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Showing posts from May, 2022

Elgar Jubilee Festival

ELGAR JUBILEE FESTIVAL By Christopher Morley It was a childhood experience which made Anne Renshaw briefly wish she hadn't been born a girl. "I grew up in East Anglia and went to school in Peterborough. We were occasionally taken to the cathedral to hear Choral Evensong. At 11 years old I was blown away by it and it was the only time in my life I wished I'd been born a boy – I so wanted to be a chorister, when of course that wasn't possible," she confesses. "Both my parents sang in our local church choir and choral society so I was brought up on singing. School and college choirs followed, then nothing until moving to Worcestershire and eventually joining Worcester Festival Choral Society, the Three Choirs Festival Chorus, more recently Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir and now, the Elgar Festival Chorus." And it is now the Elgar Festival Chorus which is foremost in Anne's thoughts, in her role as trustee and strategic director. thoug

Latest CD and DVD reviews from Norman Stinchcombe

A REAL BRAN-TUB OF REVIEWS FROM NORMAN STINCHCOMBE C.P.E. BACH 'Sonatas & Rondos': Marc-Andre Hamelin (Hyperion 2 CDs) ★★★★★ After recording Haydn and Mozart the Canadian pianist is back exploring more esoteric repertoire – the keyboard works by the most talented of J.S. Bach's prodigious progeny. Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714-1788) saw the eclipse of baroque style and rise of the classical. His works encompass the switch from harpsichord and clavichord to fortepiano with its agility (no stops to change) and greater range of colour and dynamics. His short 'Farewell to my Clavier built by Silbermann', written in the style of his father, signals the transition. The amazing 'Freie Fantasie' in F sharp minor (H300) anticipates Romanticism and is dazzling in Hamelin's hands, justifying his use of a Steinway grand's full resources. The works here range from the fiery Sonata in F minor, the elegant E minor – a sonata-cum-suite – and astonishingly

Modigliani Quartet give the UK premiere of Turnage's Split Apart

POWERFUL, ANGRY TURNAGE PREMIERE QUATUOR MODIGLIANI St James' Church, Chipping Campden ***** Arguably the best thing to emerge from Brexit is Mark-Anthony Turnage's Split Apart, a substantial five-movement string quartet born of the composer's despair and anger at the outcome of the Brexit referendum. In an engaging pre-concert Question & Answer session at this year's continually enterprising Chipping Campden Festival Turnage confessed that this was the first time he had felt the confidence to tackle this most demanding of vehicles without the prop of other instruments. He referred to Beethoven, and indeed that greatest composer of string quartets casts a darkly benevolent presence over Split Apart, not only in its structure, but also in the slowly developing colloquy of the second movement. The fourth movement distorts and fragments the intervals of Beethoven's Ode to Joy (which of course became the great anthem of European unity), but here as we

CBSO Bruckner 6 review

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE ENTHUSES OVER CBSO'S BRUCKNER 6 WITH MIRGA CBSO at Symphony Hall ★★★★ The sixth is the odd man out of Bruckner's mature symphonies. An enigmatic work which is seldom-played and when it is often proves to be a conducting conundrum. Two recent recordings show conductors trying unsuccessfully to force the symphony into a more familiar, or at least consistent, shape. Thomas Dausgaard tried to increase excitement by fast tempi but made it sound chivvied and rushed; Andris Nelsons, usually a fine Brucknerian, slowed the Adagio down so much it lost shape, in a vain attempt to exalt it to the level of the seventh. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla made no such mistakes, accepting the sixth's idiosyncrasies while revealing its many beauties. An interpretation-in-progress but one resolutely on the right track, eliciting playing of subtlety, trenchancy and power from the CBSO. There's no doubt the opening movement is a puzzle. The tense morse code motif from the s

CBSO Brahms 3 and an amazing improvisation from Gabriela Montero

CBSO DUTIFUL UNDER MIRGA CBSO Symphony Hall **** For all his legendary crustiness, Brahms was the most noble-hearted of composers. Despite an artificial feud between him and Wagner fomented by the Viennese musical press, on the day that composer died Brahms laid down his baton at a rehearsal, announced "today a genius has left us", and cancelled proceedings. Tchaikovsky couldn't stand Brahms, declaring him "that scoundrel, that talentless bastard", but here they both were on this CBSO matinee programme, one of the most popular works by each of them cheek-by-jowl. Before that, though, the concert began with an amazing rendition of a Ukrainian song delivered by the standing CBSO players, conductor Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla singing a solo, the afternoon's pianist Gabriela Montero making a heartwarming contribution. This was the CBSO showing its customary emotional generosity. Then Montero turned to the matter in hand, Tchaikovsky's Piano Concer

OOTS Ukraine concert review

EMOTIONAL UKRAINE CONCERT AT THE ROYAL SHAKESPEARE THEATRE WORDS AND MUSIC FOR UKRAINE Orchestra of the Swan at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford ***** This was a very special evening promoted by the Stratford-on-Avon Music Festival with willing co-operation from the Orchestra of the Swan and the Royal Shakespeare Company, all making themselves available for free, with all takings going to the Disasters Emergency Committee co-ordinating assistance to Ukrainian families Emotion was already overflowing as we stood for the State Anthem of Ukraine, and the house was packed. Encouragingly there seemed to be many novices at attending an orchestral concert, and after the heartening enthusiasm they expressed throughout this unique evening I am sure we shall seem thronging OOTS audiences in future. Three distinguished actors – Jim Broadbent, Mogali Masuku and Sam West -- donated their services, Broadbent delivering a particularly telling extract from the originally-suppressed

CBSO, Kashimoto/Yamada review

YAMADA ENCHANTS US YET AGAIN CBSO Symphony Hall***** Libel laws won't permit me to name the many conductors who cavort for the gallery, but there are some who have such an eloquence of body-language that it transmits every interpretative intention, and teases every detail from the players. Andris Nelsons is one thus gifted, and in Kazuki Yamada, the CBSO's Chief Conductor-elect, we now have another. He was like a goading, persuasive marionette, in what is indeed Prokofiev's toytown "Classical" Symphony. Uninhibited gestures mirrored those in this extrovert score, woodwind were encouraged to bubble and strings to bustle in this witty, elegant account. Only in the Gavotte did the shaping seem excessively rhetorical. Yamada then greeted us all with enthusiasm and warmth, flattering us as "a great audience", before introducing his compatriot Daishin Kashimoto, Concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic (who has therefore collaborated with Si

Norman Stinchcombe's latest CD reviews

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE REVIEWS MENDELSSOHN, VAUGHAN WILLIAMS AND RATTLE JAZZ CDS MENDELSSOHN: Vogt / Orchestre de Chambre de Paris ★★★★ It was exactly thirty years ago that German pianist Lars Vogt, then aged twenty-two, released his acclaimed first CD of the Schumann and Grieg concertos with the CBSO under Simon Rattle. He's built up a sizeable catalogue of recordings and added conducting to his repertoire with the Northern Sinfonia and this Paris chamber orchestra. Here he directs Mendelssohn's Piano Concertos, No.1 in G minor and No 2 in D minor, from the keyboard, marking his welcome return to health after treatment for cancer. Vogt gets both concertos get off to a fiery start, precise and quick, genuinely con fuoco and appassionato, with fine support from the orchestra. In No.2 – premiered at Birmingham Town Hall in 1837 with Mendelssohn at the keyboard – his brisk tempo and light touch are suited to the finale's presto scherzando designation. In the delightful &

Roderick Williams at Leamington Music Festival

YET ANOTHER AMAZING RODDY WILLIAMS RECITAL WHEN I WAS ONE-AND-TWENTY Roderick Williams at the Royal Pump Rooms, Leamington Spa ***** Wherever Roderick Williams appears he casts a spell, engaging the entire audience not only with his vocal artistry, but also his warmth of personality and his ability to engage us all with his eyes and with his expressive body-language. His lunchtime recital as this year's hugely successful Leamington Music Festival gradually drew to its close, was such a heartwarming exposition of his gifts, value added by the baritone's wonderful accompanist. Williams has the happy knack of empathising with whomever is at the keyboard, and here, with pianist Paul Cibis (an artist new to me) he immediately established an easy natural rapport. Williams engagingly explained the recital's title (and we could hear his every word, though some speakers have problems in this engulfing acoustic), how he loved performing young composers' music despite

Sinfonia of Birmingham at Royal Leamington Spa

GRADUAL CONVERSION TO VAUGHAN WILLIAMS SINFONIA OF BIRMINGHAM All Saints' Church, Royal Leamington Spa ***** One perhaps unexpected side-effect of Leamington Music Festival's exploration of the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams on this 150th anniversary of his birth is the way it is quickening the interest of this grumpy old reviewer. Until now there have been only three of the composer's works I have actively welcomed listening to: the ineffable Serenade to Music, the atmospheric Tallis Fantasia, and the Wasps Overture, with which the Sinfonia of Birmingham opened Saturday evening's concert in the reverberant High Victorian All Saints' Church. Strings fizzed and buzzed under the expert baton of Michael Seal (who knows so well how to rehearse and prepare his players with a minimum time-schedule), horns were noble and proud (never mind a few mishaps along the way), and Seal managed to coax out all the contrapuntal textures despite the warm blanket

Lana Trotovsek and Maria Canyigueral violin and piano recital review

WONDERFUL RAVEL VIOLIN SONATA AT LEAMINGTON MUSIC FESTIVAL Royal Pump Rooms, Leamington Spa ***** Leamington Music managed to keep the flag flying as we gradually emerged from the darkest days of the pandemic, and has at last managed to reclaim its place in the MayDay sun for the much-loved Leamington Music Festival. LMF's planned celebrations of 2020's 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth had to be abandoned, but another timely anniversary, the sesquicentenary of Ralph Vaughan Williams, has given a tight motivation to this year's programme. Saturday's lunchtime recital brought Slovenian violinist Lana Trotovsek and Catalan pianist Maria Canyigueral to the exquisitely accommodating Royal Pump Rooms, the warm acoustic perfect for this kind of presentation, presenting to us an absolutely spellbinding account of RVW's The Lark Ascending. Such a performance from non-Brits can only advance the cause of this composer as being considered as more than a litt