Showing posts from 2021

Clara Schumann in words and music

CLARA SCHUMANN IN MUSIC AND HER OWN WORDS I, Clara St James' Church, Chipping Campden The relationship between the two Schumanns (Robert and Clara) and Brahms is a complex and loving one, and Brewin Books are in fact publishing a novel about the trio at the end of October. In her fascinating Composer Portrait "I, Clara", Lucy Parham has focussed on the life of Clara, both as an internationally-renowned pianist and a highly regarded composer, forced to juggle her own professional activities with the responsibilities of supporting her tormented genius of a husband and raising their many children. This words and music presentation served in a pivotal position as both the final event in this year's wonderful Chipping Campden Music Festival and the opening one in the town's Literary Festival, and brought Joanna David reading Lucy Parham's script compiled from Clara's own words, with Parham performing piano music by Clara herself as well as those

Midlands music books reviewed

MUSIC IN THE MIDLANDS BOOKS REVIEWED ( A History of Bromsgrove Concerts (Joyce Chamberlain, pub. ) As its pandemically-postponed new season gets underway, Bromsgrove Concerts can look back proudly on nearly 60 years of bringing high quality music-making to this corner of north Worcestershire. Previously Bromgrove Concert Club, this enterprising organisation has been resident in a variety of local venues, most recently at the wonderful Artrix arts centre, but since the regrettable and shortsighted closure of that inviting complex, it has now moved to the comfortably refurbished Routh Hall at Bromsgrove School. Joyce Chamberlain, current secretary of the Society has written and compiled a most fascinating History of Bromsgrove Concerts, this beautifully-produced publication doing exactly what it says on the tin and much more besides. Chronology and data, meticulously assembled, jostle alongside reminiscences from many of the personalities who have co


KAZUKI YAMADA'S AMAZING DEBUT CONCERT AS CBSO NEW PRINCIPAL CONDUCTOR SAINT-SAENS ORGAN SYMPHONY CBSO at Symphony Hall ***** "It looks as though we're in for another Golden Age," a very senior member of the CBSO hierarchy told me after Kazuki Yamada's first concert with the orchestra since the announcement of his appointment as Principal Conductor. I very much agree, as it was obvious that there is already much mutual affection and respect pulsating between players and maestro, a symbiosis which also spreads to the delighted audience. It is almost superfluous to state that the musical results are simply outstanding. We began with a rarity, Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture featuring an unaccompanied choral rendition of the opening Tsarist hymn normally trudged through by the orchestral strings. Here Simon Halsey;s CBSO Chorus, socially-distanced, as were all the players, began in stunningly hushed tones, responding as one to Yamada's shaping of dy

Mozart, Bach/Beethoven, Weber CDs reviewed

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE'S MIXED RESPONSE TO NEW MOZART, BACH/BEETHOVEN AND WEBER CDS MOZART VIOLIN CONCERTOS VOL.1 : Dego / Royal Scottish National Orchestra / Norrington ★★ Chandos pairs Francesca Dego with Sir Roger Norrington in concertos Nos. 3 & 4. Norrington's priorities are, "Sources, Size, Seating, Speed, Sound and Style". What about beauty, sensual pleasure, romance and fun – Mozart's priorities? Pamela Frank and David Zinman's cycle, also using modern instruments with an eye on historical style, combines both. Compare the two performances of No.4's slow movement. Dego's pace is very brisk (5.19) the notes squeezed, phrasing clipped, all is neat and efficient. Frank is slower (7.25) but really makes the Andante cantabile sing and reveals Mozart's alternating low-high solo line as an operatic duo characterizing them as soprano and baritone with imaginative colour and rubato. Zinman's cadenza – more imaginative than Franco G

Chipping Campden Festival reviews

WORLD-CLASS CONCERTS IN THE COTSWOLDS St James' Church, Chipping Campden ***** If I were still running my annual roundup feature, the two concerts I have just enjoyed at the Chipping Campden Music Festival would certainly be right up there in the running for Highlight of the Year. And these were only a couple among the panoply of events featuring the world-class performers Festival Artistic Director Charlie Bennett brings to this impossibly pretty Cotswold Town every year, several of them pianists. On Sunday I heard one of the world's greatest and modestly unsung masters of the keyboard, Elisabeth Leonskaja, in an all-Schubert programme. In this hour-long recital she distilled the essence of magisterial pianism and insightful interpretation, making herself a vessel through which this sublime music flowed, beginning with the notoriously difficult Wanderer Fantasy. Profligate with notes so clearly articulated even in this blooming acoustic, the piece demands judicious

Orchestra of the Swan's Hereford Walton concert review

TAMSIN DALLEY SCINTILLATES IN FACADE WALTON EVENING Orchestra of the Swan at The Courtyard, Hereford ***** We usually experience Walton's brittle entertainment Façade as a two-handed recitation of 21 of Edith Sitwell's Dadaist poems. But what Orchestra of the Swan brought us on September 7 was a spectacular one-woman tour de force from Tamsin Dalley, delivering the entire panoply with huge reserves of stamina, engagement and communicative body-language, even including a wink to us in the audience. And it was amazing to realise she had already been through this gruelling work in rehearsal, just a few hours earlier. With the discreet help of The Courtyard's excellent sound-system she rendered these complex texts with more clarity than I have ever heard in live performance, switching accents, characterisations and vocal colours in a bewildering kaleidoscope of vocal control. Dalley's Tango-Pasodoble, so languidly set by Walton with a quotation from "I do li

Bruckner, Handel and Flute CD reviews

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE REVIEWS BRUCKNER, HANDEL and MOZART/FLUTE CDs BRUCKNER SYMPHONY no.6: BBC Philharmonic/Mena Want a great recording of major Bruckner's symphony from No.3 to No.9? Not a problem – except for No.6. It's amazing how many disappointing recordings of it there are. That this one has lain in Chandos's vaults for nine years doesn't bode well. Indeed it's a curate's egg – good in parts. The symphony's morse-code opening on high strings underpinned by an ominous bass line suggests stirring events to come. Mena and his fine orchestra largely deliver with playing of weight and power – genuinely Majestoso – but one feels that they are still on the leash, that a little more impetus is needed. That feeling becomes manifest in the second movement where Mena takes Bruckner's sehr (very) to qualify Adagio rather than Feierlich – so it's very slow (more than twenty minutes) rather than just very solemn. The scherzo and finale are judiciously

Presteigne Festival review

ANTHONY BRADBURY ENJOYS TWO PRESTEIGNE FESTIVAL CONCERTS AT LEOMINSTER PRIORY PRESTEIGNE FESTIVAL 2021 FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA and CHOIR OF ROYAL HOLLOWAY Leominster Priory **** The life of a festival organiser is still far from straightforward as live music emerges from its enforced hibernation, so credit to Artistic Director George Vass and his team for pulling off this year's Presteigne Festival. Sunday afternoon's concert, given by the Festival Orchestra, started with young American composer Jessie Montgomery's 'Starburst', grabbing you from the off with its chugging chords, bouncy lower pizzicato strings, syncopated rhythms, and kaleidoscope of string colours that popped and fizzed; the players clearly relished it. Malcom Arnold is rightly receiving greater recognition in his centenary year, and his Concerto for Two Violins was given an authoritative performance by soloists Fenella Humphreys and Francesca Barritt, communicating as one with their of

Roderick Williams/Susie Allan review

RODERICK WILLIAMS SINGS IN ONE OF THE QUIETEST PLACES UNDER THE SUN RODERICK WILLIAMS AND SUSIE ALLAN St George's Church, Clun ***** There were two unusual features about Roderick Williams's and Susie Allan's recital in Clun. One was a performance of the late John Joubert's 2013 song-cycle That Time of Year. The other was what almost amounted to a Beethoven world premiere. As part of his project of performing German lieder in English, and as a contribution to the 2020 Beethoven anniversary year (remember that?), Williams had commissioned Jeremy Sams to make a new English version of the song-cycle An die ferne Geliebte, and in the general post-Covid chaos it turned out that this was its first, belated, public performance. To the Faraway Beloved worked like a charm. Sams's deceptively naïve choice of English (Williams explained that this corresponded to the artlessness of the original German), set against Beethoven's mixture of tenderness and early-Roman

LSO/Rattle Snape review

A WONDERFUL PASTORAL SYMPHONY FROM THE LSO AND RATTLE AT THE SNAPE MALTINGS LONDON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA/RATTLE Snape Maltings It is so good to experience music in Aldeburgh coming back to life again. This is such a unique location, with none of the anodyne anonymity of London nor even of any of our great regional cities, but one which has grown from its links with Benjamin Britten to spread its welcoming tentacles ( we are in a seaside town) to embrace music from every source. As part of the thriving summer series ongoing at the Maltings, the London Symphony Orchestra visited on August26, its departing conductor Sir Simon Rattle presiding over a terse, pithy programme juxtaposing the new and the well-loved. New was Hannah Kendall's The Spark Catchers, inspired by the Bow Matchwomen's Strike of 1888, a work indeed incendiary. Its opening is nervy and angular, interjections breaking into nascent string id

International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival

THE 27th INTERNATIONAL GILBERT AND SULLIVAN FESTIVAL A REVEALING OVERVIEW OF GILBERT AND SULLIVAN THE 27th INTERNATIONAL GILBERT AND SULLIVAN FESTIVAL Royal Hall, Harrogate After 2020's lockdown in all theatrical activity, the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival has this year celebrated its 27th staging, kicking off in Buxton and ending triumphantly in Harrogate's glorious Royal Hall (like the Buxton Opera House, another wonderful Frank Matcham creation). And this is truly an international enterprise, performing groups visiting from the United States, Canada and elsewhere, and audience members making the trip from all parts of the globe. One stalwart presents himself in all manner of garb as he greets us at the door. So the impact on local hospitality commerce is immense. Around the theatrical performances are talks, late-night cabarets, and the facilities of the Festival Club, all creating an atmosphere of conviviality and dedication to t

Norman Stinchcombe's latest reviews of Bruckner and Martha Argerich

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE BINGES ON BRUCKNER, IS LUKE-WARM OVER ARGERICH BRUCKNER SYMPHONIES 1-9: Berlin Philharmonic ★★★★ Nine symphonies, eight conductors, one orchestra. Bruckner sets with one conductor are uneven, one using eight more so. The constant factor is the powerful, elegant and refulgent orchestral playing. These performances were taped during concerts at Berlin's Philharmonie, closely miked, on hybrid CD/SACD discs with the latter having 5.1 surround sound and more hall ambience. Two veterans present outstanding performances: Haitink (Nos. 4 & 5) and Blomstedt (no.3), who uses the 1873 first version, loquacious but charming, complete with Wagner quotations. Ozawa (No.1) and Jansons (No.6) are serviceable but unexceptional; I enjoyed Paavo Järvi's amiable yet energetic traversal of No.2 and Thielemann's No.7 has the trenchancy and cogency of his mentor Karajan. Rattle's No.9, unconvincingly "completed" from Bruckner's sketches, is a hear-

Bluebeard's Castle from English Symphony Orchestra

ABSORBING, BROODING BARGTOK FROM ESO BLUEBEARD'S CASTLE English Symphony Orchestra online at Wyastone Leys ***** Bartok's early opera of threatening mystery and questions which should not be asked actually has very little action, and perhaps works better in concert performance. This is certainly the case in this English Symphony Orchestra presentation, Kenneth Woods' economical, almost austere, and always well=paced conducting building huge intensity from his socially-distanced players in a resourceful orchestral reduction. The concert-hall at Wyastone Leys is the perfect venue, both airy and acoustically compact (even through my puny laptop speakers), though, as with all streamed relays, we are forced to watch what the admittedly brilliant camera-team want us to see, rather than having the freedom for our eyes to wander over the performing area. There are only two characters, the enigmatic Duke Bluebeard and his trusting but latently insecure new young br

Norman Stinchcombe's latest CD reviews

NORMAN STIINCHCOMBE RAVES OVER AN EARLY ARGERICH RECORDING AMOMNG OTHERS CHOPIN THE LEGENDARY 1965 RECORDING: Martha Argerich ★★★★★ On March 23, 1965 a 23-year-old Argentine pianist arrive at Abbey Road studios to record a disc of Chopin featuring the Piano Sonata in B minor, a couple of Mazurkas plus a showpiece Nocturne, Scherzo and Polonaise. EMI producer Suvi Raj Grubb was first struck by Martha Argerich's "dark smouldering looks", but when she started to play his reaction was "Jesus!" followed by normally unflappable engineer Christopher Parker's "Wow!". It's easy to hear why. There are no routine notes here: the Op.53 Polonaise's crescendo pins you to the wall; complex runs are smudge free; and she has the pinpoint accuracy of Pollini without his glacial approach – Argerich burns white hot. The finale of the sonata was recorded in a single take. Argerich's existing Deutsche Grammophon contract meant the tapes stayed in

CBSO premiering Thomas Ades Exterminating Angel Symphony

EXCITING ADES PREMIERE, DISAPPOINTING BRAHMS CBSO Symphony Hall *** Symphony Hall was almost back to its old normal on Wednesday evening, buzzing with excitement ahead of a CBSO concert with a proper interval, people enjoying drinks from the at last re-opened bar (though the crowded tables in the seating area – no social distancing here- reminded me of the catering hall at Birmingham Airport), and CBSO Chief Executive Stephen Maddock welcoming us back and inviting us to peruse the season to come. And I was at last back in the reviewing seats I have been proud to inhabit since 1992, which made me a very happy bunny. Unfortunately not everything in the concert itself intensified that feeling. The first half of the programme was given over to long-delayed offerings, debris of the orchestra's shattered 2020 celebratory centenary season, but doubly jinxed with Covid postponements. At last we got to hear the long-awaited revival of the Second Symphony of Ruth Gipps, a

Christopher Morley reviews Longborough's Cunning Little Vixen

VIXEN TRIUMPHS AT LONGBOROUGH THE CUNNING LTITLE VIXEN Longborough Festival Opera ***** Longborough Festival Opera's efforts in mounting a full season during this more-than-challenging pandemic year have been nothing less than truly heroic, and have been rewarded with deserved acclaim. There was a brilliant more-than-concert version performance of Wagner's Walkure in the main auditorium early on, scrupulously socially-distanced for performers (I include the wonderful orchestra) and audience alike, and then we moved into the Big Top, amazingly modified to create a rewarding acoustic, and affording as much comfort as possible. Pre-show and interval catering arrangements were meticulously planned, and for all of this alone LFO deserves to tick more boxes than Arts Council England manages to drag out of its woke resources. But there was another plus in LFO's final presentation this year, the amazingly resourceful deployment of a children's chorus in this jo

Birmingham Opera Company's RhineGold

THIS BOC RHINEGOLD AN AMAZING TRIBUTE TO GRAHAM VICK Birmingham Opera Company and CBSO at Symphony Hall **** There could have been no more fitting tribute to the late Graham Vick than this exhilarating presentation of Wagner's RhineGold from Birmingham Opera Company. Barely two weeks since its founder and artistic director passed away from Covid complications BOC pulled out all the stops to present his vision to an enthusiastic Symphony Hall audience. The original idea had been to perform in a disused factory, typical of Vick's community opera style, the audience shuffling around between various performing locations and mixing with hundreds of supernumeraries from local groups. Whatever the reason for the change of venue, its virtue was that we lost the Vickian fingerprints which some found irritating, and were able instead to focus upon his artistic vision conveyed via some brilliant staging. A raised circus ring stood where the front centre stalls would usually be, t

The Great Journey at Three Choirs Festival

AMAIZNG COLIN MATTHEWS PERFORMANCE IN WORCESTER CATHEDRAL THE GREAT JOURNEY Worcester Cathedral ***** The three-centuries old Three Choirs Festival has long been lumbering along with the perceived need, vestiges of which still obtain, to bludgeon us with the great choral masterpieces, and not always in the greatest performances. Nothing of that, thank goodness, in Sunday's refreshing concert from the Goldfield Ensemble conducted by Adrian Partington. The absentees from a depressingly sparse audience will regret what they missed. Partington is no old-school organist descending from the organ-loft to flail about on the podium. He is a most meticulous, forensic conductor, his finger-twitching imperious hands imparting his dissections of the score to the performers in the manner of the austere but so magisterial Pierre Boulez (Boulez gets a mention at the Three Choirs!). Partington's probing skills really came into their own in the movingly triumphant account of Coli

Latest CD reviews: Prokofiev, Poulenc, Durufle

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE ENTHUSES OVER NEW PROKOKIEV, POULENC AND DURUFLE RELEASES PROKOFIEV BY ARRANGEMENT: Kalnits & Chaplina ★★★★ Prokofiev always had the knack of writing a catchy tune, even before Stalin's cultural commissars made it compulsory. Here Yuri Kalnits (violin) and Yulia Chaplina (piano) perform arrangements of thirty-seven of his miniature melodies which range from an energetic little tarantella composed when he was ten-years-old to the luscious Diamond Waltz from his ballet The Stone Flower which he was still working on at his death in 1953. At the heart of the disc is Visions Fugitives, a twenty-movement suite from 1915-17. Looking back on it in 1950 Prokofiev said that he wanted to combine the lyric, jocose and motoric elements of his style with some slightly daring harmonies. Originally for piano Viktor Derevianko's 1980 transcription works a treat while Kalnits and Chaplina capture all its diverse elements. Famous fiddlers' transcriptions are her

Sinfonia of Birmingham excels in Warwick

A STUNNING SINFONIA CONCERT IN SUN-BATHED ST MARY'S, WARWICK SINFONIA OF BIRMINGHAM St Mary's Church, Warwick **** Glorious evening sunshine glinting through the windows onto mellow ancient stonework is one thing, but its direct shining into the eyes of some of the orchestra members was undoubtedly quite a challenge – but one to which the players rose heroically (no doubt inspired by the symphony under performance, Beethoven's Eroica). This was the final offering in a concert from the excellent Sinfonia of Birmingham, the final offering in what has been a remarkably successful Warwick and Leamington Midsummer Music Festival. Orchestral tone was rich in this soaring acoustic, the building's very spaciousness perhaps the cause of the few examples of imprecise ensemble, conductor Michael Seal secured a wide range of dynamics (some remarkable pianissimi) and articulation throughout this perforcedly short evening, and had obviously rehearsed so meticulous

COSI FAN TUTTE. Longborough Festival Opera **** (July 4)

Or “Women are Human” in this radical approach to Mozart’s notorious opera of fiancee-swapping and Age of the Enlightenment cynicism. Some might take a bit of convincing in accepting the parameters of this decidedly controversial production, but I can assure them that, but for a few flaws, it works very much of the time. Longborough has long been ahead of the game, and in its two-fingered approach to all the pandemic strictures it built a big top of a performing arena, an acoustic baffle above, and arranging socially-distanced audience seats (admittedly not very comfortable) around a circular stage. And this presentation went one step further, making a virtue of the necessity of social distancing for the performers by having them hold and sing to classically-sculpted heads for their most emotional moments. But that was just one brilliant touch in director Sam Browne’s novel take upon this normally set-in-stone masterpiece. It took us quite a time to get our heads round what were scarcel

COULL QUARTET Holy Trinity Church, Leamington

                                                  COULL QUARTET                                         Holy Trinity Church, Leamington Richard Phillips and Leamington Music have achieved epic triumphs in bringing live music back into our lives, and the miraculous existence of the Warwick and Leamington Midsummer Festival, running at various locations in the two towns for well over a fortnight, is a tribute to the team’s enterprise and tenacity. A highlight event here were the two concerts delivered by the popular, long-time local Coull Quartet on the evening of July 1, the second of which featured the String Quartet no.10 by Robert Simpson, Leamington-born, and with this year marking his centenary. This substantial three-movement work was composed for the Coull’s tenth anniversary, and dedicated to them “in friendship”. It bears the subtitle “For Peace”, and indeed much of the piece is slow-moving, never quite serene, and ultimately consolatory in acceptance, gracefully luminous as it

CBSO and Julian Anderson premiere

CHRISTOPHER MORLEY REVIEWS AN ABSOLUTELY AMAZING CBSO CONCERT CBSO Symphony Hall ***** Gradually music's coming home, and the CBSO is playing a huge part in restoring our musical experience to near-"normal". With the assistance and co-operation of Symphony Hall (a venue now revealing further versatilities) it has been treating us to concerts performed by a full-size symphony orchestra -- no worthy, well-meaning reductions here. Recorded by BBC Radio 3 for broadcast two days later, the programme on Wednesday June 30 was an absolute joy, bringing a gem of a UK premiere and a richly satisfying account of a great Dvorak symphony under the baton of a conductor with whom I think everyone on both sides of the footlights has fallen in love. The premiere was a co-commission from the CBSO originally designed as one of the many premieres celebrating its centenary last year, and this was a celebration of a different sort, marking the rebirth of live music to an enthusiast

CBSO/Mirga Weinberg, Mahler review

WEINBERG DISSECTED CBSO Symphony Hall **** After the disappointment of last week's concert having to be Covid-cancelled it was good to return to the CBSO, and to welcome back principal conductor Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla for a Mahler sandwich, his Ruckert-Lieder tucked between two slices of Weinberg. Mirga and the CBSO have made something of a speciality of Mieczyslaw Weinberg in recent years, revealing his music to the British public, and winning a Gramophone "Record of the Year" accolade in the process. They began here with his Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes, written with a view to pacifying the populist diktats of Stalin's policies towards the arts, and immediately attractive in its vivid use of folk-material. The CBSO have done wonders in accommodating a socially-distanced full orchestra on the versatile, capacious Symphony Hall stage, and it was just so good to hear a full complement of low strings digging darkly into the music's opening (for all

Sibelius, Mozart and James Joyce CDs reviewed

SIBELIUS, MOZART AND JAMES JOYCE CDs REVIEWED BY NORMAN STINCHCOMBE SIBELIUS: Davidsen / Bergen Philharmonic / Gardner ★★★★★ Opera's shooting star Lise Davidsen gives a stupendous performance of Sibelius's Luonnotar. For sheer beauty Söderström and Isokoski excel the Norwegian soprano but Davidsen turns this orchestral song into a miniature opera, inhabiting the mythical sky-maiden who helps to nurture the world into existence. Soaring, desolate and exultant by turn, moods realized in burnished tone. Edward Gardner unleashes his impressive Bergen players knowing that Davidsen can ride the waves of sound. Wow. It's a hard act to follow but Gardner almost succeeds in Sibelius's final tone-poemTapiola, depicting the deity of the forest, giving us every musical and emotional transformation of the theme with lashings of detail and no skimping. It's impressive, but Karajan's magisterial '60s Berlin recording captures the trees and the wood. In the Pelléa

Playground Opera's Hansel and Gretel review

A JOYOUS, LIFE-ENHANCING MINI HANSEL AND GRETEL HANSEL AND GRETEL Longborough Festival Playground Opera ***** There can be no more joyous and artistic and educational experience than the one I was privileged to share in at Stratford's Welcombe Hills School on Wednesday. As part of the educational outreach of the internationally-renowned Longborough Festival Opera this modified version of Humperdinck's glorious opera has been designed to tour various school playgrounds around the Cotswold counties, performing to over 1200 children. I caught up with it at this wonderfully welcoming school for primary and secondary school pupils with special needs on a glorious summer morning, and left afterwards feeling my life had been enhanced. The children, coming to the show after participatory workshops, sat there glued, entranced, responsive , participating, and joyously cheering the seeing-off of the wicked witch. I will never forget the immediate

Longborough Walkure review

AN AMAZING WALKURE FROM LONGBOROUGH DIE WALKURE Longborough Festival Opera ***** Longborough Festival Opera's legendary reputation in brilliant productions of Wagner operas took on another accolade with this year's amazingly resourceful staging of Die Walkure. Or rather, semi-staging, which made such a virtue out of Covid restrictions. To a meticulously socially-distanced audience the performance area presented a whole new vista, with the strings of the Longborough Festival Opera Orchestra arrayed across the stage, the woodwind, brass and percussion tucked underneath in the auditorium's famous pit. And the sound this perforcedly scale-down complement of the wonderful band orchestral manager Philip Head has created over the years was thrilling under Anthony Negus. Sound was bright and forward, detail was telling, and we had the impression of chamber music unfolding (very much a la Siegfried Idyll), and revealing much wonderfu

Ex Cathedra Midummer Music review

ANTHONY BRADBURY RELISHES EX CATHEDRA'S MIDSUMMER MUSIC BY CANDLELIGHT EX CATHEDRA Symphony Hall **** I wonder how many other concerts you'll hear this year will take you on a choral journey from 6th century plainchant, to the 1960s pop charts (an arrangement of Cliff Richard's Summer Holiday, complete with 'repeat & fade' ending), via a new commission? Such is the imaginative programming of Ex Cathedra's Artistic Director & Conductor, Jeffrey Skidmore, whose selection of summer-themed music and readings was appropriately book-ended by the Hymnus Eucharisticus, traditionally sung from Oxford's Magdalen College Tower at sunrise on May Morning, and Night Prayer by Alec Roth which brought the concert to a suitably meditative close. In between, we were treated to a veritable cornucopia of choral music spanning 15 centuries. We had the familiar (the early polyphonic round Sumer is icumen in, and the popular French song La Mer, complete with a

Romantic Violin Sonatas and Multi-piano Mozart CD reviews

ROMANTIC VIOLIN SONATAS AND MULTI-PIANO MOZART CD REVIEWS ROMANTIC VIOLIN SONATAS: Carlock-Combet Duo ★★★ Schubert's Sonata for Violin and Piano in A (D574) never reaches the heights of his greatest chamber works but its four-movements are affable, easy-going and cosy – what the German's call "gemütlich". Guillaume Combet's warm and generous vibrato and Sandra Carlock's laid-back unobtrusive piano style fit the work perfectly. Schumann's chamber works, the famous piano quintet excepted, have as many thorns as flowers. The Duo's energy and brio in the finale of his Sonata No.2 in D minor is commendable but elsewhere there are acerbities, oddities and shadows that go unexplored. Listen to Kremer and Argerich's probing performance to hear what I mean. Grieg's Violin Sonata No. 3 in C minor, his last chamber work, has some dull thematic material but the Carlock-Combet Duo make the most of its whole-hearted romanticism and they ensure that its