May 2019 Concert Reviews

April 2019 Concert Reviews
Bruckner in Bad Kissingen – Gerd Schaller conducts the Vienna version of the First Symphony – Luiza Borac plays Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto
Sunday, May 26, 2019 |  In Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto the solo instrument and the orchestra are integrated more closely than in many other Romantic such works. So it made for a particularly intriguing and involving performance that Luiza Borac (an Enescu champion) seemed to have a different view of the expressive qualities of Schumann’s music to that of the conductor. ... Unlike with the numerous reappearances of his Third and Fourth, there are really only two versions of Bruckner’s so-numbered First Symphony. The revision of it – Vienna – was the only one performed for forty years since its publication in 1893, but was displaced in the 1930s by the appearance of 1866 ‘Linz’ score. ... Gerd Schaller is in the process of performing and recording a very complete Bruckner cycle in time for the 200th-anniversary of the composer’s birth in 2024. 
Jacques Imbrailo & Alisdair Hogarth at Wigmore Hall – Sibelius & Rachmaninov
Sunday, May 26, 2019 |  In a demanding programme comparing and contrasting some of the song output of Sibelius and Rachmaninov Jacques Imbrailo demonstrated both linguistic flair and remarkable concentration and intensity. ... His operatic performances have always had a dramatic truthfulness, a talent to bring the audience to him in big spaces, such as Billy Budd, and in the relative confines of Wigmore Hall, Imbrailo impressed... 
Britten Sinfonia/Thomas Adès – Beethoven Symphony Cycle & Gerald Barry at Barbican Centre – 6/Symphony 9 Choral ... Barry’s The Eternal Recurrence (Die Ewige Wiederkehr)
Sunday, May 26, 2019 |  This final instalment of Thomas Adès’s Beethoven cycle – which has been recorded for future release – offered a very fresh account of his final Symphony, premiered in 1824, three years before his death. Adès’s reading of the ‘Choral’ had a clarity and vitality redolent of Norrington or Hogwood, while at the same time paying the fullest regard to the intense lyricism pervading the work. ... Completing the Gerald Barry survey that has graced these six programmes, Jennifer France sang The Eternal Recurrence (Die Ewige Wiederkehr). From 1999, it sets words by Nietzsche, some in English translation. Die Ewiger Wiederkehr occurs in Nietzsche’s Also sprach Zarathustra: Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen... 
Berliner Philharmoniker – Paavo Järvi conducts Bruckner 2 & Bach/Webern Ricercar – Mojca Erdmann performs Alban Berg’s Seven Early Songs [live webcast]
Saturday, May 25, 2019 |  Paavo Järvi has been on the road with Anton Bruckner’s Second Symphony. Previous to three performances in Berlin (this was the last of them) it was Hamburg... ... The concert’s first half was also as in Hamburg, if with a welcome addition/starter. Prior to Alban Berg’s Seven Early Songs (completed with-piano in 1908, if becoming ‘later’ in his twenty-year-on orchestration, Wozzeck completed, Lulu in the wings) was Anton Webern’s reciprocated ‘musical offering’ to Johann Sebastian Bach, the ‘Ricercar a 6’, a fugue in all but name... ... Following which, the Berg. In Hamburg it was Laura Aikin singing, replacing Hanna-Elisabeth Müller. In Berlin it was Mojca Erdmann (young, confident, charming, natural) similarly stepping in for Müller... ... Following the Bruckner, with orchestra personnel taking bows, particular attention was paid to timpanist Rainer Seegers... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Kent Nagano conducts Bruckner 3 – Beatrice Rana plays Prokofiev 3 [live webcast]
Saturday, May 25, 2019 |  Thank goodness for webcasts, and time-zones! Radiating world-wide from my London seat, I had just been in Berlin for Bruckner 2 (Paavo Järvi) and a few hours later I was in Detroit for another Bruckner Symphony, the Third, with Kent Nagano. ... For the concert’s first half it was straight into Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto – popular, yes, and pianists queue to play it, but not as inspired as the Second. One drawback to the Third’s success are those renditions that take it too fast, which trivialises the music... ... Step forward Beatrice Rana. She offered brilliance without haste and shapeliness devoid of rhetoric. 
Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia @ Barbican Hall – Antonio Pappano conducts Mahler 6
Saturday, May 25, 2019 |  It took the full duration – eighty to eighty-five minutes – of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia’s performance of Mahler 6 to justify the work’s potential as the composer’s ‘Tragic’ Symphony, as Antonio Pappano seized every opportunity to avert disaster in this unbearably taut and mercurial account. 
International Handel Festival Göttingen – Rodrigo – Erica Eloff, Fflur Wyn, Anna Dennis; directed by Walter Sutcliffe; conducted by Laurence Cummings
Saturday, May 25, 2019 |  Although Rodrigo (1707) was the fifth opera which Handel composed (albeit three of those are now lost) it was the first he wrote in Italy and so represents his first true Italian opera seria, as opposed to the bilingual stage-works he had created in Hamburg. Despite that, it has held an uncertain place in the Handelian operatic canon... ... As the first institution to revive Handel's opera in the modern era, it is characteristic of Göttingen's International Handel Festival to rehabilitate such an overlooked work. As ever, Laurence Cummings – also the music director of the equivalent (though more recent) Festival in Handel's adopted home, London – proves an enthusiastic and assured advocate of this music... 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Sakari Oramo conducts Mahler 7 & Thomas Larcher’s Chiasma
Friday, May 24, 2019 |  This was the final concert of the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s Barbican season – next stop the Proms – and the musicians signed off in style. ... Thomas Larcher’s music continues to enthral, and you could hear why in Chiasma, first heard in Leipzig in March last year. ... Sakari Oramo and the BBCSO played Chiasma as if it is core repertoire... ... Mahler 7 is still not a guarantee of good box-office, and this brilliantly executed and exciting account will continue arguments about what Mahler intended by this five-movement Symphony/Suite hybrid, with an ambiguous, in the end exasperating Finale. Oramo is generally superb at clarifying huge symphonic structures without making it sound forensic... 
Hamburg International Music Festival – Christian Tetzlaff plays Ligeti’s Violin Concerto, Andris Poga conducts Vasks’s Musica appassionata and Sibelius 7 – NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester [live NDR Kultur radio broadcast]
Friday, May 24, 2019 |  he domain still of the few, György Ligeti's Violin Concerto (1990-92) – premiered in its revised form in Cologne in October 1992 by Saschko Gawriloff, Peter Eötvös conducting – is a fascination as much as a challenge, a five-movement tapestry of life, incident, memory and quest, seen through all shades of gravity and colour, all tensions of tuning, rhythm, dynamic intensity, improvisatory liberty and co-ordination. ... Christian Tetzlaff sees it as a Janus-faced canvas... ... If Ligeti's score bristles with dynamics and intricacies, the opposite is true of Pēteris Vasks's Musica appassionata for strings... ... For whatever reason, Sibelius's single-movement Seventh Symphony (1924) gelled least well. Artistic Director of the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra in Riga, Poga, who won the 2010 Svetlanov Competition, and from 2011 to 2014 was Paavo Järvi's assistant in Paris, is efficient but, from what I have seen of his performances, somewhat straight-laced. 
Hallé at Bridgewater Hall – Mark Elder conducts Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony
Thursday, May 23, 2019 |  Although Mahler Symphonies (and Shostakovich’s) are now everyday – especially their respective Fifths – and to their detriment, I thought I’d give Mark Elder’s Hallé ‘Resurrection’ Symphony a go. Glad I did, as an escape, and to stimulate the little grey cells. ... But, we weren’t done, for Mark Elder made a touching speech in honour of leader Lyn Fletcher whose final Hallé concert this was... ... And, believe it or not, Elder then conducted Vaughan Williams’s Serenade to Music (originally saluting Henry Wood, text from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice) in its chorus and orchestra version... 
Los Angeles Master Chorale @ Barbican Hall – Orlande de Lassus’s Lagrime di San Pietro/Tears of St Peter – conducted by Grant Gershon; directed by Peter Sellars
Thursday, May 23, 2019 |  Anyone familiar with the many Passion settings will know that the moment when Peter denies Christ marks a sharp escalation of intensity. Orlande de Lassus (or Orlando di Lasso), the great sixteenth-century master of polyphony went one step further by isolating this single event as settings of twenty devotional poems by his contemporary Luigi Tansillo... ... ...it is also timeless, covering entirely modern concerns of guilt, betrayal and blackest soul-searching with masochistic sensuality, and it is this that Peter Sellars has magnified in his staging... 
Igor Levit plays Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations @ Wigmore Hall
Wednesday, May 22, 2019 |  From all the ecstatic coverage a couple of years ago of his mighty triple-decker Bach, Beethoven and Rzewski Variations album (link below to my review), you would think that the Goldbergs were a staple of Igor Levit’s repertoire, but this appears to not be the case. There are reviews of his playing the set as part of an elaborate performance-art installation in New York in 2015, but it looks as though – and I may well be wrong – this Wigmore Hall recital was the first of it in London, possibly the UK. 
New York Philharmonic – Jaap van Zweden conducts Shostakovich/Barshai & Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony
Wednesday, May 22, 2019 |  The New York Philharmonic and Jaap van Zweden opened its Music of Conscience series with Rudolf Barshai’s string-orchestra arrangement of Shostakovich’s Eighth String Quartet (1960) written in the wake of the Allied bombing of Dresden during World War Two. Barshai, an important conductor, was a colleague and close friend of Shostakovich. ... For the ‘Eroica’, ultimately Beethoven’s denunciation of Napoleon’s dictatorship, van Zweden set a brisk tempo for the opening Allegro (with exposition repeat). He conducted much of this triple-meter movement in one-to-the-bar, so that he was able to stay in-tempo consistently and impressively... 
Britten Sinfonia/Thomas Adès – Beethoven Symphony Cycle & Gerald Barry at Barbican Centre – 5/Symphonies 7 & 8 ... Lawrence Power plays Barry’s Viola Concerto
Tuesday, May 21, 2019 |  This was the penultimate programme in a series wherein Thomas Adès conducts Beethoven and Gerald Barry. ... Barry has created music of all genres, and there are six operas. It is difficult to imagine a more effectively arranged showcase for his compositions than this series. The premiere of his fifteen-minute Viola Concerto took place three days earlier at Saffron Hall in Essex. ... Lawrence Power used his instrument to complement the orchestra’s aggression... ... The evening began with Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. Advance publicity referred to “the brief and brilliantly inventive Symphony No 7”. Well “brief” is a strange description... 
Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Donnerstag aus Licht @ Royal Festival Hall
Tuesday, May 21, 2019 |  Can it really be thirty-four years since Donnerstag, the first completed drama of Stockhausen’s seven-day cycle Licht, had its UK premiere to (largely) appreciative audiences at Covent Garden? ... At around twice the length of Wagner’s Ring cycle and extending for three further evenings, Licht has been frequently – and lazily – dismissed as the outcome of the hubris that over-took Stockhausen’s thinking over the latter half of his career. ... Throughout the three hours of this production, Benjamin Lazar’s stage direction conveyed the grandeur and also the intimacy of Stockhausen’s music with a resourcefulness the greater for its understatement, abetted by the fluent sound projection of Florent Derex and the ‘sculpted’ computer music design of Augustin Muller who, between them, transformed the Royal Festival Hall into an environment of potent depth and immediacy. 
Magdalena Kožená & Yefim Bronfman @ Barbican Centre
Monday, May 20, 2019 |  Even the star combination of Magdalena Kožená and Yefim Bronfman could only yield a stalls-only event in the Barbican Hall, and it says a great deal for both of them that they created such a rapport with the audience. 
The Royal Opera – David McVicar’s production of Giordano’s Andrea Chénier – Roberto Alagna, Sondra Radvanovsky, Dimitri Platanias; conducted by Daniel Oren
Monday, May 20, 2019 |  What this first revival of David McVicar’s 2015 production of Andrea Chénier lacks in emotional punch and dramatic credibility is compensated for by picture-book staging and stellar singing. Giordano’s opera (first-performed in 1896) to Luigi Illica’s libretto (he of La bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly) is essentially a costume drama; all bonnets, frockcoats and wigs, and provides a thumbnail portrait of France during and following the Ancien Régime. ... Just as well Giordano created such sumptuous music. ... ...this Chénier is all about the singing, and top of the bill is Roberto Alagna. 
Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2019 – Annabel Arden’s production of Rossini’s Barber of Seville – Levy Sekgapane, Andrey Zhilikhovsky, Hera Hyesang Park, Adam Palka, Alessandro Corbelli; conducted by Rafael Payare
Sunday, May 19, 2019 |  For the second offering of the 2019 summer season Glyndebourne has revived its 2016 production of Rossini’s ever-popular Barber of Seville, and showcases some exceptional young talent – always one of Glyndebourne’s strengths. Annabel Arden’s staging, with visually attractive and flexible designs by Joanna Parker occasionally reminiscent of the bright and zany cinematographic colours of Pedro Almodóvar’s films, tells the story with great clarity and sustains the comedy. 
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at Lincoln Center – Manfred Honeck conducts Mahler 5 – Till Fellner plays Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto
Sunday, May 19, 2019 |  An interesting pairing of two Fifths, and both Till Fellner and Manfred Honeck hail from Austria, where in Vienna Beethoven and Mahler had their greatest successes. ... Fellner gave an intelligent, articulate, refined and basically straightforward reading of the ‘Emperor’ Concerto. ... Honeck stayed out of Fellner’s way in the Beethoven; in contrast, Honeck’s self-indulgent reading of Mahler’s Fifth was so cluttered with exceedingly awkward attempts at rubato, hyped-up, ear-splitting dynamic levels and frenetically fast tempos. 
Berliner Philharmoniker – Herbert Blomstedt conducts Wilhelm Stenhammar’s Second Symphony – Yefim Bronfman plays Beethoven's B-flat Piano Concerto [live webcast]
Saturday, May 18, 2019 |  A week ago the Digital Concert Hall broadcast Bernard Haitink conducting Mozart and Bruckner. Now the Berliner Philharmoniker had at its helm another (and slightly older) nonagenarian: Herbert Blomstedt (a Berlin regular for forty years) in a similar Piano Concerto/Symphony combo. ... ...compensation came with the opening flourish of the Beethoven – its introduction alive, springy and detailed, a certain stateliness of tempo aiding articulacy – the perfect entrée for Yefim Bronfman to bring out the music’s Haydnesque sparkle and also young Ludwig’s progressive pursuits... ... Completing the concert was pianist and conductor (of the Gothenburg SO between 1906 and 1922), and Blomstedt’s Swedish compatriot, Wilhelm Stenhammar’s Second Symphony... 
Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2019 – Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust – Allan Clayton, Christopher Purves, Ashley Riches, Julie Boulianne; directed by Richard Jones; conducted by Robin Ticciati
Saturday, May 18, 2019 |  Berlioz first described La Damnation de Faust as an opéra de concert, then changed his mind to Légende dramatique and its unique-selling-point as a non-opera hasn’t affected its popularity one bit. ... In its first staging of this French annexation of one of romanticism’s core texts, Glyndebourne has entrusted the launch of its summer season to Richard Jones... ... As Faust, Allan Clayton combines introspection and passion heroically... ... ...Christopher Purves was unassailably in charge as Méphistophélès... ... Julie Boulianne’s portrayal of the tentative development of Marguerite’s love for Faust is very touching, and she sings gloriously. ... ...Robin Ticciati plays a crucial role in giving the score a gripping sense of theatre... ... The London Philharmonic spares nothing... 
Bromley Symphony Orchestra Centenary Concert – Adrian Brown conducts Blest Pair of Sirens, Europa, and Beethoven’s Choral Symphony
Saturday, May 18, 2019 |  There cannot be many non-professional orchestras that have been going for one-hundred years, but the Bromley Symphony has carried the flag for classical music in south-east London for just such a period, in the course of which its chief conductors have included Sir Adrian Boult and Norman Del Mar. Among artists to have appeared with it are Kathleen Ferrier, Dennis Brain, John Lill, Paul Tortelier, Leslie Howard, Emma Johnson and Sir Donald McIntyre. ... Adrian Brown has been at the helm for forty seasons... 
Das Stuttgarter Ballett – Kenneth MacMillan's Mayerling – Jürgen Rose's new production
Saturday, May 18, 2019 |  Stuttgart Ballet’s new production of Kenneth MacMillan’s dark three-act masterpiece Mayerling is a triumph in almost every respect. Not only is the company the first German ensemble to perform the work, but it is given in highly intelligent, scenically arresting new designs and costumes from the legendary Jürgen Rose, who, now 82, was persuaded by company director Tamas Detrich to undertake the mammoth task. The choice of Rose was inspired: he brings not only a lifetime of experience of designing for the stage, but he is intimately linked both to the company and choreographer, having worked extensively with both John Cranko and Kenneth MacMillan… 
The MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall – Valery Gergiev conducts Schubert’s Great C-major Symphony – Daniil Trifonov plays Schumann’s Piano Concerto
Saturday, May 18, 2019 |  It was surprising that Valery Gergiev was conducting the MET Orchestra in works by Schumann and Schubert, since for more than fifteen years their collaborations have been exclusively in music by Russian composers. The result was at best a mixed bag, with the Schumann coming off best, thanks to Daniil Trifonov, whereas the Schubert lacked sparkle and vitality. 
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester – Paavo Järvi conducts Anton Bruckner's Second Symphony – Laura Aikin performs Alban Berg’s Seven Early Songs [live webcast]
Friday, May 17, 2019 |  With Paavo Järvi you get the modern jet-setting conductor who, whatever the repertory, is always responsibly prepared, coaxing orchestras to give of their best. ... On this occasion in Hamburg he was journeying a different emotional road, a late Austrian Habsburg one looking back from Berg to Bruckner, two composers he sees as a particularly intuitive mix. ... In tackling the “curiosity” that's Bruckner's 1872 Second Symphony, the first of his Viennese period, he maintains it best to think of it rooted (hence by implication played) in mid-Romantic tones, to hear it of its day, freed of the monumentalism and “statement” of the later Symphonies. ... In keeping with Järvi's 2012 Frankfurt recording, this performance followed the 1877 revision in William Carragan's recent 2007 edition... ... ...Berg's 1928 orchestration of his Seven Early Songs, written while he was a student of Schoenberg, in Vienna, focussed on a different sequence of vistas. An order of expressive concentration touched vaguely by Wolf, Mahler, Strauss, Zemlinsky perhaps … distilled through ghosts from Verklärte Nacht ... flying freely yet chained by key-signatures. Järvi shaped a lusciously warm, chorded support for Laura Aikin... 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Jakub Hrůša conducts Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony & Brahms 3 – Karen Gomyo plays Mendelssohn
Thursday, May 16, 2019 |  Few Symphonies occupy quite such a significant role as Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’, yet it can be a difficult work to bring off. Starting and closing quietly, in some hands its two movements, which are of similar duration and tempo markings, can seem soporific. From Jakub Hrůša, employing antiphonal violins and left-positioned basses, all of the Philharmonia’s most characteristic virtues of warm string sound, blended woodwinds and mellow brass, were to the fore. ... Karen Gomyo who was born in Tokyo, began her musical career in Montreal and New York and now lives in Berlin. Frequently chosen by aspiring violinists as their debut piece, Mendelssohn’s (second) Concerto may be an obvious choice, but it is not without its pitfalls. 
Benjamin Grosvenor at Barbican Hall
Thursday, May 16, 2019 |  During a period of fifteen years Benjamin Grosvenor has gone from a child prodigy to watch and nurture to becoming a mature, rounded benchmark of pianism. Only in his mid-twenties, Grosvenor is blessed with an imagination and unaffected candour that get straight to the mindset of whatever music he is playing. ... The two Schumann works are from the composer’s twenties, and Grosvenor proved particularly adept at evoking the transitory beauties of Blumenstück... ... Then Grosvenor really got into his romantic stride in Kreisleriana, the chain of eight pieces based on the bizarre character created by the equally strange novelist E. T. A. Hoffmann... ... Prokofiev’s Visions fugitives often get near to the compressed, expressionist world of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. Grosvenor played twelve of the twenty brief pieces... 
Evgeny Kissin at Carnegie Hall
Thursday, May 16, 2019 |  The tightly-knit program for this jam-packed Carnegie Hall recital – with several added rows of stage seating – opened with three Chopin Nocturnes, perfectly suited to Evgeny Kissin’s aristocratic and appealingly introverted style, displaying his poetry, impeccable taste and masterful technique. 
Hans Werner Henze’s Phaedra at the Linbury Theatre
Wednesday, May 15, 2019 |  The music of Hans Werner Henze’s final true opera Phaedra, premiered in 2007, is a remarkable achievement with a score full of amazing sonorities. 
Bournemouth Symphony Chorus & Orchestra at Lighthouse – Kirill Karabits conducts The Dream of Gerontius – Paul Appleby, Alice Coote & James Rutherford
Wednesday, May 15, 2019 |  The plain tiled walls of the Lighthouse may not be the ultimate venue to contemplate a soul’s journey through the afterlife, or summon visions of angels and demons, but its secular ordinariness might have won the approval of Charles Villiers Stanford who declared that The Dream of Gerontius “stank of incense.” No fear of any religious trappings here; yet, conducted by Kirill Karabits, Elgar’s setting of Cardinal Newman’s poem communicated deep spirituality. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – David Robertson conducts The London Citizen Exceedingly Injured & Shostakovich 1 – Anthony Gregory & Martin Owen perform Britten’s Serenade
Wednesday, May 15, 2019 |  It opened with Raymond Yiu’s The London Citizen Exceedingly Injured, a compressed concerto for orchestra in all but name, which the BBCSO premiered in 2013. Yiu channels the tortured life of the eighteenth-century biblical scholar Alexander Cruden and aspects of George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen-Eighty-Four into an impression of London... ... Robertson relaxed a bit into a spacious, glossy account of the Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Britten’s not-so-little Night Music, with Martin Owen in superb, almost too effortless command of the harmonics... ... Anthony Gregory, who over the past few years has taken on a number of Britten and Baroque-opera roles, was cultivated, expressive and word-friendly... 
OAE @ QEH – J. S. Bach’s Four Orchestral Suites, BWV1066-1069
Tuesday, May 14, 2019 |  The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment delivered Johann Sebastian Bach’s four Orchestral Suites in life-affirming style, and with a sense of freedom that surely owes to having almost all the players standing. 
Canada's National Arts Centre Orchestra at Cadogan Hall – Alexander Shelley conducts Brahms 2 | Jan Lisiecki plays Ravel | David D. Q. Lee & London Voices perform Ana Sokolović’s Golden slumbers kiss your eyes...
Tuesday, May 14, 2019 |  So far as your correspondent is concerned, this concert proved to be one of the major highlights of the current London orchestral season... ... This was not the first visit to the UK for Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra, but I had not heard it before: heartfelt thanks to the Zurich International Orchestra Series at Cadogan Hall... ... The evening opened with a cantata, settings of texts in six languages, Golden slumbers kiss your eyes... by the Serbian-Canadian Ana Sokolović, composed in 2015. ... Many performances fail to some degree to cohere its myriad expression fully, but this account by Jan Lisiecki was wholly musical, technically commanding... 
Kensington Symphony Orchestra at Cadogan Hall – Russell Keable conducts The Enchanted Lake & Lemminkäinen Legends and the London premiere of Huw Watkins’s Symphony
Monday, May 13, 2019 |  Liadov’s The Enchanted Lake is an example of those shorter Romantic concert pieces that were once often-heard half a century ago. ... Much of these characteristics were clear in Russell Keable’s account, which the Kensington Symphony Orchestra played to a high degree, but the Cadogan Hall acoustic told somewhat against the dynamics and balance of this performance... ... Huw Watkins’s recent Symphony composed for the Hallé, is in two movements. Today, when what constitutes a Symphony is pretty much what the composer says it is, it is refreshing to encounter a work that takes its responsibilities seriously. ... Sibelius’s Lemminkäinen Legends do not truly cohere as an organic work, nor are the first two sufficiently differentiated in terms of material, scale and treatment to be considered as parts of such, although ‘The Swan of Tuonela’ (placed third) and ‘Lemminkäinen’s Return’ may be considered symphonically joined. 
Canada's National Arts Centre Orchestra at Saffron Hall – Alexander Shelley conducts Dvořák’s New World Symphony | Jan Lisiecki plays Ravel | David D. Q. Lee & London Voices perform Ana Sokolović’s Golden slumbers kiss your eyes...
Sunday, May 12, 2019 |  Under its English music director Alexander Shelley, Canada's National Arts Centre Orchestra from Ottawa – a capital city that sees fit to provide its citizens and neighbourhood with a performing arts centre including not only a 2,000-seater hall but also, as Shelley engagingly reminded us (he's a good communicator), English, French and Indigenous theatre departments – is on an ambitious fiftieth-anniversary tour... ... Opened in 2013, Saffron Hall, like Snape Maltings or Cambridge Corn Exchange, is the kind of regional venue that has come to appeal to world-class orchestras and top-flight soloists... ... Jan Lisiecki's Ravel was agile and fleet-fingered yet, in the flesh, relatively shallow-toned, without that bigness of projection video/streaming directors and audio engineers customarily seem to bring to his renditions. 
Berliner Philharmoniker – Bernard Haitink conducts Bruckner 7 – Paul Lewis plays Mozart Piano Concerto K595 [live webcast]
Saturday, May 11, 2019 |  Counting down to his sabbatical, Bernard Haitink reached Berlin for Bruckner 7, a lifetime composer in his repertoire. If Haitink’s Bruckner has got broader in recent years (and close to Celibidachian dimensions: both conductors with the transcendent ability to distinguish musical time from “the clock on the wall”, I borrow from Barenboim) it is neither indulgent nor valedictory; rather the slow-burn aspect is part of a grand yet wholesome design and is also in admirable affinity with Bruckner’s Heaven-reaching music. ... Prefacing Bruckner was Mozart’s final Piano Concerto with Paul Lewis (his BP debut this week) feeding off Haitink’s gentle if pulsing introduction to bring out the music’s autumnal aspects, Lewis as refined as the conductor. Nothing bland though... 
Philharmonia Orchestra/Paavo Järvi – Egmont Overture & Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony – Viktoria Mullova plays Sibelius’s Violin Concerto
Saturday, May 11, 2019 |  This was one of those popular 'old-fashioned' Saturday evenings. Infinitely musical, resolutely undemonstrative, Paavo Järvi steered proceedings in a cultured way, score before him, clear and direct in his intentions. ... Fielding a largely youthful team, carrying no dead wood, the Philharmonia (antiphonal violins, led by Benjamin Marquise Gilmore, concertmaster designate) rose splendidly to the occasion... ... London-based Viktoria Mullova is ever-youthful. Watching her, listening to the unfailing brilliance and power of her playing, she's still that slim Moscow girl of the early-eighties, winning the Sibelius and Tchaikovsky competitions, defecting with her Georgian lover to the West, her story “the stuff of spy movies”. Her Sibelius Concerto was arresting... ... Järvi has never been a man given to histrionics or showmanship: he's far closer to his father, Neeme, than his younger brother, Kristjan. In his Frankfurt days, his Tchaikovsky was more in the Haitink vein than anything Russian or American, overdrive mattering less than a quality pulse and honesty to the page. This 'Pathétique' emphasised beauty of tone and ensemble... 
BBC Symphony Chorus & Orchestra – Joana Carneiro conducts Augusta Read Thomas’s Radiant Circles, Osvaldo Golijov’s Oceana & John Adams’s Naive and Sentimental Music
Saturday, May 11, 2019 |  Portuguese conductor Joana Carneiro here made her enterprising debut with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. ... I’ve not heard much of Augusta Read Thomas of late, but she has been prolific over the pond – her first opera will be staged by Santa Fe later this year – and Carneiro opened with Thomas’s 2010 Radiant Circles... ... Its opening chimes in a descending pattern instantly reminded me of Star Trek as William Shatner’s Captain Kirk intones the star-date at the start of his diary entries. ... Carneiro’s next UK premiere took us south of the equator for Argentinean-born Osvaldo Golijov’s response to Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s Cantos ceremonials... ... The year after Golijov originally conceived Oceana John Adams started composing Naive and Sentimental Music – another major three-movement orchestral work to complement his anti-Schoenberg triptych Harmonielehre. 
RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra – Leonard Slatkin conducts Circuits & Enigma Variations – Alina Ibragimova plays Richard Strauss’s Violin Concerto [live webcast]
Friday, May 10, 2019 |  Leonard Slatkin has long been a champion of Edward Elgar’s music. This season he has conducted Enigma Variations in Detroit, Louisville and Pittsburgh (and the First Symphony in Lyon) and he arrived in Dublin courtesy of Raidió Teilifís Éireann for a further shot at Opus 36. The RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra played in a manner that suggested its members and their debuting maestro had clicked... ... The concert’s centrepiece was Richard Strauss’s Violin Concerto... ... Alina Ibragimova certainly made her presence felt from her first note... ... To open the concert, Slatkin brought a calling-card from the States, Cindy McTee’s Circuits... 
Handel’s Israel in Egypt – Gergely Madaras conducts BBC Singers & Academy of Ancient Music at Milton Court
Friday, May 10, 2019 |  There is always the temptation for conductors and performers to revel in the monumental grandeur of Handel's Israel in Egypt, telling the epic Biblical story of the Israelites' Exodus under Moses from the oppressive rule of Pharaoh. Paradoxically that can be even more the case with the shortened version of 1756 in which there is a greater proportion of choral movements relative to solo numbers following the omission of several of the latter from the 1738 original. ... With the comparatively small scale of the Academy of Ancient Music, that briefer version of the score prompted Gergely Madaras to take a more dramatically taut and lithe account of the music, with an impressive variety of choral timbres deftly elicited from the BBC Singers... 
London Schools Symphony Orchestra at Barbican Centre – Richard Farnes conducts Force of Destiny Overture & Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony – Elena Urioste plays Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto
Thursday, May 09, 2019 |  A nicely balanced traditional programme this, with only Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto seemingly an out-of-the-way item, although his musical language is not one that would have raised the eyebrows of either of the other composers represented... ... ...a repertoire piece, certainly for American soloists, of whom Elena Urioste is an outstandingly fine example. ... The concert opened with the Overture to Verdi’s La forza del destino, oddly translated in the programme as “The Power of Fate”. ... On the basis of the concert’s first half, one was looking forward to the Tchaikovsky, but for various reasons – although very well played – Farnes’s account was curiously unsatisfying. 
English National Opera at Alexandra Palace Theatre – Britten’s Paul Bunyan
Thursday, May 09, 2019 |  It was an odd coincidence that ENO’s staging of Britten’s Paul Bunyan, his creation-myth operetta about immigrant loggers clearing America’s virgin forests to make way for human civilisation, marked its first revival the day after a BBC documentary about tree-clearance being a main factor in climate change. Yet for all the political posturing driving the pacifist composer and collaborator-poet-librettist W. H. Auden in their self-imposed wartime exile in the United States, ecology wasn’t one of them. 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem & Mahler's Fifth Symphony
Wednesday, May 08, 2019 |  The LSO is about to embark on an extensive tour of South America. It’s a new departure for the players but the repertoire they’re taking isn’t exactly novel. The Britten was one of André Previn’s calling cards and the orchestra has not been immune to the insatiable demand for Mahler, the Fifth Symphony in particular. For some of us its popularity remains puzzling and I’m not sure the Scherzo is improved by the current fashion for having the first-horn sit upfront for the duration, as if performing an interpolated Concerto. Simon Rattle has now abandoned this particular ploy... 
Michel Legrand’s Amour @ Charing Cross Theatre
Wednesday, May 08, 2019 |  Michel Legrand was one of the most successful film composers of his time from the late-1950s right up to 2018, the year before his death in January. He famously worked with French directors, in particular Jacques Demy on Lola, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, a sung-through operetta that earned Legrand three Academy Award nominations including Best Song, ‘I Will Wait For You’. He also wrote the music for Demy’s The Young Girls of Rochefort, again virtually sung through. In all Legrand scored over two-hundred soundtracks, producing many celebrated songs including ‘The Windmills of Your Mind’, from The Thomas Crown Affair, as well as from Summer of ’42 and Yentl, all three of which won Oscars. His other film work included The Go-Between, Portnoy’s Complaint, Lady Sings the Blues, Orson Welles’s F for Fake, Louis Malle’s Atlantic City, Robert Altman’s Prêt-à-Porter, and the recently completed ‘lost’ film of Welles’s, The Other Side of the Wind, among many, many others. 
The Royal Ballet – Mixed Bill – Within the Golden Hour | Medusa | Flight Pattern
Wednesday, May 08, 2019 |  There is nothing wrong with the new in dance; indeed, it is its very lifeblood, otherwise classical ensembles, such as The Royal Ballet, become museums, the dancers today’s curators of the ballets of the past. However, for a company like the Covent Garden ensemble, there is a balance to be made, and judicious decisions to be taken, about what should join its rich performing repertoire and why. The latest offering from The Royal Ballet shows how it can go wrong… 
The Metropolitan Opera – John Dexter’s production of Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites – Isabel Leonard, Karita Mattila, Erin Morley, Adrianne Pieczonka, Karen Cargill; conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Wednesday, May 08, 2019 |  Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts this seventh Met revival of John Dexter’s starkly beautiful 1977 production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites, and the comeback is magnificent. 
Wimbledon Choral Society & Philharmonia Orchestra at Royal Festival Hall – Neil Ferris conducts Vaughan Williams’s Mystical Songs & the premiere of Cecilia McDowall’s Da Vinci Requiem – Martin James Bartlett plays Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G
Tuesday, May 07, 2019 |  Cecilia McDowall’s Da Vinci Requiem is for the centenary of the Wimbledon Choral Society and the 500th-anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, which fell on May 2. It fuses Latin texts with extracts from Leonardo’s notebooks which, together with verses from Dante Gabriel Rossetti, reflect on mortality. ... Opening the first half Vaughan Williams’s Five Mystical Songs (to poems by George Herbert)... ... Ravel’s G-major Piano Concerto was then given a highly characterful outing, its bluesy playfulness and dreamy introspection underlined by the Philharmonia and Martin James Bartlett. 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Ben Glassberg conducts Walton’s Henry V music & Dvořák 8 – Kirill Gerstein plays Tchaikovsky’s Second Piano Concerto [live webcast]
Sunday, May 05, 2019 |  I have a soft spot for Tchaikovsky’s Second Piano Concerto, especially in its grand-design original version (forty-five minutes here), rather than Siloti’s cut and emendated publication. Kirill Gerstein is a vibrant champion of what Tchaikovsky intended, here in the company of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Ben Glassberg (winner of the Grand Prix at the Besançon Competition 2017). ... The concert opened with some of William Walton’s music for Laurence Olivier’s 1944 film of Shakespeare’s Henry V... 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts John Adams’s Harmonielehre & Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique
Sunday, May 05, 2019 |  Poised for an extensive tour of South America with works by Britten, Mahler and Berlioz, this LSO concert certainly brought luxury-class playing. However, on this precursor concert, the opener was a substantial work not being included on the trip, one which Simon Rattle has championed throughout his career, John Adams’s Harmonielehre. ... Remarkably given that it dates from 1830, Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique also evokes the Jungian world of dreams as it charts the descent from the comparative sanity of the opening movement into the total madness of the closing ‘Witches’ Sabbath’. 
London Sylvan Ensemble/Tom Higgins with Sarah Markham @ St James’s Piccadilly – including world premieres from Lawrence Axelrod and Robert Matthew-Walker
Saturday, May 04, 2019 |  Of the professional smaller orchestras and ensembles based in the capital, the London Sylvan Ensemble is notable for its policy of giving a premiere of a new work, written with the players in mind, in each programme. ... The American Lawrence Axelrod’s new piece, Evolutions, made an equally strong impression. ... The prolific Robert Matthew-Walker’s Opus 176 followed, Sinfonietta Urbana. This ten-minute work reflects, as Higgins explained, images of urban life in London, but what those images are remain anybody’s guess. 
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Closing Concert – Daphne Delicata | Lucia Micallef, Brigitte Peyré & Estonian Sinfonietta/Brian Schembri – Ravel Sonatine, Hindemith, Poulenc Aubade, Fiorini, Mahler Kindertotenlieder
Saturday, May 04, 2019 |  Given in the presence of Malta's recently sworn-in new president, George Vella, this was a concert in three parts, the third generating the main interest. ... Commissioned by the Valletta Cultural Agency, Karl Fiorini's Four Miniatures are miniaturistic in the sense of Schoenberg's Das Buch der hängenden Gärten, his arrangement of which opened the current Festival (April 26). In other words, weighty subject matter focussed in a concentrated, emotionally charged framework. ... Peyré's matured Mahler, sad and painful, took on a different dimension, taking us to Rückert... ... Best earlier was the first of Hindemith's seven Kammermusik essays (in Fiorini's perception paying oblique hommage to Bauhaus). Charlene Farrugia, obbligato piano, was crisp and agile, nothing conceivably beyond her powers as a solo and ensemble player. ... So to Daphne Delicata – her third successive evening appearance at this year's Festival. Ravel's Sonatine is tricky and deceptive. From her poise (the more so given the pressure and dignitaries present) you wouldn't have guessed it. 
Mitsuko Uchida plays Schubert Piano Sonatas at Carnegie Hall – D537, D840, D960
Saturday, May 04, 2019 |  Mitsuko Uchida is on the last leg of her two-year journey exploring Schubert’s Piano Sonatas. This recital was to have been the culminating event at Carnegie Hall, but it became the penultimate, when due to exhaustion the pianist withdrew from all upcoming performances and the concert scheduled April 30 was postponed until June 18. ... But Uchida’s finest achievement of the evening came in the B-flat Sonata with playing that exhibited an almost otherworldly quality. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Bruckner 3 – Janine Jansen plays Brahms’s Violin Concerto
Friday, May 03, 2019 |  Before heading to Glyndebourne (Berlioz’s Faust first up, May 18), the London Philharmonic ended its 2018-19 season on a high, a Brucknerian summit. Yet this apotheosis was the only time that Vladimir Jurowski broadened the music, to advantage. Otherwise, it was if we were on an express train, albeit in a first-class compartment (precise playing), with the driver ignoring speed limits, not interested in views and panoramas, and delivering overloud/too bright brass-dominated fortissimos... ... How excellent the first half, though, even if Brahms’s Violin Concerto was delayed due to voices from somewhere, I think via the speakers, which were shut-off with a clunk a few bars in. If only Jurowski had been as discriminating with the without-gravitas Bruckner as he was with Brahms; how tailor-made for Janine Jansen his accompaniment and how interesting it was on its own terms. Jansen was also splendid... 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Sakari Oramo conducts Funeral Song & Rite of Spring – Igor Yuzefovich plays Shostakovich
Friday, May 03, 2019 |  Stravinsky‘s Funeral Song has had a number of outings in London and internationally since it was disinterred from the library of the St Petersburg Conservatory in 2015. ... Sakari Oramo and the BBC Symphony Orchestra emphasised this in an absorbing reading that made the most of the work’s dense and sometimes voluptuous textures. ... The idea of music as ritual also appears again in The Rite of Spring. Oramo refused to treat this totemic masterpiece of modernism as just another glossy showpiece... ... The concert also served as the first solo appearance for the BBCSO’s Joint Leader Igor Yuzefovich, with Shostakovich as his calling card. 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Winchester Cathedral – Christopher Petrie conducts Călin Humă premiere – Alexandru Tomescu plays Porumbescu & Saint-Saëns
Friday, May 03, 2019 |  A clear thread running through this programme, with two works by Romanian composers and the soloist also from that country, may have aroused the curiosity of some members of the audience, but on reflection it was perhaps the location of the concert rather than its make-up that may have appeared more unusual for Metropolitan music-lovers, a connection explained by the fact that Călin Humă (born in 1965), composer of the final item, has lived in Hampshire for many years. ... ...so far as this listener was concerned, Alexandru Tomescu could have played as many works as he wished, for it was clear, from the opening Baladă by the short-lived Ciprian Porumbesco (1853-1883), and even more so from the relatively more familiar Third Concerto by the long-lived Camille Saint-Saëns (1834-1921) that Tomescu is an artist and virtuoso of the front rank. 
The Anvil 25th-Birthday Gala – Martyn Brabbins conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra – Breathing Space, Here and There, Enigma Variations – Sheku Kanneh-Mason plays Elgar’s Cello Concerto
Friday, May 03, 2019 |  Samantha Fernando’s Breathing Space draws inspiration from the meditative process known as Mindfulness and “attempts to evoke the challenge and the reward of finding a little space, mentally and physically within the demands of the everyday.” ... ...a colourful score that under Martyn Brabbins’s scrupulous direction pulsed with a nervous undercurrent. ... Following Brabbins’s festive romp, Elgar’s character portraits were vibrantly and sensitively underlined in a spacious but flowing account... ... Earlier, the Philharmonia, Brabbins and Sheku Kanneh-Mason were meaningful collaborators in Elgar’s Cello Concerto... 
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Daphne Delicata | Estonian Sinfonietta Soloists
Friday, May 03, 2019 |  On paper this “Danse Macabre” concert by the Estonian Sinfonietta Soloists from Tallinn promised an interesting snapshot of northern landscapes. In the event it ended up broadly as a succession of water-coloured cameos, the only offering of substance being Rudolf Leopold's 1994 realisation of the septet draft of Richard Strauss's late Metamorphosen. ... For the second of her three 'warm-up' appearances at this year's Festival, Daphne Delicata took us down youthful roads. ... Mendelssohn's pre-Midsummer Night's Dream Introduction and Rondo capriccioso found her fearless... 
BBC Philharmonic at Bridgewater Hall – Martyn Brabbins conducts the Fourth Symphonies by James MacMillan & Michael Tippett – Sophie Bevan sings Britten’s Les illuminations
Thursday, May 02, 2019 |  Two blockbuster Fourth Symphonies, James MacMillan’s dedicated to Donald Runnicles, who conducted the premiere during Proms 2015, and Michael Tippett’s completed in 1977 for Solti and Chicago. ... In Symphony 4 MacMillan incorporates a ten-voice Mass by Robert Carver, the Scottish Renaissance composer much-admired by MacMillan. Symphony 4, a “ritual” says its creator, chimes its way into existence... ... It’s good to know that having recorded five-star versions (as far as I am concerned) of Tippett’s Four Symphonies (plus a debut for the composer-withdrawn B-flat, his earliest such work) that Brabbins also conducts them as repertoire. ... Between the Symphonies Sophie Bevan was the magnetic soprano in Britten’s Les illuminations, settings of Frenchman Rimbaud’s symbolist poetry made for Sophie Wyss in 1939. 
Vivaldi in Venice – Dorilla in Tempe @ Teatro Malibran – Manuela Custer, Lucia Cirillo, Véronique Valdès; directed by Fabio Ceresa; conducted by Diego Fasolis
Thursday, May 02, 2019 |  If Vivaldi's Dorilla in Tempe (premiered 1726) is known at all, it is probably for the fact that its opening chorus in praise of the season of Spring borrows the music from a certain Concerto by the composer, published just the previous year and already widely famous. That prompts Fabio Ceresa to follow the idea of the seasons through his production, an imaginative stroke that works rather well. 
Francesco Piemontesi at Queen Elizabeth Hall
Thursday, May 02, 2019 |  Francesco Piemontesi’s most recent solo visits to London have been as an exceptional Mozart player, so it came as a surprise to hear this fastidious artist in a programme dominated by muscular, virtuosic, turn-of-century repertoire – and if this recital was a statement of reinvention, it succeeded impressively. 
Man of La Mancha at London Coliseum – Kelsey Grammer, Daniele de Niese, Nicholas Lyndhurst; directed by Lonny Price
Thursday, May 02, 2019 |  This year’s Spring musical to take over the London Coliseum, following Sweeney Todd, Sunset Boulevard, Carousel and Chess – all co-produced between English National Opera, Michael Linnit and Michael Grade – revives the 1960s show based on Cervantes’s epic Don Quixote, Man of La Mancha, for the first time in the West End (running to June 8) since it opened at the Piccadilly Theatre, starring Keith Michell, in 1968. ... Kelsey Grammer – best known as the small screen’s favourite psychiatrist, Dr Frasier Crane – is not new to London. ... He’s joined by Danielle de Niese as Quixote’s ideal courtly woman Dulcinea, despite her constant protestations that she falls much below his exalted ideas of her as just plain Aldonza. And it’s de Niese that electrifies the production. ... There’s a drolly understated Janus-sided performance from Nicholas Lyndhurst as the tipsy Innkeeper... 
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Daphne Delicata/Beethoven | Trio Ameraldi/Shostakovich & Schubert
Thursday, May 02, 2019 |  ...the Swiss-based Trio Ameraldi offered a seriously-inclined programme in historical reverse, Shostakovich's youthful C-minor Trio preceding Schubert's E-flat. ... Prefacing the closing events of this year's Festival, as part of the artistic director's annual Rising Star series, the twelve-year-old Gozitan pianist Daphne Delicata is making her Teatru Manoel debut. For this first of three appearances, she offered Beethoven's 'Grande Sonate Pathétique'... 
New York Philharmonic – Semyon Bychkov conducts Ein Heldenleben – Katia & Marielle Labèque play Bruch
Thursday, May 02, 2019 |  Katia and Marielle Labèque joined the New York Philharmonic for Max Bruch’s Concerto for Two Pianos... ... ...Semyon Bychkov’s keenly attentive and caring conducting ensured a warm accompaniment. ... Following intermission the bulked-up Philharmonic gave an ardently-played account of Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben. 
Berliner Philharmoniker in Paris – European Concert with Daniel Harding & Bryn Terfel from the Musée d’Orsay – Berlioz, Debussy, Wagner [live webcast]
Wednesday, May 01, 2019 |  No sooner back in Berlin from Baden-Baden – Zubin Mehta conducting Verdi’s Otello common to both places – than the Berliner Philharmoniker was on its travels again, to Paris for this European Concert, a morning affair. The Musée d’Orsay (with a replica of The Statue of Liberty prominent, as well as numerous other exhibits) may have sounded a little ‘cold’ in itself and in resonance during the preamble but was sonorously warmed by Daniel Harding launching ‘Good Friday Music’ from Wagner’s Parsifal... ... With the Museum’s ornate clock heading towards Noon, it was interval time, following which further musical languor, Debussy’s Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune and the ‘Scène d’amour’ from Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette... ... Finally, a return to Wagner; cue Bryn Terfel for ‘Wotan's Farewell and Magic Fire Music’ from Die Walküre... 
LSO – Simon Rattle conducts Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments, Harrison Birtwistle’s The Shadow of Night & John Adams’s Harmonielehre
Wednesday, May 01, 2019 |  Next year will see the centenary of Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments, his homage to Debussy, although it is most often heard in its spikier and more acerbic 1947 revision. The 1920 version was only officially published in 2001 (the year of Harrison Birtwistle’s The Shadow of Night). Simon Rattle has always kept faith with the slightly larger structure of Stravinsky’s first version, and so it was that he opened this concert of twentieth- and twenty-first-century works... 

 

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