Showing posts from January, 2022

Norman Stinchcombe interviews Christopher Morley about the Walton Facade centenary CD -- and the Henry V 600th!

The story of how William Walton's 'Façade' came to be composed is as odd as the work itself but how the independent record label SOMM came to record it for a centenary celebration of its 1922 premiere is pretty odd too – involving Tubby the Tuba – as Norman Stinchcombe found out. Walton was a musical high-flyer, entering Oxford University aged 16, but a Latin and Greek duffer who never graduated. Obscurity beckoned, but at Oxford he became acquainted with all-round aesthete Sacheverell Sitwell. He invited Walton to lodge in the Chelsea house he shared with his equally artistic brother Osbert. Eventually came the idea of a musical collaboration with their sister Edith. She would recite her avant-garde abstract poems with the 19-year-old Walton supplying the musical accompaniment. Edith, as outré as any of the characters in her book 'English Eccentrics', recited them through a hole in a painted curtain, her voice amplified by a Sengerphone (a Wagnerian megaphone) t

Norman Stinchcombe reviews Walton, Proust and Mendelssohn CDs

FACADE CENTENARY CD REVIEWED WILLIAM WALTON 'A Centenary Celebration': Williams, Dalley, Whately. Orchestra of the Swan / O'Neil (SOMM Recordings) ★★★★★ Façade, the collaboration between eccentric poet Edith Sitwell and the 19-year-old tyro composer William Walton, was premiered privately on January 24, 1922. It was a minor succès de scandale. This terrific new recording shows that it's still perplexing, surprising and immensely entertaining. Roderick Williams (baritone) and Tamsin Dalley (mezzo-soprano) perform (not just recite) the many tongue-twisting zany verses with precision, gusto and spot-on characterization. The small ensemble from the Orchestra of the Swan, under Bruce O'Neil, provide pin-sharp lively support. Walton composed the soundtrack for Laurence Olivier's 1944 film of Shakespeare's 'Henry V'. This ingenious chamber-sized arrangement, by composer Edward Watson, and the OTS's vigorous playing means that we don't miss a

Craig Ogden Julian Bream recital at Bromsgrove

CRAIG OGDEN'S TRIBUTE TO JULIAN BREAM IN MEMORIAM JULIAN BREAM Craig Ogden at Bromsgrove School ***** No question, Julian Bream was this country's greatest guitarist. He elevated this humble supporting accessory into an estimable instrument in its own right, exploring the repertoire not just from the Spanish staples, but back right through to the riches of the English lutenists as well as commissioning works from every one of our greatest composers. Many of those from both periods were represented in this triumphant recital promoted in Bream's memory by Bromsgrove Concerts with the aid of the RVW Trust in that composer's sesquicentenary year, and given by Bromsgrove favourite Craig Ogden, who admitted to us how listening to Bream had inspired him in so much of his own work. Ogden brought two guitars, one reflecting the tuning of the ancient lute (as he so illuminatingly explained and illustrated), the other, "normal" one set up as usual for

CBSO review 20.1.22

THREE ORCHESTRAS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE CBSO Symphony Hall ***** We got three orchestras for the price of one in this amazing offering from an on-fire CBSO – almost literally so, with horns blazing in Strauss and Mahler. What we all recognise as a great ensemble (which we sometimes risk taking for granted) has the capacity to turn on even more greatness under the right conductor, and the players certainly did so here under the eloquent, clear baton of the orchestra's Chief Conductor-elect, Kazuki Yamada. The musicians obviously love him, and he them, and this matinee audience joined in with warm, prolonged applause. It was a joy to see such genuine delight on the players' faces, knowing now that they have a music director settling into his task with such enthusiasm, as well as a concertmaster, Eugene Tzikindelean, bringing such distinction to his role. This was a mouthwatering programme with Mozart as its pivot, preceded by the Don Juan of Richard Strauss (who ad

Norman Stinchcombe's CBSO review 13.1.22

TRIUMPHAL SIBELIUS CBSO at Symphony Hall ★★★★ By the time young American conductor Ryan Bancroft had reached the last triumphant bars of Sibelius's second symphony I was so engrossed in this dynamic performance I'd become unaware of wearing a face-mask – not something I ever thought I'd say. Bancroft didn't try to reverse-engineer the symphony, seeking out early intimations of the austere, mystical, enigmatic late Sibelius of 'Tapiola' and the seventh symphony. His was a big-boned, big hearted romantic approach – not unlike vintage Barbirolli – full of drama, rich sonorities and eager to seize on Sibelius's 'ma rubato' indication in the Andante. What a movement that it is, right from it's opening spooky, crepuscular low-string pizzicati articulated crisply by the CBSO's cello and bass sections. Even the muted ring tone from an idiot's mobile phone couldn't ruin playing of this intensity. The symphony's climax, built unerri

Norman Stinchcombe's latest CD reviews

BRANTUB OF CD REVIEWS! BACH & HANDEL : Devieilhe Pygmalion / Pinchon ★★★★★ Sabine Devieilhe is the reigning Queen of the Night in Europe's opera houses and so handles the coloratura demands of Handel with consummate ease. Two Cleopatra arias from 'Julius Caesar in Egypt' – star turns for great sopranos like Joan Sutherland – showcase Devieilhe's pin-point accuracy and grace. In both 'Che sento' and 'Piangero' Cleopatra is no longer the bewitching beauty but a woman facing her downfall and death and Devieilhe, very much inside the character, draws her plight convincingly. She is versatile too, capturing Mary's misery as her son Jesus is dragged away in the aria from Handel's 'Brocke's Passion'. She is impassioned and moving in Bach's solo cantata 'Mein Herze schwimmt in Blut'. The accompaniment by the Pygmalion Ensemble under Raphaël Pinchon is quicksilver and alert. The generous 84 minute recital ends with t


A BIRMINGHAM ORCHESTRA REBRANDS ITSELF EROICA'S REBIRTH By Christopher Morley So many amateur orchestras are formed with the highest aspirations, and I have seen so many of them come and ago. But the Eroica Camerata has been going strong since 2006, and is rising from the enforced pandemic lockdown with a striking new look at itself. "Our first public concert will be on Saturday in St Nicolas Church, Kings Norton, our home venue, with a programme of Beethoven and Brahms second symphonies. This follows a successful play day in September with the orchestra working on the Brahms and also Beethoven's Egmont overture, which will also feature in the concert. The Beethoven was on our very first concert programme in 2006," says music director Peter Marks. "However, I am planning several key differences with past performance practice," he continues "The pandemic has given me time and cause to reflect on what I consider ab