February 2018 Concert Reviews

January 2018 Concert Reviews
Berliner Philharmoniker/Simon Rattle – Dvořák & Janáček – Daniel Barenboim plays Bartók [live webcast]
Saturday, February 24, 2018 |  It was 1964, Daniel Barenboim made his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker playing Bartók’s First Piano Concerto, Pierre Boulez conducting, and a lifelong friendship ensued between the Argentinean and the Frenchman. Fifty-plus years later Barenboim was back in Berlin with the Bartók, numerous appearances there as pianist and conductor in between of course, this time with Simon Rattle, but not before the Opus 72 set of Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances had been dispensed. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra French Festival – 6/6: Leonard Slatkin conducts Flammenschrift & Symphonie fantastique – Benjamin Beilman plays Saint-Saëns & Ravel [live webcast]
Saturday, February 24, 2018 |  The final leg (this concert a second performance) of the DSO’s French Festival opened with Flammenschrift (Written in Flame, 2012), Guillaume Connesson’s brilliantly orchestrated and energetic showpiece... ... Once again Benjamin Beilman substituted for the indisposed Renaud Capuçon. ... And it’s to Lyon my thoughts turned regarding the Berlioz, for Symphonie fantastique has featured extensively in Leonard Slatkin’s repertoire there... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra French Festival – 5/6: Leonard Slatkin conducts Rabaud’s Procession & Debussy’s Faune and La mer – Benjamin Beilman plays Saint-Saëns [live webcast]
Friday, February 23, 2018 |  This morning concert (given the night before, too) opened with Nocturnal Procession by Henri Rabaud (1873-1949). Maybe he’s a shadowy figure... ... It was a compelling start to the fifth instalment of the DSO’s French Festival, all being conducted by Leonard Slatkin, and continued with Saint-Saëns’s B-minor Violin Concerto, written in 1880 for Sarasate (at this time of creativity new violin music was composed either for the Spaniard or for Joachim). Renaud Capuçon was booked but was unwell, giving an opportunity to Benjamin Beilman... ... As for the Debussy pieces, wonderful. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Vasily Petrenko conducts Les noces & Song of the Nightingale, and Scheherazade, Andreas Brantelid plays Elgar’s Cello Concerto
Friday, February 23, 2018 |  Rimsky-Korsakov said in his autobiography: “Listen to Scheherazade and your imagination will be set free to roam alone at will.” He might have had Vasily Petrenko’s reading in mind... ... Stravinsky’s debt to Rimsky is evident in the exotic and fantastical Song of the Nightingale culled from his Hans Andersen opera. ... In this context Elgar initially seemed a strange if contemporaneous bedfellow but with Andreas Brantelid the Cello Concerto soon cast its spell. ... Prior to the concert Petrenko conducted Stravinsky’s Les noces as part of a Foyle Future Firsts programme. 
Vienna Philharmonic/Gustavo Dudamel at Carnegie Hall – Brahms
Friday, February 23, 2018 |  The Vienna Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel launched their American tour with this Brahms program at Carnegie Hall... 
Doric String Quartet at Wigmore Hall – The first three Quartets of Haydn’s Opus 64
Thursday, February 22, 2018 |  The dark opening of Opus 64/1 provided a reminder of the silky tone of the Doric Quartet and in Haydn the musicians adapted their euphonious nature to the style of the music and here is a movement that responds to their expressive approach. 
LSO – Lionel Bringuier conducts Métaboles & Daphnis et Chloé – Alina Ibragimova plays Brahms
Thursday, February 22, 2018 |  The Frenchman Lionel Bringuier has already made his mark in the UK in guest appearances with the BBCSO and the Philharmonia, and this concert was his debut with the LSO, replacing Robin Ticciati... ... I had expected the main interest would lie in the French second half of his somewhat changed programme (no opening Fauré), but there was a special quality he and the LSO delivered in Brahms’s Violin Concerto, which provided an ideal foil for Alina Ibragimova at her most searching and soul-bearing. 
New York Philharmonic/Joshua Gersen – Adagio for Strings, West Side Story, Copland 3
Thursday, February 22, 2018 |  Joshua Gersen, assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic, led masterworks by three musicians whose contribution to American history is immeasurable... ... Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings was well-paced... ... the Symphonic Dances based on West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein’s masterpiece for the theater, consists of nine sections without pause. ... Aaron Copland’s Third, one of the great American Symphonies, was composed during the early-to-mid nineteen-forties for Koussevitzky and incorporates the earlier-written Fanfare for the Common Man. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Juanjo Mena conducts The Rite of Spring, and Debussy & Delius, Benedetto Lupo plays Ravel's Left-hand Concerto
Wednesday, February 21, 2018 |  Spring came early courtesy of the London Philharmonic, but not without the violent upheaval of Winter as the year-long “Changing Faces: Stravinsky's Journey” series continued, here with Juanjo Mena leading a superb Rite. Beforehand the season arrived in more tranquil circumstances, first with Debussy’s Printemps... ... Delius was well-looked-after, too, his rather lovely 1889 Idylle de Printemps... ... Ravel’s Left-hand Piano Concerto fared less well. It was Davies who opened The Rite of Spring so lyrically, a presage of Mena’s finely considered roots-searching conducting of it, notable for lucid enunciation, fine blends and good balances. Here was a Rite that could be danced to, as well as being thrilling... 
UK premiere of Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking – Joyce DiDonato & Michael Mayes; BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mark Wigglesworth
Tuesday, February 20, 2018 |  The workings of the opera world are impossible to fathom. Here is Jake Heggie’s and Terrence McNally’s Dead Man Walking, first performed in San Francisco in 2000, subsequently played some three-hundred times all over the world, and receiving its long-overdue UK premiere... ... With her uncanny genius for getting inside a character, Joyce DiDonato presented Sister Jean’s diffidence, faith and unaffected humanity with devastating accuracy... 
The Metropolitan Opera – François Girard’s production of Wagner’s Parsifal – Klaus Florian Vogt, Peter Mattei, René Pape, Evelyn Herlitzius, Evgeny Nikitin, Alfred Walker; conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Tuesday, February 20, 2018 |  This performance of Wagner’s Parsifal was the three-hundredth in the Met’s history. François Girard’s 2013 production is a masterstroke. ... The casting is almost flawless. René Pape, whose rich, deep and secure voice and brilliant acting skills make him a strong, sturdy Gurnemanz, may well be second to none in this role. ... Evelyn Herlitzius gave an estimable account of Kundry, whose hysterics are often exaggerated... ... Klaus Florian Vogt handled the title-role admirably... ... The real star was Yannick Nézet-Séguin (the Met’s music director designate). 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Ashley Riches & Joseph Middleton – A Musical Zoo
Monday, February 19, 2018 |  If Ashley Riches’s and Joseph Middleton’s recital was rather more lightweight than some of the Wigmore Hall Monday lunchtime series, you might not have guessed it from the opening Schubert... ... ...an entertaining account of Vernon Duke’s Ogden Nash’s Musical Zoo. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra French Festival – 4/6: Leonard Slatkin conducts Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Gymnopédies & Gaité Parisienne – Michelle & Christina Naughton play Carnival of Animals [live webcast]
Sunday, February 18, 2018 |  Dukas, let alone Goethe, couldn’t have envisaged Walt Disney’s Fantasia, and that the Sorcerer’s Apprentice would be cartooned by Mickey Mouse, no more than Jacques Offenbach could have anticipated his music being used for a ballet entitled Gaité Parisienne. Add in Saint-Saëns’s Carnival of Animals and much fun was to be had from the Detroit Symphony and Leonard Slatkin in their latest French Festival programme. ... There’s a thin line between comedy and tragedy – there was poignancy too, for the two Erik Satie Gymnopédies that Debussy orchestrated were dedicated to the victims of the recent shooting atrocity at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida... 
LSO – Daniel Harding conducts Richard Strauss’s Alpine Symphony & Helen Grime’s Virga – Leonidas Kavakos plays Prokofiev
Sunday, February 18, 2018 |  For a concert whose two major works relate to, or imply, some journey or travel, it was an amusing false start that Daniel Harding’s best foot was definitely not set forwards at the opening as he inadvertently advanced to the podium before the leader of the LSO had taken his seat. ... Harding launched the LSO in a confident account of Helen Grime’s Virga... ... Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No.2 (1935) marked the composer’s return to Soviet Russia after nearly two decades away, and also his rapprochement with a generally more traditional, Romantic vein in his musical style. Despite the strongly melodic bent of the Concerto, Leonidas Kavakos avoided any gushing or sentimentalised projection of its themes... ... Richard Strauss’s Alpine Symphony (1915) is not only a musical distillation of a trek up a mountain and the experience of such a landscape over the course of a day, but it can also be construed as a philosophical, Nietzschean allegory for the ascent and moral progress of a soul. 
The Royal Opera – Jonathan Kent’s production of Puccini’s Tosca – Martina Serafin, Riccardo Massi, Marco Vratogna; conducted by Plácido Domingo
Saturday, February 17, 2018 |  First seen in 2006 and now in its ninth revival, Jonathan Kent’s direction of Tosca is a no-frills, conventional presentation. ... Martina Serafin makes a creditable Tosca... ... She is well-matched vocally by Riccardo Massi’s admirable Cavaradossi... ... Chemistry between them convinces, more so than their confrontations with a rich-toned Marco Vratogna as Scarpia. ... At the helm (and also for four further evenings) is Plácido Domingo... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra French Festival – 3/6: Leonard Slatkin conducts A Frenchman in New York & An American in Paris, and La Création du monde – Michelle & Christina Naughton play Poulenc [live webcast]
Friday, February 16, 2018 |  The Frenchman is Darius Milhaud, the American being George Gershwin. Musically they travelled richly to each other’s countries, as did this DSO webcast to an Englishman in London, staying awake into the small hours, but the DSO and Leonard Slatkin have stamina, too, for they had played this concert in the morning as well. ... As for A Frenchman in New York, the remarkably prolific Milhaud (he got to at least Opus 443) wrote it during 1962 commissioned by RCA Victor for Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops... ... Earlier, the pianos looked similar, so too Michelle and Christina Naughton, twins, for Poulenc. 
Diana Damrau, Jonas Kaufmann & Helmut Deutsch at Barbican Hall – Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook
Friday, February 16, 2018 |  Hugo Wolf’s Lieder output is usually heard in venues that are smaller and perhaps acoustically better suited to the art of song than the Barbican Hall. Transcending its size Diana Damrau, Jonas Kaufmann and Helmut Deutsch brought intimacy to their performance of the Italian Songbook... 
Patricia Kopatchinskaja & Polina Leschenko at Wigmore Hall – Violin Sonatas by Debussy, Poulenc & Schumann and Pieces by Kurtág & Enescu
Friday, February 16, 2018 |  The mercurial, magisterial, miraculous, mysterial Patricia Kopatchinskaja was in town for a Wigmore Hall happening. ... Opening this recital, Schumann's First Violin Sonata (1851) – its second high-profile London airing in ten days, following Jansen and Argerich at the Barbican – started silkily out of nowhere. But then turned into something altogether more tensioned and psychologically uneasy... ... With György Kurtág's aphoristic Tre pezzi (1979) Kopatchinskaja went up a gear... ... Kopatchinskaja's partner, collaborator and re-creative genius was the St Petersburg-born Polina Leschenko. She's a powerful force of nature... 
Mozart at St Martin-in-the-Fields – Locrian Ensemble, Rimma Sushanskaya, John Lenehan
Thursday, February 15, 2018 |  Virtually every evening at St Martin-in-the-fields in Trafalgar Square there are concerts, mostly of popular pieces – The Four Seasons, Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, Eine kleine Nachtmusik... ... ...such as this Mozart programme by the twenty-six-strong Locrian Ensemble under Rimma Sushanskaya, with John Lenehan. ... Sushanskaya, the last violin pupil of David Oistrakh in Brezhnev’s USSR, is now making a name for herself as a conductor... ... ...a performance of the ‘Elvira Madigan’ Concerto (a nod to modern-day popularity) that was wholly exceptional. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Jakub Hrůša – Mahler 5 – Piotr Anderszewski plays Beethoven
Thursday, February 15, 2018 |  Mahler’s Fifth Symphony can be a difficult piece to bring off, often seeming disjointed. Here it emerged resplendent but above all quite unusually coherent, a trajectory from darkness to light, from the shadows of its opening funeral march to the sunlit uplands of the Finale. The Philharmonia Orchestra was at its considerable best, with a notably rich string sound. Jakub Hrůša is Chief Conductor of the Bamberg Symphony... ... Unfortunately Piotr Anderszewski’s account of Beethoven’s C-major Piano Concerto was far less convincing. 
Ruby Hughes & Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall – Songs for New Life and Love – Schumann, Mahler, Ives, Grime, Britten
Thursday, February 15, 2018 |  Robert Schumann’s Frauenliebe und -Leben has been criticised for its male perspective on the intimacies of the female heart, but Ruby Hughes at Wigmore Hall dispelled any such doubts... ... As with ‘Träumerei’, Joseph Middleton, who had welded reverie and sadness in the Kinderszenen excerpt, particularly impressed in the interludes of ‘Er, der Herrlichste von allen’... ... Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder took us further into the grief allied to parenthood. ... Helen Grime’s Bright Beginnings, to five poems by Fiona Benson, chart the interior and exterior worlds of pregnancy and motherhood and its delights and vulnerabilities. 
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Riccardo Muti at Kravis Center, West Palm Beach – Verdi & Britten – Stephen Williamson plays Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto and Clémentine Margaine sings Chausson’s Poème de l’amour et de la mer
Thursday, February 15, 2018 |  Riccardo Muti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a richly entertaining concert that showed off their strong rapport... ... Then Stephen Williamson joined his colleagues for a wonderful performance of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. ... ...Clémentine Margaine brought a dusky voice to Chausson... ... Finally, a glowing account of the ‘Sea Interludes’ from Britten’s Peter Grimes... 
New York Philharmonic/Jaap van Zweden – John Luther Adams’s Dark Waves & Act I of Die Walküre
Wednesday, February 14, 2018 |  John Luther Adams, born 1953, writes for many media, including television and film, utilizing voice, acoustic instruments, orchestra and electronics. ... His twelve-minute Dark Waves (2007) finds the orchestra adding textural substance and a vibrating resonance to electronic patterns, evoking an immense undulating seascape... ... Given its juxtaposition with Die Walküre, Dark Waves might seem like a modernistic reworking of the opening to Das Rheingold. 
English National Opera – Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolanthe; directed by Cal McCrystal; conducted by Timothy Henty
Tuesday, February 13, 2018 |  Professional productions of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolanthe are relatively infrequent. ... The designs of the late Paul Brown, set under a gleaming gilded proscenium arch of a Victorian theatre are colourful and opulent and manage the transitions from fairy-ring to pastoral Arcadia and later from without the Palace of Westminster to various settings within it very effectively. ... There is much to enjoy from the pit too – with Timothy Henty relishing his chance to show Sullivan’s masterful orchestration using a new edition. ... As a specialist in buffo roles Andrew Shore is an excellent Lord Chancellor. ... All good so far, BUT … but the staging is very busy, and there is re-writing and additions to the dialogue. Does Gilbert’s innuendo really need enhancing in such a nudge-nudge wink-wink way? 
The Royal Ballet – The Winter's Tale
Tuesday, February 13, 2018 |  ”If you say it often enough, then it must be true”. Following this dubious maxim, The Royal Ballet insists that Christopher Wheeldon’s The Winter’s Tale is a “modern classic”, that it is already, since its premiere in 2014, a cornerstone of the repertoire. Certainly, it has been revived several times since then by a determined management, always with a fanfare about how this is a truly 21st century ballet. In reality, the jury is still out. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra French Festival – 2/6: Leonard Slatkin conducts Saint-Saëns with George Li playing Piano Concerto No.2 [live webcast]
Sunday, February 11, 2018 |  It’s all Camille Saint-Saëns’s fault! ... The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix took a back seat to allow in, serendipitously, Holst (in planetary guise), Debussy (Munch’s version of Images), Prokofiev (Nevsky), Tchaikovsky (Swan Lake)... ... ...I later discovered and loved Frank Sinatra and Buddy Rich, but it took a while to appreciate Chopin, Delius and Viennese Waltzes... ... The DSO’s latest winter festival – very much a French Connection – continued here with music by the long-lived Saint-Saëns... ... Yes, there was a Saint-Saëns concert in Detroit. Here goes. Leonard Slatkin got things started with Marche heroïque... ... From Bachian stateliness to moto perpetuo bravura via the playful/witty/light-hearted second movement, George Li had the measure of the G-minor Piano Concerto. 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Lahav Shani conducts Mendelssohn & Mahler, Chen Reiss sings Richard Strauss
Sunday, February 11, 2018 |  Lahav Shani won the Bamberg Mahler Competition in 2013 and has just been appointed Zubin Mehta’s successor at the Israel Philharmonic. ... By comparison with The Hebrides and A Midsummer Night’s Dream or even with Ruy Blas, Mendelssohn’s Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage is probably the least-familiar of his Overtures... ... The sequence of six Richard Strauss songs was drawn from right across his career. Quite frankly Chen Reiss has one of the most perfect Strauss voices one could wish for... 
Christian Tetzlaff Focus at Wigmore Hall – Schubert – Schwanengesang with Julian Prégardien & Martin Helmchen and String Quintet
Sunday, February 11, 2018 |  Singers often strive to create a narrative out of Schubert’s Schwanengesang to match those of Winterreise and Die schöne Müllerin, and the strength of this soul-searching from Julian Prégardien and Martin Helmchen was that the switches of mood and intensity spoke for themselves. ... This was the first concert in Wigmore Hall’s Christian Tetzlaff Focus, with the violinist leading his group – including his sister Tanja and Helmchen’s wife Marie-Elisabeth Hecker on cellos – in an extraordinarily powerful performance of Schubert’s String Quintet. 
LSO/Mark Elder – Dvořák & Elgar – Nikolaj Znaider plays Bruch
Sunday, February 11, 2018 |  This second LSO evening featuring Elgar’s completed Symphonies under Sir Mark Elder included a searing account of No.2 that made it difficult to believe the work misfired at its premiere. ... ...Nikolaj Znaider had been outstanding in Bruch... ... The evening had begun with Dvořák’s Othello Overture... 
BBC Singers & St James’ Baroque at Milton Court – Peter Dijkstra conducts Mendelssohn’s edition of J. S. Bach’s Matthew Passion
Sunday, February 11, 2018 |  Felix Mendelssohn’s sawn-off version of Bach’s St Matthew Passion removes the more-reflective arias and half-a-dozen chorales for the groundbreaking 1829 performance in Berlin. Certainly Mendelssohn’s reductions make for a more compact experience, the drama more tightly drawn... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Petrushka, and a Liadov threesome, Ray Chen plays Prokofiev
Saturday, February 10, 2018 |  With their ongoing series this year, “Changing Faces: Stravinsky's Journey”, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Vladimir Jurowski (and guest conductors) have come up with another innovatively planned series of programmes refreshing perceptions and airing neglected corners of the repertory. ... Liadov's rarely heard three tone poems, dating from 1904 to 1909, made for an inspiring opener... ... Redolent of Mussorgsky, The Enchanted Lake has always been a special jewel of late-Romantic Russian imagination. Way back Svetlanov did magical things with its world. In Jurowski's hands it unfolded with profound, sonorous gravity... ... ...a contender to write Diaghilev's Firebird. ... Strong on melody, exchange and attack, Prokofiev's Second Violin Concerto, premiered in Madrid in 1935, was a tour de force for both soloist and orchestra. Ray Chen, another of the Curtis Institute's Far Eastern alumni, has been on the international circuit for near enough a decade... ... With surtitles to guide the audience, the original 1911 version of Petrushka, was an upfront, Technicolor reading... 
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Riccardo Muti at Carnegie Hall (2) – Verdi & Brahms – and the New York premiere of Samuel Adams’s many words of love
Saturday, February 10, 2018 |  Samuel Adams (born 1985 in San Francisco) has received much attention since he was appointed co-composer-in-residence (with Elizabeth Ogonek) to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. His twenty-minute many words of love was inspired by Schubert’s ‘Der Lindenbaum’ from Winterreise. The poem by Wilhelm Müller describes the wanderer who carves “many words of love” on a linden tree. ... The concert began with a fine performance of the Overture to The Sicilian Vespers. ... Following intermission, Brahms’s Second Symphony in which Riccardo Muti’s approach to this treasured masterwork was essentially traditional... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra French Festival – 1/6: Leonard Slatkin conducts Ravel with Jean-Efflam Bavouzet playing both Piano Concertos [live webcast]
Friday, February 09, 2018 |  The latest DSO winter festival – three weeks, six programmes, twelve concerts, much more – concerns musical matters à la française. ... Maurice Ravel’s music made for an enticing entrée in this morning-after-the-night-before concert in snowbound Detroit... ... first with Menuet antique, tart in its outer sections if harmonically affecting, soft-centre alluring in the Trio, Leonard Slatkin leading a tempo-related account without compromising expression... ... For all that Ravel’s two Piano Concertos are contemporaneous, they could not be more different. The G-major is light and jazzy if with recesses into a more-interior world, whereas the Left-hand is dark and disturbing. Jean-Efflam Bavouzet has rather monopolised both... ... Finally the closing part of Daphnis et Chloé... 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – James Feddeck conducts Samuel Barber’s First Symphony, Icarus in Orbit and Pictures at an Exhibition – Javier Perianes plays Ravel
Friday, February 09, 2018 |  The New Yorker James Feddeck’s invitations to conduct this side of the Atlantic are piling up and he has already made his mark in the UK with Birmingham, Bournemouth and BBC orchestras. His debut with the BBC Symphony Orchestra was further evidence that he is a name to follow... ... This quickly became clear in Samuel Barber’s Symphony No.1... ... Then Javier Perianes bustled on for a brilliantly spirited account of Ravel’s G-major Piano Concerto... ... The American composer, pianist and academic George Walker was born in 1922, only twelve years after his fellow-countryman Samuel Barber, and will be ninety-six later this year. His music had its Proms debut last year (with his best-known work, Lyric, given by Chineke!), and this UK premiere of Icarus in Orbit (written in 2004) nudged the concert-hall door a fraction more open on this prolific creator. ... There was also plenty of bold colour in Ravel’s scoring of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. 
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Riccardo Muti at Carnegie Hall (1) – Scherzo fantastique & Four Sea Interludes, the New York premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s Low Brass Concerto, and Clémentine Margaine sings Chausson’s Poème de l’amour et de la mer
Friday, February 09, 2018 |  The Chicago Symphony Orchestra returned to Carnegie Hall for a pair of programs. ... Jennifer Higdon’s new Low Brass Concerto features the famed backbone of the CSO. ... ...special moments are given to Gene Pokorny, making easy work of virtuosic scales, and Jay Friedman... ... Every time I hear something by Ernest Chausson I am reminded how tragic his early passing was. Poème de l’amour et de la mer presages much of what Poulenc would channel into his opera Dialogues des Carmelites. To her credit Clémentine Margaine performed the outer movements as art songs... ... The ‘Sea Interludes’ from Peter Grimes brought to bear a previously unheard level of sophistication and specificity... ... ...Riccardo Muti, an opera-conductor’s opera conductor, sprang to life... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Juraj Valčuha – Kodály & Bartók – Evgeni Bozhanov plays Beethoven … Music of Today with Irvine Arditti – Cattaneo & Sciarrino
Thursday, February 08, 2018 |  This attractive, well-designed main programme – Bartók and Kodály were folksong-collecting friends – opened with the latter’s Dances of Galánta... ... If Juraj Valčuha (geographically well-placed, he’s Slovakian, and it appears that Galánta is more Slovak these days than Hungary) didn’t quite alter the above positioning, then he certainly invested intensity into proceedings... ... As centrepiece, Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, which Valčuha introduced as minor-key tragic and gravely dark. I am not convinced that he and Evgeni Bozhanov (from Bulgaria) quite saw eye-to-eye... ... Earlier in the evening the Philharmonia’s invaluable Music of Today series continued, this time helping to mark Irvine Arditti’s sixty-fifth birthday... 
LSO/Mark Elder – Janáček & Elgar – Francesco Piemontesi plays Bartók
Thursday, February 08, 2018 |  While the Brexit dividend has never existed and probably never will, the music of Elgar is enjoying a renaissance with Brits and non-Brits alike. The LSO’s current (very) mini-series with Sir Mark Elder includes the two completed Symphonies... ... But we began with a rarity, what survives of Janáček’s incidental music for a Gerhardt Hauptmann play with a plot akin to Beckett's Waiting for Godot. ... Bartók, by contrast, was aiming at least in part for commercial success at the end of his life and the Third Piano Concerto, wonderful as it is, can sound insubstantial in the wrong hands. The cosmopolitan Swiss Francesco Piemontesi had his own mix of solutions... 
CBSO/Pablo González – May Night, Night on a Bare Mountain, Pictures at an Exhibition – Javier Perianes plays Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain
Wednesday, February 07, 2018 |  The last-minute indisposition of Constantinos Carydis saw Pablo González take the helm for this concert by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, which meant the loss of Skalkottas’s Four Images (hopefully another occasion?) for the Overture to May Night (1879). This second of Rimsky-Korsakov’s operas is seldom revived in the West... ... Itself a work which fell from prominence during the latter twentieth-century, Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain (1915) has returned to favour. ... This reading was notable for its precision across and between movements – Javier Perianes melding into a discourse that brought out the ominous undertow of the opening ‘Generalife’... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Scherzo fantastique, Funeral Song and The Firebird, Alexander Ghindin plays Rimsky-Korsakov’s Piano Concerto
Wednesday, February 07, 2018 |  The London Philharmonic reached the second leg of its year-long “Stravinsky’s Journey”. Scherzo fantastique was written when Stravinsky was studying with Rimsky-Korsakov and is lavishly scored and inspired by Maurice Maeterlinck’s The Life of Bees. Vladimir Jurowski drew clear and vigorous playing... ... Rimsky’s Piano Concerto (dedicated to Liszt) is a rarity nowadays... ... Alexander Ghindin supplied precision and glitter... ... The complete Firebird (for Diaghilev) can be a tricky piece to pull off in a concert when devoid of dance and decor... 
Martin Helmchen at St John’s Smith Square – Schumann Novelletten & Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations
Wednesday, February 07, 2018 |  Every time I hear Martin Helmchen I am seduced by a remarkable musician... ... He opened this recital with four of Schumann’s eight Novelletten... ... It was cold in St John’s, the heating was making a low noise, and many in the large audience kept their coats on. There was a faintly English whiff of eccentricity about things that leaked into my perception of Helmchen’s stupendous account of Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations... 
The Royal Opera – Bizet’s Carmen – Anna Goryachova, Francesco Meli, Kostas Smoriginas, Kristina Mkhitaryan; directed by Barrie Kosky; conducted by Jakub Hrůša
Tuesday, February 06, 2018 |  Since its disastrous premiere, Carmen has been such a success that there have been as many manifestations as there are art forms to hang it on. ... The latest contender to throw a hat into the Seville bullring is Barrie Kosky... ... Carmen makes her grand entrance doing a striptease out of a gorilla suit... ... The alluring, petite – and this is a staging that demands a bit of a looker in the title role – Anna Goryachova’s sumptuous mezzo and mocking reserve single her out as a formidable outsider, and she deals elegantly with directorial demands. Francesco Meli is marvellous as Don José... ... Jakub Hrůša, at last making his Royal Opera debut, goes to the core of Bizet’s wonderful, ‘new’ but familiar, score... 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Ilan Volkov – From the Cradle to the Grave & Mahler 1 – Pavel Kolesnikov plays Beethoven
Tuesday, February 06, 2018 |  Liszt’s rarely-heard From the Cradle to the Grave was composed in 1882 – a quarter of a century after he had completed his previous twelve symphonic poems, and was not given its première until forty-five years later. ... From Pavel Kolesnikov’s firm yet gentle beginning it was clear that this would be a sensitive interpretation of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto. ... Sensitivity was also the essence of Ilan Volkov’s approach to Mahler. 
Janine Jansen, Mischa Maisky & Martha Argerich at Barbican Hall – Violin & Cello Sonatas, Piano Trios
Tuesday, February 06, 2018 |  As rewardingly imagined programmes go this ranked high in the satisfaction stakes – even if it would have been welcome to hear the originally advertised Tchaikovsky Piano Trio. Joining the vintage partnership of Mischa Maisky and Martha Argerich, Janine Jansen brought a starry new light to the mix. 
Marin Alsop conducts Beethoven with Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment – Nicola Benedetti plays the Violin Concerto
Sunday, February 04, 2018 |  It is less frequent in recent years for concerts to commence with an Overture and here was another example; it is also unusual to find the evening ending with a Concerto. Perhaps Marin Alsop’s reading of the Symphony could be thought of as the required prelude: in her hands it was not so much a grand statement and more a clear representation of the lyrical side of Beethoven’s nature spiced with urgency. ... The talking point in Nicola Benedetti’s beautiful and most-sensitive account of the Violin Concerto concerns the first-movement cadenza. Beethoven did not write one and those by Joachim or Kreisler are usually chosen. 
LSO – Semyon Bychkov conducts Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony
Sunday, February 04, 2018 |  Semyon Bychkov’s downbeat to start Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony was like a spade slicing deep into the earth for the composer’s hero’s grave, and, ignoring the advice “when you’re in a hole, stop digging”, Bychkov never let up in a searing performance... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – The Fairytale Begins – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Symphony No.1, Kristóf Baráti plays Glazunov, Angharad Lyddon sings Faun and Shepherdess
Saturday, February 03, 2018 |  Here was a refreshingly different concert, no Mahler or Shostakovich, or indeed any ‘standard’ Stravinsky, although the latter will turn up as part of the London Philharmonic’s year-long survey of his music... ... ...the Largo, darkly soulful and dramatic, benefitted from Vladimir Jurowski’s flowing tempo that avoided sagging and overblown climaxes... ... In the Opus Two Pushkin setting Angharad Lyddon was a persuasive advocate for the randy Faun and the innocent Shepherdess... ... We did indeed begin with a Fairy Tale, Rimsky’s Skazka (1880), to an unspecified programme but with words from Pushkin heading the score. ... There is much to love about Glazunov’s Violin Concerto... ... Kristóf Baráti brought easeful technique, honeyed tone and affectionate phrasing to this adorable music... 
Florida Grand Opera – Richard Strauss’s Salome – Melody Moore, Mark Delavan, John Easterlin, Elizabeth Bishop; directed by Bernard Uzan; conducted by Timothy Myers
Saturday, February 03, 2018 |  Florida Grand Opera assembled a fine cast for Richard Strauss’s Salome, and Timothy Myers conducted an excellent traversal of the score... ... In the title role Melody Moore surged powerfully and was outstanding dramatically. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Andrew Davis conducts Shostakovich 10 – Paul Watkins plays Gerald Finzi’s Cello Concerto ... Singers at Six, Paul Spicer conducts...
Friday, February 02, 2018 |  This BBC Symphony Orchestra programme was built on two works belonging to the 1950s that share an emotional intensity from composers stylistically worlds-apart. ... Written in 1955 after he had been diagnosed with leukaemia, Gerald Finzi’s Cello Concerto is his last major work... ... There is an assurance too in the rhapsodic and virtuosic cello-writing, its bravura elements mostly overcome by Paul Watkins. ... Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony from 1953 is an emotional rollercoaster – brooding, ferocious and, sharing with the Finzi, a dark and, at times, haunting lyricism. Sir Andrew brought a natural sense of progression to the arch-like first movement... ... Earlier, sacred and secular music by Finzi alongside two of his erstwhile composition teachers Ernest Farrar and Edward Bairstow shaped an hour with the BBC Singers. 
Cleveland Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst at Adrienne Arsht Center – Beethoven
Friday, February 02, 2018 |  During this its centennial year the Cleveland Orchestra and Franz Welser-Möst are “examining Beethoven’s music anew”, leading up to a season-ending festival entitled “The Prometheus Project” that will include the Nine Symphonies to be performed first at home and then in Vienna and Tokyo. ... This Miami concert was a sneak preview of what will be the third program, the Coriolan Overture, written for Heinrich Joseph von Collin’s 1804 adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus an apt starter – for the reverberation of Knight Concert Hall made the measures of silence as dramatic as the powerful opening chords... 
English National Opera – Phelim McDermott’s production of Philip Glass’s Satyagraha – Toby Spence as Gandhi; conducted by Karen Kamensek
Thursday, February 01, 2018 |  It was once said of Hubert Parry that, given enough time, he would set the entire Bible to music. Had he done so, one wonders whether and how he would have created a convincing score out of the sequence of discrete aphorisms which constitute the Book of Proverbs.The question similarly arises in respect of Phelim McDermott’s production of Philip Glass’s Satyagraha (opening in its third revival by English National Opera). ... Toby Spence brings off the potent force of Gandhi’s non-violent personality patiently and skilfully... ... Although a historical figure, Spence’s Gandhi stands here in a continuum of time with other gurus or sages, representing past, present, future (in respect of Gandhi’s own biography at least) as the figures of Tolstoy, Rabindranath Tagore, and Martin Luther King each hover in the background... 
Michael Tippett’s Symphony in B-flat – Martyn Brabbins conducts BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra – Petrushka, and Alberto Menéndez Escribano plays Mozart
Thursday, February 01, 2018 |  Martyn Brabbins's cycle of Tippett Symphonies with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra reached its conclusion here by going back to the beginning, and the first performance in over eight decades of a Symphony in B-flat with which the composer had intended to announce his arrival. Its genesis is hardly less fascinating than its content. ... Mention of Stravinsky brings one onto Petrushka, which occupied the second half. ... In between, the orchestra's principal horn Alberto Menéndez Escribano took the floor for a fluent and appealing account of Mozart's Fourth Concerto... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Paavo Järvi – Dvořák – Carnival, Symphony 7 and Gautier Capuçon playing the Cello Concerto
Thursday, February 01, 2018 |  With Paavo Järvi in top form and Gautier Capuçon aristocratically proud, a gilt-edged programme was promised. ... The Cello Concerto needed a while to settle, a certain inertness clouding the opening pages. From the development of the first movement, however, the vision clarified into something remarkably special. Between them Capuçon and Järvi forged no war-horse encounter but, rather, a gloriously grained poem... ... The Philharmonia Orchestra dug deep, the strings bronzed, the woodwinds characterful and fresh-sounding, the climaxes full-throated and grounded, Järvi's body language shaping the sound-picture with unfussy authority. 
Royal College of Music – Bernard Haitink conducts Richard Strauss’s Alpine Symphony and Mozart’s K491 with Martin James Bartlett
Thursday, February 01, 2018 |  These Royal College of Music concerts steered by top-name conductors have set a very high standard in the student-orchestra market, with results leaving reviewers at a loss for superlatives – memories of Bruckner’s Eighth, Mahler’s Seventh and Daphnis et Chloé still linger, these three, as it happens, conducted by Bernard Haitink, who masterminded this Mozart and Strauss programme... ... I had not heard Martin James Bartlett live before... ... The orchestra almost doubled for Richard Strauss’s mighty Alpine Symphony, replete with all the grandiloquent paraphernalia of off-stage horns, cowbells, thunder sheet, wind-machine and, I think, the first public outing of the RCM’s new concert organ... 

 

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