All 2018 Concert Reviews

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. 
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... 
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... 
English National Opera – Fiona Shaw’s production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro – Thomas Oliemans, Rhian Lois, Lucy Crowe, Ashley Riches; conducted by Martyn Brabbins
Thursday, March 29, 2018 |  Musical values are to the fore in this second revival of Fiona Shaw’s 2011 production of The Marriage of Figaro. Martyn Brabbins leads a fleet account of the score with a strong sense of immediacy and response between pit and stage... ... At the heart of this revival are two very strong performances, by Lucy Crowe and Ashley Riches as Countess and Count Almaviva. Crowe’s voice is developing remarkably... ... This is a cast that really knows how to sing in English and deliver the text of Jeremy Sams’s witty translation to the full. 
Evgeny Kissin at Barbican Hall – Hammerklavier Sonata & Rachmaninov Preludes
Thursday, March 29, 2018 |  When Evgeny Kissin gives a recital, there's a buzz in the hall, an air of expectation. The kind of wonderment that comes from greatness before us. It sends a shiver. Redolent of times long ago with Rubinstein, Horowitz, Małcużyński, Richter, Gilels, Michelangeli... ... Starting with the 'Hammerklavier' was a feat in itself. Kissin met it head on, giving us what the composer wrote... ... With the Rachmaninov Preludes – I-VII of Opus 23 (1901-03) and X, XII & XIII of Opus 32 (1910) – images of darkness and desolation, walls of granite, the malachite mines of the Urals, unrequited kisses, epic horizons consumed and held the minutes. 
The Royal Opera at Barbican Theatre – Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Coraline
Thursday, March 29, 2018 |  Mark-Anthony Turnage‘s fourth opera, Coraline, marks quite a departure for him, written with a family audience in mind. How would he respond to a well-known gothic children’s story, which has already been adapted into a successful animated film? 
Bayerische Staatsoper at Carnegie Hall – Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier – Adrianne Pieczonka, Angela Brower, Hanna-Elisabeth Müller, Peter Rose; conducted by Kirill Petrenko
Thursday, March 29, 2018 |  Over the past couple of weeks New York City audiences have enjoyed several wide-ranging operas, including a new Così fan tutte at the Met, a concert of Handel’s Rinaldo, and Vittorio Grigolo’s fearless Edgardo in the Met’s Lucia di Lammermoor. Another spectacular event took place at Carnegie Hall, where Kirill Petrenko led Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. 
The Royal Ballet – Manon [Francesca Hayward & Federico Bonelli]
Thursday, March 29, 2018 |  It is difficult to imagine that Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon, now a staple in the repertoire of well over twenty companies worldwide, was given a decidedly mixed reception when it was first performed in 1973; it now seems absolutely right, a perfect balance of the intimate and the larger scale, the downfall of an amoral yet adorable heroine and her obsessed lover set against the seediness of France during the Régence. And it is good to report that given by The Royal Ballet, one can witness it better and more authentically performed than anywhere else. This most recent revival demonstrates that, in this particular work, and in the realm of dance narrative as a whole, this ensemble remains untouchable, such is the depth of understanding of the detail and nuance of successful story-telling through the medium of dance. 
Bayerisches Staatsorchester/Kirill Petrenko at Carnegie Hall – Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony & Brahms's Double Concerto with Julia Fischer & Daniel Müller-Schott
Wednesday, March 28, 2018 |  Brahms’s Double Concerto (his final orchestral work) has as many detractors as it does advocates. ... Julia Fischer and Daniel Müller-Schott offered much more than their extraordinary technical skills. ... Under the guidance of a sympathetic conductor, such as Kirill Petrenko, these outstanding instrumentalists gave the interweaving passages an especially fine integral fluidity. ... The Bavarian State Orchestra is one of the oldest ensembles... ... responded to Petrenko’s vigorous direction with resilience and generating as much power as it could to comport with Tchaikovsky’s dynamic demands in Manfred. 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Rafael Payare, with Alban Gerhardt & Abigail Fenna – Richard Strauss & Mozart – Don Juan, Haffner Symphony, Don Quixote
Tuesday, March 27, 2018 |  Replacing Charles Dutoit (see below for a link to a Statement by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra), Rafael Payare has a striking appearance and a vigorous conducting style... ... Nonetheless the RPO was on excellent form and brought off a dashing Don Juan... ... Where the Strauss had been vivid and purposeful, Mozart’s ‘Haffner’ Symphony felt like a limp watercolour... ... Then back to Spain for one of the most loveable literary characters, Don Quixote, Strauss’s Variations relating to episodes from Cervantes’s epic tale that portrays Quixote and his long-suffering servant Sancho Panza. For this occasion, it was Alban Gerhardt who brought much refinement... 
Orchestre de l'Opéra de Paris/Philippe Jordan at Philharmonie de Paris – Tchaikovsky Symphonies 2 & 4 [deferred webcast]
Tuesday, March 27, 2018 |  This season Philippe Jordan, currently Music Director of the Opéra National de Paris, Chief Conductor of the Wiener Symphoniker, and Music Director elect of the Wiener Staatsoper, is presenting a Tchaikovsky cycle at the Opéra Bastille and the Philharmonie de Paris. 
OAE – Johann Sebastian Bach’s St Matthew Passion – Mark Padmore & Roderick Williams
Monday, March 26, 2018 |  If experimental readings of J. S. Bach’s monumental B-minor Mass, using choirs of one to a part, have rendered it a “madrigal” as some have quipped, the limited resources for this OAE performance of the St Matthew Passion with its generally cool, casual realisation of the music, gave it all the decorous modesty of a drawing room partsong. The eight principal soloists were divided into two groups of four, mirroring the ripieno choirs, one singer to a part (and even then not distributed across the stage in the usual SATB arrangement). 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Danny Driver
Monday, March 26, 2018 |  Perhaps the relatively small crowd at Wigmore Hall for Danny Driver was down to the three composers topping the programme, but more-conservative listeners need not have been overly deterred. The chosen Prélude is early Messiaen... ... It ends with a glissando, a point of commonality with Kaija Saariaho’s Ballade (for Emanuel Ax)... ... Driver turned in an utterly different direction for the biggest piece, Schumann’s Kreisleriana, executed with equal sympathy... 
The Royal Opera – Phyllida Lloyd’s production of Verdi’s Macbeth – Željko Lučiċ & Anna Netrebko; conducted by Antonio Pappano
Sunday, March 25, 2018 |  This revival of Phyllida Lloyd’s 2002 production of Macbeth includes Željko Lučiċ as the Scottish thane and Anna Netrebko as his consort with Antonio Pappano conducting. Lučiċ has been heard in the Royal Opera House in several Verdi roles and his singing has always been treasurable. ... Netrebko’s Lady Macbeth is on this level too. 
LSO – François-Xavier Roth conducts Boulez, Debussy & Stravinsky, and the premiere of Ewan Campbell’s Frail Skies – Renaud Capuçon plays Bartók
Sunday, March 25, 2018 |  In planning this concert, the third and last of his Debussy and Beyond series with the LSO, François-Xavier Roth opted for a programme featuring music by those he considers Debussy's “sons”, in this case a span of composers from Bartók to Ewan Campbell. In an over-long evening, with arguably one work too many, the two clear masters were Debussy himself and Boulez. The latter's Livre pour cordes... ... Bartók originally wanted his 1937-38 Second Violin Concerto to be a set of variations, but Zoltán Székely, who commissioned it, insisted on a traditional three-movement format. Bartók complied but not without compromise … plus some orchestral asides playing to the gallery that stylistically I've never really warmed to. Renaud Capuçon has recently recorded it with Roth and the LSO... ... Marking the death of Debussy a century ago, to the day, almost the hour, La mer was all that was to be expected of the LSO in the hands of a conductor as cultured, nuanced and experienced as Roth. 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Karl-Heinz Steffens plays and conducts Brahms – Clarinet Quintet & German Requiem
Sunday, March 25, 2018 |  Karl-Heinz Steffens has established a firm relationship with the Philharmonia Orchestra since he first worked with it in 2014, replacing Christoph von Dohnányi. For this concert there was the added attraction of his reverting to his previous job (as clarinettist with the Berlin Philharmonic), which he left in 2007 to focus on conducting, in a performance of Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet with four of the Philharmonia’s principals as an extended preface to the German Requiem. 
Handel’s Rinaldo at Carnegie Hall – Harry Bicket directs The English Concert with Iestyn Davies, Joélle Harvey, Jane Archibald & Sasha Cooke
Sunday, March 25, 2018 |  This performance of Rinaldo was the sixth in a nearly annual series of Handel operas and oratorios presented by The English Concert at Carnegie Hall, launched in 2013 with Radamisto and which continues next season with Semele, in April. Harry Bicket has led accounts of three great Italian operas written by Handel in the 1730s. With Rinaldo, Bicket returned to the beginning of Handel’s career in London; Rinaldo premiered at the Queen’s Theatre, Haymarket in 1711. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Thierry Fischer conducts Symphony of Psalms & Violin Concerto – with Patricia Kopatchinskaja – and Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms
Saturday, March 24, 2018 |  The latest leg of the London Philharmonic’s Stravinsky series lost its original guide, Andrés Orozco-Estrada... ... ...it was Thierry Fischer (Utah music director) to the rescue... ... Symphony of Psalms (1930) was composed for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Koussevitzky... ... Similarly to Symphony of Psalms, Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms (1965), of Hebraic settings, didn’t reach its commissioner immediately. ... In the second movement (‘The Lord is my shepherd’) fourteen-year-old William Davies, slightly overawed maybe, was singularly impressive in poise and pitching, and the music, essentially a West Side Story cast-off... ... Rather special too was Patricia Kopatchinskaja’s appearance for Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Jukka-Pekka Saraste conducts Pohjola’s Daughter & Beethoven 7 – Augustin Hadelich plays Britten's Violin Concerto [live webcast]
Saturday, March 24, 2018 |  This attractive programme was beamed to all in typical Detroit Symphony Orchestra style... ... In Detroit, guest Jukka-Pekka Saraste opened with one of Sibelius’s greatest pieces, Pohjola’s Daughter... ... Following the interval Beethoven 7 responded well to Saraste’s directness and rhythmic clarity... ... In between these mighty fortresses, Benjamin Britten’s Violin Concerto, completed in 1939, the World on the cusp of War, and attracting much attention these days (there was a presentation in London very recently from Vilde Frang). It only reached the DSO in 2013, and this time its ominous soundings, troubled lyricism and raging intensity engrossed Augustin Hadelich. 
London Handel Festival – Amadigi di Gaula – Michal Czerniawski; Opera Settecento/Leo Duarte
Saturday, March 24, 2018 |  London was recently treated to a concert performance of Handel’s first ‘magic’ opera, Rinaldo, by the English Concert. The London Handel Festival – presumably coincidentally – happens to present this year the two examples which followed soon after that, starting with Amadigi... 
Midsummer Opera – Verdi’s Luisa Miller – Emma Dogliani, Andrew Mayor, Stephen Holloway, John Upperton; directed by Lynne McAdam; conducted by David Roblou
Friday, March 23, 2018 |  With an output of numerous operas (and substantive revisions of some) it is perhaps not surprising, if regrettable, that even such an above-average example by Verdi as Luisa Miller is overlooked in favour of a number of his others. Dating from 1849 it stands on the cusp of the breakthrough to indisputable artistic maturity which Verdi achieved in Rigoletto, with only Stiffelio coming in between, but already it anticipates the former masterpiece with its fluid structures where formal numbers are more seamlessly integrated within the dramatic framework. ... David Roblou’s conducting of Midsummer Opera grasped that convincingly with an interpretation of considerable heft... 
Palm Beach Opera – Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro – Marko Mimica, Janai Brugger, David Adam Moore, Irene Roberts, Caitlyn Lynch; directed by Stephen Lawless, conducted by Antonino Fogliani
Friday, March 23, 2018 |  When the stars are in alignment, as they are here, The Marriage of Figaro is the most magical of operas. In this Palm Beach production, co-owned with three other companies, a strong cast and the excellent chorus and orchestra bring Mozart’s music and Da Ponte’s comedy and social commentary vividly to life. 
London Handel Festival – Esther – Erica Eloff; conducted by Adrian Butterfield
Thursday, March 22, 2018 |  Having opened with Acis and Galatea, the London Handel Festival continued its examination of the year 1718 with this performance of the composer’s first attempt at English Oratorio, based on an Old Testament story. ... The sequence followed in this putative tercentenary anniversary performance at Wigmore Hall was that assembled by John Butt... ... The reduced forces of this performance by the London Handel Orchestra under Adrian Butterfield’s direction recalled the sort of limited resources Handel himself had to work with during his time at Cannons... ... Erica Eloff was impressive in her forthright, extrovert depiction of Esther who manages to work her charm on the Persian king Ahasverus, so as to avert the genocidal inclinations of the chief minister... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy – Voices of Revolution Russia 1917 – Mosolov’s Iron Foundry & Glière’s Red Poppy, Behzod Abduraimov plays Prokofiev, Nadezhda Gulitskaya sings Coloratura Soprano Concerto
Thursday, March 22, 2018 |  This Philharmonia Orchestra concert, halfway through its excellent Russia 1917 series, may well turn out to be the most fascinating piece of programming, although the music, with one short, loud exception, is the least overtly revolutionary. Alexander Mosolov (1900-73) is remembered in the decadent West mainly for his brutal explosion of industrial Soviet modernism The Iron Foundry... ... ...grinding brass, woodwind shrieks and implacable percussion kept firmly in place by the eighty-year-old Vladimir Ashkenazy... ... Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.3 is infinitely more ingratiating. ... ...Behzod Abduraimov left us in no doubt of his stupendous virtuosity. ... The second half of the concert was devoted to the music of Reinhold Glière (1875-1956), whose career was at the heart of Soviet music. His Concerto for Coloratura Soprano and Orchestra, despite the arch-conservatism of its style, is still oddly subversive... ... Nadezhda Gulitskaya (replacing Ailish Tynan) was magnificent... 
Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman & Rohan De Silva at Carnegie Hall
Thursday, March 22, 2018 |  Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman began this Carnegie Hall recital with Johann Gottlieb Goldberg’s Sonata for Two Violins. Long attributed to J. S. Bach as BWV1037 it has only recently been re-ascribed to his pupil Goldberg, primarily remembered for lending his name to the Goldberg Variations. This charming piece is in four movements, alternately slow-fast. The violinists brought the slow ones to life with affection and embraced the others with wholehearted joyousness, Rohan De Silva (replacing Martha Argerich, her absence generating a change of program and the addition of Zukerman) a mostly discreet supporter. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Andrés Orozco-Estrada conducts Apollon musagète, Schubert 3, and Peter Donohoe plays Capriccio and Weber’s Konzertstück
Wednesday, March 21, 2018 |  It was pleasing to end this fresh-faced London Philharmonic concert with Schubert’s ebullient Third Symphony (when it turns up at all it is invariably the starter course), a sunny contrast to the severe beauty of (current LPO project) Stravinsky’s Apollon musagète. Andrés Orozco-Estrada gave an upbeat account of the Schubert... ... In place of a grand Piano Concerto, two concertante works in which Peter Donohoe was simply terrific. Weber’s Konzertstück (1821), a gem, opened with beguiling woodwinds... ... Usually Konzertstück is paired – Alfred Brendel used to couple it with Liszt No.2 – and here it was Stravinsky’s Capriccio... 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Sakari Oramo conducts This Midnight Hour & Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony – Vilde Frang plays Britten’s Violin Concerto
Wednesday, March 21, 2018 |  The British-born (in 1980), New York-resident Anna Clyne has developed a formidable reputation. ... All of this, and a lot more, are there for hearing in This Midnight Hour... ... Clyne’s brand of sonic visualisation complements Britten rather neatly. His much-revised Violin Concerto is increasingly being recognised as one of his major scores. Sakari Oramo, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Vilde Frang presented it as such. ... The strings stayed at the same strength (based on eight double basses) for Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ Symphony, in which Oramo focused on instrumental balance and detail... 
Schubert Ensemble at Wigmore Hall – Chausson, Schubert’s Trout Quintet, Judith Weir
Wednesday, March 21, 2018 |  After three-and-a-half decades of existence and twenty-three years without a personnel change, this concert marked the Schubert Ensemble’s farewell to London. A suitably packed Wigmore Hall included many of the Great and Good of music... ... Following the interval the string-playing sounded just that vital shade more colourful in the Ensemble’s signature work, Schubert’s ‘Trout’ Quintet. ... But the players still had one or two cards up their sleeves, including a premiere. As a composer of Scots ancestry, Judith Weir (present in the audience) might have been expected to produce a pipe tune... 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Litton at Lighthouse – Outdoor Overture & Pathétique Symphony – Stefan Jackiw plays Korngold
Wednesday, March 21, 2018 |  It’s thirty years since Andrew Litton took up the reins of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and here, making a rare appearance as Conductor Laureate, he presided over a programme that tugged at the heartstrings, but got off to a breezy start with An Outdoor Overture... ... From quintessential American to adopted American, there followed Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Violin Concerto... ... ...admirably served by Stefan Jackiw... ... The encore provided a foretaste of the sobriety that arrived in Tchaikovsky’s ‘Pathétique’ Symphony... 
George Li at St John’s Smith Square – Beethoven, Chopin, Rachmaninov, Liszt
Tuesday, March 20, 2018 |  George Li is Chinese-American, aged twenty-two and won the Silver Medal at the 2015 Tchaikovsky Competition. All very impressive, but his distinguished background doesn’t prepare you for the vigour, imagination and affection of his playing. 
London Handel Festival – Acis and Galatea – Nick Pritchard & Lucy Page; directed by Martin Parr; conducted by Laurence Cummings
Monday, March 19, 2018 |  Anniversary mania has gripped the London Handel Festival this year such that, for its staged production of a dramatic work in its opening week, it jettisons the presentation of one of the composer’s thirty-nine surviving full-length Italian opera serie in favour of the English masque or serenata, Acis and Galatea... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Stile Antico
Monday, March 19, 2018 |  Even the lightest music could have deadly serious implications in the England of Elizabeth I, as some composers discovered to their cost; the politics of the English Reformation and the constant jockeying for court favouritism lie so often in the background when we listen to an apparently ethereal Anthem or carefree Madrigal. ... ...well brought out by Stile Antico – a twelve-strong, director-less, a cappella ensemble – at Wigmore Hall. 
Soraya Mafi & Graham Johnson at Wigmore Hall – The Lure of the East
Sunday, March 18, 2018 |  Soraya Mafi gave a sparkling performance at Wigmore Hall choosing songs reflecting her Persian heritage. Our voyage to the East opened with Schumann’s emotionally intense Byron setting ‘Aus den hebräischen Gesängen’. The chromatic introduction was beautifully detailed by Graham Johnson... ... Add sweetness for ‘The Sun Whose Rays’ from Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado, but the frenzied speed and subsequent lack of clear diction of Noël Coward’s ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen’ made it the only disappointment... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Sleeping Beauty & Fairy’s Kiss, Daniil Trifonov plays Tchaikovsky
Saturday, March 17, 2018 |  This latest instalment in the London Philharmonic’s year-long “Changing Faces: Stravinsky’s Journey” series focussed on The Fairy’s Kiss, drawing on Tchaikovsky’s piano music and songs, written in 1927 at the behest of dancer Ida Rubinstein, and seldom performed complete (Stravinsky fashioned a Divertimento from it). Vladimir Jurowski conducted a vivid account... ... The evening had begun with Stravinsky’s re-orchestrations of selections from The Sleeping Beauty... ... The Piano Concerto began in business-like fashion, Jurowski seemingly impatient to launch it, Daniil Trifonov ploughing through thunderous chords on a bright-sounding Fazioli. 
Kuss Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Haydn – Joke, Frog
Friday, March 16, 2018 |  The Kuss Quartet’s rich, colourful sound suited and indeed enhanced these searching interpretations of Haydn. Frequently, the musicians’ expressive style revealed inner meanings within the pieces, a characteristic at once evident in the ‘Joke’ Quartet... ... The so-called ‘Frog’ Quartet was treated in a different manner and apart from a sturdy and stylish Minuet and Trio the Kuss Quartet considered the remaining movements almost as tone-poems... 
English National Opera – Verdi’s La traviata – Claudia Boyle, Lukhanyo Moyake, Alan Opie; directed by Daniel Kramer; conducted by Leo McFall
Friday, March 16, 2018 |  It started so well – an intensely beautiful Act One Prelude (thankfully, in the light of what followed, with no directorial intervention) that covers all the bases of the tragedy of Verdi’s Violetta. And it was all downhill from there. Daniel Kramer’s new (to London; it has been mounted in Basel) staging of La traviata is his first opera in the post as Artistic Director of ENO. 
SWR Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart at Cadogan Hall – Roger Norrington conducts Beethoven – Prometheus, Eroica, with Francesco Piemontesi in Piano Concerto 3
Friday, March 16, 2018 |  Great to see that Sir Roger has kept faith with the amalgam (as conductor emeritus) having been in charge of the previous Stuttgart forces between 1998 and 2011, and back with Beethoven, still finding new ways to present his music. ... For the Overture Norrington stood, leaning against the piano, the SWR Orchestra producing a refreshingly punchy sound, the first chord pinged off, but finding a natural bloom in Cadogan Hall’s acoustic. ... For the Third Piano Concerto Norrington sat on a swivel chair in the midst of the orchestra, smiling beatifically on. Francesco Piemontesi was the crystalline soloist... ... The ‘Eroica’ was similarly propulsive... 
Haydn’s Applausus – Classical Opera/Ian Page at Cadogan Hall
Thursday, March 15, 2018 |  Classical Opera’s Mozart 250 project unearthed for this anniversary exploration of 1768 Haydn’s little-known allegorical cantata Applausus. It was composed to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the taking of monastic vows by Rainer Kollmann, abbot of the Cistercian monastery in Zwettl (Lower Austria). There is no drama as such but rather the personifications of the four Cardinal virtues assembled to discuss and recommend their qualities, moderated (in both senses of the term) by Theology (also described as Wisdom in the score, allowing a de-Christianised, more purely philosophical reading of the work if desired). 
European premiere of Sondheim on Sondheim – BBC Concert Orchestra/Keith Lockhart
Thursday, March 15, 2018 |  So you see: there is an insatiable desire to see Sondheim in all his glory and he is particularly well-suited for compilations. His range of musicals is so wide and, as he is so original, he never repeats himself. Spot the differences between West Side Story, Gypsy, Pacific Overtures, Company, Sweeney Todd, Follies, Passion, Merrily We Roll Along, A Little Night Music, Sunday in the Park With George, Into the Woods, and it is difficult to believe they were written by the same man, a true master of both his art and his craft and undoubtedly America’s greatest lyricist and composer of the twentieth-century. ... At the Royal Festival Hall the six excellent singers did the material very proud indeed in solos, duets and ensembles. Julian Ovenden was particularly strong in ‘Epiphany’ (Sweeney Todd), while Tyrone Huntley gave a truly impassioned version of ‘Being alive’ (Company). ... It is always a pleasure to hear the BBC Concert Orchestra in whatever it does, here doing very well indeed with Keith Lockhart. 
The Royal Ballet – Leonard Bernstein Centenary – Yugen; The Age of Anxiety; Corybantic Games
Thursday, March 15, 2018 |  Quite why The Royal Ballet and, indeed, the Royal Opera House have been moved to mark the centenary of Leonard Bernstein is not exactly clear. The American composer/conductor seems never to have appeared in Bow Street in either capacity, and yet here we have, with great fanfare, our premier dance company’s tribute to him. Indeed, until the first night of this new triple bill, his only presence in the repertoire was through Liam Scarlett’s The Age of Anxiety, itself as recently created as 2014, forming the central section of this programme. … 
Heath Quartet & Nils Mönkemeyer at Wigmore Hall – Haydn, Widmann, Bruckner
Wednesday, March 14, 2018 |  The Heath Quartet took a forthright view of the Haydn which dates from 1793, lying between his two visits to England. Here was a positive approach with securely sustained tempos and every instrumental line firmly projected... ... Born in Munich in 1973, Jörg Widmann is a distinguished clarinettist and conductor – currently principal in the latter with the Irish Chamber Orchestra. He sometimes presents his music as a sequence of works; there is an orchestral trilogy and this Fourth String Quartet from 2005 is one of six conceived as a cycle which began two years previously. ... Bruckner’s String Quintet has all the characteristics of his Symphonies apart from instrumentation. ... Nils Mönkemeyer played first viola and was ideally expressive in the solo during the Adagio... 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Thierry Fischer at Lighthouse – Ives & Brahms – Stephen Hough plays Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto
Wednesday, March 14, 2018 |  This evening of music that poses questions coincided with the death of the visionary physicist Stephen Hawking... ... At the Lighthouse what became the ‘Emperor’ was given an emphatic account by Stephen Hough with an unfailingly supportive and decisive Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Thierry Fischer. ... Following the interval, Charles Ives’s The Unanswered Question, which poses “the perennial question of existence”, the BSO strings at their smoothest. Despite best efforts too from the woodwind quartet and off-stage trumpeter, the coughers and hackers did their best to shatter the mood of haunting mysticism. 
Maurizio Pollini at Royal Festival Hall – Schumann & Chopin
Tuesday, March 13, 2018 |  Robert Schumann’s Arabeske made for a gently beguiling opening to Maurizio Pollini’s latest Royal Festival Hall recital, his Fabbrini Steinway very responsive to a range of touches to illuminate the music’s contemplation and depth of perspective, coming to rest with magical distance, and then contrasted with the B-minor Allegro’s drama, unrest and poetic distinctions... 
Philadelphia Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin at Carnegie Hall – Rachmaninov 2 – Janine Jansen gives New York premiere of Michel van der Aa’s Violin Concerto
Tuesday, March 13, 2018 |  Michel van der Aa’s Violin Concerto was written in 2014 for his Dutch compatriot Janine Jansen. ... Yannick Nézet-Séguin took the Finale as if it were marked ‘as fast as possible’, which allowed the Philadelphia Orchestra to demonstrate incredible virtuosity. ... Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony is operatic in scope with an abundance of compelling melodies. Nézet-Séguin was at home... 
Handel’s Rinaldo at Barbican Hall – Harry Bicket directs The English Concert with Iestyn Davies, Joélle Harvey, Jane Archibald & Sasha Cooke
Tuesday, March 13, 2018 |  Visitors to the recent Opera exhibition mounted by the Victoria and Albert Museum will have learnt how the twenty-six year old Handel took London by storm with Rinaldo (1711) on his first trip to England... ... As with Brexit today, so the forces of reaction at that time decried the introduction of such cosmopolitanism from abroad... ... These had to be left to the imagination in this Barbican Hall performance of Rinaldo, but the English Concert conjured the drama out of the music vividly under Henry Bicket’s fastidious direction. ... In the title role, Iestyn Davies displayed his clarity and ardour of tone that embodied effortless control of Handel’s tricky writing... 
John Chest & Marcelo Amaral at Wigmore Hall – A Winter Journey
Tuesday, March 13, 2018 |  John Chest impressed in Cardiff Singer of the World last year and he brought a finely wrought wintery programme to Wigmore Hall. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Patrice Chéreau’s production of Richard Strauss’s Elektra – Sabine Hogrefe; conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Monday, March 12, 2018 |  Word came that Christine Goerke was ill and would be replaced as Richard Strauss’s Elektra by Sabine Hogrefe... ... In the opening scene of the late Patrice Chéreau’s suitably stark and ill-omened production Hogrefe was at times overbalanced by the Orchestra... ... ...but she warmed up and did not disappoint, singing with confidence and power... ... The biggest star on this evening was the Orchestra, playing for music director designate Yannick Nézet-Séguin with utter conviction and focus... 
LSO – John Eliot Gardiner conducts Schumann, Ann Hallenberg sings Nuits d’été
Sunday, March 11, 2018 |  In the first slice of this four-part Schumann exploration John Eliot Gardiner and a mostly standing LSO gave compelling accounts of the Second Symphony and the Overture to Genoveva. While the stage was being re-set for the Berlioz Sir John Eliot made a historical and musical case for performing thus, arguing that it brings better interaction and more-soloistic playing, although these qualities were not lost in the seated rendition of Les Nuits d'été. ... Not so here in these brilliantly effective readings enshrined in Ann Hallenberg’s love of the music and her engagement with it. 
Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Gala Concert – Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts Cutler, Čiurlionis & Ravel – Andrei Ivanov plays Chopin
Sunday, March 11, 2018 |  Amidst all the doom and gloom surrounding UK music education, Birmingham City University has done a remarkable thing. By investing fifty-seven million in a new purpose-built building for Royal Birmingham Conservatoire the University has completely bucked the trend. ... Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla led a programme both challenging and intriguing. ... The soloist in Chopin’s Piano Concerto No.2 was Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s Belarusian student Andrei Ivanov, whose appearance reminded me of the young John Ogdon. 
Kensington Symphony Orchestra – Michael Seal conducts Bruckner 8
Saturday, March 10, 2018 |  The Kensington Symphony Orchestra regularly features guest conductors, and this concert saw Michael Seal at the helm. Associate Conductor of the CBSO, Seal has never shirked a challenge as was evident in this performance of Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony. 
Göteborgs Symfoniker – Santtu-Matias Rouvali conducts Der Rosenkavalier & Sibelius 1 – Hélène Grimaud plays Beethoven [live webcast]
Friday, March 09, 2018 |  Concert programmes may be getting shorter, dispensing with openers, but not this one. Here was a positively roast beef helping of Straussian opulence, Beethoven Concerto and Sibelius Symphony, showcasing this pedigree orchestra at its solo and corporate best, the high-definition webcast catching the depth and resonance of Gothenburg's 1935 Konserthus with stunning clarity and visual engagement. ... Displaying a nostalgia and nuances seemingly beyond Santtu-Matias Rouvali's years, the Suite from Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier (not made by the composer but attributed to Artur Rodziński) was in many ways the highlight... ... This season Hélène Grimaud is Artist-in-Residence with the Gothenburg Symphony. In Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto, an old staple of hers, she had her moments... 
Florian Boesch & Malcolm Martineau at Wigmore Hall – Schubert
Friday, March 09, 2018 |  Florian Boesch presented an individual exploration of Schubert’s final songs, collected posthumously as Schwanengesang. Boesch and Malcolm Martineau retained the separation of the Rellstab and Heine poems, here interspersed by settings of Goethe, but the order in which they were sung was different from the published sequence. 
BBC Concert Orchestra and Jane Glover with Ilona Domnich: International Women's Day Concert from LSO St Luke’s
Thursday, March 08, 2018 |  Although the designation of March 8 as what one assumes will become a globally-marked annual International Women’s Day (it has been going for over a century, with celebrations of different significance on various days in the calendar) is as good a reason as any for the BBC to mount a programme such as this... The single-movement Allegro feroce by Augusta Holmès (1847-1903, born in Paris) may well have been – so we were informed – receiving its world premiere performance... ... This was a superb performance from the BBC Concert Orchestra and Jane Glover. ... The second half opened with the earliest music: two arias from the oratorio Sant’ Elena al Calvario by Marianna Martines (1744-1812, born in Vienna to a Spanish/Italian heritage), which was consistently the best music in the concert. ... Finally, the longest work – a Symphony by the Russian who is best remembered – if at all – as Stravinsky’s piano teacher. The old toad dismissed his teacher’s musicianship in his memoirs, but Leokadiya Kashperova (1872-1940, St Petersburg) must have been a fine musician... 
Music by Louise Farrenc & Beethoven – Insula Orchestra/Laurence Equilbey at Barbican Hall, with Alexandra Conunova, Natalie Clein & Elisabeth Brauss
Thursday, March 08, 2018 |  Marking International Women's Day, the players wearing white suffragette ribbons, this was the kind of inspirational Insula Orchestra venture and programming you might expect to find at the Philharmonie in Paris but rarely on any of the main London stages. Under Laurence Equilbey this French period-band invariably rises to the occasion... ... The interest of the evening centred on Louise Farrenc (1804-75), a Parisian who studied with Hummel, Moscheles and Reicha and was the only woman to hold a teaching chair at the Conservatoire during the nineteenth-century. ... Variously imposing, singing and Hungarian, Beethoven's Triple Concerto in the first half – a handsomely veneered 2.5-metre 1882 Érard centre-stage – introduced us to a musically refined, sympathetic line-up of soloists: the Moldavian violinist Alexandra Conunova (playing a 1735 Venetian instrument by Santo Seraphin), the British cellist Natalie Clein, and the German pianist Elisabeth Brauss... 
Pierre-Laurent Aimard at Carnegie Hall
Thursday, March 08, 2018 |  Fortunately for New York audiences, Pierre-Laurent Aimard appears here fairly frequently. ... Aimard began with pieces by the early avant-garde Russian Nikolai Obukhov (1892-1954) who studied with Rimsky-Korsakov. However, his music is experimental and steeped in religious mysticism... ... Without a break the ferocious opening of Scriabin’s Fifth Sonata was upon us... ... It all came together with the ‘Hammerklavier’. 
The Royal Opera – Janáček’s From the House of the Dead; directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski; conducted by Mark Wigglesworth
Wednesday, March 07, 2018 |  The last of Janáček's operas, From the House of the Dead, is also the last of his five great dramas to have reached The Royal Opera (indeed, productions in the UK have been notable for their infrequency), but anyone anticipating a revelatory take on one of the supreme (and supremely relevant) such works from the twentieth-century is likely to have been bitterly disappointed. ... At least the failure for this can be levelled directly at the production team. Impressive though his directing CV may be (not least an award for his 2010 staging of The Makropoulos Case), Krzysztof Warlikowski's directorial debut for The Royal Opera is inept and ill-conceived. 
Welsh National Opera at Birmingham Hippodrome – John Caird’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni – Gavan Ring; conducted by James Southall
Wednesday, March 07, 2018 |  John Caird’s 2011 production set in stylish, flexible, imposing Rodin-inspired designs by John Napier presents Don Giovanni as the Dramma giocoso of Mozart’s designation. ... From a vocal perspective there are many other felicities, not least the Donna Elvira of Elizabeth Watts and the Leporello of David Stout. 
Welsh National Opera at Birmingham Hippodrome – Verdi’s Force of Destiny; conducted by Carlo Rizzi; directed by David Pountney
Tuesday, March 06, 2018 |  Welsh National Opera, ever-adventurous, here demonstrates that even Verdi’s more-problematic works have considerable appeal in this striking new staging by David Pountney. 
The Metropolitan Opera – John Copley’s production of Rossini’s Semiramide – Angela Meade, Javier Camarena, Elizabeth DeShong, Ildar Abdrazakov; conducted by Maurizio Benini
Tuesday, March 06, 2018 |  Premiered in Venice in 1823, and a popular vehicle for great voices throughout the nineteenth-century, Rossini’s Semiramide was all but forgotten through much of the twentieth. More than one-hundred years ago Metropolitan Opera presented a run of eight performances (with Nellie Melba in the title role), after which the work disappeared, reappearing only in 1990 when Lella Cuberli headlined John Copley’s current production. ... As Semiramide, Angela Meade gives an impressive account... 
British Ballet Columbia at Sadler's Wells – Triple Bill: 16 + a room; Solo Echo; Bill
Tuesday, March 06, 2018 |  In the dance world currently, having a work by Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite is something akin to having a golden Ticket to Willy Wonka’s factory. And so it proves with sell-out houses for British Ballet Columbia’s first UK appearances at Sadler’s Wells before a country-wide tour. And, in the context of this satisfying triple bill, one can confirm that there is ample reason behind all the fuss, for, despite the qualities of its two companion pieces, her Solo Echo stands on a different, altogether higher level.… 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Leon McCawley
Monday, March 05, 2018 |  At Wigmore Hall, Leon McCawley focussed on central European repertoire and provided within it much stylistic variety. 
Manhattan Chamber Players with Marcy Rosen – Chiaroscuro
Monday, March 05, 2018 |  Manhattan Chamber Players is a collective of string and wind musicians of the highest caliber, founded in 2015 by Luke Fleming, and Chiaroscuro is a stylistic term principally derived from a sixteenth-century woodcut technique that used multiple blocks to create a variety of coloristic effects... 
Philharmonia at the Movies – Greta Garbo – Carl Davis conducts his scores for The Mysterious Lady and The Divine Woman
Sunday, March 04, 2018 |  Carl Davis has said that film scores are “operas without the singing” and he demonstrates that emphatically in The Mysterious Lady. The spirit of Puccini runs through the music in the same way that Beethoven dominates his score for Abel Gance’s Napoleon. Greta Garbo is in full diva mode. She is first encountered in lingering profile at a box at the Vienna State Opera watching a performance of Tosca. ... Beforehand, the only surviving fragment of The Divine Woman was aired. A soldier on leave spends a night with a rising young actress (Garbo) who persuades him to stay rather than rejoin his regiment. It has some similarities to Carmen and Davis’s score has more than a touch of Bizet... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Antonio Pappano conducts Elgar's In the South & Brahms 2 – Diana Damrau sings Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs
Saturday, March 03, 2018 |  When in London Antonio Pappano is to be found mostly at Covent Garden, or in the company of the visiting Santa Cecilia Orchestra, and away from these twin peaks he regularly appears with the LSO. If not quite his debut with the London Philharmonic – there was an Aldeburgh liaison in August 2015 – this Royal Festival Hall concert suggests a further thriving relationship is in the making. ... Edward Elgar and Richard Strauss are sometimes compared stylistically, not least when discussing the former’s In the South... ... Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs (1948, premiered posthumously in 1950) benefitted from a singer-friendly conductor and the inestimable presence of Diana Damrau. 
Steven Osborne at Wigmore Hall – Debussy, Prokofiev, Ravel
Saturday, March 03, 2018 |  This was a challenging recital (which may have in-part accounted for the number of empty seats) in which Steven Osborne imaginatively juxtaposed a series of diverse early-to-mid-twentieth-century masterworks, starting with Prokofiev’s magnificent Sarcasms. ... Ravel’s Miroirs are evocations of specific scenes, and here Osborne was less successful. ... Finally there was Prokofiev’s Eighth Piano Sonata, which Sviatoslav Richter hailed as his greatest, “an abundance of riches.” 
English Touring Opera at Hackney Empire – Puccini’s Il tabarro and Gianni Schicchi; conducted by Michael Rosewell
Friday, March 02, 2018 |  To keep its new production of The Marriage of Figaro company, English Touring Opera has revived two-thirds of Puccini’s Il trittico – Il tabarro and Gianni Schicchi – directed respectively by James Conway (ETO’s long-standing general director) and Liam Steel. The company’s weekend in Hackney starts a Spring tour that runs until early June and goes as far north as Perth and as far south as Truro, twenty-one venues and fifty-five performances. 
Mitsuko Uchida at Carnegie Hall – Schubert Piano Sonatas, D575, D845 & D850
Friday, March 02, 2018 |  In this, the second of her two Carnegie Hall programs of Schubert Piano Sonatas in the same week, Mitsuko Uchida confirmed her status as one of his most-acclaimed interpreters. ... Following intermission was the D-major Sonata written in 1825 during Schubert’s sojourn in the spa resort of Gastein, south of Salzburg. 
Mark Viner at Wigmore Hall – Alkan, Chopin, Liszt, Thalberg
Friday, March 02, 2018 |  Mark Viner is Chairman of the Liszt Society so it was fitting that his Wigmore Hall recital included this composer. Berlioz completed Benvenuto Cellini in 1838 but it wasn’t well-received, and in 1851 Liszt offered to revive it and suggested some changes. ... Following the interval, Thalberg’s Fantasy on Themes from Moses. For all its grand title and quarter-of-an-hour duration, Thalberg selected just two of Rossini’s ideas – a chorus and a prayer – and, never short of ego, added material of his own. ... Finally Liszt’s impossibly grand Réminiscences de Norma, a fantasy on seven themes from Bellini’s 1831 opera. 
English National Opera – Robert Carsen’s production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; conducted by Alexander Soddy
Thursday, March 01, 2018 |  For the older opera-lover, mention of Peter Hall’s classic Glyndebourne staging of Benjamin Britten’s only Shakespeare opera is likely to squeeze out a fond tear of nostalgia, while for the slightly younger generation, Robert Carsen’s production has proved it has the magic and ‘legs’ to become one of the Dream’s touchstone productions. ... And this is before you get to the music. Alexander Soddy is currently music director at Mannheim’s National Theatre and, in his ENO debut, is very fine. 
Doric String Quartet at Wigmore Hall – The last three Quartets of Haydn’s Opus 64
Wednesday, February 28, 2018 |  The Doric Quartet’s refined tone combined with attention to strong dynamic contrasts means that forte passages had considerable strength combined with great warmth. ... Constancy of pulse also characterised the approach to the ‘Lark’ Quartet which captures the attention at once... 
New York Philharmonic/Jaap van Zweden – Prokofiev 5 – Yuja Wang plays Brahms
Wednesday, February 28, 2018 |  Yuja Wang is one of the stellar pianists of the younger generation, combining dazzling technical prowess and expressive character with insightful interpretation in a wide-ranging repertory. Her reading of Brahms’s First Piano Concerto was intensely passionate while also delicately refined... ... The New York Philharmonic under Jaap van Zweden’s sure hand had luster and played with commitment and enthusiasm. ... Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony was written in 1944 when the composer was in the midst of writing his opera War and Peace. 
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment at Royal Festival Hall – Ádám Fischer conducts Prague & Drum Roll Symphonies, Stéphanie d'Oustrac sings Haydn & Mozart
Tuesday, February 27, 2018 |  Ádám Fischer’s reading of the Adagio introduction to Mozart’s ‘Prague’ Symphony gripped the attention and the Allegro was dramatic with much attention given to dynamic contrast enhanced by the wind instruments of the OAE giving a convincingly ‘period’ flavour to the performance. Although the applause immediately following the movement was irritating, worse was to come... 
Jeremy Denk & Britten Sinfonia at Milton Court – Stravinsky Piano Concerto, La Création du monde, Rhapsody in Blue
Tuesday, February 27, 2018 |  Jeremy Denk has a prodigious technique and musical interests ranging from the staple classics to the deep space of the repertoire. ... ...programme with the Britten Sinfonia of jazz-infused works from the early-1920s by Stravinsky, Milhaud and Gershwin... ... So far, there had been almost too much information, and the concert at last gelled with an excellent performance of Darius Milhaud’s La Création du monde... ... The full saxophone complement, including some expressive grunting from the baritone, were evident for George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, twenty-four players as scored for Paul Whiteman... 
Guildhall School – Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites; directed by Martin Lloyd-Evans; conducted by Dominic Wheeler
Monday, February 26, 2018 |  This Guildhall School production of Poulenc’s only full-length opera reasserts its place as one of the great theatre works of the post-war twentieth century. ... It is a mere six years since the Guildhall School last mounted Dialogues des Carmélites, and with seventeen nuns in the cast it gives five of the School’s current batch of female singers significant leading roles. ... Martin Lloyd-Evans’s unfussy production of the twelve scenes has flow and immediacy... ... The orchestra, thoroughly trained by Dominic Wheeler, is completely at home with Poulenc’s style at this period of his life – there are the ghosts of Debussy and Stravinsky... 
Daniel Cook at the Royal Festival Hall organ
Monday, February 26, 2018 |  Daniel Cook, who recently moved from Westminster Abbey to become Master of the Choristers and Organist at Durham Cathedral, opened his Royal Festival Hall recital with J. S. Bach. 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Aleksandar Madžar plays Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata
Monday, February 26, 2018 |  Beethoven’s ‘Hammerklavier’ Sonata is a fearsome peak for any pianist to scale, not least because it requires ascent up so many contrasting paths: the high drama of the first bars, the fugal counterpoint, the melancholia of the slow movement, and the awkward brevity (in this context) of the second. ... Aleksandar Madžar didn’t quite make it to the summit unscathed... 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Simon Rattle – Dvořák & Janáček – Daniel Barenboim plays Bartók [live webcast]
Saturday, February 24, 2018 |  It was 1964, Daniel Barenboim made his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker playing Bartók’s First Piano Concerto, Pierre Boulez conducting, and a lifelong friendship ensued between the Argentinean and the Frenchman. Fifty-plus years later Barenboim was back in Berlin with the Bartók, numerous appearances there as pianist and conductor in between of course, this time with Simon Rattle, but not before the Opus 72 set of Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances had been dispensed. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra French Festival – 6/6: Leonard Slatkin conducts Flammenschrift & Symphonie fantastique – Benjamin Beilman plays Saint-Saëns & Ravel [live webcast]
Saturday, February 24, 2018 |  The final leg (this concert a second performance) of the DSO’s French Festival opened with Flammenschrift (Written in Flame, 2012), Guillaume Connesson’s brilliantly orchestrated and energetic showpiece... ... Once again Benjamin Beilman substituted for the indisposed Renaud Capuçon. ... And it’s to Lyon my thoughts turned regarding the Berlioz, for Symphonie fantastique has featured extensively in Leonard Slatkin’s repertoire there... 
Welsh National Opera – John Caird’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni – Gavan Ring; conducted by James Southall
Saturday, February 24, 2018 |  This revival of John Caird’s 2011 Don Giovanni, rebooted by Caroline Chaney, is no less darkly oppressive in its heavy, neo-Baroque and Rodin-inspired designs. His Gates of Hell looms over proceedings... ... Chief amongst these connections is the strong pairing of David Stout’s well-defined Leporello and Gavan Ring whose Don Giovanni shows much promise... ... However, from the women, it is Elizabeth Watts as the betrayed Donna Elvira who most impresses... 
Chelsea Opera Group at Cadogan Hall – Rossini’s Mosè in Egitto
Saturday, February 24, 2018 |  Appropriately for the season of Lent, Chelsea Opera Group presented this powerful performance of Rossini’s Biblical epic Mosè in Egitto, first offered by the composer during the same time of year in Naples where secular dramatic subjects were not permitted during the solemn period before Easter... 
Vienna Philharmonic/Gustavo Dudamel at Carnegie Hall – Mahler & Berlioz
Saturday, February 24, 2018 |  The connection between these two works, bookending the Romantic era, might seem puzzling, but they are steeped in psychological conceptions. Mahler began the Tenth Symphony (left unfinished) parallel to seeking advice from Sigmund Freud about his troubled marriage. ... The basis of Symphonie fantastique is even more psychologically based, riddled with effects which vividly describe a distraught lover’s drug-induced visions and fuelled by Berlioz’s real-life obsessive attraction to the actress Harriet Smithson. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra French Festival – 5/6: Leonard Slatkin conducts Rabaud’s Procession & Debussy’s Faune and La mer – Benjamin Beilman plays Saint-Saëns [live webcast]
Friday, February 23, 2018 |  This morning concert (given the night before, too) opened with Nocturnal Procession by Henri Rabaud (1873-1949). Maybe he’s a shadowy figure... ... It was a compelling start to the fifth instalment of the DSO’s French Festival, all being conducted by Leonard Slatkin, and continued with Saint-Saëns’s B-minor Violin Concerto, written in 1880 for Sarasate (at this time of creativity new violin music was composed either for the Spaniard or for Joachim). Renaud Capuçon was booked but was unwell, giving an opportunity to Benjamin Beilman... ... As for the Debussy pieces, wonderful. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Vasily Petrenko conducts Les noces & Song of the Nightingale, and Scheherazade, Andreas Brantelid plays Elgar’s Cello Concerto
Friday, February 23, 2018 |  Rimsky-Korsakov said in his autobiography: “Listen to Scheherazade and your imagination will be set free to roam alone at will.” He might have had Vasily Petrenko’s reading in mind... ... Stravinsky’s debt to Rimsky is evident in the exotic and fantastical Song of the Nightingale culled from his Hans Andersen opera. ... In this context Elgar initially seemed a strange if contemporaneous bedfellow but with Andreas Brantelid the Cello Concerto soon cast its spell. ... Prior to the concert Petrenko conducted Stravinsky’s Les noces as part of a Foyle Future Firsts programme. 
Vienna Philharmonic/Gustavo Dudamel at Carnegie Hall – Brahms
Friday, February 23, 2018 |  The Vienna Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel launched their American tour with this Brahms program at Carnegie Hall... 
Palm Beach Opera – Leonard Bernstein’s Candide – Miles Mykkanen, Alisa Jordheim, Ron Raines & Denyce Graves; directed by Jay Lesenger; conducted by David Stern
Friday, February 23, 2018 |  The evolution of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide is better suited for a PhD thesis than a review. Palm Beach Opera is presenting the first full-staging of the adaptation created for the New York Philharmonic in 2004 by Lonny Price... ... Miles Mykkanen’s bright voice and comic sensibility make him an appropriately ingenuous Candide. ... The versatile Ron Raines is excellent as both Voltaire and Dr. Pangloss, singing resonantly in ‘The Best of All Possible Worlds’... 
Doric String Quartet at Wigmore Hall – The first three Quartets of Haydn’s Opus 64
Thursday, February 22, 2018 |  The dark opening of Opus 64/1 provided a reminder of the silky tone of the Doric Quartet and in Haydn the musicians adapted their euphonious nature to the style of the music and here is a movement that responds to their expressive approach. 
LSO – Lionel Bringuier conducts Métaboles & Daphnis et Chloé – Alina Ibragimova plays Brahms
Thursday, February 22, 2018 |  The Frenchman Lionel Bringuier has already made his mark in the UK in guest appearances with the BBCSO and the Philharmonia, and this concert was his debut with the LSO, replacing Robin Ticciati... ... I had expected the main interest would lie in the French second half of his somewhat changed programme (no opening Fauré), but there was a special quality he and the LSO delivered in Brahms’s Violin Concerto, which provided an ideal foil for Alina Ibragimova at her most searching and soul-bearing. 
New York Philharmonic/Joshua Gersen – Adagio for Strings, West Side Story, Copland 3
Thursday, February 22, 2018 |  Joshua Gersen, assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic, led masterworks by three musicians whose contribution to American history is immeasurable... ... Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings was well-paced... ... the Symphonic Dances based on West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein’s masterpiece for the theater, consists of nine sections without pause. ... Aaron Copland’s Third, one of the great American Symphonies, was composed during the early-to-mid nineteen-forties for Koussevitzky and incorporates the earlier-written Fanfare for the Common Man. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Juanjo Mena conducts The Rite of Spring, and Debussy & Delius, Benedetto Lupo plays Ravel's Left-hand Concerto
Wednesday, February 21, 2018 |  Spring came early courtesy of the London Philharmonic, but not without the violent upheaval of Winter as the year-long “Changing Faces: Stravinsky's Journey” series continued, here with Juanjo Mena leading a superb Rite. Beforehand the season arrived in more tranquil circumstances, first with Debussy’s Printemps... ... Delius was well-looked-after, too, his rather lovely 1889 Idylle de Printemps... ... Ravel’s Left-hand Piano Concerto fared less well. It was Davies who opened The Rite of Spring so lyrically, a presage of Mena’s finely considered roots-searching conducting of it, notable for lucid enunciation, fine blends and good balances. Here was a Rite that could be danced to, as well as being thrilling... 
UK premiere of Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking – Joyce DiDonato & Michael Mayes; BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mark Wigglesworth
Tuesday, February 20, 2018 |  The workings of the opera world are impossible to fathom. Here is Jake Heggie’s and Terrence McNally’s Dead Man Walking, first performed in San Francisco in 2000, subsequently played some three-hundred times all over the world, and receiving its long-overdue UK premiere... ... With her uncanny genius for getting inside a character, Joyce DiDonato presented Sister Jean’s diffidence, faith and unaffected humanity with devastating accuracy... 
The Metropolitan Opera – François Girard’s production of Wagner’s Parsifal – Klaus Florian Vogt, Peter Mattei, René Pape, Evelyn Herlitzius, Evgeny Nikitin, Alfred Walker; conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Tuesday, February 20, 2018 |  This performance of Wagner’s Parsifal was the three-hundredth in the Met’s history. François Girard’s 2013 production is a masterstroke. ... The casting is almost flawless. René Pape, whose rich, deep and secure voice and brilliant acting skills make him a strong, sturdy Gurnemanz, may well be second to none in this role. ... Evelyn Herlitzius gave an estimable account of Kundry, whose hysterics are often exaggerated... ... Klaus Florian Vogt handled the title-role admirably... ... The real star was Yannick Nézet-Séguin (the Met’s music director designate). 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Ashley Riches & Joseph Middleton – A Musical Zoo
Monday, February 19, 2018 |  If Ashley Riches’s and Joseph Middleton’s recital was rather more lightweight than some of the Wigmore Hall Monday lunchtime series, you might not have guessed it from the opening Schubert... ... ...an entertaining account of Vernon Duke’s Ogden Nash’s Musical Zoo. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra French Festival – 4/6: Leonard Slatkin conducts Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Gymnopédies & Gaité Parisienne – Michelle & Christina Naughton play Carnival of Animals [live webcast]
Sunday, February 18, 2018 |  Dukas, let alone Goethe, couldn’t have envisaged Walt Disney’s Fantasia, and that the Sorcerer’s Apprentice would be cartooned by Mickey Mouse, no more than Jacques Offenbach could have anticipated his music being used for a ballet entitled Gaité Parisienne. Add in Saint-Saëns’s Carnival of Animals and much fun was to be had from the Detroit Symphony and Leonard Slatkin in their latest French Festival programme. ... There’s a thin line between comedy and tragedy – there was poignancy too, for the two Erik Satie Gymnopédies that Debussy orchestrated were dedicated to the victims of the recent shooting atrocity at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida... 
LSO – Daniel Harding conducts Richard Strauss’s Alpine Symphony & Helen Grime’s Virga – Leonidas Kavakos plays Prokofiev
Sunday, February 18, 2018 |  For a concert whose two major works relate to, or imply, some journey or travel, it was an amusing false start that Daniel Harding’s best foot was definitely not set forwards at the opening as he inadvertently advanced to the podium before the leader of the LSO had taken his seat. ... Harding launched the LSO in a confident account of Helen Grime’s Virga... ... Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No.2 (1935) marked the composer’s return to Soviet Russia after nearly two decades away, and also his rapprochement with a generally more traditional, Romantic vein in his musical style. Despite the strongly melodic bent of the Concerto, Leonidas Kavakos avoided any gushing or sentimentalised projection of its themes... ... Richard Strauss’s Alpine Symphony (1915) is not only a musical distillation of a trek up a mountain and the experience of such a landscape over the course of a day, but it can also be construed as a philosophical, Nietzschean allegory for the ascent and moral progress of a soul. 
The Royal Opera – Jonathan Kent’s production of Puccini’s Tosca – Martina Serafin, Riccardo Massi, Marco Vratogna; conducted by Plácido Domingo
Saturday, February 17, 2018 |  First seen in 2006 and now in its ninth revival, Jonathan Kent’s direction of Tosca is a no-frills, conventional presentation. ... Martina Serafin makes a creditable Tosca... ... She is well-matched vocally by Riccardo Massi’s admirable Cavaradossi... ... Chemistry between them convinces, more so than their confrontations with a rich-toned Marco Vratogna as Scarpia. ... At the helm (and also for four further evenings) is Plácido Domingo... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra French Festival – 3/6: Leonard Slatkin conducts A Frenchman in New York & An American in Paris, and La Création du monde – Michelle & Christina Naughton play Poulenc [live webcast]
Friday, February 16, 2018 |  The Frenchman is Darius Milhaud, the American being George Gershwin. Musically they travelled richly to each other’s countries, as did this DSO webcast to an Englishman in London, staying awake into the small hours, but the DSO and Leonard Slatkin have stamina, too, for they had played this concert in the morning as well. ... As for A Frenchman in New York, the remarkably prolific Milhaud (he got to at least Opus 443) wrote it during 1962 commissioned by RCA Victor for Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops... ... Earlier, the pianos looked similar, so too Michelle and Christina Naughton, twins, for Poulenc. 
Diana Damrau, Jonas Kaufmann & Helmut Deutsch at Barbican Hall – Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook
Friday, February 16, 2018 |  Hugo Wolf’s Lieder output is usually heard in venues that are smaller and perhaps acoustically better suited to the art of song than the Barbican Hall. Transcending its size Diana Damrau, Jonas Kaufmann and Helmut Deutsch brought intimacy to their performance of the Italian Songbook... 
Patricia Kopatchinskaja & Polina Leschenko at Wigmore Hall – Violin Sonatas by Debussy, Poulenc & Schumann and Pieces by Kurtág & Enescu
Friday, February 16, 2018 |  The mercurial, magisterial, miraculous, mysterial Patricia Kopatchinskaja was in town for a Wigmore Hall happening. ... Opening this recital, Schumann's First Violin Sonata (1851) – its second high-profile London airing in ten days, following Jansen and Argerich at the Barbican – started silkily out of nowhere. But then turned into something altogether more tensioned and psychologically uneasy... ... With György Kurtág's aphoristic Tre pezzi (1979) Kopatchinskaja went up a gear... ... Kopatchinskaja's partner, collaborator and re-creative genius was the St Petersburg-born Polina Leschenko. She's a powerful force of nature... 
Mozart at St Martin-in-the-Fields – Locrian Ensemble, Rimma Sushanskaya, John Lenehan
Thursday, February 15, 2018 |  Virtually every evening at St Martin-in-the-fields in Trafalgar Square there are concerts, mostly of popular pieces – The Four Seasons, Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, Eine kleine Nachtmusik... ... ...such as this Mozart programme by the twenty-six-strong Locrian Ensemble under Rimma Sushanskaya, with John Lenehan. ... Sushanskaya, the last violin pupil of David Oistrakh in Brezhnev’s USSR, is now making a name for herself as a conductor... ... ...a performance of the ‘Elvira Madigan’ Concerto (a nod to modern-day popularity) that was wholly exceptional. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Jakub Hrůša – Mahler 5 – Piotr Anderszewski plays Beethoven
Thursday, February 15, 2018 |  Mahler’s Fifth Symphony can be a difficult piece to bring off, often seeming disjointed. Here it emerged resplendent but above all quite unusually coherent, a trajectory from darkness to light, from the shadows of its opening funeral march to the sunlit uplands of the Finale. The Philharmonia Orchestra was at its considerable best, with a notably rich string sound. Jakub Hrůša is Chief Conductor of the Bamberg Symphony... ... Unfortunately Piotr Anderszewski’s account of Beethoven’s C-major Piano Concerto was far less convincing. 
Ruby Hughes & Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall – Songs for New Life and Love – Schumann, Mahler, Ives, Grime, Britten
Thursday, February 15, 2018 |  Robert Schumann’s Frauenliebe und -Leben has been criticised for its male perspective on the intimacies of the female heart, but Ruby Hughes at Wigmore Hall dispelled any such doubts... ... As with ‘Träumerei’, Joseph Middleton, who had welded reverie and sadness in the Kinderszenen excerpt, particularly impressed in the interludes of ‘Er, der Herrlichste von allen’... ... Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder took us further into the grief allied to parenthood. ... Helen Grime’s Bright Beginnings, to five poems by Fiona Benson, chart the interior and exterior worlds of pregnancy and motherhood and its delights and vulnerabilities. 
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Riccardo Muti at Kravis Center, West Palm Beach – Verdi & Britten – Stephen Williamson plays Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto and Clémentine Margaine sings Chausson’s Poème de l’amour et de la mer
Thursday, February 15, 2018 |  Riccardo Muti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a richly entertaining concert that showed off their strong rapport... ... Then Stephen Williamson joined his colleagues for a wonderful performance of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. ... ...Clémentine Margaine brought a dusky voice to Chausson... ... Finally, a glowing account of the ‘Sea Interludes’ from Britten’s Peter Grimes... 
New York Philharmonic/Jaap van Zweden – John Luther Adams’s Dark Waves & Act I of Die Walküre
Wednesday, February 14, 2018 |  John Luther Adams, born 1953, writes for many media, including television and film, utilizing voice, acoustic instruments, orchestra and electronics. ... His twelve-minute Dark Waves (2007) finds the orchestra adding textural substance and a vibrating resonance to electronic patterns, evoking an immense undulating seascape... ... Given its juxtaposition with Die Walküre, Dark Waves might seem like a modernistic reworking of the opening to Das Rheingold. 
English National Opera – Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolanthe; directed by Cal McCrystal; conducted by Timothy Henty
Tuesday, February 13, 2018 |  Professional productions of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolanthe are relatively infrequent. ... The designs of the late Paul Brown, set under a gleaming gilded proscenium arch of a Victorian theatre are colourful and opulent and manage the transitions from fairy-ring to pastoral Arcadia and later from without the Palace of Westminster to various settings within it very effectively. ... There is much to enjoy from the pit too – with Timothy Henty relishing his chance to show Sullivan’s masterful orchestration using a new edition. ... As a specialist in buffo roles Andrew Shore is an excellent Lord Chancellor. ... All good so far, BUT … but the staging is very busy, and there is re-writing and additions to the dialogue. Does Gilbert’s innuendo really need enhancing in such a nudge-nudge wink-wink way? 
The Royal Ballet – The Winter's Tale
Tuesday, February 13, 2018 |  ”If you say it often enough, then it must be true”. Following this dubious maxim, The Royal Ballet insists that Christopher Wheeldon’s The Winter’s Tale is a “modern classic”, that it is already, since its premiere in 2014, a cornerstone of the repertoire. Certainly, it has been revived several times since then by a determined management, always with a fanfare about how this is a truly 21st century ballet. In reality, the jury is still out. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra French Festival – 2/6: Leonard Slatkin conducts Saint-Saëns with George Li playing Piano Concerto No.2 [live webcast]
Sunday, February 11, 2018 |  It’s all Camille Saint-Saëns’s fault! ... The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix took a back seat to allow in, serendipitously, Holst (in planetary guise), Debussy (Munch’s version of Images), Prokofiev (Nevsky), Tchaikovsky (Swan Lake)... ... ...I later discovered and loved Frank Sinatra and Buddy Rich, but it took a while to appreciate Chopin, Delius and Viennese Waltzes... ... The DSO’s latest winter festival – very much a French Connection – continued here with music by the long-lived Saint-Saëns... ... Yes, there was a Saint-Saëns concert in Detroit. Here goes. Leonard Slatkin got things started with Marche heroïque... ... From Bachian stateliness to moto perpetuo bravura via the playful/witty/light-hearted second movement, George Li had the measure of the G-minor Piano Concerto. 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Lahav Shani conducts Mendelssohn & Mahler, Chen Reiss sings Richard Strauss
Sunday, February 11, 2018 |  Lahav Shani won the Bamberg Mahler Competition in 2013 and has just been appointed Zubin Mehta’s successor at the Israel Philharmonic. ... By comparison with The Hebrides and A Midsummer Night’s Dream or even with Ruy Blas, Mendelssohn’s Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage is probably the least-familiar of his Overtures... ... The sequence of six Richard Strauss songs was drawn from right across his career. Quite frankly Chen Reiss has one of the most perfect Strauss voices one could wish for... 
Christian Tetzlaff Focus at Wigmore Hall – Schubert – Schwanengesang with Julian Prégardien & Martin Helmchen and String Quintet
Sunday, February 11, 2018 |  Singers often strive to create a narrative out of Schubert’s Schwanengesang to match those of Winterreise and Die schöne Müllerin, and the strength of this soul-searching from Julian Prégardien and Martin Helmchen was that the switches of mood and intensity spoke for themselves. ... This was the first concert in Wigmore Hall’s Christian Tetzlaff Focus, with the violinist leading his group – including his sister Tanja and Helmchen’s wife Marie-Elisabeth Hecker on cellos – in an extraordinarily powerful performance of Schubert’s String Quintet. 
LSO/Mark Elder – Dvořák & Elgar – Nikolaj Znaider plays Bruch
Sunday, February 11, 2018 |  This second LSO evening featuring Elgar’s completed Symphonies under Sir Mark Elder included a searing account of No.2 that made it difficult to believe the work misfired at its premiere. ... ...Nikolaj Znaider had been outstanding in Bruch... ... The evening had begun with Dvořák’s Othello Overture... 
BBC Singers & St James’ Baroque at Milton Court – Peter Dijkstra conducts Mendelssohn’s edition of J. S. Bach’s Matthew Passion
Sunday, February 11, 2018 |  Felix Mendelssohn’s sawn-off version of Bach’s St Matthew Passion removes the more-reflective arias and half-a-dozen chorales for the groundbreaking 1829 performance in Berlin. Certainly Mendelssohn’s reductions make for a more compact experience, the drama more tightly drawn... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Petrushka, and a Liadov threesome, Ray Chen plays Prokofiev
Saturday, February 10, 2018 |  With their ongoing series this year, “Changing Faces: Stravinsky's Journey”, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Vladimir Jurowski (and guest conductors) have come up with another innovatively planned series of programmes refreshing perceptions and airing neglected corners of the repertory. ... Liadov's rarely heard three tone poems, dating from 1904 to 1909, made for an inspiring opener... ... Redolent of Mussorgsky, The Enchanted Lake has always been a special jewel of late-Romantic Russian imagination. Way back Svetlanov did magical things with its world. In Jurowski's hands it unfolded with profound, sonorous gravity... ... ...a contender to write Diaghilev's Firebird. ... Strong on melody, exchange and attack, Prokofiev's Second Violin Concerto, premiered in Madrid in 1935, was a tour de force for both soloist and orchestra. Ray Chen, another of the Curtis Institute's Far Eastern alumni, has been on the international circuit for near enough a decade... ... With surtitles to guide the audience, the original 1911 version of Petrushka, was an upfront, Technicolor reading... 
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Riccardo Muti at Carnegie Hall (2) – Verdi & Brahms – and the New York premiere of Samuel Adams’s many words of love
Saturday, February 10, 2018 |  Samuel Adams (born 1985 in San Francisco) has received much attention since he was appointed co-composer-in-residence (with Elizabeth Ogonek) to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. His twenty-minute many words of love was inspired by Schubert’s ‘Der Lindenbaum’ from Winterreise. The poem by Wilhelm Müller describes the wanderer who carves “many words of love” on a linden tree. ... The concert began with a fine performance of the Overture to The Sicilian Vespers. ... Following intermission, Brahms’s Second Symphony in which Riccardo Muti’s approach to this treasured masterwork was essentially traditional... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra French Festival – 1/6: Leonard Slatkin conducts Ravel with Jean-Efflam Bavouzet playing both Piano Concertos [live webcast]
Friday, February 09, 2018 |  The latest DSO winter festival – three weeks, six programmes, twelve concerts, much more – concerns musical matters à la française. ... Maurice Ravel’s music made for an enticing entrée in this morning-after-the-night-before concert in snowbound Detroit... ... first with Menuet antique, tart in its outer sections if harmonically affecting, soft-centre alluring in the Trio, Leonard Slatkin leading a tempo-related account without compromising expression... ... For all that Ravel’s two Piano Concertos are contemporaneous, they could not be more different. The G-major is light and jazzy if with recesses into a more-interior world, whereas the Left-hand is dark and disturbing. Jean-Efflam Bavouzet has rather monopolised both... ... Finally the closing part of Daphnis et Chloé... 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – James Feddeck conducts Samuel Barber’s First Symphony, Icarus in Orbit and Pictures at an Exhibition – Javier Perianes plays Ravel
Friday, February 09, 2018 |  The New Yorker James Feddeck’s invitations to conduct this side of the Atlantic are piling up and he has already made his mark in the UK with Birmingham, Bournemouth and BBC orchestras. His debut with the BBC Symphony Orchestra was further evidence that he is a name to follow... ... This quickly became clear in Samuel Barber’s Symphony No.1... ... Then Javier Perianes bustled on for a brilliantly spirited account of Ravel’s G-major Piano Concerto... ... The American composer, pianist and academic George Walker was born in 1922, only twelve years after his fellow-countryman Samuel Barber, and will be ninety-six later this year. His music had its Proms debut last year (with his best-known work, Lyric, given by Chineke!), and this UK premiere of Icarus in Orbit (written in 2004) nudged the concert-hall door a fraction more open on this prolific creator. ... There was also plenty of bold colour in Ravel’s scoring of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. 
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Riccardo Muti at Carnegie Hall (1) – Scherzo fantastique & Four Sea Interludes, the New York premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s Low Brass Concerto, and Clémentine Margaine sings Chausson’s Poème de l’amour et de la mer
Friday, February 09, 2018 |  The Chicago Symphony Orchestra returned to Carnegie Hall for a pair of programs. ... Jennifer Higdon’s new Low Brass Concerto features the famed backbone of the CSO. ... ...special moments are given to Gene Pokorny, making easy work of virtuosic scales, and Jay Friedman... ... Every time I hear something by Ernest Chausson I am reminded how tragic his early passing was. Poème de l’amour et de la mer presages much of what Poulenc would channel into his opera Dialogues des Carmelites. To her credit Clémentine Margaine performed the outer movements as art songs... ... The ‘Sea Interludes’ from Peter Grimes brought to bear a previously unheard level of sophistication and specificity... ... ...Riccardo Muti, an opera-conductor’s opera conductor, sprang to life... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Juraj Valčuha – Kodály & Bartók – Evgeni Bozhanov plays Beethoven … Music of Today with Irvine Arditti – Cattaneo & Sciarrino
Thursday, February 08, 2018 |  This attractive, well-designed main programme – Bartók and Kodály were folksong-collecting friends – opened with the latter’s Dances of Galánta... ... If Juraj Valčuha (geographically well-placed, he’s Slovakian, and it appears that Galánta is more Slovak these days than Hungary) didn’t quite alter the above positioning, then he certainly invested intensity into proceedings... ... As centrepiece, Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, which Valčuha introduced as minor-key tragic and gravely dark. I am not convinced that he and Evgeni Bozhanov (from Bulgaria) quite saw eye-to-eye... ... Earlier in the evening the Philharmonia’s invaluable Music of Today series continued, this time helping to mark Irvine Arditti’s sixty-fifth birthday... 
LSO/Mark Elder – Janáček & Elgar – Francesco Piemontesi plays Bartók
Thursday, February 08, 2018 |  While the Brexit dividend has never existed and probably never will, the music of Elgar is enjoying a renaissance with Brits and non-Brits alike. The LSO’s current (very) mini-series with Sir Mark Elder includes the two completed Symphonies... ... But we began with a rarity, what survives of Janáček’s incidental music for a Gerhardt Hauptmann play with a plot akin to Beckett's Waiting for Godot. ... Bartók, by contrast, was aiming at least in part for commercial success at the end of his life and the Third Piano Concerto, wonderful as it is, can sound insubstantial in the wrong hands. The cosmopolitan Swiss Francesco Piemontesi had his own mix of solutions... 
CBSO/Pablo González – May Night, Night on a Bare Mountain, Pictures at an Exhibition – Javier Perianes plays Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain
Wednesday, February 07, 2018 |  The last-minute indisposition of Constantinos Carydis saw Pablo González take the helm for this concert by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, which meant the loss of Skalkottas’s Four Images (hopefully another occasion?) for the Overture to May Night (1879). This second of Rimsky-Korsakov’s operas is seldom revived in the West... ... Itself a work which fell from prominence during the latter twentieth-century, Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain (1915) has returned to favour. ... This reading was notable for its precision across and between movements – Javier Perianes melding into a discourse that brought out the ominous undertow of the opening ‘Generalife’... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Scherzo fantastique, Funeral Song and The Firebird, Alexander Ghindin plays Rimsky-Korsakov’s Piano Concerto
Wednesday, February 07, 2018 |  The London Philharmonic reached the second leg of its year-long “Stravinsky’s Journey”. Scherzo fantastique was written when Stravinsky was studying with Rimsky-Korsakov and is lavishly scored and inspired by Maurice Maeterlinck’s The Life of Bees. Vladimir Jurowski drew clear and vigorous playing... ... Rimsky’s Piano Concerto (dedicated to Liszt) is a rarity nowadays... ... Alexander Ghindin supplied precision and glitter... ... The complete Firebird (for Diaghilev) can be a tricky piece to pull off in a concert when devoid of dance and decor... 
Martin Helmchen at St John’s Smith Square – Schumann Novelletten & Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations
Wednesday, February 07, 2018 |  Every time I hear Martin Helmchen I am seduced by a remarkable musician... ... He opened this recital with four of Schumann’s eight Novelletten... ... It was cold in St John’s, the heating was making a low noise, and many in the large audience kept their coats on. There was a faintly English whiff of eccentricity about things that leaked into my perception of Helmchen’s stupendous account of Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations... 
The Royal Opera – Bizet’s Carmen – Anna Goryachova, Francesco Meli, Kostas Smoriginas, Kristina Mkhitaryan; directed by Barrie Kosky; conducted by Jakub Hrůša
Tuesday, February 06, 2018 |  Since its disastrous premiere, Carmen has been such a success that there have been as many manifestations as there are art forms to hang it on. ... The latest contender to throw a hat into the Seville bullring is Barrie Kosky... ... Carmen makes her grand entrance doing a striptease out of a gorilla suit... ... The alluring, petite – and this is a staging that demands a bit of a looker in the title role – Anna Goryachova’s sumptuous mezzo and mocking reserve single her out as a formidable outsider, and she deals elegantly with directorial demands. Francesco Meli is marvellous as Don José... ... Jakub Hrůša, at last making his Royal Opera debut, goes to the core of Bizet’s wonderful, ‘new’ but familiar, score... 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Ilan Volkov – From the Cradle to the Grave & Mahler 1 – Pavel Kolesnikov plays Beethoven
Tuesday, February 06, 2018 |  Liszt’s rarely-heard From the Cradle to the Grave was composed in 1882 – a quarter of a century after he had completed his previous twelve symphonic poems, and was not given its première until forty-five years later. ... From Pavel Kolesnikov’s firm yet gentle beginning it was clear that this would be a sensitive interpretation of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto. ... Sensitivity was also the essence of Ilan Volkov’s approach to Mahler. 
Janine Jansen, Mischa Maisky & Martha Argerich at Barbican Hall – Violin & Cello Sonatas, Piano Trios
Tuesday, February 06, 2018 |  As rewardingly imagined programmes go this ranked high in the satisfaction stakes – even if it would have been welcome to hear the originally advertised Tchaikovsky Piano Trio. Joining the vintage partnership of Mischa Maisky and Martha Argerich, Janine Jansen brought a starry new light to the mix. 
Marin Alsop conducts Beethoven with Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment – Nicola Benedetti plays the Violin Concerto
Sunday, February 04, 2018 |  It is less frequent in recent years for concerts to commence with an Overture and here was another example; it is also unusual to find the evening ending with a Concerto. Perhaps Marin Alsop’s reading of the Symphony could be thought of as the required prelude: in her hands it was not so much a grand statement and more a clear representation of the lyrical side of Beethoven’s nature spiced with urgency. ... The talking point in Nicola Benedetti’s beautiful and most-sensitive account of the Violin Concerto concerns the first-movement cadenza. Beethoven did not write one and those by Joachim or Kreisler are usually chosen. 
LSO – Semyon Bychkov conducts Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony
Sunday, February 04, 2018 |  Semyon Bychkov’s downbeat to start Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony was like a spade slicing deep into the earth for the composer’s hero’s grave, and, ignoring the advice “when you’re in a hole, stop digging”, Bychkov never let up in a searing performance... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Stravinsky – The Fairytale Begins – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Symphony No.1, Kristóf Baráti plays Glazunov, Angharad Lyddon sings Faun and Shepherdess
Saturday, February 03, 2018 |  Here was a refreshingly different concert, no Mahler or Shostakovich, or indeed any ‘standard’ Stravinsky, although the latter will turn up as part of the London Philharmonic’s year-long survey of his music... ... ...the Largo, darkly soulful and dramatic, benefitted from Vladimir Jurowski’s flowing tempo that avoided sagging and overblown climaxes... ... In the Opus Two Pushkin setting Angharad Lyddon was a persuasive advocate for the randy Faun and the innocent Shepherdess... ... We did indeed begin with a Fairy Tale, Rimsky’s Skazka (1880), to an unspecified programme but with words from Pushkin heading the score. ... There is much to love about Glazunov’s Violin Concerto... ... Kristóf Baráti brought easeful technique, honeyed tone and affectionate phrasing to this adorable music... 
Florida Grand Opera – Richard Strauss’s Salome – Melody Moore, Mark Delavan, John Easterlin, Elizabeth Bishop; directed by Bernard Uzan; conducted by Timothy Myers
Saturday, February 03, 2018 |  Florida Grand Opera assembled a fine cast for Richard Strauss’s Salome, and Timothy Myers conducted an excellent traversal of the score... ... In the title role Melody Moore surged powerfully and was outstanding dramatically. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Andrew Davis conducts Shostakovich 10 – Paul Watkins plays Gerald Finzi’s Cello Concerto ... Singers at Six, Paul Spicer conducts...
Friday, February 02, 2018 |  This BBC Symphony Orchestra programme was built on two works belonging to the 1950s that share an emotional intensity from composers stylistically worlds-apart. ... Written in 1955 after he had been diagnosed with leukaemia, Gerald Finzi’s Cello Concerto is his last major work... ... There is an assurance too in the rhapsodic and virtuosic cello-writing, its bravura elements mostly overcome by Paul Watkins. ... Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony from 1953 is an emotional rollercoaster – brooding, ferocious and, sharing with the Finzi, a dark and, at times, haunting lyricism. Sir Andrew brought a natural sense of progression to the arch-like first movement... ... Earlier, sacred and secular music by Finzi alongside two of his erstwhile composition teachers Ernest Farrar and Edward Bairstow shaped an hour with the BBC Singers. 
Cleveland Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst at Adrienne Arsht Center – Beethoven
Friday, February 02, 2018 |  During this its centennial year the Cleveland Orchestra and Franz Welser-Möst are “examining Beethoven’s music anew”, leading up to a season-ending festival entitled “The Prometheus Project” that will include the Nine Symphonies to be performed first at home and then in Vienna and Tokyo. ... This Miami concert was a sneak preview of what will be the third program, the Coriolan Overture, written for Heinrich Joseph von Collin’s 1804 adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus an apt starter – for the reverberation of Knight Concert Hall made the measures of silence as dramatic as the powerful opening chords... 
English National Opera – Phelim McDermott’s production of Philip Glass’s Satyagraha – Toby Spence as Gandhi; conducted by Karen Kamensek
Thursday, February 01, 2018 |  It was once said of Hubert Parry that, given enough time, he would set the entire Bible to music. Had he done so, one wonders whether and how he would have created a convincing score out of the sequence of discrete aphorisms which constitute the Book of Proverbs.The question similarly arises in respect of Phelim McDermott’s production of Philip Glass’s Satyagraha (opening in its third revival by English National Opera). ... Toby Spence brings off the potent force of Gandhi’s non-violent personality patiently and skilfully... ... Although a historical figure, Spence’s Gandhi stands here in a continuum of time with other gurus or sages, representing past, present, future (in respect of Gandhi’s own biography at least) as the figures of Tolstoy, Rabindranath Tagore, and Martin Luther King each hover in the background... 
Michael Tippett’s Symphony in B-flat – Martyn Brabbins conducts BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra – Petrushka, and Alberto Menéndez Escribano plays Mozart
Thursday, February 01, 2018 |  Martyn Brabbins's cycle of Tippett Symphonies with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra reached its conclusion here by going back to the beginning, and the first performance in over eight decades of a Symphony in B-flat with which the composer had intended to announce his arrival. Its genesis is hardly less fascinating than its content. ... Mention of Stravinsky brings one onto Petrushka, which occupied the second half. ... In between, the orchestra's principal horn Alberto Menéndez Escribano took the floor for a fluent and appealing account of Mozart's Fourth Concerto... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Paavo Järvi – Dvořák – Carnival, Symphony 7 and Gautier Capuçon playing the Cello Concerto
Thursday, February 01, 2018 |  With Paavo Järvi in top form and Gautier Capuçon aristocratically proud, a gilt-edged programme was promised. ... The Cello Concerto needed a while to settle, a certain inertness clouding the opening pages. From the development of the first movement, however, the vision clarified into something remarkably special. Between them Capuçon and Järvi forged no war-horse encounter but, rather, a gloriously grained poem... ... The Philharmonia Orchestra dug deep, the strings bronzed, the woodwinds characterful and fresh-sounding, the climaxes full-throated and grounded, Järvi's body language shaping the sound-picture with unfussy authority. 
Royal College of Music – Bernard Haitink conducts Richard Strauss’s Alpine Symphony and Mozart’s K491 with Martin James Bartlett
Thursday, February 01, 2018 |  These Royal College of Music concerts steered by top-name conductors have set a very high standard in the student-orchestra market, with results leaving reviewers at a loss for superlatives – memories of Bruckner’s Eighth, Mahler’s Seventh and Daphnis et Chloé still linger, these three, as it happens, conducted by Bernard Haitink, who masterminded this Mozart and Strauss programme... ... I had not heard Martin James Bartlett live before... ... The orchestra almost doubled for Richard Strauss’s mighty Alpine Symphony, replete with all the grandiloquent paraphernalia of off-stage horns, cowbells, thunder sheet, wind-machine and, I think, the first public outing of the RCM’s new concert organ... 
Phantom Thread at Royal Festival Hall – Paul Thomas Anderson’s film with score by Jonny Greenwood
Wednesday, January 31, 2018 |  It was a full house at the Royal Festival Hall for the preview of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread prior to its general release. Anderson and the film’s Oscar-nominated composer Jonny Greenwood were interviewed by Mark Kermode before the screening with Greenwood invoking the lush string arrangements of Nelson Riddle as a source of inspiration. ... Set in 1950s’ London, renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day Lewis) and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) are at the centre of fashion-designing for royalty, socialites and debutants. Woodcock, with more than a passing resemblance to Norman Hartnell, is noted for his icy control over all aspects of his life and work. 
Angelika Kirchschlager & Julius Drake at Wigmore Hall – the final concert in Schubert: The Complete Songs series
Wednesday, January 31, 2018 |  Franz Schubert’s latest birthday was celebrated in fine style at Wigmore Hall, as a delectable selection of Lieder concluded the Complete Songs. Angelika Kirchschlager’s expansive, burnished mezzo filled the venue supported by Julius Drake’s nuanced and characterful accompaniment; voice and piano inseparably communicative. 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Karabits at Lighthouse – Lyatoshinsky’s Third Symphony – Sunwook Kim plays Brahms
Wednesday, January 31, 2018 |  This was a special event in the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s one-hundred-and-twenty-fifth season, and included the unveiling of a brand-new Steinway D selected by Sunwook Kim. ... Kim is no stranger to Brahms’s demanding D-minor Piano Concerto, having won the prestigious Leeds Competition with it in 2006... ... You won’t see Boris Lyatoshinsky often in concert programmes, and it’s a sign of confidence in Karabits that this Ukrainian composer (1895-1968) did not deter the locals. Lyatoshinsky’s Third Symphony (there are five) was completed in 1951 but, under official pressure – it was deemed anti-Soviet – its final movement was revised to comply with the Party line. 
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir at Milton Court Concert Hall
Tuesday, January 30, 2018 |  Hot on the heels of Finland’s independence centenary (December 6), comes the centenary of Estonia proclaiming its independence, and this concert – in the presence of Estonia’s Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, and its Ambassador to Great Britain, Tina Intelmann – opened a British celebration of that centenary, with a particular concentration on the fabulous tradition of choral singing (the first Song Festival was held in 1869). It couldn’t have been given a more auspicious start, in the assured voices of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir under its Latvian artistic director Kaspars Putninš. 
Escher Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Borodin, Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky
Monday, January 29, 2018 |  The Escher Quartet members have impressed me in concert and on record – their series of the Mendelssohn Quartets for BIS is probably the best available. So this Russian evening at Wigmore Hall held out high hopes for a similar triumph. The first crack in my confidence came when I realised not only that Aaron Boyd, the exceptional second violin, had recently left the group, but that his successor Danbi Um was not appearing... ... Borodin’s Second Quartet, a work demanding superhuman tonal and ensemble control, suffered almost immediately from harsh violin tone... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Apollon Musagète Quartet
Monday, January 29, 2018 |  Puccini is so little associated with chamber music that his Crisantemi (Chrysanthemums) was an unexpected highlight of the Apollon Musagète Quartet’s recital at Wigmore Hall... ... Earlier we heard Sibelius’s Andante festivo in its original version... 
Palm Beach Opera – Puccini’s Tosca – Keri Alkema, Riccardo Massi, Michael Chioldi; directed by Fenlon Lamb; conducted by David Stern
Sunday, January 28, 2018 |  Palm Beach Opera’s staging of Puccini’s Tosca is a delight to eye and ear. Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s designs, originally created for San Francisco, provide magnificent representations of the three locales in Rome at which the action of this political thriller takes place... ... Keri Alkema portrays Floria Tosca as a true diva... ... Her ‘Vissi d’arte’, in Act Two when she is in the company of Scarpia, Cavaradossi being tortured by the Baron’s henchmen, is artfully phrased – powerful and moving. Another highlight is her gloriously sung Act Three duet with Riccardo Massi, a terrific Cavaradossi. ... Michael Chioldi’s Scarpia commands the stage... 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Mariss Jansons – Bruckner 6 – Daniil Trifonov plays Schumann [live webcast]
Saturday, January 27, 2018 |  Eschewing an overture or short opening piece, a regrettable feature of too many concerts today, it was straight into Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto. The opening was promising, Daniil Trifonov’s first notes impressively poised if deliberate... ... Mariss Jansons conducted Bruckner’s Fourth, Seventh and Ninth Symphonies in Amsterdam and brought them to London with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in April 2014. His Berliner Philharmoniker account of No.6 was generally impressive. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Nikolaj Znaider conducts Elgar 2 – Saleem Ashkar plays Mozart K466 [live webcast]
Saturday, January 27, 2018 |  Conducting Edward Elgar’s Second Symphony is a ‘big ask’ for even a seasoned maestro, it’s a musically and emotionally complex masterpiece, and as yet Nikolaj Znaider doesn’t have all the answers; and when we finally got started – Znaider quite rightly waited for the audience to settle (this happens quite often in Detroit following intermission) – he launched the work in rather too easy a fashion... ... ...we got a Mozart Piano Concerto with a pared-down orchestra, strings on the thin side but aiding clarity and highlighting some expressive woodwind contributions. It was all very musical, not least from Saleem Ashkar whose technical fluency was admirable... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski – Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen – 1/4: Das Rheingold
Saturday, January 27, 2018 |  In case any justification were needed for the initiation of a ‘Ring’ cycle by the London Philharmonic Orchestra (not yet having had the opportunity to do so in its residence at the Glyndebourne Festival) the cause for it now is to celebrate Vladimir Jurowski’s ten years as the LPO’s Principal Conductor. ... Only in Scene Three was there a moment of vocal weakness at the point by which Alberich has become irredeemably evil. Matthias Goerne – the only singer to perform from a score – sounded already wearily noble and withdrawn from the world, even tentative and nervous in his depiction of Wotan... ... The other roles were generally well cast. Among the gods was a steely Fricka from Michelle DeYoung; sweet-toned radiance in Lyubov Petrova’s portrayal as Freia; efficiency and clarity in Allan Clayton’s brief appearance as Froh; and sufficient weight from Stephen Gadd’s Donner... 
Cleveland Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst at Adrienne Arsht Center – Mahler 9
Friday, January 26, 2018 |  Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, his final completed work (the Tenth was left unfinished), formed the first of two programs in the Cleveland Orchestra’s annual Miami residency. ... Franz Welser-Möst led the Clevelanders along a scenic route... 
LSO/François-Xavier Roth and Cédric Tiberghien – Debussy
Thursday, January 25, 2018 |  I asked Classical Source why no review of this concert, given the LSO features regularly in its coverage and the turnaround for write-ups is so quick, the next day usually, and was advised that on this night no reviewer was available. Would I like to write some coverage, if I was there? Well, I was, but I am no critic... ... Debussy is a favourite composer, La mer knocked me for six back in the 1960s, so a whole concert of his music appealed, and I have become a big admirer of François-Xavier Roth. He has built a notable rapport with the LSO and this was immediately evident in Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune... ... Yet when a pianist of the stature of Cédric Tiberghien champions it then it’s worth a listen... 
La Scala Philharmonic/Riccardo Chailly at Barbican Hall – Rossini & Tchaikovsky – Benjamin Grosvenor plays Grieg
Wednesday, January 24, 2018 |  Our Classical Source editor would have been very pleased, for we got a second Overture as a generous encore; indeed one that returned a second side-drum player to the stage. So to counterbalance the antiphonal side drums that rat-a-tat at the opening of Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie, we had the more dangerously sinister militaristic tattoos in Verdi’s The Sicilian Vespers, both thrilling in execution as one might expect with an ensemble of such operatic credentials as La Scala Philharmonic. 
London Sinfonietta Fiftieth-Anniversary Concert
Wednesday, January 24, 2018 |  50 years to the day since the orchestra played its first concert, the London Sinfonietta celebrates its birthday with the music that has shaped its identity – past, present and future. Co-founder David Atherton joins George Benjamin and Vladimir Jurowski in conducting a journey that begins with the music of Stravinsky, Ligeti and Birtwistle, courses through to the London premiere of Hans Abrahamsen's piano concerto 'Left, alone' and peers into the future with a new commission by RPS Music Award-winning composer Samantha Fernando. 
Paul Lewis at Royal Festival Hall / Concert cancelled
Tuesday, January 23, 2018 |  Unfortunately Paul Lewis was taken ill shortly before the recital’s start “due to an acute and sudden onset of a virus with extreme vertigo.” 
The Mozartists & Ian Page at Wigmore Hall – 1768
Tuesday, January 23, 2018 |  This varied confection successfully continued “Mozart 250”, here celebrating the music of 1768. ... 1768 was at the height of the Sturm und Drang period, usually applied to Haydn’s music, but at the time this striking philosophy became evident in all the arts. Haydn’s ‘Lamentatione’ Symphony forcefully represents this style and Ian Page took a suitably furious pace for the opening movement... ... A similar calmness was evoked by J. C. Bach’s melodious Flute Concerto played expressively by Katy Bircher... ... The Jommelli aria is from the opera Fetonte notable for its extravagant staging including an earthquake, a battle and Phaeton driving his chariot across the skies but the lyrical aria sung with the greatest elegance by Chiara Skerath... 
Kensington Symphony Orchestra/Russell Keable at Cadogan Hall – Schubert’s Great C-major Symphony – Fenella Humphreys plays Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto
Tuesday, January 23, 2018 |  The Kensington Symphony Orchestra is one of London’s most enterprising ensembles, and while this programme revealed little sense of adventure there was no small degree of ambition in coupling Stravinsky’s nowhere-to-hide Violin Concerto with Schubert’s epic symphonic journey. ... We have become used to hearing lean and athletic performances of Schubert ‘Great C-major’ Symphony (Mackerras and Norrington spring to mind) and Russell Keable’s expansive account, all repeats observed (a departure from ten years ago), inclined towards light textures, togetherness and near-faultless intonation. ... Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto (1931) – written for Samuel Dushkin – is scored with multitudinous wind sonorities, which both support the soloist and act as a foil. Balance can be problematic. Here everything coalesced remarkably well, the interplay between individuals and groups was sure-footed, a good demonstration of KSO’s excellence, complementing Fenella Humphreys who embraced the Concerto with vigour and authority... 
Cleveland Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst at Carnegie Hall – Johannes Maria Staud's Stromab & Mahler 9
Tuesday, January 23, 2018 |  This first of two Carnegie Hall concerts celebrating the Cleveland Orchestra’s centennial paired music based upon a bizarre tale of horror with the vision of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, Franz Welser-Möst conducting. ... Johannes Maria Staud’s fifteen-minute Stromab (Downstream) was inspired by Algernon Blackwood’s The Willows... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Inon Barnatan
Monday, January 22, 2018 |  The highlight of Inon Barnatan’s contrapuntal feast at Wigmore Hall was Samuel Barber’s Piano Sonata, which tied in nicely with the preceding César Franck and J. S. Bach through its fugal Finale, and there was much to please and intrigue the listener throughout... 
The Metropolitan Opera – David McVicar’s production of Verdi’s Il trovatore – Jennifer Rowley, Quinn Kelsey, Yonghoon Lee, Anita Rachvelishvili; conducted by Marco Armiliato
Monday, January 22, 2018 |  On this first night of the Met’s revival of David McVicar’s 2009 production of Verdi’s Il trovatore, three of the four principals made auspicious role debuts. The biggest triumph was Anita Rachvelishvili’s brilliant portrayal of Azucena, the opera’s central character. Dolora Zajick has all but owned the role here... ... Jennifer Rowley as Leonora and Quinn Kelsey as Count di Luna gave excellent performances that largely met the daunting challenge of succeeding such artists as Anna Netrebko, Sondra Radvanovsky and Dmitri Hvorostovsky. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Pablo Heras-Casado – Faune, Mother Goose, La mer – Pierre-Laurent Aimard plays Ravel
Sunday, January 21, 2018 |  Pablo Heras-Casado and the Philharmonia Orchestra’s French programme opened with Debussy’s Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, a turning point in the history of music when it was premiered in 1894. Samuel Coles gave a beautiful rendering of the opening flute solo... ... Ravel composed his G-major Piano concerto (completed in 1931) following a tour of the United States where he became impressed with the rhythmic and harmonic richness of jazz. Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s rendition was simply brilliant. ... The concert concluded with Debussy’s La mer – the sea in many moods... 
LSO/François-Xavier Roth – Wagner, Debussy, Massenet – Edgar Moreau plays Lalo’s Cello Concerto
Sunday, January 21, 2018 |  The recent appointment of François-Xavier Roth as a principal guest conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra hopefully means that more programmes such as this will be possible... ... This programme was centred around the British premiere of the Première Suite d'Orchestre on which Debussy worked during 1883 and 1884 before setting it aside. ... When was the last time that the complete Ballet Music from Massenet's Le Cid (1885) was heard at a 'serious' concert in London? 
Royal Academy of Music Richard Lewis Song Circle at Wigmore Hall – Venice
Sunday, January 21, 2018 |  A crop of gorgeous voices from the Royal Academy of Music was on display at Wigmore Hall in a programme united by a Venetian theme, a journey through this gothic, timeless city. 
Louise Alder & James Baillieu at Wigmore Hall – Chants d’amour – From Mozart to Richard Strauss
Saturday, January 20, 2018 |  Nothing became Louise Alder’s Wigmore Hall recital like the leaving of it. Clamour for an encore at the end of an eclectic evening was rewarded by ‘Les Filles de Cadix’ (The Girls of Cadiz), a strutting bolero by Léo Delibes sung to a thrumming, guitar-like piano accompaniment. ... Of the three songs by Bizet only one, ‘Adieux de l’hôtesse arabe’ (Farewell of the Arabian hostess), made much impact, not least in its hypnotically melismatic envoi, although all of them sat well in Alder’s voice. The same could not be said for Fauré’s Cinq mélodies ‘de Venise’, the five Verlaine settings that include ‘Mandoline’ and ‘Green’. ... As for Richard Strauss, a quartet of his most enchanting songs, all magically sung and played, were worth the price of admission and then some. 
Jonas Kaufmann & Helmut Deutsch at Carnegie Hall – Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin
Saturday, January 20, 2018 |  Helmut Deutsch is one of the greatest collaborative pianists. His ability to diversify and inflect even the most repetitive figuration truly transformed this Carnegie Hall performance of Die schöne Müllerin with Jonas Kauffman. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Josep Pons conducts El amor brujo & Goyescas
Friday, January 19, 2018 |  It is curious how much music with Spanish influence is composed by non-natives – by Ravel, Rimsky-Korsakov, Chabrier and Debussy, as well as a certain opera by Bizet! Does the genuine flavour of the Iberian peninsula emerge from these works? In this imaginative double-bill the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Josep Pons demonstrated that the answer may be no! ... Granados’s Goyescas, first staged at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in January 1916 to some success with a cast including Giuseppe de Luca and Giovanni Martinelli, has a curious background. ... The evening’s first half comprised the original, longer, version of Manuel de Falla’s El amor brujo (Love, the magician), played with bravura, with the truly authentic, earthy and sultry-voiced, Maria Toledo, impressive in her spoken narrative.  
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Dirk Brossé – Organ Spectacular with James O’Donnell – Bach, Saint-Saëns, Fauré, Jongen
Friday, January 19, 2018 |  Dirk Brossé has a huge career that roams between conducting, composing and education, between ‘art’ (for want of a better word) and film music (he wrote the excellent score for the BBC’s equally excellent Parade’s End)... ... There was no shortage of cinematic glamour, opulence and impressively communicated craft in this LPO “Organ Spectacular” programme. ... Westminster Abbey’s music supremo James O’Donnell rolled out ‘that’ Toccata and Fugue on the Royal Festival Hall’s instrument bathed in a roseate glow (the organ, not O’Donnell), sexing-up Johann Sebastian Bach’s (or is it?) stridently fantasia-like Toccata with dashing decorations and flourishes... ... then O’Donnell was back in more of a starring role in Joseph Jongen’s Symphonie concertante, the work commissioned in 1926 by Wanamaker’s store in Philadelphia to christen its proposed new organ, the biggest and no doubt the best in the World – imagine a six-manual behemoth serenading you in John Lewis’s as you contemplated soft furnishings. Because he was Belgian, lived in Liège and was a celebrated organist, his name is inevitably linked with César Franck’s, although on the evidence of this worldly, often brilliant piece, Jongen’s music is a far remove from Franck’s seraphic opacity. 
The Royal Ballet – Giselle – Marianela Nuñez & Federico Bonelli
Friday, January 19, 2018 |  Perhaps it is churlish not to greet the return of Giselle to Covent Garden with great enthusiasm but the ballet has been presented there so frequently in recent years that perhaps another full-length work from the company’s unenviably rich repertoire would have been welcome in a season distinctly short on interest – Ashton’s Ondine, perhaps or Coppélia. But Giselle it is. Not that there is too much wrong with the version given in Sir Peter Wright’s now venerable production which, one is compelled to note, now runs for over ten minutes longer than when it was premièred in 1986 – slower tempi and a longer interval, no doubt. 
Behzod Abduraimov at Barbican Hall
Thursday, January 18, 2018 |  I last heard the Tashkent-born Behzod Abduraimov six years ago, in London, when the then twenty-two-year-old wizard was still in the public’s eye as winner of the London International Piano Competition (which no longer features, I notice, in his biography). Since then there have been thrilling Proms appearances, and his international star is well and truly risen. That 2012 concert was memorable for Abduraimov’s outgoing confidence and youthful derring-do. This Barbican recital (a stalls-only event) was much more revelatory for the interior quality of his musicianship. ... Abduraimov is something of a piano whisperer, an approach that worked wonders with Liszt’s transcription of the ‘Liebestod’... ... It was fascinating how the prevailing mood of the evening lingered in Prokofiev’s Sonata No.6, the first of the composer’s ‘War’ Sonatas. There was plenty of weight and authority, but the dazzling pugnacity also admitted an effortfulness that gave the music a deepening context. 
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Daniele Gatti at Carnegie Hall (2) – Mahler 1 – Janine Jansen plays Bruch
Thursday, January 18, 2018 |  The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra concluded its first visit to New York with Daniele Gatti, coupling two late-nineteenth-century ‘Firsts’. ... ... Janine Jansen gave a highly romantic performance of Max Bruch’s G-minor Violin Concerto... ... Following intermission, the Mahler began auspiciously as the strings gradually emerged from silence, then joined by the birdsong of the woodwinds... 
English National Ballet at London's Coliseum – Le jeune homme et la mort
Thursday, January 18, 2018 |  What a good ballet Roland Petit’s Le jeune homme et la mort is, and, over 70 years since its creation, a precious surviving example of the whole French post-war aesthetic, an aesthetic suffused with existentialism, surrealism and symbolism; one only has to think of the magnificent films of the forties and fifties to evoke that particular brand of stylised chic. And so it is with Jeune Homme, which received a welcome revival by English National Ballet as the ‘opener’ for the second week of La Sylphide at the Coliseum. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Mikhail Agrest conducts Spartacus & Tchaikovsky 4 – Andrey Gugnin plays Rachmaninov
Wednesday, January 17, 2018 |  Conducted by Mikhail Agrest, the London Philharmonic presented a programme of popular Russian music, opening with a polished account of a famous excerpt from Khachaturian’s ballet-score for Spartacus (1954), the ‘Adagio’ perhaps better-known as the theme music for BBC TV’s 1970s’ The Onedin Line. ... Then Andrey Gugnin made an impressive appearance in Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto, a work of formidable demands and titanic performances. This account was beautifully understated and fluent... 
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Daniele Gatti at Carnegie Hall (1) – Parsifal & Bruckner 9
Wednesday, January 17, 2018 |  Few composers have idolized another one as much as Bruckner did Wagner; he was immersed in Wagner’s art, applying it to symphonic form with dedication but without losing stylistic individuality. Comparing the final works of these two creators provides ample evidence of how much Bruckner owed to Wagner’s melodic and harmonic gifts; the spiritual nature of Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony seems to have its roots in Parsifal, described by Wagner as a Bühnenweihfestspiel, a Sacred Festival Play. ... The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra has a long association with the music of Bruckner and Wagner. ... Daniele Gatti, in his second year as the RCO’s chief, has had much experience with Parsifal... 
Royal Festival Hall concert in aid of the Refugee Council – Edward Gardner conducts Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time – Hilary Hahn plays Mendelssohn
Monday, January 15, 2018 |  In September 2015, photographs of a three-year-old Syrian refugee, Alan Kurdi, whose body was washed up on a Turkish beach, prompted international anger, despair and a call for action. Alan’s death was a shocking individual tragedy... ... Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time, written during World War Two, also reflects a historical moment and speaks for ‘our time’. Tippett explained that the motivation for the Oratorio was the shooting of a German diplomat in Paris... ... At this fundraising concert, Tippett’s impassioned musical account of oppression, injustice, catastrophe, moral growth and reconciliation perfectly embodied the vision, values and mission of the Refugee Council... ... The two halves of the concert were prefaced by spoken presentations: at the start, Judith Kerr read an extract from her semi-autobiographical account of a young Jewish girl and her family escaping the Nazis, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit... ... The evening had begun with Mendelssohn’s (second) Violin Concerto, a work which evinces the freshness, impetuousness and vitality of youth. Hilary Hahn offered a surprisingly reflective, ‘mature’ interpretation... 
LSO/Simon Rattle – Janáček, Carter, Bartók – Isabelle Faust plays Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto
Sunday, January 14, 2018 |  Sir Simon Rattle’s revival of the portmanteau seven-composer Genesis Suite elicited much domestic press attention but it’s the more orthodox repertoire from his recent mini-series at the Barbican that the LSO now takes to Cologne and Hamburg. ... In Janáček’s final operatic Overture (presumably as edited by Charles Mackerras) that peculiar combination of monothematic claustrophobia and heroic defiance grabbed the lapels... ... All the music presented was in some literal sense ‘late’ without being consistently autumnal in manner. Elliott Carter (a late addition to the bill lest his presence deter the punters) was represented by Instances... ... Isabelle Faust may lack Gil Shaham’s warmth of tone or Anne-Sophie Mutter’s sheer command of the instrument but her spacious, lapidary interpretation of Berg’s Violin Concerto is arguably the most distinguished of our time. 
Modigliani Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Haydn 54/1 & Rider and Brahms 51/1
Sunday, January 14, 2018 |  The Modigliani Quartet is well-suited to Haydn’s classically structured music; importantly, the musicians do not take liberties with tempo yet the deeply-felt elements of his compositions are expounded expressively without hindering forward progress. ... The so-called ‘Rider’ Quartet is even more dramatic and the equestrian nature of the brilliant Finale was evoked by strongly stressed rhythms. ... A characteristic of the players’ style being the clear assertion of inner parts, Brahms’s very different C-minor Quartet benefitted greatly. ... After Brahms in complex mood the Modigliani players found an ideal encore to conclude the thought-provoking programme and presented Puccini’s Crisantemi (Chrysanthemums). 
François Couperin: Lumière et Ombre [Les Talens Lyriques & Christophe Rousset at Milton Court]
Sunday, January 14, 2018 |  Debussy is not the only significant French composer with an anniversary in 2018 – the birth of François Couperin 350 years ago gave an excuse for this examination of the most prominent member of a family who were as important in the musical life of their country as the Bachs were in theirs. ... That has to do with the fact that, as mentioned by Christophe Rousset in the panel discussion with BBC Radio 3’s Andrew McGregor, and Berta Joncus, his undoubted achievement in writing sensitively and idiomatically for the instruments of his time – above all the harpsichord – has meant that his music is more limited in impact in that it hasn’t attained the same widespread appeal of his contemporaries, J. S. Bach, Handel, and Domenico Scarlatti... 
Budapest Festival Orchestra/Iván Fischer at Lincoln Center – Bach & Rachmaninov – Dénes Várjon plays Beethoven
Sunday, January 14, 2018 |  Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra offered a well-balanced program. Fischer directed J. S. Bach’s B-minor Orchestral Suite from the keyboard, facing a small ensemble including a second harpsichord and with Gabriella Pivon brilliant in the flute part. ... Dénes Várjon’s masterful technique and interpretative sensibilities merged perfectly in an outstanding performance of Beethoven’s C-minor Piano Concerto... ... Following intermission, Fischer and the BFO took on Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony, frequently played but all-too-often without much insight. Fischer paid insistent attention to detail... 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Antonio Pappano – Ravel, Mussorgsky, Scriabin – Véronique Gens sings Duparc [live webcast]
Saturday, January 13, 2018 |  It’s twelve years since Antonio Pappano last conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker, a surprising statistic maybe until one considers the time he spends with opera at Covent Garden and with the symphonic repertoire in Rome with the Santa Cecilia Orchestra. ... Then four rapturously beautiful and transporting Mélodies by Henri Duparc, noted for his songs and not just because that’s all he wrote and then only a relative handful of them, Baudelaire being one of his chosen poets. They were sung and conducted lovingly, Véronique Gens caressing the (for her, native) French words... ... It’s always a treat to hear Night on the Bare Mountain as Mussorgsky conceived it... ... Finally Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy, erotic and volatile... 
LSO/Simon Rattle – Genesis Suite and Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra
Saturday, January 13, 2018 |  Written about far more than it has been heard, the Genesis Suite (1945) is a product of that brief yet potent phase at the end of the Second World War when a new beginning seemed possible in all senses. Composer, conductor and cultural entrepreneur, Nathaniel Shilkret (1889-1982) had such in mind when commissioning this by no means blithely optimistic concept from several composers based in America... ... ...and was given as an elaborate mixed-media presentation featuring the London Symphony Orchestra and Simon Rattle. ... The inevitable exception was Schoenberg – who, replacing an ailing Bartók at short notice, came up with a 'Prelude' whose glimpsing of order out of chaos is couched in his late idiom where tonal and serial possibilities maintain uneasy accord.... ... Something which Alexandre Tansman does rather more subtly in 'Adam and Eve'... ... Darius Milhaud then contributes 'Cain and Abel', a short but dramatic section... ... An audio-visual element was present at the start of the second half, with a recording (by Simon Callow) of a moving letter from Bartók to Joseph Szigeti while working on his Concerto for Orchestra (1943). 
Orchestre Pasdeloup/Elena Schwarz at Philharmonie de Paris – Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique – Gaspard Dehaene plays Liszt
Saturday, January 13, 2018 |  No history of French music during the latter half of the nineteenth-century or following World War One is without reference to France's oldest premier orchestra, the Pasdeloup, founded in 1861. ... Liszt and Berlioz were the Young Turks of Parisian Romanticism. And 1830 was their hour. ... This packed-out Pasdeloup concert, accenting youth and virtuosity, was in many ways the perfectly planned programme, organic and compelling at a variety of levels. Gaspard Dehaene is a cultured pianist. ... Having benefited from masterclasses with Haitink and Neeme Järvi as well as contact with Peter Eötvös, Elena Schwarz, Geneva-trained, is currently Mikko Franck's assistant at the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France... ... Her handling of the Symphonie fantastique was controlled, balanced and spot-lit... 
BBC National Orchestra of Wales at Hoddinott Hall – Martyn Brabbins conducts Tippett’s Suite in D & Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra – Huw Watkins plays Britten’s Piano Concerto
Friday, January 12, 2018 |  What better choice of music to showcase the talents of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (in its ninetieth year) in a programme curated by its Composer-in-Association Huw Watkins. Tippett and Britten have been strong influences on Watkins’s compositional style and were revealed here to brilliant effect. Michael Tippett’s Suite for the Birthday of Prince Charles (1948), first-conducted by Sir Adrian Boult, is timely in a year when its dedicatee celebrates three-score-years-and-ten... ... Britten’s Piano Concerto doesn’t get that many outings, or belong to many pianists’ repertoire, so it was particularly impressive to see Huw Watkins play without a score. ... Martyn Brabbins building the movement’s emotional trajectory with compelling force, and with luminous strings in the concluding bars. ... Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra is not the first of its kind (Hindemith’s precedes it by twenty years, and Bartók’s fellow-Hungarian Kodály had also composed one). This account – brimming with intensity and superbly executed solos – was meticulously prepared... 
Orchestre de Paris/Christoph Eschenbach at Philharmonie de Paris – La valse & New World Symphony – Julian Steckel plays Bloch’s Schelomo
Thursday, January 11, 2018 |  When the Orchestre de Paris was founded in 1967 Christoph Eschenbach had just started conducting lessons with George Szell but was otherwise a star pianist of independent personality ranking high in the Deutsche Grammophon stable (his first Concerto recording for the marque was with Karajan). A previous music director of this orchestra (2000-10), he retains the affection and expectation of Parisian audiences... ... His view of Dvořák's ‘New World’ Symphony emphasised scale and poetics. ... If Bloch's Schelomo was more low-key maybe it was because the orchestra knows it less well (previously in 1999 under Dohnányi), and because Julian Steckel opted for a restrained approach... 
LSO/Simon Rattle – Unfinished Symphony & Les Boréades – Magdalena Kožená sings Rückert-Lieder & Handel arias
Thursday, January 11, 2018 |  It is probably a moot point whether the works in a concert programme should forge connections among themselves or form a single overarching idea, when the two substantial compositions here (both in the first half) were apparently selected by virtue of the fact that there was seemingly no manifest purpose to their creation in the first place. Schubert failed to complete his B-minor Symphony for reasons that will likely never be known, whilst the collection of five songs by Mahler (grouped together as Rückert-Lieder) conspicuously avoid constituting a coherent cycle... ... Whether by accident or design, Simon Rattle’s interpretation of Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ seemed to testify to the perceived futility of its original inchoate creation. The London Symphony Orchestra’s hushed, but matter-of-fact opening set the mood... ... In Rückert-Lieder, the LSO was often raptly integrated in its delicate accompaniments, especially in ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’ to conclude, forming a poised backdrop for Magdalena Kožená. ... The LSO can have even fewer opportunities to perform Rameau but the required musicians evidently enjoyed the vivid harmonies, melodies and rhythms afforded by this eclectic collection of dances and interludes from the composer’s final opera, Les Boréades. 
New York Philharmonic/Susanna Mälkki – Helix and La mer – Baiba Skride plays Tchaikovsky
Thursday, January 11, 2018 |  Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto is core repertoire for orchestras large and small. For a piece I imagine the New York Philharmonic has performed dozens of times, I was shocked by the wholly unacceptable intonation from a group of this caliber. ... Baiba Skride is often quite the communicator... ... To her credit, Skride refused to slow down when the orchestra and/or Susanna Mälkki underestimated her quickest tempos. ... Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Helix (2005) is a great partner for La mer. The former has a touch of Ravel’s Boléro as it relies on ostinatos that ascend and intensify. 
The Royal Opera at the Roundhouse – Monteverdi’s The Return of Ulysses / Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria – Roderick Williams; directed by John Fulljames; conducted by Christian Curnyn
Wednesday, January 10, 2018 |  For the second time, the Royal Opera has joined forces with the Roundhouse for another Monteverdi opera, The Return of Ulysses, performed, like Orfeo, in the round – although it’s difficult to imagine how else it would be done in this iconic space – with significant input from local groups making up the chorus, beefed up by singers from the Guildhall School. ... There was quite a lot getting in the way of seamless theatre, however, not least the throat-infected Christine Rice, who was nevertheless well-enough to mime the role of Penelope to Caitlin Hulcup’s glorious singing from the pit. ... It’s Roderick Williams’s Ulysses, though, that takes the production’s variable sense of direction onto another plane and centres it. 
Ante Terminum Productions presents Benjamin Britten’s Curlew River [at the Church of St Bartholomew the Great]
Tuesday, January 09, 2018 |  Ante Terminum Productions, a new London-based opera company, launched in style with Britten’s Curlew River, which had its premiere in St Bartholomew’s, Orford, in 1964, and, over half a century later, has alighted for a short run (until January 13) at the mysterious and magnificent church of St Bartholomew the Great, in Smithfield. 
Allan Clayton & James Baillieu at Wigmore Hall – Purcell & Schubert and Schumann's Kerner-Lieder
Tuesday, January 09, 2018 |  Spearheading the younger generation of outstanding British tenors, Allan Clayton has impressed with his charismatic musical personality, such as Hamlet in Brett Dean’s opera at Glyndebourne last year. His dramatic gifts were on display this time in the more intimate environment of Wigmore Hall, James Baillieu matching, balancing and supporting Clayton’s persuasive and illuminating readings of Purcell, Schubert and Schumann. ... Robert Schumann’s Kerner-Lieder (1840) filled the recital’s second half. He had long been drawn to the “mysterious unearthly power” of Justinus Kerner’s poetry... 
English National Ballet at London's Coliseum – Song of the Earth and La Sylphide
Tuesday, January 09, 2018 |  There can be no more emphatic way to blow away the final balletic tinsel of Christmas than with a performance of Kenneth MacMillan’s profound and monumental Song of the Earth, set to Mahler’s remarkable Das Lied von der Erde. And there is no better way to lay down one’s balletic credentials either, especially so when the company, here English National Ballet, gives a performance of such rare clarity and depth. [...] [Of La Sylphide], the somewhat thick orchestral sound from the Coliseum’s pit and over-emphatic conducting did little to make the case for Løvenskiold’s deliciously period score. 
Piers Lane at Wigmore Hall – Scarlatti, Well-Tempered Clavier, Nocturnes, Appassionata Sonata, Chopin Variations
Monday, January 08, 2018 |  This Wigmore Hall recital celebrated Piers Lane’s sixtieth birthday, to the date. The choice of repertoire seemed a little odd until we discovered Lane had a not too distant relationship with Dame Myra Hess... ... After such sweet-meat beginnings came the altogether bigger challenge of mid-career Beethoven, the ‘Appassionata’ Sonata. ... It was then a pleasure to experience Lane in a work that clearly means a lot to him, the wonderful Chopin Variations by Rachmaninov. 
The Royal Opera – David McVicar’s production of Richard Strauss’s Salome – Malin Byström, Michael Volle, John Daszak, Michaela Schuster; conducted by Henrik Nánási
Monday, January 08, 2018 |  David McVicar’s blockbuster production of Richard Strauss’s Salome (new in 2008 and back for its third revival, slickly directed by Bárbara Lluch) goes over the top in displaying the story’s grim depravity – nudity, Jokanaan’s severed head, epic varieties of abuse – all of it effortlessly keeping pace with Strauss’s superbly lurid score. ... It is also strongly cast. Compared with McVicar’s two other singers in the title role, Malin Byström gets nearest to not sounding overwhelmed by the vocal demands. ... John Daszak’s complicated, fatally compromised Herod is a masterly portrayal of guilt and feckless decadence... ... Henrik Nánási manages the balance between stage and pit to their mutual advantage, and the detail is spellbinding... 
National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain at Barbican Hall – Mark Elder conducts The Enchanted Lake, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and, with Robert Hayward & Rinat Shaham, Duke Bluebeard’s Castle
Sunday, January 07, 2018 |  It’s a sobering thought that most of the NYO’s intake of new players were born during this century, and given the doom-laden opinions about the current state of music education in the UK, it’s also an inspiration that these one-hundred-and-sixty teenagers play so well and so responsively. ... osphere of enchantment with a trowel. The former’s Enchanted Lake is a lovingly crafted piece of Russian impressionism, and Mark Elder drew a satisfying spaciousness of texture and colour from his charges. ... Sir Mark presided over a strongly told, humorous account of Dukas’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice. ... I have yet to see a full staging of Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle that has worked – it is as much a hostage to directors as its own conflation of myth and reality. A semi-staging in a concert hall, such as this one from Daisy Evans, can also have a distancing effect. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – James Gaffigan conducts Britta Byström’s Many Yet One & Lorin Maazel’s Ring Without Words – Stephen Hough plays Liszt [live webcast]
Sunday, January 07, 2018 |  The DSO welcomed James Gaffigan as guest-conductor. He opened the programme with the second outing for Many, Yet One by Britta Byström (born in Sweden in 1977), which is “dedicated to Detroit Symphony Orchestra in return of receiving the Elaine Lebenbom Memorial Award.” ... Over similar dimensions, Liszt’s First Piano Concerto fits the bill, four movements in one, with ideas transformed as the piece moves along. Stephen Hough gave a classy account of the solo part... ... ...here’s another DSO blockbuster, Gaffigan working wonders with the late Lorin Maazel’s seventy-minute Ring Without Words, Wagner's many-hours music-dramas compressed and, as has been suggested, the forerunner of Tolkien and Game of Thrones. 
Arcangelo/Jonathan Cohen at Milton Court with Christopher Purves – Handel
Sunday, January 07, 2018 |  There was an expectant buzz at Milton Court as Handel-lovers gathered to hear the fruits of the latest collaboration between Jonathan Cohen’s Arcangelo and Christopher Purves who shot to operatic superstardom for his mesmerising portrayal of Saul (Handel again) at Glyndebourne in 2015 and central roles George Benjamin’s Written on Skin and Philip Glass’s The Perfect American, the latter being Walt Disney. 
Symphonia Boca Raton & David Kim at Roberts Theatre – Grieg, Mendelssohn, Barber, Piazzolla, Dvořák
Sunday, January 07, 2018 |  Symphonia Boca Raton performed superbly with David Kim, concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, either leading or taking the soloist’s position for Mendelssohn and Piazzolla. They opened with a delightful account of Grieg’s Holberg Suite... 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Sakari Oramo conducts Sibelius 2 & 7 – Anu Komsi sings Luonnotar and Ekho
Saturday, January 06, 2018 |  Sakari Oramo’s BBCSO Sibelius cycle culminated with a magnificent Symphony No.2... ... Opening the evening was an equally absorbing account of Sibelius’s Last Word on the Symphony as a hallowed form... ... As centrepieces, Anu Komsi delighted first with Luonnotar, Sibelius’s remarkable soprano-and-orchestra piece (1913) that is so inventive and singular. The source is the Finnish staple, the Kalevala, the legend being the creation myth. ... And following the interval, a wonderful discovery from Aarre Merikanto (1893-1958), a native of Helsinki, his Ekho (1922), rather belatedly getting its UK premiere. 
András Schiff at Wigmore Hall – from Geister to Les adieux
Friday, January 05, 2018 |  András Schiff has had an association with Wigmore Hall for nearly forty years and while his creative universe has been largely dominated by the works of J. S. Bach and Beethoven it was the 'late' flowering of Brahms that helped shaped this recital. 
Schumann Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Haydn
Wednesday, January 03, 2018 |  Formed in 2007, the Schumann Quartet comprises three brothers and the viola-player Liisa Randalu who joined them in 2012. Rarely have I heard an ensemble so completely at one with each other. ... Particular characteristics of these musicians’ approach to Haydn were at once apparent... 

 

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