sun 26/05/2024

Classical Reviews

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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Schnittke Festival, Jurowski, Royal College of Music

David Nice

Whether or not you rate Vladimir Jurowski among the top 10 hardest-working, most inspirational conductors in the business – I do – you have to award him the palm for enterprise. His passionate involvement in youth projects of various kinds, and a quest for innovative programming that would send most concert managements running, combined in the launch of his latest festival centred around the work of a single composer.

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Philharmonia Orchestra, Petrenko, Royal Festival Hall

Edward Seckerson Vasily Petrenko: the Russian Scouser storms London

It is quickly apparent when you are in the company of exceptional talent. In even the most hackneyed repertoire nothing is quite as you expect it to be: there’s a charge in the air, phrasings take on a different urgency, textures are opened up and newly revealed. And on this night, certain revelations concerning Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony were, under the exciting baton of Vasily Petrenko, no longer conjecture but irrefutable fact.

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Bryn Terfel, Royal Festival Hall

David Nice

Bryn Terfel is a good guy. I know; he never forgets a face, and I’ve seen him making the tea for the entire team at a recording session – no one-off, they assured me. Yet the nature of the bass-baritone beast is given over to more villains than noble souls. The "bad boys" of opera and musical theatre are grist to Terfel’s satanic mill in his latest CD-linked tour.

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Angela Gheorghiu, Royal Festival Hall

Adam Sweeting

The famously tempestuous Romanian soprano is, we learn, living a separate life from her husband Roberto Alagna. If Opera's Most Romantic Couple is no more, will Brand Angela be terminally damaged? Surely a showcase performance in the South Bank's International Voices season would be just the thing to rally the faithful and reaffirm Ms Gheorghiu's spectacular star quality, but I must admit that by the time we reached the interval, I was beset with gnawing doubt.

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LSO/Tilson Thomas, Goerne, Barbican Hall

Ismene Brown

Michael Tilson Thomas’s association with the London Symphony Orchestra runs deep - he was its principal conductor for eight years, and for his latest return to his old band last night the American programmed works that, while they had a Viennese theme, also seemed vividly designed to show off the jewels of this great orchestra, its wonderful wind players.

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Maria di Rohan, Royal Festival Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic Krassimira Stoyanova's Maria di Rohan was the show-stopper

So many 19th-century opera plots park themselves on fertile historical ground, amid all the colour, character and juice you could ever want, and then spend three hours picking at some anaemic daisies at the edges. It was a worry last night as I watched Donizetti’s Maria di Rohan in concert at the Royal Festival Hall.  By sidestepping the heavyweight power players of Louis XIII’s reign, the eminently operatic figures of Cardinal Richelieu (endlessly...

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