fri 17/08/2018

Classical Reviews

Philharmonia Orchestra, Eliahu Inbal, RFH

Igor Toronyi-Lalic Eliahu Inbal:

Clown trousers, comedy tie, half a head of candy floss hair and a circus-performer's grin received us last night from the podium. Was that Krusty the Clown conducting Mahler's Resurrection Symphony? No, it was Eliahu Inbal, one of the funniest-looking men in a pretty funny-looking profession. During one of those big preganant caesuras in the Allegro maestoso, I was half-expecting balloons to shoot out of his baggy trousers or, at the...

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London Sinfonietta, George Benjamin, QEH

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

To find a single completely successful piece in a contemporary music programme is rare enough. The sieve of time has yet to separate the wheat from the chaff. But to find complete satisfaction in all five pieces programmed, and for all five pieces programmed to be by the same composer, is a testament to one thing: that George Benjamin is a total genius. I am not the first to have noticed this. The six-year-old Benjamin was Messiaen's favourite pupil.

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Maciejewski's Requiem

peter Culshaw Roman Maciejwski: 'is he an overlooked Polish genius?'

Me and the Pope have had our disagreements – on condoms in Africa, gay rights and his frankly appalling Christmas album. He’s keener on the Tridentine Mass than me. But I had some sympathy with him about Maciejewski’s Requiem, which received its British premiere last night as part of the Polska! year of Polish culture. When he was merely Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he wrote to the...

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Rachmaninov Vespers, Retrospect Ensemble, Cadogan Hall

Jonathan Wikeley Overnight job: Retrospect tackles the Vespers

In taking on a new name last year, Retrospect Ensemble and director Matthew Halls were aiming to get rid of the “early music” label that had been stapled on to them in their previous incarnation as the King’s Consort. When I spoke to Halls last April he was positively a-tremble at the thought of putting on Brahms and Schumann with his newly rebranded group. If you think that sounds like what a lot of these so-called “early music” conductors have been doing, you’re right – it’s very much the...

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CBSO, Nelsons, Symphony Hall Birmingham

David Nice

Yes, he can make the music smile when it needs to as much as he does himself. Had we but cash enough and time, many of us Londoners would travel more often to witness what further heights young Latvian Andris Nelsons can persuade the already world-class City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra to scale.

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Czech National Symphony Orchestra, Libor Pešek, Cadogan Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic A young Libor Pešek:

You can't ever expect immediate liftoff from a rusty old Lada. Spluttering, shaking and rattling make up as much of the first few minutes of the experience as...

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Staatskapelle Berlin, Barenboim, Royal Festival Hall

Edward Seckerson

The returns queue gets longer and so does the wait – considerably longer than the 69 minutes of programmed music in this the second of the Daniel Barenboim Beethoven/Schoenberg series. But what a satisfying two–course meal it was: Schoenberg’s “transfigured night” of desire and confession, Verklärte Nacht, and Beethoven’s grandest piano concerto, No 5, “The Emperor”.

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Philharmonia Orchestra, Ashkenazy, RFH

David Nice

There are still pockets of musical snobs who want to keep Elgar's two symphonies for the English, and off the worldwide roll call of orchestral masterpieces. Yet a steady line of international conductors - from Solti and Svetlanov to Haitink and Previn - has proved them the adventurous equal of anniversary composer Mahler's symphonic giants.

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LPO/ Vänskä, Royal Festival Hall

Edward Seckerson Osmo Vänskä: 'When Vänskä conducts Sibelius he doesn’t just traverse the musical landscape, he inhabits it'

Whoever said it was better to journey than to arrive might have been thinking of Sibelius. The arrivals can be pretty spectacular – as here in Osmo Vänskä's tremendous account of the Second Symphony – but the getting there – or not – is what this music is all about. When Vänskä conducts Sibelius he doesn’t just traverse the musical landscape, he inhabits it, breathing it in, feeling its pull, overawed at the threshold of where sound becomes silence and vice versa. He is Sibelius’ eternal...

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BBCSO, Mälkki, Barbican Hall

David Nice Susanna Mälkki: electrifying in a technicolor programme

Fashionable concertgoers, if you'll forgive the oxymoron, may have missed the raciest heartbeat of a dizzying week. While Barenboim's Beethoven and Vänskä's Sibelius packed in the cognoscenti at the Royal Festival Hall, kids tagging along to the BBC Symphony Orchestra's "Family Music Intro" and a hardcore of rare-repertoire collectors at the Barbican were treated to a parade of oddball scores dazzlingly communicated by another of those amazing Finnish conductors, Susanna Mälkki, and...

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