fri 21/02/2020

Classical Reviews

Bernstein on Broadway, Queen Elizabeth Hall

David Nice

One girl can hit a high C, and how; the other would surely melt the iciest-hearted in Rodgers and Hammerstein torchsongs. That's Roberta Alexander, on the evidence of her "Somewhere" last night. Together with classy lyric-coloratura Claron McFadden, the beaming high Cs girl, and sophisticated pianist-animateuse Reinild Mees, she ran the gamut of Bernstein's song-and-dance cornucopia.

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Philharmonia Orchestra, Muti, Royal Festival Hall

Jonathan Wikeley Back for another anniversary, Riccardo Muti: 'When he conducts the Philharmonia, the sound comes from the bottom upwards'

If all orchestras inspire a sense of loyalty to some degree, then the Philharmonia perhaps does it better than most. Mackerras is still performing with them, 54 years after he first conducted the orchestra; so is Maazel, who has clocked up 41 years, on and off. There’s Ashkenazy and Dohnányi. And then of course there’s Riccardo Muti, who appears to have been given the unofficial title of conductor-in-chief of anniversaries.

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London Symphony Orchestra, Ticciati, Barbican Hall

Edward Seckerson Robin Ticciati - a songful shapeliness invests his music making

It’s a very assured - not to say very brave - young conductor who chooses to make his debut with the London Symphony Orchestra in Sibelius’ notoriously challenging Seventh Symphony. Mighty talents have fallen at this particular fence, defeated by the work’s circuitous evolution and elusive logic. Robin Ticciati has no fear, though, and more importantly has been mentored by a man who knows the Sibelian psyche and terrain better than most – Sir Colin Davis. Could this be his heir apparent?

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Martin Fröst, Roland Pöntinen, Wigmore Hall

Edward Seckerson

It’s tempting to say that if Martin Fröst didn’t play the clarinet then he’d be an actor or a dancer. But he is an actor and a dancer and at one point during this scintillating recital he even sang, too – whilst playing the clarinet at the same time, of course. That’s a given. It’s an extension of his lissom body, and in his shiny grey silk suit and untucked shirt he looked decidedly feline. Ever heard a clarinet purr? Ever heard it yowl, scamper, hiss, scratch?

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Hilary Hahn, Violin and Voice, Barbican

Jonathan Wikeley The considerate violinist: Hilary Hahn

Concert programming can become a little bit predictable, don’t you think? If we’re honest, there are quite a lot of standard programmes bouncing around our halls at the moment. Don’t get me wrong; I understand that putting together an original and enticing programme isn’t easy. There are problems by the bucketload: what to pair with a big symphony, other than another big symphony; what to partner with a radical contemporary piece, other than Bach or something medieval; what to put before Rach 2...

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Martino Tirimo, Kings Place

David Nice Tirimo at Kings Place: master pianist as the servant of Chopin

This is what Chopin anniversary year ought to be all about; not some celebrity showcase of plums and cornerstones in too large a hall before a restless audience, but a thoughtfully planned adventure zigzagging through the complete works on which the listener feels privileged to eavesdrop, and where the chameleonic genius of the composer always comes first. This eighth concert in the...

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Wolfgang Rihm Day, Barbican

Igor Toronyi-Lalic Wolfgang Rihm: 'Sod the Hadron Collidor. You want a decent particle-smasher? Look no further than Wolfgang Rihm's brain.'

It's hard to miss German composer Wolfgang Rihm. He has an enormous head. There it is, bulging from his giant frame, a big, friendly grin slapped onto it while he wanders around the Barbican on his celebratory day, none of it going to waste. Listen to his prolifically combustible music, the million and one ideas hurtling about with the energy of a school playground and the intensity of a burning sun, and you soon realise that all that cranial space is probably quite necessary.

London Symphony Orchestra, Adams, Barbican Hall

David Nice

Adams began with two Debussy preludes swept by a different kind of wind in Colin Matthews's ingenious, luminous orchestrations. Well, windswept was the idea, but there was no more elemental scouring here than by all accounts there had been in the Britten Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes on Sunday (interesting parallel programming, though).

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Bach B minor Mass, The Sixteen, Barbican Hall

David Nice

As one who came to know the B minor Mass singing in a clogged, 150-strong choir, I welcomed the authentic-movement rush in the 1980s to  whittle it down to What Bach Might Have Wanted (if, indeed, he had lived to hear his ideal religious compendium performed in its entirety). For a while, it shrivelled to anorexic dimensions in the shape of Joshua Rifkin's one-voice-per-choral-line hypothesis.

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London Symphony Orchestra, Adams, Barbican Hall

Edward Seckerson

What would you imagine the composer John Adams might choose to conduct – apart, that is, from a little something he himself made earlier? Well, the first of two London Symphony Orchestra concerts this week brought no big surprises: Sibelius’ Sixth Symphony was in essence a little like returning to his minimalist roots – a bunch of insistent melodic cells and dancing ostinati. Flanking it, as if to reassert that everything Adams writes is essentially operatic, was orchestral music...

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