mon 22/04/2024

Classical Reviews

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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MacMillan's Christmas Oratorio, Lois, Williams, RSNO, MacMillan, Usher Hall, Edinburgh – a great composer at the top of his game

Christopher Lambton

It is not every day that a new choral work by a living composer can confidently be labelled a masterpiece. Yet this is what we have here. James MacMillan’s Christmas Oratorio is still sufficiently freshly-minted to be receiving its Scottish premiere, and from Friday night’s spectacular performance by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Chorus it deserves to sit alongside Messiah or Bach’s eponymous masterpiece as a staple of our future Christmas repertoire. 

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Louise Alder & Friends, Wigmore Hall review - magic carpet rides with soprano, strings and woodwind

David Nice

Sometimes all the stars align in musical performance. There’s no soprano more alive to the expression of musical joy and rapture than Louise Alder, no composer more levitational in his strange later adventures than Fauré, no instrumentalists strings better than pianist Joseph Middleton, the Doric String Quartet and double-bass player Laurène Durantel at being supernatural companions throughout his song-cycle La bonne chanson.

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Aurora Orchestra, Kings Place review - experimental work in an immersive setting

Rachel Halliburton

The Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottír found her work put under a strangely unforgiving lens when it was featured in Tár, the now infamous Todd Field film made in 2022 starring Cate Blanchett as a tempestuously exacting female conductor. In a scene where Lydia Tár is taking a masterclass at the Julliard, she savages a student who is conducting a string quartet playing Thorvaldsdottír’s music, saying it sounds like “tuning up”.

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Morison, Immler, BBCSO, Bychkov, Barbican review - a Kafka journey and a mighty landmark

Boyd Tonkin

The German composer Detlev Glanert, taught by Hans Werner Henze and a past collaborator with Oliver Knussen, received a Proms commission as far back as 1996. He remains, it might be fair to say, a shadowy presence here despite his prominence back home.

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Grosvenor, SCO, Emelyanychev, Usher Hall, Edinburgh review - lightness of touch and a sprinkling of humour

Simon Thompson

Nobody would describe Felix Mendelssohn as a fringe composer, but his piano concertos aren’t exactly central classical repertoire either. They lack the foundational status of Mozart’s and the high Romantic seriousness of Beethoven’s or Brahms’, and Mendelssohn doesn’t help himself in the way that an air of the faintly hilarious hangs around his First Piano Concerto.

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Hallé, Elder, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - championing the rich and rare

Robert Beale

Sir Mark Elder’s zest for exploring fresh territory with the forces of the Hallé is unquenched even in his final season as music director. And who better to introduce the Stabat Mater of Rossini – a late flowering of the operatic wizard’s powers – than he, a champion of the rich and rare from operas past?

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Accentus, Insula orchestra, Equilbey, Barbican review - radiant French choral masterpieces

Bernard Hughes

Last night saw two pieces of late 19th century French choral music – one a hugely popular staple of choral societies around the world, the other a complete novelty, lost for a hundred years – brought together in fascinating juxtaposition by the French period-instrument orchestra Insula, under their founding conductor Laurence Equilbey.

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