October 2018 Concert Reviews

November 2018 Concert Reviews
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/James Feddeck at Lighthouse – Vyšehrad & Inextinguishable Symphony – Saleem Ashkar plays Grieg
Wednesday, October 31, 2018 |  Any concert at the Lighthouse with James Feddeck at the helm is a hotly-anticipated event, and this one was no exception. It began with ‘Vyšehrad’ in an account involving nicely dovetailed episodes and well-paced climaxes... ... Grieg’s Piano Concerto drew a powerful and unindulgent account from Saleem Ashkar who served the music’s grandeur and contemplation with varying degrees of success. ... Carl Nielsen’s ‘Inextinguishable’ Symphony erupted with striking force, Feddeck eager to confront the music’s wilful belligerence and emotional instability. 
Inon Barnatan at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Ravel & Mussorgsky
Wednesday, October 31, 2018 |  Inon Barnatan is becoming increasingly well-known in London, with two recent Wigmore Hall recitals and a couple of Proms under his belt. He takes on a lot of contemporary music and has proved a creative foil to the maverick cellist Alisa Weilerstein. He has declared an intuitive bond with the music of Ravel, and you might wonder if his dapper, well-tailored appearance echoes the French composer’s legendary fastidiousness. ... Ravel’s inimitable and ambiguous sensibility seemed to suit Barnatan’s coolness well enough, but the latter didn’t always show Mussorgsky’s Pictures in the best light. 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Royal Festival Hall – Lionel Bringuier conducts Rachmaninov, Valery Sokolov plays Shostakovich
Tuesday, October 30, 2018 |  A rather disappointing concert, this, though not with regard to the playing of the RPO, which was, throughout, of a consistently high international standard. ... Shostakovich’s uniquely planned First Violin Concerto is an exceptionally challenging work... ... ...Valery Sokolov (who has manifestly mastered the myriad technical difficulties of the work) was not so consistently audible. ... Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony was a more serious disappointment. The string strength now enlarged with additional desks in each section, it was clear from the opening pages that Lionel Bringuier’s grasp of the work was not as complete as we have a right to expect. 
The English Concert/Harry Bicket at Wigmore Hall – The Art of the Arrangement – Haydn & Mozart
Sunday, October 28, 2018 |  Arrangements of eighteenth-century music were often a significant factor in bringing the attention of audiences to works unfamiliar at the time but which are central to today’s orchestral repertoire. ... Famous examples are reconstructions for a few instruments of Haydn’s Twelve London Symphonies, made by Johann Peter Salomon... ... Harry Bicket had positive ideas about tempo but unfortunately they did not work in the Minuet... ... In 1790 Mozart was commissioned to write for Flötenuhr (mechanical clock) – which became K594 – by Joseph Count Deym von Střítež, a colourful figure... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Rafael Payare – Academic Festival Overture & Sibelius 2 – Alexander Gavrylyuk plays Tchaikovsky
Sunday, October 28, 2018 |  This Philharmonia Orchestra programme was a successful example of the tried and tested Overture-Concerto-Symphony format. Brahms’s Academic Festival Overture is frequently despatched with undue haste in a flurry of hyperactivity. ... There followed a totally memorable performance of the Tchaikovsky, often a battle royal between soloist and orchestra. On this occasion the protagonists were equally matched, the Philharmonia – the all-important woodwinds superbly poetic and the strings, led by Laura Samuel, were especially lustrous. Alexander Gavrylyuk is a formidable pianist. ... Rafael Payare may not be the most obvious Sibelius conductor... 
Czech Philharmonic/Semyon Bychkov at Carnegie Hall – Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony
Sunday, October 28, 2018 |  The Czech Philharmonic and Semyon Bychkov celebrated the centenary of the Czech Republic’s independence with a splendid performance of Mahler’s Second Symphony. Known familiarly as the ‘Resurrection’ Mahler neither created nor approved of this subtitle. Mahler’s Second offers a personal perspective on humankind’s relation to the divinity, music of universal appeal that transcends humanistic and religious principles. 
London Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra – Gustavo Gimeno conducts Rossini’s Petite messe solennelle
Saturday, October 27, 2018 |  Neither small nor solemn, once you get to know Rossini’s teasingly-titled if consciously misnomered Petite messe solennelle, whether in the original intimate scoring for voices with two pianos and harmonium or in the composer’s full orchestration, it issues an invitation to return. ... Gustavo Gimeno [...] led an account that captured the work’s curiosities in enjoyable sit-up-and-listen fashion, well-prepared and punctilious while retaining the composer’s twinkle-in-the-eye approach to Latin profundity. 
Chelsea Opera Group at Cadogan Hall – Bellini’s Norma – Helena Dix; conducted by Dane Lam
Saturday, October 27, 2018 |  Bellini’s Norma can suffer from directorial impositions on the drama for it is a relatively straightforward tale; how the characters, particularly Norma herself, react to their situations provides the theatrical core. ... Norma is often a challenge to mount as the three principal roles are all demanding. This full-blooded and direct performance was full of fire and verve; the only cavil was that at times the spirited playing of the Chelsea Opera Group Orchestra threatened to overwhelm both us and singers. Dane Lam conducted a generally fleet and forthright account... ... Helena Dix provided these facets with considerable aplomb. Her voice at its creamiest has allure, grace and poise and these were evident in ‘Casta diva’. 
Arcadian Opera at Stowe School – Ethel Smyth’s The Wreckers – Brian Smith-Walters, Jennifer Parker, Steven East, April Fredrick; directed by Ali Marshall; conducted by Justin Lavender
Saturday, October 27, 2018 |  Saint-Saëns apparently told Ethel Smyth that “it is bad when they don’t perform your operas, but when they do it’s far worse.” If Smyth has not exactly had the benefit of the last laugh she would, at any rate, have seen that all but one of Saint-Saëns’s stage-works have failed to maintain any foothold in the repertoire. ... Arcadian Opera make a convincing demonstration that Smyth’s third opera, The Wreckers (1906), is worthy of occasional revival at the least... ... Justin Lavender – who sang in the 1994 Proms performance of The Wreckers – and the Arcadian Opera Orchestra took all these elements in their stride with a powerfully-driven account... ... Like Siegmund and Sieglinde, Mark and Thirza (the latter also already married, in this case to the village pastor, Pascoe) turn away from their violent, hypocritical society that survives on the spoils of the wreckage from ships which run aground on the treacherous, rocky shore where their village is located. The ardour of Brian Smith-Walters and Jennifer Parker’s singing well-matched their dramatic situation... 
Czech Philharmonic/Semyon Bychkov at Carnegie Hall – Dvořák – with Alisa Weilerstein
Saturday, October 27, 2018 |  On the eve of the centennial celebration of the Czech Republic’s independence, the Czech Philharmonic – which debuted under Dvořák in 1896 – and Semyon Bychkov brought two of the composer’s masterworks to Carnegie Hall, the first of thirteen concerts on a US tour of nine cities, opening with a vigorous and colorful rendition of the Cello Concerto. Alisa Weilerstein successfully conveyed the excitement and ardor of the music... 
Garrick Ohlsson at 92nd Street Y – Brahms Exploration I
Saturday, October 27, 2018 |  This recital launched Garrick Ohlsson’s traversal of the complete solo piano works of Brahms, four concerts spread over this and the 2019-20 season. ... In Book One of the Paganini Variations (on the Theme) Ohlsson was nothing short of devilish... 
Endellion String Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Mendelssohn, Britten, Beethoven
Friday, October 26, 2018 |  Formed forty years ago, the current and long-serving members of the Endellion Quartet walk more gingerly onto the platform than of yore... ... I used to make it almost a life’s work to disagree with the late Hans Keller, but I was forced to admit that he had a point when he bemoaned the lack of attention given to Mendelssohn’s String Quartets. ... Benjamin Britten’s Third Quartet was written at Hans Keller’s suggestion for another ensemble in its fourth decade, the Amadeus, and Keller received the dedication. The Endellion musicians have always played it well... ... Beethoven’s Second ‘Razumovsky’ sounded thoroughly authentic... 
LSO/Dirk Brossé at Royal Albert Hall – A Celebration of John Williams's Film Music – Close Encounters ... Star Wars
Friday, October 26, 2018 |  John Williams has a long history of association with the London Symphony Orchestra going back over forty years. He first recorded a score with it in 1977 (Star Wars, still the biggest-selling instrumental-only soundtrack of all time) and their first concert together took place on 16 February 1978. In all, twelve of his scores have been recorded with the LSO. There was an initial sense of disappointment at the Royal Albert Hall as the eighty-six-year-old Williams was forced to cancel through illness, to be replaced by Dirk Brossé, but Williams sent a message inviting the LSO to “raise the roof” and it duly obliged. 
Handel’s Serse – Maxim Emelyanychev directs Il Pomo d’Oro – with Franco Fagioli, Vivica Genaux & Inga Kalna
Friday, October 26, 2018 |  With his antepenultimate opera, Serse (1738), Handel created a work that was less formal and stylised than his previous opere serie, but took inspiration from a particular type of Venetian opera (going back to Monteverdi) that mixed comic and serious elements. ... It was curious then that Il Pomo d’Oro adopted a more grandiloquent, Mannerist approach to the work than it probably warrants, as the cast generally took a starkly defined attitude to each aria in the tradition of opera seria proper, underlined by Maxim Emelyanychev’s frequently impulsive interpretation... 
Michaela Schuster & Matthias Veit at Wigmore Hall
Thursday, October 25, 2018 |  Michaela Schuster has for some years been a prominent presence on stages, notable for bringing some of opera’s witches and bitches to vivid theatrical life. Her rich and powerful voice allied to her strong sense of theatre might suggests the intimate setting of Wigmore Hall as not her natural venue, but in this thoughtfully conceived programme interspersing settings by Mahler, Reger and Weill throughout Korngold’s 1933 cycle Unvergänglichkeit (Permanence) she demonstrated great communicative skill. 
LSO – Philippe Jordan conducts Night on Bare Mountain & Tchaikovsky 5 – Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider plays Szymanowski
Thursday, October 25, 2018 |  The Mussorgsky was certainly an ear-opener, however. His original version of Night on Bare Mountain is radically different from the Rimsky-Korsakov revision. After hearing it in so committed a performance one wonders why anyone plays the Rimsky any more. ... Szymanowski’s Second Violin Concerto, his last major work and making particular use of folksongs which the composer had noted down on his stays in Zakopane in the Tatra mountains, is relatively neglected, so all credit to Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider for tackling it... 
Brian Tyler Returns to Royal Festival Hall – Philharmonia Orchestra
Thursday, October 25, 2018 |  Brian Tyler is the ultimate blockbuster film composer. Hollywood goes to him for car chases, pile-ups, explosions and intergalactic time travel. He has produced scores for television, console games and the theme music for Formula One. In a parallel life , he is DJ Madsonik. ... Tyler returned to the Royal Festival Hall following a previous concert with the Philharmonia Orchestra in 2016. 
English National Opera – Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor – Sarah Tynan, Lester Lynch, Eleazar Rodriguez; directed by David Alden; conducted by Stuart Stratford
Thursday, October 25, 2018 |  There is blood, there is thunder, there is incest, sacrifice, death and madness. David Alden’s production of Donizetti’s romantic shocker Lucia di Lammermoor returns to the Coliseum, trailing gothic clouds of darkness, after an absence of eight years. ... Alden and his designers have updated Walter Scott’s tragic novel (based on fact) to a solid, bourgeois Victorian period, dressed in black bonnets, top hats and crinolines, set within the walls of a grand but severely distressed interior, all of it starkly lit. ... Sarah Tynan, singing Lucia for the first time, steers things back to Donizetti with her lovely, light soprano... 
Royal College of Music – John Wilson conducts A Pastoral Symphony & La valse, Nikola Avramovic plays Ravel’s Left-hand Piano Concerto
Thursday, October 25, 2018 |  As part of the Royal College of Music’s “Passing Youth” series, this programme brought reflections on the Great War, its spiritual and physical loss encoded in works written within a decade of one another by two composers who served their respective countries. ... John Wilson sought to underline Ravel’s description of his choreographic poem as an “impression of a fantastic, fatal whirling motion”... ... Ravel’s music brings solace, brutal eruptions, mechanistic jazz and virtuosic pianism. RCM alumnus Nikola Avramovic (who took a while to settle) fashioned a dark-hued account of considerable power... ... For all the surface tranquillity evoked by the title of Vaughan Williams’s Third Symphony, the work’s pastoral glow is far more elegiac, its tragic undertow memorial in tone. 
New York Philharmonic/Tugan Sokhiev – In the Steppes of Central Asia & Tchaikovsky 4 – Gil Shaham plays Prokofiev
Thursday, October 25, 2018 |  In this concert, his debut with the New York Philharmonic, Tugan Sokhiev conducted a Russian program. The evening opened with an atmospheric rendering of the Borodin... ... Then Gil Shaham gave an exceptionally warm and characterful performance of Prokofiev. ... Following intermission was a commanding account of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony. 
The Metropolitan Opera – David McVicar’s production of Puccini’s Tosca – Sondra Radvanovsky, Joseph Calleja & Željko Lučić; conducted by Carlo Rizzi
Thursday, October 25, 2018 |  The Met is reviving David McVicar’s production of Puccini’s Tosca with Sondra Radvanovsky and Joseph Calleja as the ill-fated lovers. ... Željko Lučić, who sang Scarpia last season when Bryn Terfel withdrew, once again stepped into the role, for this performance only. ... The Met Chorus and Children are in fine form, and the Orchestra plays gorgeously for Carlo Rizzi. 
Czech Philharmonic at Royal Academy of Music – Semyon Bychkov conducts Smetana & Dvořák, with Alisa Weilerstein
Wednesday, October 24, 2018 |  ...the Czech Philharmonic brought its distinctive sound and patriotic pride to Duke’s Hall. No better indigenous start than the Overture to Smetana’s Bartered Bride, articulate rather than frenzied from Semyon Bychkov... ... The rest was Dvořák. Following a potent introduction Alisa Weilerstein (no stranger to this work or this ensemble), if entering a hairsbreadth prematurely, gave a vivid and robust account of the expansive Cello Concerto... 
Queen’s Hall String Quartet at Storey’s Field – Beethoven & Robert Matthew-Walker – Harp, Quartetto Conciso, Serioso
Wednesday, October 24, 2018 |  This notable event was of several ‘firsts’. Eddington is a district just north-west of Cambridge, having been earmarked for extensive development a few years ago. ... We were fortunate to be present at the debut concert of The Queen’s Hall String Quartet, founded by John Boyden. Two Beethoven Quartets, Opuses 74 and 95, surrounded the new Quartetto Conciso by Robert Matthew-Walker. 
Ralph van Raat at Weill Recital Hall – Andriessen, Alkan, Debussy, Boulez
Wednesday, October 24, 2018 |  Ralph van Raat is quite exceptional, a much sought-after recitalist and soloist, a highly regarded musicologist and a respected teacher. The works on this program are related to the etude. Van Raat opened with Louis Andriessen. ... Charles-Valentin Alkan’s Symphony for Solo Piano came next. Alkan (1813-1888) was a remarkably gifted pianist and an extraordinarily creative composer. A child prodigy, earning many awards at the Paris Conservatoire, in which he was enrolled at the age of six, Alkan had a wide circle of friends... ... The concert concluded with an early (1944) and unpublished work by Pierre Boulez. The influence of Olivier Messiaen is apparent... 
Australian Chamber Orchestra – Mountain
Tuesday, October 23, 2018 |  Jennifer Peedom’s Mountain is guaranteed to bring on vertigo. The camera soars, leaps into space and hangs at extraordinary angles over stupendous mountain landscapes. One breathtaking image follows another. This seventy-four-minute documentary, shown in modified form for live performance, was suggested to Peedom by Richard Tognetti. The film explores humanity’s relationship with Nature... 
The Royal Opera – Antonio Pappano conducts Verdi’s Requiem
Tuesday, October 23, 2018 |  At the close of this exceptional performance of Verdi’s Requiem, following Lise Davidsen’s muttered supplication of “Libera me” had died away, Antonio Pappano kept a long, long silence, so that we could take stock of what had unfolded in the previous ninety minutes. This was one of the occasions when the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House takes centre stage, here to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the granting of the company’s royal charter, and also, as Pappano announced in his brief introduction, the centenary of the end of the First World War as well as to pay tribute to absent friends, not least the recently late Montserrat Caballé. 
Hilary Hahn plays Johann Sebastian Bach at Alice Tully Hall
Tuesday, October 23, 2018 |  As part of Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival, Hilary Hahn put us into a trance with a demanding program of J. S. Bach. 
Jasmin Vardimon Company at Sadler's Wells – Jasmin Vardimon's Medusa
Tuesday, October 23, 2018 |  Shape-shifting is something that dancers do rather well, so an exploration of Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’, that brilliant catalogue of how the gods change human beings at a whim, often for punishment, sometimes for their own safety. Buried deep in Book Four is the tale of Medusa, better known to us for her dispatch at the hands of Perseus, and it is she who is the focus of choreographer Jasmin Vardimon, marking twenty years of creations with her eponymously-named company. 
Australian Chamber Orchestra at Milton Court – Richard Tognetti directs Mozart’s Final Three Symphonies – 39, 40 & 41 (Jupiter)
Monday, October 22, 2018 |  Richard Tognetti’s approach to Mozart is full of detailed phrasing and incorporates personal touches which illuminate the dramatic aspect of these masterpieces. The members of the Australian Chamber Orchestra stood to play - there seems no great advantage in this – but the acoustic of Milton Court certainly enhanced the sound, which, despite the modest number of strings, gave power to these fully-scored Symphonies. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Nico Muhly’s Marnie – Isabel Leonard, Christopher Maltman & Iestyn Davies; directed by Michael Mayer; conducted by Robert Spano
Monday, October 22, 2018 |  The Met is giving Nico Muhly’s Marnie a stylish production that debuted at English National Opera last year, and Robert Spano makes his much-belated house debut in this run. ... ...a tour de force for Isabel Leonard as Marnie, who steals from her employers and then moves to a different town, each time assuming a new identity. 
Joseph Phibbs’s Juliana – Cheryl Enever & Samuel Pantcheff; directed by Richard Williams; conducted by George Vass
Sunday, October 21, 2018 |  Ever since Strindberg’s play Miss Julie was first staged, in Copenhagen in 1889, its shocker status has seeped into the theatrical subconscious, as much for its class and political concerns as for its erotic thrust. ... Juliana, by Joseph Phibbs and Laurie Slade, was first seen, aptly, for a one-night-stand at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, and this was its London one-night-stand. ... Cheryl Enever and Samuel Pantcheff piled on the agony as the coked-up, traumatised and abused Juliana and Juan, circling each other with explicitly acted lust and power-games. ... George Vass, with his customary thoroughness, kept things close and oppressive... 
2018 Richard Tucker Gala at Carnegie Hall
Sunday, October 21, 2018 |  The forty-three-year-old Richard Tucker Music Foundation, which perpetuates the legacy of the beloved American tenor (his 10 January 1975 funeral, held at the Met, was attended by more than 3,000 mourners) always promises a line-up of stars for its annual concert. 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Paavo Järvi – Lutosławski & Brahms [live webcast]
Saturday, October 20, 2018 |  The Berliner Philharmoniker and Paavo Järvi (a regular guest) pounded their way into the ‘Intrada’ of the Lutosławski (1950-54), intensely moulding the lines and emphasising rhythms, taking the music out of the showpiece category and into the symphonic one, vividly detailed and emotionally engaging... ... I have previously had misgivings about Järvi’s approach to Brahms 2... 
Guys and Dolls at Royal Albert Hall
Saturday, October 20, 2018 |  The Royal Albert Hall staged three performances of Guys and Dolls (this was the second) with a starry cast that would be impossible to employ for an extended run. ... It looks as if Frank Loesser’s show will be with us for as long as there is theatre. ... As Sky Adrian Lester brings musical authority to numbers such as ‘My time of day’, ‘I’ve never been in love before’, ‘Luck be a lady’ and ‘I’ll know’. Jason Manford is hilarious as poor put-upon Nathan and is excellent in the explanatory title song and his duet with Adelaide in ‘Sue me’. Adelaide herself, as depicted by the brilliant Meow Meow, is the epitome of a long-suffering fiancée and screamingly funny in her numbers ‘A bushel and a peck’, ‘Adelaide’s lament’ (in which “a person can develop a cold”) and ‘Take back your mink’, all of which are an absolute joy. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Fabien Gabel conducts The Tempest, Song of the Nightingale and The Firebird – Hunter Eberly plays Tomasi’s Trumpet Concerto [live webcast]
Friday, October 19, 2018 |  Fabien Gabel’s latest visit to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra opened with one of Tchaikovsky’s three Shakespeare settings (the others being Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet). The Tempest is the least-played of this trilogy... ... Henri Tomasi (1901-71) composed his neoclassical/jazzy Trumpet Concerto in 1948. It was deemed unplayable on first sight, although a couple of brave souls managed early on. It may be a challenge for a trumpeter – if not Hunter Eberly (DSO principal) who sailed through the demands with aplomb – but no problems for the listener... ... Following the interval, Stravinsky. The opening bustle of Song of the Nightingale (Hans Christian Andersen) was well-conveyed... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Alondra de la Parra conducts Glinka & Tchaikovsky – Benjamin Grosvenor plays Rachmaninov
Friday, October 19, 2018 |  Demonstrating a strong rapport with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Alondra de la Parra drew soulful and bracing performances, the evening off to a bristling start with Glinka’s opera Overture, de la Parra securing drama and charm... ... If the Glinka was notable for irrepressible bonhomie, the Rachmaninov was largely characterised by its controlled passions, with a slightly less than impeccable Benjamin Grosvenor bringing undemonstrative candour to the Second Piano Concerto. ... In Tchaikovsky the strings brought depth of tone to an interpretation built on notions of tragedy that became fiercely optimistic invigorated by de la Parra’s exuberance – at times a tigress on the podium. 
BBC Singers & Academy of Ancient Music/Sofi Jeannin at Milton Court, with Akademi – Lully & Rameau
Friday, October 19, 2018 |  An intriguing and colourful juxtaposition of music and dance styles, this combination of Indian classical dance with Baroque vocal music was inspired by the collaboration of the BBC Singers in Sukanya, Ravi Shankar’s opera. ... The first half of the concert opened with Lully’s Te Deum... ... The focus shifted to Rameau’s operas. The dancers’ technical grace and expressivity complimented the orchestral writing and the lovely communicative singing, whether from solo or corporate Singers. 
Britten Weekend at Snape Maltings – Opening Concert – Britten, Copland, Korngold, Woolrich
Friday, October 19, 2018 |  There were some nice symmetries in this programme that kicked off Aldeburgh Music’s Britten Weekend, bookended by the Doric Quartet and featuring two other string ensembles as well as an oboist and a pianist. ... In among this material of the 1920s and 1930s came a new piece, John Woolrich’s Badinerie... 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra at Lighthouse – Marta Gardolińska conducts Mozart & Rachmaninov – Nikita Boriso-Glebsky plays Bruch
Wednesday, October 17, 2018 |  Stepping in for Ben Gernon, this concert propelled Marta Gardolińska into the limelight. ... Performances of Max Bruch’s First Violin Concerto (there are two others) can sometimes be over-indulgent. This was an exception. Those with a sweet tooth, musically speaking, might have been taken aback by this solid account from Nikita Boriso-Glebsky. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Sakari Oramo conducts Shostakovich 9 & Prokofiev 6 – Martin Fröst plays Copland’s Clarinet Concerto
Wednesday, October 17, 2018 |  With its five short movements, the last three of which form a mini-suite and opening with a Classical creation complete with exposition repeat, it must have seemed that Shostakovich in Symphony No.9 was positively courting Soviet disapproval... ... As you might expect from a conductor for whom the devil is in the detail, Sakari Oramo was merciless in his exposing this allegedly light work’s Haydnesque invention. ... Martin Fröst is a scorcher of a performer, all the more visceral for not seeming contrived, and he was on top form in Aaron Copland’s 1947 Clarinet Concerto, which slides happily from prairie to Benny Goodman jazz-club (it was written for him) via a preposterously virtuoso cadenza. 
Nana Mouskouri in Concert at Royal Festival Hall – part of Forever Young tour
Wednesday, October 17, 2018 |  The auditorium was plunged into darkness as a video of one of the all-time greatest female artists was shown... ... The lights went up as Nana Mouskouri, recently turned eighty-four – swathed in an elegant floor-length black gown with white knot panel flowing into a dramatic sari – ambled onto the stage... 
American Symphony Orchestra & Bard Festival Chorale/Leon Botstein at Carnegie Hall – A Walt Whitman Sampler – Schoeck, Weill, Schreker, Vaughan Williams’s Sea Symphony
Wednesday, October 17, 2018 |  Since becoming music director of the American Symphony Orchestra in 1996, Leon Botstein has shown impressive creativity in fashioning interesting programs, usually focusing on a single subject, consisting of seldom-performed works that deserve a hearing. This program is an excellent example. In “A Walt Whitman Sampler” (possibly a pun on the famous box of chocolate delights), Botstein gathered together four works based upon and inspired by Whitman’s poetry... ... Ralph Vaughan Williams’s A Sea Symphony, for soprano, baritone, chorus and orchestra, first-performed in 1910 and also setting passages from Leaves of Grass, is an impressive debut Symphony, one of the most successful attempts at a musical setting of Whitman’s poetry... 
Stephen Sondheim’s Company at Gielgud Theatre – Rosalie Craig and Patti LuPone – directed by Marianne Elliott; conducted by Joel Fram
Tuesday, October 16, 2018 |  On hearing that Bobby [Robert], the main character in Stephen Sondheim’s Company was going to be called Bobbie [Roberta?] and played by an actress, my immediate thought was why? Then a feeling that it will never work came over me... ... One by one or two by two, or, as the song has it ‘Side by side by side’, they depict their home lives. In ‘The little things you do together’, Joanne (a wickedly acidic but hilarious Patti LuPone) explains what it’s like to be married... ... The cast work well together, making the comedy ring true. Mel Giedroyc as Sarah is on a diet but addicted to cakes while hubby Harry (Gavin Spokes) is on the wagon but sneaking shots of bourbon. But it is Rosalie Craig as Bobbie who holds everything together... 
Kensington Symphony Orchestra/Russell Keable at St John’s Smith Square – Joan Tower, Leonard Bernstein, John Adams’s Doctor Atomic Symphony, William Schuman's Third
Monday, October 15, 2018 |  Opening its 18-19 (and sixty-third) season, and also contributing to St John’s Smith Square’s year-long Americana festival, Russell Keable and the Kensington Symphony Orchestra get my vote for including music by New Yorker William Schuman (1910-92), composer and administrator, not least of the Juilliard School and of Lincoln Center, his Third Symphony being the main event. ... When John Adams led the world premiere of his Doctor Atomic Symphony (from the Oppenheimer opera) at the 2007 BBC Proms it took a debilitating fifty minutes. At least he cut it down, but even at Keable’s thirty, tedium set in for your correspondent with ten to go. 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Nicholas Daniel & Charles Owen
Monday, October 15, 2018 |  Not only is the oboe recital a relatively rare beast, but Nicholas Daniel and Charles Owen brought to Wigmore Hall a delightfully mixed programme of ear-opening novelty. 
LSO – Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider conducts Smetana’s Má vlast
Sunday, October 14, 2018 |  Smetana’s Má vlast (My Country) begins with the harps, the bard’s prelude to the songs he will sing of castles, knights and their ruin, of rivers and dancing, of the extreme vengeance of a woman spurned, of the homeland and its romantic countryside and the bloody wars of its early patriots. ... The great flowing theme of ‘Vltava’ was smooth and shining in the hands of the LSO strings, the polka a little sturdy, but the passage where the river hits the rapids was breathtakingly exciting... ... The tale was very effectively narrated by Nikolai Szeps-Znaider... 
John Eliot Gardiner conducts Berlioz at Carnegie Hall with Lucile Richardot and Antoine Tamestit
Sunday, October 14, 2018 |  For the first of two Berlioz concerts at Carnegie Hall, John Eliot Gardiner and Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique opened with an exuberant and swashbuckling rendition of Le Corsaire. ... Next, Lucile Richardot for The Death of Cleopatra, Berlioz’s third failed bid for the prestigious Prix de Rome, and the first of two death scenes on this program, each depicting the suicide of an African queen; Richardot was mesmerizing. ... Finally, a highly theatrical, eye-opening rendition of Harold in Italy. Throughout, Antoine Tamestit wandered around the stage... 
Southbank Sinfonia/Alexander Walker at Cadogan Hall – Dvořák 8 – Alda Dizdari plays Elgar
Sunday, October 14, 2018 |  Although this concert gave considerable enjoyment to the audience – and to this writer – both performances were problematic in different ways. The Elgar Violin Concerto was extremely interesting and so was the soloist. Alda Dizdari is from Albania, the daughter of a composer, and has been based in Britain for some time. She has made a special study of the Elgar and at the concert she was launching her book Kiss Me Again: A Memoir of Elgar in Unusual Places. ... Following the interval Walker and his players, all recent music college graduates, tackled Dvořák’s greatest, most characteristic and most loveable Symphony. 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Jakub Hrůša – The Golden Spinning Wheel & Taras Bulba – Frank Peter Zimmerman plays Martinů [live webcast]
Saturday, October 13, 2018 |  Tales to be told, if not before bedtime, essayed vividly by the Berliner Philharmoniker and Jakub Hrůša – Dvořák’s orchestral setting of a gruesome and surreal folk-ballad by Erben (murder, deception, the deceased brought back to life by mystical means) and Janáček’s Gogol-based Taras Bulba... ... As for Martinů’s Violin Concerto, it was composed in 1933 to a commission from Samuel Dushkin but not played... ... Frank Peter Zimmermann gave a spotless music-focussed performance... 
Welsh National Opera at New Theatre Oxford – Prokofiev’s War and Peace; directed by David Pountney; conducted by Tomáš Hanus
Saturday, October 13, 2018 |  The vast sprawl that is Prokofiev’s adaptation of Tolstoy’s literary masterpiece, War and Peace, with its composer’s various revisions and additions, means that it is unlikely there will ever be a definitive performing version; and it remains to be seen if there is any appetite for adopting Prokofiev’s suggestion at one time that the work be performed over two nights. 
Glyndebourne Tour 2018 – Massenet’s Cendrillon – Alix Le Saux, Eléonore Pancrazi, William Dazeley, Agnes Zwierko, Caroline Wettergreen; directed by Fiona Shaw; conducted by Duncan Ward
Saturday, October 13, 2018 |  Massenet’s Cendrillon was a triumph at its Paris premiere in 1899, but, like other Massenet operas, it has not exactly thrived. In the British Isles over the past twenty-five years or so, it has appeared at Wexford, WNO, Royal Academy of Music (twice) and in a star-studded Laurent Pelly production that touched down at Covent Garden in 2011. Three of my opera reference books don’t even mention it. As far as Massenet is concerned, Manon and Werther rule, with Don Quichotte a long stop. ... Fiona Shaw’s new staging for Glyndebourne (its first), on tour this autumn then at the 2019 Summer Festival, has provided Perrault’s Cinderella story with contemporary stiffening and an Angela Carter-ish fairy-tale reinterpretation that captures its sadness and comedy. 
Pascal Dusapin's Passion at Queen Elizabeth Hall
Saturday, October 13, 2018 |  The post-war history of French music has been one of refashioning the past in the process of embracing the future and there is no more creative figure than Pascal Dusapin, whose carving out of an independent role has resulted in an output second to none in its expressive scope. ... There have been few opportunities, however, to experience them in the UK – so making this production by Music Theatre Wales of Passion the more valuable. ... As a production this proved ideally suited to the Queen Elizabeth Hall... 
London Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra – Jérémie Rhorer conducts Poulenc’s Stabat Mater & Orff’s Carmina Burana
Saturday, October 13, 2018 |  Given its penchant for titles I wondered whether the LPO should have gone with “Sacred and Profane” for this programme, instead of the more cumbersome “Life, Death and Shameless Excess”. ... ...here twentieth-century choral pieces setting medieval texts in Latin and/or German, with a religious connection, even if the only real connection Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana texts have to the spiritual is due to the monastic collection from which came the sometimes-bawdy lyrics. 
Glyndebourne Tour 2018 – Tom Cairns’s production of Verdi’s La traviata – Mané Galoyan, Emanuele D’Aguanno, Noel Bouley; conducted by Christoph Altstaedt
Friday, October 12, 2018 |  Tom Cairns’s no-frills production of La traviata, first unveiled at Glyndebourne in 2014, enjoys a new cast, but the abstract sets and near-contemporary costumes conceived by Hildegard Bechtler remain. ... Violetta’s tragedy is placed at the centre of this staging, her universal humanity underlined by an unspecified timeframe and the trappings of tuberculosis traded for an incurable illness suggested by fainting fits. ... And making her Glyndebourne debut as Violetta, Mané Galoyan is a real find... ... The whole is given flamboyant conducting from Christoph Altstaedt... 
The Royal Opera presents Handel’s Solomon – Lawrence Zazzo, Sophie Bevan, Susan Bickley, Ed Lyon & Richard Burkhard; conducted by Christian Curnyn
Thursday, October 11, 2018 |  The Royal Opera House is undertaking a cycle of the stage-works by Handel associated with its eighteenth-century predecessor on the same site, the Covent Garden Theatre. ... This cycle started near the end of Handel’s career with the oratorio Solomon... ... If Theresa May wants a new Festival of Britain to celebrate the supposed achievements of Brexit one could, perhaps, do worse than start with this work. ... This one-off concert performance by the Royal Opera Chorus and the Early Opera Company with the latter’s director Christian Curnyn was good, if rarely much better than routine. 
English National Opera – The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess – Eric Greene & Nicole Cabell; directed by James Robinson; conducted by John Wilson
Thursday, October 11, 2018 |  In a close-knit community on the east coast a storm necessitates the occupants to huddle together for safety. The door opens and in strides an outsider come for his human chattel, the atmosphere leavened by a popular song. There’s even a black marketeer peddling his drugs. Ring any bells? I’m hoping you have immediately plumped for Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, but I’m thinking of an opera composed a decade earlier: the Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. ... James Robinson, artistic director of the Opera Theatre of St Louis, makes his UK debut and John Wilson makes his first appearance at ENO. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Karina Canellakis conducts Sibelius & Bartók – Pierre-Laurent Aimard plays Dvořák
Wednesday, October 10, 2018 |  Karina Canellakis has experience and background: spotted by Simon Rattle when she was with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchester-Akademie, she studied conducting at the Juilliard School, mentored by Alan Gilbert and Fabio Luisi, and won the Georg Solti Conducting Award in 2016. ... The opening of Pohjola's Daughter, “maiden of the north country”, premiered in St Petersburg in 1906, a piece that still assails the senses for its impact and imagination, caught a perfect soundworld... ... Dvořák's problematic 1876 Piano Concerto fared less persuasively... ... Favouring an undistinguished Yamaha, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, who some years ago recorded the work with Harnoncourt, wasn't in the best of form. 
András Schiff at Wigmore Hall – Schubert Piano Sonatas D845, D850, D894
Wednesday, October 10, 2018 |  Of all the composers András Schiff has championed – Bach, Bartók, Beethoven, Schubert, for starters – it’s the latter that seems to engage him the most. Perhaps it is because Schubert’s music positively resists a grandstanding approach... ... Wigmore Hall was sold out, and the audience was notably quiet and attentive throughout – the first half lasted an hour and twenty minutes, with D850 following D845 without Schiff taking a pause, and all the repeats observed – the event ending just before 10 p.m., late enough for Radio 3 to pass on Schiff’s substantial encore. 
New York Philharmonic/David Robertson – Louis Andriessen & Sibelius – Garrick Ohlsson plays Paganini Rhapsody
Wednesday, October 10, 2018 |  The New York Philharmonic is presenting “The Art of Andriessen” to celebrate the music of the inestimable Louis Andriessen... ... David Robertson led the Philharmonic... ... Andriessen’s TAO (The Way, 1996) was first up. ... Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini followed. Garrick Ohlsson negotiated the more challenging variations with masterful skill... 
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/Andris Nelsons at Royal Festival Hall (2) – Māra & Mahler 1 – Kristine Opolais sings Tchaikovsky
Tuesday, October 09, 2018 |  There was prolonged applause as the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra entered for the second of its pair of London concerts. For one listener, at least, the temperature then dropped for Māra by Andris Dzenītis, Andris Nelsons’s forty-year-old fellow-Latvian. ... There were no identity problems with the Tchaikovsky extracts – two heroines in thrall to mad, bad or sad men, with Kristine Opolais taking no prisoners in Lisa’s Act One scena from The Queen of Spades, and ‘Tatyana’s Letter Scene’ from Eugene Onegin. 
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/Andris Nelsons at Royal Festival Hall (1) – Mahler 5 – Håkan Hardenberger plays Bernd Alois Zimmermann's Nobody knows de trouble I see
Monday, October 08, 2018 |  The Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, founded in 1743, the world's oldest civic orchestra, deals in gold and plush velvet, steel and thunder, cannonades and silk tresses. ... Andris Nelsons is the orchestra's twenty-first Gewandhauskapellmeister, the second youngest in its history (the first having been Mendelssohn in 1835). He takes on a daunting responsibility, his twentieth-century predecessors having included the cream of central Europe on either side of two world wars, from Nikisch, Furtwängler and Bruno Walter to Konwitschny and Masur. ... Given the might and armoury of the machine on the platform, Mahler's Fifth Symphony had its epic minutes, huge dynamic range and pulverising climaxes enfolding the drama, without ever being as electrifying or cogently welded as one knows it can be. ... Bernd Alois Zimmermann's Trumpet Concerto (1954) doesn't get many airings in London – it was last done at the Proms in 2012, and before that in 1997 with the LPO under Masur – but it's widely popular around Europe. Denunciating racial hatred and discrimination, and based on 'Nobody knows de trouble I see'... ... A staple of Håkan Hardenberger's repertory, the performance was glossy and slick... 
The Metropolitan Opera – Giancarlo del Monaco’s production of Puccini’s La fanciulla del West – Eva-Maria Westbroek, Željko Lučić & Yusif Eyvazov; conducted by Marco Armiliato
Monday, October 08, 2018 |  Giancarlo del Monaco’s 1991 production of Puccini’s La fanciulla del West, last revived in 2011, returns to the Met, where the opera was premiered in 1910, Toscanini conducting. ... During the atmospheric introduction, Rance sits alone as Nick the bartender prepares for the inrush of miners. Željko Lučić sings strongly and cuts an imposing figure, but his declaration of love for Minnie triggers a brawl (effectively staged), culminating in a wonderful moment when she enters firing a rifle, bringing hostilities to a sudden halt. Eva-Maria Westbroek is a charming Minnie... 
The Royal Ballet – Kenneth MacMillan's Mayerling [Ryoichi Hirano & Natlaia Osipova]
Monday, October 08, 2018 |  Mayerling is perhaps the most dense, most intricate ballet in the repertoire, a vast canvas on which interweaving themes of love, lust, despair, political struggle and alienation are played out; it is the antithesis of the clean lines of Balanchinean abstraction. Much criticised for its sprawling, complicated narrative when premiered in 1978, it is work that has come of age, a ballet that is now rightly considered a jewel in The Royal Ballet’s repertoire. Much of the reasoning for such status is the role of Crown Prince Rudolf which, because of its extreme physical and dramatic demands, is seen as the ‘Hamlet’ of roles for male dancers and is as coveted as Juliet for their female counterparts. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Leonard Slatkin conducts The Seventh Trumpet & Enigma Variations – Gil Shaham plays Prokofiev [live webcast]
Sunday, October 07, 2018 |  Having had to bypass engagements in recent months, a repaired and hearty Leonard Slatkin returned to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, now as Music Director Laureate... ... Donald Erb (1927-2008, a native of Ohio) was first on with The Seventh Trumpet (1969), following The Star-Spangled Banner. ... Following which Gil Shaham gave a sweetly lyrical account of the outer movements of Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto... ... Slatkin recorded Enigma Variations some years ago (with the London Philharmonic), not a one-off for this imperishable masterpiece, for it’s a regular in his repertoire... 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Sakari Oramo – Peer Gynt & Lemminkäinen – Alban Gerhardt plays Brett Dean’s Cello Concerto [live webcast]
Saturday, October 06, 2018 |  Peer Gynt and Lemminkäinen on their travels, arriving in Berlin, their composers’ Scandinavian compatriot Sakari Oramo conjuring vivid details and much evocation, opening with a rapturous, woodwind-distinguished, ‘Morning Mood’ from Grieg’s music for Ibsen’s play... ... Sibelius’s Lemminkäinen Legends are from early in his output (if revised) and predate his Seven Symphonies. The named Kalevala-enshrined hero, the work opening with baleful, attention-commanding horns, becomes passionate with the ‘Maidens of Saari’. ... This programme’s third outing was also streamed to the World, extending the audience, not least for Brett Dean’s new-this-year Cello Concerto, written for Alban Gerhardt and premiered a few weeks ago in Sydney... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Orpheus & Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus, with Theater Trikster
Saturday, October 06, 2018 |  We’ve reached post-war 1940s in the LPO’s year-long survey of Stravinsky’s output. Vladimir Jurowski decided to pair the mercurial composer’s sparse ballet-score Orpheus (for Balanchine, 1948) with another dance-related creation based on classical Greek mythology, Beethoven’s The Creatures of Prometheus. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Cristian Măcelaru conducts Beethoven's Creatures of Prometheus & Mason Bates’s Anthology of Fantastic Zoology – Jeremy Denk plays the Emperor Concerto
Friday, October 05, 2018 |  Beethoven may have been the most-familiar name here, but this was an evening about Mason Bates, Cristian Măcelaru and Jeremy Denk. ... Creatures from classical antiquity were followed by a more-contemporary imagination in Bates’s Anthology of Fantastic Zoology, evocations of bizarre beings familiar and unknown. First-performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Riccardo Muti in 2015, this glitzy work is based on a story by the Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges. 
San Francisco Symphony/Michael Tilson Thomas at Carnegie Hall – Stravinsky program with Leonidas Kavakos
Thursday, October 04, 2018 |  For the second of their two Carnegie Hall concerts, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony turned to Stravinsky. ... From the opening bars of the Violin Concerto, written with significant input from Samuel Dushkin who premiered it in 1931, it is unmistakably from the same composer’s hand. Leonidas Kavakos found the abounding wit of the rhythmically fascinating ‘Toccata’... 
William Forsythe at Sadler's Wells – A Quiet Evening of Dance
Thursday, October 04, 2018 |  The news that choreographer William Forsythe is in town is big news indeed, so Sadler’s Wells has pulled off something of a coup to secure him for a full evening of his work. He is a cerebral dance-maker, one whose thought-processes, experimentations and musings on the art form of ballet have enriched the repertoire. A Quiet Evening of Dance is no different – a subtely concentrated series of works culminating in a new creation which acts as a synthesis of what we have witnessed before. For this successful evening, Forsythe has assembled some of his most trusted and attuned dance collaborators who, between them, notch up decades of experience of his way of working and his own particular aesthetic – it is simply a joy to see them move and bringing all they know of him and his ways to their performances. 
Llŷr Williams at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms
Wednesday, October 03, 2018 |  Llŷr Williams opened with his signature composer, Beethoven, his C-minor Variations in which the pianist immediately found qualities of touch and tone, exact balance between hands, and a wholesome appreciation of the music’s ground-plan... ... On a larger scale and more-extensive range, Robert Schumann’s relatively rare Humoreske, opening in dreamy nostalgia and then a showcase of mercurial moods... ... ...this is young man’s music yet it came across more as “blue remembered hills” (Housman rather than Dennis Potter). 
Carnegie Hall’s Opening Night Gala – San Francisco Symphony/Michael Tilson Thomas with Renée Fleming & Audra McDonald
Wednesday, October 03, 2018 |  The San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas, Renée Fleming and Audra McDonald launched Carnegie Hall 18-19. Bookending the program were works by George Gershwin, and including McDonald’s sultry rendition of ‘Summertime’ from his and Ira’s Porgy and Bess; there were also songs from Broadway shows. 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra 18-19 opener at Lighthouse – Kirill Karabits conducts Ligeti’s Lontano & Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony
Wednesday, October 03, 2018 |  Kirill Karabits was unafraid to start with something almost glacial in its focus on sonority and timbre, György Ligeti’s Lontano (distant), here brilliantly throwing into relief Mahler’s life-affirming ‘Resurrection’ Symphony. 
Robin Tritschler & Malcolm Martineau at Wigmore Hall – Schubert
Wednesday, October 03, 2018 |  Robin Tritschler and Malcolm Martineau's Wigmore Hall Schubert recital delighted the head and heart as his sweet lyrical tenor illuminated an eclectic choice of Lieder, a programme divided into Solitude, Childhood, Death, and Lost Love. 
A funeral for the Queen of Carthage – Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas – Academy of Ancient Music/Richard Egarr, with Caitlin Hulcup, Rowan Pierce, Ashley Riches & Neal Davies; directed by Thomas Guthrie
Tuesday, October 02, 2018 |  Following last year’s inane directional intervention by Daisy Evans into King Arthur, turning it into a drama about Brexit (although even then it would have been difficult to believe that that political process could become the theatrical charade it has become in reality) one might have feared what Thomas Guthrie would make of Dido and Aeneas in this presentation by the Academy of Ancient Music as the last part of its cycle of some of Purcell’s stage-works. 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Chiaroscuro Quartet – Joke & Rosamunde
Monday, October 01, 2018 |  The last-minute withdrawal of Annelien Van Wauwe also meant the disappearance of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet from the Chiaroscuro Quartet’s Wigmore Hall concert. But there was nothing at all to disappoint in the programme that the Chiaroscuro members delivered: first (as advertised) concise, almost stylised Haydn, and then (Mozart’s replacement) a much more expansive Schubert. 

 

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