All 2017 Concert Reviews

Belief & Beyond Belief – Semyon Bychkov conducts Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony at Royal Festival Hall with Royal Academy of Music forces
Thursday, June 22, 2017 |  As if hell-bent to break the current hot spell, Semyon Bychkov’s sweeping downbeat unleashed a crackling string tremolando; cellos and double basses giving a fair representation of thunder in the semiquaver ascents that starts Mahler’s epic ‘Resurrection’ Symphony. ... Bychkov’s willing cohorts were the Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Academy of Music... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Yuri Temirkanov – Kikimora & Shostakovich 5 – Denis Kozhukhin plays Rachmaninov ... Music of Today Composers’ Academy
Wednesday, June 21, 2017 |  Of Shostakovich’s fifteen Symphonies it’s the Fifth that is played the most, relentlessly, and it was just a few months ago when Yuri Temirkanov conducted it at this address as part of a not dissimilar programme (link below). Now culturally exchanging the St Petersburg Philharmonic for the Philharmonia Orchestra, Temirkanov led an account of ‘Shos 5’ that might be considered neutral in terms of its circumstances... ... When the Philharmonia returns to ‘Shos 5’ in the RFH, November 23, it will once again have Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto parked alongside it, another work impossible to have a Brief Encounter with. On this occasion Denis Kozhukhin was in terrific shape... 
The Royal Opera – Verdi’s Otello – Jonas Kaufmann, Maria Agresta, Marco Vratogna; directed by Keith Warner; conducted by Antonio Pappano
Wednesday, June 21, 2017 |  Jonas Kaufmann has at last taken up Verdi’s most challenging tenor role, Otello. ... Interestingly, Kaufmann’s lower notes were fuller than some of Marco Vratogna’s, and Vratogna’s baritone had more wheedling insinuation than distilled blackness. He was very effective in all the minutiae of Iago tipping Otello over the edge... ... Maria Agresta showed from the start the scope of Desdemona’s love and purity... ... Boito reduced Shakespeare’s play to about a quarter of its length to concentrate on its core theme. Perversely, Keith Warner’s new production re-inflates it into something imposing but inert. ... From the storm music onwards, it was clear how fully Antonio Pappano understands this. 
Aldeburgh Festival – Trio Isimsiz plays Tchaikovsky & CBSO/Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla in Petrushka
Sunday, June 18, 2017 |  The second of two appearances by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla at this year’s Aldeburgh Festival was a shared programme with Trio Isimsiz, the latter playing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio written in 1882 in memory of Nikolai Rubinstein. 
Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD – ENO at Hackney Empire – music by Daniel Schnyder, with Lawrence Brownlee as Parker, conducted by Clark Rundell
Saturday, June 17, 2017 |  I knew nothing about Charlie Parker and, following this performance, I’m not sure that I know much more. ... Schnyder’s Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD comes to Hackney Empire courtesy of English National Opera... ... As an almost-constant presence, Lawrence Brownlee’s suited Parker has an ever-engaging tenor... 
Chelsea Opera Group at Cadogan Hall – Verdi’s Nabucco – David Kempster, Helena Dix; conducted by Gianluca Marcianò
Saturday, June 17, 2017 |  Verdi’s Nabucco, his third opera and first success, is a tough piece to stage successfully... ... The Overture set the scene with Gianluca Marcianò setting a pace that would have tested a well-oiled professional orchestra, the potpourri of good tunes given full rein. The Chelsea Opera Orchestra was on fine fettle... ... The Chorus relished its moments in the spotlight at ‘Va pensiero'... ... The most treacherous role is Abigaille. Helena Dix proved to be a superb exponent. ... In the title-role David Kempster gave a trenchant account of the over-confident King... 
Royal Academy Opera at Shoreditch Town Hall – Brecht & Weill’s Die Dreigroschenoper/The Threepenny Opera; directed by Walter Sutcliffe; conducted by Gareth Hancock
Saturday, June 17, 2017 |  Bertolt Brecht seems to be back in fashion – perhaps not surprisingly given the political situation – but this Royal Academy of Music production of his most-famous collaboration with Kurt Weill follows hard-and-fast on the Donmar Warehouse’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui and the Young Vic’s The Life of Galileo. ... I was surprised on arriving at Shoreditch Town Hall that the publicity had it wrong – it wasn’t The Threepenny Opera I had come to review, but Die Dreigroschenoper... 
Garsington Opera at Wormsley – Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande – Jonathan McGovern, Andrea Carroll, Paul Gay; directed by Michael Boyd; conducted by Jac van Steen
Friday, June 16, 2017 |  Instead of benign midsummer light and warmth, Gothic clouds scudding across louring skies would have been more appropriate for Garsington Opera’s new production of Debussy’s setting of Maeterlinck’s symbolist tragedy, in which the enigmatic Mélisande, married to Golaud, embarks on a deadly relationship with his much-younger half-brother Pelléas. ... Michael Boyd’s and designer Tom Piper’s staging reverts to a murky Pre-Raphaelite eroticism... ... Making her UK debut, the American soprano Andrea Carroll’s strong-voiced Mélisande is the more knowing of the lovers, in that she is sure of her preference. Jonathan McGovern, an experienced Pelléas, doesn’t quite have that expressive twang of a French baryton-martin... ... Paul Gay’s Golaud is a superb display of anguish, suspicion and violence... ... Garsington Opera has secured a five-year partnership with the Philharmonia Orchestra, the first outing of which is this Pelléas. Under Jac van Steen, the Philharmonia musicians surpassed themselves... 
New York City Opera – Peter Eötvös’s Angels in America; directed by Sam Helfrich; conducted by Pacien Mazzagatti
Friday, June 16, 2017 |  New York City Opera concluded its season with Peter Eötvös’s Angels in America (2004), a condensed re-telling of Tony Kushner’s lengthy seminal play. ... Pacien Mazzagatti led the orchestra capably and traffic-copped the complex vocal entrances graciously. However, the balance was generally abysmal... 
Richard Alston Dance Company at Sadler's Wells – Glint / Tangent / Chacony / Gypsy Mixture
Friday, June 16, 2017 |  Richard Alston is the real thing: many claim to be choreographers but few are makers of dance. In his eponymous company's Sadler's Wells season, three of the four works on show are by him, and while it is relatively easy to identify them as 'Alston', with his trademark Merce Cunningham-influenced use of the body and arms, they show a true master of his craft, reacting to an eclectic choice of music with characteristic individuality. Making up the quartet is a new work by Martin Lawrence, a company associate, increasingly playing Jerome Robbins to Alston's George Balanchine, a complement rather than a rival.… 
Igor Levit at Wigmore Hall – Beethoven Piano Sonata Cycle (8), Opuses 109,110 & 111
Tuesday, June 13, 2017 |  It has taken Igor Levit eight months to complete his Beethoven Piano Sonata cycle at Wigmore Hall, and each recital has proved him to be a bold navigator of this particular musical galaxy. 
Classical Opera at St John’s Smith Square – Mozart 250 – Lambach Symphony, Grabmusik, Apollo et Hyacinthus; directed by Thomas Guthrie; conducted by Ian Page
Monday, June 12, 2017 |  This was a cleverly devised programme, adopting the by-now-established routine of Classical Opera’s Mozart 250 project in profiling works from a given year in that composer’s life (here 1767). On this occasion three disparate pieces – never intended to have any connection, despite their chronological proximity – into a dramatically and musically convincing whole. ... Grabmusik is a dramatic cantata for Holy Week in which a Christian soul – sung vociferously by Benjamin Appl – contemplates the dead Christ and bewails the scandal of the incarnate God being put to death... ... Pairing that allegorical Christian work with Apollo et Hyacinthus, the re-telling of a pagan mythological story about the killing of the latter, bore unexpected connections... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Antoine Tamestit & Cédric Tiberghien
Monday, June 12, 2017 |  Brahms’s viola version of his F-minor Clarinet Sonata might surprise by the transformation it undergoes. On a viola it’s full, dark, romantic and dramatic in a way that the woodwind instrument can never quite achieve. This was the climax of this Wigmore Hall BBC Lunchtime concert by Antoine Tamestit and Cédric Tiberghien, alumni of the BBC’s New Generation Artists scheme. 
Grange Park Opera – Katie Mitchell’s production of Janáček’s Jenůfa – Natalya Romaniw, Susan Bullock, Nicky Spence, Peter Hoare; conducted by William Lacey
Sunday, June 11, 2017 |  First impressions of Grange Park Opera’s new theatre at West Horsley Place are of a close, resonant acoustic, and, in its horseshoe configuration with a number of tiers ranged around the stalls, excellent sightlines. ... Grange Park’s Jenůfa is based on Katie Mitchell’s 1998 Welsh National Opera production... ... Susan Bullock is making her role debut as the Kostelnička. Bullock is a magnificent singer-actress... ... Natalya Romaniw, making her role debut as Jenůfa, is beautifully cast as a young woman larger in spirit, and infinitely more vulnerable, than the rest of her family and her neighbours. 
The Grange Festival 2017 – Bizet’s Carmen – Na’ama Goldman, Leonardo Capalbo, Phillip Rhodes, Shelley Jackson; directed by Annabel Arden; conducted by Jean-Luc Tingaud
Sunday, June 11, 2017 |  Grange Festival is confusingly occupying the former site of Grange Park Opera. Little has changed in this idyllic country-house venue, except plush new seating and a multitude of marquees on the expansive lawns conjuring Henry V’s Agincourt. ... Bizet’s Carmen was always going to be a likely choice for a new artistic venture... ... Annabel Arden’s production certainly brings a fresh approach... ... Despite looking the part, it’s a shame that Na’ama Goldman’s Carmen never quite raised the emotional temperature and her ‘Habanera’ made little impact. ... It’s left to Leonardo Capalbo’s José to make the strongest impression... 
Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2017 – world premiere of Brett Dean’s Hamlet – Allan Clayton, Barbara Hannigan, Sarah Connolly, John Tomlinson, Jacques Imbrailo; directed by Neil Armfield; conducted by Vladimir Jurowski
Sunday, June 11, 2017 |  With a record of a new commission almost every decade, Glyndebourne confirms its astute choices in following Jonathan Dove’s Flight, Harrison Birtwistle’s The Second Mrs Kong, and Peter Eötvös’s Love and Other Demons, with Brett Dean’s Hamlet. It reunites former Vladimir Jurowski with the company for the first time since his departure in 2013 and boasts a cast with impeccable Glyndebourne credentials. Both John Tomlinson and Sarah Connolly started their professional careers as members of the Glyndebourne Chorus, while Jacques Imbrailo returns after taking the title-role of Billy Budd in 2010 and 2013. Hamlet himself is Allan Clayton, previously Albert Herring here. ... Dean draws us inexorably in, aided and abetted by Jocelyn’s remarkable conflation of Shakespeare. The walls of the large room are moved to form a corridor on the forestage where Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are introduced as a Tweedledum/Tweedledee double-act (admittedly rather thinner), both light-suite countertenors, before Polonius announces he’s found out what ails Hamlet – love for his daughter Ophelia, whom he encourages to read aloud Hamlet’s letters. ... The second Act has the two biggest theatrical shocks. The raucous opening includes chorus-members entering the auditorium and calling for Laertes to be King, Dean’s music crackling with ferocity and danger. 
Murray Perahia at Barbican Hall – Bach French Suite BWV817, Schubert Impromptus D935, Mozart Rondo K511, Beethoven Sonata Opus 111
Sunday, June 11, 2017 |  Murray Perahia doesn’t do lightweight these days and here he coupled masterworks by arguably the three greatest composers who have ever lived with a rather more prosaic offering by Mozart. 
Istanbul Recitals – Roland Pöntinen plays Chopin, Liszt & Debussy at Sakıp Sabancı Museum
Saturday, June 10, 2017 |  Founded by the late Kâmil Şükûn, the Istanbul Recitals series has been running for ten years, in which time it has established a classy niche for itself, with a cultured subscription audience and a discerning roll-call of artists. This season's pianists have included Bavouzet, Volodin, Jablonski, Dinnerstein, Restani and Hewitt. ... Concerts are held in one of the most exclusive, alluringly leafy settings in Istanbul (home in recent years to exhibitions of Rodin, Picasso and Dali), the crush bar overlooking the waters at Emirgan. ... Drawing a full house, Roland Pöntinen's recital – a journey of stories and endings – was a high-profile, thought-provoking encounter interlaced with pertinent, personable asides... 
New York Philharmonic/Alan Gilbert – Concert for Unity – Mahler 7
Saturday, June 10, 2017 |  For his final subscription concert as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert invited twenty-two musicians from nineteen countries – including concertmasters from Iran, South Africa, South Korea and Mexico – to join the orchestra for Mahler’s Seventh Symphony. Gilbert intends this “Concert for Unity” to be a first step toward the creation, under the auspices of the United Nations, of an international ensemble that will use the power of music to unite people. In a brief video Secretary-General António Guterres offered congratulations to Gilbert and also his support. ... It seemed odd at first blush that Gilbert selected Mahler 7... 
Istanbul Music Festival – Russian Chamber Philharmonic St Petersburg/Juri Gilbo – Ravel and Prokofiev Left-hand Piano Concertos with Hüseyin Sermet and Vassilis Varvaresos, and Pulcinella and Polovtsian Dances
Friday, June 09, 2017 |  Pursuing the “Unusual” theme of this the forty-fifth Istanbul Music Festival, this concert contrasted a Russian orchestral fest with two of the several Left-hand Piano Concertos commissioned by Paul Wittgenstein before the Second World War, one famous, the other scarcely played. ... In the Ravel (1931), Hüseyin Sermet, Turkey's best-known ex-pat, based in Paris, excelled in the solo paragraphs... ... But most to blame was the cavernous acoustic of the Byzantine Hagia Eirene Museum in the outer courtyard of the Topkapi Palace, the former arsenal of the Ottoman janissaries. ... In such a space, Prokofiev's Fourth Piano Concerto (also 1931), its motoric rhythms playing to the beat in contrast to Ravel's playing to the emotional curve, survived better, it's less-opaque orchestration presenting fewer ensemble problems. Vassilis Varvaresos, a rising star of supremely assertive self-confidence, metallised his way through the notes... 
Aldeburgh Festival – Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Iestyn Davies, Sophie Bevan, Jack Lansbury, Nick Pritchard – directed by Netia Jones; conducted by Ryan Wigglesworth
Friday, June 09, 2017 |  Benjamin Britten's Shakespeare opera A Midsummer Night’s Dream opened the refurbished Jubilee Hall for the 1960 Aldeburgh Festival. ... ...and now there is this one from Netia Jones opening this year's Festival and marking the fiftieth-anniversary of Snape Maltings as a concert hall... ... ...and Captain Mainwaring-type suits for the Mechanicals. ... The stellar cast is a Dream-team blend of character and virtuosity you can imagine Britten would have loved. Iestyn Davies's remote Oberon floods the Maltings with countertenor magic, matched by Sophie Bevan's equally imperious Tytania... ... Jack Lansbury is a sensational Puck... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Enrique Mazzola – Mendelssohn & Schumann – Till Fellner plays Mozart K466 ... Music of Today: Musical Toys and Hans Abrahamsen with Mei Yi Foo
Thursday, June 08, 2017 |  Sadly Christoph von Dohnányi was indisposed (best wishes to him for a speedy recovery), his place taken by Enrique Mazzola (aus Italien), the programme unchanged. ... Schumann 2 “the greatest Symphony in C-major”, I know not who I quote but it’s out there somewhere, and I wouldn’t argue with the opinion. However, it was a bit less of a masterwork here, for although the Philharmonia Orchestra played with alertness, athleticism and artistry, and Mazzola was discriminating with detail, dynamics and degrees, his zeal tended to tempos that glossed over the music’s deeper emotions... ... Mazzola and the Philharmonia then provided an excellent accompaniment for K466, surreptitious and stylish in the first movement, a perfect foil for Till Fellner... ... It was piano all the way in the early-evening Music of Today recital, Mei Yi Foo demonstrating commendable identification and technical address with a range of pieces. Those vignettes, eleven of them from eight composers, including George Benjamin, Eötvös, Gubaidulina and Lachenmann (but given the remit nothing from Ligeti or Nancarrow), opened with impressionistic glissandos from Kurtág, and closed with the pulsations of Unsuk Chin... ... All these miniatures, invariably selected from cycles, intrigued, so too Hans Abrahamsen’s Piano Concerto... 
Longborough Festival Opera – Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde – Peter Wedd & Lee Bisset; directed by Carmen Jakobi; conducted by Anthony Negus
Thursday, June 08, 2017 |  When Longborough mounted its first Tristan und Isolde in 2015 (which I didn’t see), a key component of Carmen Jakobi’s production were two dancers who ghosted the title roles. Wagner lovers and critics, it’s fair to say, were not impressed... ... The other Longborough figure is Anthony Negus, who brings a compelling authority to Wagner – his conducting is in a league of its own. ... By not getting in the way, the staging enhances the intensity between the lovers, and with Peter Wedd (who was in the original run) and Lee Bisset you see and hear something quite remarkable unfold... 
Grange Park Opera – Puccini’s Tosca – Ekaterina Metlova, Joseph Calleja, Roland Wood; directed by Peter Relton; conducted by Gianluca Marcianò
Thursday, June 08, 2017 |  Hats off to Wasfi Kani and Grange Park Opera for delivering a 750-seat house based on La Scala... ... However Puccini's Tosca is here uneven, although rescued with some standout moments. Peter Relton chooses a conventional approach, transferring a politically turbulent Rome in 1800 to Mussolini’s 1930s. ... ...Ekaterina Metlova’s Tosca dressed curiously like Julie Andrews in the closing sequence of The Sound of Music. ... It was the much sought-after Calleja who provided the real substance... 
LSO/Michael Tilson Thomas – Nielsen 5 – Yuja Wang plays Brahms
Thursday, June 08, 2017 |  The combination of these two works, either of which would naturally form the culmination of any concert, was distinctly odd. However, part of the rationale must have been the draw of Yuja Wang. She certainly attracted an eclectic and partisan audience who persisted in clapping vigorously Brahms’s first three movements of the Brahms to the evident irritation of Michael Tilson Thomas who also fixed latecomers with an icy stare. ... Written in the aftermath of the First World War, which had severely dented the composer’s natural optimism, Carl Nielsen’s Fifth Symphony should have been the evening’s highlight. Unfortunately it soon became clear that this was not the case. ... From the LSO and MTT it should have been a sure-fire success. Unfortunately, two things got in the way. 
The Grange Festival 2017 – Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria – Paul Nilon, Anna Bonitatibus, Thomas Elwin, Robin Blaze; directed by Tim Supple; musical direction by Michael Chance
Wednesday, June 07, 2017 |  With the removal of Grange Park Opera to its venue at West Horsley, a new company – confusingly called the Grange Festival – has sprung up to fill the void at the extraordinary property at Northington, which stands stark and proud in the midst of the Hampshire countryside like a Greek temple. The venture, under the artistic directorship of Michael Chance, begins its first season by returning to the roots of operatic tradition and marking the 450th-anniversary of Monteverdi’s birth with the composer’s penultimate work for the stage, itself a Greek epic. 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Tadaaki Otaka – Elgar’s Froissart & Walton 1 – John Lill plays Tchaikovsky
Tuesday, June 06, 2017 |  Of all conductors from the Far East who have made an impact in the United Kingdom, none has had a greater success in British music, alongside the international repertoire, than Tadaaki Otaka... ... ...two English works surrounding Tchaikovsky’s G-major Piano Concerto with John Lill. ... ...his direction of Froissart (not one of Elgar’s flawless masterpieces) so captured the essence of this work that its qualities were clearly and cleverly brought out. ... Tchaikovsky’s G-major Piano Concerto would be more highly regarded had it not been overshadowed by the melodic power of the B-flat minor... ... John Lill is without question one of the finest living pianists... ... Otaka has also given many fine accounts of William Walton’s music. 
Britten Sinfonia/Thomas Adès – Beethoven Symphony Cycle & Gerald Barry at Barbican Centre – 2/Chevaux-de-frise ... Eroica
Tuesday, June 06, 2017 |  Gerald Barry’s shock tactics were out and proud for the second concert of Thomas Adès’s Beethoven cycle/Barry retrospective with the Britten Sinfonia – the ‘Eroica’ Symphony prefaced by Barry’s Chevaux-de-frise, commissioned the BBC Proms and first-performed there in 1988 by the Ulster Orchestra conducted by Robert Houlihan – so it’s a veteran shocker. 
The MET Orchestra/Esa-Pekka Salonen at Carnegie Hall – 3 – Mahler & Sibelius with Christian Tetzlaff & Anne Sofie von Otter
Tuesday, June 06, 2017 |  Carnegie Hall, most often the venue of choice for orchestras on tour, had a local visitor, the MET Orchestra concluding a three-concert series with Esa-Pekka Salonen... ... Christian Tetzlaff delivered a performance that easily overcame the technical complexity of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto... ... Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder is a haunting and haunted score. It is, both in the selected poetry (from Rückert) and Mahler’s composition, always a step removed, but never sterile. Anne Sofie von Otter’s presentation matched Mahler’s distance... 
New York Philharmonic – Wagner’s Das Rheingold; directed by Louisa Muller; conducted by Alan Gilbert
Tuesday, June 06, 2017 |  This was the third, final, and marvelous performance of Wagner’s Das Rheingold, the penultimate program of Alan Gilbert’s farewell subscription concerts as New York Philharmonic music director. 
Guildhall School of Music – Handel’s Radamisto
Monday, June 05, 2017 |  At a time when Donald Trump thinks it clever and grown-up to threaten other countries with displays of American force, and the General Election campaign in the UK descends into a crass parade of who would or would not deploy nuclear bombs, Handel’s Radamisto (1720) makes an opportune appearance at the Guildhall School, in its reflection upon tyrannical power. 
LSO/Michael Tilson Thomas – Scènes de ballet & Pathétique Symphony – Lisa Batiashvili plays Prokofiev
Sunday, June 04, 2017 |  Michael Tilson Thomas began the evening thanking us for attending in the wake of the London Bridge attack... ... Stravinsky’s Scènes de ballet was commissioned for a Broadway revue by impresario Billy Rose and was composed in the year of MTT’s birth, 1944. ... The first movement of the Prokofiev took a while to warm up although the dreamy opening was beautifully played by Lisa Batiashvili... ... The sombre opening of the ‘Pathétique’ was impressive with an eloquent bassoon and real depth of sound from violas. 
Christian Ihle Hadland at Wigmore Hall – Mozart, Brahms, Webern, Schubert
Sunday, June 04, 2017 |  Christian Ihle Hadland has easily lived up to expectations raised when he was a BBC New Generation Artist, and this Wigmore Hall recital confirmed his exceptional musicianship. ... Interestingly, under his hands, Mozart’s A-minor Sonata had already bolted the Classical stable to forge a notably neurotic, romantic identity, while Brahms’s Fantasies looked back longingly to a Classical Neverland of balance and restraint. 
Garsington Opera at Wormsley – Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro – Joshua Bloom, Jennifer France, Duncan Rock, Kirsten MacKinnon; directed by John Cox; conducted by Douglas Boyd
Sunday, June 04, 2017 |  It is a supreme irony that Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro should have become the ideal country-house opera since Beaumarchais’s play was a scarcely-veiled attack on everything to do with feudal privilege. ... If so, the audience at Garsington was thoroughly representative; after all, we live in a World which places great store on economic and cultural diversity. ... John Cox and Douglas Boyd clearly enjoy working together and it shows in a variety of subtle ways. This is no ordinary Figaro... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Jérémie Rhorer – Requiems by Duruflé & Fauré … Philharmonia Chamber Players in Debussy, Dave Heath and Ravel
Sunday, June 04, 2017 |  The atmosphere in the Royal Festival Hall was subdued and sombre. Jérémie Rhorer made a brief dedication of the concert to the victims of the previous evening’s London Bridge attack. The Requiems by Maurice Duruflé and Gabriel Fauré are amongst the most contemplative and consoling of settings of the Catholic rite and here they reached a level of gravity and intensity that was truly moving. 
Opera Holland Park – Mozart’s Don Giovanni – Ashley Riches, John Savournin, Laura Fagan, Victoria Simmonds; directed by Oliver Platt; conducted by Dane Lam
Saturday, June 03, 2017 |  The slightly rusting deck of an ocean liner arrayed with cabin doors and life-rings is certainly not what one expects as a setting for Don Giovanni... ... Oliver Platt’s direction is both inventive and cogent. There are moments of great humour... ... Ashley Riches and John Savournin are well-paired as Giovanni and Leporello, credible in their interplay and in their co-dependence. ... From her first appearance as Donna Anna, Lauren Fagan demonstrated a rich, creamy and dramatic voice that bought immediacy and thrill to her every utterance. 
Garsington Opera at Wormsley – Handel’s Semele – Heidi Stober, Robert Murray, Christine Rice, Christopher Ainslie; directed by Annilese Miskimmon; conducted by Jonathan Cohen
Saturday, June 03, 2017 |  Charles Jennens, the librettist for Messiah and several of Handel’s other Biblical epics, described Semele, setting William Congreve’s re-telling of a Greek myth, as “no oratorio but a bawdy opera”; had he lived today he might have called this production simply a ‘soap opera’ and we would know what he meant. ... Annilese Miskimmon places Act One in the context of the wedding to take place between Semele and Athamas, but as the former is enamoured with Jupiter there are predictable disruptions aplenty to the festivities. ... Despite having recently sustained a foot injury, Heidi Stober gave a lively account of the title part... ... Jonathan Cohen’s direction of the Garsington Opera Orchestra provided a gloriously consistent point of focus. 
The MET Orchestra/Esa-Pekka Salonen at Carnegie Hall – 2 – Rhenish Symphony and, with Karen Cargill & Stuart Skelton, Das Lied von der Erde
Saturday, June 03, 2017 |  At first glance the coupling of Schumann’s joyful ‘Rhenish’ Symphony with the transcendentalism of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde seemed incongruous, the contrast of Schumann’s unswerving affirmation of being alive, and Mahler’s revelation of Life’s ultimate value following his profound exploration of human torments. .... Esa-Pekka Salonen managed spirited readings of the outer movements of the ‘Rhenish’. ... Das Lied von der Erde, often described as death-ridden, is in fact one of Mahler’s most Life-affirming works. 
Britten Sinfonia/Thomas Adès – Beethoven Symphony Cycle & Gerald Barry at Barbican Centre – 1/Symphonies 1 & 2
Friday, June 02, 2017 |  In between the runs of his opera The Exterminating Angel in London and New York, Thomas Adès has embarked on a Beethoven Symphony Cycle with the Britten Sinfonia, spread over three years and leavened, if that’s the word, with music by the Irish composer Gerald Barry. 
The Royal Ballet – Frederick Ashton Triple Bill [The Dream / Symphonic Variations / Marguerite and Armand]
Friday, June 02, 2017 |  Frederick Ashton’s ballets stand at the very heart of The Royal Ballet – his movement style, his approach to narrative and his musicality suffuse the company’s particular take on Classical dance. This triple bill comes as a source of immense relief to those who have felt that the ensemble has been losing sight of that fact – The Royal Ballet from its Director through to its dancers do their Founder Choreographer proud and also show that he was the creator of dance works of the very highest quality. 
LSO – Bernard Haitink conducts Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony – Mitsuko Uchida plays Beethoven
Thursday, June 01, 2017 |  Bernard Haitink found breadth and direction at the beginning of the Beethoven, the LSO mellow-sounding yet keenly accenting, dynamic too, a rhetorical setting up for Mitsuko Uchida to respond to. She did not disappoint... ... Following the interval, Haitink conducted his third Bruckner Ninth in five days – London and Paris prior to this finely crafted rendition on return to the Barbican Centre (Paris also included the Beethoven). Although Bruckner’s orchestration is not particularly extravagant (save for four Wagner tubas in addition to the ‘normal’ horns) the LSO fielded a grand turnout of players... 
Opera Holland Park – Puccini’s La rondine – Elizabeth Llewellyn, Matteo Lippi; directed by Martin Lloyd-Evans; conducted by Matthew Kofi Waldren
Thursday, June 01, 2017 |  ‘Problem’ operas tend to occur at the start of a composer’s career. Puccini’s La rondine (The swallow, as in the bird that migrates south) came later on, in 1917, between Fanciulla and Il trittico, and his problem was its commission as a Viennese-style operetta at the time of the First World War, with the result that it has survived but hardly thrives as a hybrid of comic and serious opera. Undeterred by this, Opera Holland Park (launching its second season as an independent company) has now mounted its third staging, this one being the most ambitious. ... One big difference between Violetta and Magda is that the latter doesn’t go all tubercular, but otherwise Magda is one of Puccini’s top vulnerable heroines, and the role is magnificently sung by Elizabeth Llewellyn... 
Akram Khan Company at Sadler's Wells – DESH
Thursday, June 01, 2017 |  It is over six years since Akram Khan created his highly successful one-man evening DESH, during which time he has toured it to great acclaim across the world. It is easy to see the reasons for its popularity: a spectacularly designed and lit eighty minutes of often sheer theatricality with the thread of Khan himself running through it. It is difficult to resist Khan, a highly accomplished kathak-trained dancer who has fused his Bangladeshi artistic inheritance with contemporary Western dance, into which already fascinating mix he adds his own mercurial personality, dry-humoured wit, self-deprecation and an an engaging directness. … 
Richard Goode at Royal Festival Hall – Bach BWV830, Chopin, Beethoven Opuses 101 & 110
Wednesday, May 31, 2017 |  The always-welcome Richard Goode returned to London for a seriously stimulating recital of connections – Chopin’s reverence for J. S. Bach, Beethoven anticipating Chopin (the slow movement of the ‘Pathetique’ Sonata, for example) and dance-rhythms galore. Goode opened with J. S. Bach’s extensive E-minor Partita. ... The Chopin group was no-less distinguished. The harmonically restless and dynamically dramatic B-major Nocturne was immaculately phrased and included wonderful trills that were more than decoration. Goode is a master of the Mazurkas... ... The ‘late’ Beethoven Piano Sonatas made a complementary pair, both compact in design if immense in their respective worlds. 
Christopher Maltman & Malcolm Martineau at Wigmore Hall – Animal Songs
Wednesday, May 31, 2017 |  A recital given over to animal songs runs the risk of being unbearably cute and frankly a bit patronising to our feathered, scaly, vertebrate and invertebrate friends, and moreover circumvents the one thing that has sustained songs and poetry since songs and poetry began – love and its many ramifications. ... Christopher Maltman, on the evidence of this Wigmore Hall performance a singer at the top of his form, can make the tiniest vocal inflection or physical gesture vary a huge weight... ... Moreover, he and Malcolm Martineau were very clued up as to how animals are a vital window on to the human soul... 
The MET Orchestra/Esa-Pekka Salonen at Carnegie Hall – Mahler – including Des Knaben Wunderhorn with Susan Graham & Matthew Polenzani
Wednesday, May 31, 2017 |  The MET Orchestra’s former music director, James Levine, and its conductor on this occasion, Esa-Pekka Salonen, have one aspect in common: their abiding interest in for Mahler’s music. Levine’s comprehension of Mahler’s idiom improved measurably; Salonen can generate much excitement; however, if too often supported by overly pressed tempos and exceedingly loud climaxes. ... Even more unfortunate was the choice of the otherwise fine tenor, Matthew Polenzani... ... Susan Graham is an accomplished vocal artist... 
Pop-Up Opera at the Geffrye Museum – Cimarosa’s Il matrimonio segreto
Wednesday, May 31, 2017 |  Pop-Up Opera now brings its fresh and irreverent approach to Cimarosa’s Il matrimonio segreto. Premiered in Vienna in 1792, just after Mozart’s death, the work was received with rapture by Leopold II... ... The sunny satire and romantic diversions are delightfully matched with Cimarosa‘s irresistible melodies... 
LSO – Bernard Haitink conducts Bruckner’s Te Deum & Ninth Symphony
Sunday, May 28, 2017 |  Bernard Haitink followed his LSO Mahler with another valedictory Ninth Symphony, as Bruckner’s unfinished masterpiece is often taken to be. Although the composer suggested using his Te Deum as the hymn of praise for the Finale he intended but was unable to complete, Haitink sidestepped that challenge by programming it in the first half... 
Pavel Kolesnikov at Wigmore Hall – Sonatas by C. P. E. Bach & Schubert, Schumann's Faschingsschwank aus Wien and Nachtstücke
Saturday, May 27, 2017 |  Siberian-born Pavel Kolesnikov is an individualist. Not only does he programme C. P. E. Bach’s music, the most quirky and fascinating of Johann Sebastian’s sons, but he tells us from the stage why he plays him... ... Schubert’s A-minor Sonata (D537) dates from 1817 and one of its themes was used again in the A-major Sonata (D959), albeit in a very different context and with different accompaniment and texture. Schubert Sonatas are a great test for any interpreter... ... The Schumann second half was impeccably chosen and demonstrated Kolesnikov’s technical strengths and his resonance with this composer. Faschingsschwank aus Wien contained much to praise. 
The Royal Opera – Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore – Pretty Yende, Liparit Avetisyan, Paolo Bordogna, Alex Esposito, Vlada Borovko; conducted by Bertrand de Billy
Saturday, May 27, 2017 |  One of the reasons why L’elisir d’amore survives in the operatic repertoire, other than its fabulous tunes and opportunities for showy vocalism, is that at the close of both Acts Donizetti raises the comedy above that of the superficial... ... Such moments are deftly handled in Laurent Pelly’s busy ten-year-old staging... ... At the centre is Avetisyan’s touching Nemorino – full of endearing gaucheness and naivety, and managing the transition from being tipsy to suddenly sober and desperate with dramatic aplomb. His lovely honeyed tone was heard to especial advantage in ‘Una furtiva lagrima’... ... Pretty Yende is a delightful Adina... ... Bertrand de Billy elicits great playing... 
Curtis Symphony Orchestra at Cadogan Hall – Osmo Vänskä conducts Ein Heldenleben, Peter Serkin plays Brahms
Friday, May 26, 2017 |  Twenty-four hours following Martin Helmchen and Herbert Blomstedt conspiring compelling Brahms, the danger was that such excellence would query Peter Serkin and Osmo Vänskä in the same Piano Concerto. Not a bit of it. ... Vänskä opened the work with concentrated majesty, an impressive depth of string sound informing the contribution of the Curtis Symphony Orchestra. ... The Curtis Symphony Orchestra (students and alumni from the Philadelphia-based Curtis Institute of Music) with this London gig was halfway through a nine-concert tour, beginning in Finland and ending in Poland, and including Berlin, Dresden, Salzburg and Vienna. ... An extended stage was needed to accommodate Serkin’s piano and the large orchestra required for Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben... 
Handel, Haydn & Vivaldi at St John’s Notting Hill
Friday, May 26, 2017 |  Only in the opening presentation of Handel’s Water Music conducted by Patrick Noronha did the nature of the venue present a problem. ... Balance was immaculate in Orpheus Leander Papafilippou’s fresh reading of ‘Summer’ from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. ... The arias were interspersed. ‘Solitudine amate’ (1726) from Alessandro is thoughtful and lyrical but those from Deidamia and Giulio Cesare (both 1724) are fiercely dramatic. Anna Gorbachyova was superb... 
ENO Studio Live at Lilian Baylis House – Jonathan Dove’s The Day After
Friday, May 26, 2017 |  With Bat out of Hell due imminently into its London home, the Coliseum, English National Opera is not sitting idle. On the initiative of its artistic director, Daniel Kramer, the company for the first time is producing public performances in its West Hampstead rehearsal space. Studio 3 opened its doors for the world premiere of Jonathan Dove’s The Day After... ... The Day After reunites Dove with librettist April de Angelis having previously worked together on the Glyndebourne commission of Flight in 1998. There’s flight involved in this one as the central story is a re-enactment of Phaeton’s ruinous flight into the sun. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Herbert Blomstedt – Beethoven 7 – Martin Helmchen plays Brahms ... Philharmonia Chamber Players in Beethoven's Septet
Thursday, May 25, 2017 |  There has been no shortage of opportunities recently to listen to Herbert Blomstedt conducting Beethoven 7. ... Maybe us seasoned campaigners would have welcomed something different, such as Berwald’s wonderful ‘Sinfonie singulière’, which of late Blomstedt has graced Berlin and Cleveland with. All this said, Blomstedt, as lively as ever (remarkably his ninetieth-birthday is but a stone’s-throw away, on July 11), led an inspiring account of the Seventh, with all repeats, his score open but its pages were never turned. ... On paper, the bigger draw had been Martin Helmchen in Brahms’s First Piano Concerto (not heard him play it before, if with Peter Serkin twenty-four hours away from essaying it at Cadogan Hall), and it was superb. On arrival, Blomstedt had told us that this concert was being “dedicated to the victims of Manchester”, and opened the Concerto in granitic, growling and grand fashion... ... The early-evening recital was devoted to Beethoven’s delightful six-movement Septet, here beginning full of promise and sustaining it to give much enjoyment, fast music played agilely, slower stuff sensitively lyrical, and the whole impressively interactive from the musicians. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo, with Steven Osborne & Cynthia Millar – Messiaen – L’Ascension & Turangalîla
Wednesday, May 24, 2017 |  The BBC Symphony Orchestra closed its 2016-17 season in a blaze of colour and energy, with appropriate love and joy, Sakari Oramo leading a stunning performance of Olivier Messiaen’s Turangalîla. ... Beforehand, an earlier example from Messiaen’s output, and something of a discovery. L’Ascension... ... Turangalîla was completed in 1948 to a Koussevitzky commission for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and first-performed the following year under Leonard Bernstein. Steven Osborne and Cynthia Millar are veterans in their respective roles... ... Entwined in life’s earthy rhythms and the communion of love, and with Tristan and Isolde in the mix, Turangalîla is a quirky, witty, swooning, mysterious and exhilarating masterpiece... 
The Royal Ballet – Mixed Bill [The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude / Tarantella / Strapless / Symphonic Dances]
Wednesday, May 24, 2017 |  The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude is a superb work, a demanding, gruelling, fifteen-minute high-octane ballet […] a pleasure to watch. […] In terms of the choreography, Liam Scarlett has successfully created a modern symphonic ballet […] Scarlett’s new work is a notable addition to the repertoire. … 
Nikolai Lugansky at Wigmore Hall – Tchaikovsky & Chopin
Wednesday, May 24, 2017 |  With his neutral, slightly quizzical stage presence, an undemonstrative but phenomenal technique and his legendary balance between grand passion and poetic appraisal, Nikolai Lugansky belongs to the worlds of virtuosic glamour and of a thoroughly grounded, very Russian style of pianism. His repertoire is broad, but his musicianship really flies in Rachmaninov and Chopin, so there was an element of risk in devoting half of his Wigmore Hall recital to Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons... 
LSO – Bernard Haitink conducts Mahler’s Ninth Symphony
Tuesday, May 23, 2017 |  The LSO’s principal flute Gareth Davies made a heartfelt speech dedicating the concert to the victims of the atrocity of the previous night (and to the people of Manchester) pointing out that music often begins where words stop. Sadly, given the mass casualties, Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, written sub specie mortis, after the composer had been diagnosed with what was then an incurable heart condition, was peculiarly appropriate. ... Bernard Haitink must have conducted Mahler 9 many times, and with the LSO straining at the leash there was nothing routine about this account of it... 
Budapest Festival Orchestra/Iván Fischer – Bartók, including Bluebeard’s Castle – with Márta Sebestyén, Ildikó Komlósi & Krisztián Cser
Tuesday, May 23, 2017 |  There is a photograph of the young Bartók with his cumbersome recording apparatus and a group of solemn-looking Hungarian villagers about to extend his collection of folksongs, which saturated Bartók’s music, obviously so in his only opera Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, but this concert from the Budapest Festival Orchestra and Iván Fischer went further to give us the illusion of an ancient music rushing up to embrace the present. ... Then Martá Sebestyén, accompanied by a trio of violin, viola and double bass (one player also in the BFO’s horn section), came on to sing the originals Bartók orchestrated from his Fifteen Hungarian Peasant Songs for piano. ... Ildikó Komlósi has the command born of deep experience as Judith, and there seems nothing she can’t apply to the role’s swerves between character and archetype. ... Vampire-like, Kristián Cser’s inscrutable, beautifully sung Bluebeard conversely grew in strength... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Phantasm with Elizabeth Kenny – Lawes & Locke
Monday, May 22, 2017 |  Phantasm has earned some estimable awards for its William Lawes disc, The Royal Consort; and he was here paired with his seventeenth-century contemporary Matthew Locke for this gorgeous and well-balanced Wigmore Hall recital. 
Greenwich Mozart Festival – Opening Concert – Elgar, Grieg, Holst, and a premiere from Robert Matthew-Walker, conducted by Christopher Petrie
Saturday, May 20, 2017 |  This concert, the first of five to be given by the Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra of London (founded in 2013) at the Greenwich Mozart Festival, contained no Mozart, and was supported by The Grieg Society of Great Britain as part of its Silver Jubilee celebration. ... Grieg’s Elegiac Melodies are arrangements of his songs ‘Hjertesår’ and ‘Våren’ given suitably free translations as ‘Wounded Heart’ and ‘Last Spring’ (Grieg’s own re-titling). ... This Jubilee concert featured the premiere of Robert Matthew-Walker‘s Variants on Themes of Grieg... ... His Holberg Suite made a perfect conclusion. 
Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2017 – Cavalli’s Hipermestra – Emőke Baráth, Raffaele Pe, Benjamin Hulett, Ana Quintans; directed by Graham Vick; conducted by William Christie
Saturday, May 20, 2017 |  As one of the foremost pioneers in the history of opera, Cavalli’s reputation has been on the rise... ... Glyndebourne has already played a notable part in that, with Raymond Leppard’s leading of L’Ormindo, in 1967, and La Calisto... ... William Christie argues the case for continuing that tradition with this production of Hipermestra... ... Graham Vick’s production shuns any historicist or authentic recreation but devises its own concept for the tragic ancient Greek myth, just as Cavalli and Moniglia’s original creative impulse was not simply to re-enact such a legend faithfully but to include elements of early-Baroque dramaturgy, such as colourful, fantastic spectacle, the comic male-in-drag figure of Berenice, and a happy ending. ... Emőke Baráth leads the cast... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin – Mr. Tambourine Man, with Hila Plitmann – and Choral Symphony [live webcast]
Friday, May 19, 2017 |  The lyrics are Bob Dylan’s, the music is John Corigliano’s, the shared title being Mr. Tambourine Man. Thus in 2000, for Sylvia McNair, with piano, Corigliano re-set (with permission) some of Dylan’s iconic texts, already used in his hit songs, which Corigliano was not familiar with, and three years later he made this orchestral version for Hila Plitmann. ... Beethoven 9 was the perfect complement in also expressing timeless objectives. Slatkin led a spacious and majestic outing for the first movement... ... ...blown away by the straight-in confrontational dissonance that opens the Finale, requiring the eventual moderation of Peixin Chen, commanding with Beethoven’s words “O Freunde, nicht diese Töne”. The rest of the ‘Choral’ is Schiller... 
Ravi Shankar’s Sukanya – Susanna Hurrell – London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Murphy with Aakash Odedra Dance Company
Friday, May 19, 2017 |  Ravi Shankar’s final project, the opera Sukanya, has been brought to venues in England, including Birmingham and Salford, with the assistance of his daughter Anoushka and his arranger David Murphy in a blaze of colour and energy, co-produced by The Royal Opera, London Philharmonic Orchestra and Leicester Curve, the latter hosting the world premiere. 
LSO/Mark Elder – Dives and Lazarus & The Planets – Roman Simovic & Tim Hugh play Brahms's Double Concerto
Thursday, May 18, 2017 |  Strings and harp (two to the part on this occasion) opened the evening, Vaughan Williams’s take on the folksong ‘Dives and Lazarus’, composed for the 1939 World’s Fair, in New York, the city’s Philharmonic conducted by the newly knighted Adrian Boult in Carnegie Hall, part of an English invasion, for the rest of the programme was Arthur Bliss’s Piano Concerto, with Solomon, and Arnold Bax’s Seventh Symphony. Present-day knight Mark Elder ensured that Vaughan Williams’s meditative Variants had soul... ... The very instruments that Brahms composed his Double Concerto for, his final orchestral work, partly written as an olive-branch to Joseph Joachim – they had become estranged – although it is the cellist who is first in the limelight. LSO principals Roman Simovic and Tim Hugh impressed immediately... ... Following the interval, a generally stellar voyage of The Planets... 
Handel’s Ariodante – Alice Coote, Christiane Karg, Sonia Prina, Mary Bevan – The English Concert/Harry Bicket
Tuesday, May 16, 2017 |  With Ariodante (1735) Handel attained another peak of operatic ingenuity, achieved with a comparative economy of means when set beside the two other great operas which came on either side of it, Orlando and Alcina, with their magical aspects. ... Alice Coote stood in for Joyce DiDonato in the title role. 
Kensington Symphony Orchestra 60th-anniversary concert – Russell Keable conducts Matthew Taylor premiere and Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony
Monday, May 15, 2017 |  The Kensington Symphony Orchestra wheeled out its big guns to celebrate sixty years of music-making. A premier-league amateur orchestra, the KSO (usually housed in St John’s Smith Square), it was here enlarged to meet Mahler’s demands in terms of scoring and the dimension of his ambition – strings were 17.16.14.12.10, violins antiphonal – and gave a new-minted and freshly imagined account of the ‘Resurrection’ Symphony under Russell Keable’s keen direction. ... If Mahler 2 on its own would normally have been festivity enough, it was only fitting that the concert also included something new, characteristic of the KSO’s range and sense of adventure across the years. That honour fell to Matthew Taylor. His Fourth Symphony is dedicated to Monica McCabe and written in memory of her husband John, and is composed as one continuous movement of three clear sections. 
Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra UK Tour – at Cadogan Hall – Long Yu conducts Britten's Four Sea Interludes, Stravinsky's 1919 Firebird Suite and two UK premieres, by Lin Zhao and Xiaogang Ye
Sunday, May 14, 2017 |  From the Pearl River Delta, the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra, established in 1957 and restructured twenty years ago, ranks among the major players in modern-day China... ... Both Britten's Sea Interludes and Stravinsky's Firebird confirmed the orchestra’s strengths... ... The strongest impression was made by Lin Zhao's ‘Silk Road’ Duo for sheng (a vertically-piped free reed wind instrument of old genesis) and cello. 
LSO/Nikolaj Znaider – Mozart Violin Concerto K219 & Tchaikovsky 5
Sunday, May 14, 2017 |  In the second of three LSO programmes of Mozart Violin Concertos and Tchaikovsky Symphonies, it was abundantly clear that Nikolaj Znaider is equally at home as a conductor. 
The Royal Opera – Nicholas Hytner’s production of Verdi’s Don Carlo – Bryan Hymel, Christof Pohl, Kristin Lewis, Ildar Abdrazakov, Ekaterina Semenchuk, Andrea Mastroni, Paata Burchuladze; conducted by Bertrand de Billy
Friday, May 12, 2017 |  Not surprisingly, Nicholas Hytner’s 2008 production of Verdi’s wildly romanticised historical blockbuster has an unstoppable, rather West End momentum that seamlessly folds all the personal and political intrigues and the tensions between Church and state in King Philip II’s court in sixteenth-century Spain out of the big set-piece tableaux. ... Bryan Hymel is every inch a heroic Prince... 
BBC Symphony Orchestra & Chorus/Andrew Davis – Elgar’s Enigma Variations & Bliss’s The Beatitudes
Friday, May 12, 2017 |  Four decades on from his death and Sir Arthur Bliss’s music remains poised for a revival as never quite happens. All credit, then, to Andrew Davis for continuing to traverse this composer’s major works and, two seasons after his revival of Morning Heroes, programming The Beatitudes (1961). ... That The Beatitudes was unlikely to match the success of War Requiem is less to do with intrinsic quality than the relative difficulty of its choral writing, to which the BBC Symphony Chorus did ample justice on this occasion. ... The concert’s first half had Andrew Davis offering his latest thoughts on Elgar’s Enigma Variations... 
Antonio Pappano and Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia at Royal Festival Hall – Rossini & Respighi – Yuja Wang plays Tchaikovsky
Thursday, May 11, 2017 |  Antonio Pappano has been music director of the Rome-based Santa Cecilia Orchestra since 2005, and the way it played the Rossini spoke volumes about the high-bar values that can be established long-term. La siège de Corinth opened Rossini’s Paris phase... ... The scene was set for Yuja Wang. ... From Respighi’s Roman Triptych, we heard Fountains of Rome and Pines of Rome. Both were premiered by the Santa Cecilia Orchestra, Fountains in 1917 conducted by Antonio Guarnieri, Pines in 1924 under Bernardino Molinari. Both are masterpieces of invention and colourful large-orchestra scoring. 
A 60th-Birthday Celebration for George Vass
Wednesday, May 10, 2017 |  This was the evening after the birth-day before, George Vass’s sixtieth on May 9 and this “celebration” on the 10th, returning the conductor to the place of his professional debut in 1979. ... Vaughan Williams’s Tallis Fantasia opened with an air of suspense... ... Of greater impression, David Matthews’s settings of three A. E. Housman poems (two from A Shropshire Lad)... ... All sentiments were intensely conveyed by Gillian Keith... 
CBSO/John Wilson – Tallis Fantasia, November Woods, Five Tudor Portraits
Wednesday, May 10, 2017 |  John Wilson has enjoyed a productive association with the CBSO over the past decade; this concert demonstrating a prowess for British music no less audible than that for American musical and film traditions for which he is best known. ... This was certainly no routine performance of Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis... ... Inasmuch as the Tallis Fantasia is primarily a meditation on its composer’s present makes it a foil to Arnold Bax’s tone poem November Woods... ... Following the interval, a comparatively rare revival nowadays for Vaughan Williams’s Five Tudor Portraits... 
Ian Bostridge & Lars Vogt at Wigmore Hall – Schubert’s Schwanengesang & Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte
Wednesday, May 10, 2017 |  There is much debate among singers and scholars about the best way to present Schwanengesang, settings by Schubert bundled together as a cycle, and then conveniently titled, by a publisher following the composer’s death. Ian Bostridge was controversial at Wigmore Hall. ... Bostridge divided Schwanengesang in two, performing the Rellstab settings before the interval, with the Beethoven and then the Heine group and the single Seidl following it. ... An die ferne Geliebte (To the distant beloved) was composed in 1816, and is probably the first song-cycle. Beethoven takes six undistinguished lyrics by Alois Jeitteles and weaves a beautiful sound-picture of emotions reflected in the natural world, sung with clarity and ardour by Bostridge. 
Kyung Wha Chung plays Johann Sebastian Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for unaccompanied violin at Barbican Hall
Wednesday, May 10, 2017 |  The Barbican Hall stage has rarely looked larger: an open expanse in the centre of which was a rather attractive rug and a stool, sans piano. Such was the scene that awaited Kyung Wha Chung for her complete Bach unaccompanied Violin Sonatas and Partitas. 
Northern Ballet at Sadler's Wells – Casanova
Wednesday, May 10, 2017 |  There is much to recommend Northern Ballet’s newest work, Casanova – above all, it looks splendid, Christopher Oram’s glamorous sets and costumes are artfully lit by Alastair West, and an engaging company dance full-out in this tale of more than the carnal adventures of the eponymous hero. ... 
Philadelphia Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin at Carnegie Hall – Bernstein & Schumann – Radu Lupu plays Mozart K491
Tuesday, May 09, 2017 |  The Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin demonstrated mastery of Carnegie Hall. They opened with an exhilarating rendition of Leonard Bernstein’s ‘Jeremiah’ Symphony... ... Mozart’s C-minor Piano Concerto with Radu Lupu was less compelling. 
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Malta EU2017 Europe Day Concert – Brian Schembri conducts Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and premiere of Karl Fiorini's If
Tuesday, May 09, 2017 |  This televised closing concert of Karl Fiorini's eleventh International Spring Orchestra Festival in Valletta – “From Zappa to Beethoven” – featured the premiere of his seven-minute setting of Rudyard Kipling's 1895 poem If. ... Come the ‘Choral’, to Schiller's sentiments of brotherhood, freedom and the dwelling father, the all-seeing master ''above the canopy of stars'', carried on neatly from Kipling's ''yours is the Earth and everything that's in it''. Schembri has had a good Beethoven run this season, including the Missa solemnis in Rome and the ‘Eroica’ in Vienna. 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Véronique Gens & Susan Manoff
Monday, May 08, 2017 |  Understated passion and the perfectly-chosen single note: these hallmarks of the French 19th-century mélodie were mirrored in Véronique Gens’s Wigmore Hall recital. 
LSO/Mark Elder – Mussorgsky & Shostakovich – Anne-Sophie Mutter plays Tchaikovsky ... Guildhall Artists in Russian Songs
Sunday, May 07, 2017 |  A very Russian evening, this – in fact, entirely so... ... In which case, the appeal of Tchaikovsky’s music is self-evident... ... His Violin Concerto may not be a particularly profound work, but it has a number of remarkably original features, not all of which appeared to have been grasped in Anne-Sophie Mutter’s technically brilliant, extremely efficient account. ... Mussorgsky’s Prelude to Khovanshchina, as orchestrated by Rimsky-Korsakov, had begun the programme... ... Shostakovich’s last-numbered Symphony ended the evening. This remains a strange and unusually subtle masterpiece... ... The LSO concert had been preceded by a recital of Russian Songs given by singers and pianists from the Guildhall School of Music. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Esa-Pekka Salonen – Bartók & Mahler
Sunday, May 07, 2017 |  Like the proverbial London omnibus, you wait for a performance of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony (the last live one I heard was Andris Nelsons’s Boston account at the 2015 Proms) and then three come along almost at once (LSO/Rattle, NHK/Paavo Järvi, and this Salonen – with the Vienna Philharmonic and Harding lined up for the Proms). Much rarer is Bartók’s Concerto for Two Pianos, Percussion and Orchestra... ... Along with Esa-Pekka Salonen, this four-concert Philharmonia Orchestra series, Inspirations, has also featured Pierre-Laurent Aimard, sharing the platform here with his wife Tamara Stefanovich, who took the first piano part, with Aimard to Salonen’s right, the two lidless Steinways nestled together in front of the podium with the two percussion stations directly behind. 
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Quatre de pique plays music for four cellos
Sunday, May 07, 2017 |  Quatre de pique was founded in 2015 by alumni of the Paris Conservatoire. Véronique Marin is associated with Ensemble Intercontemporain and Rencontres Musicales de Haute-Provence; Diana Ligeti, Romanian by birth, won the 1992 Douai International Cello Competition and teaches at the Conservatoire and at Fontainebleau; Raphaël Perraud is principal of the Orchestre National de France; and Michael Tafforeau, professor of cello at the Rueil-Malmaison Conservatoire, completed his studies at the Royal College of Music in London. ... Following a cheering start in response to the French presidential election result, mobile phones in overdrive, the pedigree and corporate experience of the ensemble was at once apparent in Corelli's La folia... 
Emerson String Quartet at Carnegie Hall, with Marc-André Hamelin – Ravel & Berg and Brahms’s Piano Quintet
Sunday, May 07, 2017 |  Since its founding forty years ago, the Emerson String Quartet has performed nearly the entire repertory of that genre, as demonstrated by the encyclopedic collection of recordings for Deutsche Grammophon. ... This Carnegie Hall recital’s first-half juxtaposed two early-twentieth-century String Quartets that are eons apart. Ravel’s, completed in 1903... ... Philip Setzer remained in the first-violin chair for Alban Berg’s Opus 3 (1910) that reflects the theories of his teacher, Arnold Schoenberg... ... Marc-André Hamelin, substituting on short notice for the ailing Yefim Bronfman (originally Maurizio Pollini had been listed), joined the Emerson musicians, Eugene Drucker now leading, for a rousing rendition of Brahms’s Piano Quintet. 
Belief & Beyond Belief – London Philharmonic Orchestra/Kazushi Ono – Magnus Lindberg’s Two Episodes & Beethoven’s Choral Symphony
Saturday, May 06, 2017 |  This was the same programme as the London Philharmonic gave at last year’s BBC Proms. The conductor then was Vladimir Jurowski, and it should have been Christoph Eschenbach this time but for illness. ... Kazushi Ono, no stranger to the LPO if currently focussed on three centres of excellence – Barcelona, Lyon Opéra, Tokyo – was an admirable replacement... ... Two Episodes is a “complement” to Beethoven 9 and the “allusions” to it that Lindberg speaks of are embedded enough – hovering within – to not distract from what is a notable score... 
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Schwingungen Piano Trio plays Glinka, Beethoven’s Ghost, and Arensky
Saturday, May 06, 2017 |  With his knack for devising concerts in atmospheric locations, Karl Fiorini scored a visual winner with this recital in the Grand Salon of Malta's National Museum of Archaeology, a splendid late-sixteenth-century Provençal room with elaborately painted walls and a beamed ceiling. ... Based in Croatia, the Maltese pianist Charlene Farrugia, who studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London and with Boris Petrushansky in Imola, is a consistently fine musician, as much at home in Concertos and solo repertory as chamber music. Befitting one who places Lupu, Gilels and Gould high in her priorities... 
Karita Mattila & Ville Matvejeff at Wigmore Hall – Brahms’s Zigeunerlieder, Wagner’s Wesendonck-Lieder, Alban Berg’s Opus 2, and a Richard Strauss selection
Saturday, May 06, 2017 |  Karita Mattila presented a demanding Lieder programme at Wigmore Hall. Extravagant dance rhythms of the gypsy variety opened proceedings. Brahms’s Zigeunerlieder are brief and bold... ... Wagner’s Wesendonck-Lieder weave a very different Romantic world and this account was infused with much Mattila magic. 
Rafael Payare conducts Shostakovich 10 at Royal College of Music
Friday, May 05, 2017 |  Despite the popularity of his Fifth Symphony, Shostakovich’s Tenth is arguably his greatest symphonic achievement. As with Mahler 9 – and despite it only lasting somewhere between fifty minutes and one hour – there is a very real benefit to hearing the Shostakovich on its own, especially in as committed a performance as this by the RCM Philharmonic, which was visibly straining at the leash under Rafael Payare... 
Beyond & Beyond Belief – The Colin Currie Group at Royal Festival Hall – Steve Reich’s Tehillim & Drumming
Friday, May 05, 2017 |  Just over seven years ago – in February 2010 (not 2011 as the programme for this concert stated) – Colin Currie led a performance of Drumming at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, as part of the International Chamber Music Season – with Steve Reich in the audience. ... In Tehillim (Hebrew for psalms) Reich takes numbers 19, 34, 18 & 150 and – with four amplified voices accompanied by a small ensemble: strings, winds, two organs and six percussionists – fashions a half-hour work of repetitive rapture; using small cells in overlapping phases to instil the music with ecstasy. It’s not a huge step from Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms to Tehillim... 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/James Gaffigan at The Anvil – Debussy’s Faune & Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade – Alexandra Soumm plays Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole
Friday, May 05, 2017 |  Local-election results may have caused a stir on this day but there was nothing provincial about the exotica on offer at The Anvil: French, Russian and Spanish-flavoured music from an American conductor and Franco-Russian violinist; together with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (from neighbouring Dorset), they sedated, seduced and scintillated. ... Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole brought out the best from the BSO and Alexandra Soumm, who brought bags of personality and lush tone to these five movements... ... The Arabian tales of Rimsky-Korsakov’s lavishly scored Scheherazade set off with an expansive tempo, its stern manner producing striking contrast for leader Amyn Merchant’s eloquent contribution. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Esa-Pekka Salonen with Pierre-Laurent Aimard – Boulez & Debussy
Thursday, May 04, 2017 |  This concert wasn’t quite as advertised, for ‘Ibéria’ went south to be replaced by the other two orchestral Images; always welcome, yet in relation to Pierre Boulez, wonderful conductor of Debussy that he was, the seminal Jeux would have been even more pertinent. As for Boulez’s Notations – twelve miniatures for piano from 1945, five of which he expanded and orchestrated (he planned the complete cycle thus) – all the re-workings would have been appreciated; no problem for Pierre-Laurent Aimard to add the other two, if maybe a stretch on rehearsal time for the Philharmonia Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen. 
Alexander Gavrylyuk at St John’s Smith Square – Bach/Busoni, Haydn, Chopin, Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, Balakirev
Wednesday, May 03, 2017 |  Alexander Gavrylyuk, the thirty-three-year-old Russian pianist who spent his teenage years in Australia, is a phenomenon. Although he has played widely, this, so far as I can tell, was only his third visit to London and his first full-length recital, as part of the Southbank Centre’s International Piano series, and it was a triumph. ... The bright colours of the Haydn became much more subtle and opaque for Chopin’s Fantasy, a work that, like the Polonaise-Fantasy, shows the composer completely at home on a large canvas. Gavrylyuk’s velvety touch compounded the music’s mystery and became the most expressive of mediums for its rhapsodic central section. ... It made its mark, but Gavrylyuk’s selection of Rachmaninov’s Etudes-tableaux from Opus 39 best revealed his musical personality and sympathies... ... Gavrylyuk, though, had Balakirev’s killer showpiece Islamey up his sleeve... ... ...and Mendelssohn’s ‘Wedding March’ (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), in Horowitz’s preposterous arrangement. 
New York Philharmonic & Westminster Symphonic Choir/Alan Gilbert – A Survivor from Warsaw & Choral Symphony
Wednesday, May 03, 2017 |  As he enters the final weeks of his tenure as music director of the New York Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert is seeking to demonstrate the power of music as a positive and unifying force. ... Arnold Schoenberg wrote A Survivor from Warsaw in 1947 on commission from the Koussevitzky Foundation. ... When the lights returned moments later, Gilbert began a thrilling account of Beethoven’s ‘Choral Symphony’, the Philharmonic continuing to be in top form... 
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment plays Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos
Tuesday, May 02, 2017 |  The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment took a ‘period’ approach to Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos and used single strings to each part. The acoustic of St John’s, though spacious, did not cloud detail and the presence of a capacity audience probably helped soak up some of the resonance. 
Jonathan Biss at Milton Court – Late Style – Schubert Piano Sonata D959 and, with Mark Padmore, Schwanengesang
Tuesday, May 02, 2017 |  For the final recital in his Late Style series at Milton Court, the usually eloquent Jonathan Biss let the music do the talking in two works from Schubert’s last year, 1828, joined by Mark Padmore. ... The Piano Sonata D959 is the most extrovert of Schubert’s ultimate three, with aspects of the first movement very much in the heroic spirit of the ‘Wanderer’ Fantasy from six years earlier. ... It was a performance that comprehensively took in the range of reactions to the thirty-one-year-old composer’s ‘late’ music, only to be capped by Mark Padmore’s fierce and truthful account of Schwanengesang, the posthumously created cycle to poems by Rellstab and Heine that ends with Schubert’s final song, to Seidl’s ‘Die Taubenpost’. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Alfano’s Cyrano de Bergerac – Roberto Alagna, Jennifer Rowley; directed by Francesca Zambello; conducted by Marco Armiliato
Tuesday, May 02, 2017 |  The Metropolitan Opera’s revival of its 2005 production of Franco Alfano’s Cyrano de Bergerac is a smashing success. ... ...principally it is the brilliant portrayal by Roberto Alagna as Cyrano and the vibrant, dramatic conducting of Marco Armiliato that makes this little-known score come alive and capture our hearts. ... Alfano (1876-1954) is known primarily for an opera he completed, Puccini’s Turandot. ... Jennifer Rowley is a rather flippant, coquettish Roxane, seemingly too adolescent to inspire verse from her lover, yet she showed spirit and bravery when she appeared at the soldiers’ encampment. 
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Gottlieb Wallisch plays Bach, Themessl, Liszt, Schubert
Sunday, April 30, 2017 |  Based in Berlin at the Universität der Künste, the Austrian pianist Gottlieb Wallisch, a former student of Heinz Medjimorec in Vienna, is one of those artists allying fluidity of finger-work and muscular power with boundless curiosity for the new and unusual. ... Schubert's ‘Wanderer’ Fantasy was gritty and tough, identifying as much with the composer's Bacchanalian discovery of cyclic organisation as his increasingly violent rejection (like Beethoven's) of the comfortable other face of Biedermeier Vienna in the 1820s. ... Based on Schubert's Divertissement à la hongroise, Liszt's seldom-heard Ungarische Melodien (1838-39) had swagger and attitude... ... The renovated eighteenth-century Spanish Baroque Auberge de Castille, Office of the Maltese Prime Minister, is an intimate venue... 
Oberon Symphony Orchestra/Samuel Draper – UK premiere of George Enescu’s Fourth Symphony, with Bartók, Mahler, Schubert
Saturday, April 29, 2017 |  Fascinating programming from the Oberon Symphony Orchestra and a major coup to present the UK premiere of George Enescu’s Fourth Symphony in its completion by Pascal Bentoiu. The rest of the concert was no less stimulating, the Romanian element honoured in Bartók’s Folk Dances, incompletion being present in the Schubert/Newbould, and Symphonies in a transient state reflected in Blumine (originally intended for but dropped from Mahler’s First Symphony). ... ...the church acoustic well-judged by Samuel Draper. 
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – The Russian Virtuosi of Europe play Serenades by Elgar & Tchaikovsky and Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht
Saturday, April 29, 2017 |  The eleventh edition of Karl Fiorini's International Spring Orchestra Festival, “From Zappa to Beethoven”, among the more creatively imagined of Malta's current crop of festa initiatives, offers audiences something refreshingly different. ... This early-evening concert, in Valletta's elaborately beautiful 16th-century Our Lady of Victory Church – where images, acoustic and intimacy are designed to inspire and enlighten – set the bar high, phenomenally high. Fielding a balanced string force – 4.3.2.2.1, cellos and double bass opposite violins, violas in the middle – the Russian Virtuosi of Europe, London-based, are an extraordinary band of artists... ... Schoenberg's 1899 Richard Dehmel-inspired Verklärte Nacht, in the original sextet version, scaled the apparently impossible... 
Malta International Music Festival – Grigory Sokolov plays Mozart & Beethoven Piano Sonatas
Saturday, April 29, 2017 |  Not having heard Grigory Sokolov in recital for some years, here was a useful opportunity to catch up with him in the context of what during the past month has been a strongly Russian-led “International” Festival in Malta. ... Favouring a theatrically darkened hall (Richter-like minus the lamp), the concert fell essentially into three parts mostly around majors and minors of C: Mozart, Beethoven, encores (six of them). 
Welsh National Opera at Mayflower Theatre, Joachim Herz’s production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, with Karah Son & Paul James Clarke, conducted by Andrew Greenwood
Saturday, April 29, 2017 |  Recycling this legendary production by Joachim Herz of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Welsh National Opera’s latest revival of its longest-running show is well into its UK tour. It’s a classic, traditional staging and has lost little lustre. Singing, characterisation and playing are firmly in place, yet more account could have been taken of the unenclosed pit (or possibly the Mayflower’s acoustic) which, at times, caused problems of balance, the orchestral presence too great. ... Previous WNO portrayers of Cio-Cio San (Madama Butterfly) have included Amanda Roocroft and Helen Field; and now, making her debut with the company, the rich-toned South Korean soprano Karah Son has emerged. She studied under Mirella Freni... 
The Royal Ballet – Kenneth MacMillan's Mayerling [Edward Watson & Natlaia Osipova / Federico Bonelli & Laura Morera]
Saturday, April 29, 2017 |  Kenneth MacMillan's Mayerling is perhaps the most ambitious and, ultimately, successful of narrative ballets... ...This is a mightily powerful revival, in which this great company shows itself to its very best advantage. For those who wish to see outstanding performances in a work which takes the art form to the heights of narrative dance, it is simply essential viewing. 
Belief & Beyond Belief – London Philharmonic Orchestra/John Mauceri – Bach/Schoenberg, Wagner/Stokowski, Hindemith – Angel Blue sings Richard Strauss's Four Last Songs
Friday, April 28, 2017 |  During this year the Southbank Centre and the London Philharmonic Orchestra are inviting us to believe, and then go further. Well, I believe that Paul Hindemith wrote some great music, such as his 1938 score for the ballet Nobilissima visione... ... John Mauceri proved a sympathetic begetter of Hindemith’s music for Massine’s choreography, the focus being the life of St Francis of Assisi. ... As they should for Arnold Schoenberg’s lavish scoring of Johann Sebastian Bach’s organ Prelude and Fugue known as ‘St Anne’. ... Following the interval, Leopold Stokowski’s Synthesis of Act Three of Parsifal, many Wagner minutes made fewer... ... Richard Strauss was finishing his decades of composing with Four Last Songs, to a poem by Eichendorff and three by Hesse. To an articulate and expressive accompaniment – much trouble taken by Mauceri and the LPO – Angel Blue was often radiant and always communicative... 
Victor Herbert’s Babes in Toyland at Carnegie Hall – MasterVoices with Kelli O’Hara, Lauren Worsham, Bill Irwin, Jonathan Freeman; narrated by Blair Brown; directed & conducted by Ted Sperling
Thursday, April 27, 2017 |  Ted Sperling’s MasterVoices, joined by Broadway stars, concluded its season with Victor Herbert’s Babes in Toyland (1903), a brilliant account of a dated work that, despite many delightful moments, has been eclipsed by the great American musicals that followed. A clever narration by actress Blair Brown included a satiric element through references to the absurdity of the plot – which was adhered to more closely than in any of the versions for film and television, including from Laurel & Hardy. 
Belief & Beyond Belief – London Philharmonic Orchestra/Marek Janowski – Wagner, with Egils Siliņš as Wotan, and Bruckner 7
Wednesday, April 26, 2017 |  More Belief & Beyond Belief in this programme of Wagner and Bruckner from the London Philharmonic and Marek Janowski, the Polish/German maestro who presided over Bayreuth’s ‘Ring’ cycle last year... ... Janowski’s approach to The Flying Dutchman Overture may have highlighted its conventional role as a précis of the opera, but it also gave us a clue as to how the rest of the concert would unfold. ... It was the same for the concluding section of Act Three of Die Walküre. Egils Siliņš looks every inch a Wotan – he is tall, photogenic and commanding... 
CBSO/Fabien Gabel – Le Corsaire & César Franck’s Symphony – Louis Schwizgebel plays Chopin
Wednesday, April 26, 2017 |  Despite working often in the UK (including with the London Symphony Orchestra), Fabien Gabel enjoys less than the highest profile here. This concert with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra should help to redress that imbalance, opening as it did with an account of Berlioz’s Le Corsaire... ... The programme continued with Chopin’s First (second) Piano Concerto... ... Following the interval, Gabel presided over a commanding account of César Franck’s Symphony... ... An impressive and idiomatic reading, then, and how fitting that this concert should have been dedicated to Louis Frémaux... 
John Adams’s Doctor Atomic – the composer conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra, with Gerald Finley as Oppenheimer, Julia Bullock, Brindley Sherratt & Andrew Staples
Tuesday, April 25, 2017 |  For the second night running in London a composer conducted his latest completed opera. Following Thomas Adès’s The Exterminating Angel at Covent Garden, John Adams’s 2005 Doctor Atomic (The Gospel According to the Other Mary was originally an oratorio, although it has subsequently been staged; and Girls of the Golden West has its premiere in San Francisco at the end of this year). ... Part of the problem is Peter Sellars’s collection of texts (contemporary reports and diaries, juxtaposed with classic and contemporary poetry, and Indian religious mantras), and a rather non-dramatic trajectory that spotlights just a few moments in the story of Robert Oppenheimer’s research leading to the first test of the atomic bomb – Trinity. 
The Metropolitan Opera – August Everding’s production of Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer [The Flying Dutchman] with Michael Volle, Amber Wagner & Franz-Josef Selig; conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Tuesday, April 25, 2017 |  Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conducting his debut Wagner opera at the Met – and his first appearance there since being announced as music director designate to succeed James Levine – led a thrilling, without-intermission, Flying Dutchman... ... Michael Volle is a powerful Dutchman, combining beauty of tone with magnetic stage presence. Each of his entrances, and his final exit, were moments of intense drama, with Gil Wechsler’s lighting giving him an appropriately supernatural pallor. Amber Wagner as Senta matched Volle’s vocal power... 
The Royal Opera – UK premiere of Thomas Adès’s The Exterminating Angel; directed by Tom Cairns; conducted by the composer; cast includes Thomas Allen, Anne Sofie von Otter, John Tomlinson, Iestyn Davies, Christine Rice, Sally Matthews...
Monday, April 24, 2017 |  Existential crisis is no recent phenomenon and was hardly more so fifty-five years ago when Luis Buñuel released El angel exterminador, his stinging attack on bourgeois mores which set the tone for a generation’s worth of ever more scabrous films about the ‘establishment’ real and imagined. Refashioning this for the present, Thomas Adès and Tom Cairns have rendered the scenario from a vantage point where absolute notions have been superseded by a more ambivalent take on what constitutes freedom of action in a divisive and frequently alienated environment. ... For all that, The Exterminating Angel makes a powerful impact and leaves a disquieting impression. 
Stephen Farr at the Royal Festival Hall organ – Judith Bingham, Jehan Alain, Messiaen
Monday, April 24, 2017 |  I once visited the cathedral in Ortigia, in Sicily, and was very moved by the sight of a Baroque church incorporating the columns of a Greek temple built a long time before the birth of Christ. It is this accretion of layers spiritual, temporal and artistic – of the new built on ancient certainties – that has inspired Judith Bingham’s Roman Conversions. Her examples are all in Rome... ... Her theme is resurrection and renewal, and it linked all three works in Stephen Farr’s recital. ... Jehan Alain was killed in 1940 aged 29, after an act of stupendous wartime bravery, by German soldiers, leaving a catalogue of music of great originality. He was a contemporary of Messiaen, but his organ music is not saturated in visionary Catholicism to the same degree – which is just as well... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Louis Lortie – Preludes by George Benjamin and Chopin
Monday, April 24, 2017 |  Louis Lortie brought his trademark Fazioli to Wigmore Hall for music as stylistically different as could be, yet similar in aim – contrasting soundworlds in miniature forms, beginning with a grabbing, absorbing account of George Benjamin’s Messiaen-esque Shadowlines... ... In Chopin’s 24 Preludes there was again great attention paid to detail. 
London Handel Festival – Joseph and his Brethren – Christopher Ainslie, Fflur Wyn & Edward Grint; conducted by Laurence Cummings
Monday, April 24, 2017 |  Well over two centuries before Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice had their West End hit with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Handel treated the same Biblical narrative in his 1743 oratorio. Written within three years of his last opera, Semele, and the oratorios Messiah and Samson, he brought to bear the full extent of his dramatic genius in this profoundly human story of Joseph’s rejection, elevation by Pharaoh, and eventual reunion with his brothers. 
LSO/François-Xavier Roth – Debussy’s Faune & Bruckner’s Romantic Symphony – Antoine Tamestit plays Bartók’s Viola Concerto
Sunday, April 23, 2017 |  The broadcasters were out in force for this one, live on LSO YouTube and also on medici.tv, and recorded by BBC Radio 3, for this portion of François-Xavier Roth’s After Romanticism series. The novelty was that Roth, to be the LSO’s Principal Guest Conductor from this September, as versatile as he is, may not be much associated with Bruckner’s music, not on my radar anyway. ... It was an impressive performance of the ‘Romantic’ Symphony... ... In 1945 Bartók started work on a Viola Concerto for William Primrose. Sadly the composer died with much of the piece in sketch form. Tibor Serly made a completion and this has been developed. ... Antoine Tamestit played marvellously... 
Peter Donohoe plays Scriabin’s Ten Piano Sonatas at Milton Court
Sunday, April 23, 2017 |  It is surprising how few major composers have written cycles of Piano Sonatas in the wake of Beethoven, with the ten-strong sequence by Scriabin among the most significant. Not that they require several evenings, a full traversal coming in at little more than two hours, and so well suited to an extended recital such as Peter Donohoe undertook at Milton Court. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Santtu-Matias Rouvali – Vltava & The Planets – Alban Gerhardt plays Elgar’s Cello Concerto
Sunday, April 23, 2017 |  This rather odd programme (certainly in terms of the opening item – which, given the other works played, ought to have been something by Delius) got off to an excellent start with the rather faded Smetana piece – once a repertoire staple. ‘Vltava’ was played with admirable judgement and artistry, Santtu-Matias Rouvali’s tempos being exactly right... ... The fine playing Rouvali obtained bade well for Elgar’s Cello Concerto, in which the exceptional artistry of Alban Gerhardt combined to produce a performance both meticulously clear and deeply expressive... 
Sunday Morning Coffee Concert at Wigmore Hall – Ivana Gavrić plays Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt
Sunday, April 23, 2017 |  Ivana Gavrić drew a full-house to Wigmore Hall for a well-planned programme drenched in expressive nineteenth-century Romanticism and full of poetic imagery. ... Gavrić sees Chopin’s Mazurkas as “poignant diary entries”. In the Opus 17 set she emphasised the dance element and rhythms had real lift. ... The rest was Liszt. His Petrarch Sonnets were inspired by the Italian Renaissance poet Francesco Petrarca and each is a meditation on love, more specifically his fondness for Laura de Noves. 
Andreas Haefliger at Wigmore Hall – Perspectives 6 – Beethoven, Berio, Schumann
Sunday, April 23, 2017 |  Andreas Haefliger (son of the late tenor Ernst) is a musician who brings a boundary-breaking completeness to his recitals, as he proved in the latest his Perspectives project (available on Avie), with No.7 coming up at the Edinburgh Festival. ... This series doesn’t set out to be another complete Beethoven cycle, but Haefliger’s Perspectives are completely Beethoven-centric. ... Berio’s Six Encores (1990) include the four-elements pieces he played between the two Sonatas and before the Schumann – ‘Earth’ a bell-like cloud of harmonics, ‘Water’, a Debussy-like impression of flowing neutrality. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin with Michel Camilo, Cliff Almond & Ricky Rodriguez – Bach & Jazz – Lukas Foss's Phorion, Shostakovich, Bach arrangements by Barbirolli, Ormandy, Stokowski [live webcast]
Saturday, April 22, 2017 |  Leonard Slatkin entered, took his bow, then retreated, leaving concertmaster Yoonshin Song and her bow (word-play) to start this eclectic DSO concert with the ‘Preludio’ from the E-major Partita... ... Where does this leave Lukas Foss (1922-2009)? Well in 1967 not too well in Slatkin’s eyes, for he was at the premiere of Phorion, conducted by Leonard Bernstein in New York, but he later grabbed the score and got to know Foss. The “stolen goods” (otherwise it was Greek to me) belong to Bach... ... As for the Concerto for Jazz Trio by Michel Camilo (born 1954), which received its premiere the previous day (although given the extemporisation element maybe every performance will be a ‘first’), well, it's likeable, energetic and colourful... 
Benjamin Appl & James Baillieu at Wigmore Hall – Heimat
Friday, April 21, 2017 |  The Germans have a word for it – Heimat – but as Benjamin Appl explained following Schubert’s ‘Seligkeit’ (Bliss, D433), sung invitingly, its reclusive meaning is rather more than “home” or “homeland”, with “identity” and “belonging” being closer to the mark. Appl, who studied with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and is now happily settled in London, was giving a lunchtime’s-length selection from his first release for Sony Classical. 
Anne Akiko Meyers & Akira Eguchi at the 92nd Street Y – Fantasia: An Evening of Fantasy
Thursday, April 20, 2017 |  Anne Akiko Meyers presented her take on this concept, the recital’s focal point being Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Fantasia, a glistening fifteen-minute work originally for violin and orchestra that Meyers commissioned in 2015, and among the Finn’s final compositions. ... Arvo Pärt’s Fratres has been transcribed for varied ensembles; Meyers began alone, the music emulating a machine whirring into life, until Akira Eguchi entered, intoning hypnotically; however, in Ravel’s Tzigane, Meyers’s matter-of-fact approach was at odds with the music’s gypsy soul... 
Piers Lane plays Chopin at Wigmore Hall
Wednesday, April 19, 2017 |  The stars were brightly shining for Piers Lane’s illuminating Chopin recital at Wigmore Hall... ... Lane opened with an inviting and dynamic A-flat Impromptu, given with an ink-still-wet capriciousness, whether expressing flights of fancy or lyrical asides. The great Fantasy was full of gravitas, a spacious account sure of its direction. ... Following the interval, and also judged to a nicety, was the Opus 44 Polonaise, ominous at its opening, quite Lisztian for a few bars, and soon weighty and majestic... 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Charles Dutoit – Mother Goose & New World Symphony – Vadim Repin plays Prokofiev
Wednesday, April 19, 2017 |  Once again, Charles Dutoit and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra hit the spot. ... You wouldn’t necessarily have thought that Dutoit’s saturnine, rather Proustian persona would open the door to the child’s world of play and fantasy that renders Ravel’s Mother Goose music as potent as, say, Alice in Wonderland... ... Vadim Repin is often compared with Maxim Vengerov, because both are Siberian. Really, though, they are Yin and Yang, with Repin’s instincts deferring more to restraint, poise and introspection. In his Violin Concerto No.2, Prokofiev was aiming at a Soviet-friendly clarity and simplicity... ... Re-title Dvořák’s Symphony No.9 as the ‘Brave New World’, and it was an apt work to perform on the day another General Election was confirmed, and under Dutoit’s direction, there was much to be nostalgic about. 
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment – Symphonies by Haydn & C. P. E. Bach – with Isabelle Faust playing Mozart Violin Concertos
Tuesday, April 18, 2017 |  Devotion to stylish performance-practice is a feature of Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment concerts and it was much in evidence in this programme. A raised eyebrow perhaps at the non-inclusion of harpsichord continuo in Haydn’s Symphony No.49 (the most frequently used modern score edited by H. C. Robbins Landon specifies it)... ... Mozart’s adventurous writing for horns in high B-flat in the outer movements is an ear-catching feature of his K207 Violin Concerto – a striking sound achieved here with a gentleness entirely suited to Isabelle Faust’s elegance. 
Basel Chamber Orchestra & Daniel Hope at Wigmore Hall
Tuesday, April 18, 2017 |  The Basel Chamber Orchestra, (re-)founded in 1984, last played at Wigmore Hall in 2014. Daniel Hope (last year appointed music director of the Zurich Chamber Orchestra) was billed as director as well as soloist in a well-conceived programme that illuminated parallels between these pieces... ... There followed Mendelssohn’s rarely performed D-minor Violin Concerto, written when he was twelve. It was Yehudi Menuhin who discovered the score during the 1950s... ... Works by Frank Martin and Béla Bartók – both composers associated with Paul Sacher’s generous and enterprising commissioning policy with the original Basel Chamber Orchestra – formed the concert’s second half – and what a joy this was! 
Leonard Slatkin conducts the Peabody Symphony Orchestra – Russian Easter Festival & Enigma Variations – Marina Piccinini plays Aaron Jay Kernis’s Flute Concerto [live webcast]
Saturday, April 15, 2017 |  Leonard Slatkin completed his week at the Peabody Institute – including masterclasses and recording sessions – with this concert of similarly opus-numbered standards bookending a recent Flute Concerto by Aaron Jay Kernis written for Marina Piccinini. ... The concert opened with a postcard from Russia. From solemn chorale to celebratory ending, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Festival Overture works on an expansive scale... ... Elgar’s Enigma Variations is a masterpiece of musical portraiture and musical substance; immortal. Slatkin, an Elgarian to his fingertips, led a wise account on young shoulders... ... ‘Nimrod’, hushed, deeply-felt and noble, emerged as part of the plan... 
Bach’s St John Passion on Good Friday at Barbican Hall – Britten Sinfonia & Voices, Mark Padmore, Simon Russell Beale
Friday, April 14, 2017 |  You might have thought that performances of J. S. Bach’s Passions had enough to do balancing the layers of St John’s or St Matthew’s vivid versions of the story, highly subjective meditative arias and consolatory Lutheran chorales into a whole without adding further elements, such as a full staging or, as with this St John Passion from the Britten Sinfonia, offering a modern nod to performance practices of nearly three-hundred years ago... ... ...Simon Russell Beale read extracts from T. S. Eliot’s salvation-seeking poem Ash-Wednesday... ... ...this was very much a collective account, with Mark Padmore’s Evangelist, in the absence of a conductor, defining its style and temperature. 
Fifth Easter Festival of the Berliner Philharmoniker in Baden-Baden – Simon Rattle conducts Slavonic Dances & Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra – Lisa Batiashvili plays Dvořák’s Violin Concerto [live webcast]
Friday, April 14, 2017 |  The spa town of Baden-Baden, in south-western Germany, once again welcomes the Berliner Philharmoniker, from April 7 to 17, including concerts with Zubin Mehta and Kirill Petrenko, and Simon Rattle leading Tosca. Here Sir Simon was conducting Dvořák and Bartók, opening with a selection of the former’s Opus 72 set of Slavonic Dances. ... Continuing the Slavic theme, Lisa Batiashvili played Dvořák’s Violin Concerto, and did so brilliantly. ... For Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra – a long-time favourite in Rattle’s repertoire – the Berliners were alive to every detail of the painstakingly composed score. 
BBC Symphony Chorus & Orchestra – Jiří Bělohlávek conducts Dvořák’s Requiem
Thursday, April 13, 2017 |  While Verdi’s Requiem was concurrently resounding through the Royal Festival Hall, the Barbican Centre was hosting Dvořák’s much-rarer example. ... Choosing a conductor for a well-timed concert revival would certainly include Jiří Bělohlávek on the shortlist, no doubt in pole position; and he led a revelatory account of it. ... Yet there are times when Dvořák seems consciously to be avoiding what Verdi and Berlioz (Grande Messe des morts), in particular, had previously done with this content... ... What did come across is how ‘English’ the opening ‘Requiem aeternam’ is, eloquent and Elgarian, and that there are anticipations of the latter’s Gerontius; and it seems that Dvořák had previously contemplated setting Cardinal Newman’s poem... 
Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at Bavarian State Opera – Stephen Gould, Petra Lang, Okka von der Damerau & René Pape; directed by Peter Konwitschny; conducted by Simone Young
Thursday, April 13, 2017 |  Peter Konwitschny’s production of Tristan und Isolde at Bavarian State Opera is a real exercise in eclecticism. ... Simone Young led a well-paced interpretation. ... Okka von der Damerau (Brangäne), René Pape (König Marke), and Iain Paterson (Kurwenal) were the real standouts... ... Stephen Gould (Tristan) was clearly coming down with an ailment... ... Petra Lang’s Isolde, though, was just slightly overmatched throughout... 
Verdi’s Requiem at Royal Festival Hall – Vasily Petrenko conducts The Bach Choir & Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Thursday, April 13, 2017 |  Placing Verdi’s Requiem on Maundy Thursday is a sure way to highlight the relationship between religious ritual and dramatic intensity. ... This performance under Vasily Petrenko’s efficient direction gave priority to vivid expression. ... Verdi’s fire and brimstone ‘Dies irae’ was pulse-raising... ... The Royal Philharmonic was marvellously supportive, creating distinctive colours in cameo roles and, collectively, plenty of heft when required. The Bach Choir was on fine form... 
Frank Loesser’s How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying at Wilton’s Music Hall
Wednesday, April 12, 2017 |  Notwithstanding the Royal Festival Hall concert performance two years ago, Frank Loesser’s How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying is a rarity, especially compared to his Guys and Dolls from a decade earlier. But its tuneful exposé of office life (which hasn’t really changed that much since 1960s’ America) is neatly constructed with a clutch of catchy melodies as it follows J. Pierrepont Finch (‘Ponty’) rapidly up the ladder in the World Wide Wicket Company... ... In this production at Wilton’s Music Hall it gets a colourful and energetic shake down... ... A largely youthful cast (Andrew C. Wadsworth’s J. B. Biggley a notable exception – I first saw him in the original UK production of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd in 1980) is led with Alan Cumming-like impishness by Marc Pickering as ‘Ponty’... 
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Mariss Jansons at Barbican Centre – Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Rachmaninov
Tuesday, April 11, 2017 |  A programme of Firsts and Lasts from the relatively young Munich-based Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1949, Mariss Jansons its current chief conductor, since 2003, following in the footsteps of Eugen Jochum, Rafael Kubelík, Colin Davis and Lorin Maazel. ... Prokofiev’s ‘Classical’ Symphony (1917) may not be a momentous debut in the form, but it’s an unfailingly enjoyable piece... ... Rachmaninov’s swansong Symphonic Dances (1940) continued this exalted evening. 
Yuja Wang at Royal Festival Hall – Chopin’s 24 Preludes & Brahms’s Handel Variations
Tuesday, April 11, 2017 |  Yuja Wang dropped a sizeable chunk of Schubert from her advertised programme (the first two of the Drei Klavierstücke, D946), she reversed the order of what remained to end with the Brahms... ... The Wang phenomenon, though, soon came into focus in Chopin’s Opus 28 Preludes. Most importantly, she played them as a stream-of-consciousness series of interdependent vignettes... ... For all the extremes of expression, Wang’s style is, paradoxically, admirably self-contained, which suited the poise of Handel’s Theme that launches Brahms’s Variations on it. The technical challenges and rhythmic games were like catnip to Wang... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Kitty Whately & Joseph Middleton
Monday, April 10, 2017 |  Kitty Whately stepped in for an indisposed Sarah Connolly at Wigmore Hall, delivering a nuanced and deeply-known programme of twentieth-century English song. ... There was drama in Herbert Howells’s King David, too, and in an exciting reading of Charles Villiers Stanford’s Belle Dame Sans Merci. 
National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain at the Barbican Centre – Carlos Miguel Prieto conducts Revueltas & Shostakovich, with Sheku Kanneh-Mason
Sunday, April 09, 2017 |  The welcome inclusion of music by the cruelly short-lived composer Silvestre Revueltas (1899-1940) indicates the imagination of those involved in programming the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. Carlos Miguel Prieto is also Mexican and The Night of the Mayas is fabulously over-the-top music... ... Sheku Kanneh-Mason won the BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2016 with this Concerto and this Hall. Playing on an Amati cello (circa 1610), Kanneh-Mason gave an astonishingly assured performance. 
Wagner’s Parsifal at Vienna State Opera – Christopher Ventris, Gerald Finley, Kwangchul Youn, Nina Stemme, Jochen Schmeckenbecher, Jongmin Park – directed by Alvis Hermanis; conducted by Semyon Bychkov
Sunday, April 09, 2017 |  Like the main theme in the Prelude to Wagner’s Stage Consecration Festival Play, Semyon Bychkov also emerged from nowhere to begin Parsifal... ... The acoustic of the Vienna State Opera is divine... ... Both Christopher Ventris (Parsifal) and Nina Stemme (Kundry) gave commanding portrayals. ... In the last handful of years Gerald Finley has added larger roles to his repertoire, sometimes with mixed results. Here, within the intimate acoustic, he was marvelous as Amfortas. 
Handel’s Messiah at Bristol Proms – Harry Bicket conducts The English Concert in a staging directed by Tom Morris
Saturday, April 08, 2017 |  On the cusp of Holy Week, Tom Morris’s semi-staging of Handel’s Messiah was given a welcome revival at the Bristol Proms... ... Although the production apparently demythologises the mystery of God become flesh – as thinkers have done since at least Ludwig Feuerbach and, perhaps better-known in English literary culture, as George Eliot did in Silas Marner – by focusing on the outwardly human figure of the Beloved, it otherwise takes seriously the Christian doctrines of the Incarnation and the Atonement... ... Morris’s vision of the work does justice (as Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ did in cinematic terms) to the remarkable theological leap that was made by the earliest Christian thinkers in associating Jesus, as the Messiah and son of God, with the apparently non-heroic figure of the Suffering Servant encountered in the Old Testament book of Isaiah... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin – Mahler 10 – Sharon Isbin plays Vivaldi & Chris Brubeck [live webcast]
Saturday, April 08, 2017 |  Antonio Vivaldi and Gustav Mahler have both had music used in films; whereas, as far as I can find, Chris Brubeck has not composed for the movies. In case you are wondering, Vivaldi’s Mandolin Concerto (in C, RV425) featured in Kramer vs. Kramer (Dustin Hoffman & Meryl Streep) and the Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony is linked to Death in Venice (Dirk Bogarde). ... ...played pluckily by Sharon Isbin... ... The versatile Chris Brubeck (born 1952), son of Dave, composed Affinity for Isbin. ... When Mahler died in 1911, his Tenth Symphony (the Eleventh including Das Lied von der Erde), was unfinished if A-to-Z overall, sketchily orchestrated, and with various indications. Numerous attempts to complete it have been undertaken, some quite speculative, but none better than the late Deryck Cooke... ... I direct you then to Leonard Slatkin’s article... 
Belief & Beyond Belief – London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski – Spem in alium & Symphony of a Thousand
Saturday, April 08, 2017 |  Mahler baulked at first-performance publicity terming his latest Symphony as being “... of a Thousand” but the Munich 1910 premiere, which Mahler conducted, and a soon-after second, drew the crowds in for a huge success. This LPO presentation (apt word) fielded roughly seven-hundred personnel... ... ...we started with Spem in alium, by the circa composer, Thomas Tallis, born around 1505. Spem in alium is maybe from 1570 and its circumstances are little-known. What isn’t in doubt is that this forty-part Motet is a high-point of Renaissance a cappella polyphony... ... ...then Vladimir Jurowski plunged straight into Mahler 8, and with a burst of bright light, a stunning moment of sounds and visuals. 
San Francisco Symphony/Michael Tilson Thomas at Carnegie Hall – 2 – Mahler 10 Adagio & Symphony 1
Saturday, April 08, 2017 |  Making a short speech at the start of this second San Francisco Symphony concert at Carnegie Hall, Michael Tilson Thomas emphasized the meditative aspects of Mahler's Tenth Symphony... ... Mahler's First Symphony was similarly well-played, displaying every detail of the texture and adhering closely to the score for the most part... 
Britten-Pears Orchestra/Marin Alsop at Royal Festival Hall – Daphnis and Chloe & The Rite of Spring – Colin Currie gives premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Martland Memorial
Friday, April 07, 2017 |  From daybreak to bacchanal, the student Britten-Pears Orchestra – mapped to Aldeburgh and internationally fielded (from eighteen countries this year) and tutored by experienced hands – rippled the Ravel into dawning life and Marin Alsop energised the final orgy. ... Conversely The Rite of Spring (1913, only slightly younger than the also-Paris and Diaghilev-commissioned Daphnis) – still has the power to shock, if inspirationally. ... As the centrepiece was Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Martland Memorial. Steve Martland (1954-2013) has been well-remembered by his friend... 
Midsummer Opera – Ponchielli’s La Gioconda – Zoë South, Siân Woodling, Stephen Holloway, Anna Loveday, Trevor Alexander & John Upperton; directed by Lynne McAdam; conducted by David Roblou
Friday, April 07, 2017 |  Ponchielli’s La Gioconda is very much of its time and genre – a grand Romantic opera conceived on an elaborate scale with a complex plot, requiring considerable vocal, choral, orchestral, and theatrical resources. It is a project not undertaken lightly... ... Midsummer Opera made a bold attempt... ... La Gioconda exploits the spatial possibilities of a theatre, though David Roblou and Lynne McAdam could have made more explicit use of that... ... With a central cast of six characters – requiring each of the major voice types – the opera makes a serious demand on producers; within the context of their respective capacities, the soloists were well chosen. Zoë Southand Siân Woodling as La Gioconda and her mother La Cieca were musical birds of a feather... ... ...the ensemble otherwise conveyed great confidence and enjoyment in the music, not least in ‘Dance of the Hours’... 
Murray Perahia plays Beethoven Piano Concertos with Academy of St Martin in the Fields – (3) Emperor Concerto
Friday, April 07, 2017 |  The final leg of Murray Perahia’s survey of Beethoven’s Piano Concertos, ending with the ‘Emperor’. ... Much of the light and shade in this account came from changes in volume – Perahia coaxing from the piano in the first movement the lightest of rippling passages against pizzicatos; or his thundering out of the rising and descending scales towards the end... ... The account of the First Symphony was of another order altogether. Performed by nearly forty ASMF players (with the barest of nods now and again from Keller), it was the triumph of the evening. This was unpasteurised Beethoven... 
San Francisco Symphony/Michael Tilson Thomas at Carnegie Hall – 1 – John Cage & Bartók – Gautier Capuçon plays Shostakovich
Friday, April 07, 2017 |  For this first of two concerts at Carnegie Hall, Michael Tilson Thomas led the San Francisco Symphony in an eclectic program of music composed during the middle decades of the twentieth-century, beginning with John Cage’s 1947 ballet, The Seasons, composed in collaboration with Merce Cunningham. ... It was delightful to hear the Shostakovich played by Gautier Capuçon, whose intensity and his vigorous and physical playing is reminiscent of Rostropovich, to whom the First Cello Concerto is dedicated. 
Palm Beach Opera – Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance – Michael Todd Simpson, Sarah Joy Miller, Stephanie Blythe, Mark Schnaible, Andrew Stenson; directed by Alan Paul; conducted by David Stern
Friday, April 07, 2017 |  Palm Beach Opera closed its 2017 season with The Pirates of Penzance. The production takes a traditional approach, with a few hints of Mike Leigh’s direction for English National Opera and Joseph Papp’s Broadway version. Palm Beach’s staging is a shining example of vitality and interconnectedness; it originated at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and with other collaborators. 
LSO/Gianandrea Noseda – Mahler 7 – Janine Jansen plays Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto
Thursday, April 06, 2017 |  

In 2014, the last time I was present to hear the LSO play Mahler’s Seventh Symphony at the Barbican Hall, the conductor was Daniele Gatti and the reading was nothing if not individual. Adopting some preposterously slow Klemperer-like tempos, Gatti seemed intent on restoring what was once taken for granted, the perversity and sheer menace of Mahler’s invention. Three years on, under a more frequent Italian visitor, the LSO’s recently anointed Principal Guest Conductor Gianandrea Noseda, the efficient dazzle of the music-making could not quite disguise the fact that this was very much business as usual... ... There was not quite enough ambiguity or intimacy before the interval either, although Janine Jansen’s heartfelt but unexaggerated account of Berg was potent enough... 

Philharmonia Orchestra/Jakub Hrůša – Brahms Hungarian Dances & Dvořák 8 – Julian Rachlin plays Tchaikovsky … Bent Sørensen Music of Today
Thursday, April 06, 2017 |  The Philharmonia Orchestra offered another of its early-evening free Music of Today recitals, this one a showcase for the 58-year-old Danish composer Bent Sørensen... ... The titles of the first two – The Deserted Churchyards (a reference to graveyards on the Danish coast being eroded by the sea) and The Weeping White Room – anticipate a big dose of Danish noir... ... Sørensen’s comforting gloom made the Brahms Hungarian Dances seem especially energised, even balletic, as conducted by Jakub Hrůša... ... The concert’s benign progress continued with Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, with the Lithuanian Julian Rachlin replacing Sergey Khachatryan. ... Lofty grandiloquence was never Dvořák’s thing, which is why I love the Symphony No.8 and admire the ‘New World’. Hrůša showed how completely he is inside the music in this big-hearted, compelling performance. 
Rameau’s Les fêtes d’Hébé at Royal College of Music – Académie de l’Opéra de Paris & Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles
Wednesday, April 05, 2017 |  Although Rameau’s stature as one of the geniuses of Baroque opera is now little questioned on either side of the Channel, performances of his operas remain scarce, especially in the UK. This collaboration between the Académie de l’Opéra de Paris and the Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles, and co-produced with the Royal College of Music, is believed to be the first time that the colourful opéra-ballet Les fêtes d’Hébé (1739) has been staged in Britain, despite being a conspicuous success in Paris during the composer’s lifetime and through William Christie’s fine recording. 
Alexander Melnikov at Wigmore Hall – Debussy’s Préludes
Wednesday, April 05, 2017 |  You might think that the very grounded-looking Russian pianist Alexander Melnikov is not an obvious fit for all twenty-four of Debussy’s Préludes, works that range from the visionary to wish-you-were-here postcard japes, taking in wise-cracking caricature, Ancient Egyptian artefacts and urbane wit on the way. Yet his clear-sighted, pragmatic musicianship enabled an almost friction-free connection with the music and made its succession of rapid emotional, visual, spiritual or humorous expansions into small time-frames seem entirely natural. 
Munich Philharmonic/Valery Gergiev at Carnegie Hall – 2 – Debussy Faun, Schubert Tragic, Mahler 4
Wednesday, April 05, 2017 |  For the second of its two Carnegie Hall concerts the Munich Philharmonic offered a puzzling combination of music: two Austro-German Symphonies preceded by the stylistically unrelated Afternoon of a Faun ... Valery Gergiev showing great affinity for Debussy's rapturous and languorous score. ... However, tempos turned problematic in the Mahler... ... It created a theatrical moment: Genia Kühmeier emerged to deliberately stride across the front of the stage and past the podium. Standing well in front of the orchestra, Kühmeier projected easily and could adopt the light, unforced timbre appropriate to the innocence of this Wunderhorn setting... 
Under the Skin – Jonathan Glazer's film with Scarlett Johansson, with Mica Levi’s score performed live by London Sinfonietta @ Royal Festival Hall
Tuesday, April 04, 2017 |  The notion of film screenings with live music has returned to the cultural mix after a longer absence than vinyl records. This is how cinema used to be enjoyed during the silent era – indeed Shostakovich made a living playing for silent films (his score for New Babylon has recently been premiered in London). But in addition to the indefatigable Carl Davis (most recently for Abel Gance’s Napoleon), even recent releases are soon accompanied live – The Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Harry Potter – while bands such as Asian Dub Foundation and British Sea Power have an alternative career providing new scores for old films. 
Early Adventures of Matthew Bourne at Sadler's Wells
Tuesday, April 04, 2017 |  It is thirty years since Matthew Bourne started choreographing, and what successes he has achieved in that time [...] Bourne's dancers give their considerable all throughout, with some delightful characterisations along the way, but any one of these three works would have had more effect if presented alongside work from other stages in Bourne's creative output. As it is, the relentless series of 'numbers' in all three reduces the impact of each work and the dancers' own irreproachable efforts. 
Munich Philharmonic/Valery Gergiev at Carnegie Hall – 1 – La valse & Eroica Symphony – Pierre-Laurent Aimard plays Ravel
Monday, April 03, 2017 |  In the first of two Carnegie Hall concerts, Valery Gergiev, in his second season with the Munich Philharmonic, led an engaging program of Ravel and Beethoven... ... Such frenzy was followed by the sparkling and bluesy Piano Concerto in G, in which Pierre-Laurent Aimard played brilliantly and with fluidity. ... Following intermission, for Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ Symphony, Gergiev’s emphasis was on intensity and sensational effect. 
New Sussex Opera – Delius’s A Village Romeo and Juliet [at Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne]
Sunday, April 02, 2017 |  Opera among the Sussex Downs doesn’t necessarily mean Glyndebourne, but rather, on this occasion, the annual production of the well-established New Sussex Opera (based in Lewes), which has been on tour around the South East (including Cadogan Hall in London) with Delius’s seldom-staged A Village Romeo and Juliet... ... Here it was presented in reduced scoring (for twenty-four players) by Lee Reynolds, which inevitably had an impact upon Delius’s original ‘large’ orchestration... ... ...not least in the interlude between the final two scenes, ‘The Walk to the Paradise Garden’ (the local pub), where Sali and Vreli merely ambled around indecisively. 
New York Philharmonic/Alan Gilbert at Barbican Centre – 3 – John Adams’s The Chairman Dances & Harmonielehre – Yo-Yo Ma plays Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Cello Concerto
Sunday, April 02, 2017 |  Music from thirty years ago (Esa-Pekka Salonen wrote in his programme note for his Cello Concerto that some of its ideas go back to the mid-eighties, when John Adams composed both The Chairman Dances and Harmonielehre) was the focus for the final concert of the New York Philharmonic’s latest Barbican Centre residency, the last of out-going music director Alan Gilbert’s tenure. ... Salonen’s Cello Concerto (completed this year for Yo-Yo Ma) was conducted by the composer in its Chicago world-premiere a few weeks ago, and New York heard it soon after, Gilbert presiding. .... Either side of the Salonen, John Adams held his own with infectious rhythms. The Chairman Dances, his study for the third Act of Nixon in China, is a suite of dances (eventually choreographed by Mark Morris) that continue to beguile... 
New York Philharmonic/Alan Gilbert at Barbican Centre – 2 – Absolute Jest & Symphonie fantastique
Saturday, April 01, 2017 |  John Adams’s Absolute Jest owes to Beethoven but is independent of him, the use of his music absorbed and integral. Composed in 2012, it is for string quartet and large orchestra... ... Following the interval, the Berlioz was, for the most part, a good listen. At the outset Alan Gilbert caught well the restless imaginings, a cue for passions to be revealed... ... ...the New York Philharmonic is in great shape... 
The Royal Ballet – George Balanchine's Jewels
Saturday, April 01, 2017 |  On the occasion of its fifty years, George Balanchine's Jewels, the first abstract three-act ballet, returns to Covent Garden, and scores only a partial success. [...] Quicksilver pianism from Robert Clark in the Stravinsky, and fully engaged orchestral playing under Pavel Sorokin – Koen Kessels's musical directorship is already paying audible dividends as the Covent Garden orchestra now bring its considerable talents to the consistent delivery of fine musical ballet performances. ... 
New York Philharmonic/Alan Gilbert at Barbican Centre – 1 – Bartók & Mahler
Friday, March 31, 2017 |  An evening without trombones, and tuba for that matter. A good design though, from the shadowy depths of the Bartók to the radiance of Heaven – child’s view – of the Mahler. Thus begun the first of a three-concert Barbican Centre residency by the New York Philharmonic and Alan Gilbert. 
St. Louis Symphony/David Robertson at Carnegie Hall – John Adams’s The Gospel According to the Other Mary, with Kelley O’Connor, Michaela Martens & Jay Hunter Morris
Friday, March 31, 2017 |  John Adams’s The Gospel According to the Other Mary (2012) is more than a sequel to his earlier Nativity oratorio, El Niño (2000); it is perhaps a fraternal twin. The Gospel shares its most striking musical features with the earlier work, and is a kindred spirit in textual choices (as in El Niño, Peter Sellars compiled the libretto) and dramatic pacing. ... Kelley O’Connor a force of nature... ... The St. Louis Symphony, under Music Director David Robertson, gave a rousing performance, with the brass particularly strong... 
WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln/Leonard Slatkin – Capriccio italien, Isle of the Dead, Francesca da Rimini – Kirill Gerstein plays Paganini Rhapsody [broadcast]
Friday, March 31, 2017 |  The musical world has become smaller in recent years. At the click of a mouse one can sit at home for webcasts from, say, Berlin and Detroit, the only journeying required being to the kitchen for a cup of tea, although that’s not to overlook opera-in-cinema from the Met. And if the broadcast date is inconvenient then there is usually a replay service. Such was the case on this Friday evening: the New York Philharmonic arrived in London for the first of three Barbican Centre concerts, and at the same time Leonard Slatkin was in Cologne for this attractive mix of Russian favourites... ... Indeed, Capriccio italien was a joy from start to finish. ... Following which Kirill Gerstein gave a dashing account of Paganini Rhapsody... ... The second half opened with rather different Rachmaninov (if with the ‘Dies irae’ plainsong common to both), The Isle of the Dead, inspired by Arnold Böcklin’s painting. 
LSO/François-Xavier Roth – Debussy’s Jeux and Mahler 1 – Simon Trpčeski plays Bartók
Thursday, March 30, 2017 |  François-Xavier Roth takes up his post as the LSO’s Principal Guest Conductor this September, the same time that Simon Rattle starts as Music Director. I only mention that because of the impact Rattle and the CBSO made on me at a Prom many years ago in Debussy’s Jeux... ... Simon Trpčeski was having none of that with his thrilling performance of Bartók. 
Yulianna Avdeeva at St John’s Smith Square – Beethoven & Liszt – Les adieux & B-minor Sonatas, 32 Variations
Wednesday, March 29, 2017 |  Yulianna Avdeeva opened her meaty programme (part of Southbank Centre’s International Piano Series) with Beethoven’s two-movement Opus 90 Sonata... ... Homecoming also informs the Finale of ‘Les adieux’, which Avdeeva played with exhilaration... ... Avdeeva arranged her four Liszt choices as one, beginning with three of his late pieces: visionary, enigmatic, radical, thrifty with notes but worldly in expression... 
Handel’s Alceste – Early Opera Company/Christian Curnyn at Wigmore Hall with Mary Bevan, Benjamin Hulett & James Platt
Wednesday, March 29, 2017 |  Handelians are receiving a real feast at the moment: fresh from his conducting at the Coliseum for ENO in Partenope, and quite separate from the ongoing London Handel Festival, Christian Curnyn and the Early Opera Company brought to Wigmore Hall the rarely heard incidental music for Tobias Smollett’s play Alceste (based on Euripides) which Handel composed in 1750. 
London Handel Festival – Ormisda – John-Colyn Gyeantey, Marie Lys, Maria Ostroukhova; Opera Settecento conducted by Leo Duarte
Tuesday, March 28, 2017 |  For the third consecutive year Opera Settecento treated the London Handel Festival to a very rare outing for one of the composer’s pasticcio operas, Ormisda – believed to be the first time it has been heard since the 18th century. Handel only had a supervising hand in the work’s creation since it is an assemblage of arias by such composers as Vinci, Leo, Orlandini, Giacomelli, and Hasse, as well as unidentified others, and scholarly opinion is doubtful that Handel even composed any of the recitatives. 
English National Ballet – Mixed Bill – In The Middle, Somewhat Elevated / Adagio Hammerklavier / Le Sacre du Printemps
Tuesday, March 28, 2017 |  This is a meaty triple bill indeed, a trio of notable dance works from the 1970s and 80s, put together by ENB Director Tamara Rojo not only to expand her company's repertoire and bring these works to the company's audience but, perhaps more importantly, to stretch and fulfil her dancers who have to work hard to perform in three very differing styles. As an evening of dance, it works very well indeed... 
Jonathan Biss at Milton Court – Late Style – Schumann, Kurtág, Chopin, Brahms
Monday, March 27, 2017 |  Jonathan Biss disarmingly cuts to the chase when he talks and writes about music, but in this middle, exclusively solo, recital of three, all under the title “Late Style”, there was an odd disjunction between his playing and the music. ... Paradoxically, though, it was Biss’s objectivity in pieces from the seventh volume of György Kurtág’s Játékok (Games), all of them cryptically short, which somehow froze the evanescent nature of music. In ‘Fugitive thoughts about the Alberti bass’, Biss with the utmost refinement detached that basic compositional tool from its function and atomised it down to its basics. 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Gallicantus & Elizabeth Kenny – Queen Mary’s Big Belly
Monday, March 27, 2017 |  It’s all too easy for the non-specialist to mentally place music of the Renaissance and earlier into a kind of generic Merrie England without much regard for the specifics – so it was a terrific idea for Gallicantus to build this Wigmore Hall recital around a particular event, Mary Tudor’s anticipation of an heir. 
Timothy Ridout & Anthony Hewitt at Wigmore Hall – Brahms, Tertis, MacRae, Bowen
Sunday, March 26, 2017 |  Full disclosure first: although I have been involved with the workshop side of the Lionel Tertis International Festival and Viola Competition since its inception in 1980, I have nothing to do with the Competition or the contestants. Timothy Ridout, born in London in 1995, won the 2016 Competition and this was his first Wigmore Hall recital... 
The New Babylon – score by Shostakovich played by Sasha Grynyuk
Saturday, March 25, 2017 |  From his teenage years Shostakovich worked as a pianist in the cinema. His first film score was The New Babylon... ... The New Babylon was the seventh film of the partnership of Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg, members of FEKS (Factory of the Eccentric Actor), committed to the avant-garde and in favour of popular culture and the machine. ... The film is set in the spring of 1871 during the time of the Paris Commune and immediately after the end of the Franco-Prussian war. It centres on Louise (Elena Kuzmina) who works in a department store in Paris called The New Babylon. ... Sasha Grynyuk was in stunning form throughout... 
Belief & Beyond Belief – London Philharmonic Orchestra/Nathalie Stutzmann – Richard Strauss’s Death and Transfiguration & Mozart’s Requiem
Saturday, March 25, 2017 |  Almost a century separates these two works, Mozart’s uncompleted Requiem from 1791 and Richard Strauss’s Death and Transfiguration composed in 1889; both address the afterlife. Their partnership here – planned years ago – acquired an added relevance in being dedicated, in a quietly stated but nonetheless heartfelt way by Nathalie Stutzmann from the podium, to the victims of and people affected by the incident at Westminster on Wednesday the 22nd; the London Philharmonic’s concert that night at the Royal Festival Hall was cancelled. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Andrey Boreyko – Romeo and Juliet – Branford Marsalis plays Gabriel Prokofiev’s Saxophone Concerto [live webcast]
Friday, March 24, 2017 |  As a regular if remote (London) reviewer of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s very welcome webcasts, there have been many notable shows. ... The conductor’s ten choices from Prokofiev’s three Romeo Suites (twenty sections in all) were given with some verve and sensitivity, although this was not the DSO at its most virtuosic and inspired. ... To start this concert was (as broadcast) a lacklustre ‘Love Scene’ from Berlioz’s Shakespeare-inspired Dramatic Symphony... ... Curiously, for Gabriel Prokofiev’s Saxophone Concerto, the sonics improved; it was though a spot had been made on the soundboard for Branford Marsalis to fill; for once he was present the DSO became more tangible and vibrant... 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Kirill Petrenko – Haffner Symphony & Pathétique Symphony – Georg Nigl sings John Adams’s The Wound-Dresser [live webcast]
Thursday, March 23, 2017 |  There is no doubting that the Berliner Philharmoniker’s designate chief conductor Kirill Petrenko is an imaginative and inspiring musician. Mozart’s ‘Haffner’ Symphony was forward-moving without rush... ... As centrepiece, John Adams’s The Wound-Dresser (1989), setting Walt Whitman’s words experiencing the poet’s time as a hospital volunteer during the American Civil War. ... As for the ‘Pathétique’ Symphony – not the most obvious choice for Petrenko’s first concert with the Berliners since he was announced (in June 2015) as Simon Rattle’s successor – it was imposing and momentous... 
LSO/Alain Altinoglu – Daphnis et Chloé – Gautier Capuçon plays Shostakovich
Thursday, March 23, 2017 |  Frenchman Alain Altinoglu (of Armenian descent) is currently in his first season as principal conductor of the Monnaie in Brussels, and this was his LSO debut, opening with a rare chance to hear Prokofiev’s Overture on Hebrew Themes. ... Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto of 1959 comes with quite a performance history, dominated by Mstislav Rostropovich. Gautier Capuçon shied away from trying to match the great man... ... In Daphnis et Chloé, the LSO was joined by the London Symphony Chorus in top form, wonderfully quiet at the beginning. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Jakub Hrůša – Brahms’s Fourth Symphony and, with Rudolf Buchbinder, Piano Concerto No.2 – Philharmonia Chamber Players in Beethoven & Brahms
Thursday, March 23, 2017 |  The Philharmonia Chamber Players, continued the welcome preceding of an orchestral concert with a free recital. ... Rudolf Buchbinder’s career began early in his teens. I recall his sparkling accounts of Mozart Concertos many years ago and was reminded of this because of his right-hand’s lightness of touch in the expansive Brahms. ... Jakub Hrůša’s interpretation of the Fourth Symphony was one of considerable grandeur, incorporating thoroughly musical shaping and included a particularly meaningful rendering of the simple opening. 
Barry Douglas at Turner Sims – Schubert & Brahms
Thursday, March 23, 2017 |  As part of the Turner Sims Great Pianist Series, this recital compared and contrasted Brahms and Schubert, their emotional ranges and romantic sensibilities, which Barry Douglas has also been exploring for Chandos. 
Belief & Beyond Belief – London Philharmonic Orchestra/Jukka-Pekka Saraste – Bruckner 9 – Anssi Karttunen gives UK premiere of Magnus Lindberg’s Cello Concerto No.2 / Concert cancelled
Wednesday, March 22, 2017 |  On police advice, tonight’s London Philharmonic Orchestra concert at Southbank Centre is cancelled due to the ongoing security incident in Westminster. 
Steven Osborne at Wigmore Hall – Brahms's Intermezzos Opus 117 & Beethoven’s final Piano Sonatas Opuses 109, 110 & 111
Wednesday, March 22, 2017 |  When Brahms at last produced his First Symphony, it was hailed as Beethoven’s ‘tenth’, and he continued as the heroic but conservative upholder of the Classical ideal, filtered through his and Beethoven’s very different types of romanticism. ... For all that, this Wigmore Hall recital was enthralling, not least in the way that Steven Osborne’s almost freakish ability to identify with a composer’s psychology gets more perceptive every time I hear him. ... Osborne’s Beethoven – unlike Igor Levit’s, for example – doesn’t overplay the final Sonatas’ sheer oddness and originality. 
Classical Opera at St John’s Smith Square – Mozart 250 – Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots – Alessandro Fisher, Sam Furness, Rebecca Bottone, Gemma Summerfield, Helen Sherman; directed by Thomas Guthrie; conducted by Ian Page
Tuesday, March 21, 2017 |  It isn’t every day that you hear a stage-work by an eleven-year-old, but then Mozart was no ordinary musician. This performance marked the 250th-anniversary of the premiere of a work that is not strictly an opera, but a sacred drama for Lent that was acted out on its first presentation in Salzburg, and can therefore claim to be the operatic point of entry by a genius whose output would culminate in some of the most highly respected compositions for the opera house. Naturally Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots (The Obligation of the First Commandment) does not reach anything like those artistic heights. 
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment at Royal Festival Hall – Ádám Fischer conducts Haydn & Beethoven, with Steven Isserlis
Monday, March 20, 2017 |  The Overture to La fedeltà premiata is probably best known as the Finale to Haydn’s Symphony No.73 (La chasse). Ádám Fischer stressed the links to the hunt... ... The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment reduced its numbers a little for Haydn’s C-major Cello Concerto of which Steven Isserlis gave a superbly stylish rendering. ... Beethoven 7 was given an outing notable for convincing choice of tempo and welcome absence of subjective impositions on the music. 
London Handel Festival – Faramondo – with Ida Ränzlöv, Harriet Eyley, Kieran Rayner, Beth Moxon; directed by William Relton; conducted by Laurence Cummings
Monday, March 20, 2017 |  Faramondo (1738), opening this year’s London Handel Festival, is amongst his final operas: next came Serse and then only two others. The fact that Faramondo is a rarity would seem to do not so much with the music which, number by number, is virtually as inspired as any, but rather with its convoluted plot which concerns vengeance and the conflicts of loyalty as between political and romantic allegiances in an obscure period of the Dark Ages. 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Annelien Van Wauwe & Nino Gvetadze
Monday, March 20, 2017 |  If at first it seemed that Annelien Van Wauwe – the Belgian clarinettist, another BBC New Generation Artists featured during this Wigmore Hall series – was the star, with Nino Gvetadze merely supporting on the ivories, that impression was quickly dispelled during the Debussy. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Beethoven’s Fidelio – Adrienne Pieczonka & Klaus Florian Vogt; directed by Jürgen Flimm; conducted by Sebastian Weigle
Monday, March 20, 2017 |  Jürgen Flimm returns to Metropolitan Opera to direct this revival of Fidelio, from 2000. His staging, although at times illogical, holds together reasonably well, and its shortcomings are more than offset by the majesty of Beethoven’s music... ... Leading the stellar cast are Klaus Florian Vogt and Adrienne Pieczonka as Florestan’s wife, Leonore, who disguised as a man, named Fidelio, secures a position at the penitentiary where her husband is held as a political prisoner. ... Sebastian Weigle’s conducting ensures musical clarity and just balances between stage and pit. 
Chelsea Opera Group at Cadogan Hall – Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila – Aaron Cawley & Claudia Huckle; conducted by Matthew Scott Rogers
Sunday, March 19, 2017 |  Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila is becoming something of a rarity again, unaccountably so, for it’s a great score. This Chelsea Opera Group concert performance started off somewhat shakily... ... Likewise Aaron Cawley’s first utterances as Samson were voiced at an astonishing fortissimo... ... As Dalila, Claudia Huckle displayed astonishing mastery of this fantastic siren role; she has all the vocal qualities needed. 
Nathalia Milstein at Wigmore Hall – Haydn, Schubert, Rachmaninov
Sunday, March 19, 2017 |  The French twenty-one-year-old Nathalia Milstein won the triennial Dublin International Piano Competition in 2015, and this Wigmore Hall recital was part of her bounty. ... Given the warmth and breadth of her playing, it wasn’t such a wrench from the deceptive decorousness of the Haydn to the subjective turmoil of Schubert’s imposing C-minor Sonata, but Milstein’s impulsiveness here paradoxically got in the way of dramatic extremes rather than liberated them. ... The way into Rachmaninov’s piano music, for me, proved to be the Etudes-tableaux, and Milstein’s account of Opus 39 refreshed that conviction. 
LSO/Fabio Luisi – Unfinished Symphony & German Requiem
Sunday, March 19, 2017 |  An extraordinarily restrained and introspective account of Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ Symphony made clear we were in Lent. Under the largely undemonstrative Fabio Luisi the LSO produced an account that, at nearly thirty minutes, might be considered funereal... ... On the evidence of these tempos one might have thought Brahms’s German Requiem would be pedestrian. But it was well-paced. Julia Kleiter was mellifluous, clear of voice, if not necessarily in diction, and replacing an indisposed Ruben Drole was a bright of character and casually-dressed Simon Keenlyside... ... The London Symphony Chorus sang with confidence, and provided some serious heft for the big fugues. 
Elīna Garanča & Kevin Murphy at Carnegie Hall – Brahms, Duparc, Rachmaninov
Sunday, March 19, 2017 |  In this memorable Carnegie Hall recital, Elina Garanča and Kevin Murphy offered a well-crafted program expressing melancholy and passionate longing. ... Then, in a calm and intimate rendition of ‘Sapphische Ode’, Garanča’s line and Murphy’s accompaniment were quietly mesmerizing... ... The second half brought a wardrobe change and a more exciting mood, beginning with an impressive trio of mélodies by Henri Duparc. 
Benjamin Zander conducts Beethoven – Coriolan & Choral Symphony – Mei Yi Foo plays Piano Concerto No.3 / Philharmonia Chorus & Orchestra
Saturday, March 18, 2017 |  Benjamin Zander believes that Beethoven’s ‘Choral’ Symphony is misrepresented by most performances and certainly his is an interpretation which differs considerably from most that are heard. ... The musicians’ response to Zander’s clear and positive direction in the Coriolan Overture was affirmative – forceful playing illuminated this no-nonsense approach. ... Straightforwardness and freshness informed the Piano Concerto. Within a sparkling approach, Mei Yi Foo phrased the music subtly... ... Among the most important: how could Beethoven mark the Scherzo Molto vivace and the Trio Presto yet provide the same metronome indication? 
The Royal Ballet – Triple Bill – The Human Seasons / After the Rain / Flight Pattern
Saturday, March 18, 2017 |  Dance works of the quality of Flight Pattern are created sometimes only once in a generation, and it is true that The Royal Ballet has been waiting for a genuine success in its commissioning policy for many, many years. Crystal Pite is something of the choreographer of the moment, and with good reason: her work over the past few years with Kidd Pivot, her own company, and others has revealed uncommon ability in her deployment of her performers and an equally rare humanity in which speaks directly to the soul.… 
Igor Levit at Wigmore Hall – Beethoven Piano Sonata Cycle (7), including the Hammerklavier
Friday, March 17, 2017 |  The penultimate instalment of Igor Levit's Beethoven cycle for Wigmore Hall's London Pianoforte Series journeyed the post-Waterloo years between the Eighth Symphony and work on the Ninth and Missa solemnis... ... Levit is a pianist of formidable ability and cast-iron technique, fearless of obstacles. He relishes extremes. The 'trill' fugue of the Hammerklavier Sonata was dauntingly (fashionably) fast, racing for the post more than “resolute” (Beethoven's marking) – Gilels's grander clarity of structure and voicing, his more moderated pace too, surely has to be the wiser option. 
LSO/Fabio Luisi – Beethoven & Brahms – Igor Levit plays the Emperor Piano Concerto
Thursday, March 16, 2017 |  Good though that Igor Levit is progressing his Beethoven odyssey, here the ‘Emperor’ Concerto... ... The LSO and Fabio Luisi offered a hefty accompaniment and also one that was lucid, and the lead-in to the Finale was particularly suspenseful... ... The Brahms opened in spacious and singing style, then came to life as if out of slumber, and had got even faster by the end of the exposition. For once, overlooking the repeat would have been unusually welcome, but Luisi went back and did it all again... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy – Rosamunde Overture & Elgar 1 – Veronika Eberle & Antoine Tamestit play Mozart K364
Thursday, March 16, 2017 |  It’s more than fifty years since Vladimir Ashkenazy first appeared in London and nothing he ever does is less than deeply musical; and over the years he has established deep ties with the Philharmonia Orchestra. ... In Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante, the excellent combination of Veronika Eberle and Antoine Tamestit echoed each other perfectly. ... About the Elgar it is hard to be equally enthusiastic. 
English National Opera – Handel’s Partenope – Sarah Tynan, Patricia Bardon, James Laing, Stephanie Windsor-Lewis; directed by Christopher Alden; conducted by Christian Curnyn
Wednesday, March 15, 2017 |  A week after International Women’s Day was observed, it is appropriate that English National Opera’s revival of Handel’s Partenope opens. ... Christopher Alden’s production takes its cue from the dramatically anti-climactic moment when Arsace calls the bluff of Eurimene (one of Partenope’s apparent suitors) and suggests that they fight a duel bare-chested... ... Sarah Tynan’s first number as Partenope, with wide vibrato and swoops in the opening section of the da capo aria verging on premature decoration, initially seemed to betoken a uniformly feisty interpretation. 
New York Philharmonic/Alan Gilbert – The Chairman Dances & Symphonie fantastique – Yo-Yo Ma plays Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Cello Concerto
Wednesday, March 15, 2017 |  Alan Gilbert opened this New York Philharmonic concert with John Adams’s The Chairman Dances, a “foxtrot” companion piece to his 1987 opera, Nixon in China. This work has established itself alongside some of Adams’s other early works (such as Short Ride in a Fast Machine), as core to the contemporary American canon. ... Very recently Esa-Pekka Salonen led the world premiere of his Cello Concerto, for Yo-Yo Ma, but here was a spectator. 
Belief & Beyond Belief – London Philharmonic Orchestra & Synergy Vocals – Gavin Bryars & Steve Reich – The Sinking of the Titanic, Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet, Music for 18 Musicians
Wednesday, March 15, 2017 |  The Belief & Beyond Belief series continued in imaginative and virtuosic fashion, transportingly so through Gavin Bryars’s meditative and elegiac soundworlds, then invigorating and thrilling in Steve Reich’s monumental Music for 18 Musicians. ... The starting point for Bryars’s The Sinking of the Titanic was the band carrying on playing as the liner disappeared beneath the waves. 
Guildhall Symphony Orchestra/Pietari Inkinen – Wagner – Mastersingers, Tristan, and Lorin Maazel’s Ring Without Words, with Lise Lindstrom as Brünnhilde
Wednesday, March 15, 2017 |  The students of the Guildhall Symphony Orchestra were in the hands of an experienced Wagnerian in Pietari Inkinen, conductor of Opera Australia’s recent 'Ring' cycle. ... Flowing melody continued in the Tristan bookends, the Prelude beginning from a whisper of sound. Tempos were flexible and there were well-shaped woodwind solos and telling contributions from the lower strings. The ‘Liebestod’ was tenderly played... ... The second half was not quite as expected, for Lorin Maazel’s The Ring Without Words was supplemented by Lise Lindstrom singing Brünnhilde’s ‘Immolation Scene’ from Götterdämmerung. 
Sarah Connolly & Joseph Middleton at Park Avenue Armory, New York City – Frauenliebe und -leben, Les Nuits d’été, Banalités…
Wednesday, March 15, 2017 |  Flanked by large portraits of puff-chested, blue-suited soldiers, Sarah Connolly and Joseph Middleton presented a recital including song-cycles by Schumann, Berlioz, and Poulenc. ... In preparation for his Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson, Aaron Copland visited the poet’s home in Amherst, Massachusetts... ... The eclectic and versatile Richard Rodney Bennett wrote The History of the Thé Dansant in 1994 in collaboration with Meg Peacocke. 
Maurizio Pollini at Royal Festival Hall – Beethoven Piano Sonatas (including Pathétique and Appassionata) & Schoenberg Klavierstücke
Tuesday, March 14, 2017 |  Maurizio Pollini opened the second of his Royal Festival Hall recitals this season with Schoenberg. The Three Piano Pieces from 1909 are harmonically and emotionally explorative, if definable as late-Brahms tonally fractured without losing sight of classical custom... ... During the three Beethoven Sonatas (all thirty-two now recorded by Pollini for Deutsche Grammophon) – no less radical and challenging, witness the emphatic dissonance that opens the ‘Pathétique’ – the pianist was not always at his transcendental best... ... There have been more vividly characterised accounts of the ‘Appassionata’ but few that see the work so whole... 
A Mother’s Tears ... Stabat Mater – Andreas Scholl & Accademia Bizantina
Tuesday, March 14, 2017 |  A concert from the great German countertenor Andreas Scholl, accompanied by a crack ‘period’ ensemble, of music singing the praises and sorrows of Mary the Mother of God, all of it from the Italian Baroque when Italian music was straining at its expressive stays as well as laying down a style that tripped pleasingly between church and theatre... 
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Peter Oundjian at Kravis Center – Prince Igor Overture & Tchaikovsky 4 – Nicola Benedetti plays Brahms’s Violin Concerto
Tuesday, March 14, 2017 |  The Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s first US tour in thirty-five years includes two concerts in West Palm Beach, of which this was the first. The curtain-raiser was the Overture (as realized by Glazunov) to Borodin’s unfinished opera, Prince Igor... ... Peter Oundjian led a lively account that brought out the music’s bright colors. ... Nicola Benedetti gave a muscular performance of Brahms’s Violin Concerto. ... Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony proved a superb showpiece for the RSNO. 
Nigel Kennedy & Friends (including Robert Plant and Jean-Luc Ponty) at Royal Albert Hall
Tuesday, March 14, 2017 |  J. S. Bach, Bulgarian folk, jazz-rock fusion, rock: a lot of ground to cover, which might explain why Nigel Kennedy played the opener, Bach’s Violin Concerto in A-minor (BWV1041), at a fair old clip... ... Kennedy’s arrangement of ‘Nessun Dorma’ (from Puccini’s Turandot), with violinists Michael Guttman and Pieter Daniel, felt like a hammy crowd-pleaser... ... And all of this only the first set out of three, the second of which started with two duets with Georgi Andreev on gadulka, a traditional Bulgarian bowed instrument... ...

After the ear-ringing finale to the second set, you’d expect the third-set opener – an arrangement of Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing – to be equally loud. But down came the volume for an exquisite acoustic version with strings, guitar and mandolin. Perhaps Kennedy was keeping his powder dry for the arrival of Robert Plant... ... ...deploying the full armoury of orchestra and rock instruments before the final stormer, Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir. 

Project Polunin at Sadler's Wells
Tuesday, March 14, 2017 |  Sergei Polunin, the 'James Dean' or 'Bad Boy' of ballet, depending on which sub-editor's strap-line one reads, is not a Narcissus; he is not someone obsessed with himself and his image. Some will see this first programme of Project Polunin as an exercise in self-aggrandisement, but that would be to misread this hugely talented young man. If anything he is more Icarus, launching himself into the void of public and critical scrutiny on insubstantial wings of feathers and wax, and we all know the end of that story. 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Zubin Mehta – Tchaikovsky 5 – Pinchas Zukerman plays Elgar’s Violin Concerto [live webcast]
Sunday, March 12, 2017 |  This Berliner Philharmoniker concert in support of UNICEF (opening with the German National Anthem and followed by speeches from Joachim Gauck, Federal President, and Michael Müller, Mayor of Berlin) was beamed live to the World and captured old friends and collaborators in splendid form. Zubin Mehta and the Berliners go back a long way and the conductor’s closeness with Pinchas Zukerman is similarly time-honoured; together they were inspired in Elgar’s Violin Concerto (1910) written for Fritz Kreisler. ... Mehta, looking heartily healthy (he turns eighty-one in April), then conducted an absorbing outing for Tchaikovsky 5. 
LSO/Susanna Mälkki – Also sprach Zarathustra – Christian Tetzlaff plays Brahms's Violin Concerto ... Guildhall Artists
Sunday, March 12, 2017 |  Three performances of Also sprach Zarathustra in the capital in just a few weeks seems an extravagance or a failure to compare diaries. Is there a bankruptcy of ideas going on here or are we just slaves to laziness? Either way, this coupling with Brahms’s Violin Concerto gave Susanna Mälkki (replacing an unwell Valery Gergiev) an opportunity to exhibit her credentials with the LSO in what were robust if uneven performances. ... For the Brahms, Janine Jansen was originally booked but her indisposition enabled Christian Tetzlaff to take centre-stage. 
Junge Deutsche Philharmonie/Jonathan Nott at Philharmonie Berlin – Valses nobles et sentimentales & Shostakovich 15 – Michelle Breedt sings Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder [live webcast]
Sunday, March 12, 2017 |  This Sunday-morning concert at a prestigious Berlin address opened with Ravel, his subtle and refined orchestration of the for-piano, Schubert-inspired, Valses nobles et sentimentales, which found the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie in colourful and seductive form, Jonathan Nott at-one with the music’s capacity for enigma and enchantment. ... For Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder, to poems by Friedrich Rückert, one might take a (here) soprano as representing the grief of a young mother on the death of her children. In fact, Michelle Breedt (with score, Nott without one, as for the Ravel) gave a rather mature (maternally experienced) account... 
The Royal Opera – Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg – Bryn Terfel, Gwyn Hughes Jones, Rachel Willis Sørensen, Johannes Martin Kränzle; directed by Kasper Holten; conducted by Antonio Pappano
Saturday, March 11, 2017 |  There are productions of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger to which one returns at any opportunity. Kasper Holten’s, his swansong as Director of Opera at Covent Garden, is not one of them. ... We all have moments when Die Meistersinger hits us hard with heart-stopping recognition where music and drama collide – Sachs’s love for Eva and his Marschallin-like stepping aside for a younger model; Eva’s breaking-down to Sachs, where she kisses him hard on the mouth, then moving on to do the same to/with Walther; the Quintet; the pulverising burst of “Erwach” – but this is the driest-eyed staging I have witnessed. ... Musically, though, it fields superb singing from a mouthwatering cast, and Antonio Pappano conducts the music with a subtle sense of irony emanating from the pit that doesn’t make it to the stage. ... Bryn Terfel, a Sachs of many years’ standing, sounded much more at ease with the higher-written music...  
Academy of Ancient Music/Jordi Savall at Barbican Hall – Lully’s Alceste, Marin Marais’s Alcione, Handel’s Water Music, Rameau’s Les Boréades
Saturday, March 11, 2017 |  Jordi Savall first collaborated with the Academy of Ancient Music in 1978. ... Years of research and dedication to reviving lost instruments and playing techniques have informed the diminutive Catalan’s approach and this delightful AAM programme juxtaposed theatrical French Baroque Dance Suites alongside Handel’s Water Music. ... Lully’s Alceste (1674) opened the concert in martial style... ... Marin Marais was a pupil of Lully and like Savall a virtuoso on the viol, and his pieces for the instrument often have a melancholy cast. His opera Alcione (1706) became famous all over Europe for its depiction of a tempest... 
New York Philharmonic/Alan Gilbert – John Adams – Absolute Jest and Harmonielehre
Saturday, March 11, 2017 |  In his opening remarks to the audience, John Adams wryly noted that although the tickets were printed with the announcement “Beethoven and John Adams” this was likely a “marketing requirement.” The music, he assured us, is all his. But Beethoven did provide the inspiration for Absolute Jest... ... Alan Gilbert had the Philharmonic on its toes, dancing through the score’s rhythmic complexities with grace and bringing out its lyricism. ... Harmonielehre is one of the pieces that established Adams’s reputation, and while it lacks the contrapuntal and rhythmic intricacy of his more-recent work, one can hear that the essential qualities of his musical personality... 
Barnes Music Festival 2017 – Gala Opening Concert with Tasmin Little – Roxanna Panufnik’s Four World Seasons & Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, and Tchaikovsky's Serenade
Saturday, March 11, 2017 |  Barnes Music 2017’s offerings showcase an intriguing theme of Music and Place. Seeking to explore how landscapes and locations influence composers, the organisers have planned a two-week Festival. Opening night was a sparkling affair with Tasmin Little, and Barnes’s artistic director Daniel Turner took to the podium... ... Festival Patron, Roxanna Panufnik, offered us sensual and dance-informed music with two sections from her Four World Seasons, an ideal complement to Vivaldi’s set of seasonal Violin Concertos. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Simone Young – Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra and, with Russell Braun & Albane Carrère, the UK premiere of Peter Eötvös’s Senza sangue
Friday, March 10, 2017 |  This concert by the BBC Symphony Orchestra featured the second of this season’s UK premieres for Peter Eötvös (following The Gliding of the Eagle in the Skies), Senza sangue (2015) being the most recent stage-work from this most versatile of contemporary opera composers. ... Simone Young secured a visceral response from the BBC Symphony Orchestra... ... Certainly, the Eötvös formed an intriguing juxtaposition when heard after Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra (1943), long a staple of the repertoire, yet this account was far from routine. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s production of Mozart’s Idomeneo – Matthew Polenzani, Alice Coote, Elza van den Heever, Nadine Sierra; conducted by James Levine
Friday, March 10, 2017 |  In this Metropolitan Opera revival of Mozart’s Idomeneo, all aspects of Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s 1982 staging come together to create an immensely appealing and effective production. ... I was particularly struck by James Levine’s masterful conducting. ... Nadine Sierra brought both power and finesse to the role of Ilia, the Trojan King Priam’s daughter who is held as a prisoner by Idomeneo on the island of Crete. ... Alice Coote portrayed Idamante as brimming with youthful energy... ... In the title role, Matthew Polenzani’s voice floated with ease and grace in pensive moments, and exploded with fury and dread as the King grappled with the cruel prospect of having to sacrifice the life of his son. 
Palm Beach Opera – Verdi’s Rigoletto – Michael Chioldi, Andrea Carroll, Alexey Tatarintsev, Štefan Kocán; directed by Jay Lesenger; conducted by Antonello Allemandi
Friday, March 10, 2017 |  Every component of Jay Lesenger’s production of Verdi’s Rigoletto for Palm Beach Opera is outstanding... ... Michael Chiold’s warm and powerful voice and evocative acting made Rigoletto a believable character... ... Alexey Tatarintsev brought a bright and airy tenor to the Duke, establishing his womanizing, proclaiming it again in Act Three in ‘La donna è mobile’ and dashing off top notes with ease. ... Štefan Kocán was a superb Sparafucile, a role he has performed at the Metropolitan Opera. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Rafael Payare – Classical Symphony & Symphonic Dances – Frank Peter Zimmermann plays Prokofiev
Thursday, March 09, 2017 |  This compact concert led by Rafael Payare – an El Sistema graduate, a horn-player in the Simón Bolívar Orchestra, married to Alisa Weilerstein, and Chief Conductor of the Ulster Orchestra – opened with Prokofiev’s ‘Classical’ Symphony (1917), Haydn for the twentieth-century. ... Even more so with the contemporaneous Violin Concerto No.1, which found Frank Peter Zimmermann in typical technically-patrician and music-serving form. With an agile and alert accompaniment, opening with just-audible violas, this evocative music, of wintery chill, was unfolded with an intense lyricism... ... Rachmaninov’s swansong Symphonic Dances (1940) found the Philharmonia Orchestra in top form and at full resource... 
English Touring Opera at Hackney Empire – Puccini’s Tosca – Laura Mitchell, Alexander James Edwards, Craig Smith; directed by Blanche McIntyre; conducted by Michael Rosewell
Thursday, March 09, 2017 |  You would have thought Tosca would be right up English Touring Opera’s street, ticking all sorts of boxes... ... ...Tosca was sung by Laura Mitchell. Her bright, weightless soprano is lyrical and graceful but lacks the oomph to convey the ego-centrifuge of Rome’s leading lady. ... Alexander James Edwards delivered a too-nice, puppyish Cavardossi, and he bravely pushed his handsome, if rather monochrome tenor into heroic territory not reliably in his reach... ... Craig Smith needs much more vocal blackness to express the monster that is Scarpia. 
Ruby Hughes & Friends at Kings Place: Heroines of Love and Loss
Wednesday, March 08, 2017 |  International Women’s Day was marked in fine style as Ruby Hughes investigated repertoire depicting women centre-stage, either as Renaissance composers or as dramatic heroines. 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Charles Dutoit at Royal Festival Hall – Benvenuto Cellini & Prokofiev 5 – Elisabeth Leonskaja plays Grieg’s Piano Concerto
Tuesday, March 07, 2017 |  From the opening bars of the Overture to Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini, you couldn’t help marvelling at London’s extraordinary good fortune in its big five orchestras and in their chief conductors. I suppose Charles Dutoit (recently turned eighty) must now be regarded as a veteran, but there is no sense of him compensating self-consciously with the gathering years... ... Dutoit’s empathy with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is evident above all in his complete trust in its musicians... ... Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony was similarly true to its idiom... ... Elisabeth Leonskaja was at her most ingratiating in Grieg’s Piano Concerto... 
Philadelphia Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin at Carnegie Hall with Michelle DeYoung & John Relyea – Swan Lake & Bluebeard’s Castle
Tuesday, March 07, 2017 |  This imaginative program paired works fashioned from folk-tales, opening with Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s selections from Tchaikovsky’s complete score for Swan Lake... ... Following intermission, the main event, an intense and dark account of Bartók’s riveting psychological drama, Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, based on Charles Perrault’s 17th-century La Barbe bleue and tells of Bluebeard and his new wife, Judith. ... This concert performance began and ended in almost total darkness, the spoken prologue eerily intoned off-stage in amplified Hungarian by John Relyea. Then he and Michelle DeYoung entered... 
Company Wayne McGregor & Paris Opéra Ballet at Sadler's Wells – Tree of Codes
Tuesday, March 07, 2017 |  The achingly contemporary Tree of Codes, a much-vaunted collaboration between the neophile choreographer Wayne McGregor, visual concept artists Olafur Eliasson and musician Jamie xx (of xx the band fame), reminds most of the the ballets à grand spectacle, in fashion towards the end of the nineteenth century. [...] Tree of Codes is essentially a very simple work... 
NHK Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Järvi at Royal Festival Hall –Takemitsu Requiem & Mahler 6
Monday, March 06, 2017 |  The Tokyo-based NHK Symphony Orchestra can trace its origins to 1926. With a change of name, it has been supported since 1951 by Nippon Hoso Kyokai (the Japan Broadcasting Corporation) and was out in full force for Maher 6... ... ...beforehand it was the strings that introduced Requiem (1957) by Tokyo-born Toru Takemitsu (1930-96). ... Now, what should come next, Scherzo or slow movement? This isn’t the place to debate such a conundrum (but I direct you to the link below), suffice to say that while Mahler finally settled on the Andante as the succeeding movement (and did so before the premiere, which he conducted), if you do what Järvi did here and go attacca into the Scherzo (fortunately no-one clapped to spoil the moment) then its second-place position becomes convincing... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Carolyn Sampson & Matthew Wadsworth
Monday, March 06, 2017 |  Pasts and presents intertwined: that is the inescapable subtext of The Miller’s Tale by Stephen Goss (commissioned by guitarist John Williams) – and not only in the striking incongruity of writing for theorbo during the second decade of the 21st-century. ... Elsewhere in the programme (a couple of Anonymous lute solos apart) Matthew Wadsworth shared the spotlight with Carolyn Sampson, opening with a series of John Dowland songs... 
Tara Erraught, James Baillieu & Ulrich Pluta at Wigmore Hall – Rosenblatt Recital
Monday, March 06, 2017 |  Tara Erraught presented a powerful and personal programme for the latest Rosenblatt Recital. A beguiling combination of Lieder and testing Rossini and Mozart arias showcased her rich and expressive range as well as other impressive abilities. 
Belief & Beyond Belief – Penderecki’s St Luke Passion – London Philharmonic/Vladimir Jurowski
Saturday, March 04, 2017 |  It’s probably a vast generalisation, but Catholicism seems inseparable from the Polish psyche, and the Poles express their belief with a natural, visceral directness that is very moving to witness. In the last century, the Catholic church withstood Poland’s annexation by the Soviet Union, and the Polish Pope, John Paul II, went on to play a vital part in bringing down the Iron Curtain. ... Penderecki’s St Luke Passion, first performed in 1966, was one of those works that blatantly subverted Communism... ... Vladimir Jurowski made a virtue of the work’s kaleidoscope of effects, giving its drama and high emotions room, so that set-pieces such as Peter’s denial and Christ’s comforting the two criminals crucified with him transcended the music’s brevity. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo – Nielsen’s Rhapsodic Overture & Sibelius’s Lemminkäinen Legends – UK premiere of Detlev Glanert’s Megaris
Friday, March 03, 2017 |  During the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s 2014-15 season Sakari Oramo conducted a cycle of Carl Nielsen’s Six Symphonies that became a beacon for this great music, so it’s good that he should continue to programme the composer. His Faroe Islands Rhapsodic Overture (from 1927, so relatively late, Nielsen died in 1931) makes use of Faroese folksongs. ... If Dane Nielsen was picturing a trip to his country’s outlying territory, so Detlev Glanert takes us to Megaris, the classical Greek name for an island near Naples, where the sailor-enticing if treacherous sirens are singing their last. ... Sibelius’s Lemminkäinen Legends date from the mid-1890s with each of the four revised twice. The named Kalevala-enshrined hero, the work opening with baleful, attention-commanding horns, becomes passionate with the ‘Maidens of Saari’... ... ‘The Swan of Tuonela’ was next, reflecting Sibelius’s re-think about the movements’ ordering... 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Litton at The Anvil – Richard Strauss’s Don Quixote with Jesper Svedberg & Tom Beer – John Lill plays Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto
Friday, March 03, 2017 |  As part of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s exploration of Richard Strauss’s music, it has now reached one of the most lovable of literary characters – Don Quixote, arguably the most demanding (and accomplished) of all Strauss’s tone poems. It is a set of variations relating to episodes from Cervantes’s epic tale... ... Under Andrew Litton (BSO Conductor Laureate) these picaresque diversions were well-paced, with Quixote’s chivalric adventures gaining in clarity and coherence. ... Most compelling of all was Jesper Svedberg whose Quixote was wonderfully poised... ... Brahms’s Piano Concerto No.2 found Litton directing a somewhat idiosyncratic performance with John Lill as a solid, pragmatic and technically secure soloist. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Pablo Heras-Casado – Alborada del gracioso & The Firebird – Javier Perianes plays Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain
Thursday, March 02, 2017 |  On paper this was always going to be a concert of intoxicatingly atmospheric, vibrantly coloured music from pre-Great War Paris – a heady combination of Gallic, Iberian and Russian imagination, exoticism to the fore. In the event, it turned out to be a plainer affair... ... Ravel's Alborada del gracioso, premiered in its orchestral form in 1919, set the tone. Pablo Heras-Casado – a conductor happy to dispense with a baton and not afraid to have a score before him – was intent on securing textbook refinement, clarity of ensemble, and chamber-like intimacies. ... Published in 1923, Manuel de Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain – less a piano concerto, more a tone-poem with piano obbligato – is never an easy canvas to get across. ... Javier Perianes – a jovial pianist, anxious to get to the instrument – did what he could. ... The complete Firebird ballet (1910) left an uneven impression; neither conductor nor orchestra always in confident accord, to the composer's disadvantage. 
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons at Carnegie Hall – Le tombeau de Couperin & Symphonie fantastique – George Benjamin’s Dream of the Song with Bejun Mehta
Thursday, March 02, 2017 |  Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra capped off their three-night engagement at Carnegie Hall with this splendidly conceived program including the New York premiere of George Benjamin’s Dream of the Song, which evokes the style of the French impressionists and of Benjamin’s teacher, Olivier Messiaen. ... George Benjamin’s Dream of the Song (2015), written for Bejun Mehta, was given its first outing by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under the composer’s direction. The six short movements juxtapose Mehta’s singing of English translations of poems by the eleventh-century Jewish scholars Solomon ibn Gabirol and Shmuel HaNagid, both of whom lived in Spain, with fragments of poems by the twentieth-century writer Federico García Lorca sung in Spanish by a female chorus. 
English Symphony Orchestra/Kenneth Woods at St John’s Smith Square – premieres by Philip Sawyers, with April Frederick – Clare Hammond plays Mozart K466
Tuesday, February 28, 2017 |  The initiative set in train by Kenneth Woods in commissioning nine new Symphonies to be premiered over several years is potentially of such artistic importance... ... ...and to judge by Philip Sawyers’s Third Symphony the plan has got off to an excellent start. ... The brass Fanfare made a suitable opening not just to the concert but by way of prelude in that Woods indicated no applause before Songs of Loss and Regret began. ... ...a considerable compliment was paid to the composer by the exceptional April Fredrick who sang superbly throughout without a score. ... It was a stroke of masterly planning to end the first half with Mozart’s D-minor Piano Concerto, given a notably fine and sensitive account by Clare Hammond. 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – David Greilsammer plays Sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti & John Cage
Monday, February 27, 2017 |  David Greilsammer’s radical and thoughtful pairing of Domenico Scarlatti and John Cage is working well for him: a few years ago he recorded for Sony a programme along much the same lines as this Wigmore Hall recital, which he is touring. 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Marin Alsop at Royal Festival Hall – Fanfare for the Common Man & Leningrad Symphony – Renaud Capuçon plays Mendelssohn
Monday, February 27, 2017 |  What do you programme with Shostakovich’s epic ‘Leningrad’ Symphony? Since it lasts seventy minutes or longer options are limited. However the presence of cohorts of brass made Fanfare for the Common Man a good choice, then add in Mendelssohn’s evergreen Violin Concerto with a popular soloist. ... In a nicely democratic touch Marin Alsop entered along with the musicians and conducted a rousing and imposing beginning to the evening. ... After a slightly shaky start and once his intonation had settled Renaud Capuçon gave a particularly stylish account of the Mendelssohn... 
Guildhall School of Music & Drama – world premiere of Julian Philips’s The Tale of Januarie
Monday, February 27, 2017 |  London was hosting two opera premieres on this night based on two of the sturdiest pillars of English literature, Shakespeare and Chaucer, the former’s The Winter’s Tale, re-imagined by Ryan Wigglesworth for ENO, and, in a rarer musical outing for the medieval poet, the latter’s The Merchant’s Tale from The Canterbury Tales, lavishly staged by the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in its in-house theatre and written by the School’s Head of Composition Julian Philips and Writer-in-Residence Stephen Plaice. 
English National Opera – world premiere of The Winter’s Tale, composed & conducted by Ryan Wigglesworth, directed by Rory Kinnear, with Iain Paterson, Sophie Bevan, Leigh Melrose & Susan Bickley
Monday, February 27, 2017 |  It is reassuring that, despite its current and ongoing financial issues, English National Opera is still able to commission major new works. This latest piece marks the culmination of Ryan Wigglesworth’s spell as ENO’s Composer-in-Residence, during which time he has also been active as a conductor, and The Winter’s Tale duly confirms his status as musical polymath – Wigglesworth adapting his own libretto from Shakespeare and conducting all five performances in this first run. The outcome is an auspicious success for the composer and the company alike. 
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst at Carnegie Hall – Verklärte Nacht & Schubert’s Great C-major Symphony
Sunday, February 26, 2017 |  The Vienna Philharmonic did not disappoint in this concert, which concluded its current three-concert residency at Carnegie Hall. ... The program began with a moving and memorable account of Arnold Schoenberg’s ultra-romantic Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night). Franz Welser-Möst led the VPO’s strings in an incandescent and widely-expressive performance. 
Orchestre National de Lyon/Leonard Slatkin at Kravis Center – Celephaïs & Symphonie fantastique – Gil Shaham plays Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto
Sunday, February 26, 2017 |  Orchestre National de Lyon’s eight-stop US tour brought it to West Palm Beach. Leonard Slatkin opened the program with Guillaume Connesson’s Celephaïs, inspired by the eponymous city created by the American horror-fiction author, H. P. Lovecraft. ... Then Gil Shaham gave Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto a loving reading... ... After intermission Slatkin led an extraordinary account of Symphonie fantastique... ... There were two Carmen-connected encores... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski at Lincoln Center – Glinka’s Valse-Fantaisie and, with Sofia Fomina, Mahler 4 – Jan Lisiecki plays Chopin’s E-minor Piano Concerto
Sunday, February 26, 2017 |  The London Philharmonic Orchestra returned to Lincoln Center with Vladimir Jurowski. The highlight was Chopin’s E-minor Piano Concerto, brilliantly played by Jan Lisiecki... ... ikhail Glinka’s Valse-Fantaisie (1839), originally written for piano, had opened the concert. ... A disappointing reading of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony completed the concert. The aesthetic character of this highly stylized Symphony requires conductor and orchestra to have a flair for Gemütlichkeit – that untranslatable word intended to capture the particular kind of warmth and geniality that typifies old Vienna. 
John Adams at 70 – Britten Sinfonia/Benjamin Shwartz – Chamber Symphony & Grand Pianola Music, Timo Andres’s Steady Hand, Philip Glass’s Music in Similar Motion
Saturday, February 25, 2017 |  Recently London concertgoers have been treated to a feast of American contemporary music celebrating the eightieth-birthdays of Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Now it’s the turn of the junior giant, John Adams, whose 70th-birthday was on February 15. ... Adams’s Chamber Symphony opened this Britten Sinfonia programme, a quizzical synthesis in homage to his teachers and the genius of Arnold Schönberg, layered with comic and grotesque effects inspired by classic cartoon capers. 
Opera North – Rossini’s La Cenerentola – Wallis Giunta, Henry Waddington, Sunnyboy Dladla, Quirijn de Lang, John Savournin; directed by Aletta Collins; conducted by David Cowan
Saturday, February 25, 2017 |  Although the scene at the ball is not dwelt upon in Rossini’s version of the Cinderella story, dance is made an important component of Aletta Collins’s production by making Don Magnifico the proprietor of a somewhat low dance school. ... ...a disaffected individual with a sob story to gain her fifteen minutes of fame through some Strictly Come Dancing-style contest. ... Dr Johnson’s damning words on the influence of a would-be patron, as teaching “the morals of a whore and the manners of a dancing master” presumably tapped into a widely-held negative opinion about such a profession... ... By contrast, Wallis Giunta’s Cinderella is quietly dignified as the put-upon half-sister as she sings her sad song about a king in search of innocent and virtuous love... 
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst at Carnegie Hall – Rosamunde Overture, Time Recycling, Ein Heldenleben
Friday, February 24, 2017 |  The Vienna Philharmonic and Franz Welser-Möst commenced the first of three concerts at Carnegie Hall with something from a quintessentially Viennese composer, Franz Schubert. ... René Staar’s Time Recycling (2013) is a masterclass in post-modern eclecticism. It opens with Varèse-like attacks and also demonstrates mastery of spectral techniques. ... Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben opened with merciless directness... 
Opera North – Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Snow Maiden – Aoife Miskelly, Heather Lowe, Phillip Rhodes, Elin Pritchard; directed by John Fulljames; conducted by Leo McFall
Friday, February 24, 2017 |  Opera North has mounted this new production of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Snow Maiden (1882) at exactly the right point in the year, on the brink of Spring. It adapts Alexander Ostrovsky’s play based on a Russian folktale that requires, in order to be appeased, the sacrifice of the Snow Maiden, the love-child of Spring and Winter, to the Sun God... ... In her performance as the eponymous lead, Aoife Miskelly combines something of a Pamina-like self-pity earlier on, with a touch of soubrette vigour later to make for an attractively well-rounded musical character. Elin Pritchard’s Kupava is correspondingly more pert as the girl to whom Mizgir is initially is betrothed... 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts Also sprach Zarathustra and the London premiere of Tansy Davies’s Forest – Pierre-Laurent Aimard plays Beethoven’s Emperor Piano Concerto
Thursday, February 23, 2017 |  This stroll down memory lane is prompted by the London Philharmonic and Andrés Orozco-Estrada having played Zarathustra at this address less than a fortnight ago, an impressive and expansive thirty-seven-minute account that really gelled. In tackling Richard Strauss’s Nietzsche-inspired score, Esa-Pekka Salonen took a different view... ... Of greater reward was the ‘Emperor’, Pierre-Laurent Aimard investing freshness and vitality into the first movement while finding time to be expressive... ... It was Forest, Tansy Davies’s new four-horn Concerto, which stole the show, featuring two current Philharmonia members and – with Richard Watkins and Michael Thompson – former ones: what a foursome and what a piece. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Lothar Koenigs – Bruckner 7 – Nicolas Hodges gives UK premiere of Wolfgang Rihm’s Piano Concerto No.2
Wednesday, February 22, 2017 |  We weren’t informed the edition used for Bruckner 7. The use of percussion at the slow movement’s climax spells Nowak of course, but in his conducting of the first movement – flowing, organic – Lothar Koenigs could be said to have aligned himself with Haas’s publication; he wouldn’t be the first conductor so to do, for such as Karajan and Celibidache married Haas and Nowak, while other interpreters – including Wand, Kurt Sanderling, Masur – displayed wisdom by using Haas's version and thus leaving out totally the percussion (triangle, cymbals, timpani) that was not anyway specified by the composer. ... The concert’s first half was devoted to the prolific Wolfgang Rihm (born 1952), four-hundred-plus works and counting. Curiously it seems that there is no Piano Concerto No.1, although there are other piano-and-orchestra works. What is officially No.2 (2014) opens with gentle dancing, waltz-like, and thus very easy to relate it to Schoenberg’s masterly Piano Concerto. ... ...there was no doubting Nicolas Hodges’s mastery of the solo part... 
New York Philharmonic/Herbert Blomstedt – Beethoven 7 & 8
Wednesday, February 22, 2017 |  No.8 is usually grouped with the gentler and smaller-forced Beethoven Symphonies. However, Herbert Blomstedt led a performance worthy of it being anointed alongside the ‘Eroica’, Fifth, ‘Choral’ and the Seventh it was paired with here. ... The Finale galloped out of the gates and concluded with wonderful panache and vigor. 
Belief & Beyond Belief – London Philharmonic/Vladimir Jurowski – Symphonies by Denisov & Shostakovich – Patricia Kopatchinskaja plays Berg
Wednesday, February 22, 2017 |  Vladimir Jurowski’s innovative programming was to the fore in this London Philharmonic concert. All three composers were nearing death when these pieces were written – none more so than Edison Denisov, whose Second Symphony (1996) was one of numerous works to emerge from the hectic productivity of his closing months. ... Jurowski ensured a combative response from the LPO musicians in this powerful and disquieting piece whose fifteen minutes are over far too quickly (the Music Sales entry gives its duration at thirty, raising the possibility that further movements might at least have been planned), who were then unstinting in support of Patricia Kopatchinskaja for an account of Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto (1935) in which fatalism was banished by defiance wholly of and for the present. ... While Denisov confronts death head-on and Berg leavens its sting, Shostakovich effectively disarms it over the course of his Fifteenth Symphony (1971). 
Maurizio Pollini at Royal Festival Hall – Chopin & Debussy
Tuesday, February 21, 2017 |  Maurizio Pollini is a regular during Southbank Centre’s International Piano Series, sometimes twice a season, as for this term, for he returns on March 14 for Beethoven and Schoenberg. First off, in his 75th-birthday year (the date itself was 5 January), it was Chopin and Debussy, composers Pollini has featured numerous times before in the Royal Festival Hall. 
Murray Perahia plays Beethoven Piano Concertos with Academy of St Martin in the Fields – (2) Concertos 2 & 4
Monday, February 20, 2017 |  The second of Murray Perahia's Beethoven evenings with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields this season focused on energy and leanness of character more than profundity or prophecy. The surprisingly no-nonsense opening of the Fourth Concerto, bordering on the matter-of-fact, touched little of the poetry I have heard from Perahia in past readings. 
Orchestre National de Lyon/Leonard Slatkin at Carnegie Hall – Celephaïs, Daphnis et Chloé – Renée Fleming sings Shéhérazade, Thomas Hampson narrates Antar
Monday, February 20, 2017 |  Touring the United States for the first time since 2003, Orchestre National de Lyon and music director Leonard Slatkin offered a generous all-French (and nearly all-Ravel) program in Carnegie Hall. ... The concert opened with the US debut of a reconstructed version of Ravel’s arrangement of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Antar. Premiered recently in Lyon with a French-language narration by Amin Maalouf... ... The libretto, spoken during and between musical movements, was movingly recited by Thomas Hampson. ... After intermission was the US premiere of Celephaïs, a symphonic poem by Guillaume Connesson.... ... Following the two premieres, Renée Fleming brought her plush soprano, seamless phrasing and emotional commitment to Ravel’s timeless song-cycle Shéhérazade. ... The program concluded with one of the ONL’s specialties, Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé. 
OAE – Mendelssohn & Berlioz – Sarah Connolly sings Les Nuits d’été
Monday, February 20, 2017 |  Two major works, a discarded aria, and a seldom-performed overture were the basis for the OAE’s exploration of Berlioz and Mendelssohn. ... Berlioz’s Les Nuits d’été, setting poems by Théophile Gautier, was written originally with piano in 1841 and rendered here by an expressive and charismatic Sarah Connolly. 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts Daphnis et Chloé and UK premiere of Stravinsky’s Funeral Song – Pierre-Laurent Aimard plays György Ligeti’s Piano Concerto
Sunday, February 19, 2017 |  ...never did I think I’d hear a Stravinsky premiere. One such work replaced the originally advertised starter to Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Esa-Pekka Salonen’s four-concert series, Inspirations. Stravinsky’s recently rediscovered Funeral Song, composed in 1908 after the death of his teacher Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and played just once... ... Thankfully, once the buzz of the new had died down, and after an extensive stage change, we were mesmerised by György Ligeti’s Piano Concerto, under the dazzling digits of Pierre-Laurent Aimard. ... Following the interval, Salonen masterminded an extraordinarily satisfying account of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Michelle Merrill – Walkabout, White Peacock, Shostakovich 1 – Sara Davis Buechner plays Gershwin [live webcast]
Saturday, February 18, 2017 |  With the three-week Mozart Festival over, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra was back to full-strength for an enticing programme with Associate Conductor Michelle Merrill. ... The concert opened with Walkabout by Gabriela Lena Frank... ... Sara Davis Buechner (formerly David Buechner) played two splendid pieces by George Gershwin. The ‘I Got Rhythm’ Variations, a masterpiece, was rather brusquely delivered at first... ... Dead aged thirty-five from influenza, Charles Tomlinson Griffes’s The White Peacock (1919) opened the second half. First-conducted by Stokowski, this is music of exotic plumage, Scriabin meets Debussy... 
Orchestra of St Paul’s – Tenth Anniversary Concert
Friday, February 17, 2017 |  Orchestra of St Paul’s celebrated its tenth anniversary at home, in “The Actors' Church”. The magnificent acoustic was exploited when, from the organ loft, trumpeters played Stravinsky’s brief and aggressive Fanfare, a prelude to Biber’s delightfully eccentric three-centuries-old Battalia... ... The ‘Linz’ Symphony was also notable for forward impulse, although the quick introductory Adagio was rather inconsequential – the succeeding Allegro spiritoso deserves a more majestic preface... 
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Ilan Volkov – Der ferne Klang Nachtstück & Rachmaninov 3 – Rachel Nicholls gives premiere of Nicola LeFanu’s The Crimson Bird
Friday, February 17, 2017 |  Belonging to Act Three of Der ferne Klang (produced in 1912) and first heard in Vienna in 1909 as a stand-alone concert item, Franz Schreker’s substantial Nachtstück (seventeen minutes here) is a luxurious blend of German idealism and French impressionism. ... At its premiere, Nachtstück was considered strikingly modern, a quality not overly present in LeFanu’s new work. Scored for large orchestra (including an array of percussion), The Crimson Bird sets four verses from John Fuller’s poem Siege (with links to Euripides’s The Trojan Women)... ... Rachel Nicholls was the ideal soloist... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Karl-Heinz Steffens – Ruy Blas Overture & Brahms 3 – David Fray plays Schumann
Thursday, February 16, 2017 |  Karl-Heinz Steffens enjoys a wide-ranging career. He has been at Teatro alla Scala in three successive seasons and conducted a Ring Cycle in Ludwigshafen, and many ensembles in Europe and now includes the Philharmonia Orchestra... ... This style was immensely appropriate and Mendelssohn’s lovely Ruy Blas Overture gained in grandeur. ... David Fray represented Schumann’s Piano Concerto in the best tradition of ‘romantic’ interpretation. 
CBSO/Alexander Vedernikov – The Rock & Pathétique Symphony – Steven Osborne plays Rachmaninov
Thursday, February 16, 2017 |  Proceedings started with a superbly played account of Rachmaninov’s The Rock... ... Steven Osborne – always an interesting pianist – played Rachmaninov with light and shade, thoughtfulness and power, and stunning technical assurance. Alexander Vedernikov’s conducting may have encouraged dynamics that were overblown in Symphony Hall... ... Vedernikov’s way with the ‘Pathétique’ Symphony underlined its anxious expression. 
Welsh National Opera – Frank Martin’s Le Vin herbé – Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Tom Randle, Howard Kirk, Caitlin Hulcup, Rosie Hay; directed by Polly Graham; conducted by James Southall
Thursday, February 16, 2017 |  It is surely a brave composer who takes on the same subject as that treated by Wagner in a work which happened to do nothing less than change the course of Western music. Perhaps for this reason Frank Martin’s Le Vin herbé (1938-1941) skirts around that challenge by using a different source for his drama than the mediaeval narratives used in Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde... 
New York Philharmonic/Manfred Honeck – Mahler 1 – Inon Barnatan plays Beethoven
Thursday, February 16, 2017 |  Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto began hushed and breathless. Manfred Honeck may have exaggerated the dynamic range notated in the score... ... Inon Barnatan’s first entrance was more playful than lyrical, suggesting the character of a scherzo through fluid phrasing and sparklingly articulate fingerwork. ... Manfred Honeck’s attention to details and dynamics was even more evident in Mahler’s First Symphony. 
Orchestra of St Luke’s/Pablo Heras-Casado at Carnegie Hall – Lutosławski’s Musique funèbre & Brahms’s German Requiem
Thursday, February 16, 2017 |  Pablo Heras-Casado had the Brahms follow the Lutosławski directly, avoiding clapping. The effect was chilling... ... In rendering the moods of Brahms’s setting of Lutheran scripture, the members of Musica Sacra succeeded in balancing... ... Florian Boesch brought urgency and immediacy to the baritone’s impassioned pleas, while Sophie Karthäuser lent graceful refinement to the soprano’s heavenly solo... 
Delius in France
Thursday, February 16, 2017 |  It was rather appropriate that the Park Lane Group’s first visit to the Royal Over-Seas League’s should be a concert devoted to Delius, that most quintessential English composer who hardly spent any time in Britain... ... As per its remit, PLG presented a fine collection of young instrumentalists, starting with well-matched Ella Rundle and Gamal Khamis in the Cello Sonata, originally composed for Beatrice Harrison (Delius, having been so impressed with the Harrison sisters in Brahms’s Double Concerto, wrote his own for them). ... The Third (and last) Violin Sonata, dates from later, 1930, dictated by Delius to his amanuensis Eric Fenby. It was written for May Harrison, who gave the premiere at Wigmore Hall with Arnold Bax at the piano. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Richard Eyre’s production of Massenet’s Werther – Isabel Leonard, Vittorio Grigolo, David Bizic & Anna Christy; conducted by Edward Gardner
Thursday, February 16, 2017 |  Love and Death permeate late-19th-century Romantic Opera – from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde to Verdi’s Otello – in the French repertoire, few stage-works focus on this duality as strongly as Massenet’s Werther (1892), based upon Goethe’s short but steamy novel... ... Three years ago Richard Eyre staged Werther for the Met in a basically traditional manner and with cinematography to suggest the change of seasons... ... Vittorio Grigolo and Isabel Leonard conveyed their encounters with increasingly intense passion. ... Edward Gardner led a strong, taut and sometimes riveting performance... 
LSO – John Wilson conducts Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony – Håkan Hardenberger plays Mark-Anthony Turnage
Wednesday, February 15, 2017 |  With John Wilson replacing Daniel Harding for this LSO concert at short notice, regular concert-goers were presented with an unusual comparison. In January, Wilson conducted the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain in a memorable programme, concluding with a deeply impressive account of Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony; and now Wilson found himself conducting the same work with the London Symphony Orchestra. ... So if the LSO’s recent conductors in this work are akin to those changes Antonio Conte makes at Chelsea Football Club this season, the LSO – like Chelsea – remains top of the League... ... We needed the reassurance of Rachmaninov’s Symphony after the experience of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s second trumpet concerto, composed in 2014, the title giving the game away for whom it was written – Håkan Hardenberger. 
Ensemble Plus Ultra at Cadogan Hall: The Food of Love – Song of Songs
Wednesday, February 15, 2017 |  A feast of sixteenth-century polyphony at Cadogan Hall. Sensual subjects from the biblical Song of Songs were presented, featuring parallel settings by Victoria and Palestrina. Ensemble Plus Ultra specialises in Spanish Renaissance repertoire... 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Karabits at Lighthouse Poole – Bartók’s Dance Suite & Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra – Nemanja Radulović plays Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto
Wednesday, February 15, 2017 |  Opening this Lighthouse concert with Bartók’s Dance Suite (1923), Kirill Karabits led a controlled and colourful account, with cameo roles and solo groupings smoothly executed. ... Much more convincing was Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto (1939). Nemanja Radulović commanded attention with playing of sustained energy and musicality. ... Witold Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra (completed in 1954) is one of his most approachable works. The timpani and double basses were forthright in their opening declarations... 
Valentine’s Day showing of David Lean’s Brief Encounter with London Philharmonic Orchestra and Dirk Brossé – Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto played by Alexandra Dariescu
Tuesday, February 14, 2017 |  Few films use music so effectively as David Lean’s Brief Encounter: Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto is associated throughout with Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson), and, along with her voice-over narration, signals that we should see the story through her eyes. On Valentine’s Day, Alexandra Dariescu, with the London Philharmonic and Dirk Brossé, played the work complete before a showing of the movie. ... Dariescu and Brossé returned in place of Eileen Joyce and Muir Mathieson from the soundtrack. ... Robert Krasker’s photography shows many of the characteristics that would earn him an Academy Award for The Third Man. ... As Alex, Trevor Howard’s well-mannered infatuation is incomparable... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Kathryn Rudge, James Baillieu & Gary Pomeroy – English Songs
Monday, February 13, 2017 |  The danger with music of the Edwardian years or the final Victorian ones is that we see them only through the prism of the destruction that came soon after. So while the repertoire in Kathryn Rudge’s Wigmore Hall recital bracketed The Great War tidily enough, dating from 1900 to 1930, or thereabouts, it is salutary that it did not chart some kind of national progression from the bumptious to the desolate. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/John Wilson – Cockaigne Overture & A London Symphony – Lawrence Power plays Julian Anderson’s Prayer & William Walton’s Viola Concerto
Sunday, February 12, 2017 |  On the afternoon of Sunday January 24 last year, in this same venue, and conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra, John Wilson directed an impressive account of Vaughan Williams’s Sea Symphony, the first of his nine works in the genre. Now, these same artists came together for A London Symphony. ... The juxtaposition of Cockaigne with A London Symphony is an interesting one, and from the start of the Elgar, it was clear that Wilson had the work fully in his grip: this is by no means an easy work to play... ... William Walton’s Viola Concerto was his first concert masterpiece, dating from thirty years after Cockaigne. The Great War and many consequential social upheavals had swept Edwardian England largely to one side... ... Lawrence Power has recorded Walton’s Viola Concerto in its original 1929 version for Hyperion... 
Carnegie Hall’s La Serenissima – Hespèrion XXI & Jordi Savall – Musica Nova: Venetian Influences in Musical Europe
Sunday, February 12, 2017 |  Carnegie Hall’s ambitious three-week festival, La Serenissima: Music and Arts from the Venetian Republic, highlights the artistic legacy of the Republic of Venice, which existed for a millennium between the eighth and eighteenth centuries. ... Here Jordi Savall, the Catalan master of antique music and reigning champion of the viola da gamba, led his Hespèrion XXI ensemble in a wide selection of mostly Venetian music from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 
Belief & Beyond Belief – London Philharmonic Orchestra/Andrés Orozco-Estrada – The Light, The Unanswered Question, Doctor Atomic Symphony – Marina Piccinini plays Aaron Jay Kernis’s Flute Concerto
Saturday, February 11, 2017 |  ...Charles Ives’s The Unanswered Question, provided the brief, profound centre of this carefully programmed London Philharmonic concert. ... The dialogue offered in Philip Glass’s The Light is between science and spirituality. ... This segued in style to Aaron Jay Kernis’s Flute Concerto. The opening movement is equally ethereal with hints of Berg from the strings and Debussy in the flute part, played with panache and charisma by Marina Piccinini.... ... John Adams’s Doctor Atomic Symphony was the perfect partner to the Ives: long, expansive and discursive, yet its twin in profundity and effect. The LPO‘s playing was thrilling. Adapted from Adams’s opera, the music depicts the moral struggle and personal drama of Robert Oppenheimer... 
Contrapunctus/Owen Rees at The Queen's College – Music from the Baldwin Partbooks
Saturday, February 11, 2017 |  The Baldwin Partbooks contain a wealth of sacred compositions from the early Tudor period assiduously copied by John Baldwin at St George’s Chapel, Windsor in the 1570s and 1580s, and bear witness to the rich polyphonic choral tradition cultivated by an array of English composers on the eve of the Reformation, and beyond, as far as political circumstances allowed. Owen Rees’s selection here concentrated upon the particularly Catholic form of liturgical devotion addressed to the Virgin Mary to which the Protestant Reformation soon put an end... 
Belief & Beyond Belief – London Philharmonic Orchestra/Andrés Orozco-Estrada – Philosopher Symphony, Atmosphères, Also sprach Zarathustra – James O’Donnell plays Poulenc’s Organ Concerto
Friday, February 10, 2017 |  Stanley Kubrick did so in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and now Andrés Orozco-Estrada has coupled Atmosphères and Zarathustra... ... ...a well-prepared and sensitive response from the London Philharmonic... ... They went on to impress in the Nietzsche-inspired Also sprach Zarathustra, beginning with gleaming trumpets... ... James O’Donnell is a regular practitioner of Poulenc’s Organ Concerto... ... The work opens with a dissonant growl, worthy of cueing Vincent Price in a Hammer Horror... ... For the Haydn, one of the finest of his early Symphonies, it was good to see a harpsichord; but that was it, not a single note was audible... 
Méhul: The First Romantic – Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Jonathan Cohen with Michael Spyres & John Irvin
Friday, February 10, 2017 |  This varied programme celebrated the music of Étienne Nicolas Méhul (1763-1817) and included some very interesting works by his contemporaries. Méhul was a famed operatic composer and five of the items were extensive arias – often of anguished nature... ... The first of the orchestral items from Méhul’s contemporaries featured ‘Dance of the Furies’ from Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice – it is probably known equally well as part of Boccherini’s Symphony No.6 (La casa del diavolo) where he unashamedly purloins Gluck’s little masterpiece. Jonathan Cohen’s reading was suitably rhythmic 
The Metropolitan Opera – Sandro Sequi’s production of Bellini’s I Puritani – Diana Damrau, Javier Camarena, Alexey Markov, Luca Pisaroni; conducted by Maurizio Benini
Friday, February 10, 2017 |  Bel canto operas are famous for the demands placed upon singers, but in I Puritani, Vincenzo Bellini pushed these boundaries even further – with thrilling results. In this first-night performance of the Met’s revival of Sandro Sequi’s 1976 production – enhanced by Ming Cho Lee’s mostly flat-painted scenery – the cast rose to the challenge with one impressive vocal display after another. 
English National Opera – Mike Leigh’s production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance
Thursday, February 09, 2017 |  This is the first revival of Mike Leigh’s production of The Pirates of Penzance, with a largely new cast – other than Andrew Shore’s Major-General Stanley and Angharad Lyddon’s Kate. Soraya Mafi, who sang Edith in the original cast has been promoted, to Mabel, and worthily so! ... The ‘big’ voices are John Tomlinson’s authoritative Sergeant and Shore’s wily class-conscious Major-General. ... Ashley Riches was having a whale of a time as the Pirate-King – channelling his inner Johnny Depp/Jack Sparrow to great effect... 
New York Philharmonic/Joshua Gersen – Tchaikovsky – Francesca da Rimini & Pathétique Symphony
Thursday, February 09, 2017 |  Every assistant conductor must dream of the day when he or she will ascend the podium to take over from the music director or a guest. It came true for the New York Philharmonic’s Joshua Gersen replacing the ailing Semyon Bychkov in this Tchaikovsky program. ... The Taneyev piece had to be dropped, so the concert opened with Francesca da Rimini, based upon the tale of the ill-fated illicit lovers, Paolo and Francesca, described in ‘Canto V’ of Dante’s Divine Comedy... ... Brisk pacing in all but the Finale characterized Gersen’s reading of the ‘Pathétique’. 
The Kaufmann Residency – LSO/Antonio Pappano – Wagner – Tristan und Isolde, Wesendonck-Lieder, Die Walküre
Wednesday, February 08, 2017 |  After more than his fair share of problems with chest infections and damage to his vocal cords, Jonas Kaufmann is back on triumphant form – and making me regret all the more not going to Paris for his recent Lohengrin. This Wagner concert with Antonio Pappano and the LSO was the second event in Kaufmann’s Barbican Residency... ... Tristan und Isolde and the Wesendonck-Lieder are so strongly linked spiritually and musically that the one could merge seamlessly into the other. ... The main event, though, was the first Act of Die Walküre, in which Siegmund and Sieglinde take sibling love to extremes... 
Alisa Weilerstein plays Johann Sebastian Bach’s Six Cello Suites at St John’s Smith Square
Wednesday, February 08, 2017 |  Six Preludes, thirty dances, one-hundred-and-sixty minutes of music, J. S. Bach's Cello Suites, published posthumously in Vienna in 1825, date from the period of the composer's employment as Kapellmeister to the viola da gamba-playing Calvinist Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen... ... Formidable in all departments, Alisa Weilerstein is an undemonstrative player... 
CBSO/Nicholas Collon – Gustav Holst – The Planets & Savitri
Wednesday, February 08, 2017 |  Holst’s Savitri was given an impressive outing in the spacious design of Symphony Hall, where the lights were low for the opening declamation by Death and only slowly raised on the platform at the entrance of Yvonne Howard (replacing an indisposed Sarah Connolly). ... Nicholas Collon judged tempos perfectly... ... The Planets showed-off the venue’s brilliant acoustic, not least for the distant then fading-away choir at the very end. 
The Quorum at the Vault Festival – Heloise Tunstall-Behrens’s The Swarm
Wednesday, February 08, 2017 |  The Swarm received its first outing last year in the resonant chamber of the Thames Tunnel Shaft in Rotherhithe. Now an expanded version for women’s voices and recorded sound is held at The Cavern as part of the Vault Festival. Urban engineering and rumbling trains at Waterloo Station accompanied a mesmerising performance as nine singers enact the dramatic and democratic journey of a swarm of bees across London to a new, safe home. 
Bamberg Symphony/Christoph Eschenbach at Carnegie Hall – Don Giovanni Overture & Mahler 5 – Ray Chen plays Mendelssohn
Wednesday, February 08, 2017 |  The Bamberg Symphony can trace its roots through a line of orchestras dating back to Prague’s Estates Theatre, where Mozart’s Don Giovanni premiered in 1787. .... Honorary Conductor Christoph Eschenbach led a reading that emphasized these opposites... ... In Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto soloists vary greatly in whether they highlight its delicate Classical heritage or its dramatic early-Romanticism. Ray Chen fell firmly in the latter camp. His lyrical playing is reminiscent of Jascha Heifetz and Aaron Rosand... ... In Mahler’s Fifth Symphony (from somber trumpet solo to triumphant apotheosis) Eschenbach’s literal reading respected the longer lines but neglected to keep dynamics in check. 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Pinchas Zukerman at Royal Festival Hall – Beethoven
Tuesday, February 07, 2017 |  The Overture to Egmont is a tricky number to start unanimously, as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Pinchas Zukerman demonstrated. ... This Beethoven concert continued with Symphony 7, given an agreeable outing. ... the transition into the Vivace elegantly made and to a judicious tempo that gave the music a lilt to remind of Wagner’s oft-quoted “apotheosis of the dance” observation. ... After the interval, an aristocratic account of the Violin Concerto, Zukerman playing himself in during the initial tutti, taken at a leisurely speed... 
The Royal Opera – David McVicar’s production of Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur – Angela Gheorghiu, Ksenia Dudnikova, Brian Jagde, Gerald Finley; conducted by Daniel Oren
Tuesday, February 07, 2017 |  It says a lot for the resilience of Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur that it is not completely swamped by this sumptuous production. Just about maintaining a toe-hold in the repertoire, it's a full-blown, four-Act melodrama (based on a play that was a star-vehicle for Sarah Bernhardt)... ... David McVicar’s staging, new in 2010 and at the time the Royal Opera’s first in nearly a century, is back for its first revival, with Angela Gheorghiu returning in the title role of the 18th-century French superstar actress, who according to lurid legend was murdered by the Duchesse (upgraded in the opera to Princesse) de Bouillon, her love-rival for Count Maurice of Saxony. ... Adriana has a rival worthy of her in the formidable Russian mezzo Ksenia Dudnikova as the Princesse, making her Royal Opera debut. She was sensational.... 
LSO/Antonio Pappano – The Oceanides & Inextinguishable Symphony – Janine Jansen plays Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade / watch this concert
Sunday, February 05, 2017 |  Concerts come in all shades: drab to dazzling, superfluous to special, average to amazing. This LSO evening, streamed live by the Mezzo channel (linked to below), was all of the latter qualities, a 24-carat affair from start to finish. The music-making was of the highest order... ... Antonio Pappano, baton-free, and opting for antiphonal violins, cellos left-centre, double basses ranked far-left, set the tone with a distinguished, organically-felt account of Sibelius's The Oceanides... ... Janine Jansen has never been one to fight shy of unfamiliar repertory (think what she's done for Britten’s Violin Concerto). Bernstein's five-movement Serenade after Plato's 'Symposium' for violin, strings, harp and percussion, completed in 1954, three years before West Side Story, may have been commissioned by the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, premiered by Isaac Stern, and recorded by Perlman, Kremer, Accardo and Mutter... ... ...Aristophanes and Socrates among the guests. ... Carl Nielsen's ‘Inextinguishable’ Symphony, his inexorable First World War hymn to the “elemental Will of Life” exceeded expectations. Negotiating all traps, Pappano hewed a tough, architecturally massive sculpture... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin – Mozart Festival (6) – Flute and Harp Concerto, Prague & Jupiter Symphonies [live webcast]
Saturday, February 04, 2017 |  In Mozart’s case, it would be the ‘Prague’ Symphony, one of those love-affairs that will last when the music is of such seducing splendour, virility, pathos and bubbly wit... ... Thus Leonard Slatkin and the DSO opened the final lap of their six-tiered Mozart Festival with K504. One of its finest interpreters was Rafael Kubelík... ... The Flute and Harp Concerto contains many delights... ... Positioned to the conductor’s right, Sharon Sparrow (DSO assistant principal) and Yolanda Kondonassis (guest) made a fine duo... ... Following the conductor’s restored contemplation we arrived at the final reel of the Mozart Festival to illustrate his ultimate Symphony, the godly ‘Jupiter’... 
The Kaufmann Residency – Jonas Kaufmann & Helmut Deutsch at Barbican Hall – Schumann’s Kerner-Lieder, Duparc, Britten’s Michelangelo Sonnets
Saturday, February 04, 2017 |  Jonas Kaufmann’s London song-recitals don’t come around that frequently, and it was fascinating to hear how this tenor god, so used to letting rip in opera, adjusted his voice to the scale of a recital. ... Schumann’s song-sequence – the composer’s description, rather than song-cycle – of twelve poems by Justinus Kerner is a substantial, tightly organised work from the composer’s prodigal 1840 ‘year of song’. The Kerner-Lieder is not as popular as, say, Dichterliebe... ... The visionary stillness and yearning of Duparc’s ‘L’invitation au voyage’ heralded a subtle shift into Gallic sensuality, along with some slippery French intonation. ... I’d found Helmut Deutsch’s accompaniments attentive but uninvolving, but with Britten’s Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, the composer’s first settings written for Peter Pears, the piano role and Kaufmann’s singing snapped into focus. 
Belief & Beyond Belief – London Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra – Roger Norrington conducts Haydn’s The Creation, with Lucy Crowe, Thomas Hobbs & Christopher Maltman
Saturday, February 04, 2017 |  Proceedings commenced with a cheerful talk by Roger Norrington incorporating interesting readings from accounts of early performances. Having reminded us of events that took place over two centuries ago he then achieved a convincingly late-18th-century-style reading of Haydn’s Creation... ... The opening ‘Representation of Chaos’ was ideally tense, and the great moment when the chorus sings “And there was light” was thrilling and magnificently loud. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin – Mozart Festival (5) – Eine kleine Nachtmusik, Seraglio Overture, Haffner & Linz Symphonies [live webcast]
Friday, February 03, 2017 |  This was the morning after the night before, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Leonard Slatkin reprising Leg Five of their Mozart Festival... ... To begin with we were serenaded with ‘a little night music’ (pre-Sondheim), stylish, dynamic and elegantly turned, the DSO strings (violins antiphonal) pointed and unanimous... ... Then to the compact ‘Haffner’ Symphony (a remarkable work), fiery and vivid in the first movement... ... And finally (for the moment), the spacious ‘Linz’ Symphony; as throughout, Slatkin conducted from memory. The introduction promised much and the performance went on to deliver... 
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo – Colas Breugnon Overture & Shostakovich 10 – Carolin Widmann gives premiere of Michael Zev Gordon’s Violin Concerto
Friday, February 03, 2017 |  For the latest of this season’s BBC commissions, Carolin Widmann joined Sakari Oramo and the BBC Symphony Orchestra in the premiere of the Violin Concerto (2017) by Michael Zev Gordon... ... Russian music from either side of the Second World War was otherwise the order of the day. Shostakovich has not featured overmuch in Oramo’s repertoire, but there was assuredly no lack of insight in this account of the Tenth Symphony... ... Not so many concerts begin with an Overture these days, and to have that from Kabalevsky’s Colas Breugnon (1938) was a real pleasure. 
Robert Quinney plays Johann Sebastian Bach on the organ of the Royal Festival Hall
Friday, February 03, 2017 |  I first became aware of Robert Quinney when his Bach CDs (on the Coro label) were reviewed on BBC Radio 3, and they sounded marvellous. This Royal Festival Hall recital was the first time I’d heard him live, and I was even more impressed by the sheer voltage of his playing. ... He started with a familiar bang, the D-minor Toccata and Fugue (which may not be by Bach)... ... In marked contrast was the sober ‘Our Father’ Chorale Prelude... ... He played the ‘Leipzig’ Prelude and Fugue (in C) with an attractive, rather Italianate lightness and wit that was blown away by the majesty of the ‘Wedge’ Prelude and Fugue (E-minor) and the revelatory clarity of his account of the ‘Vom Himmel hoch’ Canonic Variations (which Stravinsky was moved to arrange for choir and orchestra). 
Cleveland Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst at Adrienne Arsht Center – Bartered Bride Overture & Capriccio italien – Yo-Yo Ma plays Dvořák’s Cello Concerto
Friday, February 03, 2017 |  The concert began and ended with colorful showpieces that gave each section of the Cleveland Orchestra opportunities to shine... ... The centerpiece of the concert, given without intermission, was Dvořák’s Cello Concerto with Yo-Yo Ma. Franz Welser-Möst drew superlative playing, paying keen attention to detail... 
New York Philharmonic/Semyon Bychkov with Kirill Gerstein – Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1 & Manfred Symphony
Thursday, February 02, 2017 |  The New York Philharmonic and Semyon Bychkov began their Tchaikovsky Festival series, “Beloved Friend”, with Piano Concerto No.1 and Manfred Symphony. ... Kirill Gerstein has done extensive research into the Concerto’s three versions. ... Manfred Symphony, based upon the dramatic poem by Lord Byron, depict aspects of Manfred’s life, from his meditative wanderings through the Alps through to the encounter with the infernal Arimanes to his death. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Paavo Järvi – Haydn’s Clock Symphony & Nielsen’s Sinfonia semplice – Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with Christian Tetzlaff, Tanja Tetzlaff & Lars Vogt
Thursday, February 02, 2017 |  Using a slightly reduced orchestra with ‘period’ trumpets and timpani, Paavo Järvi’s reading of Haydn’s ‘Clock’ Symphony was a fine example of how a modern orchestra can present 18th-century music convincingly. ... Beethoven’s Triple Concerto was given a lyrical outing within Järvi’s symphonic approach. ... ...in the central Largo Tanja Tetzlaff announced the tune with utmost gentility before Christian Tetzlaff and Lars Vogt expanded it in their different ways. ... This was the final concert in Paavo Järvi’s series incorporating Carl Nielsen’s Six Symphonies. The first publication of No.6 did not give the title ‘Sinfonia semplice’, but this is how the composer referred to it. 
English National Opera – Jonathan Miller’s production of Verdi’s Rigoletto – Nicholas Pallesen, Sydney Mancasola, Joshua Guerrero, Barnaby Rea; conducted by Richard Armstrong
Thursday, February 02, 2017 |  In 2014, English National Opera brought in a new Rigoletto (the one set in a gentlemen’s club by Christopher Alden) and retired Jonathan Miller’s 1982 stalwart, which had served well as a popular and bankable classic and which also harked back nostalgically to the company’s glory days. It has now been pulled out of retirement... ... For the time being, then, welcome back to Little Italy in 1950s’ New York, a self-sufficient society-within-a-society under the venal, protectionist and violent rule of the Mafia. ... and Sparafucile’s Hopper-style bar sits neatly on desolation row, even if the Duke’s ‘La donna è mobile’ and the jukebox trick didn’t work as well as I remember it. ... Nicholas Pallesen, debut in the title role, may have lacked the ultimate, baleful blackness of voice associated with Rigoletto, but it’s big and his acting bigger in a convincing portrait of the obsessed, hating and hated joker who unwittingly engineers his daughter’s murder. 
Cleveland Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst at Adrienne Arsht Center – Sibelius’s Second Symphony – Nikolaj Znaider plays Nielsen's Violin Concerto
Thursday, February 02, 2017 |  The Cleveland Orchestra served up a delicious two-course feast of Scandinavian music at the Adrienne Arsht Center, at the mid-point of its annual Miami residency. ... Nikolaj Znaider gave a stirring performance of Carl Nielsen’s Violin Concerto... ... Sibelius was represented by his Second Symphony... ... The Second is completely satisfying as an abstract work, as Welser-Möst and the Clevelanders demonstrated. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Mary Zimmerman’s production of Dvořák’s Rusalka – Kristine Opolais, Brandon Jovanovich, Jamie Barton, Eric Owens; conducted by Mark Elder
Thursday, February 02, 2017 |  Mary Zimmerman has garnered great acclaim for her innovative and thought-provoking direction but she has also received criticism for her unconventional perspective when staging opera classics. Such critiques may account for her safe approach for Metropolitan Opera – a rather tired staging of Dvořák’s Rusalka. ... As the titular water-nymph, with the rapturous ‘Song to the Moon’, Kristine Opolais offered one of her most polished performances. 
Gould Piano Trio at Wigmore Hall – Schubert
Tuesday, January 31, 2017 |  Appropriately on Schubert’s 220th-birthday the Gould Piano Trio at Wigmore Hall marked its 25th-anniversary with this programme of all of the composer’s mature music for that combination, some of his finest chamber music. 
Mitsuko Uchida at Royal Festival Hall – Mozart K545 & Schumann’s Kreisleriana and C-major Fantasy
Tuesday, January 31, 2017 |  “So that’s how it’s supposed to go…”, said the woman behind me dejectedly at the end of Mitsuko Uchida’s performance of Mozart’s familiar K545 Sonata... ... At the other end of the expressive spectrum were the tumultuous contrasts and hallucinatory impetuosity of Schumann’s Kreisleriana, an explosion of originality extreme by even his standards. 
Bruckner Orchestra Linz/Dennis Russell Davies – Phillip Glass’s 80th-Birthday Concert at Carnegie Hall
Tuesday, January 31, 2017 |  On the birthday itself, the evening opened with Days and Nights in Rocinha (1997), dedicated to Dennis Russell Davies, a long-time champion of Philip Glass’s music. Like Ravel’s Boléro, it focuses on a single motif that expands and develops. ... After this rousing introduction, Angelique Kidjo joined the ensemble for Ifé: Three Yorùbá Songs, a setting of three poems from her native Benin. ... As for Symphony No.11, the opening movement includes many hallmarks of Glass’s minimalist style... 
Igor Levit at Wigmore Hall – Beethoven Piano Sonata Cycle (5), including Sonatas from Opuses 2, 10 & 31
Monday, January 30, 2017 |  Without any familiar ‘titled’ Sonatas to anchor the fifth recital in his Beethoven series at Wigmore Hall, Igor Levit turned to three early and one late-early (more transitional) works, all four a young man’s music giving us a clear idea of the scale of his invention and ambition, and played by Levit as such. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin – Mozart Festival (4) – Così fan tutte Overture, Concertos for Bassoon and for Horn, and Symphony 40 [live webcast]
Sunday, January 29, 2017 |  Whatever the tests of fidelity and the opera’s love-in/out shenanigans (sometimes in disguise), which Lorenzo Da Ponte’s libretto for Così fan tutte calls for, Mozart’s Overture to what follows is poetic and pattering. Leonard Slatkin caught these moods ideally, offering no “alternative facts” as to how this music goes... ... The Concertos in this Mozart series are fielded by DSO members. It was Robert Williams’s turn. ... For the last of the four Horn Concertos, David Everson stepped forward... ... This last movement coined a comic song from Michael Flanders & Donald Swann... ... There aren’t many laughs in Mozart’s minor-key Symphony 40, as ‘stormed and stressed’ as anything he wrote. I got to know the first movement through Waldo de los Rios’s pop-style arrangement, and then Ferenc Fricsay completed the picture. Decades on, and thinking fondly of recorded versions from Böhm, Giulini and Krips (each quite stately in the opening Allegro), Slatkin, although somewhat nippier, didn’t rush... 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Alexander Shelley at Cadogan Hall – Sibelius 1 & 7 – Ning Feng plays Prokofiev
Sunday, January 29, 2017 |  Allocating this critic a seat in the Gallery of Cadogan Hall for a concert of music by Sibelius and Prokofiev, to be greeted by a leaflet headed “Octava – Enriching your concert experience” by means of using your mobile phone to read the programme note – while the music is being played – is rather like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop. ... What is invigorating is that a conductor of the younger generation, Alexander Shelley, is embracing some of Sibelius’s greatest music. 
St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra/Yuri Temirkanov at Royal Festival Hall – Spartacus & Shostakovich 5 – Martha Argerich plays Prokofiev
Sunday, January 29, 2017 |  By a strange quirk my very first concert by a major orchestra was the Leningrad Philharmonic playing Shostakovich 5 with Evgeny Mravinsky at the Edinburgh Festival in 1960. By a further coincidence it was about the same time that I first heard a very young Martha Argerich. ... Liszt’s arrangement of Schumann’s ‘Widmung’ was a welcome encore. ... Shostakovich’s 5 is home territory for the St Petersburg Philharmonic, bringing to it lustrous strings with resonant cellos and double basses, powerful brass (but embedded rather than dominating) and characterful woodwinds. Next year will mark the thirtieth of Yuri Temirkanov’s reign. 
Tim Mead & James Baillieu at Wigmore Hall
Sunday, January 29, 2017 |  Tim Mead’s beautiful countertenor has been knocking us dead in opera performances ranging from Monteverdi to George Benjamin for quite a few years, but this Wigmore Hall event was his first solo recital. ... He opened with a marvellously introspective account of Herbert Howells’s ‘King David’, which made Vaughan Williams’s ‘Linden Lea’ sound all the sunnier and open. ... ....which paid great rewards in his spontaneous and conversational reading of John Dankworth’s setting of ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’, which, in its way, was every bit as intimate as Cleo Laine’s. 
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim at Carnegie Hall – Bruckner Symphonies 1-9 – No.9 – with Mozart Piano Concerto K488
Sunday, January 29, 2017 |  For the final concert in their Carnegie Hall Bruckner cycle, often paired with Mozart, Daniel Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin opened with the latter’s Figaro-infused A-major Piano Concerto. ... Following intermission was Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony. He didn’t complete the Finale, although others have, and the three extant movements stand on their own musically without it, even though the Adagio’s quiet close leaves unresolved the existential issues it raises. 
Belief & Beyond Belief – London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski – Rebel’s Les élémens, Milhaud’s La Création du monde and John Adams’s Harmonielehre
Saturday, January 28, 2017 |  Creation was the topic of this London Philharmonic Orchestra concert, springing out of the Southbank Centre’s commodious Belief & Beyond Belief series, but its main point of interest was the LPO’s phenomenal adaptability to a spectrum of styles ranging from 1737 high-Baroque to 1985 large-scale fusion of Romanticism and Minimalism. ... Apart from a harpsichord, a theorbo and a Baroque guitar, the small ensemble for Jean-Féry Rebel’s Les élémens used modern instruments, but with plenty of ornate French swagger. ... The high point was ‘Air pour l’amour’, which, albeit with more overt sensuality, was the same destination of Darius Milhaud’s ballet-score La Création du monde. Taught by Widor, at the heart of progressive French music as a member of Les Six, and furiously prolific during his long life, Milhaud, like many a 20th-century composer, succumbed to the lure of jazz... ... The LPO was at full strength for John Adams’s Harmonielehre, bearing the title of Schoenberg’s harmony textbook... 
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim at Carnegie Hall – Bruckner Symphonies 1-9 – No.8
Saturday, January 28, 2017 |  Daniel Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin reached what many consider the pinnacle of Bruckner’s completed Symphonies, the Eighth. ... Robert Simpson suggests that the numerous references to motifs have much in common with those related to Siegfried in Wagner’s ‘Ring’ Cycle. Since in the eponymous music-drama and Götterdämmerung they connote heroism in the face of adversity, Simpson presumes that such is the theme of the Eighth. Hugo Wolf considered Symphony 8 a dramatization of “the complete victory of light over darkness.” 
Welsh National Opera – Annabel Arden’s production of Puccini’s La bohème – Marina-Costa Jackson, Dominick Chenes, Lauren Fagan, Gary Griffiths, Gareth Brymor, John Jihoon Kim; conducted by Manlio Benzi
Saturday, January 28, 2017 |  Welsh National Opera’s revival of Annabel Arden’s direction of La bohème, featuring four singers making their debuts, is a sensitive and, at times, bizarrely comic production performed with assurance and acted with an ardour that becomes immensely moving. ... But it was the presence of two transvestites and a capering gorilla in a Savile Row suit that bemused the most. Was this an oblique reference to the 1895 Paris Exhibition? ... Marina-Costa Jackson, as Mimi, made a strong impression, producing consistently bright tone and was compelling to watch whether coquettish or ravaged by her failing lungs. Her Mimi is not quite the vulnerable, innocent seamstress Puccini had created... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin – Mozart Festival (3) – Clemenza di Tito Overture, Concertone for Two Violins, Concertos for Horn and for Clarinet [live webcast]
Friday, January 27, 2017 |  Mozart in the morning, Mozart in the evening; that was the plan for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Leonard Slatkin as the third part of their latest six-pack Winter Festival homed into view. Today in 1756 a composer-to-be was born in Salzburg... ... Concertone is inoffensive music given a thoroughly fine outing by Kimberly Kaloyanides Kennedy (associate concertmaster) and Hai-Xin Wu... ... A higher level of compositional accomplishment is evident in the K447 Horn Concerto, given a perky reading by Johanna Yarbrough... ... From the Clarinet Concerto’s opening bars, perfectly paced and unequivocally shaped by Slatkin, it was clear this would be a winning performance... preparing the way for Ralph Skiano’s shapely, sensitive and subtle way with the solo part... 
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim at Carnegie Hall – Bruckner Symphonies 1-9 – No.7 – with Mozart Sinfonia concertante K364
Friday, January 27, 2017 |  Under the right circumstances, Mozart’s flowery Sinfonia concertante for violin and viola could have made for an elegant opener, but Stern Auditorium’s cavernous acoustic swallowed much of the sound and muddled intricate melodic lines. ... From the very first bars of Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony, wrought with great dignity by the cellos, the Staatskapelle Berlin’s sound expanded to fill the hall... ... Daniel Barenboim, ever a master of pacing, allowed the music to flow comfortably... 
Palm Beach Opera – Puccini’s Madama Butterfly – Inna Los, Scott Quinn; directed by Sam Helfrich; conducted by David Stern
Friday, January 27, 2017 |  For its 2017 season Palm Beach Opera opens with Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Inna Los as Cio-Cio-San (the Butterfly of the title) and Scott Quinn as Pinkerton make an attractive couple, enamored of one another and in splendid voice. Los’s ‘Un bel dì’ was lovely... 
London Symphony Orchestra/Alpesh Chauhan – Brahms’s Haydn Variations & Strauss’s Death and Transfiguration – Benjamin Grosvenor plays Brahms’s First Piano Concerto
Thursday, January 26, 2017 |  The creative will, the interpretive mind at twenty-five; Brahms grappling with the problems, the troubled orchestration of his D-minor Piano Concerto; Richard Strauss triumphing in the vision, the polished canvas of his fourth tone-poem, Death and Transfiguration. Benjamin Grosvenor, slight of frame, reaching for the summit; Alpesh Chauhan, a sturdier figure, exuding confidence and taking risks. 
Elisabeth Leonskaja at Wigmore Hall – Beethoven 109, Brahms Fantasies, Schubert D850
Thursday, January 26, 2017 |  There is an unnerving sense in which Elisabeth Leonskaja seems to look composers straight in the eye, secure in the knowledge of the strange alchemy that by being their servant she is also their master. ... This was immediately obvious in the way she opened Beethoven’s Opus 109 Sonata – it was as though the fast/slow dialogue was already well under way, and all she had to do was turn up the volume. ... I much admired the opaqueness of tone this discreet colourist created for Brahms’s Opus 116 Fantasies, seven pieces that move from barnstorming anxiety to the falling phrases of melancholy... ... The contrast with Schubert’s D850 Sonata could not have been more emphatic. 
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim at Carnegie Hall – Bruckner Symphonies 1-9 – No.6 – with Mozart Piano Concerto K482
Wednesday, January 25, 2017 |  As the musicians of Staatskapelle Berlin filed onto the stage of Carnegie Hall to play Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.22, the gentleman sitting behind me told his seat-mate: “But then, Mozart’s Piano Concertos really should be conducted from the keyboard.” Daniel Barenboim has been performing them this way for decades... ... Some of the manic energy from the Mozart spilled over into the first movement of Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony. 
Anne-Sophie Mutter & Lambert Orkis at Barbican Hall – Sebastian Currier, Mozart, Respighi, Saint-Saëns
Wednesday, January 25, 2017 |  Anne-Sophie Mutter is celebrating a nearly thirty-year partnership with Lambert Orkis with an extensive European tour. Her gorgeous Galliano fishtail gown in buttercup-yellow reflected the golden tones of her Stradivarius. Sebastian Currier’s Clockwork (1989) opened the recital. ... Mutter and Orkis made a persuasive case for the Respighi. Composed at the height of World War One, the Sonata begins with a theme of sad sweetness... ... The technical stakes reached their zenith with Saint-Saëns’s Introduction and Rondo capriccioso, conceived as a virtuoso piece for Sarasate and an overnight sensation. ... ...Arthur Benjamin’s Jamaican Rumba and, most poignantly played, John Williams’s Theme from Schindler's List. 
Belief & Beyond Belief – London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski – Memorial to Lidice & Vaughan Williams 9 – Isabelle van Keulen plays Giya Kancheli’s Mourned by the wind
Wednesday, January 25, 2017 |  The second of the London Philharmonic’s contributions to the Southbank Centre’s ambitious, year-long Belief & Beyond Belief festival, continued to investigate ‘meaning’ – although all three works here, composed over a span of only forty-years, are most overtly connected by the sense of loss. Giya Kancheli, present for his 1985-1988 Mourned by the Wind, composed it in memory of his friend the Georgian musicologist and critic Givi Ordzhonikidze; Martinů wrote his short mediation in memory of the massacred populace of a Czech village, which, in 1942, had been obliterated by the Nazis in a revenge attack; and, in part, Vaughan Williams’s final Symphony was inspired by the last days and death of Thomas Hardy, and his Tess of the d’Urbervilles... 
Southbank Centre’s Belief & Beyond Belief – Pierre-Laurent Aimard & Tamara Stefanovich at St John’s Smith Square – Brahms’s Sonata for Two Pianos & Messiaen’s Visions de l’Amen
Tuesday, January 24, 2017 |  Brahms and Messiaen as composers are as much alike as chalk and cheese; and there seems little to connect Brahms – at best a resolute agnostic – with the Southbank Centre’s Belief & Beyond Belief festival... ... Possibly Brahms’s greatest piece of chamber music, the Piano Quintet, began life as a string quintet (which Joseph Joachim thought sounded too thin). Brahms then arranged the work as this Sonata for Two Pianos... ... Inevitably one missed the sustained string sonorities of the final Quintet version and the corresponding contrast among its instrumental forces in this performance by Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich, though that was hardly their fault... ... Aimard and Stefanovich then marked the onward passage of time in Messiaen’s sevenfold cycle Visions de l’Amen (1943) as compellingly as in the Brahms, albeit in a very different manner. 
Emanuel Rimoldi at Wigmore Hall – Mozart, Schumann, Verdi/Liszt, Rachmaninov
Tuesday, January 24, 2017 |  Now thirty, the Italian-Romanian pianist Emanuel Rimoldi studied at the Verdi Conservatory in Milan, followed by five years with Elissò Virsaladze at the Moscow Conservatory. He's presently studying in Hanover with the Israeli veteran Arie Vardi. ... The darkness and tragedy of the Mozart only rarely came across – the opening more Allegro than maestoso (though, thankfully, resisting Glenn Gould's three-minute nonsense), the Andante (without repeat) wanting in devotional simplicity... ... Schumann's Humoreske, that psychologically intricate, kaleidoscopic outpourings of a nicotine-stained furnace of a mind not yet twenty-nine, has defeated the best and confused many. ... The Verdi-Liszt offering, a late transcription from 1879, and first set of Rachmaninov Preludes variously opened the throttle, let loose the pedal, and exposed a weakness for mid-register melodies that declaimed well enough but at the expense of vocal lyricism or linear flow. 
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim at Carnegie Hall – Bruckner Symphonies 1-9 – No.5 – with Mozart Sinfonia concertante K297b
Tuesday, January 24, 2017 |  Midway through their Carnegie Hall Bruckner cycle, Daniel Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin offered a stupendous performance of the Fifth Symphony... ... As with all-but-one of these Berlin concerts, Barenboim opened with Mozart. There is some evidence that in 1778 Mozart wrote a Sinfonia concertante for flute, oboe, horn and bassoon, but the original score is lost. There is disagreement amongst commentators about the authenticity of K297b... ... After intermission the Bruckner was ablaze with fiery intensity and dramatic power. 
Kensington Symphony Orchestra/Russell Keable at Cadogan Hall – Stravinsky & Bruckner
Monday, January 23, 2017 |  Short Stravinsky and big Bruckner rubbed shoulders, finding the Kensington Symphony Orchestra in fine fettle in response to long-time chief Russell Keable’s focussed and fertile conducting. ... It was good to hear Scènes de ballet again, which in 1944 grossed Stravinsky a $5,000 commission fee... ... The original dancers were Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin. ... It was Bruckner 4 that found Keable personalising the music in a way that was unexpected at times. It was the composer who appended the epithet ‘Romantic’ (he also added ‘Die Nullte’ to the unnumbered D-minor Symphony) and Keable certainly gave a quixotic reading of it. ... Keable found an elemental aspect as well as a languorous one – maybe he is aware that Robert Simpson (composer and Bruckner devotee) was of the opinion that this last movement should be played adagio, and the closest we get to that is Celibidache. 
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim at Carnegie Hall – Bruckner Symphonies 1-9 – No.4 Romantic – with Mozart Coronation Piano Concerto K537
Monday, January 23, 2017 |  The keyboard writing in K537 is arguably the most florid of all of Mozart’s Piano Concertos. ... Daniel Barenboim molded the orchestral introduction freely, eliciting a lush tone from Staatskapelle Berlin... ... One could say that Barenboim took a similar approach to Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony in the way he smoothed over the music’s jagged edges and found ways to dovetail even the most jarring transitions. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin – Mozart Festival (2) – Magic Flute & Don Giovanni Overtures, Concertos for Flute and for Horn, and Symphony 39 [live webcast]
Sunday, January 22, 2017 |  Overtures, or short orchestral openers, being in short supply these days at concerts, a regrettable situation, it was gratifying to have two in this the second webcast of the six-programme Detroit Symphony Orchestra Mozart Festival. Leonard Slatkin opened with the Overture to The Magic Flute... ... As for that serial shagger Don Giovanni, the Overture to his fun and games, and a date with the flames of Hell, is a dramatic affair... ... Both Concertos were graced by DSO principals. David Buck negotiated with brilliance and bearing the fast pace set for the opening of G-major Flute Concerto. ... Then Karl Pituch confirmed his horn-playing prowess in K417... ... And so to Mozart 39, which followed the murky undertow of the philandering Don. Slatkin highlighted the Symphony’s graciousness and impetus... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Andris Nelsons – Bruckner 9 – Paul Lewis plays Mozart Piano Concerto K595
Sunday, January 22, 2017 |  Andris Nelsons’s skill at getting to the spirit behind a composer’s scoring has been a cause of wonder for over a decade – for UK music-lovers since the willowy Latvian conductor took up with the CBSO. His recent Rosenkavalier with the Royal Opera and, only last week, his Bruckner 5, also with the Philharmonia, reconfirmed his astonishingly perceptive grasp of the craft of orchestration... ... It was instantly clear in the opening bars of Mozart’s Piano Concerto K595... ... Add to that the quality of the rapport between him and Paul Lewis, and subtlety, warmth and wit proliferated. ... The woodwinds had been superbly and tactfully involved in the Mozart, and went on to define the vacuum of the opening of Bruckner’s Ninth. 
Daniil Trifonov at Barbican Hall – Schumann, Shostakovich, Stravinsky
Saturday, January 21, 2017 |  Every concert, every recording by Daniil Trifonov is a major event. ... Trifonov began with a long Schumann first half. If the opening of Kinderszenen was on the literal side, it offered one of the few opportunities for a critic to carp... ... Trifonov’s Fazioli, a Rolls-Royce of an instrument, was capable of withstanding the most sustained onslaught as well as projecting the most intimate whisper. At the other end of Schumann’s spectrum is the Toccata. ... The opening of Kreisleriana is a graveyard, having claimed many a pianist. Not Trifonov... ... No hesitation from Trifonov to launch Stravinsky’s Petrushka; what made this outstanding was the delineation of textures at speed in ‘Danse russe’. 
Belief & Beyond Belief – Beethoven’s Fidelio – London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski with Anja Kampe & Robert Dean Smith; directed by Daniel Slater
Saturday, January 21, 2017 |  You can’t fault the Southbank Centre for its ambitious programming. This month it has started offering its public the meaning of life, no less, in the Belief & Beyond Belief festival... ... This London Philharmonic Orchestra semi-staging of Beethoven’s Fidelio was the first musical event, but Daniel Slater came close to derailing the evening... ... Slater’s solution was to dispense with most of the spoken dialogue and to use two actors, Helen Ryan and Simon Williams, as a modern version of a Greek chorus... ... Had Brexit and Trump been folded into the humanist mix, I wouldn’t have been surprised. ... Anja Kampe and Robert Dean Smith (replacing Michael König) negotiated the treacherous vocal lines of ‘O namenlose Freude’ ardently and turned the music’s sheer awkwardness into a means of expression. 
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim at Carnegie Hall – Bruckner Symphonies 1-9 – No.3 – with Mozart Piano Concerto K491
Saturday, January 21, 2017 |  The third installment of the Carnegie Hall Bruckner Symphony Cycle with Daniel Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin. ... The first half consisted of Mozart’s C-minor Piano Concerto K491. ... Bruckner’s Third Symphony was originally dedicated to Wagner, and the first version incorporated quotations. Wagner asked they be removed, the 1878 score does so, while making the piece more continuous. 
Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra/Marios Papadopoulos at Sheldonian Theatre – Giulia Monducci’s Versus & Stravinsky’s Firebird – Martha Argerich plays Prokofiev
Saturday, January 21, 2017 |  Two brightly-lit Russian scores framed a world premiere from Giulia Monducci in a programme that showcased the talents of the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra and the artistry of Martha Argerich. ... She has long been associated with Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto since recording it with Claudio Abbado. ... Following the interval Monducci’s Versus proved enigmatic. ... In the second of Stravinsky’s three Suites from The Firebird – his breakthrough fairy-tale ballet-score first heard in Paris in 1910 – double basses gave out suitably dark intimations of the evil sorcerer Kaschei... 
The Royal Ballet – Wayne McGregor's Woolf Works
Saturday, January 21, 2017 |  Woolf Works, Wayne McGregor’s ambitious, Virginia Woolf-inspired trilogy of ballets-in-one evening returns to Covent Garden. When first created, it was widely heralded as a genuine departure for the choreographer who appeared to have adapted his own style, characterised by an extreme physicality, into something rather more lyrical, more in keeping with the company’s historical way of moving. On revival, that impression is confirmed.… 
Bromley Symphony Orchestra/Adrian Brown – A London Overture & A Colour Symphony – Masa Tayama plays Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto
Saturday, January 21, 2017 |  This Bromley Symphony Orchestra is a case in point. John Ireland’s A London Overture used to be heard relatively frequently... ... A London Overture, to say nothing of Bliss’s Colour Symphony, drew a large and enthusiastic audience to the fine Langley Park Centre... ... its chief conductors during the past seventy years include Sir Adrian Boult and Norman Del Mar, with Kathleen Ferrier, Paul Tortelier and John Lill amongst the great artists who have appeared... ... This was followed by Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto, with Masa Tayama. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin – Mozart Festival (1) – Figaro Overture, Concertos for Oboe and for Horn, and Sinfonia concertante K364 [live webcast]
Friday, January 20, 2017 |  On the same day as Donald Trump is inaugurated as the next President of the United States, the Detroit Symphony and Leonard Slatkin’s Mozart Festival had its first of six webcasts. ... Good to start with an overture and the one heralding The Marriage of Figaro is as choice as anything. ... With Slatkin now sans ‘syrup’, enter Alex Kinmonth for the Oboe Concerto... ... Next up, if following the interval, Scott Strong from the horn section, for K412, the babe of Mozart’s four Horn Concertos... ... For the great Sinfonia concertante K364, Mozartean meat, the soloists were Yoonshin Song (DSO concertmaster) and Eric Nowlin. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Oliver Knussen – Richard Strauss’s Macbeth, Edward Elgar’s Falstaff, Busoni – Huw Watkins plays premiere of Philip Cashian’s Piano Concerto / Concert cancelled
Friday, January 20, 2017 |  Welcome to Shakespeare 401 with Oliver Knussen conducting Macbeth and Falstaff as part of the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s latest Barbican Hall offering. ... ... ...for the concert was cancelled due to Oliver Knussen succumbing to pneumonia... 
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim at Carnegie Hall – Bruckner Symphonies 1-9 – No.2 – with Mozart Piano Concerto K466
Friday, January 20, 2017 |  This was the second of a nine-concert residency with Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin at Carnegie Hall, the first time in the venue’s history that Bruckner’s nine numbered Symphonies will be performed in one season. ... Barenboim and his players absolutely shone in the Mozart Piano Concerto. From the first ominous murmurs of this dramatic piece one could feel the musicians’ energy... ... Bruckner’s Second Symphony is an interesting piece, restrained and expansive. 
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Edward Gardner at Cadogan Hall – Peer Gynt & Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra – Truls Mørk plays Elgar’s Cello Concerto
Friday, January 20, 2017 |  Edward Gardner and the Bergen Philharmonic opened their Cadogan Hall concert with music by Bergen-born Edvard Grieg, some of his score for Ibsen’s Peer Gynt. ... Then Truls Mørk played Elgar’s Cello Concerto. His reading was interior and restrained. ... Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra opens ominously before exuberance takes hold in the first movement, the virtuosity of the orchestra now at its best, not least the variety of timbres displayed by the brass. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Michael Mayer’s production of Verdi’s Rigoletto – Željko Lučić, Olga Peretyatko, Stephen Costello & Andrea Mastroni; conducted by Pier Giorgio Morandi
Friday, January 20, 2017 |  This Met revival of Michael Mayer’s 2013 production of Rigoletto features a cast of singers with years of experience in their roles. ... Much of the musical success lies in the inventive conducting of Pier Giorgio Morandi... ... Željko Lučić’s mastery of Rigoletto was evident from the way he toyed with every line... ... From the moment she skipped on sporting long curls and a beaming smile, Olga Peretyatko’s Gilda was entirely believable... ... As the Duke of Mantua, Stephen Costello displayed a throbbing tenor... 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts Mark-Anthony Turnage’s In memoriam Evan Scofield & Mahler’s Sixth Symphony
Thursday, January 19, 2017 |  

In the run-up to his becoming Music Director of the LSO, Simon Rattle has revisited several works central to his repertoire – this account of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony (1904) marking a new stage in his relationship with a piece going back over four decades. ... The concert’s first half offered instructive context, with the first performance of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s latest LSO offering. An ‘in memoriam’ for Evan Scofield (son of the jazz guitarist John Scofield), Remembering (2016) is its composer’s nearest approach yet to symphonic form... 

Wigmore Hall – Julia Fischer plays Eugène Ysaÿe’s Sonatas for Solo Violin
Thursday, January 19, 2017 |  Imagine an evening made up of J. S. Bach Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin. That could be a hard listen for even the most dedicated music lover. Then imagine one dedicated to Ysaÿe’s Sonatas, a 1923 hommage to Bach and at the same time the violinistic equivalent of Liszt’s Transcendental Studies. ... Only in the hands from someone of the calibre of Julia Fischer, who combines supreme technical ability with profound musicianship, could this come off – and emphatically it did. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Andris Nelsons – Bruckner 5 – Music of Today: Bernd Richard Deutsch
Thursday, January 19, 2017 |  Commencing almost half-an-hour late because of traffic delays affecting both orchestra and audience, Andris Nelsons’s performance of Bruckner’s mighty Fifth Symphony was the only item on the programme and it held the attention throughout. The Philharmonia Orchestra was on top form... ... Prior to the concert, the Philharmonia gave one of its admirable Music of Today concerts featuring the forty-year-old Austrian composer Bernd Richard Deutsch. Preceded by an illuminating discussion between the composer and Mark van de Wiel (principal clarinet) two challenging works were performed.... 
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim at Carnegie Hall – Bruckner Symphonies 1-9 – No.1 – with Mozart Piano Concerto K595
Thursday, January 19, 2017 |  After a four-year absence, Daniel Barenboim returned to Carnegie Hall to lead Staatskapelle Berlin in the first of a nine-concert series making a traversal of Anton Bruckner’s numbered Symphonies. ... At the age of fourteen, Barenboim played Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.1 with Symphony of the Air conducted by Leopold Stokowski. ... Several of the Carnegie Hall Bruckner Cycle concerts feature Barenboim in Mozart Piano Concertos. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Richard Eyre’s production of Bizet’s Carmen – Clémentine Margaine, Rafael Davila, Kyle Ketelsen, Maria Agresta; conducted by Asher Fisch
Thursday, January 19, 2017 |  At Metropolitan Opera, Bizet’s Carmen has become a well-worn favorite; however, at this latest revival, even the debuts of Clémentine Margaine and Rafael Davila were not enough to make this a particularly memorable evening. Richard Eyre’s once-gritty production has faded into monotony... ... Replacing an ailing Sophie Koch, Margaine used her waxy penetrating timbre, husky middle voice, and cutting high notes to seduce the man around her. ... Davila, a last-minute substitute for Marcelo Álvarez, sang Don José with a dark and burnished timbre... 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Karabits at Lighthouse – Rachmaninov 3 – Guy Braunstein plays Elgar’s Violin Concerto
Wednesday, January 18, 2017 |  There’s no doubting the beauty and intimacy of Elgar’s Violin Concerto... ... Kirill Karabits tore into the first-movement’s lengthy introduction with plenty of vigour; red-blooded and self-assured. ... With the entry of Guy Braunstein – formerly a concertmaster of the Berliner Philharmoniker – it became clear that a degree of striving was to dominate this energetic view. .... Karabits and the BSO then gave a scorching reading of Rachmaninov’s Third Symphony. 
Classical Opera/Ian Page at Wigmore Hall – Mozart 250 – 1767: A Retrospective
Tuesday, January 17, 2017 |  Classical Opera's Mozart 250 project has settled into an established and rewarding routine... ... Classical Opera’s orchestral support in the following operatic extracts was efficient, but would have been more inspired if greater variety in dynamics had been observed to enliven the music or, in the case of the scena from Gluck’s Alceste... ... There was greater dynamic thrust in the concert’s second half with Classical Opera’s rendition of Thomas Arne’s Symphony No.1, emphasising the smouldering energy of the first movement with its striking alternations between the major and minor modes.... ... Mournful oboes provided an ideal counterpoint to the sombre hush of Jackson’s ‘Vidit suum’ from Haydn’s Stabat Mater, evoking the same atmosphere as the contemporary ‘Lamentatione’ Symphony No.26, while the blazing energy of ‘Flammis orci’ conjured up the flickering fires of hell. 
English National Ballet at London's Coliseum – Mary Skeaping's Giselle
Tuesday, January 17, 2017 |  Mary Skeaping's staging of Giselle is nothing short of superb. [...] It is testament to Tamara Rojo's artistic vision that she has chosen to revive this historical production, first given by the company in 1971. [...] The company is on excellent form... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin – Brahms’s Haydn Variations, Smetana’s Bartered Bride Overture, Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony – Cho-Liang Lin plays Lalo Schifrin’s Tangos Concertantes [live webcast]
Saturday, January 14, 2017 |  It was orchestral manoeuvres for the DSO in its first week of 2017 concerts... ... Gabriela Lena Frank’s new work, previously put aside, is now re-re-scheduled for later in the season when Michelle Merrill will conduct it. And the Overture to The Bartered Bride was reclaimed from November 2015 when Tod Machover’s Symphony in D demanded greater rehearsal than expected. ... Prior to Bohemian banter, Brahms’s Haydn Variations, replacing the Frank, was a recall from just over a year ago... ... The composer, conductor and pianist Lalo Schifrin was born in Buenos Aires in 1932. He has been prolific as a creator for the concert hall and for film and TV, not least Mission: Impossible, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and for collaborations with Clint Eastwood, such as the Dirty Harry films. Tangos Concertantes (2009) was written for Cho-Liang Lin. ... Of Mendelssohn’s Symphonies, the ‘Scottish’ and ‘Italian’ hold sway, yet the ‘Reformation’ has much to offer – a sacredly introduced (incorporating the ‘Dresden Amen’, later used by Wagner in Parsifal) and powerful first movement, a beguiling Scherzo, an eloquent slow movement, and a trenchant Finale that grows to majesty. ... The DSO didn’t get to this splendid Symphony until the 1950s, when Paul Paray conducted (and recorded it for Mercury). Leonard Slatkin also has its measure... 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts Ligeti’s Le grand macabre, directed by Peter Sellars
Saturday, January 14, 2017 |  Those who experienced ENO’s 2009 staging of György Ligeti’s Le grand macabre will remember its gleeful celebration of sex, bodily functions and carnal corruption, all of which meshed in well with Ligeti’s delirious score... ... he production by Peter Sellars – which Ligeti did not care for at all, to the extent that he dissociated himself from it – was a post-nuclear updating... ... In the end, though, the music wins through and the singers all entered into the spirit of things. Peter Hoare’s high tenor was entirely in keeping with the whining ramblings of Piet the Pot... ... Sir Simon Rattle’s affection for a score that ranges from fanfares for car-horns to solemn chorales and the most-tender love music filtered through Ligeti’s extraordinary parodistic and style-borrowing skills was evident throughout... 
The Royal Opera – George Benjamin’s Written on Skin, conducted by the composer, directed by Katie Mitchell, with Christopher Purves, Barbara Hannigan, Iestyn Davies, Mark Padmore & Victoria Simmonds
Friday, January 13, 2017 |  Written on Skin was greeted with widespread acclaim on its premieres in 2012 and 2013 at several European opera houses, including Covent Garden. Its first revival at the latter – with nearly a full house on this opening night – confirms it as a 21st-century operatic masterpiece. ... Although this choreography is voiceless, George Benjamin’s often delicate, ethereal music moves in pace with that rather than the latter. ... The latter is compellingly echoed in the sustained restraint of Benjamin’s score – similar to Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande in that respect, and in the generally direct, syllabic setting of the words. ... Christopher Purves was on marvellous form in the role of the Protector... 
LSO Chamber Orchestra/Giovanni Antonini at Milton Court – J. S. Bach, W. F. Bach, C. P. E. Bach, Telemann, Haydn 49
Friday, January 13, 2017 |  The LSO Chamber Orchestra graced Milton Court joined by Giovanni Antonini. ... Textures were quite full during J. S. Bach’s Suite (BWV1066)... ... It was followed by the brief but extraordinary F-major Symphony by the second of his sons: Wilhelm Friedemann. ... Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach also took a dramatic view of ‘the Symphony’. Where W. F. interrupts and dramatises by using long-held chords, C. P. E. spices faster movements with sudden pauses. ... In Telemann’s delightful four-movement Recorder Concerto Antonini’s playing of the solo part was little short of spectacular... ... It was particularly interesting to hear Antonini conduct Haydn since he plans to record all his Symphonies. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Manfred Honeck with Ray Chen – Brahms – Violin Concerto & Symphony 1
Friday, January 13, 2017 |  Two sides of the same Brahmsian coin were heard in performances that sought to illuminate restraint and drama; an approach that was mostly successful, but it was Manfred Honeck’s account of the First Symphony that blazed with interest. ... Brahms’s Violin Concerto was almost introverted, although its Classical manners were finely honed. Ray Chen was technically secure... ... Following Brahms’s equivalent to Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ – here considerably fleet-of-foot – the music erupted into a fervent affirmation of life... 
Anna Tsybuleva at Wigmore Hall – C. P. E. Bach, Schumann, Medtner, Debussy
Wednesday, January 11, 2017 |  Anna Tsybuleva won the 2015 Leeds Piano Competition, but there was a degree of coolness over the result. This Wigmore Hall debut recital was part of her prize... ... This was immediately obvious in C. P. E. Bach’s angular Fantasia in F-sharp minor, where she nailed the neurotic and bizarre changes of mood and direction with great panache... ... I was less convinced by Nikolai Medtner’s Sonata in G-minor, a one-movement work along the lines of Liszt’s B-minor counterpart... 
New York Philharmonic/Alan Gilbert – Brahms 3 – Stephen Hough plays Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto
Wednesday, January 11, 2017 |  Over the course of his tenure as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert has championed new works by outstanding contemporary composers, but he has also conducted many classics of the orchestral repertoire, not least this refreshingly boisterous program of Beethoven and Brahms. ... The former’s ‘Emperor’ Concerto opened the evening with Stephen Hough. ... After intermission, Music Academy of the West’s 2017 Zarin Mehta Fellows, ten of the school’s most accomplished students, joined the Philharmonic for a spirited account of Brahms’s Third Symphony. 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/James Feddeck at Lighthouse – Tragic Overture & Sibelius 5 – Alexei Volodin plays Tchaikovsky
Wednesday, January 11, 2017 |  Solti Award-winner James Feddeck was making his debut with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. He produced an imposing, no-nonsense and intelligently sculptured account of Brahms’s Tragic Overture... ... Tchaikovsky’s Second Piano Concerto was given in its original version rather than Siloti’s cut and emendated edition. ... The structural defects could easily be overlooked given Alexei Volodin’s compelling rendition. ... Following the interval the masterpiece that is Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony was given with complete assurance. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Bartlett Sher’s production of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette – Vittorio Grigolo & Diana Damrau; conducted by Gianandrea Noseda
Tuesday, January 10, 2017 |  Bartlett Sher’s new staging offers an ingenious take on Charles Gounod’s perfumed Romeo et Juliette (1867), one of the Met’s best productions of the past decade. ... It is easy to believe in the love between Vittorio Grigolo’s ardent Romeo and Diana Damrau’s flirtatious Juliet from first sight to final kiss. ... Gianandrea Noseda supported these vivid interpretations with a strong hand and striking musicality, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra elevating Gounod’s Romantic melodies to symphonic heights... ...Among the other singers, Virginie Verrez brought a flexible mezzo to the page Stéphano while Mikhail Petrenko sang with a nasal, sometime-gruff bass as Friar Laurence. Laurent Naouri made for a resolute Capulet... 
The Metropolitan Opera – Bartlett Sher’s production of Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia – Peter Mattei, Pretty Yende, Javier Camarena, Maurizio Muraro; conducted by Maurizio Benini
Monday, January 09, 2017 |  Rossini’s stage-works are staples of the repertory, and this season Metropolitan Opera audiences have had the opportunity to hear three of his masterpieces side by side. All have been beneficiaries of luxury casting, but while the delightful comedy L’Italiana in Algeri and the towering Guillaume Tell were great successes, The Barber of Seville is struggling to take flight. 
New York City Opera – Candide – directed by Harold Prince
Sunday, January 08, 2017 |  When New York City Opera closed its doors in 2013, it was clear that years of poor management and declining artistic standards were finally too much... ... ... following executive changes and an injection of fresh perspective, the company presents a witty production of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide... ... A considerable wealth of star power helped launch this staging, most notably the direction of Broadway legend Harold ‘Hal’ Prince. ... Four-time Tony Award nominee Gregg Edelman masterfully tackles his many roles... ... As Cunegonde, Meghan Picerno sings with a sparkling soprano and unceasing energy. Her manically exuberant ‘Glitter and Be Gay’, capped with a fearless high E-flat, brought the house down. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Edward Gardner – Jealousy, Vltava, Šárka, The Gliding of the Eagle in the Skies, Taras Bulba – Tasmin Little plays Szymanowski
Saturday, January 07, 2017 |  This enticing mix of pieces opened the 2017 half of the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s current season. Edward Gardner conducted first Janáček’s Jealousy... ... From an earlier generation of Czech composers, two tableaux from Smetana’s patriotic cycle Má vlast (My Country) opened with an immediately evocative ‘Vltava’... ... Among Karol Szymanowski’s final souvenirs is the Second Violin Concerto... ... ...requires the most committed and characterful advocacy, which it received from Tasmin Little. She believes in every note and played superbly... ... Composer-conductor Peter Eötvös’s ten-minute The Gliding of the Eagle in the Skies (2011, twice revised) is Basque-music-inspired... ... Finally, the gory Gogol tale of Taras Bulba, completed by Janáček in 1918, Cossacks against Polish invaders. 
National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain at Royal Festival Hall – John Wilson conducts Komarov’s Fall & Rachmaninov 2 and Tamara Stefanovich plays Szymanowski
Saturday, January 07, 2017 |  This fascinating concert began with a surprise item under an unannounced conductor: Suspended Between Earth and Air by National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain Principal Composer Lauren Marshall, conducted by one of the Orchestra’s cellists, Joshua Mock... ... Brett Dean’s Komarov’s Fall (2006), suggested by the death of the first cosmonaut in space (his rocket failed on re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere fifty years ago), also has the virtue of brevity... ... Karol Szymanowski’s Fourth Symphony of 1932, for piano and orchestra, is dedicated to Arthur Rubinstein... ... But a score of this inherent nobility and stature was certainly an excellent choice for the NYO, and with Tamara Stefanovich a commanding and wholly accomplished pianist, this was a compelling account... ... And so to Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony... 
Alfred Brendel Lectures at Wigmore Hall – Schubert’s Last Sonatas, D958, D959, D960
Saturday, January 07, 2017 |  Two days after his eighty-sixth birthday, Alfred Brendel graced Wigmore Hall for an afternoon lecture about Schubert’s final Piano Sonatas. 
London Schools Symphony Orchestra/Sian Edwards – Colas Breugnon Overture & Shostakovich 5 – Lawrence Power plays Alfred Schnittke’s Viola Concerto
Thursday, January 05, 2017 |  The capital’s youth band – the London Schools Symphony Orchestra, drawn from pupils within the M25 – in this Soviet programme (a smiling Stalin on the programme cover), showed they had nothing to fear from comparison with any established ensemble in terms of technical ability and all-round musicianship. ... Kabalevsky’s Colas Breugnon Overture used to be quite often heard... ... ...the performance under Sian Edwards was notable for splendid characterisation and brilliance of playing... ... We twiddled our thumbs whilst Mr Shifter and Co proceeded to prepare the stage for the oddly-constructed group Alfred Schnittke asks for in his (first) Viola Concerto of 1985... ... At length, all was ready for Edwards’s return, with Lawrence Power the soloist in this remarkable work. ... After this revelation, Shostakovich’s mighty Fifth Symphony formed the concert’s second half...  
Emmanuel Despax at Wigmore Hall – Handel Chaconne, Ravel Miroirs, Chopin Preludes
Thursday, January 05, 2017 |  The French pianist Emmanuel Despax is fast gathering a following and his Wigmore Hall recital displayed technical brilliance and individuality of interpretation... ... Composed in 1904 and 1905, Ravel’s Miroirs still have the power to shock as well as thrill... 
The Royal Ballet – The Sleeping Beauty
Tuesday, January 03, 2017 |  Thank goodness for The Royal Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty. After a Christmas surfeit of sugar and icing, the company now settles down to what it is really about: Classical Dance. It is a great relief at a time when The Royal Ballet seems somewhat unsure of its own identity, slightly embarrassed perhaps about its mighty pedigree and traditions, to see the ensemble tackle the one ballet on which its reputation was forged. ... 

 

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