May 2017 Concert Reviews

April 2017 Concert Reviews
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. 

 

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