Showing posts from 2020

Beethoven CD review

A REWARDING BEETHOVEN MINI-CONCERT BEETHOVEN: EGMONT OVERTURE, TWO ROMANCES, FIFTH SYMPHONY (Guild GMCD7826) **** Though there are some who might accuse this CD of offering short measure at just an hour, it in fact manages to convey all the structure of a full symphony concert, with overture, concerto and symphony, and constitutes a deeply-felt homage to Beethoven in this year in which celebrations of the 250th anniversary of his birth have been so cruelly locked down. Rimma Sushanskaya conducts the fine musicians of the National Symphony Orchestra on a disc amazingly set down during just one day, and released within two months. yet there is no feeling of rush -- in fact, sometimes the opposite, as Sushanskaya has the very Russian trait of savouring the moment, occasionally at the expense of onward sense of momentum. This approach works very well for the opening of the Egmont Overture, appropriately weighty, but there are moments of stasis in the allegro when we should be mo

CDs of Delibes, Stanford, Schmitt and a mandolin medley reveiwed

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE REVIEWS A BRANTUB OF NEW CD RELEASES DELIBES, BALLET SUITES: Royal Scottish National Orchestra / Järvi (CD & SACD) ★★★★ At the age of 83 the prolific conductor Neeme Järvi (400 recordings and counting) shows no sign of slowing down. He's been mining yet another musical seam with Chandos – French ballet music. This delightful disc features suites from three ballets by Delibes, Tchaikovsky's favourite ballet composer. His most popular score Coppèlia – the life-like mechanical doll which also featured in Offenbach's opera – gets a sparkling performance from the RSNO with a lively Mazurka and snappy set of Slavic variations. Järvi's brisk tempi will raise eyebrows – as they did in his Tchaikovsky ballet recordings. Could the waltz have a little more rubato and charm? Fans of Richard Bonynge's relaxed approach (Decca) will think so. But Järvi's decision not to linger can pay dividends. He gives La Source a spring by obeying Delibes

CBSO review

WONDERFUL BRAHMS AND MENDELSSOHN CONDUCTED BY LOCAL BOY ALPESH CBSO streamed from Symphony Hall ***** Never mind the puny sound from computer loudspeakers, nor the fact of not being able to flick one's eyes around the orchestra and the much-missed 2000-strong audience, this streamed concert still breathed the exhilarating freshness of the CBSO as it responded to the gifted young conductor who has grown through its tiers (sorry about that word) of training, Alpesh Chauhan. It was also exhilarating to hear how the orchestra reached out to us from the spaciousness and acoustic marvels of the hall which has been its home for nearly 30 years. Social distancing pinpointed detail, and actually enhanced ensemble alertness. I have never heard a more vivid, engaging account of Brahms' Academic Festival Overture than this, well-paced, onward driven, and with a wonderful web of sound far more transparent than Brahms could ever have hoped for from the clod-hopping orchestra

Haydn and Britten CD reviews

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE ENTHUSES OVER NEW HAYDN AND BRITTEN RELEASES, JUST IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS HAYDN PIANO SONATAS VOL. III: Leon McCawley ★★★★ Devotees of Haydn's solo keyboard works are spoiled for choice. Complete box sets are available from McCabe (Decca), Jando (Naxos) and Buchbinder (Warner) while Jean-Efflam Bavouzet's much lauded survey (Chandos) has reached Vol.8. Meanwhile the third volume in Leon McCawley's survey on Somm, this one of six sonatas, brings us astute performances and much pleasurable listening. Bavouzet uses a bright-toned Yamaha, which occasionally becomes a little unrelenting, while McCawley's Steinway gives him extra depth and warmer colours – in the adagio central movements of Sonatas No.34 in D major and No.38 in F major, for example. Yet his articulation is excitingly crisp and forthright when required: the Allegro di molto of the two-movement Sonata No.55 in B-flat major fairly bowls along, as does the rumbustious Vivace assai of No.

CBSO December 3 review

A WONDERFUL CBSO CONCERT DESPITE THE TECHIE PROBLEMS CBSO (streamed from Symphony Hall) ***** This latest streamed concert from the CBSO in these locked-down times was well-conceived, two refreshing open-air works preceding one cathedral-closed. Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla introduced the programme charmingly and persuasively, and trumpeter Jonathan Quirke prefaced the opening item enthusiastically and informatively, telling us how John Ireland's Downland Suite had been composed as a brass band competition test-piece (as was Elgar's Severn Suite). I have to say I prefer the string orchestra transcription, which was the title-music to BBC TV's The Pearcross Girls, with the wondrous Penelope Wilton, nearly 50 years ago, but this was a crisp account from the brass players here, lyrical, smoothly-phrased and sensitively-balanced. The trouble was, I couldn't see it! There was no vision from the link I was given, so all I had to work on was puny sound from my laptop.

Berlin Philharnonic and Minnesota Orchestra CD reviews

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE REVIEWS CDSs OF RATTLE'S BERLIN SUCCESSOR AND A WONDERFUL SIBELIUS SYMPHONY CYCLE BEETHOVEN, TCHAIKOVSKY, SCHMIDT & STEPHAN: Berlin Philharmonic / Petrenko ★★★ The Russian-born Vienna-educated Kirill Petrenko is Simon Rattle's successor as chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic. His initial concerts were greeted with adulation in some quarters. This luxurious and highly expensive box set of those concerts is now released on the orchestra's own label. We have symphonies by Beethoven (7 & 9), Tchaikovsky (5 & 6), Franz Schmidt's fourth, and a Rudi Stephan's fifteen-minute Music for Orchestra. These appear on five CDs, a BluRay video disc and an audio-only BluRay disc, with excellent sound quality in stereo and 5.1 surround sound. There is, unsurprisingly, playing of outstanding beauty – the subtle wind and burnished strings in Tchaikovsky Pathetique – and power, when Petrenko unleashes the Ninth's mighty finale. Despite

Andrew Downes' Sixth Symphony defies lockdown

A SOCIALLY-DISTANCED ANDREW DOWNES PREMIERE ANDREW DOWNES SIXTH SYMPHONY PREMIERE by Christopher Morley (for 26.11.20) Andrew Downes' Sixth Symphony was due to receive its premiere from the Central England Camerata at Hagley Hall last month, but Covid-19 restrictions led to the event's abandonment. Did the composer see this as a setback in his 70th birthday year? Emphatically not, as Andrew explains, looking forward to an official launch of the symphony at a 'watch party' on Facebook at 3pm on Sunday November 29. " We saw the cancellation of the 6th Symphony as an opportunity rather than a disappointment. The proposed performance at Hagley Hall would have played to quite a limited audience due to the small capacity of the venue, whereas the virtual premiere on the 29th November could hopefully reach many times that number. "It also gave us the opportunity to have the new symphony recorded in an ideal acoustic (with suitable soci

CBSO's streamed Centenary Concert reviewed

CBSO'S TRIUMPH OVER LOCKDOWN CBSO CENTENARY CONCERT BBC Radio 3 and online stream ***** Between them the CBSO's technical wizards and BBC Radio 3 brought about a remarkable example of triumph over adversity in their relaying of the orchestra's celebratory centenary concert, necessarily disfigured behind the pandemic's shielding mask. This concert, filmed and recorded in a deserted Symphony Hall (just imagine how full the joyous auditorium would have been in "normal" circumstances) on the exact date when Elgar conducted the City of Birmingham Orchestra resident in Birmingham Town Hall for the first time one hundred years ago, was packed with joyous affirmation. The Radio 3 broadcast a couple of days ago allowed us to concentrate on the quality of the music-making from players who have had so little ensemble contact for so many months, and brought us too a wonderfully evocative early history of the CBSO from my colleague Richard Bratby, author of F

Jessica Duchen and Beethoven's 'Immortal Beloved'

IS THE MYSTERY OF BEETHOVEN'S 'IMMORTAL BELOVED' AT LAST SOLVED? JESSICA DUCHEN AND HER BEETHOVEN NOVEL by Christopher Morley In lockdown times music critics, deprived of reviewing opportunities, are turning to less ephemeral forms of writing. In my own case, my autobiographical Confessions are due for publication very soon, and I have just completed Trio of Devotion, a novel about the relationship between Robert and Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms. But Jessica Duchen has combined the wearing of journalistic hats and "proper" writing hats for many years, and has recently published her latest novel, "Immortal", exploring the secret love Beethoven carried in his heart, and to whom he wrote one of the most poignant love-letters ever penned; he never sent it. Jessica tells me how her career developed. "My parents were born in Johannesburg and moved to London in the 1950s. They were strongly anti-apartheid and my father refus

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra Beethoven 250 review

BOURNEMOUTH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA SHINES IN LINDBERG UK PREMIERE AND BEETHOVEN'S PROMETHEUS BOURNEMOUTH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA Streamed from the Lighthouse, Poole and on BBC Radio3 Fate knocks at the door in mysterious and ingenious ways as we celebrate in this locked-down year the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, who recently presented such a brilliantly socially-distanced live concert with a full complement at its Lighthouse home base, returned to the venue tonight with a Beethoven-inspired concert aeons away from the meat-and-two-veg overture, concerto and symphony menu which would have been an easy homage. Instead we began with the UK premiere of Magnus Lindberg's Absence, a co-commission from the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Cologne Philharmonic, and the BSO itself. We are told the inspiration comes from the little conversation notebooks the deaf Beethoven carried around with

CBSO review November 4

MIRGA BRINGS A SMILE TO THE CBSO'S SECOND LOCKDOWN CONCERT CBSO at Symphony Hall ★★★★★ In her audience address Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla reminded us that Brahms Symphony No.3 was the CBSO's last piece before lockdown and eight months later it was again. Good to see that during the hiatus the orchestra's music director has retained her sense of humour. She hoped we'd all be able to see their opera performance next March which is – nudge, nudge – Verdi's A Masked Ball. Nice one Mirga. She concentrated on the symphony's many ambiguities, both musical and of mood. Covid separation gave the wind and brass greater prominence and slimmed down the string sound – more like the balance Brahms would have known – perhaps exaggerated by my perch on the fifth floor. The symphony's tonally shifting opening was genuinely disturbing, while the benedictory ending was achieved after the CBSO's energized finale, thrusting and jabbing to-and-fro. The intermezzo was gorgeous

latest CD reviews

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE ENJOYS ITALIAN OPERA, CRAMER, SHOSTAKOVICH, GURNEY AND HOWELLS IN HIS LATEST CD REVIEWS ANIMA RARA: Jaho / Orquestra de la Communitat Valenciana / Battistoni ★★★★★ Ermonela Jaho devotes her album to arias associated with Rosina Storchio who sang Cio-Cio San in the 1904 premiere of Puccini's Madama Butterfly. It's a perfect fit for the Albanian soprano whose performance at Covent Garden in 2017 was greeted rapturously. This album begins and ends with Un bel di, vedremo and Tu?Tu? Piccolo Iddio and show Jaho's strengths: intense emotional identification with a role, fearless high notes and a touch of spinto steel. She does vocal fireworks too – the twelve-minute mad scene from Mascagni's Lodoletta (one of several rarities included) is a tour-de-force. Despite the airbrushed cover photo Jaho is no ingenue but a mature singer (46) at the height of her powers. Her Violetta oozes knowledge of the world (passion, regret) – she has all the notes for t

Latest CD reviews

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE'S LATEST CD REVIEWS, BRAHMS AND LISZT AMONG THEM LISZT & THALBERG: Marc-André Hamelin ★★★★★ Aren't opera transcriptions passé nowadays with the originals available on disc, download and video? Hear Hamelin play Liszt's Reminiscences de Norma and one is disabused of such a naive notion. Liszt captures the essence of Bellini's three-hour Druidic drama in just over seventeen minutes: themes, arias (the divine Casta Diva) and duets are not spatchcocked together but seamlessly integrated. Seven minutes of furious F minor of Verdi's tragedy Ernani is just as effective. Hamelin's playing is phenomenal – dexterity, clarity and nuance everything one could desire. If fantasies on Rossini's Moses in Egypt and Donizetti's Don Pasquale – by Sigismond Thalberg – can't match his rival Liszt's for imagination they are still very enjoyable. Liszt declared Hexaméron "a monster": a bizarre set of seven variations on the mar

CBSO Brass Concert review

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE RAVES ABOUT THE CBSO BRASS CONCERT ENGLISH BRASS CBSO at the CBSO Centre, Birmingham ★★★★★ "A masterpiece...fiendish...Paganini for valved instruments", was how CBSO trombonist Anthony Howe described Sir Malcolm Arnold's Symphony for Brass to us. Arnold knew brass playing at first hand, as the London Philharmonic's principal trumpet. This four-movement work combines his familiar fluency with great technical sophistication. He surely wore an impish grin when composing the finale's fugue. Arnold, like his musical idol Mahler, often put popular and profound together to disconcerting effect. Arnold begins the third movement in film score mode but then splices in an ominous Wagnerian descending figure. Was that Wotan's spear? The CBSO's eleven players rose to all its challenges: the opening flashes and scintillations; the high-lying staccato lines really pinged out; the aching, melancholy opening of the allegretto for two trumpets. T

Why is Symphony Hall still dark?

CHRISTOPHER MORLEY LAMENTS THE CONTINUED DARKNESS OF BIRMINGHAM'S SYMPHONY HALL DARK SYMPHONY HALL A few weeks ago I drove down to the south coast, passing through the autumnal New Forest, and arriving at Poole in Dorset. And there I attended (and reviewed on worldwide media) the first post-lockdown concert given by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, at their home base in the Lighthouse Arts Centre. The organisation was immaculate. Socially-distanced seats were personally allocated, volunteer stewards (so happy to see their concert hall functioning again) had been coached in their tasks and helpfully directed us, even to the loos, and then the orchestra appeared. On an extended platform, the distancing of the orchestra was carefully preserved. Some of the brass were situated way up in the gallery, there were partitions between the winds and the strings, the percussion were carefully tucked away, but here was a a full orchestra performing in front of a live, en

Fitzwilliam String Quartet at the Dream Factory, Warwick

HAYDN BRINGS THE EVENING TO LIFE FITZWILLIAM STRING QUARTET at The Dream Factory, Warwick **** One good thing to have come out of the pandemic crisis is the way it has caused concert promoters to find new ways of presenting events, and the wily Richard Phillips, with the experience of mounting over 4000 concerts behind him, came up with a winning solution. He moved Leamington Music from its usual home base in that town's Pump Rooms to the Dream Factory, a highly flexible performing space between Warwick and Junction 15 of the M40, and a venue which on the evidence of this Tuesday evening proved accommodating and amenable. Its high roof makes for an attractive, open acoustic, and the large hall area made social distancing simple to organise with personally identified seating bubbles.. This was a delayed celebration of Richard's 80th birthday, and the Fitzwilliam String Quartet in fact began in celebratory mode, with an item extra to the programme, announcing Purce

English Symphony Orchestra review

ENGLISH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA STREAMS AN IMAGINATIVE CONCERT VISIONS OF CHILDHOOD English Symphony Orchestra at Wyastone Leys English Symphony Orchestra's latest streamed concert, Visions of Childhood, was built around the chamber-sized reduction of Mahler's Fourth Symphony made by Erwin Stein for the ground-breaking series of private concerts created a century ago by Schoenberg to offer performance opportunities to his students. So we ended with the finale of that symphony, "Das Himmlische Leben", soprano April Fredrick so resourcefully communicative, the tiny ESO remarkably sonorous under Kenneth Woods' quietly urbane conducting. This instrumental complement, brass replaced by a piano and harmonium, had in fact occasioned the strange arrangement by Woods of Wagner's Siegfried Idyll which began this beautifully-filmed event. The composer himself had scored the work originally for a tiny chamber ensemble (I have conducted it) including a pair of h

CBSO Live review

MAGGIE COTTON ENJOYS RARE OCTETS GIVEN LIVE BY THE CBSO A TOAST TO THE TWENTIES CBSO Live at the CBSO Centre This was the title of a treat bringing us Octets of the 1920s, celebrating both the decade of the then City of Birmingham Orchestra's birth, as well as rarely heard music played for a masked and well spaced audience, eager to hear our musicians at last after months of Covid Lockdown. Initial studies of engineering and mathematics ushered in Edgard Varese's musical genius. We certainly appreciated the explanatory programme notes for his Octandre a mind-blowing work for winds and bass,! but with smiles from a bemused audience. A world premiere from Grace-Evangeline Mason (b. Oct 1994) "My thoughts fly in at your window", commissioned for the orchestra's centenary year, was greeted with curiosity and delight.. Sturdy fortissimos offset a sonorous solo cello as we listened to second-movement chirping 'As a flock of wild birds'

Latest CD reviews

NEW REVIEWS OF BEETHOVEN, FILM MUSIC, BACH AND MAHLER CDs FROM NORMAN STINCHCOMBE BEETHOVEN: Midori / Lucerne Festival Strings ★★★★ Midori was a child prodigy but has only now, at the age of forty-eight, recorded Beethoven's concerto. It almost didn't happen. Scheduled as part of a Swiss concert in March, followed by a UK and Far East tour, Covid struck and the concert was pulled at 48 hours notice – but the recording was allowed to go ahead. This obviously focused the minds of soloists and orchestra, "the recording experience felt as if we were racing against the clock," said Midori. The urgency manifests itself in flowing speeds, no dreamy lingering or triple underlined point-making, but great elan, transparency and unanimity. There was no conductor, but leader Daniel Dodds is credited and I assume he was de facto director taking his cue from Midori – she and the players were all "breathing in harmony", she added. Beethoven's G major and F majo

English Symphony Orchestra's new season

ENGLISH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA'S INNOVATIVE NEW SEASON KENNETH WOODS AND THE ENGLISH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA by Christopher Morley It is heartwarming to see our musical organisations emerging blinking, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed into the post-lockdown warmth. Let's not party-poop here by wondering how long this much-needed release is going to last, but instead concentrate on the delights currently on offer. The English Symphony Orchestra is certainly doing its bit. Performing at Wyastone Leys in Herefordshire's beautiful Wye valley, it launched last month its "Music at Wyastone" online series of concerts, including a performance of the Four Last Songs of Richard Strauss, soprano April Fredrick, herself only recently recovered from the Covid-19 virus, the soloist. Fredrick, ESO Affiliate Artist, returns on October 18 for the orchestra's next streamed concert, "Visions of Childhood", with works by Mahler, Schubert, Wagner (Siegfried Idyll) an

Mendelssohn & the Schumanns, D'Erlanger & Dunhill, Napravnik and Brahms CD reviews

TWO EXCITING DISCOVERIES AMONG NORMAN STINCHCOMBE'S LATEST CD REVIEWS MENDELSSOHN & SCHUMANN, THE LEIPZIG CIRCLE Vol II: London Bridge Trio ★★★★ With classical concerts currently as scarce as good news this Somm live recording – a generous 83+ minutes – is an enjoyable substitute. Finely played and imaginatively programmed. Mendelssohn's D minor trio will surprise anyone thinking his music is merely cosy. The furious agitato opening movement and concluding assai appassionato don't sound like Queen Victoria's favourite composer. The players – David Adams (violin), Daniel Tong (piano) and Kate Gould (cello) – excel, even if the can't quite match the flair of the Fischer, Gilad, Müller-Schott recording (Pentatone). Wonder-woman Clara Schumann – concert pianist, mother-of-eight and husband Robert's emotional crutch – somehow found time to compose a delightful Piano Trio in G minor. No tempestuous emotion here – enough of that at home – it's sunny mus

Peter Donohoe Stratford review

PETER DONOHOE IN TREMENDOUS FORM AT THE STRATFORD MUSIC FESTIVAL PETER DONOHOE Stratford Play House ***** Replacing what had originally been planned pre-pandemic as a full-length recital, Peter Donohoe gave the Stratford Music Festival a lunchtime hour packed with expressive insights and revealing command of piano technique. The audience was packed as much as it could be in these socially-distanced times, with staggered seating in the raked area and table seating at floor level. With little lamps on the tables and hostess-trolley bar service, there was a decidedly continental, cabaret feel to proceedings, and the atmosphere was lovely. My only complaint is that Stratfordians seem to feel themselves exempt from lockdown rules; so many were maskless, not all of them imbibing. Piano sound from the Fazioli placed directly under the wooden canopy ceiling was brightly immediate, but how Donohoe manipulated its colours was breathtaking. All three sonatas were in a minor key,


NORMAN STINCHOMBE REVIEWS CD RELEASES OF SHOSTAKOVICH, BEETHOVEN AND A TOWERING SIBELIUS RARITY SHOSTAKOVICH: Gerhardt / West German Radio SO / Saraste ★★★ Alban Gerhardt's booklet note pays tribute to Rostropovich – for whom Shostakovich wrote the two cello concertos – but reveals how their interpretations differ. It primarily concerns tempo markings towards which Rostropovich was famously cavalier, although the composer never seemed to mind. In the second concerto, from 1966, all three movements have the same tempo marking which Gerhardt adheres to by playing the slower first movement in cut-time alla breve. It sounds more urgent and less introspective – Gerhard takes 11.26 compared to 15.06 for Mischa Maisky (DG). It makes the concerto more cohesive but concomitantly reduces the contrast between the Largo and the succeeding madcap allegrettos. It's an interesting experiment. Gerhardt's quicker opening to the first concerto is less successful and it's not ju

Orchestra of the Swan review

A GLORIOUS RESURRECTION FOR STRATFORD'S ORCHESTRA OF THE SWAN ORCHESTRA OF THE SWAN Stratford Play House ***** "The Living Orchestra -- New Beginnings" was the totally appropriate title for the Orchestra of the Swan's first concert of its new season, resurrecting itself after over half a year of lockdown. Of course the set-up was different: a small group of players socially-distanced, a one-way system into the auditorium for a restricted audience (many of whom, by the way, were not wearing the stipulated face-masks), a bar operating from air-hostess trollies, and a repeat performance of this one-hour programme after the venue had undergone a 90-minute deep clean. The enterprise was greeted with the enthusiasm it undoubtedly deserved, and the joy of the players at performing together again at last was palpable. Also evident was a remarkable clarity of tone and line from the ensemble (13 players the entire complement), and the confidence with which each

Haydn and Beethoven CD reviews

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE GIVES FIVE STARS TO NEW HAYDN AND BEETHOVEN RELEASES HAYDN: STRING QUARTETS Op.33 / Doric String Quartet ★★★★★ Haydn said his Op.33 was written "in a new and special way" – so prepare to be amused, surprised and discombobulated. The Doric String Quartet hit all Haydn's targets in the bull's eye. The B minor quartet's opening wrong foots us: What key are we in? Is the cellist playing the wrong notes? The Dorics play the repeat and make it sound even stranger second time around. The E flat Major quartet is nicknamed "The Joke" – no wonder. The scherzo sounds reassuringly like old fashioned minuet but in the trio a folk band suddenly appears with a drunken first fiddle, playing outrageous swoops before dozing off – violinist Alex Redington having a great time. The final movement stops abruptly or does it silently carry on, the musical equivalent of an M.C. Escher never-ending staircase? The Doric's wittily seductive playing is

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra review

TRIUMPH THROUGH DEFIANCE Christopher Morley reviews Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra's first live concert since lockdown BOURNEMOUTH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA The Lighthouse, Poole Dougie Scarfe, Chief Executive of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, greeted us from the pinnacle of the Lighthouse's stage area. "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back after the longest break in our 127-year history." He concluded by reassuring us that "full-scale symphony concerts with full-scale orchestras will eventually return." For now, though, this opening concert of the BSO's ambitious autumn season, streamed online as well as playing live to a carefully socially-distanced audience, was given with various modifications above which the whole setup of the orchestra, both front and back of a specially extended stage, rose triumphantly. Indeed, in my mind I christened this remarkable event "Triumph through Defiance". Triumph over Covid restrictions which r

Changes to our web site

  Good morning, Readers, and welcome to some changes on our web site. A few technical upgrades to the way in which the site operates have been incorporated into a change of domain name from '' to the slightly more nationalistic one of ''. Using the 'magic' of the internet there is no immediate need for you to do anything. The 'blog' will be automatically accessed whichever domain address is entered into the browser. However, from next April onwards (in 2021) the use of '' will be discontinued. To ensure that you keep up to date we would recommend that you change your browser book marks well before we make the change from .com to .co uk. so that you can be sure of staying up to date. Who knows, we might even have a concert review for you by that time. Best Wishes Chris Morley and Mike Spencer (webmaster)

Schubert and Ravel CD reviews

NEW CDS OF SCHUBERT AND RAVEL REVIEWED BY NORMAN STINCHCOMBE SCHUBERT: Thymos Quartet / Eschenbach ★★★★ The Trout Quintet is probably on everyone's list of favourite chamber works and is guaranteed to evoke smiles from all but the most misanthropic musical curmudgeon. Composed when Schubert was just 22-years-old it combines tunefulness, wit and effortless charm – all captured is this delightful new performance. It celebrated Christoph Eschenbach's eightieth birthday and the veteran pianist / conductor – sometimes mannered in both roles – gives us a beautifully relaxed autumnal performance ably supported by bassist Yann Dubost and members of the Thymos Quartet. It's a broad one, including the first movement repeat, with tempi slower than the effervescent Curzon / Vienna Octet Players classic 1957 account. Eschenbach's pellucid playing, and the string players loving support, supply a sparky scherzo, scintillating variations and lively finale. The fillers – a selec

Orchestra of the Swan's new season

ORCHESTRA OF THE SWAN PLAN BRAVE NEW SEASON ORCHESTRA OF THE SWAN by Christopher Morley These are uncertain times, and as I write the uncertainty looms larger. However, concert-giving organisations have been making heroic plans, and deserve for them to come to fruition. One such is the Stratford-based Orchestra of the Swan, announcing an imaginative autumn season at the town's Play House, combining both well-known music as well as works by unjustly neglected composers. Debbie Jagla, OOTS Managing Director, tells me how she and her team envisage the audience experience, and how it will lend itself to social distancing. "This is an interesting one and something we have battled with, but we think we've come up with the answer!", she says. "The first concert on October 6th will take place 'in the round' under the central lighting gantry, which means that we make the best use of the venue acoustic and enable as many people as p

Ex Cathedra review

EX CATHEDRA CREATE A LITTLE GEM OUT OF LOCKDOWN "EX CATHEDRA: OUR FIRST 50 YEARS" ***** Had lockdown not descended so cruelly upon us all, Ex Cathedra would currently be celebrating its Golden Anniversary, marking 50 years of glorious music-making under the direction of the chamber choir's founder, Jeffrey Skidmore. But necessity is the mother of invention, and just as the CBSO created an absorbing streamed concert two weekends ago to mark the centenary of its inaugural concert, so Ex Cathedra have done something equally as remarkable with this online presentation currently available on YouTube (donations from viewers would be gratefully accepted). At just over half an hour, this concert brings film of previous performances, not least Ex Cathedra's atmospheric "Christmas by Candlelight" presentations at St Paul's Church in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter, but also online accounts of works premiered by Ex Cathedra during the choir's prou