All 2017 Concert Reviews

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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