Showing posts from September, 2023
  Shostakovich’s Eighth Symphony a titanic triumph for the CBSO CBSO at Symphony Hall ★★★★★ The rousing emphatic fifth and famous bellicose ‘Leningrad’ are more popular; the wilfully idiosyncratic fourth is more daring; but a strong case can be made for Shostakovich’s eighth symphony being his greatest. This epic CBSO performance conducted by the orchestra’s associate conductor Michael Seal, with a combination of modest self-effacement, authoritative control and forensic attention to detail, would certainly have persuaded newcomers, and converted sceptics, to acknowledge the symphony’s stature. After the kaleidoscopic work finally faded into silence to its satisfyingly hard-earned C major conclusion the man sitting behind me in the stalls exclaimed, “What a beautiful ending!” It’s like a small beautiful flower blossoming on a blood-soaked battlefield. Not too fanciful an image since it was premiered in 1943 as the Russian tide turned against the Nazi invasion of the motherland. In the
                                                           AUTUMN IN MALVERN                                                           By Christopher Morley   This year’s Autumn in Malvern Festival is already well underway, having begun on September 23 with Bach’s The Art of Fugue, introduced and performed by Iain Simcock on harpsichord and organ. The next musical event has a decidedly Swedish flavour, bringing the Nicolai Chamber Choir, closely associated with Stockholm’s St Nicolai Cathedral, presenting “A Garland of Choral Music” in tribute to the great 19 th -century soprano Jenny Lind, “the Swedish nightingale”, who retired to Wynds Point close to the Herefordshire Beacon just outside Malvern (September 29, Great Malvern Priory 1pm). Described by Musical Opinion magazine as “Britain’s greatest living composer of art song”, Worcester’s Ian Venables provides the focus for tenor Nick Pritchard’s “Ivor Gurney to Ian Venables – a journey through English song” at Christchurch,
                                                  CBSO                                                 Symphony Hall *****     Saturday’s concert ended with orchestra and audience waving joyfully to each other, buoyed by the infectious enthusiasm of principal conductor Kazuki Yamada. Yamada has brought to the CBSO a zest   and rebirth in self-belief which has put the orchestra firmly at the peak of achievement.   Indeed, the diminutive, boyish maestro had said as much in his introduction to the second half of this all but packed-out concert, when, working the microphone with an instinctive expertise, he told us, “in the first half we played Beethoven’s Leonore Overture number ONE, then Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto number ONE, and now we are going to play Walton’s Symphony number ONE -- because WE are number ONE, we are the best!”. The affirmative cheers resounded.   Truth to tell, the Beethoven can only have been included for its numeric significance. For all the playe
  Viva Verdi! A searing start to the CBSO’s new season CBSO at Symphony Hall ★★★★★ The first night of the CBSO’s new season was a triumphant combination of change and continuity. It’s the first for chief conductor and artistic advisor Kazuki Yamada and chief executive Emma Stanning but the 50 th  season for the brilliant CBSO Choir and the 40 th  for their choral director Simon Halsey. Verdi’s Requiem demands team-work of the highest order from orchestra, choir and the quartet of solo singers; one weak link and the musical chain snaps. The amazingly ebullient Kazuki Yamada ensured it was adamantine in strength. Not so much a conductor as multi-tasking choreographer, cheerleader and all-round enthusiasm-inducer. After the Requiem’s hushed start, all sighs, murmurings and string sussurrations, Verdi blazed forth with the ‘Dies Irae’. The Day of Judgement will hold no surprises for anyone who saw this performance as the orchestra roared and wailed – thunderous timpani and brass including
  Norman Stinchcombe reviews the latest classical CD releases ‘ Mozart and the Organ’: Dahl, Engegard, Sponberg, Snerte (LWAO Classics CD)  ★★★★ Mozart was the greatest keyboard player of his day; a fiddler accomplished enough to play his own violin concertos; and the viola player in the world’s first “super group”, a string quartet featuring Haydn, Vanhal and Dittersdorf. Less well known is his ability and affection for the organ which he told his father was, “the queen of instruments.” Pressure of work limited his composing time for the organ but here Anders Eidsten Dahl performs 14 of Mozart’s 17 Church Sonatas – on the Margaretekyrkan organ in Oslo – joined by Atle Sponberg (violin) and Embrik Snerte (bassoon). These elegant pieces, some juvenilia, were composed for use in Salzburg and are charming rarities. Dahl adds three late solo pieces, the Adagio and Allegro in F minor K.594, Fantasia in F minor K.608 and the Andante in F major K.616, on the organ of the Bragernes Church, Bra