Showing posts from August, 2021

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