mon 22/07/2024

Classical Reviews

Haitink, Chicago SO, Royal Festival Hall

Adam Sweeting


Strolling into the Royal Festival Hall's private function room on Level 5 last night, I naturally expected it to be crammed with freeloading hacks such as myself on the trail of free drinks, but the room was mostly populated by corporate types in suits. If you want to pull together a menu of prestigious international orchestras in these straitened times (particularly those elusive American ones),  you can't hope to do better than enlist the support of a multinational oil...

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The Damnation of Faust, Gergiev, Barbican Hall

Edward Seckerson

The Damnation of Faust is so chock-full of special effects that you half expect a list of technical advisors in place of the single name Hector Berlioz. But it is just he – wizard of his imaginings – who continues to surprise and even shock no matter how many times you hear the piece - and with Valery Gergiev heightening its neurotic nature all the way to pandemonium there wasn’t a whole lot more you could have asked of this performance, except a better, more complex and interesting...

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Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, Wigmore Hall

Jonathan Wikeley

Andrew Parrott, director of the Taverner Consort, once told me of a time he was playing harpsichord at the back of a largish orchestra. Confident that nothing he played would stand the remotest chance of being heard above the general cacophony, he “rather went to town” in his realisation of the continuo part. Afterwards he was congratulated by numerous audience members sat at the back of the hall on his stylish, if unconventional, interpretation. The sound had gone up into the air and bounced...

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Gergiev, LSO, Barbican

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Valery Gergiev shimmying his way through Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe. There he was, London’s loosest-limbed maestro, back on the Barbican podium (just about) with the London Symphony Orchestra, after a summer flogging his chaotic Ring Cycle around the globe, returning to more favourable ground, an all-French programme of Debussy, Dutilleux and Ravel that had his dancing juices flowing and his legs a-leaping. Certainly, there’s no gainsaying his moves.

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Matthias Goerne, Alexander Schmalcz, Wigmore Hall

Ismene Brown

When you go to a Schubert recital, you’re plunged into a whirlpool of emotional ambivalence, heat and chill running together, music and lyrics not always playing the same tune.

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Handel Remixed 2, Barbican

Peter Culshaw

When I met the Nigerian rebel pop star Fela Kuti I asked him who was the greatest musician - he didn’t hesitate before replying George Frederic Handel. Kuti was wearing only a pair of red underpants at the time and smoking a massive spliff. His music has echoes of Handel, certainly in some keyboard lines, in all its solidity and moments of transcendence. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised at Handel’s continuing  reach across the centuries and continents. Beethoven and Mozart are...

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Handel Remixed, Barbican

Jonathan Wikeley

Are you allowed to like both Andreas Scholl and David Daniels? I've always felt slightly guilty over this one - it feels somewhat indecent to listen ruthlessly to Scholl for some pieces, and drop him like a spurned lover for Daniels when the mood takes you. Tonight, though, was definitely a Daniels night: bits and bobs from Handel's operas and oratorios, and some modern takes on the great man. It was cabaret-goes-slightly-baroque, with Harry Christophers leading a sparkling Academy of St Martin...

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Linda di Chamounix, Royal Opera

Edward Seckerson

The hills are alive with the sound of... well, Donizetti, actually. His mature "Melodramma Semiserio" Linda di Chamounix arrived towards the climax of a prolific career in opera and was clearly a late attempt to capitalise on his successes and give his adoring audiences a little of everything and at great length. This season-opener concert performance at the Royal Opera (recorded, incidentally, by Opera Rara...

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A Henry Purcell Birthday Celebration, Wigmore Hall

Jonathan Wikeley

What a splendid little ensemble the Purcell Quartet is. The sort of group that you rather hope might reduce in size as the years go on, so that in the end you can put them in your pocket and carry them around with you all the time. If ever an ensemble could provide a soundtrack to the ups and downs of life then this is it.

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The Last Night of the Proms, Connolly, Balsom, BBCSO, Robertson

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

The height of naffness? The best of British? A bit of fun? Opinions always splinter over the Last Night of the Proms. The received wisdom is that, if you have a brain or any genuine care for music, you’re not really meant to enjoy the Last Night; you’re meant to endure it, bravely, stoically, heroically, like a terminal illness, by taking each sonic and visual blow on the chin.

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