sun 16/06/2024

Classical Reviews

LSO, Davis, Uchida, Barbican Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Communists had taken over the Acropolis, Britain faced a hung parliament and in the 20 minutes it took me to get down to the Barbican by bus the US stock market had fallen more sharply than at any time since 1987. In the face of global and political madness, it was nice to have a concert awaiting that seemed to offer a sense of cosy familiarity and unfashionability and monarchical approval.

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Szymanowski Focus, Wigmore Hall

David Nice 'Poland's most imaginative composer after Chopin': Szymanowski by Witkacy, 1930

Poland's most imaginative composer after Chopin, and his natural heir in the realm of sensual reverie, certainly knew how to yoke a full orchestra to his dreams and fantasies. Yet the work by Szymanowski I've most longed to hear in concert is the three-movement Mythes for violin and piano. A recording of it by Kaja Danczowska and the great Krystian Zimerman quickly acquired cult status in the 1980s. So it seemed like a heaven-sent gift to hear it live in the hands of an even...

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Rolando Villazón, Gabrieli Players, Royal Festival Hall

Ismene Brown

Since the passing of Luciano Pavarotti, there’s been a gigantic hole for a tenor of gold-plated opera chops and the gift of communication, and Rolando Villazón - young as he is, at only 38 - already appears to have sealed that gap up effortlessly. His stint as judge on the lamentable Popstar to Operastar on ITV recently left everyone tarnished but him.

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The Berlin Philharmonic European Concert 2010, Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford

David Nice Berlin comes to Oxford: May Day at the Sheldonian with Barenboim and the Berliners

"Madness! Madness! Everywhere madness!" The unsung words of cobbler-philosopher Hans Sachs in the third-act prelude to Wagner's Die Meistersinger might seem like an odd opening manifesto for the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra's annual May Day ceremonial concert this morning, hosted this year by Oxford in the gorgeous venue where the Berliners had last played under Karajan a very long time ago. But there was method in it. Whether or not Oxford's traditional May Day eve revels last night...

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London Symphony Orchestra, Pappano, Barbican Hall

Edward Seckerson Antonio Pappano: the Royal Opera's dynamic Music Director ventures Stateside

It didn’t take long for memories of Anatoly Liadov’s The Enchanted Lake to fade in the dramatic shift Stateside which dominated Antonio Pappano’s latest outing with the London Symphony Orchestra. Every tone fleetingly shimmered as Liadov’s dreamy miniature hinted at an evening full of Eastern promise. A touch of Scriabinesque harmonic ripeness in the middle of the piece...

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LPO, Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall

David Nice

For many of us, this was bound to be an emotional evening. Noëlle Mann, doyenne of all things Prokofievian on the editorial, archival, teaching and performing fronts, died peacefully at home last Friday, and it was to her that Vladimir Jurowski dedicated a typically bold programme of Prokofiev's late epic for cello and orchestra, the Symphony-Concerto, and a big but rather less focused symphony by his closest composer-friend Nikolay Myaskovsky. Perhaps it's presumptuous to speak for the...

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Thomas Adès, Barbican Hall

David Nice

It's still not clear whether his clever, brilliantly orchestrated compositions are here to stay (though they're certainly having a good run at the moment). As a conductor, he's not yet nimble on his feet. Yet after yesterday evening's colossal recital, I doubt if anyone would deny that Thomas Adès is a pianist of the first order, a dramatic master of keyboard colour who pulls you into his edgy but often very beautiful sound world and sometimes casts you adrift from your critical moorings.

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Varèse 360°, Southbank

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

For those of you who think that classical music ends with Mahler - or Brahms just to be on the safe side - that the musical experimentation of the past 60 years was some sort of grim continental joke, an extended whoopee cushion of a musical period that seemed to elevate the garden-shed accident into some kind of art form, you have two people to blame: Adolf Hitler and Edgar Varèse.

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BBCSO, Bĕlohlávek, Barbican Hall

David Nice Jiři Bĕlohlávek, great interpreter of Czech music, champions a masterpiece by compatriot Martinů

It needs saying yet again, until the message gets through: Bohuslav Martinů is one of the great symphonic masters of the 20th century, and his fellow Czech, chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra Jiři Bĕlohlávek, once more proves the right man to marshal a golden Martinů revival. It needs saying above all because, for all the beauties and oddities in every bar of the six symphonies, composed at the height of the exiled composer's mastery in America and France between 1942 and 1953, the...

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Bengt Forsberg, Wigmore Hall

David Nice Bengt Forsberg: genial but tough in an extraordinary programme

He may not be the most famous musical Swede - in terms of name-recognition that would be Benny of Abba fame rather than Bengt the long-term recital partner of the divine Anne Sofie von Otter - but everyone in the business seems to adore Forsberg, a true musicians' pianist (and the only one I've ever seen...

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