All 2019 Features

Conductor Willem Mengelberg, by Frits Zwart [book review]
August 2019 |  The author, Frits Zwart (born 1954), has spent many years dissertating on Mengelberg’s activities and music-making, and it all comes together here. 
Arturo Toscanini conducts Beethoven’s Nine Symphonies & Missa solemnis – Pristine Audio's revelatory transcriptions of Studio 8H & Carnegie Hall concerts, 1939-1940
July 2019 |  Some twelve years ago I reviewed a Music & Arts box featuring Arturo Toscanini’s celebrated 1939 cycle of Beethoven’s Symphonies – all bar the ‘Choral’ recorded at Studio 8H – and it has since released another version that is better in some ways and worse in others. I hoped that that doyen of historical transfer engineers, Andrew Rose, would lay his hands on some aptly pristine acetates and produce state-of-the-art re-mastering, which is exactly what has happened, plus the 1940 Carnegie Hall Missa solemnis. Apart from the sound, what makes the concerts different is that these are complete, including Overtures and orchestrated chamber pieces. 
English Haydn Festival 2019
July 2019 |  For a quarter of a century the English Haydn Festival has used the deconsecrated St Leonard’s Church in Bridgnorth as the principal venue. In this twenty-sixth season however St Mary Magdalene was used and proved to be a better location because the acoustics are superior, being more resonant without hindering clarity. 
Feature Review: Two days at Aldeburgh Festival 2019
June 2019 |  Three concerts in two days provided a brief glimpse of this year’s Aldeburgh Festival and a welcome chance to catch up with one of its artists-in-residence, Thomas Larcher. 
Feature Review: Three days at Swaledale Festival 2019 – Music, Arts & Walking in the Yorkshire Dales [May 25-June 8]
June 2019 |  Swaledale plays host to one of England’s most northerly festivals. ... But while echoes of BBCTV’s All Creatures Great and Small still resonate here, this is no cultural backwater... ... This year’s invitees include the Esbjerg Ensemble, Craig Ogden, Paco Peña, Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Roderick Williams. ... The next evening, at St Andrew’s Church in Grinton, found Tasmin Little delivering “The Naked Violin”, a compact programme from Albéniz to Ysaÿe... ... ...Clair’s use of surreal imagery pre-dates the zany antics of Monty Python’s Flying Circus by some fifty years. ... On June 1, back at the Influence Church, Lauren Zhang (BBC Young Musician of the Year 2018) impressed with her assurance, maturity and interpretative command... 
Final of inaugural China International Music Competition – Piano – Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts, 20 May 2019 [live webcast on amadeus.tv via YouTube]
May 2019 |  With Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra in the final, an unprecedented amount of prize money on the table – US$150,000 to the winner – and, endeavouring to refute charges of favouritism or partiality, an assurance that “none of the competitors currently study or have ever studied with any member of the jury”, the inaugural China International Music Competition sets the bar ambitiously high. ... Tony Siqi Yun (Canada, eighteen, studying with Matti Raekallio, Juilliard Pre-College Division; previously Jin Zhang, Middle School Affiliated to the Central Conservatory of Music, Beijing). Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No.1. ... Mackenzie Melemed (USA, twenty-four, studying with Robert McDonald and Emanuel Ax, winner last year of the Juilliard School's Arthur Rubinstein Piano Prize, and the Paris Recital Prize at the Prix de Tarnów Competition). Rachmaninov Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. ... Alexander Malofeev (Russia, seventeen, a student since 2007 of Elena Berezkina, winner of the 2014 International Tchaikovsky Youth Competition). Prokofiev Piano Concerto No.3. 
Doris Day – 3 April 1922-13 May 2019 – an appreciation
May 2019 |  One of America’s great movie actresses and singers, Doris Day has died from pneumonia at the age of ninety-seven. ... Calamity Jane (1953) was a big hit and her own favourite, one of the great original film musicals with terrific songs by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster, such as ‘The Deadwood Stage’, ‘Introducing Henry Miller’, ‘Hive Full of Honey’, ‘Just Blew in from the Windy City’, ‘A Woman’s Touch’ and more including the Oscar-winning ‘Secret Love’. 
Metropolitan Opera Live HD Broadcasts 2018-19: Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites [Showing on May 11]
May 2019 |  Francis Poulenc wrote his own libretto for Dialogues des Carmélites, basing it on a play by Georges Bernanos. Bernanos had based his work, originally commissioned as a film script, on a novel Die letzte am Schafott (The Last to the Scaffold) by a German convert to Catholicism. ... Blanche de la Force is an introspective and nervy young lady from an aristocratic family under threat during the Terrors of the French Revolution. She enters a convent in Compiègne, although the prioress, Madame de Croissy, implicitly warns her against envisaging the secluded convent life as an escape from the World. ... The staging is a revival of John Dexter’s classic production and boasts an exceptional cast. Isabel Leonard takes the role of Blanche and Karita Mattila sings Mme de Croissy. 
Feature Review: International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Recital Round Up [April 27-May 1]
May 2019 |  Most groomed and 'presented' was Gillian Zammit's early-evening song recital (April 27). Like her accompanist, Britt Arend, the obligingly-dutiful principal harp of the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, she knows how to deliver rounded, framed performances, notable for their shaping and phrasing. ... 'Statement making' underlined the Aquilon Trio's contemporary offering (April 29). Comprising Eulalie Charland (violin), Max Mausen (clarinet) and Maiko Mori (piano), this is a British-based ensemble to be relied upon for innovative programming involving not always interesting repertory. ... Two new French works received their premieres: Dominique Lièvre's In girum imus nocte ecce et consumimur igni (an International Spring Orchestra Festival commission), and Roland Conil's Hadès et les Nymphes. ... Saida Zulfuragova's Beethoven and Schumann (April 30), outlandishly 'personal', was a puzzling encounter. Born in Baku, this Azerbaijani pianist, based in Paris since 2002, is an impetuous player... ... Most unanticipated of the four recitals (the least publicised certainly) was the last – forty enlightening minutes of German, Russian and Italian song from the Maltese baritone Joseph Lia, who completed his training in St Petersburg... 
Heather Harper 8 May 1930-22 April 2019 – an appreciation
April 2019 |  Belfast-born Heather Harper was a confident, versatile creamy-voiced soprano who was a regular feature of UK musical life for some four decades and who then continued to pass on her wisdom and experience as a teacher. 
Feature LP Review: Abbado, Harnoncourt and Mainardi – Three Boxed Sets
April 2019 |  This LP feature is different to the norm in that, as was done with the recent Rattle/Berlin Philharmonic Beethoven Symphony cycle, the orchestra has also provided digital downloads of the two featured sets, so here the comparison is one of analogue versus digital, as opposed to LP. 
Feature review: BBC Symphony Orchestra Total Immersion: Lili and Nadia Boulanger [Barbican Centre, 6 April 2019]
April 2019 |  This season’s final Total Immersion (following First World War and György Ligeti) was devoted to sibling composers, Nadia and Lili Boulanger. As ever – with a film and talk in combination with three concerts across the Barbican complex – this provided an invigorating day; fleshing out the lives of the featured composers with background and context that, cumulatively, became more than the sum of its parts. And yet – yes there’s a qualification this time, and a fairly fundamental one – the overriding feeling at the end of the day was that there was something of a skeleton in the cupboard (or elephant in the room), alluded to but not properly expounded. 
Edward Clark interviews Paavo Järvi regarding his Sibelius Symphony Cycle with Orchestre de Paris for RCA Red Seal
March 2019 |  France is not widely known for much, if any, enthusiasm for the music of Jean Sibelius. The outburst in the 1950s by René Leibowitz, describing Sibelius as “the worst composer in the world” has lingered in certain quarters. However, this ignores the admiration for Sibelius by the Spectralist School of French composers, introduced to Sibelius by their mentor, Harry Halbreich. The news of Paavo Järvi’s Sibelius Cycle comes as a real boost to Sibelius’s fortunes in not only France but also the wider World. 
Metropolitan Opera Live HD Broadcasts 2018-19: Wagner’s Die Walküre [Showing on March 30]
March 2019 |  The Classical Source once again brings you a handy guide to all ten of the Metropolitan Opera productions included in this season’s international broadcast series. ... Die Walküre ... The production is a revival of Robert Lepage’s staging in the monumental designs of Carl Fillion. There is a great cast of seasoned and emerging Wagnerians. Stuart Skelton sings Siegmund and he is partnered by Eva-Maria Westbroek as Sieglinde. Greer Grimsley reprises the role of Wotan, a part he has been singing to acclaim for decades. Jamie Barton will be a luscious-voiced and imperious Fricka, and Christina Goerke takes the demanding role of Brünnhilde. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Total Immersion: György Ligeti – All events up to 5 p.m. [2 March 2019]
March 2019 |  Another full Saturday devoted to contemporary music at the Barbican Centre, courtesy of the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s Total Immersion strand, this time devoted to György Ligeti, I attended the film, talk and first two concerts, and Ateş Orga covered the final one (link below). 
Hilde Zadek – 15 December 1917-21 February 2019 – An appreciation by Alexander Campbell
February 2019 |  The career of German lyric-dramatic soprano Hilde Zadek, who has died at the age of 101, flourished in the years after World War Two, particularly in Vienna where she was one of a roster of stars comprising many now-legendary names... ... it could be argued that the best representative document of her artistry is to be found in the 1949 broadcast of Verdi’s Requiem from Salzburg conducted by Karajan... 
Metropolitan Opera Live HD Broadcasts 2018-19: Donizetti’s La Fille du régiment [Showing on March 2]
February 2019 |  The Classical Source once again brings you a handy guide to all ten of the Metropolitan Opera productions included in this season’s international broadcast series. ... The premiere of La Fille du régiment was delayed until 11 October 1840. Donizetti was all the rage in Paris with some seven operas in or awaiting production. This riled a certain native composer, Hector Berlioz, to pen a particularly polemical review of the first performance... ... The Met has assembled a great cast! Pretty Yende sings Marie and Javier Camarena Tonio, exhibitionist roles, and their partnership is keenly anticipated. Sulpice is played by Maurizio Murano and the Marchioness by fruity-voiced Stephanie Blythe. In the spoken cameo role of the Duchess the Met has engaged the film actress Kathleen Turner. 
Wilma Lipp – 26 April 1925-26 January 2019: An appreciation by Alexander Campbell
January 2019 |  For much of her career Wilma Lipp exemplified a particular type of light- and bright-voiced soprano equally at home in classical opera but also in the operetta tradition of her native city of Vienna. ... In 1951 she had her only set of Bayreuth appearances in the first post-war Festival as the Woodbird in Siegfried conducted by Karajan. She was heard at Glyndebourne in 1957 as Konstanze in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail, although she also sang Blonde. ... She was also in demand as an operetta singer and essayed both soprano roles in Die Fledermaus as well as roles in Johann Strauss II’s Wiener Blut and other popular works of the type including Zeller’s Der Vogelhändler. As her voice developed a little more weight she also took on Wagner’s Eva, Verdi’s Alice Ford and Puccini’s Musetta. 
Metropolitan Opera Live HD Broadcasts 2018-19: Bizet’s Carmen [Showing on February 2]
January 2019 |  Carmen is the most famous of the operas written by Georges Bizet (1838-75). It was premiered at the Opéra-Comique in Paris on 3 March 1875 but was not well received... ... Happily, the title role is sung by Clémentine Margaine. There’s also a French singer for Don José in the person of Roberto Alagna... 
Theo Adam – 1 August 1926-10 January 2019: An appreciation by Alexander Campbell
January 2019 |  Theo (Theodore) Adam was a bass singer best known for his operatic performances in the works of Richard Wagner, but also as an accomplished oratorio participant. ... He was not without versatility and enterprise either for he also took part in both of Berg’s operas (Wozzeck, Lulu) and also created roles in some important contemporary works of his period, such as the title roles in Paul Dessau’s Einstein (1974) and Friedrich Cerha’s Baal. The latter opera, a treatment of Brecht’s play, caused something of a furore at its 1981 Salzburg premiere... 
John Joubert: A composer for today and tomorrow – An appreciation by Kenneth Woods
January 2019 |  When John Joubert passed away this week (on January 7) at the age of ninety-one, he left behind a vast body of work, reaching to nearly 200 opus numbers, including seven operas, three Symphonies and four Concertos. If it is a source of frustration for those of us who knew and admired both the man and his music that most of this vast output remains regrettably neglected and seldom performed... ... A few years ago, Siva Oke, founder of Somm Recordings, approached me with the idea of premiering and recording Joubert’s magnum opus, his opera Jane Eyre, a work begun in 1987 which had been languishing without a professional performance for years. Our goal was to make Jane Eyre the focal point of the celebrations of John’s ninetieth-birthday. Jane Eyre was to become the work through which I would get to know John and his music. 
Leonard Bernstein 100 – The Masters Photograph the Maestro [book review]
January 2019 |  This handsome tome is a photographic tribute to Leonard Bernstein for his centenary last year and contains one-hundred photographs spanning has life. It has been compiled by Steve Sherman, a photographer with associations to Carnegie Hall and the New York Times, with the assistance of Bernstein's daughter Jamie. The snaps, predominately black and white, are by a range of photographers, some anonymous, but others by recognised masters like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Richard Avedon, Yousuf Karsh and, somewhat surprisingly, Stanley Kubrick... 
Metropolitan Opera Live HD Broadcasts 2018-19: Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur [Showing on January 12]
January 2019 |  The composer of Adriana Lecouvreur is Francesco Cilea now best-known for this work, an example of the Verismo (reality) form of opera made most popular by Puccini, Leoncavallo and Mascagni. The libretto, penned by Arturo Colautti, is based on a play by Eugène Scribe (one of Verdi’s librettists) and Ernest Legouvé’s play Adrienne Lecouvreur, a fictionalised and romanticised telling of the amorous life and suspicious death of the French actress Adrienne Lecouvreur, a friend of Voltaire. ... The Met staging is by Sir David McVicar and is cast to the hilt with Anna Netrebko in the title role and Piotr Beczala singing Maurizio. Anita Rachvelishvili is the jealous Princess... 

 

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