Showing posts from January, 2024
  CBSO at Symphony Hall ★★★★ One rule-of-thumb to gauge the strength of an orchestra is their ability to pluck soloists from the band. In the space of a week two concerts have shown that the CBSO is in great health. Last week we saw a dazzling Walton Violin Concerto by CBSO leader  Eugene Tzikindelean  now up stepped  Marie-Christine Zupancic and Katherine Thomas for an equally impressive performance of Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp. It was a rare combination of instruments in 1778, and still is today, but Mozart’s ability to forge a partnership between the wind section’s most ethereal instrument and what was then considered a plucked piano is amazing – as their joint cadenza testified. The Andantino is the concerto’s highlight, its shimmering heart-easing melody floating to us on a bed of soft strings was magical. The concert opened with a vigorous, romantic and colourful outing for an old favourite, Mendelssohn’s ‘Hebrides’ Overture where Russian conductor Maxim Emelyanychev e
  CBSO at Symphony Hall ★★★★★ Perfect storms are a rare confluence of events which result in apocalyptic weather conditions. The musical equivalent happened here, erupting into a thunderously scorching performance of Berlioz’s ‘Symphonie Fantastique’. The CBSO’s players were hyped and pumped like combative athletes directed, cajoled and invigorated by Hurricane Kazuki – the 100mph conducting gale from the east. Kazuki and the players embraced Berlioz’s opium-saturated nightmare and revelled in its extremes, with Tony Alcock’s bass section possessed, a terrifying grinding force of nature. In the ‘Scène aux champs’ the aching nostalgia of the pastoral duet between Rachael Pankhurst’s cor anglais and the offstage oboe was as exquisite as I expected but the mid-movement eruption Yamada engineered – raging, surging energy with a sudden collapse into detumescence – revealed to me that Berlioz had anticipated Strauss’s orchestral depiction of sexual ecstasy in ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ by eighty ye
  Norman Stinchcombe reviews the latest classical CD releases Chopin & Rachmaninoff: Peter Donohoe (Somm Recordings CD) ★★★★★ Now in his 70 th  year pianist Peter Donohoe shows no sign of slowing down his recording career – praise be. After completing his excellent survey of Mozart’s piano sonatas for Somm his latest release combines two of his favourite composers, Chopin and Rachmaninoff – or is it Rachmaninov, the back cover uses both spellings. Rachmaninoff’s career was bookended by Chopin: he played the Piano Sonata No.2 in B-flat minor at his 1892 graduation recital and at his last public recital in 1943, six weeks before his death. The opening of the Marche funèbre is one piece of Chopin everyone can hum but Donohoe’s magisterial performance strips it of any hint of routine; the central episode is an oasis of calm and solace before a muscular and justifiably brutal return of the march theme. In the Piano Sonata No.3 in B minor Donohoe again ratchets up Chopin’s contrasting ma
                    ANDREW DOWNES MEMORIAL CONCERT                   By Christopher Morley   Despite a life beset with horrendous health problems, Andrew Downes composed a vast output of works in all kinds of genres, and had the satisfaction of knowing his music brought pleasure to listeners and performers alike all over the world.   After his death a year ago the Hagley-based composer’s enormous army of admirers begged his family to promote a “Year of Andrew”, resulting in a continuous string of performances of his compositions all over the country, with enquiries from as far afield as Japan, China, the USA and Canada.   On January 28 the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, where Andrew had a long and distinguished career as Head of Composition and Creative Studies, hosts a memorial concert featuring some of his most popular works, as well as the first public performance of “In a Modern City”, a composition from Andrew’s much younger days which had long been forgotten.