Showing posts from November, 2020

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