Classical Music Buzz > Boulezian
Boulezian
Mark Berry
1653 Entries

Conservatoire Darius Milhaud
Charles Martin Loeffler: Quatre poèmes, op.5Charlotte Bray: In Black Light(world premiere)Liszt: Romance oubliée, S 132Kodály: Adagio for viola and pianoBrahms: Zwei Gesänge, op.91
Tabea Zimmermann (viola)Andrea Hill (soprano)Edwige Herchenroder (piano)

An oddly patchy concert, this: alongside the most unidiomatic professional Liszt performance I can recall and only intermittently successful Brahms, we heard a highly convincing world premiere and fine performances of two other works hitherto unknown to me: one indeed written by a composer of whom I had not previously heard. That composer was Charles Martin Loeffler, one of the works his Quatre poèmes, op.5 of 1893. Or should that have been Karl Martin Loeffler? So consumed with hatred, it seems, had the young Karl been for Germany that, even following his emigration to the USA, he would claim to have been born not Prussian but Alsatian and changed his name accordingly. Quatre poèmes was doubtless chosen because it would involve all three musicians performing in this concert, but it seemed to me on a single hearing fully to justify inclusion on merit. One heard, aptly enough, what seemed to be a largely yet not exclusively German sense of harmony with a more French taste in verse, melody, and sometimes texture too. The first song, a setting of Baudelaire’s La Cloche fêlée, seemed to mediate both as work and performance between Duparc and Brahms, Tabea Zimmermann’s viola-playing – Loeffler was an early enthusiast for the viola d’amore – becoming more Romantically ardent as the piece demanded or suggested. It offered development in a more conventionally instrumental sense, yet seemed also to have something of a Franco-Flemish (Franck, perhaps soon Debussy too) taste for the cyclical. It certainly convinced, moreover, as a response to the poem. The Verlaine ‘Dansons la gigue’ was gypsy-like – at least in a nineteenth-century sense – whilst also seemingly responding to Carmen in its more reflective moments. Verlaine was the poet for the remaining two pieces too. An atmosphere of general sadness, relieved somewhat by finely spun piano arabesques from Edwige Herchenrode, characterised ‘Le Son du cor s’afflige vers les bois’. The vocal line in the closing ‘Sérénade’, and Andrea Hill’s delivery of it, hinted at la vieille France, but this was no pastiche, instead a dramatic evocation of another time, ‘mandoline’ and all. I even fancied there were suggestions of the darker Ravel: presentiments, though, given the date. Fascinating: I shall be keen to hear more Loeffler.

I have always been keen to hear more Charlotte Bray too. The world premiere of In Black Light, for solo viola, furthered that keenness. It struck me as having some aspects of variational form – developing variation if you will, but also something more ‘traditional’ than that – within an overarching framework that has something of what would once have called a tone poem to it. Rhythms and intervals help generate style and idea. Following a grave opening of (relative) pitch extremes, a broad canvas emerges, upon which composer and performer alike offer a commanding variety of musical strokes: one section ‘jagged and fiery’ (Bray), another ‘a kind of broken waltz’, another ‘a mysterious pizzicato miniature’, and so on: related yet contrasting. The rhythmic profile is certainly sharp – and was certainly sharp in Zimmermann’s commanding performance, clearly highly attuned to the work’s contours and expressive requirements. The opening theme’s return did indeed sound, to quote the composer again, ‘urgently present and expressively charged’.

Liszt’s Romance oubliée has always seemed to me – perhaps unsurprisingly – superior in its piano solo version. That, however, is no reason to shun any of its others, especially when ‘actual’ Liszt chamber music is so thin on the ground, the composer’s tendency being, not unlike Wagner’s, to write chamber music within works for larger forces. The opening solo line certainly suits the viola, yet this proved for violist and pianist alike a strangely constricted performance, tentative to the point of incoherence. Kodály’s Adagio, first written for violin, then arranged for viola, proved much more Zimmermann and Herchenroder’s thing. Its darkly Romantic opening sounded almost Elgarian – at least to this Englishman. Zimmermann spun a rich, yet far from indulgent line, which enabled the material to develop in far from predictable fashion. If her pianist seemed very much the ‘accompanist’, she performed well in that role. As she did in the two closing Brahms songs; to begin with, indeed, we might have been about to hear a newly discovered sonata for viola and piano. Taken as a whole, though, those performances might have been more attuned to the songs’ form. Lack of direction, even meandering, married to a reticent way with the words (Rückert’s) from Hill sometimes made for heavy Brahmsian weather. If only they had been performed as if written by Loeffler.
1 hour ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story

Queen Elizabeth Hall
Symphony no.94 in G major, ‘Surprise’Piano Concerto no.11 in D major, Hob.XVIII/11Harmoniemesse in B-flat major, Hob.XXII:14
Charlotte Beament (soprano)Helen Charlston (mezzo-soprano)Nick Pritchard (tenor)Dingle Yandell (bass)
Choir of the EnlightenmentOrchestra of the Age of EnglightenmentAndrás Schiff (fortepiano, conductor)

Many of the ingredients for a memorable concert were there, or so they initially seemed to be. Alas, ultimately what we learned more clearly than anything else was that the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s new Principal Artist, András Schiff, is no conductor. It is not clear that he is much of a pianist any more either. The latter surprised me: not because my recent encounters with him in the concert hall had been positive, far from it, but because various friends had thought highly of his recent turn to the fortepiano. (He has long played older instruments as well as the modern piano, but seems to be doing so rather more at the moment.) When one of them lent me a CD of Schiff playing Schubert on a period instrument, I shared some of that enthusiasm. The deathly seriousness of his recent piano playing, often not helped by bizarre programming more suited to recording of box sets than to the concert hall, seemed to be gone. Schiff seemed liberated by the possibilities, rather than restricted by the shortcomings, of the older instrument. Whether that were due to recording trickery, or whether this concert were an off-day, I do not know. However, I could not help but think that the other musicians would often have made a better show of things without him (and with another soloist). 

Each of the three works on the evening’s programme opened with great promise, the introduction to the Surprise Symphony’s first movement dark with potentiality. (The Creation’s ‘Representation of Chaos’ was not itself an act of creatio ex nihilo; it is inconceivable without Haydn’s symphonic introductions.) That came from the players, though, Schiff’s conducting either ineffectual or restrictively four-square. Oddly, or perhaps not so oddly to those more closely acquainted with the period-instrument scene, the willingness of the OAE’s players truly to play out, rather than to condescend to Haydn, had them sound closer to performances by the likes of Eugen Jochum or Colin Davis than to many more recent ones. Alas, however, the lack of formal dynamism and even control of the players soon made for a wearing experience. The Andante was on the fast side, yet far from unreasonably so. Otherwise it was business as usual: the more Sturm und Drang passages sounded magnificent in their way – they would have done still more so with a larger band – yet unduly regimented. The scherzo had Schwung, for which one could overlook a few too many intonational lapses. Soon, it became a bit too same-y, though: where was the development? Such was still more the case for its trio and for a merely hectic finale.

If the D major Piano Concerto opened with somewhat mannered string articulation, such is often the way now. I have heard far worse – whether from modern or period instruments. Quite why Schiff sometimes played continuo and sometimes did not is anyone’s guess. He certainly made things far worse as soloist, his phrasing often barely worthy of the word. Balance between the hands was sometimes straightforwardly odd; there is, of course, a greater difference between registers on such an instrument, but even so. His cadenza, based upon the Symphony’s Andante was thought hilarious by some, but they had reacted similarly the first time around too. In the slow movement, Schiff struggled to form a cantabile phrase at all, let alone to shape it meaningfully. The OAE was much better, needless to say. Episodes in the finale were weirdly unconnected; I was quite shocked how little harmonic understanding was on show here. Surely Schiff used to be better than that? The audience loved it, though, and was rewarded with an encore of the entire movement.

The introduction to the ‘Kyrie’ of the Harmoniemesse, surely one of Haydn’s very grandest, indeed awe-inspiring passages, sang with all the promise, perhaps even more, of that to the Symphony. Even here, though Schiff’s phrasing was often pedantic; the less he did, the better. Grainy woodwind reminded us why this mass has the nickname it does. Vocal quartet and choir alike offered consummately professional singing, often rather more than that: beautiful, if not especially mitteleuropäischin style. Not that there is anything intrinsically wrong with an ‘English’ performance of Haydn: better that than unconvincing ventriloquism.


The ‘Gloria’ began, as many of the movements – I know we should not really call them that, but never mind – did, at a surprisingly slow tempo. I have nothing against that, quite the contrary, but much of it was a bit of a trudge. Charlotte Beament’s bell-like soprano was attractive here and throughout. The ‘Gratias’ section sounded too fast: more likely in relation to what had gone before than intrinsically. Indeed, proportional tempi were notable only by their absence. That said, nothing here can really mask the vigour and rigour of Haydn’s thematic working out; if that is not ‘symphonic’, then I do not know what out. Moreover, nothing did mask it. A four-square conclusion was less than overflowing with joy.

There was an old-fashioned Handelian sturdiness to the opening of the ‘Credo’: far from out of place, necessarily, in Haydn’s evocation of the Church as Rock of St Peter. Without greater forward impetus, though, such an approach will sound merely staid, as it did here. If you are going to adopt a Klemperer-like tempo – what it might have been to have heard him conduct this mass! – then it may help actually to be Klemperer, or at least more of a conductor than Schiff. Gorgeous woodwind in the central section, ‘Et incarnatus…’, was alas, supplanted, by increasingly wayward solo noises from ‘Ex resurrexit’ onwards. That would have mattered less, had there been more in the way of formal and/or theological insight from Schiff. Alas, it was by now clear that such would not be forthcoming.

The ‘Sanctus’ was spacious and less static, Schiff’s slow tempo notwithstanding. It too, however, was blighted by too much dodgy woodwind playing. Perhaps the players were tiring; it certainly sounded like it. It was no bad thing in the circumstances to have a swift ‘Benedictus’, although it verged perhaps on the silly. Nicely imploring invocations of the Lamb of God, as much orchestral as choral, gave way to bizarrely heavy, joyless cries of ‘Dona nobis pacem’. A pity.


12 days ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story

Wigmore Hall
Gounod: Où voulez-vous aller?; Le Soir; O ma belle rebelle; Sérénade; Mignon; Viens, les gazons sont vertsEdmond de Polignac: LamentoMassenet: Chant provençal; Elégie; Nuit d’EspagneDuparc: Chanson triste; La Vie antérieure; Extase; LamentoReynaldo Hahn: Le Rossignol des lilas; Mai; Les Cygnes; Infidélité; RêverieOffenbach: Six Fables de La Fontaine: ‘La Cigale et la fourmi’, ‘Le Corbeau et le renard’
Véronique Gens (soprano)Susan Manoff (piano)

It came as quite a surprise throughout much of the first half of this recital of French song, that it was the piano-playing of Susan Manoff that made the greater impression upon me than the singing of Véronique Gens. With the best will in the world, it could hardly be claimed that the songs of Gounod and Massenet are possessed of remarkably piano parts. And yet, from the prelude to the opening Où voulez-vous aller, it was often the piano that proved more communicative, that grabbed and retained my interest. Indeed, Manoff’s evident love for the music and for music-making in general proved so infections that I found more in the songs, especially Gounod’s, than I might ever have imagined possible. Whether it were her teasing, effortlessly ‘natural’ rubato in the Lamartine setting, Le Soir, the immediate establishment of a cradle rhythm, and her play therewith, in the Hugo Sérénade, or the unerring sense of line and shaping the song as a whole in Mignon, (sort of) after Goethe, it would have been more or less impossible not to warm to these performance. I certainly did not try. Likewise in the rhythms of Massenet’s  Nuit d’Espagne. ‘Generative’ might be thought too Teutonic a way of considering the music in a song like that; it was nevertheless the word that came to mind to this incorrigible Teutonophile.

Gens sometimes sounded reticent by comparison, rather as if she were holding something back for the second half. Perhaps she was. Not that there was nothing to admire. Above all, there was her ready way with the texts and her cleanness of line. A touch more vibrato might on occasion, though, have been welcome – at least to me. The tasteful sadness of Massenet’s Elégieprove eminently satisfying, though. In Edmond de Polignac’s Lamento, simple and well-formed, far more than a mere curiosity, both artists left one wanting more. The piano’s harmonic inflections nevertheless proved the key, or so it seemed.

If I found Gens at times a little ‘white’ of voice in Duparc’s songs – Vie antérieure in particular – that is more a matter of taste than anything else.  It remained, however, the piano parts in which I found, again to my surprise, the greater interest, at least until the Théophile Gautier setting, Lamento. Contemplation of the white tomb, as opposed to entombment itself, was very much the thing – until the high drama (relatively speaking) of the third and final stanza. ‘Ah! jamais plus près de la tombe je n’irai…’

Try as I might, I cannot summon up the enthusiasm shared by so many for the songs of Reynaldo Hahn, whether in the second half proper, or as encores. Nevertheless, I found myself well able to appreciate the darker undercurrents of a song such as Mai in performance. Likewise that ineffably Gallic regret – a cliché, I know, but what of it? – in Infidélité, another Gautier setting. Moreover, the way Manoff set up musical expectations through rhythm in the Hugo Rêveriereminded me very much of the opening Gounod set.

Offenbach’s cynical humour is probably just more appealing to me. I do not think I had ever heard his songs before. The two pieces from his Six Fables de La Fontaine, pretty much operettic scenas in their own right, made me keen to hear more. Gens now seemed far more at ease, more readily communicative. ‘She played humorously with the closing phrase of ‘Le Corbeau et le renard’ – ‘qu’on ne l’y prendrait plus’ – with no need to underline. The preceding ‘La Cigale et la fourmi’ closed with a true invitation to the dance. This was by now a true partnership, whether between soprano and pianist or grasshopper and ant.




12 days ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story

Glyndebourne Opera House  
Mélisande (Christiana Gansch), Pelléas (John Chest), Golaud (Christopher Purves)
Images: Richard Hubert Smith

Golaud – Christopher PurvesMélisande – Christiana GanschGeneviève – Karen CargillArkel – Brindley Sherratt/Richard WiegoldPelléas – John ChestYniold – Chloé BriotDoctor – Michael MofidianShepherd – Michael Wallace
Stefan Herheim (director, lighting)Philipp Fürhofer (designs)Tony Simpson (lighting)Alexander Meier-Dörzenbach (dramaturgy)
Glyndebourne Chorus (chorus master: Nicholas Jenkins)London Philharmonic OrchestraRobin Ticciati (conductor)
Mélisande and Golaud

What might have been? Such was a thought that came to my mind more than once during this, the premiere of Glyndebourne’s new Pelléas et Mélisande. What might have been if Stefan Herheim had not changed his Konzept so late in the day? (I had actually forgotten about that until reminded during the interval, yet had already begun to wonder whether the production had been, especially for him, unusually rushed.) What might have been, had this magnificent statement of intent – one of the greatest opera directors alive – from Sebastian F. Schwarz’s intendancy not been followed by manœuvring to ensure that something more ‘English’ would thereafter prove the order of the day? What might have been, had this Pelléas been conducted by someone with a little more feeling for and understanding of Debussy’s score – it would not have been difficult – than Robin Ticciati? What, ultimately, might have been, were operatic culture in this country not so philistine and class-ridden? The good news – our lives are at present as full of good news as those we see in Pelléas– is that leaving the European Union will only serve to make everything far, far worse. C’est au tour de pauvres petites.
Mélisande and Pelléas

I was thinking, though – which is considerably better than not. Even if I could not help but wonder what Pelléas set on a spaceship would have been like – on the face of it, it sounds a brilliant idea – Glyndebourne’s Organ Room, from time to time a salle modulable yet never escapable, turned the action and responsibility squarely upon us, the audience. (If only the worst-behaved had noticed. Some laughed at the end. Laughed! It was not difficult to think of them as Faragistes.) It is specific, yes, but not exclusivist. Indeed, with its heavy wood-panelling in Philipp Fürhofer’s outstanding set design, it might almost be the Victorianised combination room of an Oxford or Cambridge college or even something from the Hanseatic world of Buddenbrooks. Ancestry and tradition weigh down on it, though, as seen on the severe wall portraits. It is about us, then, but also about how we have become who we are.

Geneviève (Karen Cargill), Mélisande, and Pelléas

‘Us’ in this sense means taking on aestheticism, asking ourselves as well as selfish fellow audience members what we think we are doing and why. These are people engaged in fruitless, fatal pursuits – but in this case they are also aesthetic pursuits. They try to paint new pictures and cannot. Why not? On account of tradition, or account of an aestheticism that has them retreat from lives, even try to turn their lives into art? It need not be either/or; it almost certainly is not. We see through their attempts at art, though: literally, for the paintings, if they exist at all, are beyond the fourth wall. Is not Mélisande, after all, a blank canvas? Men certainly tend to wish her so – as with Lulu. It is just a hobby, though, is it not? Something for rich people to do to while away their time, perhaps like building an opera house so that ‘your’ – the possessive is important – wife might sing in it. Pelléas might seem different; he is, here, an artist, a younger Debussyan dandy rather than the elderly huntsman trying to be something he is not and certainly was not. (Are Golaud and Pelléas to be identified with the composer? Perhaps, perhaps not. If you do not want ambiguity, this is not the opera for you.) But is he? Is he really? Or does he just wear summer clothes in a darkened room? Perhaps his aestheticised life is still more dishonest; perhaps ours are too. Perhaps, peut-être. ‘Je pars peut-être demain.’


We do that to children too, especially those of us who claim to be shocked by the very suggestion. Germaine Greer has fallen off the rails spectacularly in recent years, but her insight that we are all paedophiles still holds; indeed it holds more strongly than ever, if less so for those of us unburdened by ‘family’. And so, when Yniold – yes, I too had been mumbling that I should have preferred to hear a treble – is unmasked as a woman all along, with locks aspiring to those of Mélisande, we are obliged to ask ourselves questions. The violence we see, feel aestheticised and sublimated all around us suddenly becomes, as the interval comes, something we can no longer ignore. Those blows that never quite led anywhere come to seem something more than ‘boring’.


By the same token, however, should they perhaps not have become something a little sooner? When does representing boredom become merely boring? I am not sure that Herheim, usually a master at treading of multiple lines, does not trip, even fall, in this case. An object lesson in that respect was Christiane Pohle’s revelatory post-Beckett staging for the Bavarian State Opera. Meaninglessness was the thing there, not ennui as such; the production was all the better for it. I cannot help but wonder whether the negative reaction it received was laced with misogyny – and/or perhaps a journalistic lack of understanding of ‘modern’ theatre. It was, at any rate, difficult not to ask such a question in a work that focuses on abusive behaviour and yet here, at least, attempts to avoid addressing that behaviour.
Golaud and Mélisande

Later on, when it becomes more explicit, when we see that Pelléas and Mélisande literally stage their own death – is it actually a real death at all, or just an act – everything falls into place. Mélisande has already – in fact she did so straight away – ease(le)d out Geneviève. The family, closing ranks, would clearly avenge itself, so perhaps playing at Tristan and Isolde is all that it is left. It has not been an easy road; nor, surely, should it have been. However, just a little relief from the claustrophobia might actually render it more powerful. As things stand, there remains more than a little suspicion that earlier tedium is a handy, even suggestive excuse, yet perhaps nevertheless an excuse in part. Bloodied clowns certainly make their point; this sick Liebestod from the Theatre of the Absurd has still not left my imagination. Yniold, now herself, visits the Organ Room as a guest, an opera-goer. It makes the point, yes, but might it not be better left unmade?

Tradition is, after all, sometimes necessary, or at least helpful – as the Roman Catholic Church would rightly tell us. It often provides an important counterweight to literalism, to fundamentalism. Collective wisdom enables development; each one of us need not re-invent the wheel. (Aesthetes breathe a collective sigh of relief.) As Pierre Boulez pointed out in challenging – though not, as some have claimed, denying – tradition, ‘a strong personality will inevitably transform it [tradition].’ That still leaves the problem, of course, of what to do about personalities that are not ‘strong’ or do not wish to be. ‘Ne me touchez-pas! Ne me-touchez-pas!’ Is the conclusion here bleak or weak? Is it too easy to say that it is what we want it to be? Doubtless. Is it what we will make of it? By definition it more or less has to be, but is that simply to evade the question? And is that wrong? Debussy, after all, is the unsurpassed master of musical ambiguity.


Tradition, or at least learning, would certainly have benefited the conducting, at best featureless, at worst frankly jejune, we heard from Ticciati. Debussy’s genius shone through, although more the debt to Wagner than what distinguished him from the old Klingsor. That, however, was surely the doing of the London Philharmonic, drawing when it could on its vast reserves of operatic and symphonic experience. Alas, such uninspired musical direction – bleeding titbits of Wagner for people who dislike Wagner – did not help the singers either. Christopher Purves was presented as an older Golaud and sang as such: nothing wrong with it. His anger was wonderfully sublimated until it was not. It would have gained greater musical context, though, as would the rest of the cast’s, had there been – well, greater musico-dramatic context. Christiana Gansch and John Chest likewise offered good vocal performances as the doomed lovers, but something seemed to be missing. (Should something be missing? Perhaps. Again, however, it is a fine line.) Richard Wiegold was an undoubted hero of the evening, singing from a box whilst an indisposed Brindley Sherratt acted out the role of Arkel below. Karen Cargill offered rich-toned benevolence – I think – as Geneviève; as so often in this role, one wished there were more to hear.  There was much to admire from Chloé Briot, Michael Mofidian, and Michael Wallace, although it was difficult not to think that all concerned might have benefited from greater certainty and clarity elsewhere.

Was it worth it, then, to have annoyed the right people, bluff English purveyors of ‘common sense’? Of course. They will not like Pelléas anyway; if they think they do, it is because they have not remotely understood it and think of it as vaguely ‘beautiful’. Is it enough to have annoyed them? Of course not. Does this represent Herheim’s best work? No. Does the production stand in need of revision? Very much so. Does it also need a conductor with a little more idea what might be going on and what might be at stake? Still more so. And yet, I have been thinking about it ever since, and show no sign of stopping. In the meantime, hasten to see Barrie Kosky’s Berlin production and, should it ever be revived, Pohle’s Munich staging. There are always, as we æsthetes/æstheticists will tell you, great recordings too. Desormière or Karajan? Boulez or Abbado? Why choose? With Boulez, you can even see Peter Stein before he lost it. ‘What,’ you might ask, ‘is “it”,’? Such is surely part of what Herheim’s production is about – perhaps, peut-être, still more so than he intended.



15 days ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story

Wigmore Hall
William Bolcom: Songs from Minicabs (2009)Joan Tower: Or like a … and Engine (1994)John Harbison: North and South, Book I: ‘Late Air’ (2001)
Charles Wuorinen: Twang (1989)Hedy West (arr. Michèle Brourman): 500 Miles (1961, world premiere of arrangement)John Corigliano: The Passionate Shepherd to His Love (2017, world premiere)Bolcom: Graceful Ghost Rag (1970)Frederic Rzewski: War Songs no.1 (2008)Gordon Lightfoot (arr. Brourman): Black Day in July (1968, world premiere)Peter Yarrow (arr. Brourman): Sweet Survivor (1978, world premiere)Corigliano: MetaMusic: ‘Dodecaphonia’ (1997); ‘Marvellous Invention’ (2001); ‘End of the Line’ (2008)
Lucy Schaufer (mezzo-soprano)Huw Watkins (piano)

Wild Plum Arts is ‘determined to get new music written and performed. If you’re a composer,’ we read on the front page of its website,’ we would like to help you. If you’re not a composer, but you like new music or even the idea of new music, and you want to do something to support its creation, we hope you’ll help us to get this done.’ This late night Friday Wigmore Hall concert was its first concert. Highly enjoyable and interesting in itself, it also augured well for whatever the future might bring; to put it another way, your support would clearly both be appreciated and rewarded.

Co-founder Lucy Schaufer teamed up with pianist (and composer) Huw Watkins in a programme of music by American composers, all born in 1938, and all save one (Hedy West) still with us. Schaufer told us that this had been a dream of hers since she had been a student at Tanglewood; now that dream had become reality. Her engaging introductions, both to the concert proper and to many of the items not only informed and entertained, but drew the audience in, made the evening feel as much a gathering of friends – which, in many ways, is precisely what it was – as a public occasion.

‘I feel good’ from William Bolcom’s Minicabs was the first of several very brief Bolcom song contributions, the others ‘People Change’, ‘Food Song’, and the closing ‘Finale: Mystery of the Song?’ There was something of an American Poulenc to the wit on display, although the miniaturism told of something different. In these, as in the other songs we hear, Schaufer proved the consummate hostess, teacher, and confidante, Watkins very much her equal, her chamber music partner. Sometimes he had the field to himself, shining equally in the toccata-like Joan Tower Or like a … an Engine, Bolcom’s own  ‘Graceful Ghost Rag’ from Three Ghost Rags, and Frederic Rzewski’s  Wae Songs no.1, which served very well as an introduction to an over protest songs, Gordon Lightfoot’s Black Day in July, a response to civil unrest in Detroit’, ‘motor city’, and to Peter Yarrow’s (Peter as in Peter, Paul, and Mary) Sweet Survivor, wistfully looking back at those headier days.

The sheer variety of styles and motivations might have overwhelmed or made for a less than satisfying whole, yet such was not the case in the slightest. This was a programme in the best sense curated, both on paper and in the hall. Schaufer’s generosity of taste and spirit shone through, ensuring that even if, in the abstract, some of the music might not have been ‘your sort of thing’, you would most likely have been happy indeed to have your preconceptions challenged, perhaps even your mind and ears opened. And so, if all too predictably, the greatest find for me in abstracto proved to be Charles Wuorinen’s Twang, somehow both as knotty and as blinding in its clarity as the late Stravinsky (Webern too perhaps?) after which it seemed to take, neither I nor anyone else was listening in abstracto. Categories dissolved or transformed. This was an evening of song – and above all of song in performance.

Please do, at the very least, have a look at Wild Plum Arts’s website. Whether you feel able or willing to contribute to the long-term goal of acquiring ‘a secluded property in which to run an artists’ residence,’ or would just like to watch the composer interview videos – the two need not be mutually exclusive – it is surely worth a few minutes of your time. So too, I am sure, will the next concert be. For these artists, next stop is the Buxton Festival, thence to Ravinia.
16 days ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story

Royal Festival Hall
Gurrelieder
Waldemar – Robert Dean SmithTove – Camilla TillingWood-dove – Michelle DeYoungPeasant – David SoarKlaus-Narr – Wolfgang Ablinger-SperrhackeSpeaker – Barbara Sukowa
Philharmonia VoicesChoirs of the Royal Academy of MusicRoyal College of Music, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and Trinity Laban Conservatore of Music and Dance (chorus director: Aidan Oliver)Philharmonia OrchestraEsa-Pekka Salonen (conductor)

Opportunities to hear, let alone to conduct, Gurrelieder do not come along very often. Simon Rattle must have had more of the latter than most. What a way, then, for Esa-Pekka Salonen to approach his sixtieth birthday, with a work he had conducted so successfully with this same orchestra, the Philharmonia, in this same hall, not far off a decade ago. (That performance was recorded, and released on Signum Classics.)


The opening Prelude glistened, lacking nothing in warmth or almost pointillistic potential. Salonen was no more likely to wallow than Boulez might have done, and all the better for it. Here one heard – almost saw – water andice. It flowed, ran, even stood with commendable flexibility, suggestive of a tone poem (which, in a way, it is, even when words intervene). Particularly intriguing was his orchestral balancing, subtle yet telling, highlighting yet never exaggerating the music’s darker undercurrents: pitch, timbre, harmony. The later Schoenberg is not so far away: one only has to listen. This was music after Götterdämmerung as well as after Tristan: unquestionably ‘after Wagner’, in far more than the most obvious ways.

Alas, Robert Dean Smith’s Waldemar often proved something of a trial. An older-sounding Waldemar is fine, repeated uncertainty of pitch rather less so. For much of the first part in particular, he was at best effortful, an especial pity when Salonen proved so adept at balancing those tone-poem, even symphonic tendencies (Pelleas und Melisande often came to mind) with the music’s roots in the song-cycle tradition. (Schoenberg’s first conception had been of a shorter cycle for voice and piano. Zemlinsky would recall that the songs ‘were wonderfully beautiful and truly novel – however we both had the impression that, on that account, they had little prospect of winning a prize.’) There was no denying the through-composed nature of Schoenberg’s writing, but nor is there, after all, in what we generally consider the very first song-cycle, An die ferne Geliebte. Fortunately, Camilla Tilling proved far more able than Dean Smith not only to ride the orchestra but also to make something of the words and phrases, although, to be fair, when foretelling his haunting, this Waldemar proved more convincing. There was plenty elsewhere to ravish: not least the combination of delicacy and splendour from Tilling and upper strings as Tove bade her love join her in raising golden goblets, Tristan-like, albeit with a decidedly æstheticist twist, to mighty, beautifyingdeath (dem mächtig verschönenden Tod). It seemed telling and indeed touching, perhaps indicative of Salonen’s plans for the Ring, that the chords presaging and indeed furthering Tove’s departure from the stage echoed so clearly in combination of harmony and timbre the magnificent, malevolent world of Hagen.

Michelle DeYoung entered stage-right as if a figure from Klimt. (I know it is far too obvious an association, but demeanour and dress were so strongly suggestive that I shall indulge myself.) Jill Crowther’s English horn recalled to us an alte – or perhaps better, an ältereWeise. Yet even before the Wood-dove sang, Schoenberg’s interlude had proved a kaleidoscopic realm of love and terror, love as terror; she only put it into words – but how! – what we (mostly) already knew. DeYoung offered a song variegated dramatically as well as tonally, almost a little – well, not so very little – cantata in its own right. Her richness of tone against the darkness of harmony and orchestral colour both reminded us of Salonen’s and Schoenberg’s presentiments at the opening, whilst leading us to a shattering climax. Tod/death: after that, life could only fade away – or could it?

The opening of the Second Part quite rightly sounded as if a digest of what had gone before – only, as it would in one of Wagner’s narrations, be it verbal, orchestral, or both, with difference of detail, of standpoint, of import. Dean Smith proved more imploring than angry, but that worked in its way. The aftermath of Waldemar’s outburst was shockingly prolonged – in the best way – by Salonen. Monumental was the word for it.

Variegation again proved the key to the Wild Hunt. Neither here nor elsewhere was there any absence of power to the outstanding massed choral forces, but heft is not enough, nor did it have to be. Salonen ensured an array of colour, even when Schoenberg apparently confronted him and us with blocks of sound. The terror of the first ghostly cry, in reaction to, or perhaps oblivious to, the handsomely dark bass-baritone observations of David Soar’s Peasant, proved quite something: several leagues beyond anything to be heard or even imagined in Der Freischütz. The proper entry of the chorus sounded like nothing so much as Götterdämmerung on acid – which it essentially is. It was, however, the aftermath that truly chilled. So much is in Schoenberg’s scoring here, yet I do not think before now I had quite realised how much. Dean Smith at last recaptured something of Tristan’s delirium, movingly so, as the orchestra seemed to engage in act of self-dissolution – again, as much in timbre as in harmony, before reconstituting itself for what was yet to come.

Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke’s Klaus-Narr perhaps inevitably suggested Mime: even his orchestral ‘introduction’ seemed to do so. This seemed, however, a more ambiguous ‘character’ still, transformations in mood and/or self-projection of mood disconcertingly yet, in their way, honestly quicksilver. His reflections on – mocking of? – salvation rightly left one uneasy yet wanting to know more. ‘Dann muss ich eingehn im Himmels Gnaden… Na, und dann mag Gott sich selber gnaden.’ Sepulchral chorus and brass alike soon eerily set against piccolos, set the stage, so it seemed, for another orchestral rebirth, now very much an ensemble straining towards Pierrot lunaire. Nothing would ever be the same again – and perhaps, just perhaps, such had been the work of this ‘fool’.


Step forward Barbara Sukowa, as spellbinding as she had been for Salonen in 2009 – or indeed for Claudio Abbado on his Vienna recording. This Speaker was delirious, yet delightful; or was that our æstheticising something too close for comfort? Not only Pierrot, but a whole century’s worth of music thereafter flashed before our ears. ‘Still! Was mag der Wind nur wollen?’ Did these hallucinations, if that be what they were, speak of a bad or a good trip? Schoenberg, as so often, resisted the either/or. Violin and clarinet acknowledged Wagner once again, now the Siegfried-Idyll, paving the way to Schoenberg’s final, glorious, yet ultimately never quite convincing paean to the sun(god). We revelled in that final chorus, yet, whether or not we wished to do so, could never quite shake off those intimations of the ‘air of another planet’. The future was both upon us and not. Schoenberg’s time had come.



17 days ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story


Britten Theatre
Susan Wheeler – Lauren Joyanne MorrisElla Foley – Beth MoxonStephen Foley – Thomas ErlankBen Pascoe – Theodor Platt
Sandy, Officer 1 – Richard PinkstoneBlazes, Officer 2 – James AtkinsonArthur, Voices of the Cards, Officer 3 – Timothy Edlin
Stephen Unwin (director)Hannah Wolfe (designs)Ralph Stokeld (lighting)
Royal College of Music Opera OrchestraMichael Rosewell (conductor)

It was, on paper and not only on paper, an excellent idea to pair Huw Watkins’s 2012 chamber opera, In the Locked Room, with Peter Maxwell Davies’s classic drama, The Lighthouse. In both works, it is – or should be – far from clear where the boundaries between ‘reality’ and ‘imagination’ might lie, indeed whether such boundaries might justly be said to exist or at least to have meaning. Where does delusion take over? Are we deluding ourselves to think that it has not been in the ascendant all along? Is there any scope, as Hans Sachs might advise us, to manipulate the dark forces of Schopenhauerian Wahn? In many respects, this Royal College of Music double-bill worked well; I was certainly left thinking about what the works had in common and what they did not. I am not entirely convinced, though, that Stephen Unwin’s staging of the former and indeed David Harsent’s libretto always made as strong a case as they might have done.

Two friends who had known Thomas Hardy’s original short story beforehand felt more dissatisfied than I did. Whether I should have felt differently had I too known the ‘original’, I am not sure. I am, to quote an accessory to war crimes, ‘intensely relaxed’ about adaptations taking on whatever new form is wished, so long as it works on its own terms. Nevertheless, from having read the story since, I could not help but think that something had been lost in ambiguity, whether by Harsent, Unwin, or, I suspect, by both. The updating works well. A joyless marriage, kept in place by banker, Stephen Foley’s money and, doubtless, by inertia, even by social pressure, comes across well. In a programme note, Unwin speaks of ‘the lonely yearnings of the housekeeper, Susan’; I found her somewhat under-written, though, and indeed had thought her a mysteriously reappearing estate agent. (My fault in the latter case, no doubt.)

What I missed, and what is perhaps only really suggested by Watkins’s score, is a suggestion that the poet-lodger, Ben Pascoe, for whom Ella falls might or might not be in her imagination; realism ruled too strongly on stage. (Hardy called his tale The Imaginative Woman, which, sexism aside, surely points to a more interesting reading.) There is a splendid addition to that in Stephen’s talk about derivatives: surely the most lethal imaginary world of our time. That perhaps made him the most interesting character, especially when played with so strong a combination of toxic masculinity (Hannah Wolfe’s designs surely helped too) and implicit, yet only implicit, doubt as by Thomas Erlank. Otherwise, however, it is in the ghostly musical imaginings that seem to take their linguistic leave as much from the later world of Owen Wingrave and Death in Venice as from the more obvious Britten opera, that that realm seems capable of musico-dramatic expression. A fascination with patterns, too, however, seems fruitfully suggested, in the end once more reminding us of that Turn of the Screw precedent. I am certainly not saying that what is heard musically must be recreated on stage, or indeed match the words. A little too often, though, I found the score, as it were, visually drowned out.

Such perhaps only became truly apparent in retrospect, following the second half’s powerfully integrated performance and production of The Lighthouse. Here, claustrophobia and terror grabbed us by the neck and never let go; yet so too did the suggestive and still surprising (however much one ‘knows’) turns of the dramatic screw. This, it seems to me, is an opera whose stature grows with every hearing, and London has been fortunate in recent years with possibilities. Richard Pinkstone, James Atkinson, and Timothy Edlin brought sharply characterised readings to their characters, yet their interaction proved just as impressive. So too was the playing of the RCM Opera Orchestra under Michael Rosewell: insidious purveyors and blenders of reality and imagination, complementing and immeasurably enhancing Unwin’s resourceful staging (not least Ralph Stokeld’s lighting, atmospheric and blinding by turn). Peter Maxwell Davies’s cunning use and abuse of parody set boundaries and dissolved them in oracular pronouncement. This was truly an apocalyptic pit of bestial expressionism. Every minute, even every second, was made to count: repetition never just repetition, development always called into question. Whether the Beast were ‘real’, whatever that might mean, proved both the question and quite beside the point. Tremendous stuff, then, as always: fully the equal of what we should have any right to expect from London’s larger houses.

18 days ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story

Wigmore Hall
Beethoven: Eleven Bagatelles, op.119Schoenberg: Six Little Piano Pieces, op.19Haydn: Piano Sonata in C major, Hob.XVI:50Beethoven: Thirty-Three Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli, op.120
Imogen Cooper (piano)

Any programme including the Diabelli Variations will offer an extraordinary challenge for pianist and audience alike; so too, after all, would a programme in which Beethoven’s op.120 was the only work on the programme. With a first half of works by Beethoven, Schoenberg, and Haydn – a programme of which, I hasten to add, I wholeheartedly approve – the difficulties but also the opportunities multiply. Whilst not everything here in Imogen Cooper’s recital proved equally convincing, there was certainly more than enough to enjoy and to make one think.

First came the op.119 Bagatelles, the opening G minor piece notable for its nobility of utterance, with more than a glance back to Mozart’s use of that key. E-flat major warmth – again, perhaps not entirely without reference to Mozart or indeed to Haydn – offered welcome, illuminating contrast and association. Cooper phrased beautifully, shading tellingly yet without pedantry. Beethoven’s counterpoint sounded unusually Bach-like, refreshingly so. As the set progressed, we heard intimations of Schumann, Chopin, even, I fancied in the seventh piece with its strange inner-part trills, of Janácek; we felt musically as well as technically – if that makes any sense – the need to cross hands; above all, we experienced Beethoven’s need to develop, even when there is barely time to do so. Sublime melodic simplicity left us in no doubt as to the composer, likewise the strangeness and difficulty of late Beethoven (irrespective of the precise dating of individual pieces). A heavy-handedness that went beyond mere vigour, boisterousness, or resolve (no.6: ‘Risoluto’) occasionally detracted – yet only occasionally.

Further illumination was had from placing Schoenberg’s aphoristic op.19 Little Piano Pieces after those Beethoven ‘trifles’ (anything but, of course). There were again a few occasions when heavy-handedness slightly hampered proceedings, not least in the free-floating of these wisps from another planet. That should not, however, be exaggerated. The will-o’-the-wisp quality to the first in particular was well captured, as were the twin requirements of voice-leading and characterisation. The obstinacy of the second’s major-third figure gained very much from juxtaposition with Beethoven’s not entirely dissimilar games. The sixth spoke as much of Schoenberg’s orchestral experiments – the all-too-little-known, posthumous Three Pieces for Chamber Orchestra, yes, but also the preceding op.16 Orchestral Pieces – as of Mahlerian funeral bells. Harmonies suggested timbre, but timbres we could not quite year, yet fancied we did, also in turn suggested harmonies.

Haydn’s C major Piano Sonata, Hob.XVI:50 was taken attacca: an obvious ploy, perhaps, but a fruitful one nevertheless. The quirkiness – please forgive the cliché – of its opening emerged with still greater freshness from the still strange harmonic world of ‘freely atonal’ Schoenberg. A sonata form thus formed itself, almost as if from a lower-case representation of chaos. Cooper’s tempo was judicious, permitting of necessary subdivision without garbling. I found the musical argument utterly absorbing. Beethovenian connections suggested themselves, but the individuality of Haydn’s imagination and intellect were undimmed, not least in a development that is surely like no other. The Adagio sounded with almost Schoenbergian complexity, with Mozartian echoes equally apparent, indeed related. It always sang – as is crucial to the music of both. The finale, however, I found somewhat bewildering. Lack of clarity seemed a deliberate interpretative decision, but I could not understand why.

And so to the Diabelli Variations. Cooper certainly conveyed a necessary sense of, and incitement to, intellectual struggle, likewise the variety of response – to put it mildly – in Beethoven’s treatment of the ‘cobbler’s path’ of a theme. Her way with his humour was excellent: straight-faced, even mock straight-laced, speaking in earnest so that Beethoven could make his point. The second variation could then, for instance, sound all the more disconcerting una cordafollowing the march rhythms of the first. Tenderness of melodic line made connections with, or perhaps better developed from, what we had heard in the opening Bagatelles. Schumann again came to mind. So even did Schoenberg, when tonality – dialectically – came to sound most under strain the more it was insisted upon. The variety of insistence was, of course, very much a thing in itself; such was certainly the case in performance. And yet, there was, particularly in the middle variations, sometimes a sense of having lost our way. Perhaps that was just me, but I was not sure, even after the event, where I was being taken or why. Thrill of discovery is an absolute necessity, but some variations began to sound a little arbitrary. It was, at any rate, a considerable relief to reach the C minor Adagio ma non troppoof the twenty-second variation. Was, however, Beethoven’s ‘ma non troppo’ heeded? The fugue sounded properly uncompromising, although it was perhaps also a little lacking in chiaroscuro to begin with. Perhaps, though, that had been the point, for light and shade were soon to be heard and indeed felt in abundance. Cooper will doubtless have more to say about this work in the future; this, however, was more than just a start.
19 days ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story

(sung in English, as The Abduction from the Seraglio)
The Grange, Northington
Images: The Grange Festival 2018/Simon Annand
Osmin (Jonathan Lemalu) and Blonde (Daisy Brown)

Pasha Selim – Alexander AndreouKonstanze – Kiandra HowarthBlonde – Daisy BrownBelmonte – Ed LyonPedrillo – Paul CurieviciOsmin – Jonathan Lemalu
John Copley (director)Tim Reed (designs)Kevin Treacy (lighting)
Grange Festival Chorus (chorus master: Tom Primrose)Bournemouth Symphony OrchestraJean-Luc Tingaud (conductor)
Belmonte (Ed Lyon) and Konstanze (Kiandra Howarth)

Pedrillo (Paul Curievici)
Those for whom opera is primarily a matter of fine singing will have had a treat in this Entführung. In that sense, so did I. The Grange Festival had assembled a cast to grace any stage, a cast that more than lived up to expectations on this, the first night. Kiandra Howarth sang as fine a Konstanze as I have heard, Christine Schäfer included, coloratura clear and meaningful, line finely spun. Humanity breathed into her character was Mozart’s – yet hers too. Daisy Brown’s spirited Blonde offered virtues similar yet far from idential; there was no difficulty in distinguishing the two soprano roles, style and delivery complementary yet distinctive. Much the same might be said of the two tenors, Ed Lyon and Paul Curievici. Lyon’s dignified, yet heartfelt Belmonte and Curievici’s quicksilver Pedrillo offered complementary nobilities, alert to distinctions of social order whilst also suggesting that they – we too – should not be bound by them. And so, in the case of duets and ensembles, indeed of questions and responses, the vocal ingredients were prepared, ready to blend, yet also to retain their individual flavours: which they did. Jonathan Lemalu’s Osmin offered similar virtues from ‘outside’ the charmed European circle, as it were: more contrast, than complement. All handled dialogue well – even it if suffered, as still more did the rest, from a ‘translation’ into English, often very loose indeed, by David Parry: a translation apparently more concerned to draw attention to itself with ‘amusing’ rhymes than to permit the drama to unfold.

Alas, there was little to cheer in the rest. The strange decision to translate – there were English titles – was one thing; more seriously, John Copley’s new (?!) production seemed stuck in a misremembered 1950s. An Entführung, sorry Abduction, for Brexit? There was certainly little in the way of diversity amongst the audience. More bizarrely, it registered not a jot that this is an Orientalist opera concerned with a purported clash between European and Ottoman civilisations; such was neither portrayed nor deconstructed. Nor, however, was anything put in place of that admittedly problematical clash. We saw neither an exploration of what human ‘love’ might or might not mean, as in Stefan Herheim’s exhilarating total reinvention of the work – minus the Pasha – for Salzburg or Calixto Bieito’s Berlin staging, nor any sense of the dark sadomasochism (‘Martern aller Arten…’) both directors and others have explored. I am not sure I could imagine anything less erotic if I tried – and I certainly do not intend to try.
Pasha Selim (Alexander Andreou)

It was as if this were just a terribly unfunny comedy chosen for an end-of-term school play: nothing to scare away the parents, yet nothing to attract them either. The æsthetic, such as it was, seemed very much ‘school play’ – unironically so. It was not so much that Copley had no concept, nor a question of ‘traditionalism’ or otherwise; it was about a fruitless search for drama ending in watching some people in vaguely ‘exotic’ costumes walk around a stage. Even David McVicar’s determinedly anodyne production for Glyndebourne seemed deep by comparison. One at least had the sense that McVicar might, for the sake of ‘entertainment’, have been knowingly evading the issues rather than remaining blissfully unaware of them. This might have been directed by Andrea Leadsom, although not #asamother.


Jean-Luc Tingaud’s conducting proved no more revealing. Mostly hard-driven, with occasional arbitrary slowing (presumably for ‘expression’), it again had one wondering what the fuss might all be about when it came to the operas of Mozart. (My companion, a highly experienced and reflective opera-goer, commented that, had this been her first encounter, it would most likely also have been her last.) On the occasions that the woodwind of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra managed to break a little free, they sounded delectable. Again, however, the drama remained entirely vocal.


22 days ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story

St Giles-without-Cripplegate
Elgar: Psalm 29, ‘Give unto the Lord’, op.74Holst: Nunc DimittisGeorge Thalben-Ball: ElegyElgar: Psalm 48, ‘Great is the Lord’, op.67Duruflé: Requiem, op.9
Marta Fonatanals-Simmons (mezzo-soprano)John Lee (baritone)Mark Williams (organ)Bozidar Vukotic (cello)City of London ChoirHilary Davan Wetton (conductor)

The City of London Festival has been missed since its demise was announced in 2016, One concert in particular will remain with me forever: the last time I heard Sir Colin Davis conduct: Berlioz’s Grande messe des morts in St Paul’s Cathedral. There were many smaller events, though, many of them free, most of them dotted around various of the City’s churches. Let us welcome, then, a new festival, Summer Music in City Churches, which seeks to recapture some of that essence and opportunity. In its opening year, a hundred years since the end of the Great War, it has decided to focus on ‘different aspects of … [that] era, and some later responses to war and peace’. This, the opening concert, was entitled ‘Storm and Refuge’; it offered in its first half works by English composers, followed by a later French requiem.

Far be it from me to speak in nationalist terms, but Elgar’s was certainly the finest of the music on offer here. (‘For balance’: the worst would also be English.) The City of London Choir under Hilary Davan Wetton seemed very much at home in two of his psalm settings for chorus and organ, as did organist Mark Williams. The first, Give unto the Lord, benefited from a performance both vigorous and variegated, its tricky corners unfailingly well navigated – occasional early issues of synchronisation notwithstanding. One could hear echoes of the composer’s great oratorios here, yet there was no doubting the singularity of his response to this particular text. Williams’s organ registration choices were apt, indeed telling, perhaps especially his use of reeds. Written in 1914 for St Paul’s, it was succeeded at the end of the first half by Great is the Lord, from two years earlier (Westminster Abbey). Again emphatically through-composed, Elgar’s response to the words proved clear, vivid, even joyous – both in work and performance. These settings are not easy to perform; they are very much worth the effort.

In between came two lesser works. Holst’s 1915 Nunc dimittis (Westminster Cathedral) is a curious piece. It opens intriguingly, in a very different – arguably more ‘modern’, even modernist – tonal language, before lapsing into something a little too close to English Renaissance pastiche. There are worse models than Byrd, of course, but it is difficult to understand how the whole might cohere. It received a full, rich-toned a cappella performance, though, very much in the tradition of Richard Terry’s celebrated Westminster Cathedral choir. As for Sir George Thalben-Ball’s Elegy, the less said the better. It doubtless worked in its plodding way as an organ improvisation; those wireless listeners reported to have called the BBC to ask him to write it down probably needed to get out more. The piece was played very well, though.

Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem probably works best in its version for organ and choir. The composer’s orchestral writing lacks interest and tends to distract rather than elucidate. From the opening of the Introit, what struck me here was how plainchant came more strongly still to the fore. There was a strong sense of building towards the light that will shine upon the souls of the dead, not unlike Fauré (an obvious comparison, yet surely not irrelevant). Climaxes in the ‘Domine Jesu Christe’ were especially well handled: ‘beautiful’ in a conventional sense, but this is hardly a work of avant-gardism. Quiet unease was nevertheless present too. Marta Fonatanals-Simmons’s solo in the Pie Jesu (joined by solo cello) was, especially at the opening, sometimes painfully out of tune and weirdly ‘operatic’ in the vulgar sense: a pity. Chorister John Lee did a better, more self-effacing job with his solos, here and in Elgar. Cross-rhythms really told in the ‘Agnus Dei’, preparing the way for quiet consolation and certainty in the return of the ‘Requiem’ music in the following ‘Lux aeterna’. It was good to hear a ‘Libera me’ that did not drag, as it can, leading to an equally well shaped final ‘In paradisum’. If the setting is always more likely to appeal to conservative choral scholars than to a wider musical public, it will doubtless retain a place on the fringes of the repertoire for that reason – and not unreasonably so, when well performed as here.
23 days ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story
1 - 10  | 123456789 next
InstantEncore