All 2017 Concert Reviews

Jonathan Biss at Milton Court – Late Style – Schumann, Kurtág, Chopin, Brahms
Monday, March 27, 2017 |  Jonathan Biss disarmingly cuts to the chase when he talks and writes about music, but in this middle, exclusively solo, recital of three, all under the title “Late Style”, there was an odd disjunction between his playing and the music. ... Paradoxically, though, it was Biss’s objectivity in pieces from the seventh volume of György Kurtág’s Játékok (Games), all of them cryptically short, which somehow froze the evanescent nature of music. In ‘Fugitive thoughts about the Alberti bass’, Biss with the utmost refinement detached that basic compositional tool from its function and atomised it down to its basics. 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Gallicantus & Yvonne Kenny – Queen Mary’s Big Belly
Monday, March 27, 2017 |  It’s all too easy for the non-specialist to mentally place music of the Renaissance and earlier into a kind of generic Merrie England without much regard for the specifics – so it was a terrific idea for Gallicantus to build this Wigmore Hall recital around a particular event, Mary Tudor’s anticipation of an heir. 
Timothy Ridout & Anthony Hewitt at Wigmore Hall – Brahms, Tertis, MacRae, Bowen
Sunday, March 26, 2017 |  Full disclosure first: although I have been involved with the workshop side of the Lionel Tertis International Festival and Viola Competition since its inception in 1980, I have nothing to do with the Competition or the contestants. Timothy Ridout, born in London in 1995, won the 2016 Competition and this was his first Wigmore Hall recital... 
The New Babylon – score by Shostakovich played by Sasha Grynyuk
Saturday, March 25, 2017 |  From his teenage years Shostakovich worked as a pianist in the cinema. His first film score was The New Babylon... ... The New Babylon was the seventh film of the partnership of Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg, members of FEKS (Factory of the Eccentric Actor), committed to the avant-garde and in favour of popular culture and the machine. ... The film is set in the spring of 1871 during the time of the Paris Commune and immediately after the end of the Franco-Prussian war. It centres on Louise (Elena Kuzmina) who works in a department store in Paris called The New Babylon. ... Sasha Grynyuk was in stunning form throughout... 
Belief & Beyond Belief – London Philharmonic Orchestra/Nathalie Stutzmann – Richard Strauss’s Death and Transfiguration & Mozart’s Requiem
Saturday, March 25, 2017 |  Almost a century separates these two works, Mozart’s uncompleted Requiem from 1791 and Richard Strauss’s Death and Transfiguration composed in 1889; both address the afterlife. Their partnership here – planned years ago – acquired an added relevance in being dedicated, in a quietly stated but nonetheless heartfelt way by Nathalie Stutzmann from the podium, to the victims of and people affected by the incident at Westminster on Wednesday the 22nd; the London Philharmonic’s concert that night at the Royal Festival Hall was cancelled. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Andrey Boreyko – Romeo and Juliet – Branford Marsalis plays Gabriel Prokofiev’s Saxophone Concerto [live webcast]
Friday, March 24, 2017 |  As a regular if remote (London) reviewer of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s very welcome webcasts, there have been many notable shows. ... The conductor’s ten choices from Prokofiev’s three Romeo Suites (twenty sections in all) were given with some verve and sensitivity, although this was not the DSO at its most virtuosic and inspired. ... To start this concert was (as broadcast) a lacklustre ‘Love Scene’ from Berlioz’s Shakespeare-inspired Dramatic Symphony... ... Curiously, for Gabriel Prokofiev’s Saxophone Concerto, the sonics improved; it was though a spot had been made on the soundboard for Branford Marsalis to fill; for once he was present the DSO became more tangible and vibrant... 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Kirill Petrenko – Haffner Symphony & Pathétique Symphony – Georg Nigl sings John Adams’s The Wound-Dresser [live webcast]
Thursday, March 23, 2017 |  There is no doubting that the Berliner Philharmoniker’s designate chief conductor Kirill Petrenko is an imaginative and inspiring musician. Mozart’s ‘Haffner’ Symphony was forward-moving without rush... ... As centrepiece, John Adams’s The Wound-Dresser (1989), setting Walt Whitman’s words experiencing the poet’s time as a hospital volunteer during the American Civil War. ... As for the ‘Pathétique’ Symphony – not the most obvious choice for Petrenko’s first concert with the Berliners since he was announced (in June 2015) as Simon Rattle’s successor – it was imposing and momentous... 
LSO/Alain Altinoglu – Daphnis et Chloé – Gautier Capuçon plays Shostakovich
Thursday, March 23, 2017 |  Frenchman Alain Altinoglu (of Armenian descent) is currently in his first season as principal conductor of the Monnaie in Brussels, and this was his LSO debut, opening with a rare chance to hear Prokofiev’s Overture on Hebrew Themes. ... Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto of 1959 comes with quite a performance history, dominated by Mstislav Rostropovich. Gautier Capuçon shied away from trying to match the great man... ... In Daphnis et Chloé, the LSO was joined by the London Symphony Chorus in top form, wonderfully quiet at the beginning. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Jakub Hrůša – Brahms’s Fourth Symphony and, with Rudolf Buchbinder, Piano Concerto No.2 – Philharmonia Chamber Players in Beethoven & Brahms
Thursday, March 23, 2017 |  The Philharmonia Chamber Players, continued the welcome preceding of an orchestral concert with a free recital. ... Rudolf Buchbinder’s career began early in his teens. I recall his sparkling accounts of Mozart Concertos many years ago and was reminded of this because of his right-hand’s lightness of touch in the expansive Brahms. ... Jakub Hrůša’s interpretation of the Fourth Symphony was one of considerable grandeur, incorporating thoroughly musical shaping and included a particularly meaningful rendering of the simple opening. 
Barry Douglas at Turner Sims – Schubert & Brahms
Thursday, March 23, 2017 |  As part of the Turner Sims Great Pianist Series, this recital compared and contrasted Brahms and Schubert, their emotional ranges and romantic sensibilities, which Barry Douglas has also been exploring for Chandos. 
Belief & Beyond Belief – London Philharmonic Orchestra/Jukka-Pekka Saraste – Bruckner 9 – Anssi Karttunen gives UK premiere of Magnus Lindberg’s Cello Concerto No.2 / Concert cancelled
Wednesday, March 22, 2017 |  On police advice, tonight’s London Philharmonic Orchestra concert at Southbank Centre is cancelled due to the ongoing security incident in Westminster. 
Steven Osborne at Wigmore Hall – Brahms's Intermezzos Opus 117 & Beethoven’s final Piano Sonatas Opuses 109, 110 & 111
Wednesday, March 22, 2017 |  When Brahms at last produced his First Symphony, it was hailed as Beethoven’s ‘tenth’, and he continued as the heroic but conservative upholder of the Classical ideal, filtered through his and Beethoven’s very different types of romanticism. ... For all that, this Wigmore Hall recital was enthralling, not least in the way that Steven Osborne’s almost freakish ability to identify with a composer’s psychology gets more perceptive every time I hear him. ... Osborne’s Beethoven – unlike Igor Levit’s, for example – doesn’t overplay the final Sonatas’ sheer oddness and originality. 
Classical Opera at St John’s Smith Square – Mozart 250 – Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots – Alessandro Fisher, Sam Furness, Rebecca Bottone, Gemma Summerfield, Helen Sherman; directed by Thomas Guthrie; conducted by Ian Page
Tuesday, March 21, 2017 |  It isn’t every day that you hear a stage-work by an eleven-year-old, but then Mozart was no ordinary musician. This performance marked the 250th-anniversary of the premiere of a work that is not strictly an opera, but a sacred drama for Lent that was acted out on its first presentation in Salzburg, and can therefore claim to be the operatic point of entry by a genius whose output would culminate in some of the most highly respected compositions for the opera house. Naturally Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots (The Obligation of the First Commandment) does not reach anything like those artistic heights. 
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment at Royal Festival Hall – Ádám Fischer conducts Haydn & Beethoven, with Steven Isserlis
Monday, March 20, 2017 |  The Overture to La fedeltà premiata is probably best known as the Finale to Haydn’s Symphony No.73 (La chasse). Ádám Fischer stressed the links to the hunt... ... The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment reduced its numbers a little for Haydn’s C-major Cello Concerto of which Steven Isserlis gave a superbly stylish rendering. ... Beethoven 7 was given an outing notable for convincing choice of tempo and welcome absence of subjective impositions on the music. 
London Handel Festival – Faramondo – with Ida Ränzlöv, Harriet Eyley, Kieran Rayner, Beth Moxon; directed by William Relton; conducted by Laurence Cummings
Monday, March 20, 2017 |  Faramondo (1738), opening this year’s London Handel Festival, is amongst his final operas: next came Serse and then only two others. The fact that Faramondo is a rarity would seem to do not so much with the music which, number by number, is virtually as inspired as any, but rather with its convoluted plot which concerns vengeance and the conflicts of loyalty as between political and romantic allegiances in an obscure period of the Dark Ages. 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Annelien Van Wauwe & Nino Gvetadze
Monday, March 20, 2017 |  If at first it seemed that Annelien Van Wauwe – the Belgian clarinettist, another BBC New Generation Artists featured during this Wigmore Hall series – was the star, with Nino Gvetadze merely supporting on the ivories, that impression was quickly dispelled during the Debussy. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Beethoven’s Fidelio – Adrienne Pieczonka & Klaus Florian Vogt; directed by Jürgen Flimm; conducted by Sebastian Weigle
Monday, March 20, 2017 |  Jürgen Flimm returns to Metropolitan Opera to direct this revival of Fidelio, from 2000. His staging, although at times illogical, holds together reasonably well, and its shortcomings are more than offset by the majesty of Beethoven’s music... ... Leading the stellar cast are Klaus Florian Vogt and Adrienne Pieczonka as Florestan’s wife, Leonore, who disguised as a man, named Fidelio, secures a position at the penitentiary where her husband is held as a political prisoner. ... Sebastian Weigle’s conducting ensures musical clarity and just balances between stage and pit. 
Chelsea Opera Group at Cadogan Hall – Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila – Aaron Cawley & Claudia Huckle; conducted by Matthew Scott Rogers
Sunday, March 19, 2017 |  Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila is becoming something of a rarity again, unaccountably so, for it’s a great score. This Chelsea Opera Group concert performance started off somewhat shakily... ... Likewise Aaron Cawley’s first utterances as Samson were voiced at an astonishing fortissimo... ... As Dalila, Claudia Huckle displayed astonishing mastery of this fantastic siren role; she has all the vocal qualities needed. 
Nathalia Milstein at Wigmore Hall – Haydn, Schubert, Rachmaninov
Sunday, March 19, 2017 |  The French twenty-one-year-old Nathalia Milstein won the triennial Dublin International Piano Competition in 2015, and this Wigmore Hall recital was part of her bounty. ... Given the warmth and breadth of her playing, it wasn’t such a wrench from the deceptive decorousness of the Haydn to the subjective turmoil of Schubert’s imposing C-minor Sonata, but Milstein’s impulsiveness here paradoxically got in the way of dramatic extremes rather than liberated them. ... The way into Rachmaninov’s piano music, for me, proved to be the Etudes-tableaux, and Milstein’s account of Opus 39 refreshed that conviction. 
LSO/Fabio Luisi – Unfinished Symphony & German Requiem
Sunday, March 19, 2017 |  An extraordinarily restrained and introspective account of Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ Symphony made clear we were in Lent. Under the largely undemonstrative Fabio Luisi the LSO produced an account that, at nearly thirty minutes, might be considered funereal... ... On the evidence of these tempos one might have thought Brahms’s German Requiem would be pedestrian. But it was well-paced. Julia Kleiter was mellifluous, clear of voice, if not necessarily in diction, and replacing an indisposed Ruben Drole was a bright of character and casually-dressed Simon Keenlyside... ... The London Symphony Chorus sang with confidence, and provided some serious heft for the big fugues. 
Elīna Garanča & Kevin Murphy at Carnegie Hall – Brahms, Duparc, Rachmaninov
Sunday, March 19, 2017 |  In this memorable Carnegie Hall recital, Elina Garanča and Kevin Murphy offered a well-crafted program expressing melancholy and passionate longing. ... Then, in a calm and intimate rendition of ‘Sapphische Ode’, Garanča’s line and Murphy’s accompaniment were quietly mesmerizing... ... The second half brought a wardrobe change and a more exciting mood, beginning with an impressive trio of mélodies by Henri Duparc. 
Benjamin Zander conducts Beethoven – Coriolan & Choral Symphony – Mei Yi Foo plays Piano Concerto No.3 / Philharmonia Chorus & Orchestra
Saturday, March 18, 2017 |  Benjamin Zander believes that Beethoven’s ‘Choral’ Symphony is misrepresented by most performances and certainly his is an interpretation which differs considerably from most that are heard. ... The musicians’ response to Zander’s clear and positive direction in the Coriolan Overture was affirmative – forceful playing illuminated this no-nonsense approach. ... Straightforwardness and freshness informed the Piano Concerto. Within a sparkling approach, Mei Yi Foo phrased the music subtly... ... Among the most important: how could Beethoven mark the Scherzo Molto vivace and the Trio Presto yet provide the same metronome indication? 
The Royal Ballet – Triple Bill – The Human Seasons / After the Rain / Flight Pattern
Saturday, March 18, 2017 |  Dance works of the quality of Flight Pattern are created sometimes only once in a generation, and it is true that The Royal Ballet has been waiting for a genuine success in its commissioning policy for many, many years. Crystal Pite is something of the choreographer of the moment, and with good reason: her work over the past few years with Kidd Pivot, her own company, and others has revealed uncommon ability in her deployment of her performers and an equally rare humanity in which speaks directly to the soul.… 
Igor Levit at Wigmore Hall – Beethoven Piano Sonata Cycle (7), including the Hammerklavier
Friday, March 17, 2017 |  The penultimate instalment of Igor Levit's Beethoven cycle for Wigmore Hall's London Pianoforte Series journeyed the post-Waterloo years between the Eighth Symphony and work on the Ninth and Missa solemnis... ... Levit is a pianist of formidable ability and cast-iron technique, fearless of obstacles. He relishes extremes. The 'trill' fugue of the Hammerklavier Sonata was dauntingly (fashionably) fast, racing for the post more than “resolute” (Beethoven's marking) – Gilels's grander clarity of structure and voicing, his more moderated pace too, surely has to be the wiser option. 
LSO/Fabio Luisi – Beethoven & Brahms – Igor Levit plays the Emperor Piano Concerto
Thursday, March 16, 2017 |  Good though that Igor Levit is progressing his Beethoven odyssey, here the ‘Emperor’ Concerto... ... The LSO and Fabio Luisi offered a hefty accompaniment and also one that was lucid, and the lead-in to the Finale was particularly suspenseful... ... The Brahms opened in spacious and singing style, then came to life as if out of slumber, and had got even faster by the end of the exposition. For once, overlooking the repeat would have been unusually welcome, but Luisi went back and did it all again... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy – Rosamunde Overture & Elgar 1 – Veronika Eberle & Antoine Tamestit play Mozart K364
Thursday, March 16, 2017 |  It’s more than fifty years since Vladimir Ashkenazy first appeared in London and nothing he ever does is less than deeply musical; and over the years he has established deep ties with the Philharmonia Orchestra. ... In Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante, the excellent combination of Veronika Eberle and Antoine Tamestit echoed each other perfectly. ... About the Elgar it is hard to be equally enthusiastic. 
English National Opera – Handel’s Partenope – Sarah Tynan, Patricia Bardon, James Laing, Stephanie Windsor-Lewis; directed by Christopher Alden; conducted by Christian Curnyn
Wednesday, March 15, 2017 |  A week after International Women’s Day was observed, it is appropriate that English National Opera’s revival of Handel’s Partenope opens. ... Christopher Alden’s production takes its cue from the dramatically anti-climactic moment when Arsace calls the bluff of Eurimene (one of Partenope’s apparent suitors) and suggests that they fight a duel bare-chested... ... Sarah Tynan’s first number as Partenope, with wide vibrato and swoops in the opening section of the da capo aria verging on premature decoration, initially seemed to betoken a uniformly feisty interpretation. 
New York Philharmonic/Alan Gilbert – The Chairman Dances & Symphonie fantastique – Yo-Yo Ma plays Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Cello Concerto
Wednesday, March 15, 2017 |  Alan Gilbert opened this New York Philharmonic concert with John Adams’s The Chairman Dances, a “foxtrot” companion piece to his 1987 opera, Nixon in China. This work has established itself alongside some of Adams’s other early works (such as Short Ride in a Fast Machine), as core to the contemporary American canon. ... Very recently Esa-Pekka Salonen led the world premiere of his Cello Concerto, for Yo-Yo Ma, but here was a spectator. 
Belief & Beyond Belief – London Philharmonic Orchestra & Synergy Vocals – Gavin Bryars & Steve Reich – The Sinking of the Titanic, Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet, Music for 18 Musicians
Wednesday, March 15, 2017 |  The Belief & Beyond Belief series continued in imaginative and virtuosic fashion, transportingly so through Gavin Bryars’s meditative and elegiac soundworlds, then invigorating and thrilling in Steve Reich’s monumental Music for 18 Musicians. ... The starting point for Bryars’s The Sinking of the Titanic was the band carrying on playing as the liner disappeared beneath the waves. 
Guildhall Symphony Orchestra/Pietari Inkinen – Wagner – Mastersingers, Tristan, and Lorin Maazel’s Ring Without Words, with Lise Lindstrom as Brünnhilde
Wednesday, March 15, 2017 |  The students of the Guildhall Symphony Orchestra were in the hands of an experienced Wagnerian in Pietari Inkinen, conductor of Opera Australia’s recent 'Ring' cycle. ... Flowing melody continued in the Tristan bookends, the Prelude beginning from a whisper of sound. Tempos were flexible and there were well-shaped woodwind solos and telling contributions from the lower strings. The ‘Liebestod’ was tenderly played... ... The second half was not quite as expected, for Lorin Maazel’s The Ring Without Words was supplemented by Lise Lindstrom singing Brünnhilde’s ‘Immolation Scene’ from Götterdämmerung. 
Sarah Connolly & Joseph Middleton at Park Avenue Armory, New York City – Frauenliebe und -leben, Les Nuits d’été, Banalités…
Wednesday, March 15, 2017 |  Flanked by large portraits of puff-chested, blue-suited soldiers, Sarah Connolly and Joseph Middleton presented a recital including song-cycles by Schumann, Berlioz, and Poulenc. ... In preparation for his Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson, Aaron Copland visited the poet’s home in Amherst, Massachusetts... ... The eclectic and versatile Richard Rodney Bennett wrote The History of the Thé Dansant in 1994 in collaboration with Meg Peacocke. 
Maurizio Pollini at Royal Festival Hall – Beethoven Piano Sonatas (including Pathétique and Appassionata) & Schoenberg Klavierstücke
Tuesday, March 14, 2017 |  Maurizio Pollini opened the second of his Royal Festival Hall recitals this season with Schoenberg. The Three Piano Pieces from 1909 are harmonically and emotionally explorative, if definable as late-Brahms tonally fractured without losing sight of classical custom... ... During the three Beethoven Sonatas (all thirty-two now recorded by Pollini for Deutsche Grammophon) – no less radical and challenging, witness the emphatic dissonance that opens the ‘Pathétique’ – the pianist was not always at his transcendental best... ... There have been more vividly characterised accounts of the ‘Appassionata’ but few that see the work so whole... 
A Mother’s Tears ... Stabat Mater – Andreas Scholl & Accademia Bizantina
Tuesday, March 14, 2017 |  A concert from the great German countertenor Andreas Scholl, accompanied by a crack ‘period’ ensemble, of music singing the praises and sorrows of Mary the Mother of God, all of it from the Italian Baroque when Italian music was straining at its expressive stays as well as laying down a style that tripped pleasingly between church and theatre... 
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Peter Oundjian at Kravis Center – Prince Igor Overture & Tchaikovsky 4 – Nicola Benedetti plays Brahms’s Violin Concerto
Tuesday, March 14, 2017 |  The Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s first US tour in thirty-five years includes two concerts in West Palm Beach, of which this was the first. The curtain-raiser was the Overture (as realized by Glazunov) to Borodin’s unfinished opera, Prince Igor... ... Peter Oundjian led a lively account that brought out the music’s bright colors. ... Nicola Benedetti gave a muscular performance of Brahms’s Violin Concerto. ... Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony proved a superb showpiece for the RSNO. 
Nigel Kennedy & Friends (including Robert Plant and Jean-Luc Ponty) at Royal Albert Hall
Tuesday, March 14, 2017 |  J. S. Bach, Bulgarian folk, jazz-rock fusion, rock: a lot of ground to cover, which might explain why Nigel Kennedy played the opener, Bach’s Violin Concerto in A-minor (BWV1041), at a fair old clip... ... Kennedy’s arrangement of ‘Nessun Dorma’ (from Puccini’s Turandot), with violinists Michael Guttman and Pieter Daniel, felt like a hammy crowd-pleaser... ... And all of this only the first set out of three, the second of which started with two duets with Georgi Andreev on gadulka, a traditional Bulgarian bowed instrument... ...

After the ear-ringing finale to the second set, you’d expect the third-set opener – an arrangement of Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing – to be equally loud. But down came the volume for an exquisite acoustic version with strings, guitar and mandolin. Perhaps Kennedy was keeping his powder dry for the arrival of Robert Plant... ... ...deploying the full armoury of orchestra and rock instruments before the final stormer, Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir. 

Project Polunin at Sadler's Wells
Tuesday, March 14, 2017 |  Sergei Polunin, the 'James Dean' or 'Bad Boy' of ballet, depending on which sub-editor's strap-line one reads, is not a Narcissus; he is not someone obsessed with himself and his image. Some will see this first programme of Project Polunin as an exercise in self-aggrandisement, but that would be to misread this hugely talented young man. If anything he is more Icarus, launching himself into the void of public and critical scrutiny on insubstantial wings of feathers and wax, and we all know the end of that story. 
Berliner Philharmoniker/Zubin Mehta – Tchaikovsky 5 – Pinchas Zukerman plays Elgar’s Violin Concerto [live webcast]
Sunday, March 12, 2017 |  This Berliner Philharmoniker concert in support of UNICEF (opening with the German National Anthem and followed by speeches from Joachim Gauck, Federal President, and Michael Müller, Mayor of Berlin) was beamed live to the World and captured old friends and collaborators in splendid form. Zubin Mehta and the Berliners go back a long way and the conductor’s closeness with Pinchas Zukerman is similarly time-honoured; together they were inspired in Elgar’s Violin Concerto (1910) written for Fritz Kreisler. ... Mehta, looking heartily healthy (he turns eighty-one in April), then conducted an absorbing outing for Tchaikovsky 5. 
LSO/Susanna Mälkki – Also sprach Zarathustra – Christian Tetzlaff plays Brahms's Violin Concerto ... Guildhall Artists
Sunday, March 12, 2017 |  Three performances of Also sprach Zarathustra in the capital in just a few weeks seems an extravagance or a failure to compare diaries. Is there a bankruptcy of ideas going on here or are we just slaves to laziness? Either way, this coupling with Brahms’s Violin Concerto gave Susanna Mälkki (replacing an unwell Valery Gergiev) an opportunity to exhibit her credentials with the LSO in what were robust if uneven performances. ... For the Brahms, Janine Jansen was originally booked but her indisposition enabled Christian Tetzlaff to take centre-stage. 
Junge Deutsche Philharmonie/Jonathan Nott at Philharmonie Berlin – Valses nobles et sentimentales & Shostakovich 15 – Michelle Breedt sings Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder [live webcast]
Sunday, March 12, 2017 |  This Sunday-morning concert at a prestigious Berlin address opened with Ravel, his subtle and refined orchestration of the for-piano, Schubert-inspired, Valses nobles et sentimentales, which found the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie in colourful and seductive form, Jonathan Nott at-one with the music’s capacity for enigma and enchantment. ... For Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder, to poems by Friedrich Rückert, one might take a (here) soprano as representing the grief of a young mother on the death of her children. In fact, Michelle Breedt (with score, Nott without one, as for the Ravel) gave a rather mature (maternally experienced) account... 
The Royal Opera – Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg – Bryn Terfel, Gwyn Hughes Jones, Rachel Willis Sørensen, Johannes Martin Kränzle; directed by Kasper Holten; conducted by Antonio Pappano
Saturday, March 11, 2017 |  There are productions of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger to which one returns at any opportunity. Kasper Holten’s, his swansong as Director of Opera at Covent Garden, is not one of them. ... We all have moments when Die Meistersinger hits us hard with heart-stopping recognition where music and drama collide – Sachs’s love for Eva and his Marschallin-like stepping aside for a younger model; Eva’s breaking-down to Sachs, where she kisses him hard on the mouth, then moving on to do the same to/with Walther; the Quintet; the pulverising burst of “Erwach” – but this is the driest-eyed staging I have witnessed. ... Musically, though, it fields superb singing from a mouthwatering cast, and Antonio Pappano conducts the music with a subtle sense of irony emanating from the pit that doesn’t make it to the stage. ... Bryn Terfel, a Sachs of many years’ standing, sounded much more at ease with the higher-written music...  
Academy of Ancient Music/Jordi Savall at Barbican Hall – Lully’s Alceste, Marin Marais’s Alcione, Handel’s Water Music, Rameau’s Les Boréades
Saturday, March 11, 2017 |  Jordi Savall first collaborated with the Academy of Ancient Music in 1978. ... Years of research and dedication to reviving lost instruments and playing techniques have informed the diminutive Catalan’s approach and this delightful AAM programme juxtaposed theatrical French Baroque Dance Suites alongside Handel’s Water Music. ... Lully’s Alceste (1674) opened the concert in martial style... ... Marin Marais was a pupil of Lully and like Savall a virtuoso on the viol, and his pieces for the instrument often have a melancholy cast. His opera Alcione (1706) became famous all over Europe for its depiction of a tempest... 
New York Philharmonic/Alan Gilbert – John Adams – Absolute Jest and Harmonielehre
Saturday, March 11, 2017 |  In his opening remarks to the audience, John Adams wryly noted that although the tickets were printed with the announcement “Beethoven and John Adams” this was likely a “marketing requirement.” The music, he assured us, is all his. But Beethoven did provide the inspiration for Absolute Jest... ... Alan Gilbert had the Philharmonic on its toes, dancing through the score’s rhythmic complexities with grace and bringing out its lyricism. ... Harmonielehre is one of the pieces that established Adams’s reputation, and while it lacks the contrapuntal and rhythmic intricacy of his more-recent work, one can hear that the essential qualities of his musical personality... 
Barnes Music Festival 2017 – Gala Opening Concert with Tasmin Little – Roxanna Panufnik’s Four World Seasons & Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, and Tchaikovsky's Serenade
Saturday, March 11, 2017 |  Barnes Music 2017’s offerings showcase an intriguing theme of Music and Place. Seeking to explore how landscapes and locations influence composers, the organisers have planned a two-week Festival. Opening night was a sparkling affair with Tasmin Little, and Barnes’s artistic director Daniel Turner took to the podium... ... Festival Patron, Roxanna Panufnik, offered us sensual and dance-informed music with two sections from her Four World Seasons, an ideal complement to Vivaldi’s set of seasonal Violin Concertos. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Simone Young – Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra and, with Russell Braun & Albane Carrère, the UK premiere of Peter Eötvös’s Senza sangue
Friday, March 10, 2017 |  This concert by the BBC Symphony Orchestra featured the second of this season’s UK premieres for Peter Eötvös (following The Gliding of the Eagle in the Skies), Senza sangue (2015) being the most recent stage-work from this most versatile of contemporary opera composers. ... Simone Young secured a visceral response from the BBC Symphony Orchestra... ... Certainly, the Eötvös formed an intriguing juxtaposition when heard after Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra (1943), long a staple of the repertoire, yet this account was far from routine. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s production of Mozart’s Idomeneo – Matthew Polenzani, Alice Coote, Elza van den Heever, Nadine Sierra; conducted by James Levine
Friday, March 10, 2017 |  In this Metropolitan Opera revival of Mozart’s Idomeneo, all aspects of Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s 1982 staging come together to create an immensely appealing and effective production. ... I was particularly struck by James Levine’s masterful conducting. ... Nadine Sierra brought both power and finesse to the role of Ilia, the Trojan King Priam’s daughter who is held as a prisoner by Idomeneo on the island of Crete. ... Alice Coote portrayed Idamante as brimming with youthful energy... ... In the title role, Matthew Polenzani’s voice floated with ease and grace in pensive moments, and exploded with fury and dread as the King grappled with the cruel prospect of having to sacrifice the life of his son. 
Palm Beach Opera – Verdi’s Rigoletto – Michael Chioldi, Andrea Carroll, Alexey Tatarintsev, Štefan Kocán; directed by Jay Lesenger; conducted by Antonello Allemandi
Friday, March 10, 2017 |  Every component of Jay Lesenger’s production of Verdi’s Rigoletto for Palm Beach Opera is outstanding... ... Michael Chiold’s warm and powerful voice and evocative acting made Rigoletto a believable character... ... Alexey Tatarintsev brought a bright and airy tenor to the Duke, establishing his womanizing, proclaiming it again in Act Three in ‘La donna è mobile’ and dashing off top notes with ease. ... Štefan Kocán was a superb Sparafucile, a role he has performed at the Metropolitan Opera. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Rafael Payare – Classical Symphony & Symphonic Dances – Frank Peter Zimmermann plays Prokofiev
Thursday, March 09, 2017 |  This compact concert led by Rafael Payare – an El Sistema graduate, a horn-player in the Simón Bolívar Orchestra, married to Alisa Weilerstein, and Chief Conductor of the Ulster Orchestra – opened with Prokofiev’s ‘Classical’ Symphony (1917), Haydn for the twentieth-century. ... Even more so with the contemporaneous Violin Concerto No.1, which found Frank Peter Zimmermann in typical technically-patrician and music-serving form. With an agile and alert accompaniment, opening with just-audible violas, this evocative music, of wintery chill, was unfolded with an intense lyricism... ... Rachmaninov’s swansong Symphonic Dances (1940) found the Philharmonia Orchestra in top form and at full resource... 
English Touring Opera at Hackney Empire – Puccini’s Tosca – Laura Mitchell, Alexander James Edwards, Craig Smith; directed by Blanche McIntyre; conducted by Michael Rosewell
Thursday, March 09, 2017 |  You would have thought Tosca would be right up English Touring Opera’s street, ticking all sorts of boxes... ... ...Tosca was sung by Laura Mitchell. Her bright, weightless soprano is lyrical and graceful but lacks the oomph to convey the ego-centrifuge of Rome’s leading lady. ... Alexander James Edwards delivered a too-nice, puppyish Cavardossi, and he bravely pushed his handsome, if rather monochrome tenor into heroic territory not reliably in his reach... ... Craig Smith needs much more vocal blackness to express the monster that is Scarpia. 
Ruby Hughes & Friends at Kings Place: Heroines of Love and Loss
Wednesday, March 08, 2017 |  International Women’s Day was marked in fine style as Ruby Hughes investigated repertoire depicting women centre-stage, either as Renaissance composers or as dramatic heroines. 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Charles Dutoit at Royal Festival Hall – Benvenuto Cellini & Prokofiev 5 – Elisabeth Leonskaja plays Grieg’s Piano Concerto
Tuesday, March 07, 2017 |  From the opening bars of the Overture to Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini, you couldn’t help marvelling at London’s extraordinary good fortune in its big five orchestras and in their chief conductors. I suppose Charles Dutoit (recently turned eighty) must now be regarded as a veteran, but there is no sense of him compensating self-consciously with the gathering years... ... Dutoit’s empathy with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is evident above all in his complete trust in its musicians... ... Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony was similarly true to its idiom... ... Elisabeth Leonskaja was at her most ingratiating in Grieg’s Piano Concerto... 
Philadelphia Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin at Carnegie Hall with Michelle DeYoung & John Relyea – Swan Lake & Bluebeard’s Castle
Tuesday, March 07, 2017 |  This imaginative program paired works fashioned from folk-tales, opening with Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s selections from Tchaikovsky’s complete score for Swan Lake... ... Following intermission, the main event, an intense and dark account of Bartók’s riveting psychological drama, Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, based on Charles Perrault’s 17th-century La Barbe bleue and tells of Bluebeard and his new wife, Judith. ... This concert performance began and ended in almost total darkness, the spoken prologue eerily intoned off-stage in amplified Hungarian by John Relyea. Then he and Michelle DeYoung entered... 
Company Wayne McGregor & Paris Opéra Ballet at Sadler's Wells – Tree of Codes
Tuesday, March 07, 2017 |  The achingly contemporary Tree of Codes, a much-vaunted collaboration between the neophile choreographer Wayne McGregor, visual concept artists Olafur Eliasson and musician Jamie xx (of xx the band fame), reminds most of the the ballets à grand spectacle, in fashion towards the end of the nineteenth century. [...] Tree of Codes is essentially a very simple work... 
NHK Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Järvi at Royal Festival Hall –Takemitsu Requiem & Mahler 6
Monday, March 06, 2017 |  The Tokyo-based NHK Symphony Orchestra can trace its origins to 1926. With a change of name, it has been supported since 1951 by Nippon Hoso Kyokai (the Japan Broadcasting Corporation) and was out in full force for Maher 6... ... ...beforehand it was the strings that introduced Requiem (1957) by Tokyo-born Toru Takemitsu (1930-96). ... Now, what should come next, Scherzo or slow movement? This isn’t the place to debate such a conundrum (but I direct you to the link below), suffice to say that while Mahler finally settled on the Andante as the succeeding movement (and did so before the premiere, which he conducted), if you do what Järvi did here and go attacca into the Scherzo (fortunately no-one clapped to spoil the moment) then its second-place position becomes convincing... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Carolyn Sampson & Matthew Wadsworth
Monday, March 06, 2017 |  Pasts and presents intertwined: that is the inescapable subtext of The Miller’s Tale by Stephen Goss (commissioned by guitarist John Williams) – and not only in the striking incongruity of writing for theorbo during the second decade of the 21st-century. ... Elsewhere in the programme (a couple of Anonymous lute solos apart) Matthew Wadsworth shared the spotlight with Carolyn Sampson, opening with a series of John Dowland songs... 
Tara Erraught, James Baillieu & Ulrich Pluta at Wigmore Hall – Rosenblatt Recital
Monday, March 06, 2017 |  Tara Erraught presented a powerful and personal programme for the latest Rosenblatt Recital. A beguiling combination of Lieder and testing Rossini and Mozart arias showcased her rich and expressive range as well as other impressive abilities. 
Belief & Beyond Belief – Penderecki’s St Luke Passion – London Philharmonic/Vladimir Jurowski
Saturday, March 04, 2017 |  It’s probably a vast generalisation, but Catholicism seems inseparable from the Polish psyche, and the Poles express their belief with a natural, visceral directness that is very moving to witness. In the last century, the Catholic church withstood Poland’s annexation by the Soviet Union, and the Polish Pope, John Paul II, went on to play a vital part in bringing down the Iron Curtain. ... Penderecki’s St Luke Passion, first performed in 1966, was one of those works that blatantly subverted Communism... ... Vladimir Jurowski made a virtue of the work’s kaleidoscope of effects, giving its drama and high emotions room, so that set-pieces such as Peter’s denial and Christ’s comforting the two criminals crucified with him transcended the music’s brevity. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo – Nielsen’s Rhapsodic Overture & Sibelius’s Lemminkäinen Legends – UK premiere of Detlev Glanert’s Megaris
Friday, March 03, 2017 |  During the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s 2014-15 season Sakari Oramo conducted a cycle of Carl Nielsen’s Six Symphonies that became a beacon for this great music, so it’s good that he should continue to programme the composer. His Faroe Islands Rhapsodic Overture (from 1927, so relatively late, Nielsen died in 1931) makes use of Faroese folksongs. ... If Dane Nielsen was picturing a trip to his country’s outlying territory, so Detlev Glanert takes us to Megaris, the classical Greek name for an island near Naples, where the sailor-enticing if treacherous sirens are singing their last. ... Sibelius’s Lemminkäinen Legends date from the mid-1890s with each of the four revised twice. The named Kalevala-enshrined hero, the work opening with baleful, attention-commanding horns, becomes passionate with the ‘Maidens of Saari’... ... ‘The Swan of Tuonela’ was next, reflecting Sibelius’s re-think about the movements’ ordering... 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Litton at The Anvil – Richard Strauss’s Don Quixote with Jesper Svedberg & Tom Beer – John Lill plays Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto
Friday, March 03, 2017 |  As part of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s exploration of Richard Strauss’s music, it has now reached one of the most lovable of literary characters – Don Quixote, arguably the most demanding (and accomplished) of all Strauss’s tone poems. It is a set of variations relating to episodes from Cervantes’s epic tale... ... Under Andrew Litton (BSO Conductor Laureate) these picaresque diversions were well-paced, with Quixote’s chivalric adventures gaining in clarity and coherence. ... Most compelling of all was Jesper Svedberg whose Quixote was wonderfully poised... ... Brahms’s Piano Concerto No.2 found Litton directing a somewhat idiosyncratic performance with John Lill as a solid, pragmatic and technically secure soloist. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Pablo Heras-Casado – Alborada del gracioso & The Firebird – Javier Perianes plays Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain
Thursday, March 02, 2017 |  On paper this was always going to be a concert of intoxicatingly atmospheric, vibrantly coloured music from pre-Great War Paris – a heady combination of Gallic, Iberian and Russian imagination, exoticism to the fore. In the event, it turned out to be a plainer affair... ... Ravel's Alborada del gracioso, premiered in its orchestral form in 1919, set the tone. Pablo Heras-Casado – a conductor happy to dispense with a baton and not afraid to have a score before him – was intent on securing textbook refinement, clarity of ensemble, and chamber-like intimacies. ... Published in 1923, Manuel de Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain – less a piano concerto, more a tone-poem with piano obbligato – is never an easy canvas to get across. ... Javier Perianes – a jovial pianist, anxious to get to the instrument – did what he could. ... The complete Firebird ballet (1910) left an uneven impression; neither conductor nor orchestra always in confident accord, to the composer's disadvantage. 
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons at Carnegie Hall – Le tombeau de Couperin & Symphonie fantastique – George Benjamin’s Dream of the Song with Bejun Mehta
Thursday, March 02, 2017 |  Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra capped off their three-night engagement at Carnegie Hall with this splendidly conceived program including the New York premiere of George Benjamin’s Dream of the Song, which evokes the style of the French impressionists and of Benjamin’s teacher, Olivier Messiaen. ... George Benjamin’s Dream of the Song (2015), written for Bejun Mehta, was given its first outing by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under the composer’s direction. The six short movements juxtapose Mehta’s singing of English translations of poems by the eleventh-century Jewish scholars Solomon ibn Gabirol and Shmuel HaNagid, both of whom lived in Spain, with fragments of poems by the twentieth-century writer Federico García Lorca sung in Spanish by a female chorus. 
English Symphony Orchestra/Kenneth Woods at St John’s Smith Square – premieres by Philip Sawyers, with April Frederick – Clare Hammond plays Mozart K466
Tuesday, February 28, 2017 |  The initiative set in train by Kenneth Woods in commissioning nine new Symphonies to be premiered over several years is potentially of such artistic importance... ... ...and to judge by Philip Sawyers’s Third Symphony the plan has got off to an excellent start. ... The brass Fanfare made a suitable opening not just to the concert but by way of prelude in that Woods indicated no applause before Songs of Loss and Regret began. ... ...a considerable compliment was paid to the composer by the exceptional April Fredrick who sang superbly throughout without a score. ... It was a stroke of masterly planning to end the first half with Mozart’s D-minor Piano Concerto, given a notably fine and sensitive account by Clare Hammond. 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – David Greilsammer plays Sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti & John Cage
Monday, February 27, 2017 |  David Greilsammer’s radical and thoughtful pairing of Domenico Scarlatti and John Cage is working well for him: a few years ago he recorded for Sony a programme along much the same lines as this Wigmore Hall recital, which he is touring. 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Marin Alsop at Royal Festival Hall – Fanfare for the Common Man & Leningrad Symphony – Renaud Capuçon plays Mendelssohn
Monday, February 27, 2017 |  What do you programme with Shostakovich’s epic ‘Leningrad’ Symphony? Since it lasts seventy minutes or longer options are limited. However the presence of cohorts of brass made Fanfare for the Common Man a good choice, then add in Mendelssohn’s evergreen Violin Concerto with a popular soloist. ... In a nicely democratic touch Marin Alsop entered along with the musicians and conducted a rousing and imposing beginning to the evening. ... After a slightly shaky start and once his intonation had settled Renaud Capuçon gave a particularly stylish account of the Mendelssohn... 
Guildhall School of Music & Drama – world premiere of Julian Philips’s The Tale of Januarie
Monday, February 27, 2017 |  London was hosting two opera premieres on this night based on two of the sturdiest pillars of English literature, Shakespeare and Chaucer, the former’s The Winter’s Tale, re-imagined by Ryan Wigglesworth for ENO, and, in a rarer musical outing for the medieval poet, the latter’s The Merchant’s Tale from The Canterbury Tales, lavishly staged by the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in its in-house theatre and written by the School’s Head of Composition Julian Philips and Writer-in-Residence Stephen Plaice. 
English National Opera – world premiere of The Winter’s Tale, composed & conducted by Ryan Wigglesworth, directed by Rory Kinnear, with Iain Paterson, Sophie Bevan, Leigh Melrose & Susan Bickley
Monday, February 27, 2017 |  It is reassuring that, despite its current and ongoing financial issues, English National Opera is still able to commission major new works. This latest piece marks the culmination of Ryan Wigglesworth’s spell as ENO’s Composer-in-Residence, during which time he has also been active as a conductor, and The Winter’s Tale duly confirms his status as musical polymath – Wigglesworth adapting his own libretto from Shakespeare and conducting all five performances in this first run. The outcome is an auspicious success for the composer and the company alike. 
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst at Carnegie Hall – Verklärte Nacht & Schubert’s Great C-major Symphony
Sunday, February 26, 2017 |  The Vienna Philharmonic did not disappoint in this concert, which concluded its current three-concert residency at Carnegie Hall. ... The program began with a moving and memorable account of Arnold Schoenberg’s ultra-romantic Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night). Franz Welser-Möst led the VPO’s strings in an incandescent and widely-expressive performance. 
Orchestre National de Lyon/Leonard Slatkin at Kravis Center – Celephaïs & Symphonie fantastique – Gil Shaham plays Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto
Sunday, February 26, 2017 |  Orchestre National de Lyon’s eight-stop US tour brought it to West Palm Beach. Leonard Slatkin opened the program with Guillaume Connesson’s Celephaïs, inspired by the eponymous city created by the American horror-fiction author, H. P. Lovecraft. ... Then Gil Shaham gave Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto a loving reading... ... After intermission Slatkin led an extraordinary account of Symphonie fantastique... ... There were two Carmen-connected encores... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski at Lincoln Center – Glinka’s Valse-Fantaisie and, with Sofia Fomina, Mahler 4 – Jan Lisiecki plays Chopin’s E-minor Piano Concerto
Sunday, February 26, 2017 |  The London Philharmonic Orchestra returned to Lincoln Center with Vladimir Jurowski. The highlight was Chopin’s E-minor Piano Concerto, brilliantly played by Jan Lisiecki... ... ikhail Glinka’s Valse-Fantaisie (1839), originally written for piano, had opened the concert. ... A disappointing reading of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony completed the concert. The aesthetic character of this highly stylized Symphony requires conductor and orchestra to have a flair for Gemütlichkeit – that untranslatable word intended to capture the particular kind of warmth and geniality that typifies old Vienna. 
John Adams at 70 – Britten Sinfonia/Benjamin Shwartz – Chamber Symphony & Grand Pianola Music, Timo Andres’s Steady Hand, Philip Glass’s Music in Similar Motion
Saturday, February 25, 2017 |  Recently London concertgoers have been treated to a feast of American contemporary music celebrating the eightieth-birthdays of Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Now it’s the turn of the junior giant, John Adams, whose 70th-birthday was on February 15. ... Adams’s Chamber Symphony opened this Britten Sinfonia programme, a quizzical synthesis in homage to his teachers and the genius of Arnold Schönberg, layered with comic and grotesque effects inspired by classic cartoon capers. 
Opera North – Rossini’s La Cenerentola – Wallis Giunta, Henry Waddington, Sunnyboy Dladla, Quirijn de Lang, John Savournin; directed by Aletta Collins; conducted by David Cowan
Saturday, February 25, 2017 |  Although the scene at the ball is not dwelt upon in Rossini’s version of the Cinderella story, dance is made an important component of Aletta Collins’s production by making Don Magnifico the proprietor of a somewhat low dance school. ... ...a disaffected individual with a sob story to gain her fifteen minutes of fame through some Strictly Come Dancing-style contest. ... Dr Johnson’s damning words on the influence of a would-be patron, as teaching “the morals of a whore and the manners of a dancing master” presumably tapped into a widely-held negative opinion about such a profession... ... By contrast, Wallis Giunta’s Cinderella is quietly dignified as the put-upon half-sister as she sings her sad song about a king in search of innocent and virtuous love... 
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst at Carnegie Hall – Rosamunde Overture, Time Recycling, Ein Heldenleben
Friday, February 24, 2017 |  The Vienna Philharmonic and Franz Welser-Möst commenced the first of three concerts at Carnegie Hall with something from a quintessentially Viennese composer, Franz Schubert. ... René Staar’s Time Recycling (2013) is a masterclass in post-modern eclecticism. It opens with Varèse-like attacks and also demonstrates mastery of spectral techniques. ... Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben opened with merciless directness... 
Opera North – Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Snow Maiden – Aoife Miskelly, Heather Lowe, Phillip Rhodes, Elin Pritchard; directed by John Fulljames; conducted by Leo McFall
Friday, February 24, 2017 |  Opera North has mounted this new production of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Snow Maiden (1882) at exactly the right point in the year, on the brink of Spring. It adapts Alexander Ostrovsky’s play based on a Russian folktale that requires, in order to be appeased, the sacrifice of the Snow Maiden, the love-child of Spring and Winter, to the Sun God... ... In her performance as the eponymous lead, Aoife Miskelly combines something of a Pamina-like self-pity earlier on, with a touch of soubrette vigour later to make for an attractively well-rounded musical character. Elin Pritchard’s Kupava is correspondingly more pert as the girl to whom Mizgir is initially is betrothed... 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts Also sprach Zarathustra and the London premiere of Tansy Davies’s Forest – Pierre-Laurent Aimard plays Beethoven’s Emperor Piano Concerto
Thursday, February 23, 2017 |  This stroll down memory lane is prompted by the London Philharmonic and Andrés Orozco-Estrada having played Zarathustra at this address less than a fortnight ago, an impressive and expansive thirty-seven-minute account that really gelled. In tackling Richard Strauss’s Nietzsche-inspired score, Esa-Pekka Salonen took a different view... ... Of greater reward was the ‘Emperor’, Pierre-Laurent Aimard investing freshness and vitality into the first movement while finding time to be expressive... ... It was Forest, Tansy Davies’s new four-horn Concerto, which stole the show, featuring two current Philharmonia members and – with Richard Watkins and Michael Thompson – former ones: what a foursome and what a piece. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Lothar Koenigs – Bruckner 7 – Nicolas Hodges gives UK premiere of Wolfgang Rihm’s Piano Concerto No.2
Wednesday, February 22, 2017 |  We weren’t informed the edition used for Bruckner 7. The use of percussion at the slow movement’s climax spells Nowak of course, but in his conducting of the first movement – flowing, organic – Lothar Koenigs could be said to have aligned himself with Haas’s publication; he wouldn’t be the first conductor so to do, for such as Karajan and Celibidache married Haas and Nowak, while other interpreters – including Wand, Kurt Sanderling, Masur – displayed wisdom by using Haas's version and thus leaving out totally the percussion (triangle, cymbals, timpani) that was not anyway specified by the composer. ... The concert’s first half was devoted to the prolific Wolfgang Rihm (born 1952), four-hundred-plus works and counting. Curiously it seems that there is no Piano Concerto No.1, although there are other piano-and-orchestra works. What is officially No.2 (2014) opens with gentle dancing, waltz-like, and thus very easy to relate it to Schoenberg’s masterly Piano Concerto. ... ...there was no doubting Nicolas Hodges’s mastery of the solo part... 
New York Philharmonic/Herbert Blomstedt – Beethoven 7 & 8
Wednesday, February 22, 2017 |  No.8 is usually grouped with the gentler and smaller-forced Beethoven Symphonies. However, Herbert Blomstedt led a performance worthy of it being anointed alongside the ‘Eroica’, Fifth, ‘Choral’ and the Seventh it was paired with here. ... The Finale galloped out of the gates and concluded with wonderful panache and vigor. 
Belief & Beyond Belief – London Philharmonic/Vladimir Jurowski – Symphonies by Denisov & Shostakovich – Patricia Kopatchinskaja plays Berg
Wednesday, February 22, 2017 |  Vladimir Jurowski’s innovative programming was to the fore in this London Philharmonic concert. All three composers were nearing death when these pieces were written – none more so than Edison Denisov, whose Second Symphony (1996) was one of numerous works to emerge from the hectic productivity of his closing months. ... Jurowski ensured a combative response from the LPO musicians in this powerful and disquieting piece whose fifteen minutes are over far too quickly (the Music Sales entry gives its duration at thirty, raising the possibility that further movements might at least have been planned), who were then unstinting in support of Patricia Kopatchinskaja for an account of Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto (1935) in which fatalism was banished by defiance wholly of and for the present. ... While Denisov confronts death head-on and Berg leavens its sting, Shostakovich effectively disarms it over the course of his Fifteenth Symphony (1971). 
Maurizio Pollini at Royal Festival Hall – Chopin & Debussy
Tuesday, February 21, 2017 |  Maurizio Pollini is a regular during Southbank Centre’s International Piano Series, sometimes twice a season, as for this term, for he returns on March 14 for Beethoven and Schoenberg. First off, in his 75th-birthday year (the date itself was 5 January), it was Chopin and Debussy, composers Pollini has featured numerous times before in the Royal Festival Hall. 
Murray Perahia plays Beethoven Piano Concertos with Academy of St Martin in the Fields – (2) Concertos 2 & 4
Monday, February 20, 2017 |  The second of Murray Perahia's Beethoven evenings with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields this season focused on energy and leanness of character more than profundity or prophecy. The surprisingly no-nonsense opening of the Fourth Concerto, bordering on the matter-of-fact, touched little of the poetry I have heard from Perahia in past readings. 
Orchestre National de Lyon/Leonard Slatkin at Carnegie Hall – Celephaïs, Daphnis et Chloé – Renée Fleming sings Shéhérazade, Thomas Hampson narrates Antar
Monday, February 20, 2017 |  Touring the United States for the first time since 2003, Orchestre National de Lyon and music director Leonard Slatkin offered a generous all-French (and nearly all-Ravel) program in Carnegie Hall. ... The concert opened with the US debut of a reconstructed version of Ravel’s arrangement of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Antar. Premiered recently in Lyon with a French-language narration by Amin Maalouf... ... The libretto, spoken during and between musical movements, was movingly recited by Thomas Hampson. ... After intermission was the US premiere of Celephaïs, a symphonic poem by Guillaume Connesson.... ... Following the two premieres, Renée Fleming brought her plush soprano, seamless phrasing and emotional commitment to Ravel’s timeless song-cycle Shéhérazade. ... The program concluded with one of the ONL’s specialties, Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé. 
OAE – Mendelssohn & Berlioz – Sarah Connolly sings Les Nuits d’été
Monday, February 20, 2017 |  Two major works, a discarded aria, and a seldom-performed overture were the basis for the OAE’s exploration of Berlioz and Mendelssohn. ... Berlioz’s Les Nuits d’été, setting poems by Théophile Gautier, was written originally with piano in 1841 and rendered here by an expressive and charismatic Sarah Connolly. 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts Daphnis et Chloé and UK premiere of Stravinsky’s Funeral Song – Pierre-Laurent Aimard plays György Ligeti’s Piano Concerto
Sunday, February 19, 2017 |  ...never did I think I’d hear a Stravinsky premiere. One such work replaced the originally advertised starter to Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Esa-Pekka Salonen’s four-concert series, Inspirations. Stravinsky’s recently rediscovered Funeral Song, composed in 1908 after the death of his teacher Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and played just once... ... Thankfully, once the buzz of the new had died down, and after an extensive stage change, we were mesmerised by György Ligeti’s Piano Concerto, under the dazzling digits of Pierre-Laurent Aimard. ... Following the interval, Salonen masterminded an extraordinarily satisfying account of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Michelle Merrill – Walkabout, White Peacock, Shostakovich 1 – Sara Davis Buechner plays Gershwin [live webcast]
Saturday, February 18, 2017 |  With the three-week Mozart Festival over, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra was back to full-strength for an enticing programme with Associate Conductor Michelle Merrill. ... The concert opened with Walkabout by Gabriela Lena Frank... ... Sara Davis Buechner (formerly David Buechner) played two splendid pieces by George Gershwin. The ‘I Got Rhythm’ Variations, a masterpiece, was rather brusquely delivered at first... ... Dead aged thirty-five from influenza, Charles Tomlinson Griffes’s The White Peacock (1919) opened the second half. First-conducted by Stokowski, this is music of exotic plumage, Scriabin meets Debussy... 
Orchestra of St Paul’s – Tenth Anniversary Concert
Friday, February 17, 2017 |  Orchestra of St Paul’s celebrated its tenth anniversary at home, in “The Actors' Church”. The magnificent acoustic was exploited when, from the organ loft, trumpeters played Stravinsky’s brief and aggressive Fanfare, a prelude to Biber’s delightfully eccentric three-centuries-old Battalia... ... The ‘Linz’ Symphony was also notable for forward impulse, although the quick introductory Adagio was rather inconsequential – the succeeding Allegro spiritoso deserves a more majestic preface... 
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Ilan Volkov – Der ferne Klang Nachtstück & Rachmaninov 3 – Rachel Nicholls gives premiere of Nicola LeFanu’s The Crimson Bird
Friday, February 17, 2017 |  Belonging to Act Three of Der ferne Klang (produced in 1912) and first heard in Vienna in 1909 as a stand-alone concert item, Franz Schreker’s substantial Nachtstück (seventeen minutes here) is a luxurious blend of German idealism and French impressionism. ... At its premiere, Nachtstück was considered strikingly modern, a quality not overly present in LeFanu’s new work. Scored for large orchestra (including an array of percussion), The Crimson Bird sets four verses from John Fuller’s poem Siege (with links to Euripides’s The Trojan Women)... ... Rachel Nicholls was the ideal soloist... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Karl-Heinz Steffens – Ruy Blas Overture & Brahms 3 – David Fray plays Schumann
Thursday, February 16, 2017 |  Karl-Heinz Steffens enjoys a wide-ranging career. He has been at Teatro alla Scala in three successive seasons and conducted a Ring Cycle in Ludwigshafen, and many ensembles in Europe and now includes the Philharmonia Orchestra... ... This style was immensely appropriate and Mendelssohn’s lovely Ruy Blas Overture gained in grandeur. ... David Fray represented Schumann’s Piano Concerto in the best tradition of ‘romantic’ interpretation. 
CBSO/Alexander Vedernikov – The Rock & Pathétique Symphony – Steven Osborne plays Rachmaninov
Thursday, February 16, 2017 |  Proceedings started with a superbly played account of Rachmaninov’s The Rock... ... Steven Osborne – always an interesting pianist – played Rachmaninov with light and shade, thoughtfulness and power, and stunning technical assurance. Alexander Vedernikov’s conducting may have encouraged dynamics that were overblown in Symphony Hall... ... Vedernikov’s way with the ‘Pathétique’ Symphony underlined its anxious expression. 
Welsh National Opera – Frank Martin’s Le Vin herbé – Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Tom Randle, Howard Kirk, Caitlin Hulcup, Rosie Hay; directed by Polly Graham; conducted by James Southall
Thursday, February 16, 2017 |  It is surely a brave composer who takes on the same subject as that treated by Wagner in a work which happened to do nothing less than change the course of Western music. Perhaps for this reason Frank Martin’s Le Vin herbé (1938-1941) skirts around that challenge by using a different source for his drama than the mediaeval narratives used in Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde... 
New York Philharmonic/Manfred Honeck – Mahler 1 – Inon Barnatan plays Beethoven
Thursday, February 16, 2017 |  Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto began hushed and breathless. Manfred Honeck may have exaggerated the dynamic range notated in the score... ... Inon Barnatan’s first entrance was more playful than lyrical, suggesting the character of a scherzo through fluid phrasing and sparklingly articulate fingerwork. ... Manfred Honeck’s attention to details and dynamics was even more evident in Mahler’s First Symphony. 
Orchestra of St Luke’s/Pablo Heras-Casado at Carnegie Hall – Lutosławski’s Musique funèbre & Brahms’s German Requiem
Thursday, February 16, 2017 |  Pablo Heras-Casado had the Brahms follow the Lutosławski directly, avoiding clapping. The effect was chilling... ... In rendering the moods of Brahms’s setting of Lutheran scripture, the members of Musica Sacra succeeded in balancing... ... Florian Boesch brought urgency and immediacy to the baritone’s impassioned pleas, while Sophie Karthäuser lent graceful refinement to the soprano’s heavenly solo... 
Delius in France
Thursday, February 16, 2017 |  It was rather appropriate that the Park Lane Group’s first visit to the Royal Over-Seas League’s should be a concert devoted to Delius, that most quintessential English composer who hardly spent any time in Britain... ... As per its remit, PLG presented a fine collection of young instrumentalists, starting with well-matched Ella Rundle and Gamal Khamis in the Cello Sonata, originally composed for Beatrice Harrison (Delius, having been so impressed with the Harrison sisters in Brahms’s Double Concerto, wrote his own for them). ... The Third (and last) Violin Sonata, dates from later, 1930, dictated by Delius to his amanuensis Eric Fenby. It was written for May Harrison, who gave the premiere at Wigmore Hall with Arnold Bax at the piano. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Richard Eyre’s production of Massenet’s Werther – Isabel Leonard, Vittorio Grigolo, David Bizic & Anna Christy; conducted by Edward Gardner
Thursday, February 16, 2017 |  Love and Death permeate late-19th-century Romantic Opera – from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde to Verdi’s Otello – in the French repertoire, few stage-works focus on this duality as strongly as Massenet’s Werther (1892), based upon Goethe’s short but steamy novel... ... Three years ago Richard Eyre staged Werther for the Met in a basically traditional manner and with cinematography to suggest the change of seasons... ... Vittorio Grigolo and Isabel Leonard conveyed their encounters with increasingly intense passion. ... Edward Gardner led a strong, taut and sometimes riveting performance... 
LSO – John Wilson conducts Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony – Håkan Hardenberger plays Mark-Anthony Turnage
Wednesday, February 15, 2017 |  With John Wilson replacing Daniel Harding for this LSO concert at short notice, regular concert-goers were presented with an unusual comparison. In January, Wilson conducted the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain in a memorable programme, concluding with a deeply impressive account of Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony; and now Wilson found himself conducting the same work with the London Symphony Orchestra. ... So if the LSO’s recent conductors in this work are akin to those changes Antonio Conte makes at Chelsea Football Club this season, the LSO – like Chelsea – remains top of the League... ... We needed the reassurance of Rachmaninov’s Symphony after the experience of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s second trumpet concerto, composed in 2014, the title giving the game away for whom it was written – Håkan Hardenberger. 
Ensemble Plus Ultra at Cadogan Hall: The Food of Love – Song of Songs
Wednesday, February 15, 2017 |  A feast of sixteenth-century polyphony at Cadogan Hall. Sensual subjects from the biblical Song of Songs were presented, featuring parallel settings by Victoria and Palestrina. Ensemble Plus Ultra specialises in Spanish Renaissance repertoire... 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Karabits at Lighthouse Poole – Bartók’s Dance Suite & Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra – Nemanja Radulović plays Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto
Wednesday, February 15, 2017 |  Opening this Lighthouse concert with Bartók’s Dance Suite (1923), Kirill Karabits led a controlled and colourful account, with cameo roles and solo groupings smoothly executed. ... Much more convincing was Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto (1939). Nemanja Radulović commanded attention with playing of sustained energy and musicality. ... Witold Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra (completed in 1954) is one of his most approachable works. The timpani and double basses were forthright in their opening declarations... 
Valentine’s Day showing of David Lean’s Brief Encounter with London Philharmonic Orchestra and Dirk Brossé – Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto played by Alexandra Dariescu
Tuesday, February 14, 2017 |  Few films use music so effectively as David Lean’s Brief Encounter: Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto is associated throughout with Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson), and, along with her voice-over narration, signals that we should see the story through her eyes. On Valentine’s Day, Alexandra Dariescu, with the London Philharmonic and Dirk Brossé, played the work complete before a showing of the movie. ... Dariescu and Brossé returned in place of Eileen Joyce and Muir Mathieson from the soundtrack. ... Robert Krasker’s photography shows many of the characteristics that would earn him an Academy Award for The Third Man. ... As Alex, Trevor Howard’s well-mannered infatuation is incomparable... 
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Kathryn Rudge, James Baillieu & Gary Pomeroy – English Songs
Monday, February 13, 2017 |  The danger with music of the Edwardian years or the final Victorian ones is that we see them only through the prism of the destruction that came soon after. So while the repertoire in Kathryn Rudge’s Wigmore Hall recital bracketed The Great War tidily enough, dating from 1900 to 1930, or thereabouts, it is salutary that it did not chart some kind of national progression from the bumptious to the desolate. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/John Wilson – Cockaigne Overture & A London Symphony – Lawrence Power plays Julian Anderson’s Prayer & William Walton’s Viola Concerto
Sunday, February 12, 2017 |  On the afternoon of Sunday January 24 last year, in this same venue, and conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra, John Wilson directed an impressive account of Vaughan Williams’s Sea Symphony, the first of his nine works in the genre. Now, these same artists came together for A London Symphony. ... The juxtaposition of Cockaigne with A London Symphony is an interesting one, and from the start of the Elgar, it was clear that Wilson had the work fully in his grip: this is by no means an easy work to play... ... William Walton’s Viola Concerto was his first concert masterpiece, dating from thirty years after Cockaigne. The Great War and many consequential social upheavals had swept Edwardian England largely to one side... ... Lawrence Power has recorded Walton’s Viola Concerto in its original 1929 version for Hyperion... 
Carnegie Hall’s La Serenissima – Hespèrion XXI & Jordi Savall – Musica Nova: Venetian Influences in Musical Europe
Sunday, February 12, 2017 |  Carnegie Hall’s ambitious three-week festival, La Serenissima: Music and Arts from the Venetian Republic, highlights the artistic legacy of the Republic of Venice, which existed for a millennium between the eighth and eighteenth centuries. ... Here Jordi Savall, the Catalan master of antique music and reigning champion of the viola da gamba, led his Hespèrion XXI ensemble in a wide selection of mostly Venetian music from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 
Belief & Beyond Belief – London Philharmonic Orchestra/Andrés Orozco-Estrada – The Light, The Unanswered Question, Doctor Atomic Symphony – Marina Piccinini plays Aaron Jay Kernis’s Flute Concerto
Saturday, February 11, 2017 |  ...Charles Ives’s The Unanswered Question, provided the brief, profound centre of this carefully programmed London Philharmonic concert. ... The dialogue offered in Philip Glass’s The Light is between science and spirituality. ... This segued in style to Aaron Jay Kernis’s Flute Concerto. The opening movement is equally ethereal with hints of Berg from the strings and Debussy in the flute part, played with panache and charisma by Marina Piccinini.... ... John Adams’s Doctor Atomic Symphony was the perfect partner to the Ives: long, expansive and discursive, yet its twin in profundity and effect. The LPO‘s playing was thrilling. Adapted from Adams’s opera, the music depicts the moral struggle and personal drama of Robert Oppenheimer... 
Contrapunctus/Owen Rees at The Queen's College – Music from the Baldwin Partbooks
Saturday, February 11, 2017 |  The Baldwin Partbooks contain a wealth of sacred compositions from the early Tudor period assiduously copied by John Baldwin at St George’s Chapel, Windsor in the 1570s and 1580s, and bear witness to the rich polyphonic choral tradition cultivated by an array of English composers on the eve of the Reformation, and beyond, as far as political circumstances allowed. Owen Rees’s selection here concentrated upon the particularly Catholic form of liturgical devotion addressed to the Virgin Mary to which the Protestant Reformation soon put an end... 
Belief & Beyond Belief – London Philharmonic Orchestra/Andrés Orozco-Estrada – Philosopher Symphony, Atmosphères, Also sprach Zarathustra – James O’Donnell plays Poulenc’s Organ Concerto
Friday, February 10, 2017 |  Stanley Kubrick did so in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and now Andrés Orozco-Estrada has coupled Atmosphères and Zarathustra... ... ...a well-prepared and sensitive response from the London Philharmonic... ... They went on to impress in the Nietzsche-inspired Also sprach Zarathustra, beginning with gleaming trumpets... ... James O’Donnell is a regular practitioner of Poulenc’s Organ Concerto... ... The work opens with a dissonant growl, worthy of cueing Vincent Price in a Hammer Horror... ... For the Haydn, one of the finest of his early Symphonies, it was good to see a harpsichord; but that was it, not a single note was audible... 
Méhul: The First Romantic – Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Jonathan Cohen with Michael Spyres & John Irvin
Friday, February 10, 2017 |  This varied programme celebrated the music of Étienne Nicolas Méhul (1763-1817) and included some very interesting works by his contemporaries. Méhul was a famed operatic composer and five of the items were extensive arias – often of anguished nature... ... The first of the orchestral items from Méhul’s contemporaries featured ‘Dance of the Furies’ from Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice – it is probably known equally well as part of Boccherini’s Symphony No.6 (La casa del diavolo) where he unashamedly purloins Gluck’s little masterpiece. Jonathan Cohen’s reading was suitably rhythmic 
The Metropolitan Opera – Sandro Sequi’s production of Bellini’s I Puritani – Diana Damrau, Javier Camarena, Alexey Markov, Luca Pisaroni; conducted by Maurizio Benini
Friday, February 10, 2017 |  Bel canto operas are famous for the demands placed upon singers, but in I Puritani, Vincenzo Bellini pushed these boundaries even further – with thrilling results. In this first-night performance of the Met’s revival of Sandro Sequi’s 1976 production – enhanced by Ming Cho Lee’s mostly flat-painted scenery – the cast rose to the challenge with one impressive vocal display after another. 
English National Opera – Mike Leigh’s production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance
Thursday, February 09, 2017 |  This is the first revival of Mike Leigh’s production of The Pirates of Penzance, with a largely new cast – other than Andrew Shore’s Major-General Stanley and Angharad Lyddon’s Kate. Soraya Mafi, who sang Edith in the original cast has been promoted, to Mabel, and worthily so! ... The ‘big’ voices are John Tomlinson’s authoritative Sergeant and Shore’s wily class-conscious Major-General. ... Ashley Riches was having a whale of a time as the Pirate-King – channelling his inner Johnny Depp/Jack Sparrow to great effect... 
New York Philharmonic/Joshua Gersen – Tchaikovsky – Francesca da Rimini & Pathétique Symphony
Thursday, February 09, 2017 |  Every assistant conductor must dream of the day when he or she will ascend the podium to take over from the music director or a guest. It came true for the New York Philharmonic’s Joshua Gersen replacing the ailing Semyon Bychkov in this Tchaikovsky program. ... The Taneyev piece had to be dropped, so the concert opened with Francesca da Rimini, based upon the tale of the ill-fated illicit lovers, Paolo and Francesca, described in ‘Canto V’ of Dante’s Divine Comedy... ... Brisk pacing in all but the Finale characterized Gersen’s reading of the ‘Pathétique’. 
The Kaufmann Residency – LSO/Antonio Pappano – Wagner – Tristan und Isolde, Wesendonck-Lieder, Die Walküre
Wednesday, February 08, 2017 |  After more than his fair share of problems with chest infections and damage to his vocal cords, Jonas Kaufmann is back on triumphant form – and making me regret all the more not going to Paris for his recent Lohengrin. This Wagner concert with Antonio Pappano and the LSO was the second event in Kaufmann’s Barbican Residency... ... Tristan und Isolde and the Wesendonck-Lieder are so strongly linked spiritually and musically that the one could merge seamlessly into the other. ... The main event, though, was the first Act of Die Walküre, in which Siegmund and Sieglinde take sibling love to extremes... 
Alisa Weilerstein plays Johann Sebastian Bach’s Six Cello Suites at St John’s Smith Square
Wednesday, February 08, 2017 |  Six Preludes, thirty dances, one-hundred-and-sixty minutes of music, J. S. Bach's Cello Suites, published posthumously in Vienna in 1825, date from the period of the composer's employment as Kapellmeister to the viola da gamba-playing Calvinist Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen... ... Formidable in all departments, Alisa Weilerstein is an undemonstrative player... 
CBSO/Nicholas Collon – Gustav Holst – The Planets & Savitri
Wednesday, February 08, 2017 |  Holst’s Savitri was given an impressive outing in the spacious design of Symphony Hall, where the lights were low for the opening declamation by Death and only slowly raised on the platform at the entrance of Yvonne Howard (replacing an indisposed Sarah Connolly). ... Nicholas Collon judged tempos perfectly... ... The Planets showed-off the venue’s brilliant acoustic, not least for the distant then fading-away choir at the very end. 
The Quorum at the Vault Festival – Heloise Tunstall-Behrens’s The Swarm
Wednesday, February 08, 2017 |  The Swarm received its first outing last year in the resonant chamber of the Thames Tunnel Shaft in Rotherhithe. Now an expanded version for women’s voices and recorded sound is held at The Cavern as part of the Vault Festival. Urban engineering and rumbling trains at Waterloo Station accompanied a mesmerising performance as nine singers enact the dramatic and democratic journey of a swarm of bees across London to a new, safe home. 
Bamberg Symphony/Christoph Eschenbach at Carnegie Hall – Don Giovanni Overture & Mahler 5 – Ray Chen plays Mendelssohn
Wednesday, February 08, 2017 |  The Bamberg Symphony can trace its roots through a line of orchestras dating back to Prague’s Estates Theatre, where Mozart’s Don Giovanni premiered in 1787. .... Honorary Conductor Christoph Eschenbach led a reading that emphasized these opposites... ... In Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto soloists vary greatly in whether they highlight its delicate Classical heritage or its dramatic early-Romanticism. Ray Chen fell firmly in the latter camp. His lyrical playing is reminiscent of Jascha Heifetz and Aaron Rosand... ... In Mahler’s Fifth Symphony (from somber trumpet solo to triumphant apotheosis) Eschenbach’s literal reading respected the longer lines but neglected to keep dynamics in check. 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Pinchas Zukerman at Royal Festival Hall – Beethoven
Tuesday, February 07, 2017 |  The Overture to Egmont is a tricky number to start unanimously, as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Pinchas Zukerman demonstrated. ... This Beethoven concert continued with Symphony 7, given an agreeable outing. ... the transition into the Vivace elegantly made and to a judicious tempo that gave the music a lilt to remind of Wagner’s oft-quoted “apotheosis of the dance” observation. ... After the interval, an aristocratic account of the Violin Concerto, Zukerman playing himself in during the initial tutti, taken at a leisurely speed... 
The Royal Opera – David McVicar’s production of Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur – Angela Gheorghiu, Ksenia Dudnikova, Brian Jagde, Gerald Finley; conducted by Daniel Oren
Tuesday, February 07, 2017 |  It says a lot for the resilience of Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur that it is not completely swamped by this sumptuous production. Just about maintaining a toe-hold in the repertoire, it's a full-blown, four-Act melodrama (based on a play that was a star-vehicle for Sarah Bernhardt)... ... David McVicar’s staging, new in 2010 and at the time the Royal Opera’s first in nearly a century, is back for its first revival, with Angela Gheorghiu returning in the title role of the 18th-century French superstar actress, who according to lurid legend was murdered by the Duchesse (upgraded in the opera to Princesse) de Bouillon, her love-rival for Count Maurice of Saxony. ... Adriana has a rival worthy of her in the formidable Russian mezzo Ksenia Dudnikova as the Princesse, making her Royal Opera debut. She was sensational.... 
LSO/Antonio Pappano – The Oceanides & Inextinguishable Symphony – Janine Jansen plays Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade / watch this concert
Sunday, February 05, 2017 |  Concerts come in all shades: drab to dazzling, superfluous to special, average to amazing. This LSO evening, streamed live by the Mezzo channel (linked to below), was all of the latter qualities, a 24-carat affair from start to finish. The music-making was of the highest order... ... Antonio Pappano, baton-free, and opting for antiphonal violins, cellos left-centre, double basses ranked far-left, set the tone with a distinguished, organically-felt account of Sibelius's The Oceanides... ... Janine Jansen has never been one to fight shy of unfamiliar repertory (think what she's done for Britten’s Violin Concerto). Bernstein's five-movement Serenade after Plato's 'Symposium' for violin, strings, harp and percussion, completed in 1954, three years before West Side Story, may have been commissioned by the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, premiered by Isaac Stern, and recorded by Perlman, Kremer, Accardo and Mutter... ... ...Aristophanes and Socrates among the guests. ... Carl Nielsen's ‘Inextinguishable’ Symphony, his inexorable First World War hymn to the “elemental Will of Life” exceeded expectations. Negotiating all traps, Pappano hewed a tough, architecturally massive sculpture... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin – Mozart Festival (6) – Flute and Harp Concerto, Prague & Jupiter Symphonies [live webcast]
Saturday, February 04, 2017 |  In Mozart’s case, it would be the ‘Prague’ Symphony, one of those love-affairs that will last when the music is of such seducing splendour, virility, pathos and bubbly wit... ... Thus Leonard Slatkin and the DSO opened the final lap of their six-tiered Mozart Festival with K504. One of its finest interpreters was Rafael Kubelík... ... The Flute and Harp Concerto contains many delights... ... Positioned to the conductor’s right, Sharon Sparrow (DSO assistant principal) and Yolanda Kondonassis (guest) made a fine duo... ... Following the conductor’s restored contemplation we arrived at the final reel of the Mozart Festival to illustrate his ultimate Symphony, the godly ‘Jupiter’... 
The Kaufmann Residency – Jonas Kaufmann & Helmut Deutsch at Barbican Hall – Schumann’s Kerner-Lieder, Duparc, Britten’s Michelangelo Sonnets
Saturday, February 04, 2017 |  Jonas Kaufmann’s London song-recitals don’t come around that frequently, and it was fascinating to hear how this tenor god, so used to letting rip in opera, adjusted his voice to the scale of a recital. ... Schumann’s song-sequence – the composer’s description, rather than song-cycle – of twelve poems by Justinus Kerner is a substantial, tightly organised work from the composer’s prodigal 1840 ‘year of song’. The Kerner-Lieder is not as popular as, say, Dichterliebe... ... The visionary stillness and yearning of Duparc’s ‘L’invitation au voyage’ heralded a subtle shift into Gallic sensuality, along with some slippery French intonation. ... I’d found Helmut Deutsch’s accompaniments attentive but uninvolving, but with Britten’s Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, the composer’s first settings written for Peter Pears, the piano role and Kaufmann’s singing snapped into focus. 
Belief & Beyond Belief – London Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra – Roger Norrington conducts Haydn’s The Creation, with Lucy Crowe, Thomas Hobbs & Christopher Maltman
Saturday, February 04, 2017 |  Proceedings commenced with a cheerful talk by Roger Norrington incorporating interesting readings from accounts of early performances. Having reminded us of events that took place over two centuries ago he then achieved a convincingly late-18th-century-style reading of Haydn’s Creation... ... The opening ‘Representation of Chaos’ was ideally tense, and the great moment when the chorus sings “And there was light” was thrilling and magnificently loud. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin – Mozart Festival (5) – Eine kleine Nachtmusik, Seraglio Overture, Haffner & Linz Symphonies [live webcast]
Friday, February 03, 2017 |  This was the morning after the night before, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Leonard Slatkin reprising Leg Five of their Mozart Festival... ... To begin with we were serenaded with ‘a little night music’ (pre-Sondheim), stylish, dynamic and elegantly turned, the DSO strings (violins antiphonal) pointed and unanimous... ... Then to the compact ‘Haffner’ Symphony (a remarkable work), fiery and vivid in the first movement... ... And finally (for the moment), the spacious ‘Linz’ Symphony; as throughout, Slatkin conducted from memory. The introduction promised much and the performance went on to deliver... 
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo – Colas Breugnon Overture & Shostakovich 10 – Carolin Widmann gives premiere of Michael Zev Gordon’s Violin Concerto
Friday, February 03, 2017 |  For the latest of this season’s BBC commissions, Carolin Widmann joined Sakari Oramo and the BBC Symphony Orchestra in the premiere of the Violin Concerto (2017) by Michael Zev Gordon... ... Russian music from either side of the Second World War was otherwise the order of the day. Shostakovich has not featured overmuch in Oramo’s repertoire, but there was assuredly no lack of insight in this account of the Tenth Symphony... ... Not so many concerts begin with an Overture these days, and to have that from Kabalevsky’s Colas Breugnon (1938) was a real pleasure. 
Robert Quinney plays Johann Sebastian Bach on the organ of the Royal Festival Hall
Friday, February 03, 2017 |  I first became aware of Robert Quinney when his Bach CDs (on the Coro label) were reviewed on BBC Radio 3, and they sounded marvellous. This Royal Festival Hall recital was the first time I’d heard him live, and I was even more impressed by the sheer voltage of his playing. ... He started with a familiar bang, the D-minor Toccata and Fugue (which may not be by Bach)... ... In marked contrast was the sober ‘Our Father’ Chorale Prelude... ... He played the ‘Leipzig’ Prelude and Fugue (in C) with an attractive, rather Italianate lightness and wit that was blown away by the majesty of the ‘Wedge’ Prelude and Fugue (E-minor) and the revelatory clarity of his account of the ‘Vom Himmel hoch’ Canonic Variations (which Stravinsky was moved to arrange for choir and orchestra). 
Cleveland Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst at Adrienne Arsht Center – Bartered Bride Overture & Capriccio italien – Yo-Yo Ma plays Dvořák’s Cello Concerto
Friday, February 03, 2017 |  The concert began and ended with colorful showpieces that gave each section of the Cleveland Orchestra opportunities to shine... ... The centerpiece of the concert, given without intermission, was Dvořák’s Cello Concerto with Yo-Yo Ma. Franz Welser-Möst drew superlative playing, paying keen attention to detail... 
New York Philharmonic/Semyon Bychkov with Kirill Gerstein – Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1 & Manfred Symphony
Thursday, February 02, 2017 |  The New York Philharmonic and Semyon Bychkov began their Tchaikovsky Festival series, “Beloved Friend”, with Piano Concerto No.1 and Manfred Symphony. ... Kirill Gerstein has done extensive research into the Concerto’s three versions. ... Manfred Symphony, based upon the dramatic poem by Lord Byron, depict aspects of Manfred’s life, from his meditative wanderings through the Alps through to the encounter with the infernal Arimanes to his death. 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Paavo Järvi – Haydn’s Clock Symphony & Nielsen’s Sinfonia semplice – Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with Christian Tetzlaff, Tanja Tetzlaff & Lars Vogt
Thursday, February 02, 2017 |  Using a slightly reduced orchestra with ‘period’ trumpets and timpani, Paavo Järvi’s reading of Haydn’s ‘Clock’ Symphony was a fine example of how a modern orchestra can present 18th-century music convincingly. ... Beethoven’s Triple Concerto was given a lyrical outing within Järvi’s symphonic approach. ... ...in the central Largo Tanja Tetzlaff announced the tune with utmost gentility before Christian Tetzlaff and Lars Vogt expanded it in their different ways. ... This was the final concert in Paavo Järvi’s series incorporating Carl Nielsen’s Six Symphonies. The first publication of No.6 did not give the title ‘Sinfonia semplice’, but this is how the composer referred to it. 
English National Opera – Jonathan Miller’s production of Verdi’s Rigoletto – Nicholas Pallesen, Sydney Mancasola, Joshua Guerrero, Barnaby Rea; conducted by Richard Armstrong
Thursday, February 02, 2017 |  In 2014, English National Opera brought in a new Rigoletto (the one set in a gentlemen’s club by Christopher Alden) and retired Jonathan Miller’s 1982 stalwart, which had served well as a popular and bankable classic and which also harked back nostalgically to the company’s glory days. It has now been pulled out of retirement... ... For the time being, then, welcome back to Little Italy in 1950s’ New York, a self-sufficient society-within-a-society under the venal, protectionist and violent rule of the Mafia. ... and Sparafucile’s Hopper-style bar sits neatly on desolation row, even if the Duke’s ‘La donna è mobile’ and the jukebox trick didn’t work as well as I remember it. ... Nicholas Pallesen, debut in the title role, may have lacked the ultimate, baleful blackness of voice associated with Rigoletto, but it’s big and his acting bigger in a convincing portrait of the obsessed, hating and hated joker who unwittingly engineers his daughter’s murder. 
Cleveland Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst at Adrienne Arsht Center – Sibelius’s Second Symphony – Nikolaj Znaider plays Nielsen's Violin Concerto
Thursday, February 02, 2017 |  The Cleveland Orchestra served up a delicious two-course feast of Scandinavian music at the Adrienne Arsht Center, at the mid-point of its annual Miami residency. ... Nikolaj Znaider gave a stirring performance of Carl Nielsen’s Violin Concerto... ... Sibelius was represented by his Second Symphony... ... The Second is completely satisfying as an abstract work, as Welser-Möst and the Clevelanders demonstrated. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Mary Zimmerman’s production of Dvořák’s Rusalka – Kristine Opolais, Brandon Jovanovich, Jamie Barton, Eric Owens; conducted by Mark Elder
Thursday, February 02, 2017 |  Mary Zimmerman has garnered great acclaim for her innovative and thought-provoking direction but she has also received criticism for her unconventional perspective when staging opera classics. Such critiques may account for her safe approach for Metropolitan Opera – a rather tired staging of Dvořák’s Rusalka. ... As the titular water-nymph, with the rapturous ‘Song to the Moon’, Kristine Opolais offered one of her most polished performances. 
Gould Piano Trio at Wigmore Hall – Schubert
Tuesday, January 31, 2017 |  Appropriately on Schubert’s 220th-birthday the Gould Piano Trio at Wigmore Hall marked its 25th-anniversary with this programme of all of the composer’s mature music for that combination, some of his finest chamber music. 
Mitsuko Uchida at Royal Festival Hall – Mozart K545 & Schumann’s Kreisleriana and C-major Fantasy
Tuesday, January 31, 2017 |  “So that’s how it’s supposed to go…”, said the woman behind me dejectedly at the end of Mitsuko Uchida’s performance of Mozart’s familiar K545 Sonata... ... At the other end of the expressive spectrum were the tumultuous contrasts and hallucinatory impetuosity of Schumann’s Kreisleriana, an explosion of originality extreme by even his standards. 
Bruckner Orchestra Linz/Dennis Russell Davies – Phillip Glass’s 80th-Birthday Concert at Carnegie Hall
Tuesday, January 31, 2017 |  On the birthday itself, the evening opened with Days and Nights in Rocinha (1997), dedicated to Dennis Russell Davies, a long-time champion of Philip Glass’s music. Like Ravel’s Boléro, it focuses on a single motif that expands and develops. ... After this rousing introduction, Angelique Kidjo joined the ensemble for Ifé: Three Yorùbá Songs, a setting of three poems from her native Benin. ... As for Symphony No.11, the opening movement includes many hallmarks of Glass’s minimalist style... 
Igor Levit at Wigmore Hall – Beethoven Piano Sonata Cycle (5), including Sonatas from Opuses 2, 10 & 31
Monday, January 30, 2017 |  Without any familiar ‘titled’ Sonatas to anchor the fifth recital in his Beethoven series at Wigmore Hall, Igor Levit turned to three early and one late-early (more transitional) works, all four a young man’s music giving us a clear idea of the scale of his invention and ambition, and played by Levit as such. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin – Mozart Festival (4) – Così fan tutte Overture, Concertos for Bassoon and for Horn, and Symphony 40 [live webcast]
Sunday, January 29, 2017 |  Whatever the tests of fidelity and the opera’s love-in/out shenanigans (sometimes in disguise), which Lorenzo Da Ponte’s libretto for Così fan tutte calls for, Mozart’s Overture to what follows is poetic and pattering. Leonard Slatkin caught these moods ideally, offering no “alternative facts” as to how this music goes... ... The Concertos in this Mozart series are fielded by DSO members. It was Robert Williams’s turn. ... For the last of the four Horn Concertos, David Everson stepped forward... ... This last movement coined a comic song from Michael Flanders & Donald Swann... ... There aren’t many laughs in Mozart’s minor-key Symphony 40, as ‘stormed and stressed’ as anything he wrote. I got to know the first movement through Waldo de los Rios’s pop-style arrangement, and then Ferenc Fricsay completed the picture. Decades on, and thinking fondly of recorded versions from Böhm, Giulini and Krips (each quite stately in the opening Allegro), Slatkin, although somewhat nippier, didn’t rush... 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Alexander Shelley at Cadogan Hall – Sibelius 1 & 7 – Ning Feng plays Prokofiev
Sunday, January 29, 2017 |  Allocating this critic a seat in the Gallery of Cadogan Hall for a concert of music by Sibelius and Prokofiev, to be greeted by a leaflet headed “Octava – Enriching your concert experience” by means of using your mobile phone to read the programme note – while the music is being played – is rather like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop. ... What is invigorating is that a conductor of the younger generation, Alexander Shelley, is embracing some of Sibelius’s greatest music. 
St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra/Yuri Temirkanov at Royal Festival Hall – Spartacus & Shostakovich 5 – Martha Argerich plays Prokofiev
Sunday, January 29, 2017 |  By a strange quirk my very first concert by a major orchestra was the Leningrad Philharmonic playing Shostakovich 5 with Evgeny Mravinsky at the Edinburgh Festival in 1960. By a further coincidence it was about the same time that I first heard a very young Martha Argerich. ... Liszt’s arrangement of Schumann’s ‘Widmung’ was a welcome encore. ... Shostakovich’s 5 is home territory for the St Petersburg Philharmonic, bringing to it lustrous strings with resonant cellos and double basses, powerful brass (but embedded rather than dominating) and characterful woodwinds. Next year will mark the thirtieth of Yuri Temirkanov’s reign. 
Tim Mead & James Baillieu at Wigmore Hall
Sunday, January 29, 2017 |  Tim Mead’s beautiful countertenor has been knocking us dead in opera performances ranging from Monteverdi to George Benjamin for quite a few years, but this Wigmore Hall event was his first solo recital. ... He opened with a marvellously introspective account of Herbert Howells’s ‘King David’, which made Vaughan Williams’s ‘Linden Lea’ sound all the sunnier and open. ... ....which paid great rewards in his spontaneous and conversational reading of John Dankworth’s setting of ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’, which, in its way, was every bit as intimate as Cleo Laine’s. 
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim at Carnegie Hall – Bruckner Symphonies 1-9 – No.9 – with Mozart Piano Concerto K488
Sunday, January 29, 2017 |  For the final concert in their Carnegie Hall Bruckner cycle, often paired with Mozart, Daniel Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin opened with the latter’s Figaro-infused A-major Piano Concerto. ... Following intermission was Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony. He didn’t complete the Finale, although others have, and the three extant movements stand on their own musically without it, even though the Adagio’s quiet close leaves unresolved the existential issues it raises. 
Belief & Beyond Belief – London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski – Rebel’s Les élémens, Milhaud’s La Création du monde and John Adams’s Harmonielehre
Saturday, January 28, 2017 |  Creation was the topic of this London Philharmonic Orchestra concert, springing out of the Southbank Centre’s commodious Belief & Beyond Belief series, but its main point of interest was the LPO’s phenomenal adaptability to a spectrum of styles ranging from 1737 high-Baroque to 1985 large-scale fusion of Romanticism and Minimalism. ... Apart from a harpsichord, a theorbo and a Baroque guitar, the small ensemble for Jean-Féry Rebel’s Les élémens used modern instruments, but with plenty of ornate French swagger. ... The high point was ‘Air pour l’amour’, which, albeit with more overt sensuality, was the same destination of Darius Milhaud’s ballet-score La Création du monde. Taught by Widor, at the heart of progressive French music as a member of Les Six, and furiously prolific during his long life, Milhaud, like many a 20th-century composer, succumbed to the lure of jazz... ... The LPO was at full strength for John Adams’s Harmonielehre, bearing the title of Schoenberg’s harmony textbook... 
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim at Carnegie Hall – Bruckner Symphonies 1-9 – No.8
Saturday, January 28, 2017 |  Daniel Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin reached what many consider the pinnacle of Bruckner’s completed Symphonies, the Eighth. ... Robert Simpson suggests that the numerous references to motifs have much in common with those related to Siegfried in Wagner’s ‘Ring’ Cycle. Since in the eponymous music-drama and Götterdämmerung they connote heroism in the face of adversity, Simpson presumes that such is the theme of the Eighth. Hugo Wolf considered Symphony 8 a dramatization of “the complete victory of light over darkness.” 
Welsh National Opera – Annabel Arden’s production of Puccini’s La bohème – Marina-Costa Jackson, Dominick Chenes, Lauren Fagan, Gary Griffiths, Gareth Brymor, John Jihoon Kim; conducted by Manlio Benzi
Saturday, January 28, 2017 |  Welsh National Opera’s revival of Annabel Arden’s direction of La bohème, featuring four singers making their debuts, is a sensitive and, at times, bizarrely comic production performed with assurance and acted with an ardour that becomes immensely moving. ... But it was the presence of two transvestites and a capering gorilla in a Savile Row suit that bemused the most. Was this an oblique reference to the 1895 Paris Exhibition? ... Marina-Costa Jackson, as Mimi, made a strong impression, producing consistently bright tone and was compelling to watch whether coquettish or ravaged by her failing lungs. Her Mimi is not quite the vulnerable, innocent seamstress Puccini had created... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin – Mozart Festival (3) – Clemenza di Tito Overture, Concertone for Two Violins, Concertos for Horn and for Clarinet [live webcast]
Friday, January 27, 2017 |  Mozart in the morning, Mozart in the evening; that was the plan for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Leonard Slatkin as the third part of their latest six-pack Winter Festival homed into view. Today in 1756 a composer-to-be was born in Salzburg... ... Concertone is inoffensive music given a thoroughly fine outing by Kimberly Kaloyanides Kennedy (associate concertmaster) and Hai-Xin Wu... ... A higher level of compositional accomplishment is evident in the K447 Horn Concerto, given a perky reading by Johanna Yarbrough... ... From the Clarinet Concerto’s opening bars, perfectly paced and unequivocally shaped by Slatkin, it was clear this would be a winning performance... preparing the way for Ralph Skiano’s shapely, sensitive and subtle way with the solo part... 
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim at Carnegie Hall – Bruckner Symphonies 1-9 – No.7 – with Mozart Sinfonia concertante K364
Friday, January 27, 2017 |  Under the right circumstances, Mozart’s flowery Sinfonia concertante for violin and viola could have made for an elegant opener, but Stern Auditorium’s cavernous acoustic swallowed much of the sound and muddled intricate melodic lines. ... From the very first bars of Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony, wrought with great dignity by the cellos, the Staatskapelle Berlin’s sound expanded to fill the hall... ... Daniel Barenboim, ever a master of pacing, allowed the music to flow comfortably... 
Palm Beach Opera – Puccini’s Madama Butterfly – Inna Los, Scott Quinn; directed by Sam Helfrich; conducted by David Stern
Friday, January 27, 2017 |  For its 2017 season Palm Beach Opera opens with Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Inna Los as Cio-Cio-San (the Butterfly of the title) and Scott Quinn as Pinkerton make an attractive couple, enamored of one another and in splendid voice. Los’s ‘Un bel dì’ was lovely... 
London Symphony Orchestra/Alpesh Chauhan – Brahms’s Haydn Variations & Strauss’s Death and Transfiguration – Benjamin Grosvenor plays Brahms’s First Piano Concerto
Thursday, January 26, 2017 |  The creative will, the interpretive mind at twenty-five; Brahms grappling with the problems, the troubled orchestration of his D-minor Piano Concerto; Richard Strauss triumphing in the vision, the polished canvas of his fourth tone-poem, Death and Transfiguration. Benjamin Grosvenor, slight of frame, reaching for the summit; Alpesh Chauhan, a sturdier figure, exuding confidence and taking risks. 
Elisabeth Leonskaja at Wigmore Hall – Beethoven 109, Brahms Fantasies, Schubert D850
Thursday, January 26, 2017 |  There is an unnerving sense in which Elisabeth Leonskaja seems to look composers straight in the eye, secure in the knowledge of the strange alchemy that by being their servant she is also their master. ... This was immediately obvious in the way she opened Beethoven’s Opus 109 Sonata – it was as though the fast/slow dialogue was already well under way, and all she had to do was turn up the volume. ... I much admired the opaqueness of tone this discreet colourist created for Brahms’s Opus 116 Fantasies, seven pieces that move from barnstorming anxiety to the falling phrases of melancholy... ... The contrast with Schubert’s D850 Sonata could not have been more emphatic. 
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim at Carnegie Hall – Bruckner Symphonies 1-9 – No.6 – with Mozart Piano Concerto K482
Wednesday, January 25, 2017 |  As the musicians of Staatskapelle Berlin filed onto the stage of Carnegie Hall to play Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.22, the gentleman sitting behind me told his seat-mate: “But then, Mozart’s Piano Concertos really should be conducted from the keyboard.” Daniel Barenboim has been performing them this way for decades... ... Some of the manic energy from the Mozart spilled over into the first movement of Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony. 
Anne-Sophie Mutter & Lambert Orkis at Barbican Hall – Sebastian Currier, Mozart, Respighi, Saint-Saëns
Wednesday, January 25, 2017 |  Anne-Sophie Mutter is celebrating a nearly thirty-year partnership with Lambert Orkis with an extensive European tour. Her gorgeous Galliano fishtail gown in buttercup-yellow reflected the golden tones of her Stradivarius. Sebastian Currier’s Clockwork (1989) opened the recital. ... Mutter and Orkis made a persuasive case for the Respighi. Composed at the height of World War One, the Sonata begins with a theme of sad sweetness... ... The technical stakes reached their zenith with Saint-Saëns’s Introduction and Rondo capriccioso, conceived as a virtuoso piece for Sarasate and an overnight sensation. ... ...Arthur Benjamin’s Jamaican Rumba and, most poignantly played, John Williams’s Theme from Schindler's List. 
Belief & Beyond Belief – London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski – Memorial to Lidice & Vaughan Williams 9 – Isabelle van Keulen plays Giya Kancheli’s Mourned by the wind
Wednesday, January 25, 2017 |  The second of the London Philharmonic’s contributions to the Southbank Centre’s ambitious, year-long Belief & Beyond Belief festival, continued to investigate ‘meaning’ – although all three works here, composed over a span of only forty-years, are most overtly connected by the sense of loss. Giya Kancheli, present for his 1985-1988 Mourned by the Wind, composed it in memory of his friend the Georgian musicologist and critic Givi Ordzhonikidze; Martinů wrote his short mediation in memory of the massacred populace of a Czech village, which, in 1942, had been obliterated by the Nazis in a revenge attack; and, in part, Vaughan Williams’s final Symphony was inspired by the last days and death of Thomas Hardy, and his Tess of the d’Urbervilles... 
Southbank Centre’s Belief & Beyond Belief – Pierre-Laurent Aimard & Tamara Stefanovich at St John’s Smith Square – Brahms’s Sonata for Two Pianos & Messiaen’s Visions de l’Amen
Tuesday, January 24, 2017 |  Brahms and Messiaen as composers are as much alike as chalk and cheese; and there seems little to connect Brahms – at best a resolute agnostic – with the Southbank Centre’s Belief & Beyond Belief festival... ... Possibly Brahms’s greatest piece of chamber music, the Piano Quintet, began life as a string quintet (which Joseph Joachim thought sounded too thin). Brahms then arranged the work as this Sonata for Two Pianos... ... Inevitably one missed the sustained string sonorities of the final Quintet version and the corresponding contrast among its instrumental forces in this performance by Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich, though that was hardly their fault... ... Aimard and Stefanovich then marked the onward passage of time in Messiaen’s sevenfold cycle Visions de l’Amen (1943) as compellingly as in the Brahms, albeit in a very different manner. 
Emanuel Rimoldi at Wigmore Hall – Mozart, Schumann, Verdi/Liszt, Rachmaninov
Tuesday, January 24, 2017 |  Now thirty, the Italian-Romanian pianist Emanuel Rimoldi studied at the Verdi Conservatory in Milan, followed by five years with Elissò Virsaladze at the Moscow Conservatory. He's presently studying in Hanover with the Israeli veteran Arie Vardi. ... The darkness and tragedy of the Mozart only rarely came across – the opening more Allegro than maestoso (though, thankfully, resisting Glenn Gould's three-minute nonsense), the Andante (without repeat) wanting in devotional simplicity... ... Schumann's Humoreske, that psychologically intricate, kaleidoscopic outpourings of a nicotine-stained furnace of a mind not yet twenty-nine, has defeated the best and confused many. ... The Verdi-Liszt offering, a late transcription from 1879, and first set of Rachmaninov Preludes variously opened the throttle, let loose the pedal, and exposed a weakness for mid-register melodies that declaimed well enough but at the expense of vocal lyricism or linear flow. 
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim at Carnegie Hall – Bruckner Symphonies 1-9 – No.5 – with Mozart Sinfonia concertante K297b
Tuesday, January 24, 2017 |  Midway through their Carnegie Hall Bruckner cycle, Daniel Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin offered a stupendous performance of the Fifth Symphony... ... As with all-but-one of these Berlin concerts, Barenboim opened with Mozart. There is some evidence that in 1778 Mozart wrote a Sinfonia concertante for flute, oboe, horn and bassoon, but the original score is lost. There is disagreement amongst commentators about the authenticity of K297b... ... After intermission the Bruckner was ablaze with fiery intensity and dramatic power. 
Kensington Symphony Orchestra/Russell Keable at Cadogan Hall – Stravinsky & Bruckner
Monday, January 23, 2017 |  Short Stravinsky and big Bruckner rubbed shoulders, finding the Kensington Symphony Orchestra in fine fettle in response to long-time chief Russell Keable’s focussed and fertile conducting. ... It was good to hear Scènes de ballet again, which in 1944 grossed Stravinsky a $5,000 commission fee... ... The original dancers were Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin. ... It was Bruckner 4 that found Keable personalising the music in a way that was unexpected at times. It was the composer who appended the epithet ‘Romantic’ (he also added ‘Die Nullte’ to the unnumbered D-minor Symphony) and Keable certainly gave a quixotic reading of it. ... Keable found an elemental aspect as well as a languorous one – maybe he is aware that Robert Simpson (composer and Bruckner devotee) was of the opinion that this last movement should be played adagio, and the closest we get to that is Celibidache. 
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim at Carnegie Hall – Bruckner Symphonies 1-9 – No.4 Romantic – with Mozart Coronation Piano Concerto K537
Monday, January 23, 2017 |  The keyboard writing in K537 is arguably the most florid of all of Mozart’s Piano Concertos. ... Daniel Barenboim molded the orchestral introduction freely, eliciting a lush tone from Staatskapelle Berlin... ... One could say that Barenboim took a similar approach to Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony in the way he smoothed over the music’s jagged edges and found ways to dovetail even the most jarring transitions. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin – Mozart Festival (2) – Magic Flute & Don Giovanni Overtures, Concertos for Flute and for Horn, and Symphony 39 [live webcast]
Sunday, January 22, 2017 |  Overtures, or short orchestral openers, being in short supply these days at concerts, a regrettable situation, it was gratifying to have two in this the second webcast of the six-programme Detroit Symphony Orchestra Mozart Festival. Leonard Slatkin opened with the Overture to The Magic Flute... ... As for that serial shagger Don Giovanni, the Overture to his fun and games, and a date with the flames of Hell, is a dramatic affair... ... Both Concertos were graced by DSO principals. David Buck negotiated with brilliance and bearing the fast pace set for the opening of G-major Flute Concerto. ... Then Karl Pituch confirmed his horn-playing prowess in K417... ... And so to Mozart 39, which followed the murky undertow of the philandering Don. Slatkin highlighted the Symphony’s graciousness and impetus... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Andris Nelsons – Bruckner 9 – Paul Lewis plays Mozart Piano Concerto K595
Sunday, January 22, 2017 |  Andris Nelsons’s skill at getting to the spirit behind a composer’s scoring has been a cause of wonder for over a decade – for UK music-lovers since the willowy Latvian conductor took up with the CBSO. His recent Rosenkavalier with the Royal Opera and, only last week, his Bruckner 5, also with the Philharmonia, reconfirmed his astonishingly perceptive grasp of the craft of orchestration... ... It was instantly clear in the opening bars of Mozart’s Piano Concerto K595... ... Add to that the quality of the rapport between him and Paul Lewis, and subtlety, warmth and wit proliferated. ... The woodwinds had been superbly and tactfully involved in the Mozart, and went on to define the vacuum of the opening of Bruckner’s Ninth. 
Daniil Trifonov at Barbican Hall – Schumann, Shostakovich, Stravinsky
Saturday, January 21, 2017 |  Every concert, every recording by Daniil Trifonov is a major event. ... Trifonov began with a long Schumann first half. If the opening of Kinderszenen was on the literal side, it offered one of the few opportunities for a critic to carp... ... Trifonov’s Fazioli, a Rolls-Royce of an instrument, was capable of withstanding the most sustained onslaught as well as projecting the most intimate whisper. At the other end of Schumann’s spectrum is the Toccata. ... The opening of Kreisleriana is a graveyard, having claimed many a pianist. Not Trifonov... ... No hesitation from Trifonov to launch Stravinsky’s Petrushka; what made this outstanding was the delineation of textures at speed in ‘Danse russe’. 
Belief & Beyond Belief – Beethoven’s Fidelio – London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski with Anja Kampe & Robert Dean Smith; directed by Daniel Slater
Saturday, January 21, 2017 |  You can’t fault the Southbank Centre for its ambitious programming. This month it has started offering its public the meaning of life, no less, in the Belief & Beyond Belief festival... ... This London Philharmonic Orchestra semi-staging of Beethoven’s Fidelio was the first musical event, but Daniel Slater came close to derailing the evening... ... Slater’s solution was to dispense with most of the spoken dialogue and to use two actors, Helen Ryan and Simon Williams, as a modern version of a Greek chorus... ... Had Brexit and Trump been folded into the humanist mix, I wouldn’t have been surprised. ... Anja Kampe and Robert Dean Smith (replacing Michael König) negotiated the treacherous vocal lines of ‘O namenlose Freude’ ardently and turned the music’s sheer awkwardness into a means of expression. 
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim at Carnegie Hall – Bruckner Symphonies 1-9 – No.3 – with Mozart Piano Concerto K491
Saturday, January 21, 2017 |  The third installment of the Carnegie Hall Bruckner Symphony Cycle with Daniel Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin. ... The first half consisted of Mozart’s C-minor Piano Concerto K491. ... Bruckner’s Third Symphony was originally dedicated to Wagner, and the first version incorporated quotations. Wagner asked they be removed, the 1878 score does so, while making the piece more continuous. 
Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra/Marios Papadopoulos at Sheldonian Theatre – Giulia Monducci’s Versus & Stravinsky’s Firebird – Martha Argerich plays Prokofiev
Saturday, January 21, 2017 |  Two brightly-lit Russian scores framed a world premiere from Giulia Monducci in a programme that showcased the talents of the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra and the artistry of Martha Argerich. ... She has long been associated with Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto since recording it with Claudio Abbado. ... Following the interval Monducci’s Versus proved enigmatic. ... In the second of Stravinsky’s three Suites from The Firebird – his breakthrough fairy-tale ballet-score first heard in Paris in 1910 – double basses gave out suitably dark intimations of the evil sorcerer Kaschei... 
The Royal Ballet – Wayne McGregor's Woolf Works
Saturday, January 21, 2017 |  Woolf Works, Wayne McGregor’s ambitious, Virginia Woolf-inspired trilogy of ballets-in-one evening returns to Covent Garden. When first created, it was widely heralded as a genuine departure for the choreographer who appeared to have adapted his own style, characterised by an extreme physicality, into something rather more lyrical, more in keeping with the company’s historical way of moving. On revival, that impression is confirmed.… 
Bromley Symphony Orchestra/Adrian Brown – A London Overture & A Colour Symphony – Masa Tayama plays Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto
Saturday, January 21, 2017 |  This Bromley Symphony Orchestra is a case in point. John Ireland’s A London Overture used to be heard relatively frequently... ... A London Overture, to say nothing of Bliss’s Colour Symphony, drew a large and enthusiastic audience to the fine Langley Park Centre... ... its chief conductors during the past seventy years include Sir Adrian Boult and Norman Del Mar, with Kathleen Ferrier, Paul Tortelier and John Lill amongst the great artists who have appeared... ... This was followed by Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto, with Masa Tayama. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin – Mozart Festival (1) – Figaro Overture, Concertos for Oboe and for Horn, and Sinfonia concertante K364 [live webcast]
Friday, January 20, 2017 |  On the same day as Donald Trump is inaugurated as the next President of the United States, the Detroit Symphony and Leonard Slatkin’s Mozart Festival had its first of six webcasts. ... Good to start with an overture and the one heralding The Marriage of Figaro is as choice as anything. ... With Slatkin now sans ‘syrup’, enter Alex Kinmonth for the Oboe Concerto... ... Next up, if following the interval, Scott Strong from the horn section, for K412, the babe of Mozart’s four Horn Concertos... ... For the great Sinfonia concertante K364, Mozartean meat, the soloists were Yoonshin Song (DSO concertmaster) and Eric Nowlin. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Oliver Knussen – Richard Strauss’s Macbeth, Edward Elgar’s Falstaff, Busoni – Huw Watkins plays premiere of Philip Cashian’s Piano Concerto / Concert cancelled
Friday, January 20, 2017 |  Welcome to Shakespeare 401 with Oliver Knussen conducting Macbeth and Falstaff as part of the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s latest Barbican Hall offering. ... ... ...for the concert was cancelled due to Oliver Knussen succumbing to pneumonia... 
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim at Carnegie Hall – Bruckner Symphonies 1-9 – No.2 – with Mozart Piano Concerto K466
Friday, January 20, 2017 |  This was the second of a nine-concert residency with Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin at Carnegie Hall, the first time in the venue’s history that Bruckner’s nine numbered Symphonies will be performed in one season. ... Barenboim and his players absolutely shone in the Mozart Piano Concerto. From the first ominous murmurs of this dramatic piece one could feel the musicians’ energy... ... Bruckner’s Second Symphony is an interesting piece, restrained and expansive. 
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Edward Gardner at Cadogan Hall – Peer Gynt & Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra – Truls Mørk plays Elgar’s Cello Concerto
Friday, January 20, 2017 |  Edward Gardner and the Bergen Philharmonic opened their Cadogan Hall concert with music by Bergen-born Edvard Grieg, some of his score for Ibsen’s Peer Gynt. ... Then Truls Mørk played Elgar’s Cello Concerto. His reading was interior and restrained. ... Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra opens ominously before exuberance takes hold in the first movement, the virtuosity of the orchestra now at its best, not least the variety of timbres displayed by the brass. 
The Metropolitan Opera – Michael Mayer’s production of Verdi’s Rigoletto – Željko Lučić, Olga Peretyatko, Stephen Costello & Andrea Mastroni; conducted by Pier Giorgio Morandi
Friday, January 20, 2017 |  This Met revival of Michael Mayer’s 2013 production of Rigoletto features a cast of singers with years of experience in their roles. ... Much of the musical success lies in the inventive conducting of Pier Giorgio Morandi... ... Željko Lučić’s mastery of Rigoletto was evident from the way he toyed with every line... ... From the moment she skipped on sporting long curls and a beaming smile, Olga Peretyatko’s Gilda was entirely believable... ... As the Duke of Mantua, Stephen Costello displayed a throbbing tenor... 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts Mark-Anthony Turnage’s In memoriam Evan Scofield & Mahler’s Sixth Symphony
Thursday, January 19, 2017 |  

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

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

 

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