Showing posts from July, 2022

Christopher Morley reviews the Three Choirs Festival

GERONTIUS ENDS A BRILLIANT THREE CHOIRS THREE CHOIRS FESTIVAL Hereford Cathedral ***** What was a very successful Three Choirs Festival week concluded with packed houses for the two concluding evening concerts in Hereford Cathedral, and there was a subtle link between the two events. Friday's concert indeed lived up to its "Transformations" title, opening with Stravinsky's arrangement of Bach's "Vom Himmel Hoch" Canonic Variations. Conductor Adrian Partington did his best with this clumsy work, low-lying for the reduced Festival Chorus, and scratchy for the upper stringless Philharmonia Orchestra. Amazing how much of the woodwind filigree sounded like Walton's Wise Virgins Bach Transcriptions. A full string complement provided a wonderfully buoyant, sonorous backdrop to Gerald Finzi's Dies Natalis. We normally hear a tenor in these Thomas Traherne settings, always feeling that these are the musings of a boy child just delivered fr


Apologies to all  In my excitement over the piece my fingers ran away with me, and I forgot to credit Ethyl Smyth as composer of the Concerto for Violin, Horn and Orchestra. Christopher Morley

CBSO Prom review

Sent from the all-new AOL app for Android ----- Forwarded message ----- From: "Christopher Morley" <> To: "Christopher Morley" <> CBSO fill the Royal Albert Hall  CBSO Prom Royal Albert Hall **** Rumour has it that ticket sales are down for the current season of BBC Promenade concerts. Not so last Monday, when an all-but-packed Albert Hall marvelled at a CBSO on the superlative form we regulars have long come to expect from them but should never take for granted. This was Chief Conductor-designate Kazuki Yamada's first-ever Prom, fulfilling a long-cherished ambition which he had never expected to achieve so quickly. With his wife and two tiny children present, this was creating a memory to savour, and the joy emanating from Yamada's platform presence glowed throughout this vast building. It was obvious from the orchestra, too. Glinka's Russian und Ludmila Overture kicked off at a fizz surely too t

CBSO Youth Orchestra review

BLAZING BEETHOVEN FROM THESE YOUNGSTERS CBSO YOUTH ORCHESTRA Royal Birmingham Conservatoire **** You can always be assured of quality with the CBSO Youth Orchestra, expertly coached by some of the country's finest professional orchestral musicians, and performing under great conductors. And the CBSO Youth Orchestra Academy brings us the whittled-down crème de la crème, under the shrewd, understanding and joyously expressive baton of Michael Seal, onetime sub-principal violinist in the CBSO and now a giant on the podium in his own right. Saturday afternoon's concert deserved a bigger audience than we found in the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire's Bradshaw Hall. I guess they were mainly family fans, with no Town Hall or Symphony Hall usual suspects, perhaps daunted at the prospect of making the trek out to Eastside. "A Fist Full of Fives" was the title of the programme, beginning indeed with Adrian Sutton's busy, eclectic showpiece bearing that

Kazuki Yamada and the CBSO

KAZUKI YAMADA AND THE CBSO PROM Christopher Morley As a 24-year-old student a young Japanese music student based in Germany decided to take himself over to London for a few days' sight-seeing. "I arrived at the Royal Albert Hall, this magnificent building, and I was just gripped! I saw there was a BBC Henry Wood Promenade Concert happening there that evening, so I queued for hours and finally got into the arena, second row from the front, and all for five pounds! "It was then that I realised my ambition was to conduct a Prom, and now it's about to happen! What an amazing thrill! Wow!" This is Kazuki Yamada, incoming Principal Conductor of the CBSO in succession to Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, who is about to take the podium in front of the orchestra for the BBC Prom on Monday July 25. "It's like a dream come true," he tells me during a post-concert reception in Symphony Hall's welcoming new Jane How room. He has just conducted the CBS

CBSO Schubert review

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE SAVOURS SCHUBERT 'Simply Schubert': CBSO at Birmingham Town Hall ★★★★ A small but very enthusiastic audience were clearly all agreed that this was a very pleasant way to spend a balmy summer evening. The players, enthused by Edward Gardner's vigorous conducting, clearly felt that too – one young second fiddle played throughout with a radiant smile. This wasn't the time for music of profundity and soul searching but for sitting back, relaxing and listening to the teenage Schubert flexing and stretching his compositional skills. His Symphony No. 1 in D major was completed when he was only sixteen but there is nothing of the wunderkind quality of Mendelssohn's 'Midsummer Night's Dream' overture, the dazzling work of a fifteen-year-old. It's rather more like a schoolboy formulating a mathematical theorem with a copy of Euclid open at his elbow. Substitute Haydn for Euclid and we have a carefully crafted classical symphony that

Longborough Carmen review

A TRIUMPH AGAINST FATE CARMEN Longborough Festival Opera *** The resourcefulness of Longborough Festival Opera has already become the stuff of legends. Last year it coped with pandemic restrictions by erecting a big top, seating socially distanced and acoustically superb, for its productions. This year it got off to a flying start back in the main house with Wagner's Siegfried and Korngold's Die Tote Stadt, but then the resurgence of Covid hit its current Carmen presentation. Did Longborough throw in the towel and ring down the curtain? Did it heck as like! Seven out of ten principal roles were covered by understudies for the run's opening night in a semi-staged performance, but then on Tuesday we saw the whole show as originally conceived, the seven understudies now moving so confidently about their business, and with the musical values under conductor Jeremy Silver so consistent with LFO's famed delivery with its magnificent Festival Orchestra. All t

Latest reviews from Norman Stinchcombe

NORMAN STINCHOMBE REVIEWS MALCOLM ARNOLD, CHOPIN/RACHMANINOC CDS AND A PUCCINI DVD Sir Malcolm Arnold: Complete Symphonies & Dances (Naxos 6 CD set) ★★ Arnold's nine symphonies exemplify his gifts for brilliant orchestration – as the London Philharmonic's principal trumpet he learned his craft from the inside – rhythmic agility and a fund of good tunes. This medium-priced box set has the symphonies performed by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland and the Orchestral Dances by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, all under Andrew Penny. Playing and recording quality is competent but unexceptional and Penny's direction too often misses Arnold's wit, sparkle and ear-tickling sonorities. Chandos's bargain 4CD set of the symphonies, conducted by Richard Hickox and Rumon Gamba, costs a third less than Naxos but is in another league for sound and playing panache – newcomers should start here. Sir Malcolm's own magnificent CBSO recording of the fifth, sc

Stanford Requiem review

STANFORD'S REQUIEM RETURNS TO BIRMINGHAM AFTER 125 YEARS CBSO & University of Birmingham Voices Symphony Hall **** The Birmingham Triennial Festival's back catalogue of major choral & orchestral works is extensive, although a significant number of the commissions have not stood the test of time and have become neglected as time has passed, even those written by leading composers of the day. Into this category falls Stanford's Requiem, first performed in 1897 and so having a timely airing here in its 125th Anniversary year, premiered just three years before Elgar's Dream of Gerontius which, in contrast, certainly made the Triennial Festival's 'greatest hits' roll call. Those seeking a 'fire & brimstone' take on the Catholic mass need to look elsewhere; this is a more gentle, intimate, and consoling setting. But that's not to say it lacks contrast – indeed, across its extensive 80-minute running time, there is variety of mo

Birmingham International Piano Competition review

AN INTERNATIONAL PIANO COMPETITION WHICH COULD BE SO MUCH MORE BIRMINGHAM INTERNATIONAL PIANO COMPETITION FINAL Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (no stars for a competition) After nomadding through many of Birmingham's important music centres for well over four decades, the Robert William and Florence Amy Brant International Piano Competition has now settled at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, bringing its less unwieldy name, the Birmingham International Piano Competition, with it. Two rounds of recitals whittled down the selected finalists to four, who again were required to present a recital. I feel that for such an important competition, in such a city as Birmingham, the Final should have the glamour of concertos (like the Leeds). What an opportunity for the students of the RBC Symphony Orchestra to work under pressure, conducted by one of the RBC's experienced professional conductors. Miss Gladys Brant, founder of the competition, stipulated certain categories for