April 2019 Concert Reviews

May 2019 Concert Reviews
Joshua Bell, Steven Isserlis & Jeremy Denk at Alice Tully Hall
Tuesday, April 30, 2019 |  Longtime friends Joshua Bell, Steven Isserlis and Jeremy Denk united to perform Piano Trios. Their playing was distinguished by elegance, finely honed dynamics and phrasing, and infectious musical affinity. 
Orion Orchestra & London Philharmonic Choir at Cadogan Hall – Alpha & Omega Beethoven – Toby Purser conducts the Choral Symphony & Pavel Kolesnikov plays the B-flat Piano Concerto
Tuesday, April 30, 2019 |  This concert was the last of Toby Purser and his Orion Orchestra’s Alpha & Omega series: a simple but rewarding concept of pairing works from the start and end of a composer’s output. Beethoven’s B-flat Piano Concerto was written during 1787-89 and the ‘Choral’ Symphony dates from 1822-24, three years before his death. This occasion was also Purser’s last as Orion’s Artistic Director. 
Bundesjugendorchester at Berliner Philharmonie – Ingo Metzmacher conducts Amériques & Alpine Symphony [live webcast]
Monday, April 29, 2019 |  In its fiftieth-anniversary year, this was the second appearance during 2019 of the Bundesjugendorchester (German National Youth Orchestra) at the Berlin Philharmonie... ... Ingo Metzmacher conducted Amériques with masterly control... 
London Handel Festival – Athalia – Anna Devin, Grace Davidson, Rupert Enticknap, Anthony Gregory; conducted by Laurence Cummings
Monday, April 29, 2019 |  With his third English-language Biblical oratorio Athalia (1733) Handel was experimenting with the form of this still nascent genre that would achieve fuller dramatic expression in the epics of the 1740s, by which time the composer had completely retired from opera. ... In keeping with this intimate and interior drama, Laurence Cummings directed an account of this succinct work that was dainty and decorous rather than portentous... 
Berliner Philharmoniker – Zubin Mehta conducts Verdi’s Otello – Arsen Soghomonyan, Sonya Yoncheva, Luca Salsi, Francesco Demuro [live webcast]
Sunday, April 28, 2019 |  Having just given several staged presentations, directed by Robert Wilson, at the Easter Festival in Baden-Baden, the Philharmoniker musicians returned home to Berlin, cast and conductor intact, for a concert performance of Verdi’s Otello, one of the truly great operas. ... With a flash of trumpet lightning and a thunderous fortissimo, Zubin Mehta (partly conducting from memory, opening his score from Act Two, previous tenors as Otello for him have included Jon Vickers and Plácido Domingo, and Tito Gobbi as Iago) launched a spectacular storm and then Arsen Soghomonyan made an exalted entrance as The Moor of Venice... 
English Symphony Orchestra at Kings Place – Kenneth Woods conducts Martinů & Dvořák – Noriko Ogawa plays Mozart & Kaprálová
Sunday, April 28, 2019 |  ...but in so doing we find ourselves drawn to programmes selected and conducted by Kenneth Woods, which are invariably planned purely on artistic merit (and, we must assume, practicality of performance) and on nothing else – certainly not on gender assignment, for ninety-five-percent of the string players of the English Symphony Orchestra are women. The corporate quality of the music-making was apparent throughout. ... Conductor and orchestra were joined by Noriko Ogawa for Mozart’s Piano Concerto K413. Had Mozart not gone on to develop the genre with such astonishing genius, we may think rather more of this work than we do... ... Dvořák’s Serenade for Strings ended the concert, but this was not as we might have expected, for this was not the familiar revised version, but the recently published original... 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Vladimir Ashkenazy conducts Glinka & Shostakovich – Esther Yoo plays Glazunov’s Violin Concerto
Sunday, April 28, 2019 |  For the second night running a Russian conductor called Vladimir took to the Royal Festival Hall stage in charge of an orchestra with whom he has had a long-standing relationship. There’s over thirty years between the two Vladimirs: Jurowski – with the LPO the night before – yet to be fifty, and Ashkenazy, shortly to be eighty-two (July 6), returning as the Philharmonia Orchestra’s Conductor Laureate. ... Different in mood – at least until the final section – is Glazunov’s Violin Concerto from sixty years later. Esther Yoo has recorded it with Ashkenazy and the Philharmonia. 
Rob Brydon Probes Barry Humphries at the London Palladium
Sunday, April 28, 2019 |  Last year during his Weimar Republic Cabaret season at the Barbican, entertainer extraordinaire Barry Humphries seemed to have retired his usual personae (Dame Edna Everage, Sir Les Patterson, Sandy Stone and others) while he presented the music of Germany before World War Two. ... Meanwhile he was back at the Palladium for one night only to be “probed” by fellow funny-man Rob Brydon. 
Louis Lortie at Wigmore Hall – Liszt’s Années de pèlerinage
Sunday, April 28, 2019 |  This Louis Lortie recital was the first time I – and many in the audience – had heard all three books of Liszt’s Years of Pilgrimage in one sitting, each about fifty minutes long with a couple of intervals, although I am told that Jorge Bolet, of blessed memory, performed them in London probably in the 1970s. The twenty-three pieces define the breadth and depth of the Liszt vision, and Lortie has had them in his repertoire at least for the past decade, having played them, as here, in sequence in his native Canada, at Bayreuth, and at Snape Maltings in August 2011 (he recorded them, for Chandos, nearby at Potton Hall in 2010). 
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Somogyi String Quartet plays Schoenberg No.1 & Schubert’s Death and the Maiden
Sunday, April 28, 2019 |  This looked like being one of the highlights of this year's International Spring Orchestra Festival in Malta. Twenty-two years together, the Somogyi String Quartet from Budapest is a perfectly honed, harmoniously tuned ensemble. ... Running out at around fifty minutes, Schoenberg's First Quartet (1904-05) was a tour-de-force. Not only in terms of architecture – a massive, dramatic edifice inspired by the “mental essence” of Beethoven's ‘Eroica’. ... No less a privilege was Schubert's ‘Death and the Maiden’... 
Garrick Ohlsson at 92nd Street Y – Brahms Exploration II
Sunday, April 28, 2019 |  In this second of four Brahms recitals at 92nd Street Y, Garrick Ohlsson demonstrated complete technical mastery as well as deep musical understanding. Having the Opus 118 Pieces follow the Opus 2 Sonata provided an instructive contrast between the composer’s early foray into a genre previously dominated by Beethoven and the intimacies of his later years. ... The program concluded with the Handel Variations, which Ohlsson performed with power and agility, seamlessly shifting moods... 
Göteborgs Symfoniker – Herbert Blomstedt conducts Haydn 104 & Mahler 1 [live webcast]
Saturday, April 27, 2019 |  Close on ninety-two he may be but there is nothing stale or laurel-resting about Herbert Blomstedt’s conducting, every concert an adventure to be seized and relished. ... This Gothenburg pairing of D-major Symphonies opened with Haydn’s farewell to the form, the only one of his Twelve London Symphonies (93-104) to be distinguished by the titular use of the capital city. ... For Mahler’s First (if several revisions later) Blomstedt grew taller (the podium was returned) and previously outlined particulars were as before. This outing refreshed the parts for music that is profligately programmed these days... 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Elgar’s Falstaff & Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel – Yefim Bronfman plays Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto
Saturday, April 27, 2019 |  The three works in this LPO concert are examples of composers developing new forms: Brahms in his mighty four-movement B-flat Piano Concerto, Richard Strauss in Till Eulenspiegel, his most original orchestral work (until that point), and Elgar in 1913, moving away from the opulent world of his Symphonies (1908 & 1911) and the choral setting The Music Makers (1912), composed a portrait of a fictional character in subtle orchestral brushstrokes which, to this day, seems original and groundbreaking. ... However, it was the magnificent edifice that is Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto that began the concert with Yefim Bronfam. 
London Handel Festival – Venceslao – Nick Pritchard, Michał Czerniawski, Galina Averina & Helen Charlston; Opera Settecento conducted by Leo Duarte
Friday, April 26, 2019 |  This was the third of Handel’s pasticcios Leo Duarte has presented with Opera Settecento at the London Handel Festival (following Elpidia and Ormisda; though OS has also given Catone in Utica with a different conductor). Duarte has prepared new editions from original sources to bring to light this intriguing aspect of Handel’s operatic output, in which a musical patchwork was created by threading a variety of arias from other composers’ operas. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Sakari Oramo conducts Dvořák 7 – Nicola Benedetti plays Elgar
Friday, April 26, 2019 |  Some Classical Source writers have often bemoaned the present-day lack of Overtures (or equivalent) with which to open a concert. Yet in some instances, a programme featuring two major works is justified in itself, of which there could have been no finer demonstration than this BBC Symphony Orchestra event. ... Although its popularity fluctuated over the course of the last century, Elgar's Violin Concerto (1910) is now firmly established at the forefront of the genre... ... Sakari Oramo set a purposeful if never inflexible tempo for the opening Allegro, easing into its soulful second theme with unforced eloquence such as Nicola Benedetti duly enhanced on its arrival in the exposition. ... Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony (1885) made for a substantial second half. Even more so than usual, as Oramo opted to perform the Andante in its original version heard at the premiere but only published six years ago.  
International Spring Orchestra Festival, Malta – Opening Concert – Harmonia Consort perform Mussorgsky/Orga, Schoenberg/Fiorini & Schubert/Mahler
Friday, April 26, 2019 |  Under the artistic direction of the Paris-based composer Karl Fiorini, Valletta's annual International Spring Orchestra Festival is now in its thirteenth edition. This year's theme, “Of Death and Maidens”, explores a repertory from the classicists to today, taking the audience on a journey of cultural, psychological and personal discovery. 
BBC Philharmonic at Bridgewater Hall – Andrew Davis conducts Symphonies by Sibelius (No.6) & Stravinsky (in C) – Steven Osborne plays Michael Tippett’s Piano Concerto
Thursday, April 25, 2019 |  The BBC Philharmonic and Andrew Davis had obviously worked hard on these demanding scores and the results were impressive across the board. ... Sibelius 6 (1923), his “cold water” Symphony, is pure music about itself, yet also transporting to a time and (perhaps mystical) place. ... Steven Osborne is a Tippett man through and through (so too Andrew Davis): he has recorded all of the composer’s piano music for Hyperion. Tippett’s Piano Concerto (1955), written for Noel Mewton-Wood (although Louis Kentner gave the premiere, Mewton-Wood having committed suicide), grows out of Tippett hearing Walter Gieseking play Beethoven’s G-major Concerto. ... Date-wise, Stravinsky’s Symphony in C comes between the Sibelius and the Tippett; finished in 1940 this was a bad time for the composer, dominated by his own illnesses and familial deaths. 
LSO – François-Xavier Roth conducts Spanish Ravel – Rhapsody, Boléro, Hour
Thursday, April 25, 2019 |  I’ve been lucky enough to be on the receiving end of some outstanding music-making from the LSO, but this Ravel evening was in a league of its own... ... François-Xavier Roth met Ravel halfway with a finesse of listening and technical connectivity... 
New York Philharmonic – Semyon Bychkov conducts Thomas Larcher & Johannes Brahms
Wednesday, April 24, 2019 |  Austrian Thomas Larcher (born 1963) deftly combines traditional elements with modern techniques. His Symphony No.2 (2016) commemorates the thousands of immigrants who have lost their lives in the Mediterranean as a result of the refugee crisis. In this often harshly demonstrative work Larcher responds to this tragedy with unmitigated vehemence... ... Semyon Bychkov, who conducted the World and UK premieres, drew a hard-edged and intensity vital performance. 
Robert Schumann’s Myrthen at Wigmore Hall – Connolly, Huntley, Tritschler, Martineau
Wednesday, April 24, 2019 |  The twenty-six Lieder which make up Myrthen were presented by Robert Schumann to Clara Wieck as a wedding present. 
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Jean-Guihen Queyras & Rosas at Sadler's Wells – Mitten wir im Leben sind / Bach6Cellosuiten
Wednesday, April 24, 2019 |  A bare stage, a cellist, the six Bach Cello Suites; enough, one would think in itself. Not so for Anna Teresa De Keersmaeker, choreographer and performer, who has created movement for herself and four other dancers around Jean-Guihen Queyras and his instrument. Queyras is a truly exceptional performer, whose interpretation of Bach’s wondrous compositions flows with startling creativity and vibrant musicianship. His cello becomes the epicentre of a universe of sound and emotion, his virtuosity bringing a multiplicity of colours and nuances – there is no greater moment in this performance than in the fifth Suite when all lights dim to leave Queyras playing in a spotlight, the spare notes sounding out in a universe of silence and darkness; a moment of genuinely cosmic scale. For Queyras, it is a feat of endurance, all six Suites performed from memory with only brief pauses between, two hours of exceptional, distilled musicianship. 
The Royal Opera – Britten’s Billy Budd – Jacques Imbrailo, Toby Spence, Brindley Sherratt; directed by Deborah Warner; conducted by Ivor Bolton
Tuesday, April 23, 2019 |  Deborah Warner’s production of Britten’s Billy Budd has already been seen in Madrid (2017) and in Rome (2018) – the first time ever for the tragic tale of poor Billy in both cities – and arrives back at the Royal Opera House (where it had its premiere in 1951, in its four-Act version) after an absence of two decades. It was the work in which Britten really got into his operatic stride... ... Jacques Imbrailo has made the role of Billy his own during the past decade and he radiates youthful hope and innocence in lithe, observant acting and singing that flows easily from heroic optimism to anguish... 
Chineke! Orchestra at Queen Elizabeth Hall – From Errollyn Wallen to Beethoven 8 via In memoriam Stephen Lawrence, Starburst, and Sussex Landscape
Monday, April 22, 2019 |  The unprovoked murder by a gang of white youths of the black teenaged student Stephen Lawrence, waiting one evening at a bus stop in South-East London in April 1993, soon became a national cause célèbre, not only for the overly racist nature of the crime but also for the shortcomings of the initial Metropolitan Police investigation, which failed to lead to the successful prosecution of most members of the gang, three of whom have escaped justice completely. ... Errollyn Wallen’s Concerto grosso (2007) falls into four succinct movements. Its character is basically upbeat and positive... ...  
Academy of Ancient Music at Barbican Centre – Richard Egarr conducts Handel’s Brockes-Passion
Friday, April 19, 2019 |  I was not the only one to have moved from Maundy Thursday’s G&S fest with the OAE and John Wilson at QEH to the Barbican Hall on Good Friday, as I found myself in the company again of Robert Murray, the previous night’s reflective Colonel Fairfax (The Yeomen of the Guard) and impish Defendant (Trial by Jury), and here Handel’s Evangelist in a very special work. ... Handel’s Brockes-Passion was composed just over 300 years ago to a German text... ... It has remained extraordinarily little known since, especially in Britain, and it has been Richard Egarr’s and AAM’s long-held ambition to reinstate it in the repertoire. This Good Friday performance was recorded for release on the AAM’s own label in October... 
Deutsche Oper Berlin – Wagner’s Rienzi – Torsten Kerl, Martina Welschenbach, Annika Schlicht; directed by Philipp Stölzl; conducted by Evan Rogister
Thursday, April 18, 2019 |  Although Rienzi does not belong to the canon of Wagner's Bayreuth-worthy operas and does not receive many performances anyway, its Overture is encountered frequently enough in the concert hall. Another fact well-known to music lovers about Wagner's early attempt at grand opera – a format he soon superseded in favour of his more innovative theories around the organic unity of the arts in Gesamtkunstwerk (Total Art Form) starting with The Flying Dutchman – is that Adolf Hitler strongly identified with its heroic narrative of a would-be leader of the people in a time of social and political chorus... ... Philipp Stölzl's production will automatically lose the sympathy of those who would only countenance a 'normal' or 'straight' realisation. Locating this staging in the Nazi era will doubtless lose the interest of a few more... ... Musically the performance thrives under Evan Rogister's conducting... ... Thorsten Kerl leads the way amongst the singers with a portrayal that tends to carry such lyricism along... 
OAE@QEH – John Wilson conducts Gilbert & Sullivan, including Trial by Jury
Thursday, April 18, 2019 |  Squeezed in between Peter Sellars’s staged St John Passion that has recently toured Europe and Good Friday’s performance with Polyphony, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment let its hair down in this enjoyable evening devoted to Gilbert & Sullivan, conducted with dapper distinction by John Wilson, making his debut with the OAE. ... Following the interval, Trial by Jury weaved its merry topsy-turvy musical way, in a witty semi-staged performance, not credited. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Andrew Davis conducts The Rose Lake & Pelléas et Mélisande – Lisa Batiashvili plays Szymanowski
Wednesday, April 17, 2019 |  While BBC Proms 2019 was being launched at the Battersea Arts Centre, the BBC Symphony Orchestra – the “backbone” of any Proms season since its debut under Henry Wood at the Queen's Hall in August 1930 – was involved in this testing Barbican Hall outing with conductor laureate Sir Andrew Davis, another Proms stalwart. ... Inspired by Tadeusz Miciński's symbolist nature poem May Night, Szymanowski's pre-Revolution First Violin Concerto written in Ukraine (1916) witnessed the inspiring Lisa Batiashvili at her calm, gracious best... 
Merce Cunningham Trust, Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event
Tuesday, April 16, 2019 |  This was an intense, challenging and exhilarating evening. To mark the one-hundredth anniversary of the birth of the great dance philosopher-iconoclast-choreographer (he died in 2009), the Merce Cunningham Trust hit upon the brilliant idea of constructing a ‘happening’ (to use Cunningham’s own terminology) comprising one hundred solos from his vast repertoire which would take place on three stages well-known to the late dance-maker: the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA in Los Angeles, the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York, and London’s Barbican Theatre 
Javier Perianes at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Chopin Nocturnes & Sonata, Debussy Estampes, Falla Three-Cornered Hat
Tuesday, April 16, 2019 |  Every time I hear Javier Perianes, I think it can’t be long before he confirms expectations set up by his open, good-natured stage persona, but in the Chopin first half of his QEH recital (his debut, at last, in the International Piano Series) he focused on extending horizons within a mysteriously refined palette. ... Layers of ambiguity fell away in Perianes’s superb performance of Debussy’s Estampes, those souvenir engravings from China, Granada and Paris that from Perianes became impressions of impressions... ... On native soil, Perianes indulged the light-dark contrasts and Moorish flavouring of Manuel de Falla, deferring to the fireworks of Dances from The Three-Cornered Hat. 
Solomon’s Knot at Wigmore Hall – Johann Sebastian Bach’s St John Passion
Tuesday, April 16, 2019 |  Singing works from memory is nothing new, nor performing without a conductor, but Solomon’s Knot, a “baroque collective”, do both with thrilling results. Making its Wigmore Hall debut, this group (even without a ‘starter motor’) performed as a precision-engineered machine – a model of superb blend and ensemble, and, crucially, also with direct communication. ... This performance of J. S. Bach’s St John Passion was unusual for its use of the 1725 revision. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra in New York – Edward Gardner conducts Egmont & Mahler 1 – James Ehnes plays Sibelius’s Violin Concerto
Monday, April 15, 2019 |  This London Philharmonic concert – the second in its doubleheader at Lincoln Center this week – got off to a fine start with Edward Gardner leading a dramatic and disciplined account of Beethoven’s highly-charged Egmont Overture. ... In Sibelius’s Violin Concerto, the soloist was James Ehnes... 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Herbert Blomstedt conducts Mozart 40 & Beethoven’s Eroica | Philharmonia Winds – Robin O’Neill conducts his arrangements of Bach, Debussy & Bartók
Sunday, April 14, 2019 |  In a pre-concert performance, there were three highly imaginative wind-band arrangements based on music by Bach, Debussy and Bartók created and conducted by Robin O’Neill (the Philharmonia’s principal bassoon). ... Several of these Philharmonia players were then involved in Herbert Blomstedt’s reading of Mozart’s Fortieth Symphony. ... Increased to fuller strength for the ‘Eroica’ (only six double basses though) the Philharmonia’s powerful string section helped bring the sound forward to the early-nineteenth-century. 
Gavan Ring & Simon Lepper at Wigmore Hall – Schumann, Bodley, Larchet
Sunday, April 14, 2019 |  Gavan Ring (making his debut at Wigmore Hall) and Simon Lepper opened their recital with Robert Schumann’s Opus 39 Liederkreis, moody settings of Eichendorff’s poetry describing psychological and exterior landscapes... 
LSO – Mark Elder conducts Charles Ives’s Second Symphony – Kirill Gerstein plays Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto
Sunday, April 14, 2019 |  With Sir Mark Elder you always get a gentlemanly concert, physically less static than Boult but of a similar ilk. This was a beautifully prepared programme, emphasising elegance of ensemble, phrasing and links, not a join or dovetail missed. Nothing demonstrative or dynamically excessive, everything pointedly in place, stylistically responsive without affectation, a fireside single malt never far away. ... Not everything, though, won over the audience. Much of Kirill Gerstein's Beethoven – three cool curtain calls, no encore – was a conception rooted firmly in a pre-French Revolution world... ... Charles Ives's Second Symphony of 1899-1902 (revised circa 1950) made up partly for the absence of an overture or some such to open an otherwise terse concert. Happy that he still had an audience, he assured us that it would be “an entirely pleasurable experience”... 
Göteborgs Symfoniker – Santtu-Matias Rouvali conducts Orff's Carmina Burana [live webcast]
Saturday, April 13, 2019 |  Carl Orff's scenic cantata Carmina Burana, premiered in Frankfurt in June 1937, is one of those hardy perennials that from performance to performance – amateur to pro-am to pro... ... Santtu-Matias Rouvali's vernal way with big late-romantic northern and German canvasses ensured a fabulous experience. He's a veritable painter, delighting in the intricacies, twists and balances of the page. He created vast sweeps of pictorial sound... 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Ludovic Morlot conducts Sebastian Currier’s Divisions & Prokofiev 5 – Hélène Grimaud plays Beethoven [live & recorded webcast]
Saturday, April 13, 2019 |  A Symphony written during World War Two and music composed to commemorate the First such conflict bookended one of the greatest solaces in musical literature, Beethoven’s poetic, lyrical and (finally) sparkling Fourth Piano Concerto... ... In this painterly scene, Ludovic Morlot’s forceful challenge, DSO strings brusque, found Hélène Grimaud with a rather matter-of-fact and even messy response... ... Meanwhile, back at the concert’s commencement, the Seattle Symphony co-commissioned (Morlot, music director) Sebastian Currier’s Divisions (2014, the centenary of the start of WWI... ... Now, fast-forward to the concert’s conclusion, Prokofiev 5... 
Komische Oper Berlin – Handel’s Poro – Dominik Köninger, Ruzan Mantashyan, Philipp Meierhöfer; directed by Harry Kupfer; conducted by Jörg Halubek
Saturday, April 13, 2019 |  It is an intriguing paradox that Handel – surely the most imaginative composer of opera seria – only set a few texts by Pietro Metastasio, the most prominent librettist of the age, and was not much fired to produce his greatest operas as a result. Poro (1731) has not captured the imagination of directors and audiences in the modern period either, which is perhaps surprising seeing that it is a well-drawn drama that concerns the political and amorous intrigues among the ancient Indian king, Porus, and his cohort, in the face of a campaign by Alexander the Great into that region. ... Poro certainly receives its due now, at one of the major European theatres, in a production by no less than Harry Kupfer, perhaps best-known for his Flying Dutchman and Ring for Bayreuth. 
National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain at Royal Festival Hall – Carlos Miguel Prieto conducts Sensemayá, Sinfonia India & Copland 3 – Xiayin Wang plays George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto
Friday, April 12, 2019 |  Take 170 young musicians, aged between fourteen and eighteen from across the nation, add a young pianist and a returning Mexican conductor and what do you get? Well this vibrant assault on one’s musical senses – the first concert of the Spring tour which follows this Royal Festival Hall performance... 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Herbert Blomstedt conducts Beethoven & Berlioz – Pastoral Symphony & Symphonie fantastique
Thursday, April 11, 2019 |  This considered coupling of two five-movement opuses also juxtaposed that in some respects ‘By the Brook’ from Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ Symphony influenced aspects of Berlioz’s ‘Scène aux champs’ (if with pastures new musically), the Frenchman’s fantastique composed in 1830 in the wake of François Habeneck – through either the Concert Spirituel or the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire – having introduced numerous Beethoven pieces to Paris, both Symphonies here further linked by the lively Herbert Blomstedt... 
The Royal Opera – David McVicar’s production of Gounod’s Faust – Michael Fabiano, Erwin Schrott, Mandy Fredrich, Stéphane Degout; conducted by Dan Ettinger
Thursday, April 11, 2019 |  David McVicar’s production of Gounod’s Faust, here seeing its fifth revival since its 2004 opening, remains one hell of a show... ... There was an extra sense of the improvisatory on this first night, for not only was Erwin Schrott craving indulgence for possible vocal roughness but Irina Lungu, recently announced as a replacement for Diana Damrau, had fallen ill on the morning. ... So Mandy Fredrich had been flown in... ... In contrast, and provocatively, Michael Fabiano contrives to bring Faust’s casual, selfish and less-appealing facets to the fore... 
Britten Sinfonia at Barbican Hall – Natalie Murray Beale conducts Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony & Joby Talbot’s A Sheen of Dew on Flowers, with Kelley O'Connor & Tobias Greenhalgh
Thursday, April 11, 2019 |  Like the sapphire and diamond coronet Prince Albert designed and had made for Queen Victoria, this Britten Sinfonia concert’s Joby Talbot commission was a multifaceted undertaking. ... He’s given the new work the uncatchy title of A Sheen of Dew on Flowers... ... Talbot’s output straddles almost any genre you care to mention – pop, film and TV scores (The League of Gentlemen and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), a choral meditation on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compestela, ballet-scores including those for the Royal Ballet’s full-length Alice and Winter’s Tale... ... Kelley O’Connor and Tobias Greenhalgh made the music very much their own and added a seductive brand of operatic ecstasy and Broadway glamour and directness. ... The concert opened with Mendelssohn’s ‘Scottish’ Symphony – the composer dedicated it to Queen Victoria... 
New York Philharmonic – Simone Young conducts Mahler 6
Thursday, April 11, 2019 |  As we become more and more pessimistic and cynical over the brutality and tyranny that surround us, so Mahler’s Sixth Symphony has a certain remedial quality. ... Jaap van Zweden had suffered a severe second-degree burn on his shoulder and told by his doctor not to conduct. Fortunately, Simone Young who has recorded Mahler 6 with the Hamburg Philharmonic was available to step in. 
Boston Symphony Orchestra – Roman Carnival & Cantata Criolla – Sergio Tiempo plays Ravel’s G-major Piano Concerto
Thursday, April 11, 2019 |  Due to injuries sustained from a fall he took last December, Gustavo Dudamel withdrew from this week's performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. BSO associate conductor Ken-David Masur and Tanglewood Festival Chorus director James Burton carried on in his stead. ... Sergio Tiempo’s poignant and dynamic interpretation of Ravel was the highlight. ... Following intermission Burton led Antonio Estévez’s Cantata Criolla... 
London Handel Festival at St Lawrence – Chandos Anthems conducted by Adrian Butterfield
Wednesday, April 10, 2019 |  The church of St Lawrence, Little Stanmore, with its Baroque interior, is all that survives of the estate built by James Brydges, the Duke of Chandos, for whom Handel worked from 1717 to 1718. It was apt, then, that the London Handel Festival should venture there for this concert featuring two of the eleven eponymous Anthems which the composer wrote for that very venue. 
BBC Symphony Orchestra – Shostakovich 1957 – Semyon Bychkov conducts Symphony 11 (The Year 1905) and Alexei Volodin plays Piano Concerto 2 & Glinka Variations
Wednesday, April 10, 2019 |  This Shostakovich concert veered between the very slight and the immensely portentous. These three works were all written in 1957. Stalin had died in 1953; there was the possibility of a less-malign Soviet authoritarianism hanging in the air; and this was blown away by the brutal suppression of Hungary in 1956. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Edward Gardner conducts Ibéria, Mother Goose & La mer – Stephen Hough plays Saint-Saëns’s Egyptian Piano Concerto
Wednesday, April 10, 2019 |  Few pianists make a better case for the five Piano Concertos of Camille Saint-Saëns than Stephen Hough, here playing the ‘Egyptian’. ... and was attentively supported by Edward Gardner and the LPO. ... However, La mer was a reading remarkable for sustaining a tense balance between delicacy and impulse... 
London Handel Festival – Handel versus Porpora – Giuseppina Bridelli with Le Concert de L’Hostel Dieu & Franck-Emmanuel Comte
Monday, April 08, 2019 |  For a period of four years in the 1730s, Handel – the one-man phenomenon who dominated the musical scene in London for half a century – faced stiff competition from a rival opera company, the Opera of the Nobility. One of his star singers, Senesino, defected to it, and the services of another prominent castrato, Farinelli, and of the increasingly famous composer, Nicola Porpora, were enlisted. Gruelling as that may have been, it spurred Handel on to compose some of his finest and most-enduring operas, such as Orlando, Ariodante, and Alcina. 
New World Symphony – Bernard Labadie conducts Handel, Haydn & Mozart
Sunday, April 07, 2019 |  The New World Symphony, a post-conservatory program for aspiring orchestra musicians co-founded three decades ago by Michael Tilson Thomas, was conducted by Bernard Labadie, with Nicole Trotier (from Les Violons du Roy) as guest-concertmaster. The musicians responded to Labadie’s tutelage with outstanding performances... 
JACK Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Elliott Carter’s Five String Quartets
Saturday, April 06, 2019 |  Over six years since his death and Elliott Carter shows few signs of falling into the oblivion (temporary or otherwise) as so often affects the music of those esteemed during their lifetime. The String Quartets, in particular, have secured canonical status such that several ensembles have performed and/or recorded all five. The JACK Quartet thus joins a distinguished roster of the Juilliard, Composers, Arditti and Pacifica ensembles by presenting an integral cycle, in the course of which the salient facets in Carter’s musical language can readily be discerned. 
Budapest Festival Orchestra at Carnegie Hall – Iván Fischer conducts Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle with Ildikó Komlósi & Krisztián Cser | Márta Sebestyén performs Romanian & Hungarian folksongs
Saturday, April 06, 2019 |  Bartók (with his friend Kodály) was an avid collector of Hungarian and Romanian folksongs, several of which he inimitably arranged for orchestra. The first part of this brilliantly conceived program juxtaposed Bartók’s compositions with the corresponding folk music, opening with a trio from the Budapest Festival Orchestra... ... Then Márta Sebestyén, a celebrated Hungarian vocalist, was the perfect choice for her country’s tradition. ... The second half was devoted to Duke Bluebeard’s Castle... ... Ildikó Komlósi and Krisztián Cser were well-suited to the word and idiom of Bluebeard’s Castle. 
Wigmore Hall – Vivaldi’s La Senna festeggiante – Arcangelo & Jonathan Cohen with Emőke Baráth, Anna Reinhold & Callum Thorpe
Friday, April 05, 2019 |  La Senna festeggiante (The Seine rejoicing) is one of three surviving serenatas by Vivaldi, a type of work lying between a cantata and opera in scale. Composed around 1726, this allegorical drama effectively constitutes a piece of eighteenth-century agitprop, glorifying Louis XV of France, as it was probably composed for the name-day of that monarch, celebrated at the French Embassy in Venice. The figures of the Age of Gold and Virtue are led by the River Seine to pay homage to the King... ... Arcangelo, with director Jonathan Cohen, gave a sincere performance of this all-too-rarely heard work, fortunately spared the embarrassment of having to take anything other than the musical dimension seriously. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Osmo Vänskä conducts Tintagel, Belshazzar’s Feast & Sibelius 5 – Jan Lisiecki plays Grieg
Friday, April 05, 2019 |  This concert in the London Philharmonic’s Isle of Noises series stopped off in Cornwall for Arnold Bax’s Tintagel... ... Osmo Vänskä and the LPO have recorded this tone-poem, from a 2007 concert, and their familiarity with Bax’s 1921, arch-romantic score added clarity and grandeur to this shamelessly epic vision... ... Jan Lisiecki – twenty-four, Polish-Canadian – featured in Grieg’s Piano Concerto in a performance distinguished by a strong but low-key rapport between him and Vänskä... 
The Metropolitan Opera – Verdi’s La traviata – Anita Hartig, Stephen Costello, Artur Ruciński; directed by Michael Mayer; conducted by Nicola Luisotti
Friday, April 05, 2019 |  Four months after its unveiling, Michael Mayer’s staging of La traviata returns to the Met with a different conductor and cast, most of whom bring exceptional power and passion to Verdi’s masterpiece. ... The singing is fine, but the most notable performance – vocally and dramatically – is from Anita Hartig in the challenging role of Violetta Valéry. 
English National Ballet at Sadler's Wells – She Persisted – Broken Wings | Nora | Le Sacre du printemps
Friday, April 05, 2019 |  An evening of works by three women choreographers should not make as much news as it does; paradoxically, it would have been perfectly possible in the 1960s when works by Bronislava Nijinska, Ninette de Valois and Andrée Howard were in the repertoire, but since then, matters have declined. It was in order to effect something of a correction that Tamara Rojo, English National Ballet’s indomitable director, scheduled She Said, an all-female evening in terms of dance-creation in 2016. This second programme follows up on its success, reviving Broken Wings, the most successful creation from the first, Pina Bausch’s mighty version of Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) and a new work Nora, by company dancer Stina Quagebeur. It is quite a success. 
Philharmonia Orchestra – Stanislav Kochanovsky conducts Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony – Denis Matsuev plays Prokofiev
Thursday, April 04, 2019 |  It looks as though the thirty-eight-year-old Russian Stanislav Kochanovsky (replacing Yuri Temirkanov) was making his Philharmonia, UK (and Classical Source) debuts in this Russian programme, and the result was electrifying. ... Prokofiev wrote his Piano Concertos with a keen awareness of his own prowess as a pianist, but the Second, in its revised version, is in a virtuoso league of its own, even for him. ... Step forward Denis Matsuev, who is no stranger to the weight-lifting end of the repertoire... ... There followed an exceptional outing for Shostakovich’s ‘Leningrad’ Symphony, one that took no prisoners, with Kochanovsky in total command of a work that is a memorial both to a city and to a culture. 
Mark Bebbington at St John’s Smith Square: Island Stories
Thursday, April 04, 2019 |  This, the second of Mark Bebbington’s three season-long Pianograms recitals was, like the first, subtly chosen – music “inspired by remote seascapes”. ... Nocturnes by Fauré and Chopin gently framed the programme... ... César Franck’s masterly Prélude, Choral et Fugue, notwithstanding its dimensions and frequent brilliance, can only be made fully coherent through a pianist who chooses the correct tempo for the final section... ... John Ireland’s tripartite Sarnia sequence is, thanks to the championship of such as Bebbington, by no means the rare visitor to recitals it once was... 
Hubert Parry’s Judith at Royal Festival Hall – William Vann conducts the first London performance since 1889
Wednesday, April 03, 2019 |  A week after Vasily Petrenko’s thrilling performance of Walton’s First Symphony with the London Philharmonic Orchestra the audience in the Royal Festival Hall was treated to another important work by a British composer of an earlier generation, Sir Hubert Parry. His oratorio Judith, conducted by the dynamic and young William Vann, was something of a revelation. 
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra at Lighthouse – Kirill Karabits conducts Elgar – Lucas Debargue plays Saint-Saëns’s Egyptian Piano Concerto
Wednesday, April 03, 2019 |  The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Kirill Karabits got off to a zesty start, bringing out the youthful spontaneity and vibrant detail of Froissart – Elgar’s first major orchestral work... ... Saint-Saëns’s ‘Egyptian’ Piano Concerto (1896) is more of a musical travelogue, its Javanese, Middle Eastern and Spanish flavours woven into its stylistically far-reaching fabric... ... For his final essay in the genre Karabits and Lucas Debargue forged a convincing partnership marrying Saint-Saëns’s characteristic romantic impulse and classical restraint. 
OAE – Simon Rattle conducts Johann Sebastian Bach’s St John Passion; directed by Peter Sellars
Tuesday, April 02, 2019 |  This new-to-London St John Passion from Peter Sellars was far removed from any conventional concert-hall presentation as you can have without morphing into opera. But as a semi-staged performance (chorus and soloists singing from memory) recreating Christ’s final days was vividly characterised and as harrowing as any slab of verismo Puccini. ... Simon Rattle is fiercely dedicated to these immersive performances, but his micro-management is a shade overdone. Why conduct a chorus when it is facing away from you? 
Royal Academy of Music Song Circle at Wigmore Hall – Songs of Carl Loewe
Tuesday, April 02, 2019 |  Marking the 150th-anniversary of the death of Carl Loewe (1790-1869), the Royal Academy of Music Song Circle's “Loewe Liederabend”, hidden away among the billings, was a twenty-four-carat winner. ... Arguably the first such Loewe initiative in England, demonstrably the first in the 118-year history of the Wigmore Hall, the programme offered a discerning choice of nineteen songs and ballades, along with the 1836 Frauenliebe cycle setting lyric poems by Adelbert von Chamisso, written four years before Schumann’s Frauenliebe und -leben. 
Giorgio Moroder at Eventim Hammersmith
Tuesday, April 02, 2019 |  Giorgio Moroder, the creator of the “Sound of the Future”, the “Father of Disco”, three-time Oscar-winner, tricked-out in bomber jacket, red shoes, tache, and Aviator Sunglasses (a nod to Top Gun), treated us to an amuse-bouche of his lavish back-catalogue. ... ...three women dressed in flowing 1970s’ Zandra Rhodes/Ossie Clark maxi-frocks, sprung into the sunny classic Looky Looky; the song that paid Moroder’s rent for years and paid to set up his Musicland Munich studio which produced Led Zeppelin, Queen, The Rolling Stones, Elton John and Donna Summer, who approached him to create a sexy song Love to Love You Baby. 
Khatia Buniatishvili at Barbican Hall – Schubert & Liszt
Monday, April 01, 2019 |  In her London recital last year, Khatia Buniatishvili took quite a few risks with audience expectations and attention spans, a process she indulged even more in this Barbican Hall concert of Schubert and Liszt. 

 

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