sun 26/05/2024

Classical Reviews

Christine Brewer, Roger Vignoles, Wigmore Hall

Edward Seckerson American great: 'Christine Brewer in Richard Strauss is about as right as it gets'

Wigmore Hall does not always take kindly to big voices; it’s an easy hall to over-sing. But when the singer is the American soprano Christine Brewer and the sound so open, so rich and effulgent, hall and voice become one resonance. It’s almost as if Wigmore is selective in its response. It warms to the right voice in the right music. Brewer in Strauss is about as right as it gets. And besides, regardless of the venue, Brewer has never sung to be heard; she sings to be understood.

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Nikolai Demidenko, Wigmore Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Piano ballades and fantasies are the repositories of dreams. They are the places where the mind is left to wander, to roam precipitously, unaided by known paths, undisturbed by familiar structures. The romantic fantasies and ballades of last night's Wigmore Hall recital plunge and soar, catch you by the feet and dangle you by the ankles.

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Otello, LSO, Sir Colin Davis, Barbican

David Nice Sir Colin Davis rehearsing the LSO last week: Starbursts and moonshine, but less of the broader sweep

Let's suppose that off-centre genius among opera directors Richard Jones had been asked to bring his imagination to bear on Sir Colin Davis's latest Verdi-in-concert. I imagine he might have weighed up leading men, chorus and the conductor's unexpected blend of manicure with flash alongside swathes of masterful beauty, and decided to follow up his 1940s Windsor Falstaff at Glyndebourne with a 1970s Otello set in Surbiton.

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Total Immersion: George Crumb, Barbican

David Nice

To summon spirits from the vasty deep is the ambition of too many overloaded contemporary scores. George Crumb is better than most at getting those spirits to come when he calls, yet even he touches the transcendental more surely the fewer instruments he engages.

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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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