April 2018 Concert Reviews

May 2018 Concert Reviews
Pavel Kolesnikov at Wigmore Hall
Monday, April 30, 2018 |  As the lights dimmed, there was a disembodied announcement on the Wigmore Hall’s PA system by Pavel Kolesnikov about theatricality, links and purity, along with a request not to applaud between the thirteen short pieces in the first part of his recital... ... Kolesnikov juxtaposed experiments in the elemental with three pieces from Ein Kinderspiel (one of them, ‘Schattentanz’, played twice) by Helmut Lachenmann, the veteran German composer of instrumental musique concrète, interleaved with the six pieces of Debussy’s Children’s Corner, played in their published order, and, in a way suggesting that the child is father to the man, forays into non-childish Chopin, Liszt and Bach... ... There was just as strong a how-far-can-I-go feeling to Schumann’s Fantasy in C... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Hille Perl & Lee Santana
Monday, April 30, 2018 |  If our stereotyped image of Louis XIV’s court is one of politesse and exaggerated empty ritual, this is belied by its music: much of the repertoire is deeply intellectual, even formally subversive, and often brims with wit. At Wigmore Hall, Hille Perl and Lee Santana displayed its variety and depth compellingly... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Fabien Gabel conducts Accursed Hunter, Nocturnes, La valse – Nicolas Altstaedt plays Dutilleux’s Tout un monde lointain … [live webcast]
Sunday, April 29, 2018 |  Belgian-born, French-converted César Franck’s Chasseur maudit (1882) is making a comeback – performances have been spotted recently – and was often found in the recording studio, witness great vinyl from Ansermet, Fournet and Munch. Fabien Gabel opened this DSO webcast with it... ... Henri Dutilleux’s Tout un monde lointain … – completed in 1970 for Rostropovich and inspired by Baudelaire’s poetry – opens with a cymbal shimmer... ... ...Nicolas Altstaedt technically secure... ... Debussy may not have been keen on the impressionism tag, but his Nocturnes can be heard as painting in music – and, anyway, Whistler is cited... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy – Voices of Revolution Russia 1917 – Shostakovich, Symphony 4, James Ehnes plays Violin Concerto 1
Sunday, April 29, 2018 |  Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Philharmonia Orchestra coupled two works Shostakovich initially withdrew... ... Completed in 1948, the First Violin Concerto was premiered by dedicatee David Oistrakh in 1955. James Ehnes took the honours here... ... The Fourth Symphony (1936, held-back for twenty-five years) has an uncompromisingly pessimistic outlook that overrides false smiles and the Finale’s half-hearted optimism. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Gergely Madaras conducts Tombeau de Couperin, Wound-Dresser, Tallis Fantasia, Face
Saturday, April 28, 2018 |  Events marking the centenary of the end of the First World War included this BBC Symphony Orchestra concert, concerned predominantly with enduring human goodness. Both Ravel and Vaughan Williams served as volunteers at the Front, as did Walt Whitman (set by John Adams in The Wound-Dresser) in the American Civil War, and Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin is dedicated to friends killed in action. ... Gergely Madaras had very clear, elegantly expressed ideas of phrase... ... Ross Harris is a rangy, articulate, seventy-two-year-old New Zealander. Face is a thirty-five-minute cantata for three singers, choir and orchestra, and it must be the first work inspired by plastic surgery, in this instance the pioneering work carried out by Harold Gillies and his team on facial reconstruction. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Thomas Søndergård conducts Faune & Dvořák 8, Luca Buratto plays Prokofiev
Friday, April 27, 2018 |  We all know Boulez's cosy generalisation about Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune being the “awakening of modern music” (wasn't that the ‘Eroica’ ninety years before?)... ... Acknowledging the centenary of Debussy's death, Thomas Søndergård, replacing the previously advertised Alondra de la Parra, directed a searching and poetic, impeccably structured interpretation... ... Luca Buratto, winner of the 2015 Honens International Piano Competition, is a determined Italian... ... Everyone these days seems to be programming Prokofiev's Second Piano Concerto... ... Dvořák Eight – what a perfectly formed, balanced and prepared Symphony this is. Søndergård, always the cultured musician, not given to histrionics or excessive point-making, delivered an account pre-occupied with detail... 
An Evening with Danielle de Niese at Queen Elizabeth Hall
Friday, April 27, 2018 |  An evening of intense feeling and colourful theatricality. Alongside Danielle de Niese, two veteran musicians were included, Menahem Pressler and James Galway. 
Evgeny Kissin and Emerson String Quartet at Carnegie Hall – Mozart, Fauré, Dvořák
Friday, April 27, 2018 |  Making a rare sortie into chamber music, Evgeny Kissin teamed up with the Emerson String Quartet at Carnegie Hall. 
Los Angeles Philharmonic/Gustavo Dudamel at Lincoln Center – Pollux, Amériques, Shostakovich 5
Friday, April 27, 2018 |  Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic opened the first of two Lincoln Center concerts with Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Pollux... ... Edgard Varèse found his true identity with Amériques, the first piece he wrote after moving from France to New York in 1915... 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts Woven Space & Mahler 9 (II)
Thursday, April 26, 2018 |  For the second time of asking in the Barbican Hall Simon Rattle led Mahler 9 – not the end of the LSO’s current Mahlerian story, for Lincoln Center beckons ... Beforehand, Helen Grime’s Woven Space (given its premiere a week ago), music inspired by sculptures made from natural materials by Laura Ellen Bacon. 
Benjamin Grosvenor at Queen Elizabeth Hall
Thursday, April 26, 2018 |  Benjamin Grosvenor seems to be surviving unscathed the rigours and weight of prize-winning, promotion and expectation... ... Brahms’s late piano music can be so inward and melancholy that the pianist has his or her work cut out conveying its extremes of privacy in a concert hall. Grosvenor compounded this potential problem by alternating each of the Opus 119 Pieces with the three that make up Brett Dean’s Hommage à Brahms. ... By contrast, Leonard Borwick’s 1919 transcription of Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune brilliantly reinvents it for piano... ... ...Grosvenor capped it with an incandescent account of Gaspard de la nuit. 
Matthias Goerne & Alexander Schmalcz at Wigmore Hall – Brahms
Thursday, April 26, 2018 |  In this Brahms selection Matthias Goerne explored the depths vocally and emotionally of this supremely melancholy and philosophical repertoire... 
Vertavo String Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Haydn
Wednesday, April 25, 2018 |  The Vertavo Quartet played the bold introductory chords of Opus 71/1 firmly but slightly softened the last of the five before launching into the rich melodies of the first movement. ... Haydn may have established the rules for String Quartets but he was also forever breaking them. 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/James Feddeck at Lighthouse – Four Sea Interludes & Death and Transfiguration – Daniel Müller-Schott plays Dvořák
Wednesday, April 25, 2018 |  Fifty years separate the first two works in this “Notes of Nostalgia” concert, homesickness the common denominator, Britten’s beloved Suffolk and Dvořák’s native Bohemia; both works conceived respectively in California and New York. Perhaps then it was appropriate for New Yorker James Feddeck to be at the helm of this Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra programme. ... Dvořák’s Cello Concerto has unearthed some wonderful performers in its hundred-year-plus history. Daniel Müller-Schott is no exception... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Robert Trevino conducts Mahler 5, Arseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev plays Rachmaninov 2
Wednesday, April 25, 2018 |  Last June, Robert Trevino made his London debut with Mahler’s Third Symphony (replacing Daniel Harding at the LSO). This time he was conducting the London Philharmonic in the Fifth Symphony and accompanying the grandson of Tatiana Nikolaeva in one of the most popular of Piano Concertos. ... Arseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev delivered the opening chords of Rachmaninov’s Second Concerto in a rather striking way... 
William Whitehead at Royal Festival Hall organ
Tuesday, April 24, 2018 |  William Whitehead brought the current season of Royal Festival Hall organ recitals to a spectacular close with a programme covering the main schools except French romantic and modern, in which, incidentally, he excels. ... With the latest instalment of Whitehead’s Orgelbüchlein Project supplying a trio of premieres, Bach was inevitably the ghost in the machine... ... Liszt’s ‘Ad nos’ Fantasia and Fugue is in the same league as, say, his Piano Sonata in B-minor or the amazing De profundis (piano and orchestra), and Whitehead matched it with an electrifying performance... 
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House – Antonio Pappano conducts Metamorphosen & Enigma Variations, Christian Gerhaher sings Frank Martin & Shostakovich
Monday, April 23, 2018 |  In one of their occasional translations from pit to stage, the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House and Antonio Pappano again presented a cleverly thought-through programme. ... Strauss’s Metamorphosen is a lament for the destruction and betrayal of European culture in the Second World War, and with the way things currently are it stands equally tragically as an anthem to the failure of the European ideal. ... The Strauss connection continued tangentially with the cycle of Six Monologues from Jedermann by the Swiss composer Frank Martin, written around the same time as Metamorphosen. Jedermann (Everyman) is a morality play by Hugo von Hofmannsthal... ... Christian Gerhaher didn’t seem an ideal fit... ... The full ROH Orchestra finally made its mark in Elgar’s Enigma Variations... 
The Metropolitan Opera – Bartlett Sher’s production of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette – Ailyn Pérez & Andrea Shin; conducted by Plácido Domingo
Monday, April 23, 2018 |  Plácido Domingo conducted a fine first-night performance of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, with Ailyn Pérez and Andrea Shin. This is the first revival of Bartlett Sher’s production for La Scala, which opened at the Met on New Year’s Eve 2016. Shin went on in place of the ailing Charles Castronovo, himself engaged to replace Bryan Hymel... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Gent, Truscott, Manson, Pinnock
Monday, April 23, 2018 |  Trevor Pinnock and his harpsichord were often content to toil away in the background while the string-players took the limelight. But if a single star of the show emerged it was Pinnock, with a compelling account of the Froberger... 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts The Rose Lake & Mahler 10
Sunday, April 22, 2018 |  Simon Rattle ended his traversal of Mahler’s late symphonic works by returning to the piece he has championed for over four decades, during which time the Tenth Symphony – heard in Deryck Cooke’s performing version – has established itself firmly within the Mahler canon. ... Rattle paired the Mahler with Michael Tippett’s The Rose Lake on the basis of their both evincing a transcendence as comes only with the wisdom of ‘last things’, a ruse wholly justified by the excellence of the latter piece as it emerged here. ... A superb response from the LSO... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Ode, and Falik & Hillborg, Gil Shaham plays Beethoven
Saturday, April 21, 2018 |  The London Philharmonic’s “Changing Faces: Stravinsky’s Journey” continues its forensic exploration. The evening began with Yuri Falik’s quarter-hour Elegiac Music... ... There followed Anders Hillborg’s Mantra, a concise and eventful work. ... In the Beethoven Gil Shaham drew on a range of colour, from lustrous to sweet-toned to fashion a first movement of aristocratic poise... 
Malta International Music Festival/Armenian Cultural Days in Malta – Armenian State Symphony Orchestra/Sergey Smbatyan – Rachmaninov – Nikolai Lugansky plays Paganini Rhapsody
Friday, April 20, 2018 |  Back-to-back with Karl Fiorini's more modest International Spring Orchestra Festival, the Malta International Music Festival, organised by the European Foundation for Support of Culture and the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, is an aggressively large-scale enterprise... ... Founded in 2005, the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra – despite its old-fashioned 'Soviet' labelling not to be confused with the venerated Armenian National Philharmonic of Spendiaryan, Gergiev and Tjeknavorian memory... ... Wanting in charisma, its founder and music director, Sergey Smbatyan, is a busy, flapping presence on the podium... ... Playing a balanced but indifferent Fabbrini Steinway shipped in from Italy, Nikolai Lugansky, every now and again raced uncomfortably, dispatched a coolly efficient Paganini Rhapsody... 
Alina Ibragimova & Cédric Tiberghien play Brahms’s Three Violin Sonatas at Wigmore Hall
Friday, April 20, 2018 |  Some of his songs and the late piano pieces notwithstanding, Brahms’s three Violin Sonatas are probably the closest you are going to get to the notoriously private composer – a subjective view, perhaps, but one confirmed by Alina Ibragimova’s and Cédric Tiberghien’s performances of all three at Wigmore Hall... 
Colin Currie & Nicolas Hodges at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Birtwistle, Feldman, Stockhausen
Thursday, April 19, 2018 |  While the BBC was launching Proms 2018, and Simon Rattle was conducting Mahler 9 with the LSO and Kenneth Woods dealing into Americana ‘18 at St John’s (to name just three events in London on this evening), Colin Currie and Nicolas Hodges were gracing the Queen Elizabeth Hall with their brand of pianistic and percussive magic. The first half was a neatly constructed and unbroken thirty-minute sequence (a request for no applause duly observed) of short pieces by Birtwistle, Feldman and Stockhausen; the second half, a little longer, consisted of the latter’s Kontakte. 
Americana ’18 at St John’s Smith Square – English Symphony Orchestra/Kenneth Woods – Emma Johnson plays Copland
Thursday, April 19, 2018 |  Programmes of worthwhile American music don’t come around that often, so this concert by the English Symphony Orchestra and Kenneth Woods at St John’s Smith Square deserved a fuller audience at this fine venue – now, it appears, in serious danger of being closed permanently in the wake of official ‘decisions’ by various bodies not to give any grants towards ensuring its survival. ... Emma Johnson was the wonderful soloist in Aaron Copland’s great Clarinet Concerto, a masterpiece fully worthy to stand alongside those by Nielsen, Hindemith and Finzi. 
New York Philharmonic/Christoph Eschenbach – Bruckner 9 – Till Fellner plays Mozart K482
Thursday, April 19, 2018 |  This concert opened with Till Fellner making an impressive New York Philharmonic debut in a sparkling performance of majestic Mozart. ... Christoph Eschenbach proved a vibrant and supportive partner... ... Following intermission Eschenbach led a dignified and inspired reading of Bruckner’s left-unfinished Ninth Symphony... 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts Woven Space & Mahler 9 (I)
Thursday, April 19, 2018 |  It was with Mahler that Simon Rattle first announced his presence on the conducting scene well over four decades ago, thus it made sense that this composer dominate his first season as Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra with the valedictory final three of Mahler's symphonic works. ... The first half provided further evidence of Rattle's commitment to new music with a first hearing for Woven Space, the latest and most ambitious orchestral work by Helen Grime. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Symphony in C & Tango, and Shostakovich 6, Leif Ove Andsnes plays Debussy
Wednesday, April 18, 2018 |  The LPO’s Stravinsky series continues. A week ago it was Perséphone, two days later Jeu de cartes, and now Symphony in C, all neoclassical. The Symphony (1940, Chicago) has many challenges for even the best of orchestras. The LPO was put on its mettle by Vladimir Jurowski’s challengingly quick tempo for the opening movement... ... Debussy was less than pleased with his Fantaisie... ... ...Leif Ove Andsnes did the revisions published in 1968 proud...  
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Karabits at Lighthouse – Rachmaninov – Nemanja Radulović plays Tchaikovsky
Wednesday, April 18, 2018 |  There is much to admire in Rachmaninov’s First Symphony – unfairly deemed a ‘Cinderella’ work in respect of its disastrous premiere at the hands of Glazunov – and was here given a sure-footed account under Kirill Karabits that periodically blazed with sweeping conviction. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra responded to its dark colours with warmth and gusto... ... Following the interval came a riveting account of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, given by an inspired Nemanja Radulović... 
Castalian String Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Haydn – the first three Quartets of Opus 76
Tuesday, April 17, 2018 |  Haydn’s Opus 76/1 dates from 1797 and was his first String Quartet since ‘Der Reiter’ (The Horseman) created five years earlier during his London visit. The sunny opening Allegro con spirito proved an ideal vehicle to display the Castalian Quartet’s vivid approach to Haydn’s swifter movements. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Laurent Pelly’s production of Massenet’s Cendrillon – Joyce DiDonato, Alice Coote, Kathleen Kim, Stephanie Blythe & Laurent Naouri; conducted by Bertrand de Billy
Tuesday, April 17, 2018 |  Jules Massenet’s Cendrillon is being performed at the Met for the first time in this stylish production by Laurent Pelly that captures the wittiness of this fairy-tale opera. With the Orchestra in fine form Bertrand de Billy leads a strong cast in an effervescent account... ... The unusual pairing of two mezzo-sopranos – Joyce DiDonato in the title role and Alice Coote as her Prince Charming – is gorgeous... 
London Handel Festival – Occasional Oratorio
Monday, April 16, 2018 |  The occasion was the second Jacobite rebellion of 1745, in which Bonnie Prince Charlie’s forces came as far south through England as Derby. Handel quickly stitched together Occasional Overture to rally support for the government of George II, before the Duke of Cumberland was despatched to defeat the uprising at Culloden the next year. ... Laurence Cummings directed the London Handel Orchestra in a performance which was both stately and spirited... 
The Metropolitan Opera – Phelim McDermott’s production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte – Amanda Majeski, Serena Malfi, Ben Bliss, Adam Plachetka, Christopher Maltman & Kelli O’Hara; conducted by David Robertson
Monday, April 16, 2018 |  Così fan tutte’s focus on human behavior, emotions and foibles is independent of time and place. Phelim McDermott’s colorful setting in the amusement park of Coney Island in the 1950s provides added dimensions to the Da Ponte-Mozart masterpiece. 
Philharmonia Orchesta/Esa-Pekka Salonen – Biber, Beethoven, Unsuk Chin … Music of Today – Vito Žuraj
Sunday, April 15, 2018 |  Vito Žuraj is Slovenian, thirty-nine, and charged with a freakishly acute ear. The Philharmonia Orchestra gave three of his works in its Music of Today slot. ... In the main concert, Esa-Pekka Salonen guided two antiphonal groups of strings standing either side of a harpsichord through Biber’s Battalia... ... You can’t help but admire Unsuk Chin’s layered and lucid writing for orchestra and her confident handling of large forms, and her Ligeti-like spectral glittering is very seductive. I do miss, however, a discernible personality and that vital grit – and all of this applies to Le chant des enfants des étoiles (2016), a meditation on humanity’s relationship to the universe, no less. This choral work with a huge orchestra and a Messiaen-like title is very ambitious... 
Villiers Quartet at Pushkin House – Shostakovich, Josephson, David Matthews, Tischenko
Sunday, April 15, 2018 |  The Villiers Quartet is a champion of the unfamiliar (Naxos recordings of music by Robert Still and Peter Racine Fricker, for example) as well as pieces by living composers. This Pushkin House recital was a marathon event... ... Nors S. Josephson is perhaps best-known for his completion of the Finale to Bruckner Nine. ... David Matthews was clearly delighted by the performance of his Eighth Quartet (1997). He said a few words beforehand... ... The late Boris Tishchenko’s compositions deserve to be much better known. His Fifth Quartet (1984) is a quirky but structurally-coherent opus... 
LSO – Susanna Mälkki conducts Sibelius 5 & Patrick Giguère’s Revealing – Daniel Müller-Schott plays Elgar
Sunday, April 15, 2018 |  Susanna Mälkki made her LSO debut last March, standing in for Valery Gergiev in Brahms and Richard Strauss, but this bill of fare more obviously played to her strengths... ... ...Mälkki will have been unfazed by the understated idiom of Revealing, a shadowy five-minute processional from French-Canadian Patrick Giguère. ... It is easy to forget that Elgar’s Cello Concerto received little immediate exposure after its disastrous 1919 premiere... ... In recent years German critics have given a similar reception to Daniel Müller-Schott’s Orfeo production... 
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Closing Concert – Dimitri Scarlato conducts...
Saturday, April 14, 2018 |  Karl Fiorini's twelfth International Spring Orchestra Festival, “Revoltion and its Composers”, his most ambitiously planned to date, has seen a week of premieres and risks, late Bartók featuring high on the agenda, with a challenging roster of artists ranging from Joaquín Achúcarro (the veteran of the field) to Daphne Delicata (not yet twelve but a pianist to watch). ... Based in London, Dimitri Scarlato (born 1977) studied in Rome at the Conservatorio di Musica Santa Cecilia and the Università La Sapienza (graduating with a dissertation on Wittgenstein and Webern); and in London at the Guildhall School and the Royal College of Music (working with Kenneth Hesketh and Mark-Anthony Turnage). ... Bartók's Divertimento and Lutosławski's Musique funèbre – twentieth-century string-orchestra classics written respectively either side of World War Two – exemplified Scarlato's priorities. ... Scarlato's own In Limbo (2018) draws its inspiration from the 2017 book of the same title by the Italian translator Elena Remigi. This gathers stories of European citizens in the UK following the June 2016 Brexit vote. 
The Royal Ballet – Triple Bill of works by Resident Choreographers – Obsidian Tear; Marguerite and Armand; Elite Syncopations
Saturday, April 14, 2018 |  This latest triple bill by The Royal Ballet just goes to show that live performance can confound all expectations, with a work one remembers as strong proving to be far from it, and another which are over-familiar, new-minted. As a programme, it is a distinctly odd affair, with three works so utterly different that one can discern almost no points of cross-reference whatsoever. That, in itself, could be a virtue, establishing interest in their very lack of commonality [...] After the high emotion of Marguerite and Armand, it was good to have Kenneth MacMillan’s 1975 ragtime romp Elite Syncopations to finish [...] Sheer bliss. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – John Storgårds conducts Jeu de cartes, Rachmaninov 3, and Bryce Dessner’s Concerto for Two Pianos with the Labèque sisters
Friday, April 13, 2018 |  Bryce Dessner wrote his Concerto for Two Pianos for Katia & Marielle Labèque last year. ... Stravinsky deals a far more appealing hand in Jeu de cartes, completed in 1936 for choreography by George Balanchine. There have been more scintillating accounts than this (Charles Munch’s recording, for example), but John Storgårds poker-faced reading, rather too deliberate at times, nevertheless offered numerous rewards... 
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Somogyi String Quartet plays Bartók & Stravinsky
Friday, April 13, 2018 |  Concerts come no more refined or brilliantly executed than this. The members of the Somogyi String Quartet, formed in 1997 by former graduates of the Liszt Academy in Budapest, are contemporary specialists of the highest order. 
Academy of Ancient Music at Milton Court – Richard Egarr plays and conducts Haydn & Dussek
Friday, April 13, 2018 |  The Academy of Ancient Music provided a convincingly eighteenth-century sound... ... The slightly rustic timbre was very appropriate and it certainly suited Richard Egarr’s forthright reading of Haydn 93... ... Accompanied on the fortepiano by Egarr, Daniela Lehner charmed us with a selection from Dussek’s Six Canzonets. ... The opening of Dussek’s G-minor Piano Concerto immediately brought to mind that of Beethoven’s C-minor Third with which it is precisely contemporary. ... Directing from the keyboard, with the leader also placed in clear view of colleagues, Egarr shaped the music firmly... 
Igor Levit at Wigmore Hall – Rzewski, Mendelssohn, Mahler/Stevenson
Friday, April 13, 2018 |  Igor Levit has achieved guru-like status in a relatively short time, and his reputation ensures faithful audiences willing to go the distance with him. Levit put that loyalty to the test with Frederic Rzewski’s Ages... ... After such a work-out, the piano sounded in good nick for three of Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words... ... And they led without a break back into the world of large-scale expression. Ronald Stevenson (the Scottish musical polymath who died in 2015, aged eighty-seven) was a Marxist, a pacifist and a prolific composer. His best-known work is probably the eighty-minute Passacaglia on DSCH, and Levit has the Peter Grimes Fantasy in his repertoire. ... Stevenson was also an epic transcriber and in 1987 turned his attention to the Adagio from Mahler’s Tenth Symphony. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Andrew Davis conducts Starlight Express, The World Was Once All Miracle, Out of the Mist, Spirit of England
Friday, April 13, 2018 |  But, with an absorbing link to events around one-hundred years ago, Sir Andrew Davis’s return to the Barbican Hall proved to be the most satisfyingly cohesive and intelligently planned concert in a while. ... We might not think of him as such, but Elgar – if not Janus-faced – was at least much more than one-sided. The works here first showed his lighter side, hankering after childhood, in selections from The Starlight Express and the patriotic, more-public side in The Spirit of England, separating Raymond Yiu’s tribute to Anthony Burgess as well as Lilian Elkington’s sombre if Out of the Mists, which we should count ourselves very lucky to be able to hear. 
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons at Carnegie Hall (3), with Yo-Yo Ma & Steven Ansell – Mozart 23, Jörg Widmann’s Partita, Richard Strauss’s Don Quixote
Friday, April 13, 2018 |  The evening opened with a vigorous performance of Mozart’s brief D-major Symphony (K181)... ... Andris Nelsons chose the work because of the affinity of its second-movement oboe theme with the ‘Dulcinea’ melody in Strauss’s Don Quixote... ... Jörg Widmann’s Partita is a BSO-Leipzig Gewandhaus commission celebrating the recently established partnership between the orchestras. Last month Nelsons led the first performance in Leipzig and US premiere in Boston. The forty-minute piece references music history, especially Leipzig, with echoes of Bach, Mendelssohn and Wagner... ... In his affectionate musical portrait of Cervantes’s knight-errant battling windmills, routing a flock of sheep, dreaming of his darling Dulcinea, and conversing with his trusty squire, Sancho Panza, on the merits of chivalric life, Richard Strauss allots a cello (Yo-Yo Ma) as Don Quixote, and a viola (BSO principal Steven Ansell) as Panza. 
English National Ballet at Sadler's Wells – Voices of America – Fantastic Beings; Approximate Sonata 2016; The Cage; Playlist (Track 1,2)
Friday, April 13, 2018 |  It was a brave move to schedule a ballet programme entitled Voices of America and not to include a work by George Balanchine, the man credited with establishing Classical dancing in the USA. But Tamara Rojo, English National Ballet’s doughty Director often thinks outside the obvious and puts together interesting and sometimes arresting works to create a cogent whole. [...] [With William Forsythe's new work] ENB has itself an instant hit, a perfect closing piece to send their audiences out in a state of elation, and a work by one of the world’s most justifiably revered current dance makers. 
London Handel Festival – Teseo – Patrick Terry, Leila Zanette & Meinir Wyn Roberts; La Nuova Musica/David Bates
Thursday, April 12, 2018 |  Teseo (premiered 1713) is, in a sense, the closest Handel came to composing a French opera in that its libretto is based upon one originally written for Lully, and its Classical mythological subject (rare for Handel) retains the characteristic five-Act structure, unique among his stage-works. ... David Bates and the cast of young singers from Royal Academy Opera brought those off superbly, with their robust, full-blooded account of this drama, which constitutes Handel’s second ‘magic’ opera, in reference to the spells cast by Medea. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Esa-Pekka Salonen – Mahler 1 – David Fray plays Beethoven
Thursday, April 12, 2018 |  Esa-Pekka Salonen’s latest slow traversal of Mahler’s Symphonies turned the clocks back to first base in this concert, with the First Symphony – the third of six performances (following Leicester and Basingstoke – both with David Fray and preceding a short European tour to Paris, Antwerp and Essen, where the Mahler is prefaced by Beethoven’s Second Symphony). ... David Fray, seated on two stacked chairs, presented Beethoven’s first-written numbered Piano Concerto... 
The Royal Opera – Richard Jones’s production of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk – Eva-Maria Westbroek, Brandon Jovanovich, John Tomlinson, John Daszak; conducted by Antonio Pappano
Thursday, April 12, 2018 |  Richard Jones’s 2004 production of Shostakovich’s big, shabby shocker Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk was the first time the 1934 original had been staged by The Royal Opera, and it hasn’t been mounted since its first revival in 2006. Despite the twelve-year gap, two of the 2006 principals – Eva-Maria Westbroek as the fatally bored merchant’s wife Katerina Ismailova and John Tomlinson (marking his fortieth anniversary with the Company) as her singularly repulsive father-in-law – return with overwhelming results. ... The more Antonio Pappano accommodated the music’s lyricism, the more painful it became... 
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Aquilon Trio
Thursday, April 12, 2018 |  Sandwiched between three twentieth-century landmarks of the clarinet-trio repertory, Karl Fiorini's Lamina and Timothy Salter's Triptych stand at opposite ends of the stylistic spectrum – one attempting to break chains, nearer the “Revolution” theme of this year's International Spring Orchestra Festival, the other retrospective and restricted. ... Repetitive Tango and stiffly 'polite' Devil apart, the clipped manner and secco verve of Stravinsky's Soldier’s Tale arrangement made for an appealing centrepiece (even if it'll never replace the original instrumentation). Bartók's Contrasts, too, had classiness. Yet, ultimately, this was a reading more restrained than released, not so much abandoned as careful. What impacts about the composer's 1940 recording with Goodman and Szigeti is its curvaceous liberty... 
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons at Carnegie Hall (2) – Act II of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde; Jonas Kaufmann & Camilla Nylund
Thursday, April 12, 2018 |  In Tristan und Isolde, Wagner sought to elucidate what absolute, unrestrained Love might be like and how it approaches self-annihilation. There is much Freudian psychology in this approach (Eros and Thanatos merging). ... Andris Nelsons assembled some of the best Wagner singers available, and offered the core second Act of this masterwork. Jonas Kaufmann and Camilla Nylund brought to their roles substantial vocal gifts. 
London Handel Festival – Giulio Cesare – Tim Mead & Anna Devin; Early Opera Company/Christian Curnyn
Wednesday, April 11, 2018 |  Only last autumn English Touring Opera undertook the heroic task of presenting the complete score of Handel’s longest opera seria, albeit divided into a more manageable two parts. This latest concert performance (for the London Handel Festival) necessarily made some cuts and stood in stark contrast with ETO’s efforts by showing how the drama of Julius Caesar’s conquering of Egypt – and its Queen, Cleopatra – can be made more persuasively succinct... ... Christian Curnyn’s account with the Early Opera Company was generally brisk, driving the pace of the drama with vigour. ... If Shakespeare has Enobarbus praise Cleopatra’s “infinite variety”, it was Tim Mead who brought to bear a correspondingly impressive diversity and range in his personification of Caesar. 
OAE @ QEH – Mozart – Roger Norrington conducts Symphonies 33 & 36, Roger Montgomery plays Horn Concertos 1 & 4
Wednesday, April 11, 2018 |  The Queen Elizabeth Hall ideally accommodates the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and enhances the excellent quality of the strings, justifying Roger Norrington’s conviction that freedom of vibrato is an essential part of ‘authentic’ performance. ... Matters of balance, tempo and general sound were thoroughly attended to, demonstrating the joyful nature of Symphony 33 and the grandeur of the ‘Linz’. ... Roger Montgomery then gave an eloquent account of K495 – the long melodic lines sensitively phrased, the flowing ease of his playing remarkable, and the jollity of the Finale ideally conveyed. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Thomas Adès conducts Perséphone, and his Powder Her Face Suite & Gerald Barry’s Organ Concerto
Wednesday, April 11, 2018 |  For those who can’t get enough of Thomas Adès’s Powder Her Face, there is the original four-hander chamber opera itself, first seen in 1995, then in 2007 a short set yoking together the Overture, Waltz and Finale arranged for large orchestra, and now the fleshing out of the 2007 material with more numbers, including instrumental versions of vocal solos. ... Adès is a friend of Gerald Barry and a champion of his music... ... Take his Organ Concerto, first heard in Birmingham, with Thomas Trotter fearlessly taking the instrument (Barry’s own when he was a boy and a young man) beyond our and its experience. ... Adès’s finesse of ear and pace was to the fore in a rare performance of Stravinsky’s Perséphone... ... Kristin Scott Thomas’s recitation, in flawless French, as Persephone was both cool and passionate... ... Toby Spence was on sweet and warm form... 
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons at Carnegie Hall (1) – Leonard Bernstein’s Age of Anxiety with Jean-Yves Thibaudet & Shostakovich 4
Wednesday, April 11, 2018 |  This highly rewarding program opened with a brilliantly expressive performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Second Symphony, titled ‘The Age of Anxiety’ after W. H. Auden’s Pulitzer-prize winning poem... ... the most striking feature is the inclusion of an elaborate piano part, on this occasion performed by Jean-Yves Thibaudet who delivered a ravishing account. ... ...a lively partnership with Andris Nelsons. ... After intermission came an overwhelmingly intense performance of Shostakovich’s audacious Fourth Symphony... 
JACK Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Brian Ferneyhough, Julian Anderson, Marcos Balter, Amy Williams
Wednesday, April 11, 2018 |  Recent seasons have seen appreciably greater emphasis on contemporary music at Wigmore Hall, with recitals by the New York-based JACK Quartet becoming a regular fixture. ... In what was an exact reversal of the programme originally detailed, the evening opened with Dum transisset (2006) by Brian Ferneyhough. ... There are no detectable influences at work in Julian Anderson’s Third String Quartet (2018), though the musical possibilities explored remain wide. 
Different Trains @ Queen Elizabeth Hall
Tuesday, April 10, 2018 |  With the newly reopened Queen Elizabeth Hall barely two days old, one of its established regular series – the International Chamber Music Season – celebrated its return to home base with a thirtieth-anniversary performance of Steve Reich’s Different Trains... ... In between came a work for soloists from the London Contemporary Orchestra – Mica Levi’s You belong to me, which looks to the 1950s’ titular ballad by Chilton Price, as well as another classic Reich score, Electric Counterpoint, for multiple electric guitars, but only one played live. 
Philadelphia Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin at Carnegie Hall – Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, Tod Machover’s Philadelphia Voices, and Pictures at an Exhibition
Tuesday, April 10, 2018 |  Tod Machover’s Philadelphia Voices, in its New York premiere, is a truly contemporary work catering to today’s audiences who crave the familiar over the artistic. ... One of Leonard Bernstein’s masterpieces, Chichester Psalms, opened the concert. With a strong emphasis on sonic power, heavenly serenity and propulsive energy, Nézet-Séguin led a most impressive performance. ... The second part, based mostly upon the text of Psalm XXIII, featured Dante Michael DiMaio. ... The familiar Ravel orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition gave the Philadelphia Orchestra a chance to show how its once-famous timbre has at last returned. Although the Philadelphia sound created by Stokowski and maintained by Ormandy will probably never quite be duplicated, the Orchestra on this occasion played brilliantly. 
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Pianos and Percussion – Lièvre, Conil, Bartók
Monday, April 09, 2018 |  Living up to the nightly challenge that is Malta's International Spring Orchestra Festival – its artistic director, Karl Fiorini, is defiantly proud that his innovative programming does not “give the crowd what it wishes for”, that he will “never go mainstream” – this recital boldly combined the defining, ever-brilliant, two-piano-and-percussion classic of the twentieth-century, Bartók’s Sonata, with a pair of new French works for the same combination. 
Queen Elizabeth Hall reopens – Chineke! Orchestra
Monday, April 09, 2018 |  The Queen Elizabeth Hall has reopened in exuberant style... ... Chineke! is one of Southbank Centre’s newest Associate Orchestras... ... Daniel Kidane’s Dream Song followed, its texts taken from Martin Luther King’s speeches. Roderick Williams delivered the lines almost as Sprechstimme... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Javier Perianes
Monday, April 09, 2018 |  Javier Perianes presented two pairs of composers – Debussy/Chopin and Debussy/Falla – as studies in contrasts and similarities for his Wigmore Hall recital. 
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Joaquín Achúcarro plays Chopin, Debussy & Falla
Sunday, April 08, 2018 |  Eighty-six this year (in November), the legendary Basque Spanish pianist Joaquín Achúcarro brings something of the old-world weight and charisma of the trans-Atlantic heroes of the pre-/post-war period – Rubinstein, Horowitz, Cherkassky, Iturbi, Bolet, Arrau. 
LSO – Gianandrea Noseda conducts Shostakovich 8, Nikolai Lugansky plays Beethoven 4
Sunday, April 08, 2018 |  Beethoven at his most benign and apollonian coupled with Shostakovich at his most epic, oblique and brutalising. The contrast was similar to that in the Andante of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, writ large. I love the way the piano has the first word in the opening movement and the last in the second, Nikolai Lugansky serving them both with serene authority... ... Gianandrea Noseda, one of the LSO’s Principal Guest Conductors, made room for Lugansky’s conversational rubato... ... Shostakovich 8 takes no prisoners. Its canvas of alienation, bitter irony, banality and aimlessness, with titanic climaxes merely piling more corpses onto its war-time pyrrhic victories... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Leonard Slatkin conducts Zeal, Siegfried Idyll, Till Eulenspiegel – Yoonshin Song plays Bartók [live webcast]
Saturday, April 07, 2018 |  For the third time of asking (twice the day before) this DSO programme opened with Steven Bryant’s Zeal. ... Yoonshin Song is DSO concertmaster (that role traded to Kimberly Kaloyanides Kennedy on this occasion). She has the full measure of Bartók’s very demanding Second Violin Concerto, completed in 1938 for Zoltán Székely... ... Before the concert’s part two, which contrasted rapture with mischief, Leonard Slatkin was presented with a Detroit Music Award... ... Richard Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll was unveiled privately on Christmas morning 1870, Cosima Wagner’s birthday... ... As for Richard Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel... 
Leonard Bernstein’s Mass at Royal Festival Hall; directed by Jude Kelly; conducted by Marin Alsop
Friday, April 06, 2018 |  Caught between ambition and megalomania, assertively liberal and me-me-me-centred, petulant, and desperate to be loved, Leonard Bernstein’s Mass continues to maintain its universality despite aspiring to be, like the rock-musical Hair, one of the emblematic summings-up of the 1960s (the premiere of Mass was in 1971, commissioned by Jacqueline Kennedy to mark the opening of the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC). The Kennedy era and ensuing trauma, Martin Luther King, Vietnam, Flower Power and a fast-forward through to Obama, Trump, gun control and #metoo are all covered in the visual references, on four big screens above the stage, that weaponise the work’s context, in Jude Kelly’s straightforward staging... ... ...also with Marin Alsop in charge... 
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Opening Concert – Brian Schembri conducts Karl Fiorini's Pentimenti, Honegger 2 and Shostakovich 14
Friday, April 06, 2018 |  Given the restless,refined imagination of its Paris-based artistic director, Karl Fiorini, the International Spring Orchestra Festival in Valletta, now in its twelfth season, is about discernment. ... Commissioned by the Valletta 2018 Foundation (Valletta is this year's European Capital of Culture), Pentimenti turns to painting for its stimulus – in this case pentimento, that technique, from Van Eyck and Caravaggio to Picasso... ... Shostakovich's uncompromising Fourteenth Symphony is laden with intensity, nuances, and associations of history. Solzhenitsyn thought it unduly pessimistic... 
Stephen Hough at Royal Festival Hall – Debussy, Schumann, Beethoven’s Appassionata
Thursday, April 05, 2018 |  “Give Me the Moonlight” sang Frankie Vaughan, and Stephen Hough did just that, three shafts of celestial illumination courtesy of Debussy, beginning with ‘Clair de lune’... 
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons – Wagner – Siegfried Idyll & Tristan und Isolde; Jonas Kaufmann & Camilla Nylund
Thursday, April 05, 2018 |  This Boston Symphony Wagner concert opened with one of the composer's few instrumental works still heard today, Siegfried Idyll... ... Taking a relatively slow tempo, Andris Nelsons drew a heartfelt and richly-contoured account... ... Following intermission, the BSO and a stellar cast of singers gave a stirring account of Tristan and Isolde, the second Act, in which the doomed lovers finally succumb to their irresistible passion... ... Jonas Kaufmann was taking on Tristan for the first time, and Camilla Nylund was also making her debut as Isolde. 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Thomas Dausgaard – Four Sea Interludes & Symphonic Dances – Steven Isserlis plays Elgar
Wednesday, April 04, 2018 |  Sixty-five years ago, when your correspondent first began going to concerts reasonably regularly, a programme such as this would have meant a box-office disaster. In 1953, Britten’s opera Peter Grimes, from which the ‘Four Sea Interludes’ are taken, was only eight years old, and better-known through two 78rpm sets, one conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent, the second by Eduard van Beinum. The technical difficulties these pieces present were then not so readily playable by every orchestra, professional or largely amateur, as they are today. ... Steven Isserlis is probably the finest living interpreter of Elgar’s Cello Concerto... 
Bertrand Chamayou plays Liszt at Wigmore Hall
Wednesday, April 04, 2018 |  This was the first time I have heard Bertrand Chamayou live. His recordings of Schubert, Ravel, Debussy and Liszt have held their own in a crowded market, and this recital at Wigmore Hall – where he made his London debut right at the end of 2010 – proved he is a force to be reckoned with. Liszt’s piano music appears often in programmes, but it rarely gets a whole evening to itself, even if Chamayou leavened things with a first half given over to transcriptions of music by Chopin, Schumann, and his son-in-law Wagner. 
Opéra national de Paris – Bluebeard’s Castle & Voix humaine – Ekaterina Gubanova, John Relyea, Barbara Hannigan; directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski; conducted by Ingo Metzmacher
Wednesday, April 04, 2018 |  This is a revival (the same forces sung with Esa-Pekka Salonen in 2015) and these productions still leap off the page, the music as vital as the day these scores were written. Here Ingo Metzmacher takes the helm, eliciting refined sounds. ... In the ‘Prologue’ to Bluebeard, John Relyea appears as a magician, charming us in his beguilingly-virile bass-baritone voice... ... Gubanova’s darkly-hued voice connects ideally with the role of Judith... ... ... and cleverly they link us also to the Cocteau libretto of La voix humaine.and cleverly they link us also to the Cocteau libretto of La voix humaine. ... Barbara Hannigan appeared at the end of Bluebeard, presenting herself half-sacrificially, half-innocently, as the next victim, walking awkwardly on her high heels... 

 

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