July 24, 2019 |  The partnership of Mark Padmore and Paul Lewis is guaranteed to offer fresh perspectives on Lieder repertoire and this Wigmore Hall recital put the focus on the poetry of Heinrich Heine, set so differently by Brahms and Schumann. 
Sarah Connolly & Malcolm Martineau at Wigmore Hall
Tuesday, July 23, 2019 |  There are song recitals and then there are great song recitals. Sarah Connolly’s final programme in her Wigmore Hall residency, with Malcolm Martineau, exploded into life with a selection of Brahms Lieder exposing the most intimate and humane aspects of the composer’s musical personality. 
Welsh National Opera at the Royal Opera House – Prokofiev’s War and Peace; directed by David Pountney; conducted by Tomáš Hanus
Tuesday, July 23, 2019 |  What is the difference between Russia and the (for-now) United Kingdom? Not everyone in the UK has read Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and Russians would have no difficulty in filling in the gaping chasms as the novel morphs into Prokofiev’s opera. David Pountney’s production for Welsh National Opera was first seen in Cardiff in September last year, and this massive, four-hour show touched down for its final two performances in London. 
Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart – Beethoven – Eroica Symphony/Andrew Manze & Violin Concerto/Vilde Frang
Tuesday, July 23, 2019 |  This first of four Mostly Mozart concerts conducted by Andrew Manze showcased two of Beethoven’s masterworks, opening with an uncommonly gentle reading of the Violin Concerto. Following a superbly rendered orchestral introduction, Vilde Frang made a radiant entry. ... With his highly energetic and totally committed conducting, Manze then delivered a gracefully lyrical account of the ‘Eroica’... 
Opera Holland Park double-bill – Il segreto di Susanna & Iolanta
Monday, July 22, 2019 |  For its final offering this summer, Opera Holland Park is signing off in style with a slick staging of Wolf-Ferrari’s pro-smoking Susanna’s Secret, capped by a blistering account of Tchaikovsky’s ultimate stage-work, Iolanta. 
The Royal Opera – Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance
Sunday, July 21, 2019 |  This annual showcase for the singers, musicians and directors on the Jette Parker Young Artists scheme is always fascinating. One can observe these young performers developing their skills and huge potential as they gain experience and mentoring, whilst having tantalising glimpses as to paths where their careers may possibly lead them. 
Opera Holland Park – Cilea’s L’arlesiana – Samuel Sakker, Yvonne Howard, Keel Watson; directed by Oliver Platt; conducted by Dane Lam
Saturday, July 20, 2019 |  Opera Holland Park continues to venture where most summer companies fear to tread – this season's novelty being L'arlesiana, the third (and second most popular) opera by Francesco Cilea whose 1897 premiere confirmed him as a composer second to few of his generation. 
Marc Almond & Immodesty Blaize @ Eventim Apollo Hammersmith
Saturday, July 20, 2019 |  A lurex and animal-print-clad audience filed into the art-deco glory of the Eventim Apollo. Marc Almond glided onto the stage in a black Nehru suit. He cheerfully welcomed us to a "night of glamour under the flyover", a Talk of the Town show... 
Bampton Classical Opera – Storace’s Gli sposi malcontenti/Bride & Gloom
Friday, July 19, 2019 |  On the evidence of Gli sposi malcontenti (1785), Mozart had a faithful disciple and imitator in Stephen Storace. That is not intended as a slighting or back-handed comment, but rather recognition of the younger composer's achievement. It pre-dates The Marriage of Figaro by a year, and is already a fully-fledged opera buffa, with all the exuberance and dramatic flexibility that entails, paving the way for Mozart's masterworks. Storace's first opera – commissioned by Emperor Joseph II for Vienna's Burgtheater – anticipates Figaro in several respects, particularly in Act Two's escapade around the sofa when Artidoro has to hide from Rosmondo, as Cherubino has to do the same to eschew the irate Count; and also in the Finale where various subterfuges play out in the dark, with characters in disguise, to comic confusion. Indeed it seems likely that the librettist had read Beaumarchais's Figaro play. 
Werner Güra, Anke Vondung & Christoph Berner @ Wigmore Hall – Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook
Thursday, July 18, 2019 |  One of the great joys of the forty-six miniatures that comprise Hugo Wolf’s chameleon Italian Songbook is the huge variety of interpretations that each number can support. This Wigmore Hall recital was a most engaging presentation, largely devoid of grand theatricality or an overarching concept, opting for a relaxed sequence yet providing a satisfying grouping that allowed reactive interplay between the trio of artists. 
Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2019 – Barbe & Doucet’s production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte – David Portillo, Sofia Fomina, Brindley Sherratt; conducted by Ryan Wigglesworth
Thursday, July 18, 2019 |  This new production of Die Zauberflöte is extravagantly designed and directed by André Barbe & Renaud Doucet, making their Glyndebourne debut. ... I felt swamped by the over-the-top pantomime/television-inspired concept (MasterChef meets Downton Abbey) which trivialises the creative genius of Mozart and Schikaneder, the narratives on morals, misogyny and power (amongst others) submerged by a constant need to claim attention for clever puppetry that periodically arrests the eye. ... The Grand cru of these performances is Brindley Sherratt as a cavernous Sarastro, a voice of luxurious depth, ‘O Isis und Osiris’ saturated with authority and benevolence. 
Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart – Die Zauberflöte @ David H. Koch Theater; Komische Oper Berlin production/Concept by Andrade, Barritt & Kosky; conducted by Louis Langrée
Wednesday, July 17, 2019 |  This Mostly Mozart performance marked the New York premiere of this highly arresting and well-traveled production of The Magic Flute. Premiered as part of Komische Oper Berlin’s 2012-13 season, it’s a collaboration between Barrie Kosky and the UK theater troupe 1927. Mozart and Emanuel Schikaneder envisaged Die Zauberflöte as a theatrical extravaganza full of extraordinary stage effects, and that is precisely what Kosky, Suzanne Andrade and Paul Barritt deliver. 
Elisabeth Leonskaja at Wigmore Hall – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Philip Herschkowitz, Alban Berg
Tuesday, July 16, 2019 |  It is only in the past couple of years that Elisabeth Leonskaja has made Mozart prominent in her recitals, and apart from a recording with her friend and mentor Sviatoslav Richter of Sonatas arranged for two pianos, Mozart does not figure in her discography. ... You wonder why this seventy-three-year-old Russian-Austrian keyboard aristocrat, with a hotline via Richter to a noble virtuosity reaching back to the nineteenth-century, should take on the Classical style at its most limpid and most cruelly exposed at this stage of her career and then share it with a masterpiece by Alban Berg and a serial creation by Philip Herschkowitz. 
Blackheath Halls Opera – Offenbach’s La belle Hélène
Tuesday, July 16, 2019 |  Under a Hellenic sun, with indoor temperatures apt for the subject matter (the recent refurbishment of Blackheath Halls didn’t go so far as to install air-conditioning), Blackheath Opera returns in two senses with this new production of Offenbach’s La belle Hélène in honour of the composer’s 200th-anniversary. It was a return to the venue after last year’s sojourn in Deptford; and a return to classical mythology, turning the clock back a generation from last year’s subject, Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. From the aftermath of the Trojan War, here we got back to the origins of the War, albeit seen through the humorously skewed vision of Meillac & Halévy but also Jeremy Sams. 
Munich Philharmonic & Valery Gergiev @ the Odeonplatz – Beethoven – Fifth Symphony & Coriolan | Daniil Trifonov plays the Emperor Concerto [live webcast]
Sunday, July 14, 2019 |  The Munich Philharmonic's annual open-air summer concert – this year an affair in three flats: C-minor, E-flat – got the crowd going with Beethoven at the height of the Napoleonic Wars. ... Some in this large Munich audience will no doubt have been chancing their first taste of Beethoven. So what did they get? A class orchestra at largely full throttle, cellos and double-basses at left back, Celibidache's characterful former concertmaster, Lorenz Nasturica-Herschcowici, leading. Daniil Trifonov, bearded pianist of the hour. Valery Gergiev, generalissimo without baton... ... Following a broad, tightly controlled Coriolan – the orchestra full-throated and eloquent, an epic poem unfolded in solemn tragedy – Trifonov strode on, ever so slightly mischievous in manner, to tackle the 'Emperor'. 
Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood – Andris Nelsons conducts Verdi’s Requiem
Saturday, July 13, 2019 |  Andris Nelsons began this often-fiery Boston Symphony Verdi Requiem by caressing the Tanglewood Festival Chorus’s quietly enunciated lines in ‘Requiem aeternam’ and the ensuing ‘Te decet hymnus’, only taking up his baton for the ‘Dies irae’, bass drum pounding. 
Buxton International Festival 2019 – Caldara’s Lucio Papirio Dittatore – Robert Murray, Rowan Pierce, Owen Willetts; directed by Mark Burns; conducted by Adrian Chandler
Saturday, July 13, 2019 |  Despite holding several prominent positions in Italy and Spain before ending up at the Habsburg Court in Vienna, and writing a number of operas which were often the first to set many important librettos by Apostolo Zeno and Pietro Metastasio before countless other composers turned to them (La clemenza di Tito was one such), Antonio Caldara (1670-1736) has remained very little known. Some of his vast output has been recorded, but the Buxton International Festival continues to fulfil its mission to unearth rare repertoire and provides a welcome opportunity in its fortieth-anniversary year to encounter one of his many operas in the capable hands of Adrian Chandler and La Serenissima. 
Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood – Andris Nelsons conducts Copland – Jan Lisiecki plays Grieg
Friday, July 12, 2019 |  This Boston Symphony at Tanglewood concert began with Andris Nelsons leading an atmospheric rendition of Aaron Copland’s Quiet City... ... Jan Lisiecki then gave Grieg’s Piano Concerto a reading capturing the exuberance of the outer movements and the lyricism of the Adagio... ... Following intermission, further Copland, his Third Symphony, commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky during World War Two, completed soon after the War ended, and premiered by the BSO in 1946. To reflect the euphoric mood Copland interpolated his Fanfare for the Common Man into the Finale. 
The Royal Opera – Donizetti’s La Fille du regiment – Sabine Devieilhe & Javier Camarena with Miranda Richardson as La Duchesse de Crackentorp; directed by Laurent Pelly; conducted by Evelino Pidò
Thursday, July 11, 2019 |  This is the fourth revival of Laurent Pelly’s engaging 2007 production of Donizetti’s fizzing comic opera, which has much to offer. True, the plot is a little flimsy, the end a bit peremptory and some of the humour obvious, but Donizetti’s score enchants because of its deft mix of bravura arias and ensembles that allow great (and they need to be great) bel canto singers to dazzle and enthral contrasting with passages of surprising seriousness, heart and pathos. 
Longborough Festival 2019 – Mozart’s Don Giovanni – Ivan Ludlow, Emyr Wyn Jones, Claire Egan; directed by Martin Constantine; conducted by Thomas Blunt
Thursday, July 11, 2019 |  Martin Constantine’s rampant production of Don Giovanni seizes political correctness by the throat and casts it aside. That’s not to suggest we shouldn’t be repelled by the Don’s attempts at rape and murder, and serial abuses, but Constantine fully underlines Mozart’s Dramma giocoso element in thick marker pen and allows us to laugh at this predatory character brimming with testosterone. 
Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood – Andris Nelsons conducts Joan Tower & Dvořák’s New World Symphony – Anne-Sophie Mutter plays André Previn’s Violin Concerto
Saturday, July 06, 2019 |  This Boston Symphony at Tanglewood concert began with the first of Joan Tower’s six (so far) Fanfares for the Uncommon Woman. ... This concert was planned to mark the ninetieth-birthday of André Previn, but he passed away in February (announced by the LSO). Anne-Sophie Mutter gave an impassioned reading of the forty-minute Violin Concerto Previn wrote for her in 2001... ... Following intermission Nelsons led a superb account of Dvořák’s ‘New World’ Symphony. 
Buxton International Festival 2019 – Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin – George Humphreys, David Webb, Shelley Jackson, Angharad Lyddon; directed by Jamie Manton; conducted by Adrian Kelly
Saturday, July 06, 2019 |  Buxton is marking its fortieth festival with five new productions in the town’s jewel of an opera hose, starting off with Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. 
The Grange Festival 2019 – The John Wilson Orchestra with Matt Ford & Louise Dearman – Gershwin in Hollywood
Friday, July 05, 2019 |  It says something for the reputation of John Wilson and his Orchestra that this joyful appendage to this year’s Grange Festival could sell like hot cakes without punters having much idea what they would hear. The Grange website gave nothing away. Might the players be offering a sneak preview of their forthcoming Proms appearances? Given that their conductor and onlie begetter is part way through a Glyndebourne stint, something plucked mainly from the back catalogue was perhaps always more likely. 
Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood – Andris Nelsons conducts Mahler 5 – Emanuel Ax plays Mozart K482
Friday, July 05, 2019 |  This was the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Opening Night at Tanglewood, its summer home in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts. Andris Nelsons and Emanuel Ax collaborated on a delightful performance of K482. ... After intermission, Nelsons led a Mahler Fifth that showcased the virtuosity of the BSO, not least trumpeter Thomas Rolfs whose playing was extraordinary. 
Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along @ Guildhall School of Music & Drama, directed by Martin Connor
Friday, July 05, 2019 |  Stephen Sondheim has never given himself an easy life when it comes to writing musicals. It goes without saying that anybody trying to stage any musical has probably had a tough time, even, say, Rodgers & Hammerstein who made their shows so successful that they ran and (in revivals) are still running for years on end, such as Oklahoma! and Carousel. ... After the successes of West Side Story, Gypsy and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (all of which were initially difficult to stage), Sondheim had a major flop with Anyone Can Whistle... ... And so we come to Merrily We Roll Along which in 1981, following fifty-two previews, survived a mere sixteen showings, which is not the worst record for a Sondheim show. ... However, the UK premiere was in 1983 by the Guildhall School of Music & Drama... ... Now, Guildhall School is revisiting the show. Today Merrily... doesn’t seem so revolutionary, perhaps because we have become used to Sondheim’s regular branching out on a limb. 
Mark Bebbington at St John’s Smith Square – Impromptus & Piano Sonatas – Schubert D899 & D644 and Chopin B-minor
Thursday, July 04, 2019 |  This was the final programme in Mark Bebbington’s three-concert series of Pianograms, made up of music by Schubert and Chopin. It was, quite simply, a choice that appeared to be straightforwardly chosen, but in practice presented the artist with challenges of many interpretative difficulties – in short, of profound musicianship – all of which Bebbington surmounted with notable artistry. 
Garsington Opera 2019 – Britten’s The Turn of the Screw – Ed Lyon, Sophie Bevan; directed by Louisa Muller; conducted by Richard Farnes
Monday, July 01, 2019 |  Louisa Muller’s new production of Britten’s nerve-shredding take on Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw scores almost on too many points. The glass exterior of Garsington’s Opera Pavilion opens out onto sky, parkland, and a lake, so that the audience could just as well be in the park at Bly, the great house where a new governess and the ghosts of a servant and the previous governess do battle over the souls of Miles and Flora, the two isolated, orphaned children who live there with their housekeeper Mrs Grose. 
Chelsea Opera – Anton Rubinstein’s The Demon
Sunday, June 30, 2019 |  In the early years of its life Anton Rubinstein’s The Demon was a rather successful work; it received over 100 performances in its first decade. On the basis of this Chelsea Opera performance the current neglect of The Demon is a puzzle, for it offers the singers some wonderful music to enchant and enthral. ... Chelsea Opera managed something of a coup by having already engaged Andrei Kymach, recently the newly-crowned Cardiff Singer of the World, for the title role. 
Evgeny Kissin at Wigmore Hall | Benefit Concert for Save a Child’s Heart | Beethoven Piano Sonatas – Pathétique, Tempest, Waldstein – and the Eroica Variations
Saturday, June 29, 2019 |  Evgeny Kissin at Wigmore Hall. A sold-out, stratospherically ticketed charity recital, drawing a far from familiar audience. 
Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2019 – Dvořák’s Rusalka – Sally Matthews, Evan LeRoy Johnson, Alexander Roslavets; directed by Melly Still; conducted by Robin Ticciati
Saturday, June 29, 2019 |  Melly Still’s 2009 production of Dvořák’s Rusalka, now in its third revival at Glyndebourne, plays to the rule ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’, regardless of those who have decried the supernumerary water sprites (with bewitching mermaid tails) or Act Two’s crowded kitchen scene with too many dinner-courses ferried across the stage and a floor sweeper with all the enthusiasm of someone on a zero-hours contract. ... Sally Matthews as the doom-laden Rusalka inhabits all her desire and bitter disappointment and possesses the necessary vocal range and power. ... Robin Ticciati draws ardent playing from the London Philharmonic... 
The Royal Opera – David McVicar’s production of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro – Christian Gerhaher, Simon Keenlyside, Joélle Harvey, Julia Kleiter, Kangmin Justin Kim; conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner
Saturday, June 29, 2019 |  There are two firsts for this latest revival of David McVicar’s 2006 production of The Marriage of Figaro, a classic: Christian Gerhaher makes his role debut as Figaro, and Cherubino is sung by countertenor Kangmin Justin Kim, until now a Baroque specialist, and in terms of casting, something new for The Royal Opera. ... Simon Keenlyside is a Count of long experience and very skilful at expressing the minutiae of the role’s splenetic entitlement, compromised authority and rampant eroticism... ... It soon became clear that the evening would turn around Joélle Harvey’s tireless, beautifully sung and acted Susanna. 
Birmingham Royal Ballet at Sadler's Wells – Hobson's Choice
Friday, June 28, 2019 |  […]To conclude his directorship, Bintley presented perhaps his most successful full-length ballet, the charming, funny and highly-entertaining Hobson’s Choice, created in 1989 for a perfect cast of actor-dancers. It has lost none of its many accomplishments thirty years on, as Bintley deftly tells the tale of shoemaker Henry Hobson, his three daughters and his boot-hand Will Mossop, with inspired dance-making fully in the English choreographic tradition.[…] 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts Janáček’s Cunning Little Vixen; Lucy Crowe, Gerald Finley; directed by Peter Sellars
Thursday, June 27, 2019 |  The LSO’s 2018-19 season goes out in great style with Janáček’s paean to nature, The Cunning Little Vixen, a work that Simon Rattle loves and knows inside-out, to judge from the results he drew from orchestra, soloists, and a huge chorus of children and adults playing fox-cubs, chickens and any Moravian forest life-form you can think of. ... Rattle and longtime collaborator Peter Sellars have already presented this staging in Berlin... ... Gerald Finley is a seasoned Forester, and he brings a breadth and nobility to the role’s closeness to Nature with sympathy and singing entirely at home with Janáček’s inimitable idiom. 
Royal College of Music Opera Studio – Lennox Berkeley’s A Dinner Engagement and Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti; directed by Stephen Unwin; conducted by Michael Rosewell
Wednesday, June 26, 2019 |  If anything, these one-Act operas are diametrically opposed – in Sir Lennox Berkeley’s A Dinner Engagement, love blossoms in very adverse conditions, while in Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti, love has withered and there is no way back. Both scores, however, are united by being written in the 1950s... ... No stone is unturned in terms of accents foreign and class-defining, and Berkeley and Paul Dehn (who, in an extraordinary career, included being screenwriter for the Planet of the Apes films, Goldfinger, and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold) neatly embrace the period’s enfeebled old order not getting to grips with a more déclassé society. 
CBSO – Edward Gardner conducts Berlioz’s Dramatic Legend, The Damnation of Faust
Wednesday, June 26, 2019 |  The CBSO’s 2018-19 season came to a resounding end with Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust (1846). ... Saimir Pirgu projected Faust in all his restless, indeed reckless searching without any hint of caricature; not an admirable figure though hardly a deplorable one. ... Nor was there any lack of commitment in the orchestral playing, with the CBSO responding wholeheartedly to Edward Gardner’s incisive though never overdriven or inflexible direction. 
Emanuel Ax Seventieth-Birthday concert at Wigmore Hall – Robert Schumann – with Dover Quartet & Simon Keenlyside
Tuesday, June 25, 2019 |  A grand Wigmore Hall occasion. June 8 found Emanuel Ax turning seventy, and here he marked the date in style as chamber musician, song accompanist and solo pianist, Robert Schumann the constant companion. ... This was a generous, three-part/hour, starting earlier recital, substantially bookended by the Dover Quartet in the splendid Piano Quartet and the (even more magnificent) Piano Quintet. ... In Dichterliebe – ravishing settings of sixteen poems by Heinrich Heine – Ax and Simon Keenlyside made a dream partnership... 
Grange Park Opera 2019 – Verdi’s Don Carlos – Leonardo Capalbo, Marina Costa-Jackson, Clive Bayley, Brett Polgato; directed by Jo Davies; conducted by Gianluca Marciano
Tuesday, June 25, 2019 |  This is one of Grange Park Opera’s infrequent revivals, bringing back a well-received production unveiled in 2016 at The Grange. Its director, Jo Davies, may be best known for her musicals – Kiss me, Kate must have been seen all over the country by now – but she has the measure of Verdi’s solemnities and the show adapts well to the evolving environment of the Theatre in the Woods. The venue now boasts a contiguous colonnade as well as separate “lavatorium rotundum”. The gardens are thriving. Inside all is darkness. Like Daniele Abbado’s recent staging for the Wiener Staatsoper this Don Carlos is a claustrophobic affair, the oppressive atmosphere established from the start... 
Longborough Festival Opera 2019 – Donizetti’s Anna Bolena – Linda Richardson, Caryl Hughes, Lukas Jakobski; directed by Jenny Miller; conducted by Jeremy Silver
Tuesday, June 25, 2019 |  The first of Donizetti’s so-called Tudor operas was Anna Bolena, and it put him on the map. Performances in the UK, however, have been few and far between over the past four decades or so, despite the revival of bel canto’s fortunes in the 1950s. Donizetti fans of a certain age are likely to have grown up with the 1957 Callas recording, which, apart from many other merits, reminds us that this is singers’ opera writ large. The last time Bolena was at Covent Garden was in the 1980s, with Joan Sutherland near the end of her career as the doomed queen even nearer the end of hers, and more recently (that is, in this present century) English Touring and Welsh National have mounted it, it has been done at the Tower of London (where Anne Boleyn was beheaded, accused of adultery, when Henry VIII moved on to Jane Seymour)... ... Given the fascination for the Tudor period generated by Hilary Mantel’s novels, it is a shame that Anna Bolena is on the edge of repertoire, and Longborough has done it proud. ... As Anna, Linda Richardson (who sang the role for WNO in 2013) moves convincingly between aristocratic hauteur and savage meltdown; her singing is even more strongly drawn, and coloratura fireworks are secure and intensely dramatic. 
Birmingham Royal Ballet at Sadler's Wells – (Un)Leashed – Lyric Pieces | Sense of Time | Peter and the Wolf
Tuesday, June 25, 2019 |  It is always good to welcome Birmingham Royal Ballet back Sadler’s wells, its spiritual home; the company has not had the best of times recently, with the upheaval of the impending departure of their long-serving director David Bintley and the arrival of Carlos Acosta, his successor. Additionally, there has been something of a scramble to ‘update’ the repertoire which some believe to be old-fashioned and out-dated. It is difficult to see how a mixed bill like (Un)Leashed is going to improve matters – it feels hastily assembled, an example of gestural arts scheduling given that works from three female choreographers make up a programme which wholly lacks the punch of English National Ballet’s ‘She Said’ and ‘She Persisted’ mixed bills.… 
The Royal Opera – Barrie Kosky’s production of Bizet’s Carmen – Anaïk Morel, Bryan Hymel, Ailyn Perez; conducted by Julia Jones
Monday, June 24, 2019 |  Barrie Kosky’s staging of Carmen originated in Frankfurt in 2016 was first seen at the Royal Opera House in 2018. This second revival has visual strength, imaginative flair and an intoxicating energy underpinned by some very (too) busy choreography. ... Julia Jones brings out the brilliance of the score vividly, ably abetted by the Orchestra, finding detail that often passes by unnoticed. ... In the end though Carmen is about the voices – Anaïk Morel provides a beautifully sung and communicated account of the title-role, and as she is a French singer it feels absolutely authentic... 
Grange Park Opera 2019 – Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel – Caitlin Hulcup, Soraya Mafi, Susan Bullock, William Dazeley; directed by Stephen Medcalf; conducted by George Jackson
Sunday, June 23, 2019 |  As far as child psychology is concerned, Humperdinck’s immortal fairy-tale opera Hansel and Gretel is a gift that never stops giving. ... Stephen Medcalf’s production for Grange Park takes some of the above in its stride, and, while intensifying its darkness, he leaves room for much charm and humour. ... As the children, Caitlin Hulcup and Soraya Mafi are outstanding... ... As Mother and Witch, Susan Bullock sings with Wagnerian command of a woman crushed by poverty and expanded by cannibalistic lust for more gingerbread. 
Berliner Philharmoniker – Andris Nelsons conducts Shostakovich's Symphony 11/The Year 1905 – Daniil Trifonov plays Scriabin’s Piano Concerto [live webcast]
Saturday, June 22, 2019 |  Following last week’s chamber Shostakovich, coupled with two three-movement Mozart Symphonies, Constantinos Carydis presiding, the Berliner Philharmoniker was back to full strength, Andris Nelsons now at the helm for the third time this week. ... Nelsons, maestro of two great orchestras, Boston Symphony and Leipzig Gewandhaus and currently engaged in recording Shostakovich with the former ensemble for Deutsche Grammophon, took a slow-burn slant for ‘The Year 1905’... 
Franz-Josef Selig & Gerold Huber at Wigmore Hall – Carl Loewe, Hugo Wolf, Rudi Stephan
Saturday, June 22, 2019 |  The first half of this Wigmore recital was the equivalent of binge-watching an entire series of Game of Thrones, for it comprised a succession of Carl Loewe’s settings of some great and usually gothic ballads. ... With Gerold Huber providing brilliant elemental accompaniment to help depict the various aural landscapes with thrilling precision, energy and control of dynamics the magnificent voice of Franz-Josef Selig was superbly supported. 
Emanuel Ax at Saffron Hall
Saturday, June 22, 2019 |  Given so many emoting, agonising, publicity-seeking pianists these days – all ages, all shades of glamour statement and body language – it's something of a tonic to meet an artist who does nothing but sit at the instrument, dressed in a sober business suit, and gets on with the notes. ... New York-based, Emanuel Ax, turned seventy a couple of weeks ago, has never been a demonstrative performer. ... Mindful of the Florestan/Eusebius tensions and Hoffmann-esque intercourse of Schumann's 1837 Fantasiestücke, without ever seeking cinematic extremes, Ax conjured eight quasi scenes from adolescence. ... In many ways, Ravel's Valses nobles et sentimentales – Vienna, Schubert and dance distilled through fin de siècle French lens pre-1914 – was the highlight of this recital... ... Raising the roof requires an artist on a greater adrenalin charge, a Steinway that doesn't sound acoustically as though it's in a distant empty hall, and an audience larger than the one which turned up. The house, though, nearly did come down fifty minutes before the start. 
LSO & Guildhall School musicians – Simon Rattle conducts Tallis Fantasia, Lincolnshire Posy, Bruckner 4
Thursday, June 20, 2019 |  Strings alone. Woodwinds, brass and percussion, no strings attached save for basses. Full orchestra, I mean really full. LSO and Guildhall School musicians (eighty-seven of the latter in total) side by side, the students in white shirts or blouses. This was a Simon Rattle concert. ... Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Tallis Fantasia (1910) received as potent a performance as can be imagined (even more so if the Barbican Hall were a cathedral of sound, Gloucester's hosted the first performance)... ... Percy Grainger’s A Lincolnshire Posy (1937) dresses folksongs from the area (as sung indigenously to him) in extravagant concert-band scoring... ... Bruckner 4. So soon following Bernard Haitink conducting the LSO in this ‘Romantic’ Symphony (March 10) was surprising. Of course Sir Simon (using the same edition) has his particular way with it. Read on. 
The Grange Festival 2019 – Handel’s Belshazzar – Robert Murray, Claire Booth, Christopher Ainslie; directed by Daniel Slater; conducted by Harry Christophers
Thursday, June 20, 2019 |  Daniel Slater’s astute production of Handel’s Belshazzar (an oratorio and not originally intended for staging) dynamically and imaginatively aligns both the Biblical basis of the work (whose narrative tells of the fall of Babylon and the liberation of the Jews, at the hands of the Persian king, Cyrus) with what seems to be an oblique comment upon the current, ongoing struggle for control in the Middle East. ... The real musical star, however, is The Sixteen chorus, its members managing the transitions between the three different nations they represent with the same compelling vigour in their crisp and alert singing as in their scene and costume changes. 
Alexander Malofeev at the International Tchaikovsky Competition, First Round [Medici TV/Music from Russia webcast via YouTube]
Thursday, June 20, 2019 |  It's midsummer, and time again for the big one, the sixteenth running of the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, divided this year between piano, violin, cello, voice, woodwind and brass. Not the biggest prize money – US$30,000 to the gold medallist, compared with 150,000 at the recent China International – but fame and celebrity, occasionally history, guaranteed. The piano discipline has drawn a strong field, the all-male jury, under the chairmanship of Denis Matsuev (winner in 1998), comprising an eminent array of pianists and teachers, ten in all – Michel Béroff, Barry Douglas (winner in 1986), Nelson Freire, Pavel Gililov, Freddy Kempf (third in 1998), Li Ming-Qiang, Vladimir Ovchinnikov (joint second with Peter Donohoe in 1982), Piotr Paleczny, Boris Petrushansky and the veteran Menahem Pressler, ninety-six in December. ... Hot favourite among the starters was seventeen-year-old Alexander Malofeev, a student of Elena Beryozkina at the Gnessin Russian Academy of Music, winner of the 2014 International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians, and, robbed of first place, silver medallist at the China International Music Competition in Beijing last month. 
CBSO/Edward Gardner – Tippett & Schubert – Stephen Hough plays Beethoven
Wednesday, June 19, 2019 |  Time was when the scheduling of Michael Tippett’s Concerto for Double String Orchestra (1939) would hardly have attracted attention... ... ...Edward Gardner secured a keen response in the outer movements, with their teasing rhythmic impetus and blues-inflected modality that were already Tippett hallmarks. ... Stephen Hough then joined the orchestra for Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto (1806 – a lifelong influence on Tippett, not least his own Piano Concerto which the CBSO premiered sixty-three years ago). If Hough’s initial gesture verged on matter-of-fact, Gardner’s response set the tone for a yielding but never flaccid reading of the opening movement. ... The CBSO is currently recording a Schubert cycle with Gardner for Chandos (the first volume of which, featuring the Third, Fifth and Eighth Symphonies, has recently been released), and this account of the Sixth (1818) brought a subtle and varied response to a piece whose debt to Rossini has (as the late Gerald Larner remarked in his programme note) been overstated. 
The Royal Opera – Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov – Bryn Terfel – directed by Richard Jones; conducted by Marc Albrecht
Wednesday, June 19, 2019 |  This is the first revival of Richard Jones’s production of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, and, as in the first rub in 2016, it grips you from the start of the composer’s original, seven-scene version of 1869... ... Bryn Terfel is a more tragic than melodramatic Boris, yet he still devours every scene he is in... 
Southbank Sinfonia at Southbank Centre/Queen Elizabeth Hall – Gábor Takács-Nagy conducts Symphonies by Mozart, Haydn & Beethoven, and Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances
Tuesday, June 18, 2019 |  Southbank Sinfonia was formed in 2002 and comprises young professional musicians at the beginning of their careers. Its free rush-hour concerts given at nearby St John’s, Waterloo have endeared SS to commuting music-lovers. ... Despite the impermanent nature of personnel, the performances under Gábor Takács-Nagy matched the standard of professional chamber orchestras of similar size. 
Robert Hugill & Joanna Wyld’s The Gardeners – world premiere at Conway Hall
Tuesday, June 18, 2019 |  A war-graves cemetery for invading soldiers is the setting for Robert Hugill’s and Joanna Wyld’s The Gardeners... ... The best of the singing came from Peter Brathwaite’s powerfully characterised Old Gardener and Flora McIntosh’s vividly portrayed Grandmother, both of them pushing the music’s visual potential. 
Sergei Babayan plays Chopin at Wigmore Hall
Tuesday, June 18, 2019 |  The Armenian-born, Russian-trained Sergei Babayan is riding high in the firmament, following his recording contract last year with Deutsche Grammophon, and his much-lauded duo partnership with Martha Argerich. Renowned too as a legendary teacher, Babayan has (if this Wigmore Hall recital is anything to go by) a veritable army of loyal disciples and followers. ... My first thought at seeing this Chopin programme – especially the long Mazurka sequence – was “very brave”. In the event, the Mazurkas were a triumph and provided some of the most intimate and spontaneous Chopin-playing I have ever heard live. 
Renée Fleming in London premiere of The Light in the Piazza | Royal Festival Hall
Tuesday, June 18, 2019 |  There was a definite buzz in the foyers of the Royal Festival Hall on press night for John Berry and Anthony Lilley’s new company Scenario Two’s first production: The Light in the Piazza. 
English National Opera/Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre – Ben Glassberg conducts Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel; directed by Timothy Sheader
Monday, June 17, 2019 |  Notwithstanding my hay fever, this was a magical evening at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, the second collaboration between Timothy Sheader’s alfresco company and English National Opera following last year’s excellently received The Turn of the Screw. Humperdinck’s late-romantic Hansel and Gretel (first-conducted by Richard Strauss) may be a completely different soundworld to Benjamin Britten’s Henry James adaptation, but it is perhaps even more ideal for the wooded surrounds of this ever-delightful venue. 
LSO – Gianandrea Noseda conducts Egmont Overture, Shostakovich, Harold in Italy – Daniil Trifonov, Philip Cobb, Antoine Tamestit
Sunday, June 16, 2019 |  A standard Overture-Concerto-Symphony programme, on the cusp between comfort and challenge? That idea quickly unravelled with Shostakovich clowning around with piano, trumpet and strings, followed by a Berlioz Symphony with a serious identity crisis acted out by a concertante soloist, the evening bookended by two literature giants, Goethe and Byron, and presided over by Gianandrea Noseda at his energising best. ... The élan with which Daniil Trifonov (completing his LSO Artist Portrait) and Philip Cobb (LSO principal) delivered the Concerto’s opening gambit said it all in anticipating the silent-film-accompaniment brilliance of the Finale... ... Berlioz fans may remember Harold in Italy from last year’s Proms, when Antoine Tamestit immeasurably raised the viola role’s profile with plotted wanderings through the orchestra. 
Berliner Philharmoniker – Constantinos Carydis conducts Mozart 34/38 & Shostakovich Opuses 11/110 [live webcast]
Saturday, June 15, 2019 |  This week Constantinos Carydis (Athens-born in 1974 and the recipient of Bavarian State Opera’s Carlos Kleiber Prize in 2011) makes his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker. ... Shostakovich’s Eighth String Quartet (1960) is a grim and eruptive piece dedicated "to the victims of fascism and the war", written in Dresden when the composer was there scoring the film Five Days, Five Nights, documenting the bombing of that city during World War Two, an act that at the time also inspired Richard Strauss’s Metamorphosen. Rudolf Barshai’s string-orchestra version works well... ... Then the big one, Mozart’s ‘Prague’ Symphony: big because Carydis observed every repeat (including both halves of the first movement). Like them or not, Carydis brought many distinctive touches to this wonderful score... 
Gerald Finley & Julius Drake at Wigmore Hall
Saturday, June 15, 2019 |  Julius Drake and Gerald Finley presented a selection of song at Wigmore Hall, designed to reveal the dark side of Finley’s expressive and dramatic gifts. ... The poetry of Goethe was highlighted at the beginning with eleven Schubert settings. ... Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Animal Songs followed. ‘The Singing Cat’, a setting of Stevie Smith, was exquisitely delivered with humour and precision. ‘Mourned’ (Thomas Hardy) was spellbinding, full of pathos, and ‘Last Words’ (Walt Whitman) is a jazzy hymn in praise of animals. 
Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra – Bernard Haitink’s farewell concert to Amsterdam – Bruckner 7 & Camilla Tilling singing Richard Strauss Lieder [NPO Radio 4 live relay]
Saturday, June 15, 2019 |  With the recent announcement of his retirement, sixty-five years at the helm, a force who's never not been with us, inspiring destinies and shaping values, Bernard Haitink takes distinguished leave of a long career. ... One doesn't review farewell concerts. One is simply grateful for the pearls of a life journey illuminating the hour. For this broadcast – Dutch Tonmeister-ing at its best – Haitink reunited with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, of which, following a period of study under Ferdinand Leitner, he was principal conductor from 1957 to 1961... ... With Camilla Tilling in radiant, un-operatic voice (she was Haitink's Himmlische Leben in his Mahler Four at the 2014 Proms), the five Richard Strauss songs cast a smoky spell. ... Bruckner's Seventh Symphony, dedicated to Ludwig II of Bavaria, pursued its rugged way, hewn out of a mountain... 
Garsington Opera 2019 – Offenbach’s Fantasio
Friday, June 14, 2019 |  An opportunity to reappraise a potential lost gem is always an enticing prospect and here Garsington mounts the first fully-staged production in the UK of Offenbach’s appealingly and intriguingly named Fantasio. 
Chineke! Orchestra at The Anvil Basingstoke – Wayne Marshall conducts Peer Gynt & Dvořák 7 – Stewart Goodyear plays his Callaloo
Friday, June 14, 2019 |  In the first of Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suites (from his incidental music for Ibsen’s play) Eric Lamb’s flute captivated from the start and thereafter ‘Morning Mood’ unfolded with natural ease... ... Stewart Goodyear is principally a pianist, whose career in recent years has begun to include composition. Goodyear describes Callaloo as a “dish from the Caribbean composed of spices from different cultures deliciously blended together.” 
The Grange Festival 2019 – Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro – Toby Girling, Simona Mihai, Ellie Laugharne, Roberto Lorenzi; directed by Martin Lloyd-Evans; conducted by Richard Egarr
Friday, June 14, 2019 |  Sir Isaiah Berlin’s comment: “The best opera ever written by a human being” is quoted as part of the publicity for this production. As always it comes down to a matter of opinion as to whether or not The Marriage of Figaro is the best or even greatest opera. If you are impervious to Mozart (and there are some who are) then nothing will change your mind but if you are prepared to listen and follow the story of this masterpiece then it is difficult to resist the notion. The challenge for a producer is not to betray what makes this extraordinary creation great. Clarity is a key... 
Collegium Vocale Gent at Barbican Centre – Philippe Herreweghe conducts Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in B-minor
Friday, June 14, 2019 |  What an eleemosynary treat J. S. Bach bequeathed humanity with his B-minor Mass, which in these trying times particularly offers balm to hearts and minds. With three recordings of the Mass to his credit, so far, Philippe Herreweghe is a veteran of the piece. ... Collegium Vocale Gent comprised... 
The MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall – Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts Bruckner 7 – Elīna Garanča sings Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder
Friday, June 14, 2019 |  This concert, the last of three Carnegie Hall appearances by the MET Orchestra this Spring, marked the ensemble’s first-ever performance of a Bruckner Symphony. Yannick Nézet-Séguin recorded a Bruckner cycle between 2007 and 2017... ... Elīna Garanča delivered a consistently solid performance of Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder... 
Weimar Berlin – Philharmonia Orchestra – Fritz Lang’s Metropolis Live Screening with music by Gottfried Huppertz & New Music for Old Movies by Martin Smolka
Thursday, June 13, 2019 |  The soundtrack of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis has frequently been the source of controversy, not least in 1988 when Giorgio Moroder supplied his own electro version with the help of Adam Ant, Pat Benatar and others. The Philharmonia Orchestra and Frank Strobel here sought to set matters right by going back to the original version by Gottfried Huppertz used at the film’s premiere in 1927. ... ...hugely influential on the following generation of film composers such as Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Max Steiner, and Franz Waxman. ... There is a clear line from Metropolis to Blade Runner (1982) and even Alita: Battle Angel (2019). ... Prior to Metropolis, the Philharmonia in its free/informal Music for Today series played two short works by the Czech composer Martin Smolka. The first was Hats in the Sky to Hans Richter’s classic experimental collage film Ghosts before Breakfast... 
Opera Holland Park 2019 – Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera – Adriano Graziani, Anne Sophie Duprels, George von Bergen, Alison Langer; directed by Rodula Gaitanou; conducted by Matthew Kofi Waldren
Wednesday, June 12, 2019 |  Verdi’s Masked Ball is not an easy opera to pull off anyway with its curious mix of black humour and serious drama, and both aspects need to be treated with gravity... ... Ballo needs committed theatricality and Rodula Gaitanou’s staging in takis’s effective and flexible designs certainly provides this. ... Anne Sophie Duprels’s Amelia is a really complex assumption and she sings with great poise as well as flexibility. She’s a stage natural, too, bringing pathos, fatalism and abandon as Verdi requires, and George von Bergen’s ingratiating and fluid tone for Anckarström, not without the necessary sense of latent fieriness, is a great asset as well. 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra @ Royal Festival Hall – Vasily Petrenko conducts Ein Heldenleben – Denis Kozhukhin plays Brahms
Tuesday, June 11, 2019 |  This was Vasily Petrenko’s first appearance with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra following the announcement that he becomes music director from the 21-22 season. ... The standout item was Ein Heldenleben. The propulsive start, ‘The Hero’ (i.e. Richard Strauss himself) – boasting passionate playing from violins – was thoroughly arresting... ... Earlier Petrenko had launched Brahms’s D-minor Piano Concerto strikingly, and Denis Kozhukhin’s first entry was direct and unfussy... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Leonard Slatkin conducts Juliet Palmer’s Oil & Water and Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra – Makoto Ozone plays Paganini Rhapsody [live webcast]
Sunday, June 09, 2019 |  It is said that oil and water do not mix. Introduce an upper-case O and W, and an ampersand, and you get Juliet Palmer’s Oil & Water. ... Makoto Ozone is best-known in the jazz world, although he plays the classical stuff too – including several Mozart Concertos as well as Leonard Bernstein’s Age of Anxiety... ... ...I understood in advance that he is prone to adding bits of his own, which is what he did during Paganini Rhapsody. ... Well, in league with Leonard Slatkin, who of course had to know in advance where Ozone’s diversions would occur, such additions proved inoffensive and, in some respects, integral – but why interfere with a masterpiece... ... Bartók wrote Concerto for Orchestra in 1943 (the year Rachmaninov died) for Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony. The premiere occurred late the following year (and the piece reached Detroit in 1953 conducted by Antal Dorati). The conclusion in Boston had been rather brusque, pithy, whereas Bartók’s revision is much grander... 
English Symphony Orchestra at Cadogan Hall – Kenneth Woods conducts the Fifth Symphonies of Beethoven & Matthew Taylor – Pavel Šporcl plays Mendelssohn’s E-minor Violin Concerto
Sunday, June 09, 2019 |  Some may consider that things have come to a pretty pass when it takes an American Music Director of a regional English orchestra to conceive of, and bring to fruition, what he has termed the 21st Century Symphony Project, an inspiration of artistry and programme-planning by commissioning, performing and recording no fewer than nine new Symphonies by living composers... ... Matthew Taylor’s Fifth Symphony is the composer’s first in four movements... ... The soloist in Mendelssohn’s (second) Violin Concerto, the young Pavel Šporcl, with his fifteen-year-old blue violin, is relatively unknown to British audiences, but on this showing he more than deserves to become a household name. 
Weimar Berlin: The Sounds of Change – Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra in Wozzeck Fragments (with Angela Denoke), Hindemith’s Concerto for Orchestra, Kleine Dreigroschenmusik, and The Age of Gold
Sunday, June 09, 2019 |  The Philharmonia has links with the music of the Weimar Republic. Otto Klemperer, one of the Orchestra’s first conductors, commissioned Kurt Weill to create a Suite from The Threepenny Opera, Kleine Dreigroschenmusik, and conducted it in 1929; his 1962 Philharmonia recording is hard to beat with its mordant wit, and Paul Hindemith recorded with the Philharmonia during the 1950s and conducted Beethoven’s ‘Choral’ Symphony in the Festival Hall, which older concertgoers recall fondly. ... Esa-Pekka Salonen was brisk and smart in the ‘Overture’ but ‘Mack the Knife’ sounded more of a lounge-lizard crooner rather than genuinely dangerous. ... Shostakovich visited Berlin from the Soviet Union in 1927 and set his football-inspired ballet The Age of Gold in the Weimar Republic. 
Aldeburgh Festival 2019 – Thomas Larcher and Friends @ Britten Studio – Mark Padmore, Paul Lewis, Andrew West
Sunday, June 09, 2019 |  The Aldeburgh Festival’s opening weekend was built largely around one of this year’s three artists-in residence, Thomas Larcher (the other two are Mark Padmore and Barbara Hannigan), in his opera The Hunter’s Gun and then, more briefly, in Paul Lewis’s piano recital. ... György Kurtág’s transcriptions for piano duet of J. S. Bach Chorales set the scene... ... ...and he doesn’t hold back in A Padmore Cycle, performed by the named singer and Andrew West. ... Schubert completed the recital – blithe readings of two Johann Seidl settings, ‘Im Freien’ (D880), and his final song, ‘Die Taubenpost’ (D965a)... 
Berliner Philharmoniker – Daniel Barenboim conducts Symphonies by Haydn & Schumann – Maria João Pires plays Beethoven [live webcast]
Saturday, June 08, 2019 |  This performance wasn’t initially included in the Digital Concert Hall’s broadcast schedule, I guess because Radu Lupu was engaged and I believe he now vetoes every form of relay. Well, he withdrew, reason not given, and the now-retired (if in and out of that status) Maria João Pires stepped forward to save the three evenings... ... It is fifty years more or less to the date since Daniel Barenboim first-conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker and this current programme replicated his debut concert; back then the Beethoven featured Clifford Curzon. 
Opera Rara & Britten Sinfonia at Barbican Hall – Mark Elder conducts Donizetti’s Il Paria
Saturday, June 08, 2019 |  Just over 190 years after its first and only run at Naples’s Teatro San Carlo, Donizetti’s Il Paria has become the latest lucky recipient of Opera Rara’s focus, with a recording made over this week resulting in this concert performance at the Barbican, which marks the first collaboration between OR and Britten Sinfonia. The common denominator is Mark Elder. 
Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2019 – Fiona Shaw’s production of Massenet’s Cendrillon – Danielle de Niese, Lionel Lhote, Agnes Zwierko, Kate Lindsey; conducted by John Wilson
Saturday, June 08, 2019 |  The essential premise in this production is that Cinderella is not a simple fairy-tale but a cauldron of adult neurosis... ... This Glyndebourne staging toured last year and is re-directed for the 2019 Festival by Fiona Dunn. It is universally well-sung. Danielle de Niese is a sweet Cendrillon... ... De Niese is in her element following the interval, both in her monologue upon her return from the ball and in the love-duet under the oak tree with Kate Lindsey as Prince Charming, and Massenet’s music breaks our hearts. ... ...with John Wilson eliciting the most sensitive playing from the LPO. 
Aldeburgh Festival 2019 – Paul Lewis plays Haydn Sonata 34, Thomas Larcher Movement, Beethoven Diabelli Variations
Saturday, June 08, 2019 |  On the face of it, this Aldeburgh Festival recital from Paul Lewis was in the traditional mould of the true and tested either side of a little something to challenge expectations... ... ...this leapt off the page in his immensely engaging performance of Haydn’s E-minor Sonata. ... In his elusive programme note to his ten-minute Movement for Piano, Thomas Larcher asks “What is an idea? Where does it come from?”. ... Lewis has a formidable reputation in Beethoven, which he enhanced hugely in this account of the Diabelli Variations. 
Grange Park Opera – The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess – Musa Ngqungwana & Laquita Mitchell; directed by Jean-Pierre van der Spuy; conducted by Stephen Barlow
Saturday, June 08, 2019 |  Now into the third season at its relocation, Grange Park Opera has already set the bar high for repertoire and production; as is evident in its new staging of Porgy and Bess, which, if it brings few revelations, wholly reinforces the work’s status within the modern operatic canon. 
Aldeburgh Festival 2019 – UK premiere of Thomas Larcher’s The Hunting Gun conducted by Ryan Wigglesworth
Friday, June 07, 2019 |  Thomas Larcher’s music is gathering ever-bigger audiences, with a directness of expression and perception in its way as acute as, for example, Britten’s. This is apt, because the fifty-six-year-old Austrian composer, perhaps more used to Alpine peaks than East Anglian flat-lands, is this year’s artist-in-residence at the Aldeburgh Festival. Das Jagdgewehr, Larcher’s first opera, had its premiere at the Bregenz Festival last year... 
The Grange Festival 2019 – Verdi’s Falstaff – Robert Hayward, Susan Bickley, Nicholas Lester; directed by Christopher Luscombe; conducted by Francesco Cilluffo
Friday, June 07, 2019 |  Christopher Luscombe’s debut as opera-director unveils Verdi’s comic masterpiece as an up-to-the-minute, fast-paced romp. It’s a glossy, uproarious spectacle that maximises our perceptions of Shakespeare’s loveable yet lecherous rogue (whose attempts to seduce two of Windsor’s Merry Wives end in disaster) and minimises reflections on honour and regret. ... Robert Hayward as Falstaff commands the stage with bags of personality and inhabits the role as if born to it... ... Of the women, Susan Bickley is a superb Mistress Quickly, singing with a range of timbres... ... Francesco Cilluffo and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra respond to the score with energy... 
Philadelphia Orchestra at Carnegie Hall – Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts Stravinsky's Funeral Song & Rachmaninov 1 – Beatrice Rana plays Prokofiev 3
Friday, June 07, 2019 |  Prokofiev’s most popular Piano Concerto came between two ‘lost’ works from other celebrated composers. Stravinsky’s Funeral Song – composed in 1908 in honor of Rimsky-Korsakov – disappeared after a single performance. ... Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducted this emotionally powerful piece with exuberance and elegance, and the Philadelphia musicians played with extraordinary beauty and clarity. ... Following intermission, Rachmaninov’s First Symphony... ... As centerpiece, in Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto, from her exuberant entrance onwards Beatrice Rana made her vitality plain, outstanding in every way... 
San Francisco Ballet at Sadler's Wells – Programme D – Bound To | Your Flesh Shall Be a Great Poem | Anima, Animus
Thursday, June 06, 2019 |  Male/female, male/male, female/female dancing was very much in offer in Christopher Wheeldon’s Bound To, the strongest offering in San Francisco Ballet’s Programme D. This was Wheeldon at his best, far from the somewhat over-produced, ‘shiny’ choreography he often creates for London, in a thoughtful, thought-provoking work exploring the nature of human relationships and existence in the modern world. […] Trey McIntyre brought a much needed lighter side with his quirky, weird Your Flesh Shall Be a Great Poem, inspired by a solar eclipse… 
Vienna Philharmonic at Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie – Mariss Jansons conducts Schumann’s Spring Symphony & Berlioz’s Fantastic Symphony [live webcast]
Wednesday, June 05, 2019 |  Watching Mariss Jansons at the helm of the Wiener Philharmoniker is to be aware of a man born of another age and place, a musician with different values from the modern breed. ... One has heard more theatrical, filmic 'Fantastics', fiercer in emotional temperature. Jansons's measured approach – fifty-nine minutes, without first-movement or ‘March’ repeats, compared with his Concertgebouw and Bavarian versions at around fifty-one – was akin to scenic painting... ... Opting for marginally reduced forces (six basses), Jansons fashioned a reading of Schumann's 'Spring' Symphony as Elysian as Beethoven's Fourth, the structural and tonal model of which was rarely that far away. 
The Diary of One Who Disappeared at Linbury Theatre
Wednesday, June 05, 2019 |  Janáček’s song-cycle isn’t exactly regular fare in recital, perhaps as it requires forces additional to the singer/pianist norm. This is a shame as the music and text have an emotional directness and immediacy that are both arresting and affecting. ... Here at the Linbury, Ivo Van Hove, has recently been attracting much critical attention with his forays into opera. This is a thoughtful, layered and complex appraisal of the work that makes for a stimulating sixty-five minutes. ... Ed Lyon brings vocal intensity, raw lyricism and a strong theatrical presence to the young man... 
Longborough Festival Opera 2019 – Wagner’s Das Rheingold (Der Ring des Nibelungen 1/4) – Mark Stone, Darren Jeffery, Mark Le Brocq, Madeleine Shaw, Adrian Dwyer; directed by Amy Lane; conducted by Anthony Negus
Wednesday, June 05, 2019 |  It is worth recapping what Martin and Lizzie Graham have accomplished at Longborough with their Festival and especially their Wagner productions, which have put them and their opera-house (a converted barn in the Cotswolds) firmly on the international map... ... With their daughter Polly now on board as Artistic Director, Longborough has set out on a new Ring cycle, an instalment each year, taking the Festival to 2023 for runs of all four together. ... Amy Lane’s production is broadly traditional (that is, nineteenth-century) in look, with aspects of Emma Ryott’s well-observed costumes deferring to the look of Bayreuth’s original staging. 
San Francisco Ballet at Sadler's Wells – Programme C – Bespoke | Hummingbird | Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
Wednesday, June 05, 2019 |  It is always a question how much local culture defines or at least affects art; the question is no less pertinent for the art of ballet, although the ‘schools’ of dance and identifiable national styles have faded somewhat with the advance of filming and the internet, and the readiness of dancers to move abroad to work. San Francisco is an identifiably American company in terms of the nationality of the majority of dancers, but one which possesses, in the upper ranks at least, a high proportion of non-American artists. […] Thus, in Programme C, the company presents work from the Australian Stanton Welch, the British Liam Scarlett and the American Justin Peck. 
Opera Holland Park 2019 – Puccini's Manon Lescaut – Elizabeth Llewellyn, Peter Auty, Paul Carey Jones; directed by Karolina Sofulak; conducted by Peter Robinson
Tuesday, June 04, 2019 |  Puccini’s breakthrough opera was last staged by Opera Holland Park in 2006, a brave endeavour... ... This new OHP show, the first in its new season, falls somewhere between these extremes while further weakening the narrative thrust intended by the composer, It is the work, and the reward, of director Karolina Sofulak and designer George Johnson-Leigh... ... The characterisation of Manon’s lovers goes against expectation. As the tenor ‘hero’, Peter Auty gives a creditable performance... ... On the night Elizabeth Llewellyn disappointed just a little, for all that her big aria, ‘Sola, perduta, abbandonata’, proved very moving as well as vocally strong... 
The Royal Ballet – Triple Bill – The Firebird | A Month in the Country | Symphony in C
Tuesday, June 04, 2019 |  For anyone with a love of The Royal Ballet’s ‘old’ repertoire, this final programme of the season is like several Christmases occurring together. No sign of the modish and the extreme, and in their place glorious music, choreography and design – all a little too much in all honesty, but then balanced triple bills have not exactly been in fashion here of late. […] As Bizet’s final chords gave way to rapturous applause, the company could be satisfied that it had delivered a vintage evening, one which not only paid tribute to their magnificent heritage but which also showcased their own impressive talent. 
Guildhall School double-bill at Milton Court Theatre – Blow’s Venus and Adonis | Handel’s Aminta e Fillide
Monday, June 03, 2019 |  Neither work here is, strictly speaking, a fully-fledged opera, but they form a neatly contrasting pair exploring the psychology and politics of romantic love. ... John Blow's Venus and Adonis (1683), the principal composition in this double bill, is usually regarded as the first English opera, though it is really a masque or semi-opera in scale (like Dido and Aeneas by the composer's most famous pupil, Henry Purcell) as compared with the greater dramatic scope of the contemporaneous stage-works by Lully which inspired them. ... Aminta e Fillide is one of the Cantatas which the young Handel wrote during his period in Rome, and not originally intended for staging (indeed opera was effectively banned in the city, under Papal edict). 
The MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall – Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts La mer & Daphnis et Chloé – Isabel Leonard sings Le Temps l’horloge & Shéhérazade
Monday, June 03, 2019 |  The MET Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin offered this French program in which he demonstrated his multi-faceted talent in a splendid performance of La mer... Henri Dutilleux’s Le Temps l’horloge (Time and the Clock) was written between 2006 and 2009. ... Isabel Leonard’s lilting voice captured the essence of these diverse poems impressively... 
LSO – Michael Tilson Thomas conducts Charles Ives’s Holiday Symphony, Daniil Trifonov plays Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto
Sunday, June 02, 2019 |  In his capacity as Conductor Laureate, Michael Tilson Thomas returns every season to the LSO but has only rarely featured music by Charles Ives – a composer central to his repertoire, whom he conducts more perceptively than any other of his contemporaries. ... Fortunate, then, that this programme included A Holiday Symphony... ... Enthusiastic as it was, the almost capacity Barbican Hall was evidently there for Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’ Concerto with Daniil Trifonov. 
San Francisco Ballet at Sadler's Wells – Programmes A & B – Shostakovich Trilogy | The Infinite Ocean | Snowblind | Björk Ballet
Sunday, June 02, 2019 |  The USA’s oldest professional dance company, San Francisco Ballet, is a highly respected and much-admired ensemble, known above all for its dedication to commissioning new works. Their eleven-day sojourn at Sadler’s Wells is a proud statement of their artistic credo – twelve ballets all created in the last five years. Programmes A and B made for interesting contrasts, A comprising Alexei Ratmansky’s Shostakovich triptych while B veered from Edwaard Liang through Cathy Marston to end with Arthur Pita. 
Berliner Philharmoniker – Michael Sanderling conducts Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony – Bruno Delepelaire plays Haydn’s D-major Cello Concerto [live webcast]
Saturday, June 01, 2019 |  This week marked Michael Sanderling’s debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker, with this programme, here played for the third and final time, giving ample opportunity to display his considerable talents. ... A sense of urgency was evident right from the start of Shostakovich’s ‘Leningrad’ Symphony. ... In the first half we heard Joseph Haydn’s D-major Cello Concerto. Bruno Delepelaire (BP principal) gave an account that was notably intimate. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Simone Young conducts Webern’s Passacaglia & Brahms 4 – Karl Pituch & Johanna Yarbrough play a Concerto for Two Horns [live webcast]
Friday, May 31, 2019 |  Passacaglia – an ancient form, newly approached by Anton Webern in 1908 and utilised with Baroque reverence by Johannes Brahms in 1885 to conclude his ultimate Symphony. ... This particular Concerto for Two Horns (its history worthy of Sherlock Holmes’s magnifying glass) might be by Joseph Haydn. 
Handel’s Agrippina – Maxim Emelyanychev & Il Pomo d’Oro at Barbican Centre – with Joyce DiDonato, Franco Fagioli, Xavier Sabata & Elsa Benoit
Friday, May 31, 2019 |  Agrippina (1709) constitutes the climax of Handel's three-year apprenticeship in Italy when he came to full artistic maturity. ... As part of their residency at the Barbican Centre, Il Pomo d'Oro brought thrillingly to life in this concert performance the machinations perpetrated by Agrippina to bring her son, Nero, to the Roman imperial throne. From the Overture onwards, Maxim Emelyanychev directed a keen, forward-driven account of the score... ... Joyce DiDonato put in a characteristically assertive performance – as Joyce DiDonato... 
Garsington Opera 2019 – Smetana’s The Bartered Bride – Natalya Romaniw, Brenden Gunnell, Joshua Bloom, Heather Shipp; directed by Paul Curran; Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Jac van Steen
Friday, May 31, 2019 |  Smetana’s Prodaná nevĕsta, The Bartered Bride, a joyous comic opera with a serious emotional undercurrent, bubbles over with fantastic musical invention and opportunities for dance and chorus action. ... This liveliness is matched by the Philharmonia Orchestra and Jac van Steen bringing out all the characterisation and rhythmic energy of the score... ... Paul Curran’s direction is sensitively handled. At the centre of the cast is Natalya Romaniw’s touching Mařenka, anxious and fiery in the early stages... 
OAE @ RFH – Thierry Fischer conducts Elgar’s Serenade for Strings & Sibelius 2 – Alina Ibragimova plays Richard Strauss’s Violin Concerto
Friday, May 31, 2019 |  It was strange, in Elgar’s Serenade for Strings, not only adjusting to a less-assertive sound but also factoring in what extra authenticity it brought to the music. ... There then followed the first gut-string performance of Richard Strauss’s Violin Concerto (in the UK). Strauss was a mere seventeen when he started work on it, and it’s a precocious piece with a vertiginous solo part. ... Alina Ibragimova started as she meant to go on... 
Hilary Hahn plays Johann Sebastian Bach at Wigmore Hall
Thursday, May 30, 2019 |  This Wigmore Hall recital comprised some of the finest violin-playing I have heard in a long time. Hilary Hahn has lived with unaccompanied Bach since childhood... 
LSO – Michael Tilson Thomas conducts John Cage & Bartók, Julia Fischer plays Beethoven
Thursday, May 30, 2019 |  Lightning seldom strikes twice but on this occasion it did. Both Julia Fischer’s account of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and the LSO’s quite superlative account Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra were streets ahead of any of the many live performances one has heard. ... To open, John Cage’s The Seasons – “ballet with music”, 1947, choreography by Merce Cunningham – accessible and beautifully orchestrated music... 
Berlin State Opera – Harry Kupfer’s production of Verdi’s Macbeth – Plácido Domingo, René Pape, Ekaterina Semenchuk; conducted by Daniel Barenboim
Thursday, May 30, 2019 |  This revival of Harry Kupfer’s 2018 production of Verdi’s Macbeth has Plácido Domingo in the role that he created back then, with the other principals being new. ... Ekaterina Semenchuk’s Lady Macbeth is at this level, too, it clear that she is the driving force behind all the misery. ... The Chorus is, throughout, a well-oiled machine, whether as refugees, witches and soldiers, and in the pit Daniel Barenboim and his excellent Orchestra. 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Santtu-Matias Rouvali conducts The Chairman Dances & Petrushka – Pekka Kuusisto plays Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto
Thursday, May 30, 2019 |  This was Santtu-Matias Rouvali’s first Philharmonia Orchestra concert since he was announced as its next Principal Conductor... ... From the opening of John Adams’s The Chairman Dances – derived from his opera Nixon in China – it was immediately clear that the Philharmonia Orchestra was in stunning form. ... The soloist in Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto was another Finn, Pekka Kuusisto... 
Garsington Opera 2019 – Mozart’s Don Giovanni – Jonathan McGovern, David Ireland, Mireille Asselin; directed by Michael Boyd; conducted by Douglas Boyd
Thursday, May 30, 2019 |  Is Don Giovanni the most abused opera in the repertoire? It must be years, even decades, since there was a direct line to the failure and emptiness of amorality as directors try and cram it into specific agendas. Michael Boyd’s new staging for Garsington turns out to be no exception, which is frustrating because it starts well before limping to a puzzling end. 
Classical Opera at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Ian Page conducts Gluck’s Bauci e Filemone & Orfeo
Wednesday, May 29, 2019 |  Alert fans of eighteenth-century opera will wonder why Gluck’s seminal stage-work, Orfeo – first appearing in 1762 – is being featured in Classical Opera’s ongoing Mozart 250 celebrations, focusing on the year 1769. 
Endellion String Quartet Fortieth-Anniversary Concert at Wigmore Hall – Beethoven, London premieres, Death and the Maiden
Wednesday, May 29, 2019 |  This concert, concluding the Endellion Quartet’s fortieth-anniversary Wigmore Hall series, was very satisfying. It began with perhaps the musicians’ trump card, Beethoven. ... From the very first notes it was clear that the players were in their best form. ... It is from Amenda that we learn Beethoven’s original inspiration for this Adagio, the Tomb Scene in Romeo and Juliet – Beethoven’s sketches bear it out. But Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy of incredible frustrations (I write this just days after watching the similarly frustrating West Side Story again on television), whereas in Beethoven’s vision there is only tragedy, profundity and spirituality. ... Critics like to have at least something to criticise, as it shows that a) they have been awake throughout the concert and b) they are not writing a slice of hagiography. My scrap of criticism is that the Scherzo of Schubert’s ‘Death and the Maiden’ was a little too slow... 
Igor Levit plays Ronald Stevenson’s Passacaglia on DSCH at Wigmore Hall
Monday, May 27, 2019 |  One snowy Christmas Eve sixty years ago near enough, “late at night”, a fantasy to end all fantasies began to take shape in a Scottish Borders village southwest of Edinburgh and the Pentland Hills. A single-movement eighty-minute-plus colossus orbiting four repeated notes gyrating in countless guises, rhythms, metres, tempos, registers, textures and styles – the autobiographical motto DSCH (D, E-flat, C, B) of Shostakovich's Eighth String Quartet, First Violin Concerto and Tenth Symphony (and not only) at the heart of its life and destiny. 645 repetitions, the pitch constant throughout irrespective of unfolding events. Ronald Stevenson (1928-2015) completed it in May 1962, dedicating it to Shostakovich. ... Since Ogdon it's a work that's been waiting for a pianist of Igor Levit's stature, facility and powers of cognition. This was a remarkable reading, around eighty-five minutes in duration, probing every corner of historical and emotional experience... 
The Royal Opera – Jonathan Kent’s production of Puccini’s Tosca – Kristine Opolais, Vittorio Grigolo, Bryn Terfel; conducted by Alexander Joel
Monday, May 27, 2019 |  It is thirteen years since Jonathan Kent’s production of Tosca took over from Zefirelli’s, and with many revivals since, Kent’s is acquiring venerable status. ... Terfel played Scarpia in the first run, and he turns the staging round his little finger. ... Kristine Opolais conveys Floria Tosca’s coquettishness and insecurity in Act One in a way that’s both familiar and touching, and then she makes Tosca’s diva status and courage entirely credible in the Second. ... Vittorio Grigolo is making his Royal Opera debut as Cavaradossi, and he spares nothing in tenor-superstardom. 
Bruckner in Bad Kissingen – Gerd Schaller conducts the Vienna version of the First Symphony – Luiza Borac plays Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto
Sunday, May 26, 2019 |  In Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto the solo instrument and the orchestra are integrated more closely than in many other Romantic such works. So it made for a particularly intriguing and involving performance that Luiza Borac (an Enescu champion) seemed to have a different view of the expressive qualities of Schumann’s music to that of the conductor. ... Unlike with the numerous reappearances of his Third and Fourth, there are really only two versions of Bruckner’s so-numbered First Symphony. The revision of it – Vienna – was the only one performed for forty years since its publication in 1893, but was displaced in the 1930s by the appearance of 1866 ‘Linz’ score. ... Gerd Schaller is in the process of performing and recording a very complete Bruckner cycle in time for the 200th-anniversary of the composer’s birth in 2024. 
Jacques Imbrailo & Alisdair Hogarth at Wigmore Hall – Sibelius & Rachmaninov
Sunday, May 26, 2019 |  In a demanding programme comparing and contrasting some of the song output of Sibelius and Rachmaninov Jacques Imbrailo demonstrated both linguistic flair and remarkable concentration and intensity. ... His operatic performances have always had a dramatic truthfulness, a talent to bring the audience to him in big spaces, such as Billy Budd, and in the relative confines of Wigmore Hall, Imbrailo impressed... 
Britten Sinfonia/Thomas Adès – Beethoven Symphony Cycle & Gerald Barry at Barbican Centre – 6/Symphony 9 Choral ... Barry’s The Eternal Recurrence (Die Ewige Wiederkehr)
Sunday, May 26, 2019 |  This final instalment of Thomas Adès’s Beethoven cycle – which has been recorded for future release – offered a very fresh account of his final Symphony, premiered in 1824, three years before his death. Adès’s reading of the ‘Choral’ had a clarity and vitality redolent of Norrington or Hogwood, while at the same time paying the fullest regard to the intense lyricism pervading the work. ... Completing the Gerald Barry survey that has graced these six programmes, Jennifer France sang The Eternal Recurrence (Die Ewige Wiederkehr). From 1999, it sets words by Nietzsche, some in English translation. Die Ewiger Wiederkehr occurs in Nietzsche’s Also sprach Zarathustra: Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen... 
Benjamin Grosvenor, Doric Quartet & Laurène Durantel at Milton Court II – Janáček, Chopin, Dvořák
Sunday, May 26, 2019 |  Milton Court was impressively full for the second of two recitals from Benjamin Grosvenor, the Doric Quartet and Laurène Durantel presenting Chopin’s two Piano Concertos in chamber versions. ... The Doric members opened on their own, with Janáček’s ‘Kreutzer Sonata’ Quartet, the composer’s distillation of Tolstoy’s story about an unhappy wife who finds solace in Beethoven with a man who is not her husband. ... Myerscough’s seductive cello established the irresistible pleasantness of Dvořák’s (second) Piano Quintet, gently mobilised by Grosvenor’s tactfully magisterial role; and whereas the Chopin hadn’t exactly thrived being pared down, the Dvořák moved easily between chamber-music reality and orchestral potential... 
Robin Tritschler & Simon Lepper at Wigmore Hall – Transitional Seasons – Brahms and Wolf
Sunday, May 26, 2019 |  Robin Tritschler and Simon Lepper at Wigmore Hall: songs of regret and resignation from Johannes Brahms, erotically-charged remorse from Hugo Wolf. 
Berliner Philharmoniker – Paavo Järvi conducts Bruckner 2 & Bach/Webern Ricercar – Mojca Erdmann performs Alban Berg’s Seven Early Songs [live webcast]
Saturday, May 25, 2019 |  Paavo Järvi has been on the road with Anton Bruckner’s Second Symphony. Previous to three performances in Berlin (this was the last of them) it was Hamburg... ... The concert’s first half was also as in Hamburg, if with a welcome addition/starter. Prior to Alban Berg’s Seven Early Songs (completed with-piano in 1908, if becoming ‘later’ in his twenty-year-on orchestration, Wozzeck completed, Lulu in the wings) was Anton Webern’s reciprocated ‘musical offering’ to Johann Sebastian Bach, the ‘Ricercar a 6’, a fugue in all but name... ... Following which, the Berg. In Hamburg it was Laura Aikin singing, replacing Hanna-Elisabeth Müller. In Berlin it was Mojca Erdmann (young, confident, charming, natural) similarly stepping in for Müller... ... Following the Bruckner, with orchestra personnel taking bows, particular attention was paid to timpanist Rainer Seegers... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Kent Nagano conducts Bruckner 3 – Beatrice Rana plays Prokofiev 3 [live webcast]
Saturday, May 25, 2019 |  Thank goodness for webcasts, and time-zones! Radiating world-wide from my London seat, I had just been in Berlin for Bruckner 2 (Paavo Järvi) and a few hours later I was in Detroit for another Bruckner Symphony, the Third, with Kent Nagano. ... For the concert’s first half it was straight into Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto – popular, yes, and pianists queue to play it, but not as inspired as the Second. One drawback to the Third’s success are those renditions that take it too fast, which trivialises the music... ... Step forward Beatrice Rana. She offered brilliance without haste and shapeliness devoid of rhetoric. 
Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia @ Barbican Hall – Antonio Pappano conducts Mahler 6
Saturday, May 25, 2019 |  It took the full duration – eighty to eighty-five minutes – of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia’s performance of Mahler 6 to justify the work’s potential as the composer’s ‘Tragic’ Symphony, as Antonio Pappano seized every opportunity to avert disaster in this unbearably taut and mercurial account. 
International Handel Festival Göttingen – Rodrigo – Erica Eloff, Fflur Wyn, Anna Dennis; directed by Walter Sutcliffe; conducted by Laurence Cummings
Saturday, May 25, 2019 |  Although Rodrigo (1707) was the fifth opera which Handel composed (albeit three of those are now lost) it was the first he wrote in Italy and so represents his first true Italian opera seria, as opposed to the bilingual stage-works he had created in Hamburg. Despite that, it has held an uncertain place in the Handelian operatic canon... ... As the first institution to revive Handel's opera in the modern era, it is characteristic of Göttingen's International Handel Festival to rehabilitate such an overlooked work. As ever, Laurence Cummings – also the music director of the equivalent (though more recent) Festival in Handel's adopted home, London – proves an enthusiastic and assured advocate of this music... 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Sakari Oramo conducts Mahler 7 & Thomas Larcher’s Chiasma
Friday, May 24, 2019 |  This was the final concert of the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s Barbican season – next stop the Proms – and the musicians signed off in style. ... Thomas Larcher’s music continues to enthral, and you could hear why in Chiasma, first heard in Leipzig in March last year. ... Sakari Oramo and the BBCSO played Chiasma as if it is core repertoire... ... Mahler 7 is still not a guarantee of good box-office, and this brilliantly executed and exciting account will continue arguments about what Mahler intended by this five-movement Symphony/Suite hybrid, with an ambiguous, in the end exasperating Finale. Oramo is generally superb at clarifying huge symphonic structures without making it sound forensic... 
Hamburg International Music Festival – Christian Tetzlaff plays Ligeti’s Violin Concerto, Andris Poga conducts Vasks’s Musica appassionata and Sibelius 7 – NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester [live NDR Kultur radio broadcast]
Friday, May 24, 2019 |  he domain still of the few, György Ligeti's Violin Concerto (1990-92) – premiered in its revised form in Cologne in October 1992 by Saschko Gawriloff, Peter Eötvös conducting – is a fascination as much as a challenge, a five-movement tapestry of life, incident, memory and quest, seen through all shades of gravity and colour, all tensions of tuning, rhythm, dynamic intensity, improvisatory liberty and co-ordination. ... Christian Tetzlaff sees it as a Janus-faced canvas... ... If Ligeti's score bristles with dynamics and intricacies, the opposite is true of Pēteris Vasks's Musica appassionata for strings... ... For whatever reason, Sibelius's single-movement Seventh Symphony (1924) gelled least well. Artistic Director of the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra in Riga, Poga, who won the 2010 Svetlanov Competition, and from 2011 to 2014 was Paavo Järvi's assistant in Paris, is efficient but, from what I have seen of his performances, somewhat straight-laced. 
TAO Dance Theater at Sadler's Wells — Tao Ye's 4 & 9
Friday, May 24, 2019 |  There is something depressing about the Chinese company TAO Dance Theater and the choreography of its founder Tao Ye: as an international cultural export of a totalitarian Communist regime, the dancers are reduced to mere bodies to be manipulated rather than living, breathing, sentient artists. Tao’s works 4 and 9 erase the humanity from the ensemble of admittedly physically impressive performers: in the former, four of them wear head-hugging coverings and have their faces blacked out as they enact Tao’s movements… 
Hallé at Bridgewater Hall – Mark Elder conducts Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony
Thursday, May 23, 2019 |  Although Mahler Symphonies (and Shostakovich’s) are now everyday – especially their respective Fifths – and to their detriment, I thought I’d give Mark Elder’s Hallé ‘Resurrection’ Symphony a go. Glad I did, as an escape, and to stimulate the little grey cells. ... But, we weren’t done, for Mark Elder made a touching speech in honour of leader Lyn Fletcher whose final Hallé concert this was... ... And, believe it or not, Elder then conducted Vaughan Williams’s Serenade to Music (originally saluting Henry Wood, text from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice) in its chorus and orchestra version... 
Los Angeles Master Chorale @ Barbican Hall – Orlande de Lassus’s Lagrime di San Pietro/Tears of St Peter – conducted by Grant Gershon; directed by Peter Sellars
Thursday, May 23, 2019 |  Anyone familiar with the many Passion settings will know that the moment when Peter denies Christ marks a sharp escalation of intensity. Orlande de Lassus (or Orlando di Lasso), the great sixteenth-century master of polyphony went one step further by isolating this single event as settings of twenty devotional poems by his contemporary Luigi Tansillo... ... is also timeless, covering entirely modern concerns of guilt, betrayal and blackest soul-searching with masochistic sensuality, and it is this that Peter Sellars has magnified in his staging... 
Igor Levit plays Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations @ Wigmore Hall
Wednesday, May 22, 2019 |  From all the ecstatic coverage a couple of years ago of his mighty triple-decker Bach, Beethoven and Rzewski Variations album (link below to my review), you would think that the Goldbergs were a staple of Igor Levit’s repertoire, but this appears to not be the case. There are reviews of his playing the set as part of an elaborate performance-art installation in New York in 2015, but it looks as though – and I may well be wrong – this Wigmore Hall recital was the first of it in London, possibly the UK. 
New York Philharmonic – Jaap van Zweden conducts Shostakovich/Barshai & Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony
Wednesday, May 22, 2019 |  The New York Philharmonic and Jaap van Zweden opened its Music of Conscience series with Rudolf Barshai’s string-orchestra arrangement of Shostakovich’s Eighth String Quartet (1960) written in the wake of the Allied bombing of Dresden during World War Two. Barshai, an important conductor, was a colleague and close friend of Shostakovich. ... For the ‘Eroica’, ultimately Beethoven’s denunciation of Napoleon’s dictatorship, van Zweden set a brisk tempo for the opening Allegro (with exposition repeat). He conducted much of this triple-meter movement in one-to-the-bar, so that he was able to stay in-tempo consistently and impressively... 
Britten Sinfonia/Thomas Adès – Beethoven Symphony Cycle & Gerald Barry at Barbican Centre – 5/Symphonies 7 & 8 ... Lawrence Power plays Barry’s Viola Concerto
Tuesday, May 21, 2019 |  This was the penultimate programme in a series wherein Thomas Adès conducts Beethoven and Gerald Barry. ... Barry has created music of all genres, and there are six operas. It is difficult to imagine a more effectively arranged showcase for his compositions than this series. The premiere of his fifteen-minute Viola Concerto took place three days earlier at Saffron Hall in Essex. ... Lawrence Power used his instrument to complement the orchestra’s aggression... ... The evening began with Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. Advance publicity referred to “the brief and brilliantly inventive Symphony No 7”. Well “brief” is a strange description... 
Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Donnerstag aus Licht @ Royal Festival Hall
Tuesday, May 21, 2019 |  Can it really be thirty-four years since Donnerstag, the first completed drama of Stockhausen’s seven-day cycle Licht, had its UK premiere to (largely) appreciative audiences at Covent Garden? ... At around twice the length of Wagner’s Ring cycle and extending for three further evenings, Licht has been frequently – and lazily – dismissed as the outcome of the hubris that over-took Stockhausen’s thinking over the latter half of his career. ... Throughout the three hours of this production, Benjamin Lazar’s stage direction conveyed the grandeur and also the intimacy of Stockhausen’s music with a resourcefulness the greater for its understatement, abetted by the fluent sound projection of Florent Derex and the ‘sculpted’ computer music design of Augustin Muller who, between them, transformed the Royal Festival Hall into an environment of potent depth and immediacy. 
Magdalena Kožená & Yefim Bronfman @ Barbican Centre
Monday, May 20, 2019 |  Even the star combination of Magdalena Kožená and Yefim Bronfman could only yield a stalls-only event in the Barbican Hall, and it says a great deal for both of them that they created such a rapport with the audience. 
The Royal Opera – David McVicar’s production of Giordano’s Andrea Chénier – Roberto Alagna, Sondra Radvanovsky, Dimitri Platanias; conducted by Daniel Oren
Monday, May 20, 2019 |  What this first revival of David McVicar’s 2015 production of Andrea Chénier lacks in emotional punch and dramatic credibility is compensated for by picture-book staging and stellar singing. Giordano’s opera (first-performed in 1896) to Luigi Illica’s libretto (he of La bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly) is essentially a costume drama; all bonnets, frockcoats and wigs, and provides a thumbnail portrait of France during and following the Ancien Régime. ... Just as well Giordano created such sumptuous music. ... ...this Chénier is all about the singing, and top of the bill is Roberto Alagna. 
Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2019 – Annabel Arden’s production of Rossini’s Barber of Seville – Levy Sekgapane, Andrey Zhilikhovsky, Hera Hyesang Park, Adam Palka, Alessandro Corbelli; conducted by Rafael Payare
Sunday, May 19, 2019 |  For the second offering of the 2019 summer season Glyndebourne has revived its 2016 production of Rossini’s ever-popular Barber of Seville, and showcases some exceptional young talent – always one of Glyndebourne’s strengths. Annabel Arden’s staging, with visually attractive and flexible designs by Joanna Parker occasionally reminiscent of the bright and zany cinematographic colours of Pedro Almodóvar’s films, tells the story with great clarity and sustains the comedy. 
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at Lincoln Center – Manfred Honeck conducts Mahler 5 – Till Fellner plays Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto
Sunday, May 19, 2019 |  An interesting pairing of two Fifths, and both Till Fellner and Manfred Honeck hail from Austria, where in Vienna Beethoven and Mahler had their greatest successes. ... Fellner gave an intelligent, articulate, refined and basically straightforward reading of the ‘Emperor’ Concerto. ... Honeck stayed out of Fellner’s way in the Beethoven; in contrast, Honeck’s self-indulgent reading of Mahler’s Fifth was so cluttered with exceedingly awkward attempts at rubato, hyped-up, ear-splitting dynamic levels and frenetically fast tempos. 
Berliner Philharmoniker – Herbert Blomstedt conducts Wilhelm Stenhammar’s Second Symphony – Yefim Bronfman plays Beethoven's B-flat Piano Concerto [live webcast]
Saturday, May 18, 2019 |  A week ago the Digital Concert Hall broadcast Bernard Haitink conducting Mozart and Bruckner. Now the Berliner Philharmoniker had at its helm another (and slightly older) nonagenarian: Herbert Blomstedt (a Berlin regular for forty years) in a similar Piano Concerto/Symphony combo. ... ...compensation came with the opening flourish of the Beethoven – its introduction alive, springy and detailed, a certain stateliness of tempo aiding articulacy – the perfect entrée for Yefim Bronfman to bring out the music’s Haydnesque sparkle and also young Ludwig’s progressive pursuits... ... Completing the concert was pianist and conductor (of the Gothenburg SO between 1906 and 1922), and Blomstedt’s Swedish compatriot, Wilhelm Stenhammar’s Second Symphony... 
Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2019 – Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust – Allan Clayton, Christopher Purves, Ashley Riches, Julie Boulianne; directed by Richard Jones; conducted by Robin Ticciati
Saturday, May 18, 2019 |  Berlioz first described La Damnation de Faust as an opéra de concert, then changed his mind to Légende dramatique and its unique-selling-point as a non-opera hasn’t affected its popularity one bit. ... In its first staging of this French annexation of one of romanticism’s core texts, Glyndebourne has entrusted the launch of its summer season to Richard Jones... ... As Faust, Allan Clayton combines introspection and passion heroically... ... ...Christopher Purves was unassailably in charge as Méphistophélès... ... Julie Boulianne’s portrayal of the tentative development of Marguerite’s love for Faust is very touching, and she sings gloriously. ... ...Robin Ticciati plays a crucial role in giving the score a gripping sense of theatre... ... The London Philharmonic spares nothing... 
Bromley Symphony Orchestra Centenary Concert – Adrian Brown conducts Blest Pair of Sirens, Europa, and Beethoven’s Choral Symphony
Saturday, May 18, 2019 |  There cannot be many non-professional orchestras that have been going for one-hundred years, but the Bromley Symphony has carried the flag for classical music in south-east London for just such a period, in the course of which its chief conductors have included Sir Adrian Boult and Norman Del Mar. Among artists to have appeared with it are Kathleen Ferrier, Dennis Brain, John Lill, Paul Tortelier, Leslie Howard, Emma Johnson and Sir Donald McIntyre. ... Adrian Brown has been at the helm for forty seasons... 
Das Stuttgarter Ballett – Kenneth MacMillan's Mayerling – Jürgen Rose's new production
Saturday, May 18, 2019 |  Stuttgart Ballet’s new production of Kenneth MacMillan’s dark three-act masterpiece Mayerling is a triumph in almost every respect. Not only is the company the first German ensemble to perform the work, but it is given in highly intelligent, scenically arresting new designs and costumes from the legendary Jürgen Rose, who, now 82, was persuaded by company director Tamas Detrich to undertake the mammoth task. The choice of Rose was inspired: he brings not only a lifetime of experience of designing for the stage, but he is intimately linked both to the company and choreographer, having worked extensively with both John Cranko and Kenneth MacMillan… 
The MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall – Valery Gergiev conducts Schubert’s Great C-major Symphony – Daniil Trifonov plays Schumann’s Piano Concerto
Saturday, May 18, 2019 |  It was surprising that Valery Gergiev was conducting the MET Orchestra in works by Schumann and Schubert, since for more than fifteen years their collaborations have been exclusively in music by Russian composers. The result was at best a mixed bag, with the Schumann coming off best, thanks to Daniil Trifonov, whereas the Schubert lacked sparkle and vitality. 
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester – Paavo Järvi conducts Anton Bruckner's Second Symphony – Laura Aikin performs Alban Berg’s Seven Early Songs [live webcast]
Friday, May 17, 2019 |  With Paavo Järvi you get the modern jet-setting conductor who, whatever the repertory, is always responsibly prepared, coaxing orchestras to give of their best. ... On this occasion in Hamburg he was journeying a different emotional road, a late Austrian Habsburg one looking back from Berg to Bruckner, two composers he sees as a particularly intuitive mix. ... In tackling the “curiosity” that's Bruckner's 1872 Second Symphony, the first of his Viennese period, he maintains it best to think of it rooted (hence by implication played) in mid-Romantic tones, to hear it of its day, freed of the monumentalism and “statement” of the later Symphonies. ... In keeping with Järvi's 2012 Frankfurt recording, this performance followed the 1877 revision in William Carragan's recent 2007 edition... ... ...Berg's 1928 orchestration of his Seven Early Songs, written while he was a student of Schoenberg, in Vienna, focussed on a different sequence of vistas. An order of expressive concentration touched vaguely by Wolf, Mahler, Strauss, Zemlinsky perhaps … distilled through ghosts from Verklärte Nacht ... flying freely yet chained by key-signatures. Järvi shaped a lusciously warm, chorded support for Laura Aikin... 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Jakub Hrůša conducts Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony & Brahms 3 – Karen Gomyo plays Mendelssohn
Thursday, May 16, 2019 |  Few Symphonies occupy quite such a significant role as Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’, yet it can be a difficult work to bring off. Starting and closing quietly, in some hands its two movements, which are of similar duration and tempo markings, can seem soporific. From Jakub Hrůša, employing antiphonal violins and left-positioned basses, all of the Philharmonia’s most characteristic virtues of warm string sound, blended woodwinds and mellow brass, were to the fore. ... Karen Gomyo who was born in Tokyo, began her musical career in Montreal and New York and now lives in Berlin. Frequently chosen by aspiring violinists as their debut piece, Mendelssohn’s (second) Concerto may be an obvious choice, but it is not without its pitfalls. 
Benjamin Grosvenor at Barbican Hall
Thursday, May 16, 2019 |  During a period of fifteen years Benjamin Grosvenor has gone from a child prodigy to watch and nurture to becoming a mature, rounded benchmark of pianism. Only in his mid-twenties, Grosvenor is blessed with an imagination and unaffected candour that get straight to the mindset of whatever music he is playing. ... The two Schumann works are from the composer’s twenties, and Grosvenor proved particularly adept at evoking the transitory beauties of Blumenstück... ... Then Grosvenor really got into his romantic stride in Kreisleriana, the chain of eight pieces based on the bizarre character created by the equally strange novelist E. T. A. Hoffmann... ... Prokofiev’s Visions fugitives often get near to the compressed, expressionist world of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. Grosvenor played twelve of the twenty brief pieces... 
Evgeny Kissin at Carnegie Hall
Thursday, May 16, 2019 |  The tightly-knit program for this jam-packed Carnegie Hall recital – with several added rows of stage seating – opened with three Chopin Nocturnes, perfectly suited to Evgeny Kissin’s aristocratic and appealingly introverted style, displaying his poetry, impeccable taste and masterful technique. 
Hans Werner Henze’s Phaedra at the Linbury Theatre
Wednesday, May 15, 2019 |  The music of Hans Werner Henze’s final true opera Phaedra, premiered in 2007, is a remarkable achievement with a score full of amazing sonorities. 
Bournemouth Symphony Chorus & Orchestra at Lighthouse – Kirill Karabits conducts The Dream of Gerontius – Paul Appleby, Alice Coote & James Rutherford
Wednesday, May 15, 2019 |  The plain tiled walls of the Lighthouse may not be the ultimate venue to contemplate a soul’s journey through the afterlife, or summon visions of angels and demons, but its secular ordinariness might have won the approval of Charles Villiers Stanford who declared that The Dream of Gerontius “stank of incense.” No fear of any religious trappings here; yet, conducted by Kirill Karabits, Elgar’s setting of Cardinal Newman’s poem communicated deep spirituality. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – David Robertson conducts The London Citizen Exceedingly Injured & Shostakovich 1 – Anthony Gregory & Martin Owen perform Britten’s Serenade
Wednesday, May 15, 2019 |  It opened with Raymond Yiu’s The London Citizen Exceedingly Injured, a compressed concerto for orchestra in all but name, which the BBCSO premiered in 2013. Yiu channels the tortured life of the eighteenth-century biblical scholar Alexander Cruden and aspects of George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen-Eighty-Four into an impression of London... ... Robertson relaxed a bit into a spacious, glossy account of the Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Britten’s not-so-little Night Music, with Martin Owen in superb, almost too effortless command of the harmonics... ... Anthony Gregory, who over the past few years has taken on a number of Britten and Baroque-opera roles, was cultivated, expressive and word-friendly... 
OAE @ QEH – J. S. Bach’s Four Orchestral Suites, BWV1066-1069
Tuesday, May 14, 2019 |  The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment delivered Johann Sebastian Bach’s four Orchestral Suites in life-affirming style, and with a sense of freedom that surely owes to having almost all the players standing. 
Canada's National Arts Centre Orchestra at Cadogan Hall – Alexander Shelley conducts Brahms 2 | Jan Lisiecki plays Ravel | David D. Q. Lee & London Voices perform Ana Sokolović’s Golden slumbers kiss your eyes...
Tuesday, May 14, 2019 |  So far as your correspondent is concerned, this concert proved to be one of the major highlights of the current London orchestral season... ... This was not the first visit to the UK for Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra, but I had not heard it before: heartfelt thanks to the Zurich International Orchestra Series at Cadogan Hall... ... The evening opened with a cantata, settings of texts in six languages, Golden slumbers kiss your eyes... by the Serbian-Canadian Ana Sokolović, composed in 2015. ... Many performances fail to some degree to cohere its myriad expression fully, but this account by Jan Lisiecki was wholly musical, technically commanding... 
Kensington Symphony Orchestra at Cadogan Hall – Russell Keable conducts The Enchanted Lake & Lemminkäinen Legends and the London premiere of Huw Watkins’s Symphony
Monday, May 13, 2019 |  Liadov’s The Enchanted Lake is an example of those shorter Romantic concert pieces that were once often-heard half a century ago. ... Much of these characteristics were clear in Russell Keable’s account, which the Kensington Symphony Orchestra played to a high degree, but the Cadogan Hall acoustic told somewhat against the dynamics and balance of this performance... ... Huw Watkins’s recent Symphony composed for the Hallé, is in two movements. Today, when what constitutes a Symphony is pretty much what the composer says it is, it is refreshing to encounter a work that takes its responsibilities seriously. ... Sibelius’s Lemminkäinen Legends do not truly cohere as an organic work, nor are the first two sufficiently differentiated in terms of material, scale and treatment to be considered as parts of such, although ‘The Swan of Tuonela’ (placed third) and ‘Lemminkäinen’s Return’ may be considered symphonically joined. 
Canada's National Arts Centre Orchestra at Saffron Hall – Alexander Shelley conducts Dvořák’s New World Symphony | Jan Lisiecki plays Ravel | David D. Q. Lee & London Voices perform Ana Sokolović’s Golden slumbers kiss your eyes...
Sunday, May 12, 2019 |  Under its English music director Alexander Shelley, Canada's National Arts Centre Orchestra from Ottawa – a capital city that sees fit to provide its citizens and neighbourhood with a performing arts centre including not only a 2,000-seater hall but also, as Shelley engagingly reminded us (he's a good communicator), English, French and Indigenous theatre departments – is on an ambitious fiftieth-anniversary tour... ... Opened in 2013, Saffron Hall, like Snape Maltings or Cambridge Corn Exchange, is the kind of regional venue that has come to appeal to world-class orchestras and top-flight soloists... ... Jan Lisiecki's Ravel was agile and fleet-fingered yet, in the flesh, relatively shallow-toned, without that bigness of projection video/streaming directors and audio engineers customarily seem to bring to his renditions. 
Berliner Philharmoniker – Bernard Haitink conducts Bruckner 7 – Paul Lewis plays Mozart Piano Concerto K595 [live webcast]
Saturday, May 11, 2019 |  Counting down to his sabbatical, Bernard Haitink reached Berlin for Bruckner 7, a lifetime composer in his repertoire. If Haitink’s Bruckner has got broader in recent years (and close to Celibidachian dimensions: both conductors with the transcendent ability to distinguish musical time from “the clock on the wall”, I borrow from Barenboim) it is neither indulgent nor valedictory; rather the slow-burn aspect is part of a grand yet wholesome design and is also in admirable affinity with Bruckner’s Heaven-reaching music. ... Prefacing Bruckner was Mozart’s final Piano Concerto with Paul Lewis (his BP debut this week) feeding off Haitink’s gentle if pulsing introduction to bring out the music’s autumnal aspects, Lewis as refined as the conductor. Nothing bland though... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Paavo Järvi – Egmont Overture & Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony – Viktoria Mullova plays Sibelius’s Violin Concerto
Saturday, May 11, 2019 |  This was one of those popular 'old-fashioned' Saturday evenings. Infinitely musical, resolutely undemonstrative, Paavo Järvi steered proceedings in a cultured way, score before him, clear and direct in his intentions. ... Fielding a largely youthful team, carrying no dead wood, the Philharmonia (antiphonal violins, led by Benjamin Marquise Gilmore, concertmaster designate) rose splendidly to the occasion... ... London-based Viktoria Mullova is ever-youthful. Watching her, listening to the unfailing brilliance and power of her playing, she's still that slim Moscow girl of the early-eighties, winning the Sibelius and Tchaikovsky competitions, defecting with her Georgian lover to the West, her story “the stuff of spy movies”. Her Sibelius Concerto was arresting... ... Järvi has never been a man given to histrionics or showmanship: he's far closer to his father, Neeme, than his younger brother, Kristjan. In his Frankfurt days, his Tchaikovsky was more in the Haitink vein than anything Russian or American, overdrive mattering less than a quality pulse and honesty to the page. This 'Pathétique' emphasised beauty of tone and ensemble... 
BBC Symphony Chorus & Orchestra – Joana Carneiro conducts Augusta Read Thomas’s Radiant Circles, Osvaldo Golijov’s Oceana & John Adams’s Naive and Sentimental Music
Saturday, May 11, 2019 |  Portuguese conductor Joana Carneiro here made her enterprising debut with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. ... I’ve not heard much of Augusta Read Thomas of late, but she has been prolific over the pond – her first opera will be staged by Santa Fe later this year – and Carneiro opened with Thomas’s 2010 Radiant Circles... ... Its opening chimes in a descending pattern instantly reminded me of Star Trek as William Shatner’s Captain Kirk intones the star-date at the start of his diary entries. ... Carneiro’s next UK premiere took us south of the equator for Argentinean-born Osvaldo Golijov’s response to Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s Cantos ceremonials... ... The year after Golijov originally conceived Oceana John Adams started composing Naive and Sentimental Music – another major three-movement orchestral work to complement his anti-Schoenberg triptych Harmonielehre. 
RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra – Leonard Slatkin conducts Circuits & Enigma Variations – Alina Ibragimova plays Richard Strauss’s Violin Concerto [live webcast]
Friday, May 10, 2019 |  Leonard Slatkin has long been a champion of Edward Elgar’s music. This season he has conducted Enigma Variations in Detroit, Louisville and Pittsburgh (and the First Symphony in Lyon) and he arrived in Dublin courtesy of Raidió Teilifís Éireann for a further shot at Opus 36. The RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra played in a manner that suggested its members and their debuting maestro had clicked... ... The concert’s centrepiece was Richard Strauss’s Violin Concerto... ... Alina Ibragimova certainly made her presence felt from her first note... ... To open the concert, Slatkin brought a calling-card from the States, Cindy McTee’s Circuits... 
Handel’s Israel in Egypt – Gergely Madaras conducts BBC Singers & Academy of Ancient Music at Milton Court
Friday, May 10, 2019 |  There is always the temptation for conductors and performers to revel in the monumental grandeur of Handel's Israel in Egypt, telling the epic Biblical story of the Israelites' Exodus under Moses from the oppressive rule of Pharaoh. Paradoxically that can be even more the case with the shortened version of 1756 in which there is a greater proportion of choral movements relative to solo numbers following the omission of several of the latter from the 1738 original. ... With the comparatively small scale of the Academy of Ancient Music, that briefer version of the score prompted Gergely Madaras to take a more dramatically taut and lithe account of the music, with an impressive variety of choral timbres deftly elicited from the BBC Singers... 
London Schools Symphony Orchestra at Barbican Centre – Richard Farnes conducts Force of Destiny Overture & Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony – Elena Urioste plays Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto
Thursday, May 09, 2019 |  A nicely balanced traditional programme this, with only Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto seemingly an out-of-the-way item, although his musical language is not one that would have raised the eyebrows of either of the other composers represented... ... ...a repertoire piece, certainly for American soloists, of whom Elena Urioste is an outstandingly fine example. ... The concert opened with the Overture to Verdi’s La forza del destino, oddly translated in the programme as “The Power of Fate”. ... On the basis of the concert’s first half, one was looking forward to the Tchaikovsky, but for various reasons – although very well played – Farnes’s account was curiously unsatisfying. 
English National Opera at Alexandra Palace Theatre – Britten’s Paul Bunyan
Thursday, May 09, 2019 |  It was an odd coincidence that ENO’s staging of Britten’s Paul Bunyan, his creation-myth operetta about immigrant loggers clearing America’s virgin forests to make way for human civilisation, marked its first revival the day after a BBC documentary about tree-clearance being a main factor in climate change. Yet for all the political posturing driving the pacifist composer and collaborator-poet-librettist W. H. Auden in their self-imposed wartime exile in the United States, ecology wasn’t one of them. 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem & Mahler's Fifth Symphony
Wednesday, May 08, 2019 |  The LSO is about to embark on an extensive tour of South America. It’s a new departure for the players but the repertoire they’re taking isn’t exactly novel. The Britten was one of André Previn’s calling cards and the orchestra has not been immune to the insatiable demand for Mahler, the Fifth Symphony in particular. For some of us its popularity remains puzzling and I’m not sure the Scherzo is improved by the current fashion for having the first-horn sit upfront for the duration, as if performing an interpolated Concerto. Simon Rattle has now abandoned this particular ploy... 
Michel Legrand’s Amour @ Charing Cross Theatre
Wednesday, May 08, 2019 |  Michel Legrand was one of the most successful film composers of his time from the late-1950s right up to 2018, the year before his death in January. He famously worked with French directors, in particular Jacques Demy on Lola, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, a sung-through operetta that earned Legrand three Academy Award nominations including Best Song, ‘I Will Wait For You’. He also wrote the music for Demy’s The Young Girls of Rochefort, again virtually sung through. In all Legrand scored over two-hundred soundtracks, producing many celebrated songs including ‘The Windmills of Your Mind’, from The Thomas Crown Affair, as well as from Summer of ’42 and Yentl, all three of which won Oscars. His other film work included The Go-Between, Portnoy’s Complaint, Lady Sings the Blues, Orson Welles’s F for Fake, Louis Malle’s Atlantic City, Robert Altman’s Prêt-à-Porter, and the recently completed ‘lost’ film of Welles’s, The Other Side of the Wind, among many, many others. 
The Royal Ballet – Mixed Bill – Within the Golden Hour | Medusa | Flight Pattern
Wednesday, May 08, 2019 |  There is nothing wrong with the new in dance; indeed, it is its very lifeblood, otherwise classical ensembles, such as The Royal Ballet, become museums, the dancers today’s curators of the ballets of the past. However, for a company like the Covent Garden ensemble, there is a balance to be made, and judicious decisions to be taken, about what should join its rich performing repertoire and why. The latest offering from The Royal Ballet shows how it can go wrong… 
The Metropolitan Opera – John Dexter’s production of Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites – Isabel Leonard, Karita Mattila, Erin Morley, Adrianne Pieczonka, Karen Cargill; conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Wednesday, May 08, 2019 |  Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts this seventh Met revival of John Dexter’s starkly beautiful 1977 production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites, and the comeback is magnificent. 
Wimbledon Choral Society & Philharmonia Orchestra at Royal Festival Hall – Neil Ferris conducts Vaughan Williams’s Mystical Songs & the premiere of Cecilia McDowall’s Da Vinci Requiem – Martin James Bartlett plays Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G
Tuesday, May 07, 2019 |  Cecilia McDowall’s Da Vinci Requiem is for the centenary of the Wimbledon Choral Society and the 500th-anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, which fell on May 2. It fuses Latin texts with extracts from Leonardo’s notebooks which, together with verses from Dante Gabriel Rossetti, reflect on mortality. ... Opening the first half Vaughan Williams’s Five Mystical Songs (to poems by George Herbert)... ... Ravel’s G-major Piano Concerto was then given a highly characterful outing, its bluesy playfulness and dreamy introspection underlined by the Philharmonia and Martin James Bartlett. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Ben Glassberg conducts Walton’s Henry V music & Dvořák 8 – Kirill Gerstein plays Tchaikovsky’s Second Piano Concerto [live webcast]
Sunday, May 05, 2019 |  I have a soft spot for Tchaikovsky’s Second Piano Concerto, especially in its grand-design original version (forty-five minutes here), rather than Siloti’s cut and emendated publication. Kirill Gerstein is a vibrant champion of what Tchaikovsky intended, here in the company of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Ben Glassberg (winner of the Grand Prix at the Besançon Competition 2017). ... The concert opened with some of William Walton’s music for Laurence Olivier’s 1944 film of Shakespeare’s Henry V... 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts John Adams’s Harmonielehre & Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique
Sunday, May 05, 2019 |  Poised for an extensive tour of South America with works by Britten, Mahler and Berlioz, this LSO concert certainly brought luxury-class playing. However, on this precursor concert, the opener was a substantial work not being included on the trip, one which Simon Rattle has championed throughout his career, John Adams’s Harmonielehre. ... Remarkably given that it dates from 1830, Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique also evokes the Jungian world of dreams as it charts the descent from the comparative sanity of the opening movement into the total madness of the closing ‘Witches’ Sabbath’. 
London Sylvan Ensemble/Tom Higgins with Sarah Markham @ St James’s Piccadilly – including world premieres from Lawrence Axelrod and Robert Matthew-Walker
Saturday, May 04, 2019 |  Of the professional smaller orchestras and ensembles based in the capital, the London Sylvan Ensemble is notable for its policy of giving a premiere of a new work, written with the players in mind, in each programme. ... The American Lawrence Axelrod’s new piece, Evolutions, made an equally strong impression. ... The prolific Robert Matthew-Walker’s Opus 176 followed, Sinfonietta Urbana. This ten-minute work reflects, as Higgins explained, images of urban life in London, but what those images are remain anybody’s guess. 
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Closing Concert – Daphne Delicata | Lucia Micallef, Brigitte Peyré & Estonian Sinfonietta/Brian Schembri – Ravel Sonatine, Hindemith, Poulenc Aubade, Fiorini, Mahler Kindertotenlieder
Saturday, May 04, 2019 |  Given in the presence of Malta's recently sworn-in new president, George Vella, this was a concert in three parts, the third generating the main interest. ... Commissioned by the Valletta Cultural Agency, Karl Fiorini's Four Miniatures are miniaturistic in the sense of Schoenberg's Das Buch der hängenden Gärten, his arrangement of which opened the current Festival (April 26). In other words, weighty subject matter focussed in a concentrated, emotionally charged framework. ... Peyré's matured Mahler, sad and painful, took on a different dimension, taking us to Rückert... ... Best earlier was the first of Hindemith's seven Kammermusik essays (in Fiorini's perception paying oblique hommage to Bauhaus). Charlene Farrugia, obbligato piano, was crisp and agile, nothing conceivably beyond her powers as a solo and ensemble player. ... So to Daphne Delicata – her third successive evening appearance at this year's Festival. Ravel's Sonatine is tricky and deceptive. From her poise (the more so given the pressure and dignitaries present) you wouldn't have guessed it. 
Mitsuko Uchida plays Schubert Piano Sonatas at Carnegie Hall – D537, D840, D960
Saturday, May 04, 2019 |  Mitsuko Uchida is on the last leg of her two-year journey exploring Schubert’s Piano Sonatas. This recital was to have been the culminating event at Carnegie Hall, but it became the penultimate, when due to exhaustion the pianist withdrew from all upcoming performances and the concert scheduled April 30 was postponed until June 18. ... But Uchida’s finest achievement of the evening came in the B-flat Sonata with playing that exhibited an almost otherworldly quality. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Bruckner 3 – Janine Jansen plays Brahms’s Violin Concerto
Friday, May 03, 2019 |  Before heading to Glyndebourne (Berlioz’s Faust first up, May 18), the London Philharmonic ended its 2018-19 season on a high, a Brucknerian summit. Yet this apotheosis was the only time that Vladimir Jurowski broadened the music, to advantage. Otherwise, it was if we were on an express train, albeit in a first-class compartment (precise playing), with the driver ignoring speed limits, not interested in views and panoramas, and delivering overloud/too bright brass-dominated fortissimos... ... How excellent the first half, though, even if Brahms’s Violin Concerto was delayed due to voices from somewhere, I think via the speakers, which were shut-off with a clunk a few bars in. If only Jurowski had been as discriminating with the without-gravitas Bruckner as he was with Brahms; how tailor-made for Janine Jansen his accompaniment and how interesting it was on its own terms. Jansen was also splendid... 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Sakari Oramo conducts Funeral Song & Rite of Spring – Igor Yuzefovich plays Shostakovich
Friday, May 03, 2019 |  Stravinsky‘s Funeral Song has had a number of outings in London and internationally since it was disinterred from the library of the St Petersburg Conservatory in 2015. ... Sakari Oramo and the BBC Symphony Orchestra emphasised this in an absorbing reading that made the most of the work’s dense and sometimes voluptuous textures. ... The idea of music as ritual also appears again in The Rite of Spring. Oramo refused to treat this totemic masterpiece of modernism as just another glossy showpiece... ... The concert also served as the first solo appearance for the BBCSO’s Joint Leader Igor Yuzefovich, with Shostakovich as his calling card. 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Winchester Cathedral – Christopher Petrie conducts Călin Humă premiere – Alexandru Tomescu plays Porumbescu & Saint-Saëns
Friday, May 03, 2019 |  A clear thread running through this programme, with two works by Romanian composers and the soloist also from that country, may have aroused the curiosity of some members of the audience, but on reflection it was perhaps the location of the concert rather than its make-up that may have appeared more unusual for Metropolitan music-lovers, a connection explained by the fact that Călin Humă (born in 1965), composer of the final item, has lived in Hampshire for many years. ... far as this listener was concerned, Alexandru Tomescu could have played as many works as he wished, for it was clear, from the opening Baladă by the short-lived Ciprian Porumbesco (1853-1883), and even more so from the relatively more familiar Third Concerto by the long-lived Camille Saint-Saëns (1834-1921) that Tomescu is an artist and virtuoso of the front rank. 
The Anvil 25th-Birthday Gala – Martyn Brabbins conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra – Breathing Space, Here and There, Enigma Variations – Sheku Kanneh-Mason plays Elgar’s Cello Concerto
Friday, May 03, 2019 |  Samantha Fernando’s Breathing Space draws inspiration from the meditative process known as Mindfulness and “attempts to evoke the challenge and the reward of finding a little space, mentally and physically within the demands of the everyday.” ... ...a colourful score that under Martyn Brabbins’s scrupulous direction pulsed with a nervous undercurrent. ... Following Brabbins’s festive romp, Elgar’s character portraits were vibrantly and sensitively underlined in a spacious but flowing account... ... Earlier, the Philharmonia, Brabbins and Sheku Kanneh-Mason were meaningful collaborators in Elgar’s Cello Concerto... 
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Daphne Delicata | Estonian Sinfonietta Soloists
Friday, May 03, 2019 |  On paper this “Danse Macabre” concert by the Estonian Sinfonietta Soloists from Tallinn promised an interesting snapshot of northern landscapes. In the event it ended up broadly as a succession of water-coloured cameos, the only offering of substance being Rudolf Leopold's 1994 realisation of the septet draft of Richard Strauss's late Metamorphosen. ... For the second of her three 'warm-up' appearances at this year's Festival, Daphne Delicata took us down youthful roads. ... Mendelssohn's pre-Midsummer Night's Dream Introduction and Rondo capriccioso found her fearless... 
BBC Philharmonic at Bridgewater Hall – Martyn Brabbins conducts the Fourth Symphonies by James MacMillan & Michael Tippett – Sophie Bevan sings Britten’s Les illuminations
Thursday, May 02, 2019 |  Two blockbuster Fourth Symphonies, James MacMillan’s dedicated to Donald Runnicles, who conducted the premiere during Proms 2015, and Michael Tippett’s completed in 1977 for Solti and Chicago. ... In Symphony 4 MacMillan incorporates a ten-voice Mass by Robert Carver, the Scottish Renaissance composer much-admired by MacMillan. Symphony 4, a “ritual” says its creator, chimes its way into existence... ... It’s good to know that having recorded five-star versions (as far as I am concerned) of Tippett’s Four Symphonies (plus a debut for the composer-withdrawn B-flat, his earliest such work) that Brabbins also conducts them as repertoire. ... Between the Symphonies Sophie Bevan was the magnetic soprano in Britten’s Les illuminations, settings of Frenchman Rimbaud’s symbolist poetry made for Sophie Wyss in 1939. 
Vivaldi in Venice – Dorilla in Tempe @ Teatro Malibran – Manuela Custer, Lucia Cirillo, Véronique Valdès; directed by Fabio Ceresa; conducted by Diego Fasolis
Thursday, May 02, 2019 |  If Vivaldi's Dorilla in Tempe (premiered 1726) is known at all, it is probably for the fact that its opening chorus in praise of the season of Spring borrows the music from a certain Concerto by the composer, published just the previous year and already widely famous. That prompts Fabio Ceresa to follow the idea of the seasons through his production, an imaginative stroke that works rather well. 
Francesco Piemontesi at Queen Elizabeth Hall
Thursday, May 02, 2019 |  Francesco Piemontesi’s most recent solo visits to London have been as an exceptional Mozart player, so it came as a surprise to hear this fastidious artist in a programme dominated by muscular, virtuosic, turn-of-century repertoire – and if this recital was a statement of reinvention, it succeeded impressively. 
Man of La Mancha at London Coliseum – Kelsey Grammer, Daniele de Niese, Nicholas Lyndhurst; directed by Lonny Price
Thursday, May 02, 2019 |  This year’s Spring musical to take over the London Coliseum, following Sweeney Todd, Sunset Boulevard, Carousel and Chess – all co-produced between English National Opera, Michael Linnit and Michael Grade – revives the 1960s show based on Cervantes’s epic Don Quixote, Man of La Mancha, for the first time in the West End (running to June 8) since it opened at the Piccadilly Theatre, starring Keith Michell, in 1968. ... Kelsey Grammer – best known as the small screen’s favourite psychiatrist, Dr Frasier Crane – is not new to London. ... He’s joined by Danielle de Niese as Quixote’s ideal courtly woman Dulcinea, despite her constant protestations that she falls much below his exalted ideas of her as just plain Aldonza. And it’s de Niese that electrifies the production. ... There’s a drolly understated Janus-sided performance from Nicholas Lyndhurst as the tipsy Innkeeper... 
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Daphne Delicata/Beethoven | Trio Ameraldi/Shostakovich & Schubert
Thursday, May 02, 2019 |  ...the Swiss-based Trio Ameraldi offered a seriously-inclined programme in historical reverse, Shostakovich's youthful C-minor Trio preceding Schubert's E-flat. ... Prefacing the closing events of this year's Festival, as part of the artistic director's annual Rising Star series, the twelve-year-old Gozitan pianist Daphne Delicata is making her Teatru Manoel debut. For this first of three appearances, she offered Beethoven's 'Grande Sonate Pathétique'... 
New York Philharmonic – Semyon Bychkov conducts Ein Heldenleben – Katia & Marielle Labèque play Bruch
Thursday, May 02, 2019 |  Katia and Marielle Labèque joined the New York Philharmonic for Max Bruch’s Concerto for Two Pianos... ... ...Semyon Bychkov’s keenly attentive and caring conducting ensured a warm accompaniment. ... Following intermission the bulked-up Philharmonic gave an ardently-played account of Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben. 
Berliner Philharmoniker in Paris – European Concert with Daniel Harding & Bryn Terfel from the Musée d’Orsay – Berlioz, Debussy, Wagner [live webcast]
Wednesday, May 01, 2019 |  No sooner back in Berlin from Baden-Baden – Zubin Mehta conducting Verdi’s Otello common to both places – than the Berliner Philharmoniker was on its travels again, to Paris for this European Concert, a morning affair. The Musée d’Orsay (with a replica of The Statue of Liberty prominent, as well as numerous other exhibits) may have sounded a little ‘cold’ in itself and in resonance during the preamble but was sonorously warmed by Daniel Harding launching ‘Good Friday Music’ from Wagner’s Parsifal... ... With the Museum’s ornate clock heading towards Noon, it was interval time, following which further musical languor, Debussy’s Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune and the ‘Scène d’amour’ from Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette... ... Finally, a return to Wagner; cue Bryn Terfel for ‘Wotan's Farewell and Magic Fire Music’ from Die Walküre... 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments, Harrison Birtwistle’s The Shadow of Night & John Adams’s Harmonielehre
Wednesday, May 01, 2019 |  Next year will see the centenary of Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments, his homage to Debussy, although it is most often heard in its spikier and more acerbic 1947 revision. The 1920 version was only officially published in 2001 (the year of Harrison Birtwistle’s The Shadow of Night). Simon Rattle has always kept faith with the slightly larger structure of Stravinsky’s first version, and so it was that he opened this concert of twentieth- and twenty-first-century works... 
Joshua Bell, Steven Isserlis & Jeremy Denk at Alice Tully Hall
Tuesday, April 30, 2019 |  Longtime friends Joshua Bell, Steven Isserlis and Jeremy Denk united to perform Piano Trios. Their playing was distinguished by elegance, finely honed dynamics and phrasing, and infectious musical affinity. 
Orion Orchestra & London Philharmonic Choir at Cadogan Hall – Alpha & Omega Beethoven – Toby Purser conducts the Choral Symphony & Pavel Kolesnikov plays the B-flat Piano Concerto
Tuesday, April 30, 2019 |  This concert was the last of Toby Purser and his Orion Orchestra’s Alpha & Omega series: a simple but rewarding concept of pairing works from the start and end of a composer’s output. Beethoven’s B-flat Piano Concerto was written during 1787-89 and the ‘Choral’ Symphony dates from 1822-24, three years before his death. This occasion was also Purser’s last as Orion’s Artistic Director. 
Bundesjugendorchester at Berliner Philharmonie – Ingo Metzmacher conducts Amériques & Alpine Symphony [live webcast]
Monday, April 29, 2019 |  In its fiftieth-anniversary year, this was the second appearance during 2019 of the Bundesjugendorchester (German National Youth Orchestra) at the Berlin Philharmonie... ... Ingo Metzmacher conducted Amériques with masterly control... 
London Handel Festival – Athalia – Anna Devin, Grace Davidson, Rupert Enticknap, Anthony Gregory; conducted by Laurence Cummings
Monday, April 29, 2019 |  With his third English-language Biblical oratorio Athalia (1733) Handel was experimenting with the form of this still nascent genre that would achieve fuller dramatic expression in the epics of the 1740s, by which time the composer had completely retired from opera. ... In keeping with this intimate and interior drama, Laurence Cummings directed an account of this succinct work that was dainty and decorous rather than portentous... 
Berliner Philharmoniker – Zubin Mehta conducts Verdi’s Otello – Arsen Soghomonyan, Sonya Yoncheva, Luca Salsi, Francesco Demuro [live webcast]
Sunday, April 28, 2019 |  Having just given several staged presentations, directed by Robert Wilson, at the Easter Festival in Baden-Baden, the Philharmoniker musicians returned home to Berlin, cast and conductor intact, for a concert performance of Verdi’s Otello, one of the truly great operas. ... With a flash of trumpet lightning and a thunderous fortissimo, Zubin Mehta (partly conducting from memory, opening his score from Act Two, previous tenors as Otello for him have included Jon Vickers and Plácido Domingo, and Tito Gobbi as Iago) launched a spectacular storm and then Arsen Soghomonyan made an exalted entrance as The Moor of Venice... 
English Symphony Orchestra at Kings Place – Kenneth Woods conducts Martinů & Dvořák – Noriko Ogawa plays Mozart & Kaprálová
Sunday, April 28, 2019 |  ...but in so doing we find ourselves drawn to programmes selected and conducted by Kenneth Woods, which are invariably planned purely on artistic merit (and, we must assume, practicality of performance) and on nothing else – certainly not on gender assignment, for ninety-five-percent of the string players of the English Symphony Orchestra are women. The corporate quality of the music-making was apparent throughout. ... Conductor and orchestra were joined by Noriko Ogawa for Mozart’s Piano Concerto K413. Had Mozart not gone on to develop the genre with such astonishing genius, we may think rather more of this work than we do... ... Dvořák’s Serenade for Strings ended the concert, but this was not as we might have expected, for this was not the familiar revised version, but the recently published original... 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Vladimir Ashkenazy conducts Glinka & Shostakovich – Esther Yoo plays Glazunov’s Violin Concerto
Sunday, April 28, 2019 |  For the second night running a Russian conductor called Vladimir took to the Royal Festival Hall stage in charge of an orchestra with whom he has had a long-standing relationship. There’s over thirty years between the two Vladimirs: Jurowski – with the LPO the night before – yet to be fifty, and Ashkenazy, shortly to be eighty-two (July 6), returning as the Philharmonia Orchestra’s Conductor Laureate. ... Different in mood – at least until the final section – is Glazunov’s Violin Concerto from sixty years later. Esther Yoo has recorded it with Ashkenazy and the Philharmonia. 
Rob Brydon Probes Barry Humphries at the London Palladium
Sunday, April 28, 2019 |  Last year during his Weimar Republic Cabaret season at the Barbican, entertainer extraordinaire Barry Humphries seemed to have retired his usual personae (Dame Edna Everage, Sir Les Patterson, Sandy Stone and others) while he presented the music of Germany before World War Two. ... Meanwhile he was back at the Palladium for one night only to be “probed” by fellow funny-man Rob Brydon. 
Louis Lortie at Wigmore Hall – Liszt’s Années de pèlerinage
Sunday, April 28, 2019 |  This Louis Lortie recital was the first time I – and many in the audience – had heard all three books of Liszt’s Years of Pilgrimage in one sitting, each about fifty minutes long with a couple of intervals, although I am told that Jorge Bolet, of blessed memory, performed them in London probably in the 1970s. The twenty-three pieces define the breadth and depth of the Liszt vision, and Lortie has had them in his repertoire at least for the past decade, having played them, as here, in sequence in his native Canada, at Bayreuth, and at Snape Maltings in August 2011 (he recorded them, for Chandos, nearby at Potton Hall in 2010). 
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Somogyi String Quartet plays Schoenberg No.1 & Schubert’s Death and the Maiden
Sunday, April 28, 2019 |  This looked like being one of the highlights of this year's International Spring Orchestra Festival in Malta. Twenty-two years together, the Somogyi String Quartet from Budapest is a perfectly honed, harmoniously tuned ensemble. ... Running out at around fifty minutes, Schoenberg's First Quartet (1904-05) was a tour-de-force. Not only in terms of architecture – a massive, dramatic edifice inspired by the “mental essence” of Beethoven's ‘Eroica’. ... No less a privilege was Schubert's ‘Death and the Maiden’... 
Garrick Ohlsson at 92nd Street Y – Brahms Exploration II
Sunday, April 28, 2019 |  In this second of four Brahms recitals at 92nd Street Y, Garrick Ohlsson demonstrated complete technical mastery as well as deep musical understanding. Having the Opus 118 Pieces follow the Opus 2 Sonata provided an instructive contrast between the composer’s early foray into a genre previously dominated by Beethoven and the intimacies of his later years. ... The program concluded with the Handel Variations, which Ohlsson performed with power and agility, seamlessly shifting moods... 
Göteborgs Symfoniker – Herbert Blomstedt conducts Haydn 104 & Mahler 1 [live webcast]
Saturday, April 27, 2019 |  Close on ninety-two he may be but there is nothing stale or laurel-resting about Herbert Blomstedt’s conducting, every concert an adventure to be seized and relished. ... This Gothenburg pairing of D-major Symphonies opened with Haydn’s farewell to the form, the only one of his Twelve London Symphonies (93-104) to be distinguished by the titular use of the capital city. ... For Mahler’s First (if several revisions later) Blomstedt grew taller (the podium was returned) and previously outlined particulars were as before. This outing refreshed the parts for music that is profligately programmed these days... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Elgar’s Falstaff & Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel – Yefim Bronfman plays Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto
Saturday, April 27, 2019 |  The three works in this LPO concert are examples of composers developing new forms: Brahms in his mighty four-movement B-flat Piano Concerto, Richard Strauss in Till Eulenspiegel, his most original orchestral work (until that point), and Elgar in 1913, moving away from the opulent world of his Symphonies (1908 & 1911) and the choral setting The Music Makers (1912), composed a portrait of a fictional character in subtle orchestral brushstrokes which, to this day, seems original and groundbreaking. ... However, it was the magnificent edifice that is Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto that began the concert with Yefim Bronfam. 
London Handel Festival – Venceslao – Nick Pritchard, Michał Czerniawski, Galina Averina & Helen Charlston; Opera Settecento conducted by Leo Duarte
Friday, April 26, 2019 |  This was the third of Handel’s pasticcios Leo Duarte has presented with Opera Settecento at the London Handel Festival (following Elpidia and Ormisda; though OS has also given Catone in Utica with a different conductor). Duarte has prepared new editions from original sources to bring to light this intriguing aspect of Handel’s operatic output, in which a musical patchwork was created by threading a variety of arias from other composers’ operas. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Sakari Oramo conducts Dvořák 7 – Nicola Benedetti plays Elgar
Friday, April 26, 2019 |  Some Classical Source writers have often bemoaned the present-day lack of Overtures (or equivalent) with which to open a concert. Yet in some instances, a programme featuring two major works is justified in itself, of which there could have been no finer demonstration than this BBC Symphony Orchestra event. ... Although its popularity fluctuated over the course of the last century, Elgar's Violin Concerto (1910) is now firmly established at the forefront of the genre... ... Sakari Oramo set a purposeful if never inflexible tempo for the opening Allegro, easing into its soulful second theme with unforced eloquence such as Nicola Benedetti duly enhanced on its arrival in the exposition. ... Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony (1885) made for a substantial second half. Even more so than usual, as Oramo opted to perform the Andante in its original version heard at the premiere but only published six years ago.  
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Opening Concert – Harmonia Consort perform Mussorgsky/Orga, Schoenberg/Fiorini & Schubert/Mahler
Friday, April 26, 2019 |  Under the artistic direction of the Paris-based composer Karl Fiorini, Valletta's annual International Spring Orchestra Festival is now in its thirteenth edition. This year's theme, “Of Death and Maidens”, explores a repertory from the classicists to today, taking the audience on a journey of cultural, psychological and personal discovery. 
BBC Philharmonic at Bridgewater Hall – Andrew Davis conducts Symphonies by Sibelius (No.6) & Stravinsky (in C) – Steven Osborne plays Michael Tippett’s Piano Concerto
Thursday, April 25, 2019 |  The BBC Philharmonic and Andrew Davis had obviously worked hard on these demanding scores and the results were impressive across the board. ... Sibelius 6 (1923), his “cold water” Symphony, is pure music about itself, yet also transporting to a time and (perhaps mystical) place. ... Steven Osborne is a Tippett man through and through (so too Andrew Davis): he has recorded all of the composer’s piano music for Hyperion. Tippett’s Piano Concerto (1955), written for Noel Mewton-Wood (although Louis Kentner gave the premiere, Mewton-Wood having committed suicide), grows out of Tippett hearing Walter Gieseking play Beethoven’s G-major Concerto. ... Date-wise, Stravinsky’s Symphony in C comes between the Sibelius and the Tippett; finished in 1940 this was a bad time for the composer, dominated by his own illnesses and familial deaths. 
LSO – François-Xavier Roth conducts Spanish Ravel – Rhapsody, Boléro, Hour
Thursday, April 25, 2019 |  I’ve been lucky enough to be on the receiving end of some outstanding music-making from the LSO, but this Ravel evening was in a league of its own... ... François-Xavier Roth met Ravel halfway with a finesse of listening and technical connectivity... 
New York Philharmonic – Semyon Bychkov conducts Thomas Larcher & Johannes Brahms
Wednesday, April 24, 2019 |  Austrian Thomas Larcher (born 1963) deftly combines traditional elements with modern techniques. His Symphony No.2 (2016) commemorates the thousands of immigrants who have lost their lives in the Mediterranean as a result of the refugee crisis. In this often harshly demonstrative work Larcher responds to this tragedy with unmitigated vehemence... ... Semyon Bychkov, who conducted the World and UK premieres, drew a hard-edged and intensity vital performance. 
Robert Schumann’s Myrthen at Wigmore Hall – Connolly, Huntley, Tritschler, Martineau
Wednesday, April 24, 2019 |  The twenty-six Lieder which make up Myrthen were presented by Robert Schumann to Clara Wieck as a wedding present. 
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Jean-Guihen Queyras & Rosas at Sadler's Wells – Mitten wir im Leben sind / Bach6Cellosuiten
Wednesday, April 24, 2019 |  A bare stage, a cellist, the six Bach Cello Suites; enough, one would think in itself. Not so for Anna Teresa De Keersmaeker, choreographer and performer, who has created movement for herself and four other dancers around Jean-Guihen Queyras and his instrument. Queyras is a truly exceptional performer, whose interpretation of Bach’s wondrous compositions flows with startling creativity and vibrant musicianship. His cello becomes the epicentre of a universe of sound and emotion, his virtuosity bringing a multiplicity of colours and nuances – there is no greater moment in this performance than in the fifth Suite when all lights dim to leave Queyras playing in a spotlight, the spare notes sounding out in a universe of silence and darkness; a moment of genuinely cosmic scale. For Queyras, it is a feat of endurance, all six Suites performed from memory with only brief pauses between, two hours of exceptional, distilled musicianship. 
The Royal Opera – Britten’s Billy Budd – Jacques Imbrailo, Toby Spence, Brindley Sherratt; directed by Deborah Warner; conducted by Ivor Bolton
Tuesday, April 23, 2019 |  Deborah Warner’s production of Britten’s Billy Budd has already been seen in Madrid (2017) and in Rome (2018) – the first time ever for the tragic tale of poor Billy in both cities – and arrives back at the Royal Opera House (where it had its premiere in 1951, in its four-Act version) after an absence of two decades. It was the work in which Britten really got into his operatic stride... ... Jacques Imbrailo has made the role of Billy his own during the past decade and he radiates youthful hope and innocence in lithe, observant acting and singing that flows easily from heroic optimism to anguish... 
Chineke! Orchestra at Queen Elizabeth Hall – From Errollyn Wallen to Beethoven 8 via In memoriam Stephen Lawrence, Starburst, and Sussex Landscape
Monday, April 22, 2019 |  The unprovoked murder by a gang of white youths of the black teenaged student Stephen Lawrence, waiting one evening at a bus stop in South-East London in April 1993, soon became a national cause célèbre, not only for the overly racist nature of the crime but also for the shortcomings of the initial Metropolitan Police investigation, which failed to lead to the successful prosecution of most members of the gang, three of whom have escaped justice completely. ... Errollyn Wallen’s Concerto grosso (2007) falls into four succinct movements. Its character is basically upbeat and positive... ...  
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 Apollo 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, 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... ... 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. ... 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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