Showing posts from December, 2022
  Thursday 22 nd December 2022   EX CATHEDRA St. Paul’s Church, Birmingham ****   Fully freed from the unwelcome restrictions of Covid protocols, the 2022 edition of Ex Cathedra’s annual ‘Christmas Music by Candlelight’ concert series saw a welcome return to the fully immersive aural experience that is its hallmark, opening with a moving rendition of ‘This is the truth’ by Ralph Vaughan Williams sung from the two side aisles, with baritone solo and conductor in the chancel and nave respectively.   Vaughan Williams’ 150 th birthday was just one of multiple current and upcoming anniversaries recognised in this year’s programme – a meditative ‘Ave Maria’ by Anton Bruckner (200 th birthday in 2023) had suitably pleading cries of “Sancta Maria”, whilst the ‘Lullaby, my sweet little baby’ of William Byrd ( 2023 will be the 400 th anniversary of this great English composer’s death) was given a tender reading by the choristers.   However, Ex Cathedra is also a champion of
                                                                             CBSO                                                                            Symphony Hall *****   The afternoon began innocuously, if such a word can be used to describe the concert-opening Brahms Tragic Overture in such a glowing, string-rich account from the CBSO under Alpesh Chauhan. Many present on both sides of the footlights will have seen the conductor develop from his days as a cellist in the Birmingham Schools’ Symphony Orchestra and the CBSO Youth Orchestra, until today he is among the country’s busiest, most sought-after young conductors. But what followed in this traditional table d’hote menu (overture, concerto, symphony) will long remain in the memory. CBSO concertmaster Eugene Tzikindelean took centre stage as soloist in the rarely-performed Nielsen Violin Concerto, a big, spectacular work tackled here with immense aplomb and authority by Tzikindelean’s mellow, communicative instrume
  ARTS COUNCIL ENGLAND FORCES WELSH NATIONAL OPERA TO CUT ITS TOURING SCHEDULE By Christopher Morley   The Arts Council’s apparent vendetta against operatic excellence in England for not ticking this month’s trendy boxes has ramifications in other countries, too. Welsh National Opera has long been a touring presence the length and half the breadth of this country on our side of the Severn, but such long-cherished relationships are now in jeopardy. It was recently announced that WNO will cease its Liverpool visits with immediate effect, leaving its phalanx of loyal supporters on Merseyside deprived of world-class grand opera. WNO General Director Aidan Lang tells me how difficult this decision was. “It was indeed a heart-breaking decision but faced with such a significant and unexpected cut to our funding, we had no option but to act quickly. With a cut of this magnitude, Arts Council England obviously cannot imagine that we can carry on as if nothing has happened, and so they
  MARIA CANYIGUERAL BEETHOVEN RECITAL                                              Conway Hall, Holborn Holborn’s acoustically comfortable Conway Hall quietly goes about its Sunday evening business, presenting top-class music-making to enthusiastically discerning audiences, and this latest recital, from Spanish pianist Maria Canyigueral, was Conway at its best. Her programme was a brilliantly obvious one, presenting the three Op.2 Sonatas with which Beethoven set out his stall as a composer for piano, and what a journey they represent. All three are dedicated to his teacher Josef Haydn, and begin with a nod to their prickly tuition time together before moving on to a glorious foretaste of what lay ahead for Beethoven. In an evening of poise, command and interpretative integrity, Canyigueral launched the F minor Sonata with a lightness of touch which permitted occasional moments of explosive power. She allowed the music to speak for itself, all the drama emerging from the notes
                                                              SINFONIA OF LONDON                                                             Barbican Centre *****   Over half a century I have never reviewed a concert as amazing as this, not even from the CBSO in Symphony Hall under its succession of exciting conductors. And this was in the notoriously difficult acoustic of the Barbican, almost entirely mastered by John Wilson and his Sinfonia of London, in which a packed audience rose at the end of a remarkable evening to applaud with a unanimous standing ovation, grumpy me included. The Sinfonia of London was decades ago a scratch recording orchestra. Now John Wilson has revamped it into an ensemble of enthusiastic, willing players, and it is obvious they would give their all for him, as witnessed in this programme of works written within little over two decades in the mid-20 th century. Walton’s Scapino Overture kicked off, both bristling and lyrical (such gentle interch
  ‘ Street Music’, CBSO at Symphony Hall ★★★★ The designated title of the concert was a bit stretched for Bernd Alois Zimmerman’s 1955 trumpet concerto. In truth it was more ‘Sheet Music’ than ‘Street Music’.The work takes its title from the black slave spiritual ‘Nobody knows de trouble I see’ but that’s hidden away under Zimmerman’s then fashionable twelve-tone row structure. He utilized a jazzy array of saxophones, Hammond Organ and pounding rhythm section, but unlike in Bebop, the contemporary hip jazz form at the time, doesn’t start with the tune and then improvise on it. The work lasts thirteen minutes but it's only after eleven of them that it emerges in a lonely valedictory solo, tenderly played by the ever-resourceful virtuoso Simon Höfele. It’s a lightbulb moment. Those preceding cacophonic minutes, the orchestra chugging away underneath Höfele’s wailing impassioned playing, was the “trouble” before the final quiet mixture of triumph and resignation. An impressive perform