Showing posts from September, 2022
                                                                             LA BOHEME                                              Welsh National Opera at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff ***** Though originally seen 12 years ago, this WNO production of Puccini’s most heart-breaking opera maintains a freshness and capacity to enthral which kicks so many routine run-throughs of this repertoire staple into touch. Director Caroline Chaney has allowed this masterpiece to speak its own language, uncluttered by director’s gimmicks – nor slick updatings. Stephen Brimson Lewis’ economical but telling designs set us firmly in the Paris of the 1830’s Tim Mitchell’s lighting creates an atmosphere in which radiant warmth briefly dispels bleak chills, and Nina Dunn’s video design brings starlight, migrating birds – and someone has also brought about the smoking chimneys of Paris as the four student friends gaze down from their garret across the rooftops. Chaney has inserted so many telling
                                                                             CBSO                                                                            Symphony Hall ****   With everyone’s mind, Government excepted, focussed upon saving our planet, Brett Dean’s substantial cantata In This Brief Moment was an apt choice for the latest premiere of a CBSO commission, originally intended for the orchestra’s centenary, but postponed during lockdown. It is written for a huge orchestra – some might say extravagant – including a vast array of percussion, two harps, organ, piano, contrabass clarinet, drum-kit, and for a brief moment a striding double-bass, two choirs and soprano and countertenor soloists, here Jennifer France and Patrick Terry, melding beautifully with each other. Dean’s score makes powerful points, always impeccably imagined from this ex-Berlin Philharmonic violist, but the problem is with the text. We could already smell a rat with the Pseuds’ Corner candidacy
                                TRIO TROTOVSEK, BIZJAK, CANYIGUERAL                                              Birmingham Cathedral *****   Birmingham Cathedral’s regular series of free Friday lunchtime concerts offers a worthy menu of performances, generally from its own roster of organists and students from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. This time, however, it served up a dish featuring three international stars to enthral a small but appreciative audience of office-workers and fascinated tourists. The programme was an attractive one, opening with Slovenian violinist Lana Trotovsek and Catalan pianist Maria Canyigueral giving an enthralling account of Beethoven’s C minor Sonata. Actually the composer designated this as a Sonata for Piano with Violin Accompaniment, but all the balance issues were sensitively and brilliantly solved here, Trotovsek’s pure, forward tone well matched by Canyigueral’s adroit pianism. Phrasing was articulately, deftly shaped, the slow movem
                                        FREE LUNCHTIME RECITALS AT BIRMINGHAM CATHEDRAL                                     By Christopher Morley       There is an oasis of calm at the heart of Birmingham’s pulsating Business Quarter, and that is St Philip’s Cathedral. Stressed office-workers relax on its lawns eating their packed lunches, and twice a month they have the opportunity to enjoy high quality music-making within the gracious baroque building itself.   Ashley Wagner, Head of Music at the Cathedral, tells me about the history of the lunchtime series.   “I’m not entirely sure how long the recital series has been going for but certainly for much longer than I have been associated with Birmingham Cathedral (I joined as Organ Scholar in 2016),” he begins.   “It’s a great chance to showcase high-level music making by emerging and established artists playing all sorts of instruments (and all free to attend with an optional donation). The recital series used
HAYDN, BEETHOVEN, BRAHMS AND KOUSSEVITSKY CDs REVIEWED BY NORMAN STINCHCOMBE   Haydn Op.42, Op.77, Op.103: Takács Quartet (Hyperion) ★★★★ The personnel has changed since 1975 but the original Takács Quartet character remains. The sharpness of attack, wide-ranging variety of tone and colour, plus willingness to explore a work’s less traversed nooks and crannies, which I saw in their Birmingham Town Hall recitals a decade ago, are displayed here. Cellist András Fejér, the only original member and first violin Edward Dusinberre, who joined in 1993, provide the continuity. The two Op.77 quartets, No.1 in G major and No.2 in F major, were Haydn’s last completed quartets and a fittingly triumphant farewell to the medium he created. No.1 has one of Haydn’s finest Adagios, a ‘Creation’ style move from darkness to dazzling light, while No.2’s disingenuously titled “minuet” is playful, madcap and provoking, despatched wittily by the Takács players. Two D minor works, the miniature Op.42 and intr

CORVEDALE FESTIVAL By Christopher Morley

  South Shropshire, bordering the Welsh Marches on the western edge of our region, may appear a sleepy part of the world, as typified in A.E.Housman’s “Clunton and Clunbury, Clungunford and Clun, are the quietest places under the sun”, but in fact a huge amount of artistic activity teems beneath its placid surface. Festivals at Clun itself, Arcadia based in Bromfield, Ludlow, and the internationally-famous Presteigne, straddling the border between England and Wales, are thriving, and now there is a new kid about to join the block. The Corvedale Festival presents a multitude of attractive events, instrumental, chamber music, voice and harp, vocal ensembles in a variety of local venues within the Craven Arms area, under the shadow of the Long Mynd, from September 16 – 24. It is the brainchild of singer/composer Paul Henley (some of his works receiving their premieres during this busy week) and his cellist wife Ruth, both alumni of what is now Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Paul sees the