sun 26/05/2024

Classical Reviews

LPO, Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall

Ismene Brown

This is the fifth time on theartsdesk that a review has been headed as above - so you must be thinking it had better be justified or bribery will be suspected. But it's not just the phosphorescent fascination that flickers around the charismatic young LPO principal conductor Vladimir Jurowski that draws the crowds, it is his inquiring programming. Last night it was another of those games that one couldn’t resist, if a game, in the end, of two halves.

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Krystian Zimerman, RFH

David Nice

Beware of Zimermania - or, for that matter, of idolising any pianist as the Greatest Living Interpreter of Chopin. Our birthday boy, 200 years old last night (and not on 1 March), as a crucial baptismal register now seems to prove, is too big for any one artist to dominate. He looks to his French heritage for sensuality, to the Polish maternal line for Slavic weight and thoughtfulness. If a sometimes impatient Krystian Zimerman inclined more to the former in yesterday's big celebration, that...

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LPO, Jurowski, RFH

David Nice The angel of death, portrayed above by Evelyn de Morgan, strikes twice in Josef Suk's elegiac symphony

Asrael, angel of death, rarely glides up to the concert platform; I've only heard Josef Suk's painful and protracted symphony of the same name once before in the Festival Hall, championed by Rattle. In the past, all Suk's great Czech compatriots, including Ančerl, Kubelik and Neumann, paid their respects. Now Vladimir Jurowski joins the distinguished line for a work he clearly loves. It was no fault of his rainbow-hued interpretation if, in a week where I've sat dry-eyed through...

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BBCSO, Bĕlohlávek, Barbican Hall

David Nice Martinů in New York: master symphonist in exile

Nothing stays the same for long in the hypersensitive symphonies of Bohuslav Martinů. A pastoral idyll accelerates to fairground mania before dropping off the merry-go-round, rapture fades in a single bar and victory may be snatched out of the jaws of brutal conflict at the very last second. The Czech exile's rich, compressed works of the 1940s, when he was living in New York and pining for the European scene he loved so dearly, are winning new admirers. A packed Barbican audience for the third...

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Murray Perahia, Barbican Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

You'll have mazurkas coming out your ears by the end of next month. But what mazurkas they'll be! Fever pitch is approaching as the big pianistic guns line up to celebrate Chopin's 200th birthday anniversary on 1 March. The venerated pianists Krystian Zimerman and Maurizio Pollini and esteemed young pretender Yevgeny Sudbin are all to come at the South Bank. Last night at the Barbican, we had the opening salvo from the poet of the piano, Murray Perahia.

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Julia Fischer, Wigmore Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Is there a greater singleton's soundtrack than Bach's restless, tormented Three Partitas for Solo Violin? The works represent the extraordinary pinnacle of the violin repertoire and also the summit of Bach at his most chromatically and psychologically screwy.

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Philharmonia Orchestra, Eliahu Inbal, RFH

Igor Toronyi-Lalic Eliahu Inbal:

Clown trousers, comedy tie, half a head of candy floss hair and a circus-performer's grin received us last night from the podium. Was that Krusty the Clown conducting Mahler's Resurrection Symphony? No, it was Eliahu Inbal, one of the funniest-looking men in a pretty funny-looking profession. During one of those big preganant caesuras in the Allegro maestoso, I was half-expecting balloons to shoot out of his baggy trousers or, at the...

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London Sinfonietta, George Benjamin, QEH

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

To find a single completely successful piece in a contemporary music programme is rare enough. The sieve of time has yet to separate the wheat from the chaff. But to find complete satisfaction in all five pieces programmed, and for all five pieces programmed to be by the same composer, is a testament to one thing: that George Benjamin is a total genius. I am not the first to have noticed this. The six-year-old Benjamin was Messiaen's favourite pupil.

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Maciejewski's Requiem

Peter Culshaw Roman Maciejwski: 'is he an overlooked Polish genius?'

Me and the Pope have had our disagreements – on condoms in Africa, gay rights and his frankly appalling Christmas album. He’s keener on the Tridentine Mass than me. But I had some sympathy with him about Maciejewski’s Requiem, which received its British premiere last night as part of the Polska! year of Polish culture. When he was merely Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he wrote to the...

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Rachmaninov Vespers, Retrospect Ensemble, Cadogan Hall

Jonathan Wikeley Overnight job: Retrospect tackles the Vespers

In taking on a new name last year, Retrospect Ensemble and director Matthew Halls were aiming to get rid of the “early music” label that had been stapled on to them in their previous incarnation as the King’s Consort. When I spoke to Halls last April he was positively a-tremble at the thought of putting on Brahms and Schumann with his newly rebranded group. If you think that sounds like what a lot of these so-called “early music” conductors have been doing, you’re right – it’s very much the...

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