Showing posts from March, 2020

Bach St Matthew Passion and Poulenc keyboard works CDs

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE WELCOMES NEW BACH AND POULENC CDS BACH ST MATTHEW PASSION: Choir of King's College Cambridge / AAM / Cleobury (3 CD / SACD KGS0037-D) ★★★★★ This impressive new recording is a fitting epitaph to Sir Stephen Cleobury who was the Choir's director of music from 1982 until his death last November. It has the virtues we have come to know from his innumerable concert appearances, recordings and broadcasts: clarity, precision and passion in due proportion with the drama emerging naturally without the need for fussy interpretative point-making. The choir of around thirty, plus a similarly-sized ripieno choir for the opening and closing chorales of Part 1, live up to their world-class reputation, from the firm foundation of the basses to the pure-toned trebles. There is an excellent team of soloists with outstanding performances by bass Matthew Rose (Jesus) and tenor James Gilchrist (Evangelist), supported stylishly by the Academy of Ancient Music. The College&

Coull Quartet review

A TRIUMPHANT FAREWELL COULL QUARTET Helen Martin Studio, Warwick Arts Centre ***** It was a sad privilege to be part of a packed audience for the last-ever concert from the Coull Quartet as Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Warwick. Though there have been some changes in personnel over the 43 years of this relationship, the Quartet has built for itself an enviable sense of empathy and trust. These musicians make this sense of four playing as one look easy, but indeed it is not, and comes from years of attunement and mutual understanding. And even after all these years the Coull plays with a bright-eyed enthusiasm, obvious from the very opening of an incisive and alert account of Beethoven's F major Quartet. Op.18 no.1 The approach to the first movement's recapitulation had inexorable momentum, the adagio flowed, never overladen with spurious significance, and the turns and flourishes of the finale were accomplished with unflashy unanimity. Then came a

Norman Stinchomble reviews new Schumann and Gunning CDs

SCHUMANN: London Symphony Orchestra / Gardiner (LSO Live CD / SACD LSO0844)★★★ If you want Schumann weighty, grand and imposing with romantic horn calls heralding the era of Wagnerian amplitude then Sir John Eliot Gardiner's not your man. Instead we have music of immense vigour, energy coursing through every quaver, sharp ensemble and characterful playing in these live takes on Schumann's symphonies No.1 and No.3. The recordings, detailed but very close, match the executive approach. Listen to the opening of No.3 where Gardiner takes Schumann's Lebhaft (lively) at face value – at this speed Klemperer (EMI) by contrast seems to be conducting in slow motion. No.1 bursts into life, burgeoning with the return of Spring and carrying all before it and the conclusion is certainly animato – but is is also grazioso? Occasionally velocity outweighs expression: the fourth movement of No.3 shouldn't drag but Schumann's Feierlich demands something more splendidly solemn than

CBSO Bruckner review

A WONDERFUL BRUCKNER 6 FROM CBSO CBSO Symphony Hall ***** Omer Meir Wellber was certainly high on the shortlist when Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla pipped him to the Music Directorship of the CBSO four years ago. Last night he stepped valiantly into the breach, covering for an indisposed Mirga, who is early into her second pregnancy. This was no easy, bread-and-butter run-through of a programme, but one featuring one of Bruckner's lesser-played symphonies, the Sixth, a captivating if strenuously demanding work in terms of concentration and flexibility of response from the players. Its morse-code opening, high in the violins, was if anything too understated, but the music soon developed into huge, organ-like layers of sound, articulation now flexible, now tight, building to a natural climax which seemed like a huge affirmation, the underlying momentum bringing melodies riding nobly over throbbing accompaniments. The deeply-felt delivery of the adagio had moments of introspec

King Edwards Schools concert review

FULL FLOOD OF SOUND KING EDWARDS SCHOOL, KING EDWARDS HIGH SCHOOL FOR GIRLS Ruddock Hall, Edgbaston **** Large school halls are difficult spaces in which to suit needs of eager numbers of performers. Such is the case with Ruddock Hall, King Edwards Boys fine Performing Arts Centre, used for numerous and varied events. This Sexagesimal performance celebrated sixty years of music-making by young people from both distinguished schools, but one suspects that not enough time was given for individual practice or indeed, listening to the massive sounds whirling around. Possibly more input from conductor Martin Leigh would have helped (inspired?) throughout this challenging programme, well familiar to a large majority of the audience. Not the starter however, Sixteen year old Christopher Churcher's special celebratory Sexagesima! delighted listeners and challenged players. Balance a problem, however, (i.e. inaudible marimba) – more listening and rehearsal time please. The true star

BSO Elektra preview

A SEARING ELEKTRA AT SYMPHONY HALL BOURNEMOUTH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA IS BRINGING ELEKTRA TO SYMPHONY HALL by Christopher Morley Home to the CBSO, Symphony Hall hosts another of the country's great regional orchestras when the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra visits later this month, bringing a semi-staged performance of Richard Strauss's Elektra. This presentation of the searing one-act opera follows the BSO's highly successful production of the composer's Salome in 2015, the last time the orchestra played in Birmingham. "We were really delighted with Salome and received an incredible audience reaction -- and critical reaction -- to the performances both here and in Birmingham," Dougie Scarfe, Chief Executive Officer of the BSO tells me when I visit him at the orchestra's base at the Lighthouse in Poole.. "And like Salome, Elektra is a powerful work which works well in the concert-hall. All of the psychological drama is there in the music; the

Lana Trotovsek plays Beethoven Violin Sonatas

BLOCKBUSTER BEETHOVEN VIOLIN SONATAS LANA TROTOVSEK AND MARIA CANYIGUERAL Conway Hall, London **** Holborn's Conway Hall is a little gem of a venue, its auditorium cosily wood-surrounded, its atmosphere welcoming, and its loyalty of audience-members heartening, not least in its regular series of early evening Sunday recitals. Violinist Lana Trotovsek and pianist Maria Canyigueral had a packed audience not even dropping a pin during this meaty all-Beethoven programme bringing three of the composer's violin sonatas, including the two most famous, the 'Spring' and the 'Kreutzer'. The lesser-known Sonata no.8 made a huge impression here, bringing a wonderful interplay between violin and piano, Trotovsek and Canyigueral so attentive and responsive to each other, shaping phrases subtly and arrestingly. Unfortunately the power of the hall's Bosendorfer piano (such a sturdy bass), its lid open on full stick, sometimes overwhelmed the delicate pianissimo

CBSO German Requiem review

ALERT SUPPLENESS IN BRAHMS' GERMAN REQUIEM BRAHMS GERMAN REQUIEM CBSO and Chorus at Symphony Hall ***** It was a clever idea to precede Brahms' Requiem with Mozart's C minor Wind Serenade for, like the Brahms, this piece is a masterful synthesis of 'the old style' with the new. Scored for an ensemble traditionally employed for light entertainment, this carefully crafted piece, cast in Mozart's favourite key for intense dramatic works, and bristling with contrapuntal ingenuity was defiantly dark in its character, and practically a symphony for wind octet. The performance was a delight. The CBSO wind section played standing, allowing us to savour each individual's contribution, whilst enjoying the felicities of the ensemble. Mozart's formal symmetries were echoed in the mighty construction of Brahms Requiem. The main impression of the evening was the absolute command that Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla had of the large forces involved, the certainty with wh

CBSO review 29.2.20

PERFECT SHOWCASE -- "BE OFF!" CBSO Symphony Hall ★★★★ Vaughan Williams' A London Symphonyis is criticised for its pictorial elements – Westminster Chimes, jingling hansom cabs and street sellers' cries. The Edwardian-theme-park conceit is a partial view of a symphony whose brooding, melancholy is more important. While the opening movement's fortissimo march strutted along full of bumptious vulgarity, snappy brass to the fore, the CBSO's associate conductor Michael Seal also laid bare its brittle, febrile quality – just one step from the jingoism that led to the war to end wars. The lento second movement was achingly sad with the poignant solo contributions from horn (Elspeth Dutch), viola (Adam Römer) and cor anglais (Rachael Pankhurst) small gleams of light in the crepuscular gloom. No pomp and circumstance big finish, just a hushed barcarolle as the Thames laps into the darkness to come. John Foulds' overture April – England was a refreshing tak