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John Gough's enthusiastic review of CBSO and Jess Gillam

JESS GILLAM'S SENSATIONAL AMERICAN ROADTRIP CBSO Symphony Hall ***** I think it is safe to say that this concert, billed as 'Jess Gillam's American Roadtrip' was a sensation. We heard a variety of less often performed repertoire as the concert charted a zigzag Pan-American course through music from the first half of the twentieth century. The product of a fortnight's holiday in Havana, Gershwin's 'Cuban overture' burst upon us, all opulence and glitter in this unbridled yet detailed performance under Espinós' expert hands. Idiomatic Latin trumpets and swooping strings were followed by more than a hint of Ravellian voluptuousness in the middle section, before the irresistible exuberance of the opening returned. The output of Villa-Lobos is so vast, and opportunities to hear his work so rare, that this was my first encounter with his Fantasia for saxophone. Jess Gillam, on soprano sax, here making her debut with the CBSO, was a revelati

Latest CD reviews

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE REVIEWS BARITENOR AND A CHOPIN RELEASE FROM BEATRICE RANA BARITENOR: Spyres / Strasbourg Philharmonic / Rhine Opera Chorus / Letonja ★★★★ The "Baritenor" voice type is a gimmick invented by Erato's marketing department. Michael Spyres shows off his bright well-focused tenor, and versatility, in 18 arias in French, German and Italian from three centuries of repertoire in a very generous 84 minute recital. No doubts about the American's top notes – the nine consecutive high Cs in the showpiece Ah, mes ami from Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment answers that. He's a master in the French repertoire; Offenbach's Kleinzach aria is elegant and effortless. The baritone arias are cunningly chosen, playing to Spyres' strengths – his French diction and suavity as Thomas's Hamlet – or where a baritone would use his high register or head voice, in Verdi's ll Balen and Don Giovanni's window serenade. In the heroic repertoire (in e

Worcester Elgar Festival

ELGAR RETURNS TO LIFE IN WORCESTER WORCESTER'S ELGAR FESTIVAL by Christopher Morley After well over a year of Covid lockdown postponements Worcester's Elgar for Everyone Festival is back up and running, packed with an exciting weekend of events. Kenneth Woods, principal conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra and Festival Director, tells me about this rebirth of interaction between performers and audience. "Chris, there's excitement, elation, expectation and trepidation," he begins. "There's nothing to compare to live music - even the best possible filmed performance is ultimately only flashing lights on a screen and speakers moving back and forth. Concerts are where connections happen. And festivals, even more so. For all that we've missed the thrill of music being made in the moment and shared by all, we've also missed the commu

Ex Cathedtra recreates Beethoven's funeral

BEETOVEN'S FUNERA;L BROUGHT TO LIFE EX CATHEDRA Symphony Hall, Birmingham ***** The irony is overwhelming. When Mozart died in Vienna in 1791 he was given a pauper's burial. When Beethoven died in the same city 36 years later, more than 25,000 people turned out in the same city for his obsequies, the Requiem Mozart had struggled on his deathbed to complete being the centrepiece of proceedings. Ex Cathedra's triumphant post-lockdown return to a packed and appreciative Symphony Hall audience on Sunday was a fascinating reconstruction of the music performed at Beethoven's funeral. Movement of the musicians onto the stage was imaginatively choreographed, a passing-bell tolling while a crucifix-bearer led in the next group to be introduced (difficult not to think of Ingmar Bergman's film The Seventh Seal). Recently-passed opera director Sir Graham Vick, to whose memory this concert was dedicated, would have appreciated this novel, inclusive approach, w

Sinfonia of Birmingham at Pershore Abbey

SINFONIA OF BIRMINGHAM AND PERSHORE ABBEY -- A DREAM TEAM SINFONIA OF BIRMINGHAM Pershore Abbey **** Pershore is a gratifyingly parking-friendly town, with plenty of free spaces available to the visitor, not least in the vicinity of its magnificent Abbey. This splendid building chose the equally splendid Sinfonia of Birmingham to perform the first concert there since the beginning of the pandemic, and the atmosphere could not have been more welcoming. The programme was all-Nordic, yet both works were conceived on Mediterranean shores. Nielsen's Helios Overture, inspired by a visit to Greece,, sounded a little unwarmed-up at the outset, but soon settled under Michael Seal's wise, communicative and unextragavant baton. Seal balanced volume and detail with a sure sense of structural growth, securing an almost Russian sturdiness of sound at full chordal passages. Sibelius' Second Symphony , engendered in Italy, drew from the strings, authoritatively and ent

Roderick Williams and Susie Allan

LEAMINGTON MUSIC'S WONDERFUL ENGLISH SONG RECITAL RODERICK WILLIAMS AND SUSIE ALLAN King's High School, Warwick ***** Leamington Music's first-ever concert in the magnificent new King's Hall of Warwick's King's High School was a triumphant success. It could not have been anything else, bringing the legendary and empathetic partnership of baritone Roderick Williams and pianist Susie Allan to a hugely enthusiastic audience, swelled by generous sponsors Wright Hassall. Under the title "The Great Outdoors…" the programme brought together pastoral and maritime songs by six English masters of the craft, all of them actually contemporaneous with each other – though Benjamin Britten only just scraped in three years before George Butterworth's death at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Butterworth's heartbreaking Six Songs from a Shropshire Lad allowed the performers to set out their stall as they m

CBSO review 14.10.21

CBSO STUNNING UNDER STAND-IN CONDUCTOR CBSO Symphony Hall ***** This matinee, greatly enjoyed by a huge audience, including a patient guide-dog (but perhaps not by the inarticulate climate change demonstrator escorted off the stage by two efficient stewards), was a concert of brilliant soloists. So much in the programme put the spotlight on so many members of a CBSO more than on top of its habitually breathtaking form, but there was also the slight matter of the concerto soloist, Baiba Skride in Mozart's Violin Concerto no.5. Despite being cast in one of the composer's favourite keys, A major, the work does convey a rather subdued atmosphere, to which Skride responded with a somewhat small tone from her wonderful Stradivarius instrument, though there was plenty of light and shade in her sweetly singing phrasing. And she really fizzed in the threatening "Turkish" interlude with which Mozart brought himself to life in the finale. Stand-in conductor A