Showing posts from September, 2021

Berersford King-Smith obituary

BERESFORD KING-SMITH (1931-2021) Beresford King-Smith, who died earlier this week at the age of 90, was an employee and chronicler of the CBSO for half of the Orchestra's entire history. Born near Bath in 1931, he left the family paper business to join the CBSO's management in January 1964. By the time he retired, in January 2014, he had served the Orchestra as Concert Manager, Deputy Chief Executive and latterly Honorary Archivist for an unprecedented (and unsurpassed) 50 years. Beresford joined the CBSO under the conductorship of Hugo Rignold, and took a hands-on role in the running of the orchestra from his very first day - fixing and managing the musicians, as well as organising extensive tours in Europe, both East and West of the Iron Curtain: a formidable task in an era before email or fax. Beresford handled the situation when Rignold was briefly arrested by Soviet border guards as a suspected spy during the 1968 Czechoslovakia tour, and negotiated with Yugoslavian

Bebbington and Donohoe Leamington recitals

WONDERFUL ROBERT SIMPSON AND BEETHOVEN FROM MARK BEBBINGTON, PETER DONOHOE COMPLETING A SPECTACULAR RECITAL DAY MARK BEBBINGTON, PETER DONOHOE Royal Pump Rooms, Leamington Spa ***** Covid-delayed, the Leamington Music Festival Weekend which is traditionally held each May finally went ahead as September moved into autumn, and the heroic organisers could have received no finer reward than the two splendid piano recitals we heard on Saturday 25th. Both were from local pianists, beginning at lunchtime with Hagley's Mark Bebbington, who celebrated this year's centenary of the birth of Leamington's own Robert Simpson with a magisterial account of the composer's Variations and Finale on a Theme of Haydn. The work is intricately structured, but its clever architecture gives place to the sheer musicality with which Simpson explores sonorities, searching through tonalities and commanding the keyboard much in the manner of Schumann and Mussorgsky in similar constru

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 Fa├žade 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