sat 13/04/2024

Classical Reviews

Jansen, Ridout, Blendulf, Kozhukhin, Wigmore Hall review - Brahms in excelsis

Sebastian Scotney

Reviewing, they say, never gets easier. How can one possibly describe chamber music playing as good, as stupendously memorable, as last night’s all-Brahms programme from Dutch violinist Janine Jansen, English violist Timothy Ridout, Swedish cellist Daniel Blendulf and Russian-born pianist Denis Kozhukhin? (Clue: skip to the end for a three-word version.)

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SANSARA, The Waiting Sky: A Christmas Meditation, Kings Place review - a thrillingly mysterious and profound Christmas alternative

Rachel Halliburton

What a beautiful, alternative evening of Christmas music this was, ranging in tone from bleakness to transcendence – a thrilling escape from the season’s cloying commercialism to a sense of something both mysterious and profound.

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London Handel Players, Butterfield, Wigmore Hall review - Bach with bite for Christmas

Boyd Tonkin

We think of the Wigmore Hall as a venue for intimate revelations, but in the right hands it can feel like a stadium. Last night’s all-Bach programme of festive music from the London Handel Players managed to embrace both moods.

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Mariam Batsashvili, Wigmore Hall review - spectacular pianism, with a sense of fun

Boyd Tonkin

For a small nation, with a population not quite comparable to Scotland’s, Georgia has for long packed a mighty musical punch. Any visitor will know the soul-wrenching power of its choral polyphony, but a post-Soviet generation of classical soloists now walks proudly across the world stage. Pianist Mariam Batsashvili, only just 30, won the Franz Liszt international competition in 2014 and has since been a BBC New Generation artist.

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I Fagiolini, Hollingworth, St Martin-in-the-Fields review - it's not the Messiah...

Boyd Tonkin

“Nobody likes a Messiah…”, deadpanned Robert Hollingworth, with the timing of a practised stand-up. After a pause, “…more than I do.” At St Martin-in-the-Fields on Friday evening, however, the seasonal blockbuster did not, just for once, feature on the festive menu. Instead, Hollingworth’s ever-enterprising ensemble I Fagiolini served up a savoury and well-spiced alternative to Handel’s ubiquitous staple.

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Natalie Dessay, Philippe Cassard, Milton Court review - flashes of magic

David Nice

It could have been a winner: a charismatic star soprano of great emotional and interpretative intelligence, a top pianist given a little space to shine on his own, a programme that looked good on paper, of distinguished German/Austro-German women composers in the first half, French dark versus light in the second. But Milton Court is an unwelcoming venue, like being inside a dark-wood coffin, and the singer seemed uneasy between numbers to begin with.

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Paul Lewis, Wigmore Hall review - Schubert sonatas revisited

Ed Vulliamy

A decade has passed since Paul Lewis concluded an endeavour of a kind never previously undertaken: to perform, over two and a half years and across four continents, every work Schubert wrote for piano between 1822, the year he was diagnosed with syphilis – ergo, knew he was dying – and his death in 1828.

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Voces8 Foundation Choir and Orchestra, Smith, Voces8 Centre review - joyous Christmas music by Bach

Bernard Hughes

There’s a game called Whamageddon, where people see how deep into December they can go without hearing “Last Christmas”. I’m like that, but with the Bach Christmas Oratorio, and this year I made it four days. And who would want to wait any longer? Last night I was at the Voces8 Centre in London as part of a live audience for a concert also streamed in the ongoing Live from London series, started during the Covid summer of 2020 and continuing to flourish.

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Grosvenor, Park, Ridout, Soltani, Wigmore Hall review - chamber music supergroup in perfect accord

Bernard Hughes

Frank Bridge’s Phantasie Piano Quartet was astutely described by his student Benjamin Britten as “Brahms tempered with Fauré”, so it made a lot of sense to programme it alongside the first piano quartets of those other composers. A “supergroup” of brilliant young soloists came together as an ensemble as tight as any that plays together every day, and made a committed case for each piece.

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Dariescu, BBC Philharmonic, Storgårds, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - sounds of unquenchable optimism

Robert Beale

John Storgårds found himself literally facing both ways for the third item on the BBC Philharmonic’s programme on Saturday: towards the audience, with one music stand in front of him, as he played the solo violin role in Sebastian Fagerlund’s Helena’s Song, and frequently turning 180 degrees, with the full score in view, to conduct at the same time.

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