sun 25/08/2019

Classical Reviews

Staatskapelle Berlin, Barenboim, Royal Festival Hall

David Nice

Anyone who can sell out four concerts of Beethoven and Schoenberg, even if it's only half-scary Schoenberg, surely looms large in the public imagination. Daniel Barenboim is a great humanitarian figure, and has been a thought-provoking interpreter of the classical and romantic piano repertoire for nearly 60 years, so it's not surprising that half of London wants to hear him in th

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LPO, Vänskä, Royal Festival Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

As was hoped, Osmo Vänskä, the livewire music director of the Minnesota Orchestra, showed us exactly why he's the greatest living Sibelian last night in the first concert of the London Philharmonic's Sibelius cycle.

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Nico Muhly & the Britten Sinfonia, The Roundhouse

joe Muggs

Nico Muhly didn't have to work much to puncture any atmosphere of classical recital formality at the Roundhouse: he only needed to be himself. Young, slightly dorky and very camp, wearing a black garment that blurred the boundaries between cardigan and bathrobe, and bantering lightly with the audience, the Vermont-born New York-based composer gave the impression that he couldn't take himself too seriously if he tried.

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Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Oliver Knussen, Wigmore Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Had a dastardly dirty bomb gone off in the Wigmore Hall last night and turned us all to dust, the contemporary British classical music scene would, in one fell swoop, have been wiped off the map. No more Peter Maxwell Davies, Alexander Goehr, George Benjamin, Julian Anderson, Simon Bainbridge or Oliver Knussen, all...

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War and Peace, Theatre Royal, Glasgow

David Nice

Two hundred costumes, over 60 solo roles and the world premiere of a great operatic composer's first thoughts: it's a task which would daunt the best-resourced opera company in the world.

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The Rake's Progress, Royal Opera House

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Not everyone was playing for the same team in last night's revival production of The Rake's Progress. On the one side were the conductor, choir and soloists, all focused in their service and submission to unravelling this quietly brilliant piece of neoclassicism by Stravinsky - mostly pretty effectively.

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Hans Werner Henze Day, Barbican

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

There was a brilliant moment in the film that began Henze Day yesterday. An ageing Henze, lazying on his Italian veranda, his leg cocked, his bald head - looking as if it had been iced - stuffed into a boater, is confronted by his lurcher dog, James. "Jamez," wheezes Henze, "Vat is it, honey? You vant to sit on my lap? Sis is impossible. Ve are at vork." It's an instructive little episode, a neat glimpse into the winning side of the German composer.

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LPO, Jurowski, RFH

David Nice

Laid-back Tenerife and Gran Canaria won't know what's hit them when the London Philharmonic Orchestra and its principal conductor Vladimir Jurowski land next week. The islands can expect to be sense-bombed by the jungly exuberance of Szymanowski and devastated by the scorched-earth tactics of Shostakovich at his most extreme.

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La Bohème, Opera North

graham Rickson An improbably attractive cast: Bülent Bezdüz as Rodolfo and Anne Sophie Duprels as Mimì

This is a revival of the 1993 production originally directed by Phyllida Lloyd (of Mamma Mia! fame). Directed on this occasion by Peter Relton, it still works brilliantly. Lloyd has updated the setting to 1950s Paris with her young bohemians wearing polo necks, jeans and berets. A gleaming motorbike is one of the objects adorning their living space, its condition degenerating along with the health of Mìmi until it is replaced by a pedal cycle in the final act.

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Elektra, Gergiev, LSO, Barbican Hall

ismene Brown Richard Strauss's Elektra (1909): 'It can and should be moving, as well as unsettling'

Richard Strauss’s 1909 opera Elektra is a diabolical piece of work - less an opera than an event determined to cut its mark. A vast orchestra of 112 players unleashes a two-hour tsunami of sound across the stage, on which female voices are buffeted like pieces of driftwood, shrieking of mothers who murder husbands, daughters who want to murder mothers, rivers of blood, flayed horses, dogs, bodies. Subtle it isn’t. Loud it is. In the hands of Valery Gergiev and London Symphony Orchestra...

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