mon 22/04/2024

Classical Reviews

Pictures Reframed: Leif Ove Andsnes & Robin Rhode, QEH

Ismene Brown

We watch and listen simultaneously so much today that it hardly seems blasphemous for a superlative pianist to decide to conceive an evening of piano music plus video installation. Leif Ove Andsnes has doubts about the transmittability of classical music to a general audience today - he calls the status quo into question, and he may be right.

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Philippe Jaroussky, Concerto Cologne, Barbican

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Nesting gay men and posh female totty by the bucketload in the audience last night. Fill any programme with Baroque opera and that’s what you get. Why? Because the Baroque is aspirational pop. It's grounded in the same musical tricks that drive on the chart-topping hits of Kylie or Madonna: pumping ostinati, unshake-offable tunes and harmonic Häagen-Dazs - obvious harmonic loops that you can't get enough of. Though last night the hook was even simpler: a beddable boy.

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Wolfgang Holzmair, Andreas Haefliger, Wigmore Hall

Ismene Brown Baritone Wolfgang Holzmair and pianist Andreas Haefliger: two to admire for musicianship and integrity

There’s something beyond detailed and attentive musicianship that’s needed in Schubert’s last, most desolate song-cycle, Winterreise (“Winter’s journey”). It’s a dramatic arc that unites these 24 songs into a journey, the number of breaths in time and miles in distance that elapse from the first poem to the 24th, and bring you a sense of contact with the person undergoing this terrible suffering. Someone who is not Schubert, the composer, or Müller, the poet, but a third person.

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Leonidas Kavakos, Camerata Salzburg, QEH

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

There are many ways of being orchestral. About as many ways, in fact, as there are of organising the body politic. At one extreme there are the fascist orchestral states with their Kim Il-sung-emulating conductor-tyrants (Fritz Reiner's Chicago Symphony Orchestra, for example). At the other you have the right-on, conductorless cooperatives of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.

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Schnittke Festival finale, Jurowski, RFH

David Nice

Eliot's "time future contained in time past" has been conductor Vladimir Jurowski's unofficial motto throughout a festival which has had to take itself very seriously, and managed miraculously to carry a surprisingly large, loyal audience of all ages and persuasions along with it. Such stringent conditions could hardly be otherwise given the focal point of an uncompromising genius.

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Messiah, ENO

Jonathan Wikeley Communion and community: Warner's Messiah mixes the sacred and the everyday

There are so many ways a dramatic production of Messiah can go wrong it is almost unbearable to think about it. Certainly, there was a palpable buzz of nervousness in the Coliseum about last night’s audience as they took their seats. Did English National Opera really think it could pull it off? Could it avoid the pitfalls into triteness that surely lurk at every corner? How would the chorus manage it? And please God, let it be better than Glyndebourne’s 2007 St Matthew Passion.

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William Christie, Les Arts Florissants, Barbican

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Thank God for Les Arts Florissants. Without the assiduous efforts of this pretty, chic French ensemble and its expat American conductor William Christie, one of the great periods in musical history, that of the French high baroque, would still be shrouded in darkness.

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London Philharmonic Orchestra, Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall

Edward Seckerson

J S Bach was very much at the spiritual centre of this cunningly devised programme for the South Bank’s current Alfred Schnittke fest: Between Two Worlds. But by the time we emerged shaken but, in my case, not stirred by Schnittke’s preposterous 3rd Symphony the entire Austro-German symphonic legacy had flashed before our ears. Well, not flashed exactly, rather ground to a halt from a slow rewind of ever diminishing returns.

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Elisabeth Leonskaja, Wigmore Hall

Ismene Brown

Elisabeth Leonskaja, who turned 64 on Sunday, is one of the last links to a grand school of Russian pianism where technique meant the marshalling of piano possibilities into a positively orchestral array of expressive means. Often noted in harness with Sviatoslav Richter, with whom she frequently played, Leonskaja deserves renown of her own.

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London Philharmonic Orchestra, Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall

David Nice

The Schnittke Festival kicked off on Sunday at the Royal College of Music with electric and bass guitars as part of the unwieldy ensemble. Lodged in the Royal Festival Hall last night, Vladimir Jurowski’s programming continued in the second concert with similar flair, but this time two 18th-century horns and two cors anglais were the odd ones out. We were back in 1764 and the early days of the symphony viewed through the prism of Joseph Haydn – every inch as much of an original as...

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