mon 22/04/2024

Classical Reviews

Fung, BBC Philharmonic, Weilerstein, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - clever and comical

Robert Beale

Placing the UK premiere of Katherine Balch’s whisper concerto (for cello and orchestra) after Haydn’s Symphony No. 100 was probably an inspired idea from the BBC Philharmonic and conductor Joshua Weilerstein.

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Malofeev, BBCSO, Lintu, Barbican review - finesse as well as fireworks

Bernard Hughes

This was a muesli programme: nutty, crunchy, just sweet enough, its success lying in the balance of the various ingredients. At times, such was the explosiveness of the playing, it felt like popping candy had been added to the muesli, but in a good way. The fireworks came in the brilliant John Adams finale, but also from the young Russian pianist Alexander Malofeev, whose playing blazed in the first half.

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Lugansky, Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra, Letonja, Cadogan Hall review - Russian soul, French flair

Boyd Tonkin

To judge by the post-interval empty seats near me, some of the Cadogan Hall audience had turned up last night solely to hear Nikolai Lugansky play Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto. Well, the more fool them. For sure they would have enjoyed their not so-brief encounter with a truly distinguished Russian pianist – noble standard-bearer for a grand tradition – who gave a finely-polished, well-shaped rendition of this beloved old story (on the eve of Valentine’s Day, too).

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Segev, LPO, Lyniv, RFH review - melody, magic, and mourning

Boyd Tonkin

We began in a forest packed with dangers and delights and ended, also in the Czech lands, with an infectiously joyful country dance. In between, however, came a sombre and spellbinding exposure to the pain and grief of war.

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Alder, RPO, Petrenko, RFH review - strings and soprano sing their hearts out

David Nice

Had it taken place a week later, this concert might have gone under the dubious banner of "Valentine's Day Love Classics". But not of the bitty, Raymond Gubbay variety: Vasily Petrenko was absolute master of three late romantic scores which happened to work well together, and Louise Alder – stepping in for an unwell Jennifer France – showed she could surmount a demanding rarity, and carry it off with flying, smiling, self-deprecating colours.

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Verdi's Requiem, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Pappano, Parco della Musica, Rome review - peak poignancy

Ed Vulliamy

Antonio Pappano is at a hinge in his illustrious career, as the exciting transfer across London from Covent Garden to the London Symphony Orchestra proceeds, and the word "Emeritus" is added to his title as Music Director of his home-from-home in Rome. A good moment, then, for him to make a statement of commitment to the latter, with a shattering, searing account of probably the most terrifying piece of music ever written: Verdi’s incomparable Messa da Requiem.

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Tetzlaff, BBC Philharmonic, Storgårds, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - something of a puzzle

Robert Beale

Chief conductor John Storgårds’ first programme of 2024 in the Bridgewater Hall was notable for the visit of Christian Tetzlaff as violin soloist, but perhaps a little puzzling in the choice of Thomas Adès’ Violin Concerto as the vehicle for his talents.

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Elijah, LSO, Pappano, Barbican review - vivid declamation powers Old Testament blockbuster

David Nice

That it would be a vividly operatic kind of oratorio performance was never in doubt. Mendelssohn, who said he wanted to create “a real world, such as you find in every chapter of the Old Testament,” instigates high drama with Elijah’s brass-backed opening statement. Pappano then let the orchestral and vocal narrative fly like an arrow, supported to the hilt by all involved, not least four great singers with whom he’d achieved several major successes at the Royal Opera.

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Williams, Kenny, Wigmore Hall review - an afternoon of early-Baroque bliss

Boyd Tonkin

It’s hard to imagine that any London audience this winter will hear more thoroughly gorgeous singing – or more refined musical artistry all round – than Nardus Williams delivered at the Wigmore Hall on Sunday afternoon. This was a magical hour of early-Baroque Italian bliss.

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Bartlett, LPO, Bihlmaier, RFH review - a clear path through the storm

Rachel Halliburton

Tempest-tossed seas seem all too apt a theme for January, so it felt fitting that the LPO decided to begin Saturday evening with Wagner’s stirringly elemental overture to The Flying Dutchman. As the programme note fascinatingly reminded us, he composed the work shortly after a turbulent voyage from Riga to London with his wife and their Newfoundland dog Minna, an early and terrifying exposure to the sea that would provide rich creative fodder.

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