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Showing posts from May, 2024
                               PIERRE-LAURENT AIMARD                                            St James’ Church, Chipping Campden *****   Charlie Bennett’s legacy lives on! During his long tenure as Artistic Director of the Chipping Campden Music Festival he developed an impressive roster of visiting international artists, not least those renowned as exponents of his own beloved instrument, the piano. If you can attract the likes of Alfred Brendel and Elisabeth Leonskaja to this off-the-beaten-track Cotswolds village, then you ain’t doing too badly. Now Charlie has retired, but the future is safe in the hands of Thomas Hull and Jessica May, and the visits of the world’s greatest pianists continue. It was my privilege to be present at the absorbing, life-enhancing recital given by Pierre-Laurent Aimard. His was a programme stimulating both intellectually and emotionally, beginning with Bach’s B-flat Partita, maintaining a forward rhythmic flow whilst allowing all the neatly
  Best of Both Worlds – Old meets New CBSO at Symphony Hall ★★★★ The Victorians’ judgement on children – that they should be seen but not heard – ought usually apply to conductors. Joshua Weilerstein was an exception, with a short, pithy platform address and outlined the theme of this cogently constructed concert. Contradiction was the keyword: four works whose nature or circumstances of composition were in tension but harmoniously reconciled. Then he launched the CBSO into the Czech composer Pavel Haas’s ‘Study for Strings’ which, like a white dwarf star, packs enormous energy into a tiny space – just seven minutes. The exhilarating opening shouts life-affirmation, while Haas’s use of canonic imitation was thrilling, starting with second fiddles against violas, then cellos, first and finally basses entering the fray. He slips in a brief elegiac slow movement before a final arms-raised dash to the finishing line, winningly played by the CBSO strings. Yet Haas wrote this joyous miniatur
                                             THE DRAGON OF WANTLEY                                            New Sussex Opera at Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne   I have seen two previous presentations of John Frederick Lampe’s burlesque opera, and enjoyed them both greatly, but this new production by New Sussex Opera is the most inventive and exhilarating by far. Lampe’s spoof on Handelian grand opera is brilliantly constructed, built upon Henry Carey’s absolutely scintillating libretto. It leaves no stone of the genre unturned, and Handel himself loved it greatly. Whereas Handel’s operas take place in classical times, set in exotic locations, Lampe’s opera takes us to a village in South Yorkshire, peopled by common folk instead of great luminaries, and its three acts take half the time of one of Handel’s offerings. The chorus in Handelian opera is generally a minor consideration, a mere assemblage of all the principals creating an ensemble to round off proceedings in t
  Norman Stinchcombe reviews the latest classical CD releases Britten: Soloists, London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus / Rattle (LSO Live SACD / CD) ★★★★★ Simon Rattle has always been an enthusiastic advocate of Benjamin Britten’s music, performing and recording most of the composer’s major concert works with the CBSO – with one important omission. That’s put right on this disc with a sparkling live recording of Britten’s ‘Spring Symphony’, a joyous work celebrating the emergence from winter into a rejuvenated world – very apt for 1949 with Europe recovering after a world war. Britten always showed an acute taste in selecting texts and sets English poets from Spenser and Milton to Auden, finishing off with the medieval round ‘Sumer is icumen in’. The LSO Chorus are joined by the eager young voices of the Tiffin Boys’ Choir, Tiffin Children’s Chorus and The Tiffin Girls’ School Choir for a hugely enjoyable energized performance with a trio of outstanding soloists, Elizabeth Watts (sopr
  Sun, Sea and Sirens from Debussy and Ravel CBSO at Symphony Hall ★★★★ To contemporary eyes and ears the poems Ravel set for his song cycle ‘Shéhérazade’ are the epitome of what the cultural critic Edward Said labelled “Orientalism”. This is where non-Westerners are reduced to crudely demeaning stereotypes, usually colourful, violent passionate primitives. In the first song ‘Asie’ (Asia) we have: “dark faces with gleaming teeth”; “dark amorous eyes”; “skins as yellow as oranges”; “smiling murderers”; “roses and blood”. A century ago, however, this homage to the fantastic tales of the Arabian Nights was taken as intended – a kaleidoscope of colourful images from never-never land. Ravel clothes it in suitably light and luminous musical costumes and soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn lovingly caressed poet Tristan Klingsor’s images from the “wonderful land of nursery stories” derived from a delirious, perhaps narcotically enhanced, vision. In ‘L'indifférent’ Llewellyn conveyed the narrator’
                               A BUSY ELGAR FESTIVAL 2024   The kaleidoscope of offerings making up Elgar Festival 2024 is too generous to take in at one sitting, the near week-long event bringing celebration, education, encouragement, surprise elements and even a car rally. There is a strong local feel to the whole affair, reflecting Elgar’s love of the Worcestershire countryside and in particular his affinity with the Malvern Hills. And it is Malvern which brings us the car rally,   the 2024 Morgan Sports Car Club rally, heading off from the Morgan Motor Factory at 10.30am on May 28 and finishing at The Firs (Elgar’s Birthplace), Lower Broadheath, from 3.30pm The drivers can catch up there with the conclusion of a two-day Conducting Masterclass (beginning on May 27, first day of the Festival). Eight emerging conductors from all over the world will make a study of Elgar’s music with the help of musicians of the English String Orchestra under the guidance of Kenneth Woods and J
  CBSO at Symphony Hall ★★★★★ Kazuki Yamada’s first concert as the CBSO’s Music Director began with a bang and ended with an even bigger one. George Gershwin’s ‘An American in Paris’ could have been bespoke for Yamada’s strengths – crackling with rhythmic extrovert energy, every nuance of tonal colour lovingly revealed, the orchestra given freedom to relish the work’s profusion of great tunes. The native New Yorker’s starry-eyed view of Paris fizzed with energy, its honking taxi horns and bustling boulevards sharply captured. Then, in the musical equivalent of a movie-screen dissolve, the mood changed as Eugene Tzikindelean's violin ushered in the romantic switch, enter Jason Lewis’s trumpet to herald the melody that will blossom as the work progresses to its surging affirmative climax – superbly played by the CBSO. Difficult to top one might think until we heard Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’. Not the obligatory Ravel orchestration, although he got a compensatory nod wit