June 2018 Concert Reviews

July 2018 Concert Reviews
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Pinchas Zukerman – Summer Music Festival at Cadogan Hall (3) – Bear & Italian Symphonies and a Haydn Violin Concerto
Saturday, June 30, 2018 |  Haydn’s Symphony 82 is the first of six composed for Paris in 1786 where some years later the title ‘L’Ours’ was added. ... In performance, horns in C-alto, especially when supported by timpani, give a brilliant effect so it is difficult to understand why, having chosen to use trumpets, Pinchas Zukerman also included two horns and had them play the same parts an octave lower. ... In great contrast, Zukerman then gave a reading of Haydn’s First (and most popular) Violin Concerto which was notable for its period style. ... The repeat of the exposition in Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ Symphony is one of the most important in symphonic repertoire... 
LSO at Tate Modern – Et exspecto & Gruppen – Simon Rattle, Matthias Pintscher & Duncan Ward
Saturday, June 30, 2018 |  If one of Simon Rattle's intentions as Music Director of the LSO is to take it to non-standard concert venues, then this programme in Turbine Hall at Tate Modern was a notable statement of intent. ... Admittedly the event did not get off to the most auspicious of starts with Messiaen's Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum (1964-5), of which Rattle has been a champion throughout his career. ... Fortunately this venue proved more responsive to those very different spatial requirements of Stockhausen's Gruppen (completed in 1957), which has retained much of its capacity to provoke more than six decades on. 
Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2018 – Debussy Pelléas et Mélisande – John Chest, Christina Gansch, Christopher Purves; directed by Stefan Herheim; conducted by Robin Ticciati
Saturday, June 30, 2018 |  Audiences have ever got lost in and tormented by the tissues of deceit, violence, tenderness and obliqueness that float into every crevice of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, the opera about two brothers in love with the girl lost in a forest, the two title-roles tragic victims of what they have unwittingly initiated. These aspects are usually enough for any staging but are put on the back-burner in Glyndebourne’s new production from Stefan Herheim... ... With the lovers rendered virtually anonymous, Christina Gansch’s beautifully sung, idiomatic Mélisande would be the highlight of a less-contrived staging, but here exasperation leads to impatience. John Chest has similar identity problems as Pelléas... ... Under Robin Ticciati’s unflagging attention to the singers, to colour and detail, and to the articulation of the music’s momentum, the London Philharmonic played with a glow and richness that at times gets close to Wagner. 
Pupils of The Yehudi Menuhin School at Wigmore Hall
Friday, June 29, 2018 |  Pride, panache and professionalism is what the Yehudi Menuhin School is all about. In the words of its inspiringly supportive director of music, Òscar Colomina i Bosch, the annual end-of-the-year seniors/leavers concerts are invariably events “of great musical intensity, when the School showcases the work and musical talent of its students in one of the most prestigious concert venues in the world.” Yielding a jewel or two is nothing surprising. 
The Royal Opera – Kasper Holten’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni – Mariusz Kwiecień, Ildebrando D’Arcangelo, Rachel Willis-Sørensen, Anatoli Sivko; conducted by Marc Minkowski
Friday, June 29, 2018 |  With a mostly new cast and conductor – Marc Minkowski bringing energy and grandeur to the pit – Kasper Holten’s 2014 Don Giovanni is in its second revival at the Royal Opera House. It’s a glitzy visual experience with eye-catching projections, and within the cast there are some strong performances and vivid characterisations. ... Making a deeper impression are the singers, and chief amongst them is Mariusz Kwiecień. He makes a dashing philanderer... 
Summer Music in City Churches – St Giles Cripplegate
Friday, June 29, 2018 |  A new festival has been launched, Summer Music in City Churches, here commemorating the centenary of the First World War, with an emphasis on British composers affected by the Great War. ... George Butterworth’s settings from Housman’s A Shropshire Lad followed in a sensitive arrangement for strings by Roderick Williams. ... George Butterworth’s The Banks of Green Willow (1913) provided folksong in sophisticated musical clothes and Elgar’s Chanson de matin anchored us securely in his Edwardian soundworld, and then Ruth Rogers transported us to the skies with her delicate impersonation of The Lark Ascending. 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Pinchas Zukerman – Summer Music Festival at Cadogan Hall (2) – Mozart – with Fumiaki Miura playing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto
Thursday, June 28, 2018 |  This, the second concert of the Pinchas Zukerman-led Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Summer Music Festival, found him launching boldly into Mozart’s ‘Haffner’ Symphony in a style that made it larger in scale than usual. ... Classical stylishness was also in evidence in Fumiaki Miura’s interpretation of Mendelssohn’s E-minor Violin Concerto. 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder
Thursday, June 28, 2018 |  The Philharmonia Orchestra’s programming of Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder (1900-1910), just a few days after Midsummer, neatly mimicked the paradoxes and ironies of the work itself. The dawning of a new day and of Summer comes only at the end of the work (having started at dusk) through the death of Tove and the mystical union of Waldemar with her, heralding the renewal of nature; and Schoenberg’s vast score, ending with its ravishing blaze of C-major, represents one of the last affirmations – or gasps – of musical Romanticism (Schoenberg returned to Gurrelieder after he had embarked on his development of atonalism). ... For all the headiness of the work’s gothic scenario, and the tensions at play within its music and wider cultural context, Esa-Pekka Salonen’s interpretation was generally equable and lustrous right from the bouncy, sprung rhythms of the Philharmonia’s playing of the optimistic opening... ... The massed choirs of London’s four conservatoires presented a spectacle in the Royal Festival Hall... 
CBSO/Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla – Funeral Song & Rite of Spring – Nicola Benedetti plays Shostakovich
Wednesday, June 27, 2018 |  The CBSO’s final programme of its 17-18 season centred on Russian music, opening with Stravinsky’s Funeral Song (1908). This memorial to Rimsky-Korsakov has been widely heard since its discovery at the St Petersburg Conservatoire after being presumed lost for over a century. ... Harmonic elements derived from Scriabin open-out the expressive range of a piece that Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla gave with telling understatement... ... There is nothing stylistically tentative about Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto... ... Nicola Benedetti has performed it often... 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Pinchas Zukerman – Summer Music Festival at Cadogan Hall (1) – Mendelssohn & Mozart, with Viviane Hagner
Tuesday, June 26, 2018 |  Music composed in their teenage and early-adult years by child prodigies provided the programme of this first orchestral concert (there are also three chamber-music programmes) of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s Summer Music Festival at Cadogan Hall headed by Pinchas Zukerman. ... In Mozart’s K364, from their subdued joint entry Zukerman and Viviane Hagner displayed great connection throughout... 
English National Opera at Regent’s Park Theatre – Britten’s The Turn of the Screw – Rhian Lois, Rachael Lloyd, William Morgan; directed by Timothy Sheader; conducted by Toby Purser
Tuesday, June 26, 2018 |  The production starts splendidly, even informally, with Elgan Llŷr Thomas standing within the audience as he gives us The Prologue to events about to be unfolded – lively and unaffected singing, quite different from the arch tone of Peter Pears and others. Tapping on the closed book in his hands, Thomas draws us into Henry James’s story, albeit “in faded ink”. 
Grange Park Opera – Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette – David Junghoon Kim, Olena Tokar; directed by Patrick Mason; conducted by Stephen Barlow
Tuesday, June 26, 2018 |  Given that the productions I’ve seen of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette have solidly serviced the opera’s nineteenth-century, insatiable grand-opera demands, Grange Park has proved that, despite the music’s cleverly crafted, guileless melodiousness and limpid sentimentality, along with the libretto’s rigorous filleting of Shakespeare’s original, Gounod’s take on the tragedy still comes up with its character and flavour intact – at least, this is the case in Patrick Mason’s new staging. 
OAE@QEH – Dangerous Liaisons
Tuesday, June 26, 2018 |  Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment presented a fascinating recreation of Baroque music and dance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. There was a glimpse of the glamour at the Court of Versailles and the Sun King’s obsession with elegant ballet, performed here with historical and refined accuracy, the three dancers dressed in pastel silks, with forty short pieces of music gathered thematically into scenes describing the course of a love affair. 
Nederland Dans Theater 1 at Sadler's Wells – Shoot the Moon | Woke up Blind | The Statement
Tuesday, June 26, 2018 |  Nederlands Dans Theater is, more than anything else, an ensemble of superlative dancers – each one appearing in their mixed bill at Sadler’s Wells possesses clear individual talents and a welcome personal quality to their artistry. This is important as NDT is very much not a classical company, working on a more intimate scale than that required for the repertoire of full-length works but rather appearing in small groupings in works that are decidedly contemporary. The overarching aesthetic is determined by the William and Mary of the contemporary dance world, Paul Lightfoot and Sol León, who, together, are joint choreographers of a growing corpus of pieces and, separately, artistic director and advisor respectively,. Their creations dominate the performing schedule, although both Crystal Pite and Marco Goecke are company associates. 
Berliner Philharmoniker – Simon Rattle and Magdalena Kožená at the Waldbühne [live webcast]
Sunday, June 24, 2018 |  So, like Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) in Casablanca, “I was misinformed”, the Mahler 6 a few nights ago wasn’t quite Simon Rattle’s farewell as chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker... ... Then the gentle curves of Fauré’s Pavane were followed by a selection of Joseph Canteloube’s Songs of the Auvergne, including of course ‘Baïlèro’, all finding Magdalena Kožená giving renditions of spirit, relish and sensitivity... 
LSO – Gianandrea Noseda conducts Shostakovich – Symphony 10 & Nicola Benedetti in Violin Concerto 1
Sunday, June 24, 2018 |  There is nothing like a sold-out Shostakovich concert, and a queue for returns comprising both the young and the old, to restore one’s faith that we are au fond a healthy society. First up was the First Violin Concerto which, following the mad but dangerous denouncements in 1948 of formalism, Shostakovich kept under wraps for seven years until he could see the lay of the land after Stalin’s death. That history will always lurk over this music, but it is to Nicola Benedetti’s credit that it sounded fresh, contemporary and forward-looking. ... In the Tenth Symphony Noseda had a tendency to hold back and admire the landscape. 
Grange Festival 2018 – Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio – Kiandra Howarth, Daisy Brown, Ed Lyon, Paul Kurievici, Jonathan Lemalu, Alexander Aldreou; directed by John Copley; conducted by Jean-Luc Tingaud
Sunday, June 24, 2018 |  A Turkish potentate tries to have his wicked way with a morally resolute European noblewoman, imprisoned in his harem, his passion rapaciously mirrored in his servant’s lecherously unabashed designs on her servant, the ticklish situation solved by the noblewoman’s dashing and enlightened suitor and his crafty servant. What, directorially, could possibly go wrong? 
Chelsea Opera Group at Cadogan Hall – Massenet’s Thaïs – Paula Sides, Michel de Souza; conducted by Stephen Higgins
Saturday, June 23, 2018 |  Chelsea Opera Group has brought many of Massenet’s less-familiar works to the concert stage, and this Thaïs was on good and sometimes great form. ... Paula Sides stepped in, new to the score, and delivered an interpretation so full of drama as well as surmounting all the technical challenges. 
Longborough Festival Opera – Verdi’s La traviata – Claire Egan, Peter Gijsbertsen, Mark Stone; directed by Daisy Evans; conducted by Thomas Blunt
Saturday, June 23, 2018 |  Longborough’s emotionally-charged La traviata relocates and updates pleasure-seeking Paris of the 1850s to the “here today, gone tomorrow” atmosphere of Hollywood’s film industry a century later. Sex is still for sale, but it’s now packaged in celluloid form. It’s a thought-provoking transformation as director Daisy Evans re-imagines Verdi’s Violetta not as a high-class courtesan and ailing consumptive but a film goddess whose decision to relinquish both her illusory life and lover Alfredo prompts depression (no tuberculosis here) and an early death. Evans's new production draws parallels between the fictional Violetta and the real-life Marilyn Monroe. ... Leading the strong cast is the exceptional talent of Claire Egan who pours her heart into Violetta, singing with complete assurance...  
Semperoper Ballett of Dresden at Sadler's Wells – All Forsythe – In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated | Neue Suite | Enemy in the Figure
Friday, June 22, 2018 |  William Forsythe stands as one of the most accomplished and, indeed, talented choreographers alive in the world today. At a time when dance makers of the most modest of talents can be in global demand, jetting from continent to continent, creating their empty little works and being lauded as giants of the art form, he continues to be the real deal, a genuine creative force who, far from being an iconoclast, uses his deep understanding of classical dance to further it. In this, he is as far as possible from the kindergarten choreographers who smash and hurl around the idiom like toddlers in a porcelain shop. 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Simon Rattle – Mahler 6 [live webcast]
Wednesday, June 20, 2018 |  In 1987 Simon Rattle, then a few years into his Birmingham days, made his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan still at the helm. The work was Mahler 6 (already a significant part of Rattle’s repertoire), and it was this single piece that now brought to a close his tenure (since 2002) as principal conductor of the Berliners. 
Opera North at the London Coliseum – Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate
Wednesday, June 20, 2018 |  In 1948 Broadway audiences must have wondered what had hit them when faced with Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate with its two stories in one show. They had been used to some of Porter’s innocuous musical comedies in which generally silly plots were wrapped around Cole’s fantastic music and lyrics. The master of both disciplines, Porter was once asked who wrote ‘Some Enchanted Evening’. His answer: “Rodgers and Hammerstein, if you can imagine it taking two men to write one song.” ... When librettist Bella Spewack offered Porter the idea of a musical based on The Taming of the Shrew, Cole really needed a hit show to put him back on top after a number of flops. Rather than convert the Shakespeare script into a straight musical, the idea was to have a theatrical company mount it against a backstage story of the two leading performers, once married, now divorced, but still fighting one another, just as Petruchio and Katherine battle it out in the play. 
Peter Donohoe at Wigmore Hall – Sixty-fifth-birthday recital
Monday, June 18, 2018 |  On the day itself Peter Donohoe marked his sixty-fifth birthday with a generous recital at Wigmore Hall, juxtaposing Scriabin and Ravel, then Mozart with Schubert. 
Garsington Opera at Wormsley – Verdi’s Falstaff – Henry Waddington; directed by Bruno Ravella; Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Richard Farnes
Monday, June 18, 2018 |  Verdi was nearly eighty when he completed his third Shakespearean opera – following Macbeth and Otello. For this new Garsington production of Falstaff Bruno Ravella sets this great comedy with late-Victorian costumes vividly imagined by Giles Cadle. ... To this challenge Henry Waddington’s characterisation is only partially achieved... ... Richard Farnes conducts a stirring account and the Philharmonia Orchestra responds to the brilliance of Verdi’s scoring with relish... 
The Wind in the Willows, narrated by Simon Callow
Sunday, June 17, 2018 |  The much-loved children’s classic Wind in the Willows still weaves its magic of life on the riverbank. Richard Birchall’s delightful entertainment is appropriately nostalgic in style... ... ...Simon Callow perfectly judged all that he did. 
John Eliot Gardiner conducts Bach Cantatas at Barbican Centre – III
Sunday, June 17, 2018 |  The final Cantata concert of John Eliot Gardiner’s Bach Weekend opened in colourful and dramatic style with BWV19, a celestial battle between St Michael and various monsters. The Monteverdi Choir wove an energetic fugue as martial brass depicted the struggle. ... Gardiner dedicated the performance to John Julius Norwich... 
Way Out East: Frank Denyer – A Portrait – Octandre Ensemble
Sunday, June 17, 2018 |  Housed in the quondam cinema, the Coronet in Notting Hill, I knew The Print Room as the adopted home of its eponymous vibrant experimental theatre company, but it was new to me as a concert venue. Perhaps appropriately, then, both ensemble and composer at this concert were also new to me – and indeed all three are new to Classical Source reviews – so it’s a pleasure to extend a warm and appreciative welcome to them all. ... Introduced by Octandre’s co-artistic director, Christian Mason, who interviewed Frank Denyer (born 1943) at the start of the concert... 
John Eliot Gardiner conducts Bach Cantatas at Barbican Centre – II
Saturday, June 16, 2018 |  As part of the Barbican Centre’s “Bach Weekend with Sir John Eliot Gardiner” (seven recitals including the Goldberg Variations, Jean Rondeau, and the Cello Suites, Jean-Guihen Queyras), this was the second of three Cantata concerts. ... This programme traversed two Cantatas for the Third Sunday after Easter, one for Pentecost and one for the First Sunday after Trinity – Ascension notably absent. ... Always ready to recycle his music when the occasion demanded, Bach did so for BWV34, written for Pentecost Sunday in 1727. In addition to its blazing choruses (tongues of fire graphically conveyed in the opening number), Bach writes a rewarding alto aria... 
Birmingham Royal Ballet at Sadler's Wells – Polarity and Proximity – Kin; Embrace; In the Upper Room
Saturday, June 16, 2018 |  Quite what ‘Polarity and Proximity’ actually means as the title of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s triple bill at London’s Sadler’s Wells is anybody’s guess, but whatever its meaning, it cannot disguise an inconsequential evening of dance. Certainly, the days of the well-crafted mixed bill appear to be firmly in the past at BRB as at Covent Garden, with seemingly random choices of works placed together. So it proves again here with a bizarre juxtaposition of three ballets which does nothing to highlight similarities or differences, either choreographically or musically… 
The Royal Opera at Hackney Empire – Na’ama Zisser’s Mamzer Bastard; directed by Jay Scheib; conducted by Jessica Cottis
Friday, June 15, 2018 |  Despite its blunt and near-tautological title, Na’ama Zisser’s new opera – the fruit of her “young composer residency” at The Royal Opera – is diffuse and elusive. In some ways it is meant to be, as the central character, Yoel, has fled his Jewish Hasidic home in New York during a blackout on a summer night in 1977, prior to his arranged marriage, which prompts his urge towards some drastic soul-searching. 
Robert Smith's Meltdown at Royal Festival Hall – The Church and The Psychedelic Furs
Friday, June 15, 2018 |  Thirty-eight years on and The Church continues its active service as the most self-renewing band from that faraway time of the first psychedelic revival. This Royal Festival Hall gig may have been intended as little more than warm-up for two successive evenings at Bush Hall, but this still provided the opportunity to hear its current take on songs old and new, familiar and deep-catalogue obscure. ... A pity that not a few punters had remained bar-bound during this set before taking their seats for that by The Psychedelic Furs. 
Garsington Opera at Wormsley – Mozart’s The Magic Flute – Benjamin Hulett, Louise Alder, Jonathan McGovern, Sen Guo; directed by Netia Jones; conducted by Christian Curnyn
Thursday, June 14, 2018 |  Greeting you as you walk into the auditorium at Garsington’s Magic Flute is a continuation of the landscape garden’s topiary, its symmetrical boxed hedges fronting an imposing white facade. ... Dominating both Acts is the paraphernalia of freemasonry (square and compass providing a visual reminder of Mozart’s own association with this society) with Act Two set in a David Lynch-style Lodge with lookalike brothers attired in moustaches and 1970s’ glasses. To the blatant symbolism Jones adds distracting references to Peter Greenaway’s The Draughtsman’s Contract and the television adaptation of Margaret Attwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. 
Jakub Józef Orliński & Michał Biel at Wigmore Hall
Wednesday, June 13, 2018 |  The Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński’s star has been on the rise for three years or so, with many an award, an exclusive recording contract with Erato (his debut album is due soon) and opera roles both sides of the Atlantic. His most recent big thing was the title role in Handel’s Rinaldo for Frankfurt Oper, which apparently astounded as much for his singing as for his athleticism. ... This sold-out Wigmore Hall recital marked the centenary of Poland regaining independence, and there was a speech from the Polish ambassador. To judge from his engaging stage manner, Orliński is a natural opera animal, with the Baroque as his bread-and-butter repertoire. He was much more at ease with the direct emotionalism of the Handel and Purcell arias... 
CBSO/Ilan Volkov – Simon Holt & Brahms/Schoenberg – Alisa Weilerstein plays Shostakovich
Wednesday, June 13, 2018 |  This concert found Ilan Volkov at the helm of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra for a typically arresting programme... ... Sixty this year, Simon Holt has long had a fascination with Spanish culture as is borne out in Surcos (2016) – a brief yet eventful piece, modestly and resourcefully scored, that takes as its basis the poem November 1913 by Antonio Machado... ... Strange that the programme’s introductory paragraph should describe as “punchy” Shostakovich’s Second Cello Concerto... ... ...Alisa Weilerstein brought out its wealth of expressive shades from the outset... ... That Schoenberg’s 1937 orchestration of Brahms’s First Piano Quartet (1861) has become a part of the repertoire owes not least to Simon Rattle’s advocacy in the early years of his CBSO tenure. 
Aldeburgh Festival 2018 – To See the Invisible
Monday, June 11, 2018 |  Dystopian visions of autocratic/fascist societies squeezing the life out of errant but sympathetic individuals are hard-wired into all the art forms, to the extent you wonder if there is anything new to be said in this miserabilist genre. Emily Howard’s To See the Invisible, which has just had its world premiere, keeps company with Aldeburgh’s most celebrated outsider, Peter Grimes, albeit on a much smaller scale. 
ENO Studio Live at Lilian Baylis House – Handel’s Acis and Galatea – Alexander Sprague, Lucy Hall; directed by Sarah Tipple; conducted by Nicholas Ansdell-Evans
Monday, June 11, 2018 |  Welcome to Arcadia! Or Mountain Media’s midsummer party, in Sarah Tipple’s modern re-imagining of Ovid’s pastoral landscape as filtered through eighteenth-century sensibilities and Handel’s first dramatic setting in English, long before his development of the English Oratorio. Indeed, ENO’s debut production of Acis and Galatea celebrates the 300th-anniversary of its première and is presented at Lilian Baylis House. 
Aldeburgh Festival 2018 – Simon Holt’s Llanto (para las chumberas) and Bach’s Goldberg Variations
Monday, June 11, 2018 |  Dmitri Sitkovetsky’s 1984 string-trio version of the Goldberg Variations is one of the great Bach transcriptions, and this superb, late-night performance, in Aldeburgh’s packed Parish Church, confirmed its place... ... It was neatly set up by the first performance of Simon Holt’s Llanto (para las chumberas), Lament (for the prickly pears). 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Jader Bignamini conducts Puccini’s Turandot – Othalie Graham, Jonathan Burton, Morris Robinson, Guanqun Yu [live webcast]
Sunday, June 10, 2018 |  The DSO ended its 17-18 season in grand-opera style, Puccini's Turandot originally scheduled for Leonard Slatkin, here replaced by Jader Bignamini, recently in London (my neck of the woods) to conduct an evening with Anna Netrebko in the Royal Albert Hall. ... Jonathan Burton was an heroic Calaf, his warm expressive tenor making a considerable impression – ‘Nessun dorma’ well done... ... ...although it is the compassionate Liù of Guanqun Yu – such sensitivity – that leaves the biggest impression... ... Although I didn’t hang on the presenters’ every word [...] I heard no mention of Luciano Berio’s relatively recent completion of Act Three. Puccini left Turandot unfinished at his death... 
Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2018 – Handel’s Giulio Cesare – Sarah Connolly, Joélle Harvey, Patricia Bardon, Christophe Dumaux; directed by David McVicar; conducted by William Christie
Sunday, June 10, 2018 |  It is testament to the ever-widening reception of Handel’s stage-works that even a major opera festival such as Glyndebourne can programme two revivals of the composer’s dramas in one season. David McVicar’s production of Giulio Cesare was seen previously in 2005, 2006 and 2009, in between which have also come Rinaldo and Saul, the latter also being revived this year. ... Sarah Connolly seemed to be under the weather as her performance on this opening night was oddly under-powered and reticent... ... Joélle Harvey is a fresh and clean-voiced Cleopatra... ... In the pit, William Christie directs the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in a lithe and well-driven interpretation of Handel’s eclectic score... 
Grange Festival 2018 – Rossini’s The Barber of Seville – Charles Rice, John Irvin, Josè Maria Lo Monaco, Riccardo Novaro; directed by Stephen Barlow; conducted by David Parry
Saturday, June 09, 2018 |  Circumstantially this Barber of Seville promises something of interest. A huge curly moustache adorns one of the facades of the Grange, perhaps hinting at a satire on the present fashion for facial hair amongst young (and not so young) men. And before the curtain rises, the surtitles screen announces “The Barber of Seville in England 1818 to 2018”, alluding to the fact that it was first performed in this country exactly two hundred years ago (two years after the first presentation in Italy) which might have betokened an imaginative exploration of changing perceptions of this now-perennial opera. ... ...a clumsy sixth-form attempt to ape Monty Python-style surrealism. 
Grange Park Opera – Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera – Vincenzo Costanzo, Roland Wood, Claire Rutter; directed by Stephen Medcalf; conducted by Gianluca Marcianò
Saturday, June 09, 2018 |  Grange Park’s Theatre in the Woods, now in its second season, is scrubbing up well with a new brick facade and new facilities. Once the interior is finished, this tiered opera house, neatly triangulated between Covent Garden and Glyndebourne, will be one of the prettiest. This year’s first opera (the company opened with Oklahoma!) is Verdi’s A Masked Ball, in its alternative version with the lead role of King Gustave III of Sweden replaced by Riccardo, governor of Boston in the United States, made for censorship reasons at the time of its premiere in 1859. ... Stephen Medcalf has recycled the imposing fixed set that he and Jamie Vartan created for Grange Park’s staging of Wagner’s Die Walküre last year. ... Teresa Gevorgyan is in fine coloratura voice as Oscar, billed as Riccardo’s page, but presented as a gender-bending, gun-totin’ riff on Wild Bill Hickok... 
Grange Festival 2018 – Handel’s Agrippina – Anna Bonitatibus, Raffele Pe, Christopher Ainslie, Ashley Riches, Stefanie True; directed by Walter Sutcliffe; conducted by Robert Howarth
Friday, June 08, 2018 |  Walter Sutcliffe’s new production of Agrippina represents a mischievous – if also somewhat self-deprecating – triumph for the Grange Festival in that it turns Handel’s opera about the unedifying political and sexual schemes to catapult Nerone (Nero) to the Roman throne into an allegory for nothing more or less than this Festival’s control over the premises at The Grange in Northington, following the acrimonious departure of Grange Park Opera a couple of years ago. 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Christoph von Dohnányi conducts Haydn 12 & Beethoven 5, Arabella Steinbacher plays Mozart K219 – Music of Today Composers’ Academy
Thursday, June 07, 2018 |  It was good to welcome Christoph von Dohnányi back to London, he has been absent here and elsewhere for a while recovering from injury. Surprising to note (unless I have missed something) that the Philharmonia Orchestra’s Honorary Conductor for Life has no London engagements next season... ... Meanwhile Haydn’s low-number Symphony 12 (low given he reached three figures in this genre, and how) was the perhaps-unlikely starter to this current concert. Dohnányi judged the three movements to a nicety... ... There followed K219 with Arabella Steinbacher, elegantly and crisply introduced by the Philharmonia... ... Beethoven 5, the familiar refreshed and persuasive at every turn... ... The evening started with the final Music of Today recital of the season... 
The Royal Opera – Wagner’s Lohengrin – Klaus Florian Vogt, Christine Goerke, Jennifer Davis, Georg Zeppenfeld, Thomas J. Meyer; directed by David Alden; conducted by Andris Nelsons
Thursday, June 07, 2018 |  Wagner’s Lohengrin is often considered a prime example of echt-romantic German operas, given its historical Middle-Ages setting and its succession of scenes and that comprise the drama. ... For much of the first Act of this new staging (admittedly the first half is one long exposition of the back-plot) David Alden seems to be content to do just that within Paul Steinberg’s monumental sets... ... Luckily the musical offering is outstanding. Under Andris Nelsons we have an interpretation contrasting luminous and warm string playing against darkly threatening and sombre woodwinds and thrillingly intense militaristic brass... ... As Lohengrin, Klaus Florian Vogt demonstrates why he is in much demand... 
Würth Philharmonic Orchestra at Cadogan Hall – Rumon Gamba conducts Tallis Fantasia & Enigma Variations, John Lill plays Rachmaninov
Wednesday, June 06, 2018 |  There’s no point grabbing a map to find Würth, for Reinhold Würth – a very successful German businessman and a dedicated collector of art – has philanthropically put some of his riches into an orchestra... ... ...this London appearance was the only one with Rumon Gamba as part of the orchestra’s UK tour. ... Opening with the Tallis Fantasia immediately showed the mettle of the strings, as many as the Cadogan Hall stage can accommodate. ... As centrepiece, John Lill revived (medically and spiritually) Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto. 
Longborough Festival Opera – Wagner’s Flying Dutchman – Simon Thorpe, Kirstin Sharpin, Jonathan Stoughton, Richard Wiegold; directed by Thomas Guthrie; conducted by Anthony Negus
Wednesday, June 06, 2018 |  Since this opera festival started twenty years ago, Wagner has loomed large, with two Ring cycles (and a third starting next year), Tannhäuser, and Tristan and Isolde, all marvellously and movingly tailored to Longborough’s scale and style, powerfully conveyed by Anthony Negus’s conducting, and delivering major performances. ... Longborough’s new staging, by Thomas Guthrie, of the earliest of the accepted canon of music-dramas, The Flying Dutchman – here played as three Acts to accommodate the dinner interval – is a disappointment. 
Classical Opera at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Ian Page conducts Mozart’s La finta semplice
Wednesday, June 06, 2018 |  Classical Opera’s Mozart 250 retrospective brings us to the twelve-year-old composer’s first full-length stage-work, La finta semplice (1768) marking an early milestone in a remarkable creative life. ... With his orchestra, The Mozartists, Ian Page leads off with a brisk, no-nonsense account of the three-movement Overture. ... In a score of melodic abundance, the singers clearly relish the opportunities given for ornate display, none more so than Regula Mühlemann as Rosina, the pretend or disingenuous simpleton of the opera’s title (really a Hungarian baroness) who plays off the brothers Don Cassandro and Polidoro against each other as she entertains their not entirely welcome affections... 
English National Ballet – Kenneth MacMillan's The Sleeping Beauty
Wednesday, June 06, 2018 |  Kenneth MacMillan, the innovator, the experimenter, the iconoclast was also an intensely Classical ballet choreographer who held few, if any, ballets in higher esteem than Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty. So much is clear from his own production of this great work which remains in the repertoire of English National Ballet and is now revived for a two-week airing at London’s Coliseum. It is a handsome affair on all counts – the old master’s choreography treated with due respect and the sets and costumes, by Peter Farmer and Nicholas Georgiadis no less, a sumptuous mise en scène for this pinnacle of Classical dance. Here and there MacMillan tweaked small details, but in essence, this is a production true to the heritage of the work as staged by the old Imperial ballet régisseur Nicholas Sergeyev for Ninette de Valois. 
Paul Lewis at Royal Festival Hall – Beethoven, Haydn, Brahms
Tuesday, June 05, 2018 |  Unable to get to the Royal Festival Hall as planned, I took advantage of Radio 3’s broadcast of Paul Lewis’s second programme of four exploring Beethoven, Brahms and Haydn... ... It’s good that Lewis, like his mentor Alfred Brendel, is championing (and recording) Haydn Sonatas. ... Opus 119 is Brahms’s ultimate set of Pieces for piano alone, three Intermezzos and a Rhapsody. 
Yuja Wang at Barbican Hall – Rachmaninov, Scriabin, Ligeti, Prokofiev
Tuesday, June 05, 2018 |  Tigers and dragons immediately sprang to mind listening to Yuja Wang’s inflammatory recital. Much of this covered what might be described as classic Horowitz territory. 
Würth Philharmonic Orchestra with Stamatia Karampini & Maxim Vengerov at The Anvil Basingstoke
Tuesday, June 05, 2018 |  Bankrolled by tools-manufacturer Reinhold Würth, the Philharmonic Orchestra that bears his name (its home located near Stuttgart) was formed last year. This Anvil appearance was the third leg... ... Stamatia Karampini conducted the first half. It got off to a rousing start with the Overture to Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, its exuberance well-served. Max Bruch’s G-minor Violin Concerto (the first of his three) was given an expansive outing, somewhere between leisurely and grandiose and grew in stature. Maxim Vengerov beguiled from the outset... ... Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony found Vengerov on the podium. 
The MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall – Michael Tilson Thomas conducts Ruggles, Mozart & Mahler, with Pretty Yende
Tuesday, June 05, 2018 |  Michael Tilson Thomas’s debut concert with the MET Orchestra included two composers for whom he has a special affinity: Ruggles and Mahler. ... Following a witty introduction to Carl Ruggles’s music and his methods of composition, MTT launched a glowing performance of the aptly-titled Evocations. ... The demanding vocal part of Mozart’s teenage Exsultate, jubilate was taken by Pretty Yende... 
Joyce & Tony at Royal Opera House
Monday, June 04, 2018 |  Recitals with opera singers and a piano used to be a regular feature of Royal Opera House... ... Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano, vivid communicators both, have a great and intuitive rapport... ... After the interval we were in more impressionistic territory with Shéhérazade. All the exoticism of Ravel’s writing (more frequently heard in its orchestral form) was there in Pappano’s superb playing... 
Paul Hindemith and Lennox Berkeley opera double-bill at Guildhall School – The Long Christmas Dinner, A Dinner Engagement
Monday, June 04, 2018 |  With a few exceptions, one-Act operas lead a threadbare existence on the outer edges of the repertoire, receiving the occasional blast of oxygen from the music colleges. This is the case with the Guildhall School’s double-bill of Paul Hindemith and Lennox Berkeley... ... Hindemith wrote The Long Christmas Dinner in 1962 (the year before he died), based on Thornton Wilder’s play of the same title... ... Substance isn’t an issue in Berkeley’s hour-long A Dinner Engagement... ... The opera handsomely showcases singing and acting much more overtly than the Hindemith, with Lucy Anderson brilliantly channeling Mary Berry as the Countess and Samuel Carl’s Earl faintly evoking the hapless Johnnie Craddock, both of them sharp comedians. Emily Kyte shamelessly ramps up class divisions as Mrs Kneebone, a neatly judged riff on Mrs Overall and very well sung, as the Dunmow’s lady-who-does. 
London Mozart Players & Simon Callaghan at Conway Hall
Sunday, June 03, 2018 |  This skilled ensemble from the London Mozart Players successfully revealed the inner workings of well-known musical masterpieces through interesting arrangements. The players opened with a spick and span Eine kleine Nachtmusik. ... The arrangement by Vinzenz Lachner (1811-1893) of Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto was published in 1881... ... Simon Callaghan’s interpretation was superb... ... Haydn had barely completed his final visit to London before a publication entitled “XII Grand Symphonies, by Haydn, arranged as Quintets, by J. P. Salomon” became available. 
LSO – Gianandrea Noseda conducts Rapsodie espagnole & Pictures, Yefim Bronfman plays Beethoven
Sunday, June 03, 2018 |  Prior to Bangkok and China, Rapsodie espagnole, Ravel’s evocation of all things Spanish– he was born in the Pyrenees to a Madrileño mother. It was played beautifully by the LSO, Ravel’s sumptuous colours superbly realised, if a little too harried by the ever-excitable Gianandrea Noseda. ... Noseda’s muscular approach to the opening of the minor-key Beethoven did not sit well, but then the control of Yefim Bronfman’s first utterance proved the ideal foil to such flamboyance... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Paavo Järvi – Sorcerer’s Apprentice & Symphonie fantastique – Denis Kozhukhin plays Rachmaninov
Sunday, June 03, 2018 |  Were it not for The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (and Walt Disney’s Fantasia with Mickey Mouse), the very self-critical Paul Dukas would probably be only known to those familiar with La Péri, Ariane et Barbe-bleue or the Symphony in C. Paavo Järvi conjured an assured and atmospheric Sorcerer... ... Much the same could be said for a gripping performance of Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto – an Everest. Yet its fearsome demands are tempered by a dreaming delicacy; two facets superbly articulated by Denis Kozhukhin... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Robert Spano conducts Luster & Rite of Spring – Seong-Jin Cho plays Chopin [live webcast]
Friday, June 01, 2018 |  The Rite of Spring, and Robert Spano’s conducting of it, elevated this DSO morning concert. Spano (replacing Leonard Slatkin) opened with the second performance (of three) of Jared Miller’s Luster... ... For the Chopin, Spano (long-serving maestro in Atlanta) ensured a purposeful well-integrated introductory tutti, if a little routine, setting up Seong-Jin Cho to play all the notes... 
Bavarian State Orchestra at Barbican Hall – Kirill Petrenko conducts Mahler 7
Friday, June 01, 2018 |  The last time I was present to hear Mahler’s Seventh Symphony in the erratic acoustic of the Barbican Hall the conductor was Gianandrea Noseda and his orchestra the LSO, an ensemble with a higher international profile than that taking the stage here, at least when functioning away from the Bavarian State Opera. ... That Kirill Petrenko has risen to the top of his profession without the usual publicity drives and record deals has added to his mystique... 
Garsington Opera at Wormsley – Richard Strauss’s Capriccio – Miah Persson, Sam Furness, Gavan Ring, Andrew Shore, William Dazeley, Hanna Hipp; directed by Tim Albery; conducted by Douglas Boyd
Friday, June 01, 2018 |  Richard Strauss’s Capriccio is the ultimate natural fit for summer opera in the country. This “conversation piece”, Strauss's final stage-work, is set in a chateau near, if not too near, Paris, and its impact depends greatly on an Agatha Christie-like isolation from the real world. The three Gs – Glyndebourne, Grange Park and Garsington – have mounted it, and now Garsington is back for seconds in collaboration with Santa Fe Opera. 


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