sun 26/05/2024

Classical Reviews

Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Oliver Knussen, Wigmore Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Had a dastardly dirty bomb gone off in the Wigmore Hall last night and turned us all to dust, the contemporary British classical music scene would, in one fell swoop, have been wiped off the map. No more Peter Maxwell Davies, Alexander Goehr, George Benjamin, Julian Anderson, Simon Bainbridge or Oliver Knussen, all...

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War and Peace, Theatre Royal, Glasgow

David Nice

Two hundred costumes, over 60 solo roles and the world premiere of a great operatic composer's first thoughts: it's a task which would daunt the best-resourced opera company in the world.

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The Rake's Progress, Royal Opera House

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Not everyone was playing for the same team in last night's revival production of The Rake's Progress. On the one side were the conductor, choir and soloists, all focused in their service and submission to unravelling this quietly brilliant piece of neoclassicism by Stravinsky - mostly pretty effectively.

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Hans Werner Henze Day, Barbican

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

There was a brilliant moment in the film that began Henze Day yesterday. An ageing Henze, lazying on his Italian veranda, his leg cocked, his bald head - looking as if it had been iced - stuffed into a boater, is confronted by his lurcher dog, James. "Jamez," wheezes Henze, "Vat is it, honey? You vant to sit on my lap? Sis is impossible. Ve are at vork." It's an instructive little episode, a neat glimpse into the winning side of the German composer.

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LPO, Jurowski, RFH

David Nice

Laid-back Tenerife and Gran Canaria won't know what's hit them when the London Philharmonic Orchestra and its principal conductor Vladimir Jurowski land next week. The islands can expect to be sense-bombed by the jungly exuberance of Szymanowski and devastated by the scorched-earth tactics of Shostakovich at his most extreme.

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La Bohème, Opera North

graham Rickson An improbably attractive cast: Bülent Bezdüz as Rodolfo and Anne Sophie Duprels as Mimì

This is a revival of the 1993 production originally directed by Phyllida Lloyd (of Mamma Mia! fame). Directed on this occasion by Peter Relton, it still works brilliantly. Lloyd has updated the setting to 1950s Paris with her young bohemians wearing polo necks, jeans and berets. A gleaming motorbike is one of the objects adorning their living space, its condition degenerating along with the health of Mìmi until it is replaced by a pedal cycle in the final act.

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Elektra, Gergiev, LSO, Barbican Hall

Ismene Brown Richard Strauss's Elektra (1909): 'It can and should be moving, as well as unsettling'

Richard Strauss’s 1909 opera Elektra is a diabolical piece of work - less an opera than an event determined to cut its mark. A vast orchestra of 112 players unleashes a two-hour tsunami of sound across the stage, on which female voices are buffeted like pieces of driftwood, shrieking of mothers who murder husbands, daughters who want to murder mothers, rivers of blood, flayed horses, dogs, bodies. Subtle it isn’t. Loud it is. In the hands of Valery Gergiev and London Symphony Orchestra...

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Razumovsky Ensemble, Wigmore Hall

David Nice Eight for Schubert: the Razumovsky Ensemble's latest team triumphs

Just to contemplate the shifting talent pool of this chamber co-operative can be giddying. Last night 10 great ensemble players, from top violin soloist Alexander Sitkovetsky to three London orchestral principals who must have jumped at the chance to be part of the Razumovsky experience, had their work cut out. Schoenberg and Schubert ask each musician to run the full gamut of Viennese angst and joy. The result was an unrepeatable experience in the spiritual as well as the literal sense.

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Borodin Quartet, Wigmore Hall

David Nice

They're still bringing Beethoven and Shostakovich to London, enriching the mix a little with the cross-referencing of Alfred Schnittke, but the personnel of the Borodin Quartet have changed again. Patriarch cellist Valentin Berlinsky, there at the start over 60 years ago, passed on his bow to Vladimir Balshin before he died.  Balshin is a worthy successor, especially since Berlinsky's tone had become translucent to the point of dematerialising and his successor'...

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The Seckerson Tapes: Edward and Igor look back at 2009

Igor Toronyi-Lalic Nina Stemme gives a career-defining performance as Isolde at Covent Garden in Autumn 2009

Since before Christmas theartsdesk has been reviewing the past decade and previewing the year to come in the arts. As an extra we offer this special edition of The Seckerson Tapes, in which Edward Seckerson and Igor Toronyi-Lalic discuss the year in music, which, in the concert hall, saw the triumph of the new romantics in conductors Riccardo Chailly and Yannick Nezet-Seguin and, operatically, saw the arrival of three penetrating new productions of operatic classics: the...

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