mon 22/07/2024

Classical Reviews

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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Tilbury, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Volkov, Royal Albert Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

A metallic shower rained down upon us as five percussionists of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra's percussion sextet unleashed the meteoric potential of five huge metal thundersheets on our unsuspecting ears, and percussionist number six, a pianist, encouraged her muzzled instrument (a metal brace lying across its stringed body) to gnash away rhythmically and to dance amid the downpour. 1939 was when John Cage came up with this breathtakingly original, endlessly exhilarating work, ...

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Bavouzet, Philharmonia Orchestra, Salonen, Royal Albert Hall

alexandra Coghlan

From Russian “avant-garde constructivism” to Estonian minimalism via a jazz-inspired French concerto and the defiant originality of Scriabin – last night’s Prom from Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia Orchestra had a lot of ground to cover.

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Lugansky, Russian National Orchestra, Boreyko, Royal Albert Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Russians can often get away with murder in concert. It's so ingrained within our Western psyche to believe that the Slav has culture, musicality, an innate aesthetic sensitivity pouring out of every toe that you could get a Russian to do the chicken dance and we'd all be ooh-ing and ah-ing about the passion of each wing flap, the brooding darkness of each wiggle, the searing, sarcastic quality of each clap. Not all Russians have a Russian soul.

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Ibragimova, BBC SO, Gardner/ BBC Singers, Endymion, Hill, Royal Albert Hall

alexandra Coghlan

Meditative experiences are hard to come by in the Royal Albert Hall. The twitching, scratching, fidgeting ticks of over 5000 people conspire to break your focus, to draw attention from the musical middle-distance back to the here and now. Last night’s two Proms – whether through programming, performance or just a happy chance of circumstances – both glanced into this distant space, briefly achieving that sense of communion peculiar to Proms audiences. As a birthday tribute to composer-mystic...

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London Symphony Orchestra, Gergiev, Royal Albert Hall

alexandra Coghlan

On paper it was a perfect Monday night programme – Scriabin’s extravagant sprawl of a First Symphony and Stravinsky’s The Firebird in its roomy original ballet score. A pairing of youthful 20th-century Russians conducted by the 21st-century Russian. Barely recovered from Sunday’s sensuous binge of Mussorgsky, Shostakovich and Prokofiev, Gergiev and the LSO promised some welcome hair of the dog. Yet by the time the inevitable Proms standing ovation shifted to its...

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Pianomania

Adam Sweeting

Nobody can remember seeing a film about a piano tuner before. Happily, Pianomania isn’t merely unique; it’s a riveting documentary into the bargain. It takes as its subject the micro-detailed and nit-pickingly demanding routine of Stefan Knüpfer, Master Tuner for that Rolls-Royce of the piano industry, Steinway & Sons. Among Knüpfer’s celebrated clients are such titans of the keyboard as Lang Lang, Alfred Brendel, Till Fellner and Julius Drake, all of whom appear in the film’s...

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Fischer, LPO, Jurowski, Royal Albert Hall

David Nice Julia Fischer: poised and Olympian in Shostakovich

How did they do it? This was another Prom which looked almost too much on paper but worked hair-raisingly well in practice. It was a Vladimir Jurowski special: whizzing, clamorous demons versus introspective reveries, church bells bringing one witches' sabbath to an end, alarm bells kicking off another. And from the first rapid crescendo of the Musorgsky-Rimsky Korsakov Night on a Bare Mountain to the truly great...

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Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Dausgaard, Royal Albert Hall

David Nice

This was the Prom I’d earmarked as the most unmissable event out of this year’s 76. Starry attraction was the century-overdue UK premiere of maverick-mystic Dane Rued Langgaard’s Music of the Spheres, born for this of all venues.

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Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Metzmacher, Royal Albert Hall

David Nice Ingo Metzmacher: hairdressing in Mahler, window-dressing in lesser Romantics

Swimming in the soup of the lesser late Romantics can be hard work. You get to admire the pretty variegated fish as you flounder, waiting to be buoyed up by a bigger idea. Then one comes along and nudges away so insistently that you nearly drown. Both extremes had to be borne in the first half of last night's Prom, with Ingo Metzmacher steering a supple course between the lazy devil of a Schreker operatic interlude and the placid blue sea of Korngold's Violin Concerto. The one interesting...

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