Showing posts from June, 2021

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

CBSO Britten, Arnold review

RICHARD BRATBY ENTHUSES OVER CBSO'S BRITTEN AND ARNOLD CBSO Symphony Hall **** One of the enjoyable details of the CBSO's sadly-mauled Centenary season has been its sense of heritage – of revisiting, and reclaiming, music with which the orchestra has a historic connection. Sir Malcolm Arnold recorded his Fifth Symphony with the CBSO in 1973. The symphony, at that point, was twelve years old, while the CBSO was starting to show the benefits of Louis Frémaux's energetic orchestra-building. But while any recording of a major work by its composer has a historic value, I doubt either Frémaux or Arnold would have quite believed the quality of the playing or the conviction of the interpretation that the symphony received under Michael Seal this afternoon. The CBSO was playing in its socially-distanced configuration, with a slightly reduced string section: still, as with all the concerts so far in this short post-lockdown summer season, it's clear that

Two new chamber releases reviewed by Norman Stinchcombe

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE ENTHUSES OVER TWO NEW CHAMBER RELEASES AMERICAN QUINTETS: Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective ★★★★ American composer Florence Beatrice Price's life is perfect movie material. Of mixed race and born in bigoted Arkansas in 1887 Florence fought bigotry to get a musical education – even pretending to be a Mexican to avoid prejudice against her African heritage. She was indefatigable: her E minor Symphony was premiered in 1933 by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The Quintet in A minor for piano and strings featured here was written at about the same time, its conventional late romanticism enlivened by incorporating stomping Juba slave-dance rhythms in its lively third movement. Amy Beach's music is better known and her F sharp minor Quintet has been recorded several times but this is the finest, the KCC giving its full Brahmsian textures weight without stodginess. Sample the passionate adagio espressivo. Samuel Barber's deeply felt setting of Matthew Arnold

CBSO review 2.6.21

PAUL LEWIS SPARKLES ON A SOMETIMES DREARY AFTERNOON CBSO Symphony Hall **** The latest in the CBSO's unlocked-down series of concerts was very much in the meat and two veg tradition, overture, concerto and symphony. The only innovation was the absence of the interval, something which must surely be on the table for discussion. Now that there are no longer overnight reviews, I am sure most critics would welcome an earlier end to concerts; against that we have to balance the venue's loss of catering takings. Blissfully there is no room for encores, either. Conducting was someone new to me, the young French conductor Chloe van Soeterstede, very much in the elfin mode in which Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla first presented herself to us, and with an equal outpouring of enthusiasm. Yet her account of Mozart's Don Giovanni Overture, though it zipped along, was lacking in dynamic shading, Chloe (may I? -- like Mirga, she shares a weighty surname), relying instead upon Moza