CBSO review 20.1.22

THREE ORCHESTRAS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE CBSO Symphony Hall ***** We got three orchestras for the price of one in this amazing offering from an on-fire CBSO – almost literally so, with horns blazing in Strauss and Mahler. What we all recognise as a great ensemble (which we sometimes risk taking for granted) has the capacity to turn on even more greatness under the right conductor, and the players certainly did so here under the eloquent, clear baton of the orchestra's Chief Conductor-elect, Kazuki Yamada. The musicians obviously love him, and he them, and this matinee audience joined in with warm, prolonged applause. It was a joy to see such genuine delight on the players' faces, knowing now that they have a music director settling into his task with such enthusiasm, as well as a concertmaster, Eugene Tzikindelean, bringing such distinction to his role. This was a mouthwatering programme with Mozart as its pivot, preceded by the Don Juan of Richard Strauss (who ad

Norman Stinchcombe's CBSO review 13.1.22

TRIUMPHAL SIBELIUS CBSO at Symphony Hall ★★★★ By the time young American conductor Ryan Bancroft had reached the last triumphant bars of Sibelius's second symphony I was so engrossed in this dynamic performance I'd become unaware of wearing a face-mask – not something I ever thought I'd say. Bancroft didn't try to reverse-engineer the symphony, seeking out early intimations of the austere, mystical, enigmatic late Sibelius of 'Tapiola' and the seventh symphony. His was a big-boned, big hearted romantic approach – not unlike vintage Barbirolli – full of drama, rich sonorities and eager to seize on Sibelius's 'ma rubato' indication in the Andante. What a movement that it is, right from it's opening spooky, crepuscular low-string pizzicati articulated crisply by the CBSO's cello and bass sections. Even the muted ring tone from an idiot's mobile phone couldn't ruin playing of this intensity. The symphony's climax, built unerri

Norman Stinchcombe's latest CD reviews

BRANTUB OF CD REVIEWS! BACH & HANDEL : Devieilhe Pygmalion / Pinchon ★★★★★ Sabine Devieilhe is the reigning Queen of the Night in Europe's opera houses and so handles the coloratura demands of Handel with consummate ease. Two Cleopatra arias from 'Julius Caesar in Egypt' – star turns for great sopranos like Joan Sutherland – showcase Devieilhe's pin-point accuracy and grace. In both 'Che sento' and 'Piangero' Cleopatra is no longer the bewitching beauty but a woman facing her downfall and death and Devieilhe, very much inside the character, draws her plight convincingly. She is versatile too, capturing Mary's misery as her son Jesus is dragged away in the aria from Handel's 'Brocke's Passion'. She is impassioned and moving in Bach's solo cantata 'Mein Herze schwimmt in Blut'. The accompaniment by the Pygmalion Ensemble under RaphaĆ«l Pinchon is quicksilver and alert. The generous 84 minute recital ends with t


A BIRMINGHAM ORCHESTRA REBRANDS ITSELF EROICA'S REBIRTH By Christopher Morley So many amateur orchestras are formed with the highest aspirations, and I have seen so many of them come and ago. But the Eroica Camerata has been going strong since 2006, and is rising from the enforced pandemic lockdown with a striking new look at itself. "Our first public concert will be on Saturday in St Nicolas Church, Kings Norton, our home venue, with a programme of Beethoven and Brahms second symphonies. This follows a successful play day in September with the orchestra working on the Brahms and also Beethoven's Egmont overture, which will also feature in the concert. The Beethoven was on our very first concert programme in 2006," says music director Peter Marks. "However, I am planning several key differences with past performance practice," he continues "The pandemic has given me time and cause to reflect on what I consider ab

Ex Cathedra Candelight review

EX CATHEDRA'S CANDLELIGHT CHRISTMAS RETURNS Tuesday 21st December 2021 EX CATHEDRA St. Paul's Church, Birmingham **** After a year's hiatus which necessitated a filmed event in an empty Symphony Hall in 2020, Ex Cathedra's 'Christmas Music by Candlelight' made a welcome return to the Midlands this month in front of an expectant – and grateful – live audience. This immersive experience, starting with a candle-lit procession with tolling bell and whispered texts, lead into a comforting performance of Ruairi Edwards' 'All will be well' – surely the kind of reassurance we need in these uncertain times? Equally heartening was the German lullaby 'Still, still, still', its beauty lying in its simplicity, perfectly rendered by the Ex Cathedra tenors and basses. Composers have been busy during lockdown, and this eclectic concert programme featured new works by no less than five local luminaries, highlights of which included an affect

Covent garden Tosca review

WONDERFUL TOSCA AT COVENT GARDEN TOSCA Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (December 17) ***** Far from being what Joseph Kerman famously, pompously and wrong-headedly described as a "shabby little shocker", Puccini's Tosca is a masterpiece of insight into human motivation and aspiration, and has each of us looking with recognition into our own responses. It embraces hope, despair, loyalty, sacrifice and extremes of courage. Nothing shabby about those sentiments. And this revival of Jonathan Kent's production, curated here by Amy Lane, focusses exactly on the matter in hand, firmly in the opera's context of Rome's response to Napoleonic political upheavals, and with no distracting fripperies brought by self-indulgent "director's opera". Paul Brown's designs set the scene brilliantly – the intricate gated mysteries of Sant' Andrea della Valle's crypt, the sombre opulence of Scarpia's Palazzo Farnese apartment

Violin, flute and piano at Wimbledon Common and Much Marcle

AN EXCITING NEW YOUNG TRIO LANA TROTOVSEK, BORIS BIZJAK AND MARIA CANYIGUERAL Southside House Wimbledon, and Hellens, Much Marcle There is a new trio on the block, and this is no piano trio or string trio. Lana Trotovsek, Boris Bizjak and Maria Canyigueral are a refreshing and intriguing combination of violin, flute and piano, young, personable, and bringing both enthusiasm and top-class musicality to their performances. Last weekend, they offered the same programme both in the elegant, be-chandeliered music-room of atmospheric Southside House on Wimbledon Common, and next afternoon in the differently atmospheric medieval Great Barn at Hellens in Much Marcle. Both concerts received rapturous receptions. The acoustics were markedly different, Southside cosy and warm, Hellens clear and airy, but the instrumentalists successfully scaled their delivery to adjust to both. Trotovsek and Bizjak launched proceedings with a Duo for Violin and Flute by Franz Hoffmeister, certa