January 2017 Concert Reviews

February 2017 Concert Reviews
Gould Piano Trio at Wigmore Hall – Schubert
Tuesday, January 31, 2017 |  Appropriately on Schubert’s 220th-birthday the Gould Piano Trio at Wigmore Hall marked its 25th-anniversary with this programme of all of the composer’s mature music for that combination, some of his finest chamber music. 
Mitsuko Uchida at Royal Festival Hall – Mozart K545 & Schumann’s Kreisleriana and C-major Fantasy
Tuesday, January 31, 2017 |  “So that’s how it’s supposed to go…”, said the woman behind me dejectedly at the end of Mitsuko Uchida’s performance of Mozart’s familiar K545 Sonata... ... At the other end of the expressive spectrum were the tumultuous contrasts and hallucinatory impetuosity of Schumann’s Kreisleriana, an explosion of originality extreme by even his standards. 
Bruckner Orchestra Linz/Dennis Russell Davies – Phillip Glass’s 80th-Birthday Concert at Carnegie Hall
Tuesday, January 31, 2017 |  On the birthday itself, the evening opened with Days and Nights in Rocinha (1997), dedicated to Dennis Russell Davies, a long-time champion of Philip Glass’s music. Like Ravel’s Boléro, it focuses on a single motif that expands and develops. ... After this rousing introduction, Angelique Kidjo joined the ensemble for Ifé: Three Yorùbá Songs, a setting of three poems from her native Benin. ... As for Symphony No.11, the opening movement includes many hallmarks of Glass’s minimalist style... 
Igor Levit at Wigmore Hall – Beethoven Piano Sonata Cycle (5), including Sonatas from Opuses 2, 10 & 31
Monday, January 30, 2017 |  Without any familiar ‘titled’ Sonatas to anchor the fifth recital in his Beethoven series at Wigmore Hall, Igor Levit turned to three early and one late-early (more transitional) works, all four a young man’s music giving us a clear idea of the scale of his invention and ambition, and played by Levit as such. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin – Mozart Festival (4) – Così fan tutte Overture, Concertos for Bassoon and for Horn, and Symphony 40 [live webcast]
Sunday, January 29, 2017 |  Whatever the tests of fidelity and the opera’s love-in/out shenanigans (sometimes in disguise), which Lorenzo Da Ponte’s libretto for Così fan tutte calls for, Mozart’s Overture to what follows is poetic and pattering. Leonard Slatkin caught these moods ideally, offering no “alternative facts” as to how this music goes... ... The Concertos in this Mozart series are fielded by DSO members. It was Robert Williams’s turn. ... For the last of the four Horn Concertos, David Everson stepped forward... ... This last movement coined a comic song from Michael Flanders & Donald Swann... ... There aren’t many laughs in Mozart’s minor-key Symphony 40, as ‘stormed and stressed’ as anything he wrote. I got to know the first movement through Waldo de los Rios’s pop-style arrangement, and then Ferenc Fricsay completed the picture. Decades on, and thinking fondly of recorded versions from Böhm, Giulini and Krips (each quite stately in the opening Allegro), Slatkin, although somewhat nippier, didn’t rush... 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Alexander Shelley at Cadogan Hall – Sibelius 1 & 7 – Ning Feng plays Prokofiev
Sunday, January 29, 2017 |  Allocating this critic a seat in the Gallery of Cadogan Hall for a concert of music by Sibelius and Prokofiev, to be greeted by a leaflet headed “Octava – Enriching your concert experience” by means of using your mobile phone to read the programme note – while the music is being played – is rather like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop. ... What is invigorating is that a conductor of the younger generation, Alexander Shelley, is embracing some of Sibelius’s greatest music. 
St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra/Yuri Temirkanov at Royal Festival Hall – Spartacus & Shostakovich 5 – Martha Argerich plays Prokofiev
Sunday, January 29, 2017 |  By a strange quirk my very first concert by a major orchestra was the Leningrad Philharmonic playing Shostakovich 5 with Evgeny Mravinsky at the Edinburgh Festival in 1960. By a further coincidence it was about the same time that I first heard a very young Martha Argerich. ... Liszt’s arrangement of Schumann’s ‘Widmung’ was a welcome encore. ... Shostakovich’s 5 is home territory for the St Petersburg Philharmonic, bringing to it lustrous strings with resonant cellos and double basses, powerful brass (but embedded rather than dominating) and characterful woodwinds. Next year will mark the thirtieth of Yuri Temirkanov’s reign. 
Tim Mead & James Baillieu at Wigmore Hall
Sunday, January 29, 2017 |  Tim Mead’s beautiful countertenor has been knocking us dead in opera performances ranging from Monteverdi to George Benjamin for quite a few years, but this Wigmore Hall event was his first solo recital. ... He opened with a marvellously introspective account of Herbert Howells’s ‘King David’, which made Vaughan Williams’s ‘Linden Lea’ sound all the sunnier and open. ... ....which paid great rewards in his spontaneous and conversational reading of John Dankworth’s setting of ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’, which, in its way, was every bit as intimate as Cleo Laine’s. 
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim at Carnegie Hall – Bruckner Symphonies 1-9 – No.9 – with Mozart Piano Concerto K488
Sunday, January 29, 2017 |  For the final concert in their Carnegie Hall Bruckner cycle, often paired with Mozart, Daniel Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin opened with the latter’s Figaro-infused A-major Piano Concerto. ... Following intermission was Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony. He didn’t complete the Finale, although others have, and the three extant movements stand on their own musically without it, even though the Adagio’s quiet close leaves unresolved the existential issues it raises. 
Belief & Beyond Belief – London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski – Rebel’s Les élémens, Milhaud’s La Création du monde and John Adams’s Harmonielehre
Saturday, January 28, 2017 |  Creation was the topic of this London Philharmonic Orchestra concert, springing out of the Southbank Centre’s commodious Belief & Beyond Belief series, but its main point of interest was the LPO’s phenomenal adaptability to a spectrum of styles ranging from 1737 high-Baroque to 1985 large-scale fusion of Romanticism and Minimalism. ... Apart from a harpsichord, a theorbo and a Baroque guitar, the small ensemble for Jean-Féry Rebel’s Les élémens used modern instruments, but with plenty of ornate French swagger. ... The high point was ‘Air pour l’amour’, which, albeit with more overt sensuality, was the same destination of Darius Milhaud’s ballet-score La Création du monde. Taught by Widor, at the heart of progressive French music as a member of Les Six, and furiously prolific during his long life, Milhaud, like many a 20th-century composer, succumbed to the lure of jazz... ... The LPO was at full strength for John Adams’s Harmonielehre, bearing the title of Schoenberg’s harmony textbook... 
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim at Carnegie Hall – Bruckner Symphonies 1-9 – No.8
Saturday, January 28, 2017 |  Daniel Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin reached what many consider the pinnacle of Bruckner’s completed Symphonies, the Eighth. ... Robert Simpson suggests that the numerous references to motifs have much in common with those related to Siegfried in Wagner’s ‘Ring’ Cycle. Since in the eponymous music-drama and Götterdämmerung they connote heroism in the face of adversity, Simpson presumes that such is the theme of the Eighth. Hugo Wolf considered Symphony 8 a dramatization of “the complete victory of light over darkness.” 
Welsh National Opera – Annabel Arden’s production of Puccini’s La bohème – Marina-Costa Jackson, Dominick Chenes, Lauren Fagan, Gary Griffiths, Gareth Brymor, John Jihoon Kim; conducted by Manlio Benzi
Saturday, January 28, 2017 |  Welsh National Opera’s revival of Annabel Arden’s direction of La bohème, featuring four singers making their debuts, is a sensitive and, at times, bizarrely comic production performed with assurance and acted with an ardour that becomes immensely moving. ... But it was the presence of two transvestites and a capering gorilla in a Savile Row suit that bemused the most. Was this an oblique reference to the 1895 Paris Exhibition? ... Marina-Costa Jackson, as Mimi, made a strong impression, producing consistently bright tone and was compelling to watch whether coquettish or ravaged by her failing lungs. Her Mimi is not quite the vulnerable, innocent seamstress Puccini had created... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin – Mozart Festival (3) – Clemenza di Tito Overture, Concertone for Two Violins, Concertos for Horn and for Clarinet [live webcast]
Friday, January 27, 2017 |  Mozart in the morning, Mozart in the evening; that was the plan for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Leonard Slatkin as the third part of their latest six-pack Winter Festival homed into view. Today in 1756 a composer-to-be was born in Salzburg... ... Concertone is inoffensive music given a thoroughly fine outing by Kimberly Kaloyanides Kennedy (associate concertmaster) and Hai-Xin Wu... ... A higher level of compositional accomplishment is evident in the K447 Horn Concerto, given a perky reading by Johanna Yarbrough... ... From the Clarinet Concerto’s opening bars, perfectly paced and unequivocally shaped by Slatkin, it was clear this would be a winning performance... preparing the way for Ralph Skiano’s shapely, sensitive and subtle way with the solo part... 
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim at Carnegie Hall – Bruckner Symphonies 1-9 – No.7 – with Mozart Sinfonia concertante K364
Friday, January 27, 2017 |  Under the right circumstances, Mozart’s flowery Sinfonia concertante for violin and viola could have made for an elegant opener, but Stern Auditorium’s cavernous acoustic swallowed much of the sound and muddled intricate melodic lines. ... From the very first bars of Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony, wrought with great dignity by the cellos, the Staatskapelle Berlin’s sound expanded to fill the hall... ... Daniel Barenboim, ever a master of pacing, allowed the music to flow comfortably... 
Palm Beach Opera – Puccini’s Madama Butterfly – Inna Los, Scott Quinn; directed by Sam Helfrich; conducted by David Stern
Friday, January 27, 2017 |  For its 2017 season Palm Beach Opera opens with Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Inna Los as Cio-Cio-San (the Butterfly of the title) and Scott Quinn as Pinkerton make an attractive couple, enamored of one another and in splendid voice. Los’s ‘Un bel dì’ was lovely... 
London Symphony Orchestra/Alpesh Chauhan – Brahms’s Haydn Variations & Strauss’s Death and Transfiguration – Benjamin Grosvenor plays Brahms’s First Piano Concerto
Thursday, January 26, 2017 |  The creative will, the interpretive mind at twenty-five; Brahms grappling with the problems, the troubled orchestration of his D-minor Piano Concerto; Richard Strauss triumphing in the vision, the polished canvas of his fourth tone-poem, Death and Transfiguration. Benjamin Grosvenor, slight of frame, reaching for the summit; Alpesh Chauhan, a sturdier figure, exuding confidence and taking risks. 
Elisabeth Leonskaja at Wigmore Hall – Beethoven 109, Brahms Fantasies, Schubert D850
Thursday, January 26, 2017 |  There is an unnerving sense in which Elisabeth Leonskaja seems to look composers straight in the eye, secure in the knowledge of the strange alchemy that by being their servant she is also their master. ... This was immediately obvious in the way she opened Beethoven’s Opus 109 Sonata – it was as though the fast/slow dialogue was already well under way, and all she had to do was turn up the volume. ... I much admired the opaqueness of tone this discreet colourist created for Brahms’s Opus 116 Fantasies, seven pieces that move from barnstorming anxiety to the falling phrases of melancholy... ... The contrast with Schubert’s D850 Sonata could not have been more emphatic. 
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim at Carnegie Hall – Bruckner Symphonies 1-9 – No.6 – with Mozart Piano Concerto K482
Wednesday, January 25, 2017 |  As the musicians of Staatskapelle Berlin filed onto the stage of Carnegie Hall to play Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.22, the gentleman sitting behind me told his seat-mate: “But then, Mozart’s Piano Concertos really should be conducted from the keyboard.” Daniel Barenboim has been performing them this way for decades... ... Some of the manic energy from the Mozart spilled over into the first movement of Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony. 
Anne-Sophie Mutter & Lambert Orkis at Barbican Hall – Sebastian Currier, Mozart, Respighi, Saint-Saëns
Wednesday, January 25, 2017 |  Anne-Sophie Mutter is celebrating a nearly thirty-year partnership with Lambert Orkis with an extensive European tour. Her gorgeous Galliano fishtail gown in buttercup-yellow reflected the golden tones of her Stradivarius. Sebastian Currier’s Clockwork (1989) opened the recital. ... Mutter and Orkis made a persuasive case for the Respighi. Composed at the height of World War One, the Sonata begins with a theme of sad sweetness... ... The technical stakes reached their zenith with Saint-Saëns’s Introduction and Rondo capriccioso, conceived as a virtuoso piece for Sarasate and an overnight sensation. ... ...Arthur Benjamin’s Jamaican Rumba and, most poignantly played, John Williams’s Theme from Schindler's List. 
Belief & Beyond Belief – London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski – Memorial to Lidice & Vaughan Williams 9 – Isabelle van Keulen plays Giya Kancheli’s Mourned by the wind
Wednesday, January 25, 2017 |  The second of the London Philharmonic’s contributions to the Southbank Centre’s ambitious, year-long Belief & Beyond Belief festival, continued to investigate ‘meaning’ – although all three works here, composed over a span of only forty-years, are most overtly connected by the sense of loss. Giya Kancheli, present for his 1985-1988 Mourned by the Wind, composed it in memory of his friend the Georgian musicologist and critic Givi Ordzhonikidze; Martinů wrote his short mediation in memory of the massacred populace of a Czech village, which, in 1942, had been obliterated by the Nazis in a revenge attack; and, in part, Vaughan Williams’s final Symphony was inspired by the last days and death of Thomas Hardy, and his Tess of the d’Urbervilles... 
Southbank Centre’s Belief & Beyond Belief – Pierre-Laurent Aimard & Tamara Stefanovich at St John’s Smith Square – Brahms’s Sonata for Two Pianos & Messiaen’s Visions de l’Amen
Tuesday, January 24, 2017 |  Brahms and Messiaen as composers are as much alike as chalk and cheese; and there seems little to connect Brahms – at best a resolute agnostic – with the Southbank Centre’s Belief & Beyond Belief festival... ... Possibly Brahms’s greatest piece of chamber music, the Piano Quintet, began life as a string quintet (which Joseph Joachim thought sounded too thin). Brahms then arranged the work as this Sonata for Two Pianos... ... Inevitably one missed the sustained string sonorities of the final Quintet version and the corresponding contrast among its instrumental forces in this performance by Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich, though that was hardly their fault... ... Aimard and Stefanovich then marked the onward passage of time in Messiaen’s sevenfold cycle Visions de l’Amen (1943) as compellingly as in the Brahms, albeit in a very different manner. 
Emanuel Rimoldi at Wigmore Hall – Mozart, Schumann, Verdi/Liszt, Rachmaninov
Tuesday, January 24, 2017 |  Now thirty, the Italian-Romanian pianist Emanuel Rimoldi studied at the Verdi Conservatory in Milan, followed by five years with Elissò Virsaladze at the Moscow Conservatory. He's presently studying in Hanover with the Israeli veteran Arie Vardi. ... The darkness and tragedy of the Mozart only rarely came across – the opening more Allegro than maestoso (though, thankfully, resisting Glenn Gould's three-minute nonsense), the Andante (without repeat) wanting in devotional simplicity... ... Schumann's Humoreske, that psychologically intricate, kaleidoscopic outpourings of a nicotine-stained furnace of a mind not yet twenty-nine, has defeated the best and confused many. ... The Verdi-Liszt offering, a late transcription from 1879, and first set of Rachmaninov Preludes variously opened the throttle, let loose the pedal, and exposed a weakness for mid-register melodies that declaimed well enough but at the expense of vocal lyricism or linear flow. 
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim at Carnegie Hall – Bruckner Symphonies 1-9 – No.5 – with Mozart Sinfonia concertante K297b
Tuesday, January 24, 2017 |  Midway through their Carnegie Hall Bruckner cycle, Daniel Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin offered a stupendous performance of the Fifth Symphony... ... As with all-but-one of these Berlin concerts, Barenboim opened with Mozart. There is some evidence that in 1778 Mozart wrote a Sinfonia concertante for flute, oboe, horn and bassoon, but the original score is lost. There is disagreement amongst commentators about the authenticity of K297b... ... After intermission the Bruckner was ablaze with fiery intensity and dramatic power. 
Kensington Symphony Orchestra/Russell Keable at Cadogan Hall – Stravinsky & Bruckner
Monday, January 23, 2017 |  Short Stravinsky and big Bruckner rubbed shoulders, finding the Kensington Symphony Orchestra in fine fettle in response to long-time chief Russell Keable’s focussed and fertile conducting. ... It was good to hear Scènes de ballet again, which in 1944 grossed Stravinsky a $5,000 commission fee... ... The original dancers were Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin. ... It was Bruckner 4 that found Keable personalising the music in a way that was unexpected at times. It was the composer who appended the epithet ‘Romantic’ (he also added ‘Die Nullte’ to the unnumbered D-minor Symphony) and Keable certainly gave a quixotic reading of it. ... Keable found an elemental aspect as well as a languorous one – maybe he is aware that Robert Simpson (composer and Bruckner devotee) was of the opinion that this last movement should be played adagio, and the closest we get to that is Celibidache. 
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim at Carnegie Hall – Bruckner Symphonies 1-9 – No.4 Romantic – with Mozart Coronation Piano Concerto K537
Monday, January 23, 2017 |  The keyboard writing in K537 is arguably the most florid of all of Mozart’s Piano Concertos. ... Daniel Barenboim molded the orchestral introduction freely, eliciting a lush tone from Staatskapelle Berlin... ... One could say that Barenboim took a similar approach to Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony in the way he smoothed over the music’s jagged edges and found ways to dovetail even the most jarring transitions. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin – Mozart Festival (2) – Magic Flute & Don Giovanni Overtures, Concertos for Flute and for Horn, and Symphony 39 [live webcast]
Sunday, January 22, 2017 |  Overtures, or short orchestral openers, being in short supply these days at concerts, a regrettable situation, it was gratifying to have two in this the second webcast of the six-programme Detroit Symphony Orchestra Mozart Festival. Leonard Slatkin opened with the Overture to The Magic Flute... ... As for that serial shagger Don Giovanni, the Overture to his fun and games, and a date with the flames of Hell, is a dramatic affair... ... Both Concertos were graced by DSO principals. David Buck negotiated with brilliance and bearing the fast pace set for the opening of G-major Flute Concerto. ... Then Karl Pituch confirmed his horn-playing prowess in K417... ... And so to Mozart 39, which followed the murky undertow of the philandering Don. Slatkin highlighted the Symphony’s graciousness and impetus... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Andris Nelsons – Bruckner 9 – Paul Lewis plays Mozart Piano Concerto K595
Sunday, January 22, 2017 |  Andris Nelsons’s skill at getting to the spirit behind a composer’s scoring has been a cause of wonder for over a decade – for UK music-lovers since the willowy Latvian conductor took up with the CBSO. His recent Rosenkavalier with the Royal Opera and, only last week, his Bruckner 5, also with the Philharmonia, reconfirmed his astonishingly perceptive grasp of the craft of orchestration... ... It was instantly clear in the opening bars of Mozart’s Piano Concerto K595... ... Add to that the quality of the rapport between him and Paul Lewis, and subtlety, warmth and wit proliferated. ... The woodwinds had been superbly and tactfully involved in the Mozart, and went on to define the vacuum of the opening of Bruckner’s Ninth. 
Daniil Trifonov at Barbican Hall – Schumann, Shostakovich, Stravinsky
Saturday, January 21, 2017 |  Every concert, every recording by Daniil Trifonov is a major event. ... Trifonov began with a long Schumann first half. If the opening of Kinderszenen was on the literal side, it offered one of the few opportunities for a critic to carp... ... Trifonov’s Fazioli, a Rolls-Royce of an instrument, was capable of withstanding the most sustained onslaught as well as projecting the most intimate whisper. At the other end of Schumann’s spectrum is the Toccata. ... The opening of Kreisleriana is a graveyard, having claimed many a pianist. Not Trifonov... ... No hesitation from Trifonov to launch Stravinsky’s Petrushka; what made this outstanding was the delineation of textures at speed in ‘Danse russe’. 
Belief & Beyond Belief – Beethoven’s Fidelio – London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski with Anja Kampe & Robert Dean Smith; directed by Daniel Slater
Saturday, January 21, 2017 |  You can’t fault the Southbank Centre for its ambitious programming. This month it has started offering its public the meaning of life, no less, in the Belief & Beyond Belief festival... ... This London Philharmonic Orchestra semi-staging of Beethoven’s Fidelio was the first musical event, but Daniel Slater came close to derailing the evening... ... Slater’s solution was to dispense with most of the spoken dialogue and to use two actors, Helen Ryan and Simon Williams, as a modern version of a Greek chorus... ... Had Brexit and Trump been folded into the humanist mix, I wouldn’t have been surprised. ... Anja Kampe and Robert Dean Smith (replacing Michael König) negotiated the treacherous vocal lines of ‘O namenlose Freude’ ardently and turned the music’s sheer awkwardness into a means of expression. 
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim at Carnegie Hall – Bruckner Symphonies 1-9 – No.3 – with Mozart Piano Concerto K491
Saturday, January 21, 2017 |  The third installment of the Carnegie Hall Bruckner Symphony Cycle with Daniel Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin. ... The first half consisted of Mozart’s C-minor Piano Concerto K491. ... Bruckner’s Third Symphony was originally dedicated to Wagner, and the first version incorporated quotations. Wagner asked they be removed, the 1878 score does so, while making the piece more continuous. 
Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra/Marios Papadopoulos at Sheldonian Theatre – Giulia Monducci’s Versus & Stravinsky’s Firebird – Martha Argerich plays Prokofiev
Saturday, January 21, 2017 |  Two brightly-lit Russian scores framed a world premiere from Giulia Monducci in a programme that showcased the talents of the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra and the artistry of Martha Argerich. ... She has long been associated with Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto since recording it with Claudio Abbado. ... Following the interval Monducci’s Versus proved enigmatic. ... In the second of Stravinsky’s three Suites from The Firebird – his breakthrough fairy-tale ballet-score first heard in Paris in 1910 – double basses gave out suitably dark intimations of the evil sorcerer Kaschei... 
The Royal Ballet – Wayne McGregor's Woolf Works
Saturday, January 21, 2017 |  Woolf Works, Wayne McGregor’s ambitious, Virginia Woolf-inspired trilogy of ballets-in-one evening returns to Covent Garden. When first created, it was widely heralded as a genuine departure for the choreographer who appeared to have adapted his own style, characterised by an extreme physicality, into something rather more lyrical, more in keeping with the company’s historical way of moving. On revival, that impression is confirmed.… 
Bromley Symphony Orchestra/Adrian Brown – A London Overture & A Colour Symphony – Masa Tayama plays Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto
Saturday, January 21, 2017 |  This Bromley Symphony Orchestra is a case in point. John Ireland’s A London Overture used to be heard relatively frequently... ... A London Overture, to say nothing of Bliss’s Colour Symphony, drew a large and enthusiastic audience to the fine Langley Park Centre... ... its chief conductors during the past seventy years include Sir Adrian Boult and Norman Del Mar, with Kathleen Ferrier, Paul Tortelier and John Lill amongst the great artists who have appeared... ... This was followed by Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto, with Masa Tayama. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin – Mozart Festival (1) – Figaro Overture, Concertos for Oboe and for Horn, and Sinfonia concertante K364 [live webcast]
Friday, January 20, 2017 |  On the same day as Donald Trump is inaugurated as the next President of the United States, the Detroit Symphony and Leonard Slatkin’s Mozart Festival had its first of six webcasts. ... Good to start with an overture and the one heralding The Marriage of Figaro is as choice as anything. ... With Slatkin now sans ‘syrup’, enter Alex Kinmonth for the Oboe Concerto... ... Next up, if following the interval, Scott Strong from the horn section, for K412, the babe of Mozart’s four Horn Concertos... ... For the great Sinfonia concertante K364, Mozartean meat, the soloists were Yoonshin Song (DSO concertmaster) and Eric Nowlin. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Oliver Knussen – Richard Strauss’s Macbeth, Edward Elgar’s Falstaff, Busoni – Huw Watkins plays premiere of Philip Cashian’s Piano Concerto / Concert cancelled
Friday, January 20, 2017 |  Welcome to Shakespeare 401 with Oliver Knussen conducting Macbeth and Falstaff as part of the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s latest Barbican Hall offering. ... ... ...for the concert was cancelled due to Oliver Knussen succumbing to pneumonia... 
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim at Carnegie Hall – Bruckner Symphonies 1-9 – No.2 – with Mozart Piano Concerto K466
Friday, January 20, 2017 |  This was the second of a nine-concert residency with Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin at Carnegie Hall, the first time in the venue’s history that Bruckner’s nine numbered Symphonies will be performed in one season. ... Barenboim and his players absolutely shone in the Mozart Piano Concerto. From the first ominous murmurs of this dramatic piece one could feel the musicians’ energy... ... Bruckner’s Second Symphony is an interesting piece, restrained and expansive. 
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Edward Gardner at Cadogan Hall – Peer Gynt & Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra – Truls Mørk plays Elgar’s Cello Concerto
Friday, January 20, 2017 |  Edward Gardner and the Bergen Philharmonic opened their Cadogan Hall concert with music by Bergen-born Edvard Grieg, some of his score for Ibsen’s Peer Gynt. ... Then Truls Mørk played Elgar’s Cello Concerto. His reading was interior and restrained. ... Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra opens ominously before exuberance takes hold in the first movement, the virtuosity of the orchestra now at its best, not least the variety of timbres displayed by the brass. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Michael Mayer’s production of Verdi’s Rigoletto – Željko Lučić, Olga Peretyatko, Stephen Costello & Andrea Mastroni; conducted by Pier Giorgio Morandi
Friday, January 20, 2017 |  This Met revival of Michael Mayer’s 2013 production of Rigoletto features a cast of singers with years of experience in their roles. ... Much of the musical success lies in the inventive conducting of Pier Giorgio Morandi... ... Željko Lučić’s mastery of Rigoletto was evident from the way he toyed with every line... ... From the moment she skipped on sporting long curls and a beaming smile, Olga Peretyatko’s Gilda was entirely believable... ... As the Duke of Mantua, Stephen Costello displayed a throbbing tenor... 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts Mark-Anthony Turnage’s In memoriam Evan Scofield & Mahler’s Sixth Symphony
Thursday, January 19, 2017 |  

In the run-up to his becoming Music Director of the LSO, Simon Rattle has revisited several works central to his repertoire – this account of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony (1904) marking a new stage in his relationship with a piece going back over four decades. ... The concert’s first half offered instructive context, with the first performance of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s latest LSO offering. An ‘in memoriam’ for Evan Scofield (son of the jazz guitarist John Scofield), Remembering (2016) is its composer’s nearest approach yet to symphonic form... 

Wigmore Hall – Julia Fischer plays Eugène Ysaÿe’s Sonatas for Solo Violin
Thursday, January 19, 2017 |  Imagine an evening made up of J. S. Bach Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin. That could be a hard listen for even the most dedicated music lover. Then imagine one dedicated to Ysaÿe’s Sonatas, a 1923 hommage to Bach and at the same time the violinistic equivalent of Liszt’s Transcendental Studies. ... Only in the hands from someone of the calibre of Julia Fischer, who combines supreme technical ability with profound musicianship, could this come off – and emphatically it did. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Andris Nelsons – Bruckner 5 – Music of Today: Bernd Richard Deutsch
Thursday, January 19, 2017 |  Commencing almost half-an-hour late because of traffic delays affecting both orchestra and audience, Andris Nelsons’s performance of Bruckner’s mighty Fifth Symphony was the only item on the programme and it held the attention throughout. The Philharmonia Orchestra was on top form... ... Prior to the concert, the Philharmonia gave one of its admirable Music of Today concerts featuring the forty-year-old Austrian composer Bernd Richard Deutsch. Preceded by an illuminating discussion between the composer and Mark van de Wiel (principal clarinet) two challenging works were performed.... 
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim at Carnegie Hall – Bruckner Symphonies 1-9 – No.1 – with Mozart Piano Concerto K595
Thursday, January 19, 2017 |  After a four-year absence, Daniel Barenboim returned to Carnegie Hall to lead Staatskapelle Berlin in the first of a nine-concert series making a traversal of Anton Bruckner’s numbered Symphonies. ... At the age of fourteen, Barenboim played Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.1 with Symphony of the Air conducted by Leopold Stokowski. ... Several of the Carnegie Hall Bruckner Cycle concerts feature Barenboim in Mozart Piano Concertos. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Richard Eyre’s production of Bizet’s Carmen – Clémentine Margaine, Rafael Davila, Kyle Ketelsen, Maria Agresta; conducted by Asher Fisch
Thursday, January 19, 2017 |  At Metropolitan Opera, Bizet’s Carmen has become a well-worn favorite; however, at this latest revival, even the debuts of Clémentine Margaine and Rafael Davila were not enough to make this a particularly memorable evening. Richard Eyre’s once-gritty production has faded into monotony... ... Replacing an ailing Sophie Koch, Margaine used her waxy penetrating timbre, husky middle voice, and cutting high notes to seduce the man around her. ... Davila, a last-minute substitute for Marcelo Álvarez, sang Don José with a dark and burnished timbre... 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Karabits at Lighthouse – Rachmaninov 3 – Guy Braunstein plays Elgar’s Violin Concerto
Wednesday, January 18, 2017 |  There’s no doubting the beauty and intimacy of Elgar’s Violin Concerto... ... Kirill Karabits tore into the first-movement’s lengthy introduction with plenty of vigour; red-blooded and self-assured. ... With the entry of Guy Braunstein – formerly a concertmaster of the Berliner Philharmoniker – it became clear that a degree of striving was to dominate this energetic view. .... Karabits and the BSO then gave a scorching reading of Rachmaninov’s Third Symphony. 
Classical Opera/Ian Page at Wigmore Hall – Mozart 250 – 1767: A Retrospective
Tuesday, January 17, 2017 |  Classical Opera's Mozart 250 project has settled into an established and rewarding routine... ... Classical Opera’s orchestral support in the following operatic extracts was efficient, but would have been more inspired if greater variety in dynamics had been observed to enliven the music or, in the case of the scena from Gluck’s Alceste... ... There was greater dynamic thrust in the concert’s second half with Classical Opera’s rendition of Thomas Arne’s Symphony No.1, emphasising the smouldering energy of the first movement with its striking alternations between the major and minor modes.... ... Mournful oboes provided an ideal counterpoint to the sombre hush of Jackson’s ‘Vidit suum’ from Haydn’s Stabat Mater, evoking the same atmosphere as the contemporary ‘Lamentatione’ Symphony No.26, while the blazing energy of ‘Flammis orci’ conjured up the flickering fires of hell. 
English National Ballet at London's Coliseum – Mary Skeaping's Giselle
Tuesday, January 17, 2017 |  Mary Skeaping's staging of Giselle is nothing short of superb. [...] It is testament to Tamara Rojo's artistic vision that she has chosen to revive this historical production, first given by the company in 1971. [...] The company is on excellent form... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin – Brahms’s Haydn Variations, Smetana’s Bartered Bride Overture, Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony – Cho-Liang Lin plays Lalo Schifrin’s Tangos Concertantes [live webcast]
Saturday, January 14, 2017 |  It was orchestral manoeuvres for the DSO in its first week of 2017 concerts... ... Gabriela Lena Frank’s new work, previously put aside, is now re-re-scheduled for later in the season when Michelle Merrill will conduct it. And the Overture to The Bartered Bride was reclaimed from November 2015 when Tod Machover’s Symphony in D demanded greater rehearsal than expected. ... Prior to Bohemian banter, Brahms’s Haydn Variations, replacing the Frank, was a recall from just over a year ago... ... The composer, conductor and pianist Lalo Schifrin was born in Buenos Aires in 1932. He has been prolific as a creator for the concert hall and for film and TV, not least Mission: Impossible, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and for collaborations with Clint Eastwood, such as the Dirty Harry films. Tangos Concertantes (2009) was written for Cho-Liang Lin. ... Of Mendelssohn’s Symphonies, the ‘Scottish’ and ‘Italian’ hold sway, yet the ‘Reformation’ has much to offer – a sacredly introduced (incorporating the ‘Dresden Amen’, later used by Wagner in Parsifal) and powerful first movement, a beguiling Scherzo, an eloquent slow movement, and a trenchant Finale that grows to majesty. ... The DSO didn’t get to this splendid Symphony until the 1950s, when Paul Paray conducted (and recorded it for Mercury). Leonard Slatkin also has its measure... 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts Ligeti’s Le grand macabre, directed by Peter Sellars
Saturday, January 14, 2017 |  Those who experienced ENO’s 2009 staging of György Ligeti’s Le grand macabre will remember its gleeful celebration of sex, bodily functions and carnal corruption, all of which meshed in well with Ligeti’s delirious score... ... he production by Peter Sellars – which Ligeti did not care for at all, to the extent that he dissociated himself from it – was a post-nuclear updating... ... In the end, though, the music wins through and the singers all entered into the spirit of things. Peter Hoare’s high tenor was entirely in keeping with the whining ramblings of Piet the Pot... ... Sir Simon Rattle’s affection for a score that ranges from fanfares for car-horns to solemn chorales and the most-tender love music filtered through Ligeti’s extraordinary parodistic and style-borrowing skills was evident throughout... 
The Royal Opera – George Benjamin’s Written on Skin, conducted by the composer, directed by Katie Mitchell, with Christopher Purves, Barbara Hannigan, Iestyn Davies, Mark Padmore & Victoria Simmonds
Friday, January 13, 2017 |  Written on Skin was greeted with widespread acclaim on its premieres in 2012 and 2013 at several European opera houses, including Covent Garden. Its first revival at the latter – with nearly a full house on this opening night – confirms it as a 21st-century operatic masterpiece. ... Although this choreography is voiceless, George Benjamin’s often delicate, ethereal music moves in pace with that rather than the latter. ... The latter is compellingly echoed in the sustained restraint of Benjamin’s score – similar to Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande in that respect, and in the generally direct, syllabic setting of the words. ... Christopher Purves was on marvellous form in the role of the Protector... 
LSO Chamber Orchestra/Giovanni Antonini at Milton Court – J. S. Bach, W. F. Bach, C. P. E. Bach, Telemann, Haydn 49
Friday, January 13, 2017 |  The LSO Chamber Orchestra graced Milton Court joined by Giovanni Antonini. ... Textures were quite full during J. S. Bach’s Suite (BWV1066)... ... It was followed by the brief but extraordinary F-major Symphony by the second of his sons: Wilhelm Friedemann. ... Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach also took a dramatic view of ‘the Symphony’. Where W. F. interrupts and dramatises by using long-held chords, C. P. E. spices faster movements with sudden pauses. ... In Telemann’s delightful four-movement Recorder Concerto Antonini’s playing of the solo part was little short of spectacular... ... It was particularly interesting to hear Antonini conduct Haydn since he plans to record all his Symphonies. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Manfred Honeck with Ray Chen – Brahms – Violin Concerto & Symphony 1
Friday, January 13, 2017 |  Two sides of the same Brahmsian coin were heard in performances that sought to illuminate restraint and drama; an approach that was mostly successful, but it was Manfred Honeck’s account of the First Symphony that blazed with interest. ... Brahms’s Violin Concerto was almost introverted, although its Classical manners were finely honed. Ray Chen was technically secure... ... Following Brahms’s equivalent to Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ – here considerably fleet-of-foot – the music erupted into a fervent affirmation of life... 
Anna Tsybuleva at Wigmore Hall – C. P. E. Bach, Schumann, Medtner, Debussy
Wednesday, January 11, 2017 |  Anna Tsybuleva won the 2015 Leeds Piano Competition, but there was a degree of coolness over the result. This Wigmore Hall debut recital was part of her prize... ... This was immediately obvious in C. P. E. Bach’s angular Fantasia in F-sharp minor, where she nailed the neurotic and bizarre changes of mood and direction with great panache... ... I was less convinced by Nikolai Medtner’s Sonata in G-minor, a one-movement work along the lines of Liszt’s B-minor counterpart... 
New York Philharmonic/Alan Gilbert – Brahms 3 – Stephen Hough plays Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto
Wednesday, January 11, 2017 |  Over the course of his tenure as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert has championed new works by outstanding contemporary composers, but he has also conducted many classics of the orchestral repertoire, not least this refreshingly boisterous program of Beethoven and Brahms. ... The former’s ‘Emperor’ Concerto opened the evening with Stephen Hough. ... After intermission, Music Academy of the West’s 2017 Zarin Mehta Fellows, ten of the school’s most accomplished students, joined the Philharmonic for a spirited account of Brahms’s Third Symphony. 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/James Feddeck at Lighthouse – Tragic Overture & Sibelius 5 – Alexei Volodin plays Tchaikovsky
Wednesday, January 11, 2017 |  Solti Award-winner James Feddeck was making his debut with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. He produced an imposing, no-nonsense and intelligently sculptured account of Brahms’s Tragic Overture... ... Tchaikovsky’s Second Piano Concerto was given in its original version rather than Siloti’s cut and emendated edition. ... The structural defects could easily be overlooked given Alexei Volodin’s compelling rendition. ... Following the interval the masterpiece that is Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony was given with complete assurance. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Bartlett Sher’s production of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette – Vittorio Grigolo & Diana Damrau; conducted by Gianandrea Noseda
Tuesday, January 10, 2017 |  Bartlett Sher’s new staging offers an ingenious take on Charles Gounod’s perfumed Romeo et Juliette (1867), one of the Met’s best productions of the past decade. ... It is easy to believe in the love between Vittorio Grigolo’s ardent Romeo and Diana Damrau’s flirtatious Juliet from first sight to final kiss. ... Gianandrea Noseda supported these vivid interpretations with a strong hand and striking musicality, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra elevating Gounod’s Romantic melodies to symphonic heights... ...Among the other singers, Virginie Verrez brought a flexible mezzo to the page Stéphano while Mikhail Petrenko sang with a nasal, sometime-gruff bass as Friar Laurence. Laurent Naouri made for a resolute Capulet... 
The Metropolitan Opera – Bartlett Sher’s production of Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia – Peter Mattei, Pretty Yende, Javier Camarena, Maurizio Muraro; conducted by Maurizio Benini
Monday, January 09, 2017 |  Rossini’s stage-works are staples of the repertory, and this season Metropolitan Opera audiences have had the opportunity to hear three of his masterpieces side by side. All have been beneficiaries of luxury casting, but while the delightful comedy L’Italiana in Algeri and the towering Guillaume Tell were great successes, The Barber of Seville is struggling to take flight. 
New York City Opera – Candide – directed by Harold Prince
Sunday, January 08, 2017 |  When New York City Opera closed its doors in 2013, it was clear that years of poor management and declining artistic standards were finally too much... ... ... following executive changes and an injection of fresh perspective, the company presents a witty production of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide... ... A considerable wealth of star power helped launch this staging, most notably the direction of Broadway legend Harold ‘Hal’ Prince. ... Four-time Tony Award nominee Gregg Edelman masterfully tackles his many roles... ... As Cunegonde, Meghan Picerno sings with a sparkling soprano and unceasing energy. Her manically exuberant ‘Glitter and Be Gay’, capped with a fearless high E-flat, brought the house down. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Edward Gardner – Jealousy, Vltava, Šárka, The Gliding of the Eagle in the Skies, Taras Bulba – Tasmin Little plays Szymanowski
Saturday, January 07, 2017 |  This enticing mix of pieces opened the 2017 half of the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s current season. Edward Gardner conducted first Janáček’s Jealousy... ... From an earlier generation of Czech composers, two tableaux from Smetana’s patriotic cycle Má vlast (My Country) opened with an immediately evocative ‘Vltava’... ... Among Karol Szymanowski’s final souvenirs is the Second Violin Concerto... ... ...requires the most committed and characterful advocacy, which it received from Tasmin Little. She believes in every note and played superbly... ... Composer-conductor Peter Eötvös’s ten-minute The Gliding of the Eagle in the Skies (2011, twice revised) is Basque-music-inspired... ... Finally, the gory Gogol tale of Taras Bulba, completed by Janáček in 1918, Cossacks against Polish invaders. 
National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain at Royal Festival Hall – John Wilson conducts Komarov’s Fall & Rachmaninov 2 and Tamara Stefanovich plays Szymanowski
Saturday, January 07, 2017 |  This fascinating concert began with a surprise item under an unannounced conductor: Suspended Between Earth and Air by National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain Principal Composer Lauren Marshall, conducted by one of the Orchestra’s cellists, Joshua Mock... ... Brett Dean’s Komarov’s Fall (2006), suggested by the death of the first cosmonaut in space (his rocket failed on re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere fifty years ago), also has the virtue of brevity... ... Karol Szymanowski’s Fourth Symphony of 1932, for piano and orchestra, is dedicated to Arthur Rubinstein... ... But a score of this inherent nobility and stature was certainly an excellent choice for the NYO, and with Tamara Stefanovich a commanding and wholly accomplished pianist, this was a compelling account... ... And so to Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony... 
Alfred Brendel Lectures at Wigmore Hall – Schubert’s Last Sonatas, D958, D959, D960
Saturday, January 07, 2017 |  Two days after his eighty-sixth birthday, Alfred Brendel graced Wigmore Hall for an afternoon lecture about Schubert’s final Piano Sonatas. 
London Schools Symphony Orchestra/Sian Edwards – Colas Breugnon Overture & Shostakovich 5 – Lawrence Power plays Alfred Schnittke’s Viola Concerto
Thursday, January 05, 2017 |  The capital’s youth band – the London Schools Symphony Orchestra, drawn from pupils within the M25 – in this Soviet programme (a smiling Stalin on the programme cover), showed they had nothing to fear from comparison with any established ensemble in terms of technical ability and all-round musicianship. ... Kabalevsky’s Colas Breugnon Overture used to be quite often heard... ... ...the performance under Sian Edwards was notable for splendid characterisation and brilliance of playing... ... We twiddled our thumbs whilst Mr Shifter and Co proceeded to prepare the stage for the oddly-constructed group Alfred Schnittke asks for in his (first) Viola Concerto of 1985... ... At length, all was ready for Edwards’s return, with Lawrence Power the soloist in this remarkable work. ... After this revelation, Shostakovich’s mighty Fifth Symphony formed the concert’s second half...  
Emmanuel Despax at Wigmore Hall – Handel Chaconne, Ravel Miroirs, Chopin Preludes
Thursday, January 05, 2017 |  The French pianist Emmanuel Despax is fast gathering a following and his Wigmore Hall recital displayed technical brilliance and individuality of interpretation... ... Composed in 1904 and 1905, Ravel’s Miroirs still have the power to shock as well as thrill... 
The Royal Ballet – The Sleeping Beauty
Tuesday, January 03, 2017 |  Thank goodness for The Royal Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty. After a Christmas surfeit of sugar and icing, the company now settles down to what it is really about: Classical Dance. It is a great relief at a time when The Royal Ballet seems somewhat unsure of its own identity, slightly embarrassed perhaps about its mighty pedigree and traditions, to see the ensemble tackle the one ballet on which its reputation was forged. ... 

 

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