October 2017 Concert Reviews

September 2017 Concert Reviews
Alice Sara Ott at St John’s Smith Square – Grieg & Liszt
Tuesday, October 17, 2017 |  A particularly intelligent juxtaposition, this, part of Southbank Centre’s International Piano Series and Nordic Matters. It was Liszt’s enthusiastic endorsement in 1868 of Grieg’s First Violin Sonata – in the shape of a highly commendatory letter – that inspired Grieg to continue his aim of becoming a composer, soon reinforced by Liszt’s admiration of his Piano Concerto when the two composers first met in Italy. ... Alice Sara Ott’s programme was prefaced by a spoken homily... Ott returned, dressed completely in black (for the first half she wore a full-length white gown, the auditorium lit normally), to perform Liszt’s Sonata in this Stygian gloom. 
Chloë Hanslip & Danny Driver at Turner Sims – Sonatas for Violin and Piano by Schubert and Beethoven, including the Kreutzer
Tuesday, October 17, 2017 |  The third and final recital at Turner Sims with Chloë Hanslip and Danny Driver embracing all ten of Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas... ... Beethoven’s penultimate and most ‘symphonic’ Violin Sonata was given a reading to saviour. This ‘Kreutzer’ brimmed with energy... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Anne Queffélec
Monday, October 16, 2017 |  If Anne Queffélec’s Wigmore Hall programme was oddly bitty-looking on paper, the point of it quickly became clear in performance: this was an intriguing tour not only of Baroque repertoire, but also of the way music has been re-jigged and re-imagined for the keyboard. 
Thomas Adès and Friends at Zankel Hall with Sally Matthews, Iestyn Davies & Joseph Kaiser
Sunday, October 15, 2017 |  Thomas Adès’s multiple talents were in abundant display during this “Afternoon of Song”. He is in New York preparing for the Met premiere of The Exterminating Angel, and brought with him to Zankel Hall three singers who will be performing in the opera. 
Roman Rabinovich at Wigmore Hall – Haydn, Rabinovich, Rachmaninov’s Corelli Variations, Chopin’s Ballades
Sunday, October 15, 2017 |  The Israeli pianist, composer and visual-artist Roman Rabinovich shared the top awarded prize (joint-second to Khatia Buniatishvili's third place) at the 2008 Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition. He's a polished, quietly unassuming player... ... Rachmaninov's 1931 Corelli Variations, transitional between the Fourth Piano Concerto and Paganini Rhapsody and sharing traits with both, found Rabinovich journeying the Russian soul with conviction... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra opening concerts of the 2017-18 season – Leonard Slatkin conducts How to Relax with Origami & Eroica Symphony – Olga Kern plays Samuel Barber’s Piano Concerto [live webcast]
Saturday, October 14, 2017 |  The Detroit Symphony Orchestra opened its 2017-18 season (this webcast was of the third such concert) with Leonard Slatkin [...] leading something new, then reviving an American classic, and clinching the deal with the ‘Eroica’. ... Conor Brown’s How to Relax with Origami (and we’re supposed to be a paperless society!) consists of eight vignettes... ... The revival was of Samuel Barber’s Piano Concerto, written in the early-1960s for John Browning who recorded it twice, first with George Szell (Cleveland) then with Slatkin (St Louis). Since Browning’s death in 2003, Garrick Ohlsson has been Slatkin’s pianist of choice, and now it’s Olga Kern. ... Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ Symphony is one of Slatkin’s ‘top ten’ pieces (and mine), as revealed in his new book, Leading Tones. Music, conductor and listener were in sync here. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins – Birtwistle's Earth Dances & Vaughan Williams's Sea Symphony
Friday, October 13, 2017 |  Surprisingly BBC Radio 3 didn’t afford this blockbuster concert a live broadcast, although the deferred relay is imminent – so the place to be (I would have been there anyway) was in the Barbican Hall for a programme of contrasting masterpieces, Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s Earth Dances and Ralph Vaughan Williams’s A Sea Symphony, Martyn Brabbins presiding. 
St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra/Vladimir Altschuler at The Anvil – Classical Symphony, Scheherazade, Tchaikovsky 4
Friday, October 13, 2017 |  The opening night of The Anvil’s 2017-18 International Concert Series featured the St Petersburg Symphony (this city’s ‘other’ orchestra) at the start of its UK cross-country tour. Under an undemonstrative Vladimir Altschuler there was playing of great assurance and at times fiery passion... 
Royal Academy of Music – Semyon Bychkov conducts Mahler’s Ninth Symphony
Friday, October 13, 2017 |  It was a treat to hear over one-hundred musicians, aged eighteen to twenty-four, play in the intimate space which is Duke’s Hall; the Royal Academy of Music students were evidently loving their time with Semyon Bychkov, a regular at this address. ... The first movement of Mahler 9 unfolded languidly... 
National Symphony Orchestra/Rimma Sushanskaya at Cadogan Hall – Egmont, Pictures, Valse – Jack Liebeck plays Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto
Friday, October 13, 2017 |  The National Symphony Orchestra has been in existence for close on eighty years, being best-known for an extensive series of recordings for Decca in the 1940s and 50s... ... ...it boasts a number of distinguished musicians in its ranks, this was a rare appearance at Cadogan Hall under the Russian-born Rimma Sushanskaya... ... ...Jack Liebeck gave a wholly spellbinding performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto... 
Jeremy Denk plays Mozart Piano Sonatas at Milton Court
Thursday, October 12, 2017 |  What might have been a Trial (if not of Harmony and Invention) turned out to be an enthralling evening as Jeremy Denk played the final five of Mozart’s eighteen Piano Sonatas ... ah, but then there were four. Denk made last-minute changes... 
Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin – with music by Shostakovich – Philharmonia Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy
Thursday, October 12, 2017 |  Shostakovich wrote over forty film scores but never provided music to a film by Sergei Eisenstein. This oversight of history has been rectified with Frank Strobel’s arrangement of some of Shostakovich’s Symphonies for Sergei Eisenstein’s most famous film, Battleship Potemkin. Selections from the Fourth, Fifth, Eight, Tenth and Eleventh Symphonies have been pressed into service and the showing of the film in a fine print was accompanied in some style under Vladimir Ashkenazy. ... Battleship Potemkin is one of the great masterpieces of Soviet Cinema. It is also one of the most analysed works in film history and a major influence on such as Woody Allen’s Bananas and Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. 
The Royal Opera – Stefan Herheim's production of Verdi’s Les Vêpres siciliennes – Malin Byström, Bryan Hymel, Erwin Schrott, Michael Volle; conducted by Maurizio Benini
Thursday, October 12, 2017 |  I wonder how many in the audience responded to Stefan Herheim’s 'meta-narrative' in the maverick Norwegian director’s staging of Verdi’s 1855 five-Act Paris Opéra blockbuster Les Vêpres siciliennes. ... ...it has a terrific cast of principals... ... Montfort is the most three-dimensional character, and Michael Volle presents him as a Philip II prototype... ... ...just when you thought Bryan Hymel’s tenor couldn’t possibly go higher, it does, with an exciting sense of danger. Malin Byström has her work cut out saving the huge role of Hélène from being swallowed whole by the production... 
New York Philharmonic/Paavo Järvi – Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Gambit & Sibelius 5 – Leif Ove Andsnes plays Rachmaninov
Thursday, October 12, 2017 |  This Philharmonic concert opened with the New York premiere of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Gambit “based on a few gestures, or archetypes, which are combined and juxtaposed in different ways.” The principal gestures consist of a descending, essentially pentatonic, scale, and an underlying rhythmic pattern, which remain virtually unchanged. Salonen quotes from works by Magnus Lindberg, to whom Gambit is dedicated. ... Paavo Järvi led a finely-wrought, vibrant and well-balanced performance. Leif Ove Andsnes’s stirring account of Rachmaninov’s Fourth Piano Concerto spoke well for this rather neglected work. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Franco Zeffirelli’s production of Puccini’s Turandot – Oksana Dyka, Aleksandrs Antonenko, Maria Agresta, James Morris; conducted by Carlo Rizzi
Thursday, October 12, 2017 |  This was the first night of a ten-performance run at the Met of Puccini’s Turandot in Franco Zeffirelli’s celebrated staging. ... As Turandot, Oksana Dyka showed the vocal steel required for her opening ‘In questa reggia’ and in propounding the riddles with which she tests Calaf. ... ...Aleksandrs Antonenko taking over Calaf from Marcelo Álvarez who withdrew from these Fall presentations. ... Of all Zeffirelli’s spectacular productions for the Met, Turandot is the most over-the-top... 
Hans Werner Henze’s Voices
Wednesday, October 11, 2017 |  In a month that has already commemorated the fiftieth-anniversary of the death of Che Guevara and the centenary of the Russian Revolution, there surely could have been no more appropriate way for the London Sinfonietta to celebrate its own half-century than one of its own early commissions, from 1973: Hans Werner Henze’s Voices. In its setting of twenty-two twentieth-century revolutionary poems, from black America via Cuba to resistance Europe and Maoist China, its subject of torture, oppression, of those in power subjugating and exploiting the weak and minorities is appallingly just as relevant – if not more so – than forty years ago: Voices is a work for our times. 
Basel Symphony Orchestra/Ivor Bolton at Town Hall Birmingham – Busoni & Beethoven – Sol Gabetta plays Saint-Saëns
Tuesday, October 10, 2017 |  Founded 141 years ago, the Basel Symphony Orchestra is among the oldest in Switzerland... ... ...under newly appointed principal conductor Ivor Bolton. There was no Swiss music in this programme, though Busoni lived in Zurich throughout the First World War, and his Comedy Overture (1897) was given in Birmingham thirty-five years ago by the CBSO... ... Saint-Saëns probably never heard the Busoni, though would surely have recognised a kindred spirit (albeit passingly) given the comparable poise and understatement of his First Cello Concerto (1872). Ingenious, too, in the way this single movement opens-out its sonata design with the deftest of intermezzos. Sol Gabetta was winsomeness itself here... 
LSO/Bernard Haitink – Brahms 3 – Emanuel Ax plays Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto
Tuesday, October 10, 2017 |  For if the music of Beethoven and/or Brahms is to mean anything today it cannot simply be treated as if it were the aural equivalent of items on the Antiques Roadshow, as I am sure Emanuel Ax and Bernard Haitink would agree... ... The first half, Brahms’s Third Symphony, was eagerly anticipated under this sterling conductor... ... Emanuel Ax and Haitink combined, courtesy of the London Symphony Orchestra, to deliver a noble performance indeed of the ‘Emperor’ Concerto... 
BalletBoyz at Sadler's Wells – Fourteen Days – The Title is in the Text / Human Animal / Us / The Indicator Line / Fallen
Tuesday, October 10, 2017 |  Snappy title, admittedly, and borne out of a belief that choreographers work best when up against a time constraint, this evening by the BalletBoyz with four premieres, emerges as a curate’s egg. It is also a wildly unbalanced evening, with Russell Maliphant’s weighty 2013 work Fallen, counter-balancing the four short works of the first half. And it is all about balance, the four choreographers being given that as the theme for their creations. ... 
Kensington Symphony Orchestra opening concert of the 2017-18 season – Russell Keable conducts Till Eulenspiegel, Rivers to the Sea and The Rite of Spring
Monday, October 09, 2017 |  The Kensington Symphony Orchestra bounced into its sixty-second season with a typically adventurous programme, no compromise made to its amateur status. ... Russell Keable, only the KSO’s second music director following founder Leslie Head (roughly thirty years apiece), opened with Richard Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel... ... As it was in The Rite of Spring... There had been smudges in Till, and Stravinsky’s music was not without fluffs and false entries... ... The KSO was at its considerable best – meeting many challenges – for the concert’s centrepiece, a welcome London revival for Joseph Phibbs’s Rivers to the Sea... 
Classical Opera Twentieth-Birthday Concert – Ian Page conducts The Mozartists in Beethoven’s Choral Symphony
Monday, October 09, 2017 |  In celebrating its twentieth anniversary, Classical Opera also presented the orchestra’s new identity as The Mozartists and in future this name will be used for concerts. The group’s operatic heritage was reflected in the first part of the concert. ... The placement of performers also came to notice in the Beethoven. The Barbican Hall acoustic does no favours to bass instruments... ... Ian Page’s interpretation was notably swift; continuity was of the essence, rhythms were not emphasised but forward motion was always achieved. 
Glyndebourne Tour 2017 – Annabel Arden’s production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville; conducted by Ben Gernon
Sunday, October 08, 2017 |  Everything pretty much comes together in this hilarious revival of Annabel Arden’s production of Il barbiere di Siviglia, which in 2016 was Glyndebourne’s first for over thirty years. ... That said a rich-toned Tobias Greenhalgh (Figaro) had ample stage presence; more witty than self-important, and he knocked out ‘Largo al factotum’ with ease. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Jakub Hrůša – Smetana’s Má vlast – Hilary Hahn plays Dvořák’s Violin Concerto
Sunday, October 08, 2017 |  The nearest Dvořák’s Violin Concerto gets to minor-mode angst or tragedy is in the wistful Adagio, which is blown away by the major-key rumbustious Czech dances of the Finale. Hilary Hahn was keeping any overt emotionalism on a very short leash... ... Hrůša, who is Czech, not surprisingly has a built-in affinity to his country’s music, of which Smetana’s Má vlast (My Country) is one of its more extravagant expressions, its six tone-poems a compilation of history, topography, legend, glorious memories and lofty aspiration. 
English Touring Opera at Hackney Empire – Handel’s Giulio Cesare – Christopher Ainslie, Soraya Mafi, Benjamin Williamson, Catherine Carby; directed by James Conway; conducted by Jonathan Peter Kenny
Saturday, October 07, 2017 |  Wishing to preserve the grand scale of Handel’s operatic masterpiece and not cut any of the music, English Touring Opera’s new production of Giulio Cesare (1724) divides it into two parts, which will be given on tour variously on consecutive evenings or on the same day. Dubbed “The Death of Pompey” and “Cleopatra’s Needle” respectively, these instalments refer (by way of an oblique joke to a London landmark in the latter case) to the two events around which Julius Caesar’s foray into Egypt turn in this drama – the murder of his rival by Tolomeo, the ruler of Egypt, and the triumph over Caesar in turn by Cleopatra, through amorous rather than political means. 
Glyndebourne Tour 2017 – Nicholas Hytner’s production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte; conducted by Leo McFall
Saturday, October 07, 2017 |  Since its inception, opera at Glyndebourne has been almost synonymous with Mozart. The Marriage of Figaro was the first work to be performed there in May 1934 but the revival of Così fan tutte was arguably yet more significant... ... Nicholas Hytner’s 2006 show, revived now by Bruno Ravella for this year’s Glyndebourne Tour, never plays fast and loose with Da Ponte’s libretto. 
Jane Austen in Words and Music at Chawton House
Saturday, October 07, 2017 |  This was a very English event, a tribute to the novelist Jane Austen (1775-1817) who from 1809 lived in a cottage on the estate of Chawton House which her brother Edward had made available to his mother and his sisters. ... Two songs followed – Haydn’s popular ‘My Mother Bids me Bind my Hair’ and ‘Che farò senza Euridice’ from Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice. Both were sung by Theresa Lunn... ... Frantisek Kotzwara (1730-1791) composed one of the most popular pieces of the late-eighteenth-century: The Battle of Prague which shows similarities to Biber’s Battalia. 
English Touring Opera at Hackney Empire – Rameau’s Dardanus – Anthony Gregory, Galina Averina, Grant Doyle, Timothy Nelson; directed by Douglas Rintoul; conducted by Jonathan Williams
Friday, October 06, 2017 |  Ever adventurous, English Touring Opera is clocking up a couple of firsts with this new production of Dardanus – the company’s first foray into the French Baroque, and apparently the premiere performance of this particular work in the UK, but presumably of Rameau’s revised version of 1744, rather than the 1739 original, as the Royal Academy of Music mounted that in 2006. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Santtu-Matias Rouvali – Colas Breugnon & Pictures at an Exhibition – Denis Kozhukhin plays Paganini Rhapsody … Michael Daugherty Music of Today
Thursday, October 05, 2017 |  The main concert got off to a bright and breezy start with the Overture to Dmitri Kabalevsky’s opera Colas Breugnon... ... Santtu-Matias Rouvali brought his graceful yet graphic conducting style to bear on this scintillating and lyrical gem... ... In Paganini Rhapsody, for all Denis Kozhukhin’s technical command (nonchalance) he was rather percussive and dismissive of dynamic contrasts... ... Pictures at an Exhibition, as arranged Ravel (other orchestrations are available) is a Philharmonia staple. ... Earlier, the Philharmonia’s long-running and laudable Music of Today presentations returned – typically free and informal – and with this new-season first came the music of Michael Daugherty... 
English National Opera – Jonathan Miller’s production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville – Eleazar Rodríguez, Morgan Pearse, Sarah Tynan, Alan Opie; conducted by Hilary Griffiths
Thursday, October 05, 2017 |  This thirteenth revival of Jonathan Miller’s production of The Barber of Seville marks its thirtieth birthday, and it taps into something fundamental about Rossini’s most popular comic-opera... ... It is through Rosina’s eyes, rather than Count Almaviva’s, that we are meant to see and feel in Miller’s interpretation... ... Morgan Pearse shows at least as much comic agility and ease in the part of Figaro. If ‘Largo al factotum’ does not quite take off with the required fizz and energy, it is perhaps due to the fact that, in English translation, the aria does not trip off the tongue with the same verve as it does in Italian. 
Orchestre de Paris/Osmo Vänskä at Philharmonie de Paris – Helios & Rachmaninov 2 – Pekka Kuusisto plays Prokofiev
Thursday, October 05, 2017 |  Osmo Vänskä knows his music inside out, every detail focussed precisely, each phrase and turning nursed and coaxed. Score in front of him, he isn't in the business of ego or showmanship. ... Politely received, Nielsen's Helios Overture – Grecian sunrise and sunset a century ago, neither Lisztian nor Straussian in temperament – went through the motions... ... Rachmaninov's Second Symphony proved variable. ... Founded by Charles Munch, the Orchestre de Paris, 119-strong, is now in its fiftieth season. ... Which certainly could not be said of Pekka Kuusisto's compellingly brilliant account of Prokofiev's First Violin Concerto, premiered in Paris in October 1923... 
LSO/Semyon Bychkov – Mahler 5 – Janine Jansen plays Britten
Thursday, October 05, 2017 |  You can wait ages for a Britten Concerto – or, rather, a work for a solo instrumentalist and orchestra – to come your way, and then, in my case, along come two in quick succession. A recent performance of the Cello Symphony raised the possibility that his much earlier (by twenty-five years) Violin Concerto could perhaps reasonably be called a Violin Symphony. ... Janine Jansen, who, looked sensational in a black-and-gold gown, seemed to have factored this in to her endlessly subtle, ingratiating account... ... If the Britten had been subconsciously evasive, Bychkov and the LSO were anything but in Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Vedernikov – Webern’s Opus 6, Red and Green, Haydn’s Farewell – Pavel Kolesnikov & Samson Tsoy play Bruch's Concerto for Two Pianos
Wednesday, October 04, 2017 |  Alexander Vedernikov (previously at the Bolshoi, currently in Odense, and waiting in the wings at Royal Danish Opera) has been a regular guest with the BBC Symphony Orchestra since December 2007... ... Webern’s perfectly formed Six Pieces, Opus 6... ... The sole German here, Cologne-born Max Bruch’s Concerto for Two Pianos – nineteenth-century in expression – dates from later, 1915... ... Pavel Kolesnikov and Samson Tsoy made a strong case for it... ... I have heard several pieces by Thomas Larcher that have left me bewildered at their emptiness (an opinion not expressed in print). The twenty-minute Red and Green... ... Finally a ‘Farewell’, one of Haydn’s Symphonies. 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra opening concert of the 2017-18 season – Kirill Karabits conducts Bizet in C & Messiaen’s Turangalîla, with Steven Osborne & Cynthia Millar
Wednesday, October 04, 2017 |  What an explosive start to the Bournemouth Symphony’s Orchestra’s new season, a remarkable programme too, from the élan of Bizet to the exotically-charged extravagance of Messiaen, French composers worlds apart yet these respective works exhibit uninhibited joy. ... This outing for Messiaen’s Turangalîla marked Karabits’s debut with it and he and the BSO bestrode its challenges with complete assurance in the company of Steven Osborne and Cynthia Millar, both have a long association with the work. 
Purcell’s King Arthur – Academy of Ancient Music/Richard Egarr – with Louise Alder, Mhairi Lawson, Reginald Mobley, Charles Daniels, Ashley Riches & Ray Fearon; directed by Daisy Evans
Tuesday, October 03, 2017 |  Poor Purcell. ... King Arthur, or The British Worthy (1691) was Purcell’s collaboration with the poet laureate and greatest literary figure of the age, John Dryden... ... But that fails to reckon with Daisy Evans’s exercise of directorial prerogative in acting upon her claim that “once you take away the texts, these works are marvellously open-ended.” Leaving aside the banal truism of that statement, the implied arrogance is breathtaking in its presumption... ... The inclusion of Henry V’s patriotic speech was doubtless meant ironically, but it was inappropriate, and merely bellowed by Ray Fearon. 
Cuarteto Quiroga at Palau de la Música Catalana – Death and the Maiden & Black Angels
Monday, October 02, 2017 |  With protesters massing just a few hundred yards away on the Via Laietana, and Cuarteto Quiroga founder Cibrán Serra’s impassioned discourse on music and ethics not the evening’s only political address from the stage of the quintessentially Catalan concert hall, George Crumb was an appropriately polemic composer to provide the second half of this superb recital in Barcelona. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Esa-Pekka Salonen – Mahler 3
Sunday, October 01, 2017 |  Until this stupendous performance of Mahler’s Symphony No.3, I’d found Esa-Pekka Salonen a conductor who veered too easily towards the forensic – a highly investigative musician with a prodigious ear but not completely identifying with the eruptions of ego-fuelled late-romanticism’s epic ambition of scale and mighty philosophical implications... 

 

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