Showing posts from April, 2023
  Terrific playing from a world-class quartet Pavel Haas Quartet at Birmingham Town Hall ***** It’s an unwritten rule for string quartet recitals that a variety of key and structure is necessary, particularly when only two works are performed. Yet here we had two quartets in G major, Schubert’s No 15 Op 161 and Dvořák’s No 13 in Op 106. Both are late works of four movements; the first moderately fast, the second moderately slow, and a finale with a very quick conclusion. The Pavel Haas Quartet’s performance shows that such programming rules-of-thumb can be broken with impunity. Here was displayed a cornucopia of ideas from two composers of genius, a dazzling variety of detail and a myriad of expressive devices. One key opens many doors. I last saw the Pavel Haas Quartet at this venue in 2014, while there have been personnel changes there’s also continuity; Veronika Jarůšková leads from the first violin, and the quartet’s absolute mastery of their chosen repertoire remains, with a fire-
  A triumphant night for the CBSO’s ‘King Kazuki’ CBSO at Symphony Hall ★★★★★ I doubt if the forthcoming coronation of King Charles III will be greeted with such spontaneous joy or the wholehearted embrace which greeted Kazuki Yamada as he was crowned as the CBSO’s new Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor. The packed Symphony Hall audience overflowed with warmth towards the vibrant, bouncing good humoured man whom they have held in great affection since he became Principal Guest Conductor in 2018. At the end of an exhilarating concert we were engulfed in hundreds of black and white “CBSO” embossed balloons released from the ceiling – general genial mayhem ensued. The madcap bacchanalian atmosphere was entirely fitting following a dynamic performance of Carl Orff’s choral blockbuster ‘Carmina Burana’. This was a triumph for the talented choirs and their Chorus Master Julian Wilkins. Just as a sight they were impressive – I gave up counting at around the 200 mark – with the CBSO Chorus a
  Sparkling Vivaldi ‘Four Seasons’ from the CBSO CBSO at Birmingham Town Hall ★★★★ Conductors and composers have often transcribed chamber and solo works for full orchestra – from the respectfully faithful to Stokowski’s fancifully garish recreations. A handful are revelatory; one such is Dmitri Mitropoulos' of Beethoven’s String Quartet in C minor Op. 131. When he conducted it in 1937 with the Boston Symphony a young music student in the audience was so awe-struck that he vowed one day to conduct and record it himself. Listen to Leonard Bernstein’s 1977 white-hot recording with the Vienna Philharmonic and be similarly awed – this is as near as we’ll get to hearing “Beethoven’s Tenth”. There’s nothing of that magnitude in Mahler’s transcription of Schubert’s String Quartet in D minor ‘Death and the Maiden’ despite it deriving from a chamber music masterpiece based on one of the great songs in lieder literature. The CBSO strings, directed from the first violin by the leader Eugene T
  Birmingham Bach Choir St Paul’s Church - 1 st April 2023 *****   I thought I had arrived in good time for an earlier-than-usual 7.00pm start for Birmingham Bach Choir’s performance of Rachmaninoff’s Liturgy of St John Chrysostom , but I had to join a long queue of people outside, also eager to hear a rare performance – maybe the first one in Birmingham - and St Paul’s church was packed when I took my seat.   It is a tough ask for a choir to perform such a lengthy unaccompanied work, but this fine ensemble was clearly able to carry it off with aplomb, evident even from the very first Amen.   Conductor Paul Spicer announced before the start that sadly the bass soloist had succumbed to Covid. However, tenor Graham Stroud agreed to sing both tenor and bass roles, and as soon as he sang the opening chant we knew he was more than up to the task. Soprano soloist Corinna Gregory soared beautifully above the choir in the exquisite twelfth movement.   But what was most impress
                                      ICELAND SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA   The Iceland Symphony Orchestra made a huge impression when they visited Symphony Hall as part of their 70 th anniversary tour just before the Covid lockdown, and are now set to make a welcome return on April 21. Their programme begins with Metacosmos by their composer-in-residence Anna Thorvaldsdottir, and ends with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no.5. Between these two works comes Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, with Sir Stephen Hough the distinguished soloist.   Conducting the evening is Eva Ollikainen, whose contract as Principal Conductor has recently been extended to 2026, soon after her initial appointment to the orchestra. She recalls how she felt an immediate bonding between herself and the players.      "I still remember like yesterday our first encounter in 2005, in the old hall which was a university cinema (!). The musical and human chemistry was instantly there, I remember the joy of making musi