wed 08/04/2020

Classical Reviews

Renée Fleming, RPO, Festival Hall

Edward Seckerson Renee Fleming: 'the almost indecently glamorous diva knows the value of expectation and anticipation'

The irony won’t have been lost on many in the audience that the South Bank’s International Voices series began with Ballet. A whole first half of it, actually. Just as well the diva-in-waiting – the almost indecently glamorous Renée Fleming – knows the value of expectation and anticipation. Her very first album was entitled The Beautiful Voice and if that isn’t pressure for a burgeoning career I don’t know what is.

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Thomas Quasthoff, Barbican

Jonathan Wikeley

It is probably fair to say that the concert hall at the Barbican Centre isn’t one of London’s most intimate spaces. It’s not the sort of place that would put one immediately in mind of, say, a drawing room – in fact, to do so requires a particular willingness to suspend one’s disbelief. Tonight, Thomas Quasthoff and friends endeavoured to make us do just that, and got within a hair’s breadth of pulling it off.

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LPO, Nézet-Séguin, Royal Festival Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

We Brucknerians aren't easy to please. Few musical partnerships get the official seal of approval. Horenstein and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Wand and the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra, Böhm and the Vienna Philharmonic, Knappertsbusch and the Vienna Philharmonic. These are among the handful of collaborations that have gained a place in my Brucknerian pantheon.

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Till Fellner, Wigmore Hall

Jonathan Wikeley Till Fellner's ear for detail makes an artful musical argument compelling

Much like Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in G, Op 79, with which he started the programme, I’ll get straight to the point. Till Fellner is a very good pianist. To demonstrate this, I’d like to jump to the last sonata of five we heard in this all-Beethoven programme last night: the Piano Sonata in E flat, Op 7. When you look at this music on the page, you could easily see this piece becoming a bumptious triplet-fest of mind-numbing proportions. When it is  in the capable and stylish hands of...

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L'Heure Espagnole and Gianni Schicchi, Royal Opera

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Will UK Gold now be permanently available at the Royal Opera House? Or was Italian TV being beamed into the auditorium last night by mistake? The 1970s scene before us actually just meant the return of Richard Jones’s inspired sitcom treatment of Ravel’s L’Heure Espagnole and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi to Covent Garden. Even before the curtain had lifted we were raising a 1970s titter, being prepped for a...

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Haitink, LSO, Barbican

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Wozzeck, Royal Festival Hall

Peter Culshaw

I have a certain resistance to the Second Viennese School (a pretentious title in itself) of Schoenberg and his pupils Webern and Berg. Not that I'm averse to a spot of avant-gardening. I have sat through the squeakiest of squeaky-gate music with the best of them. But, apart from anything else, there's something chilling with their bullying rhetoric about purification and decadence.

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Turandot, English National Opera, London Coliseum

ismene Brown

It’s a let-down when a new production of an opera that spends two acts feeling dazzlingly invigorating and clever collapses in a careless mess in the third. My guess is that a key scene for the concept of English National Opera’s Turandot is when Ping, Pang and Pong - three very grand court officials - turn out to be Chinese cooks sneaking smokes up the fire escape at the Emperor Palace restaurant. It's a sharp idea, generating a sensationally visual production, but that fire escape...

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Salonen, Philharmonia, Royal Festival Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

You’re playing, say, a Brahms sonata. You’ve got jam on your face. Your trousers fall down. Your accompanist starts to play the piano with his head. What you’re meant to do in this situation, I remember my violin teacher drilling into me, is to drive on blindly. Judging last night’s concert by this basic lesson on musicianship, Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia Orchestra, who drove on through a complete blackout during the penultimate tableau of The...

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Theresienstadt, von Otter, Queen Elizabeth Hall

Edward Seckerson

Theresienstadt was the Nazis’ most successful PR exercise. Described as a “Jewish settlement” for the preservation and propagation of the Arts, this Czech outpost turned concentration camp housed virtually the whole of the Jewish cultural elite. Inmates called it an anthill, a “Garden of Eden in the middle of Hell”. But the Nazis insisted that cultural freedom was encouraged, even cultivated, here. This was no concentration camp, rather a transit camp.

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