sat 20/07/2024

Classical Reviews

Tognetti, Australian Chamber Orchestra, Cadogan Hall

alexandra Coghlan

Australia has many fine exports – wine, women, gap year anecdotes – but increasingly it is her orchestras that are setting the standard.

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Vogt, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Gardiner, Royal Albert Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Short of rolling around the podium like a delirious pig in a mudbath, Sir John Eliot Gardiner couldn't have hidden his enjoyment of the warm, plush sounds and well-upholstered vibrato of this wonderfully old-fashioned orchestra, the Czech Philharmonic, less well at last night's Prom. As he embarked on one of the broadest, most unashamedly Romantic openings to Dvořák's Eighth Symphony I have ever heard, I wondered what the hell his years of all-out warfare on modern...

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Shaham, Minnesota Orchestra, Vänskä, Royal Albert Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic Osmo Vänskä, whose 'opening pianissimo in the Ninth flirted with that extremity, walked the tightrope of audibility, and fizzed with a desire to become audible'.

A great deal of scepticism greeted the release of a new Beethoven symphony cycle from Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra in the mid-2000s. Would this lot really be able say anything that hadn't already been said by the hundred or so other cycles? Could anyone really find anything very new or fresh to say about these warhorses? The answer then was yes. And the answer last night in their Prom's performance of Beethoven's Ninth was also a resounding yes. Hardly surprising if you'd...

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Weilerstein, Minnesota Orchestra, Vänskä, Royal Albert Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic Osmo Vänskä 'got his classy Minnesota Orchestra to lend their flexible legs to almost every vault required of them'

One usually has to wait until the fourth movement of a Bruckner symphony before one gets a decent, foot-tappin', knee-slappin' polka to dance to. But at last night's Prom Osmo Vänskä was jitterbugging - and, I think, even moonwalking - from the off, swinging his classy Minnesota Orchestra into the Fourth Symphony's opening fortissimo brass triplets like they were a seasoned jazz band, and making Bruckner boogie. Not the easiest of things to get this granitic old Austrian bumpkin...

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Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Ticciati, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

David Nice Robin Ticciati: Line and life in three French scores

Which of the following has the thorniest dissonance: an early 18th-century dance-drama by Rebel, a symphony by Bizet, a concerto by Poulenc or a new work by South African composer Kevin Volans? If you think it's a trick question, you'll guess the right answer: the earliest. And which of the four sounds the least fresh and novel? My own take on that is the most recent.

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Shaham, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Robertson, Royal Albert Hall

Edward Seckerson Gil Shaham: Big-hearted and inquisitive playing

When Mark-Anthony Turnage presents a piece called Hammered Out, that’s pretty much what you expect to hear. Prior to starting work on this co-commission between BBC Radio 3 and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Turnage was quoted as saying, “I don’t want to write an old man’s piece.” The trouble is that this 15-minute juggernaut for large orchestra sounds like an elder statesman – ie the symphony orchestra – masquerading as a mover and shaker: or to be brutally frank, an old swinger in...

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Sydney Symphony, Ashkenazy, Grimaud, Royal Albert Hall

Ismene Brown

To be interestingly disappointed isn’t bad - it’s being uninterestingly disappointed that is. This was an intriguing Prom with a full house, possibly because of Hélène Grimaud’s presence in the Ravel piano concerto, as well as Vladimir Ashkenazy on the podium. Surely it wasn’t for Scriabin’s Third Symphony, unheard here for almost 80 years? Or perhaps Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier is so well beloved that even a dubious orchestral suite made from it lures the thousands?

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Stemme, Swedish Chamber Orchestra, Dausgaard, Royal Albert Hall

stephen Walsh Thomas Dausgaard: 'Dausgaard’s style is, perhaps, too fussy for such a great big hall. His nuancing is ultra-refined, and not everything tells in the wide open spaces'

“The curse of Schumann,” remarked Prom director Roger Wright to me before Monday’s concert, bemoaning the fact that only (only!) 2,000 seats had been sold for the Swedish Chamber Orchestra’s concert under Thomas Dausgaard - whereas Dausgaard's earlier Tchaikovsky/ Sibelius Prom had been...

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A Celebration of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Royal Albert Hall

alexandra Coghlan

It may have been the glossy, Labrador-like abandon of John Wilson and his fabulous orchestra, but barely two bars of the Oklahoma! overture had passed before I caught myself grinning and drifting into critical neutral. Richard Rodgers’ scores are built for a symphony orchestra, and the massed forces of over 50 strings, swollen brass and percussion sections, brought out their sweeping, sparkling best.

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Keenlyside, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Nézet-Séguin, Royal Albert Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Boy, did I want to enjoy this Prom. On paper it should have been the highlight of the season. Young Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin has been making his mark in London as principal guest conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra with several sensational performances of Bruckner over the past few years.

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