wed 24/07/2024

Classical Reviews

Prom 5, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Bancroft review - a luxury orchestral cruise

Boyd Tonkin

This looked like a classic Prom in the grand old BBC tradition: two big but lesser-known pieces by pivotal figures (Schoenberg and Zemlinsky) played by a major non-metropolitan ensemble, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. And so it proved, with powerful, refined and meatily satisfying versions of Arnold Schoenberg’s Pelleas and Melisande and Alexander von Zemlinsky’s The Mermaid conducted by the NOW’s chief, Ryan Bancroft.

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First Night of the Proms, BBCSO, Chan review - from the sublime to the mischievously meticulous

Rachel Halliburton

The first night of the BBC’s 2024 Proms season was illuminated by the blazing brilliance of Isata Kanneh-Mason’s performance of Clara Schumann’s Piano Concerto and the world premiere of Ben Nobuto’s witty video-game-inspired Hallelujah Sim. Hong Kong born conductor Elim Chan presided over a vibrant, joyful evening in which apparent crowd-pleasers like Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony were balanced by pieces that ranged from the sublime to the mischievously meticulous.

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theartsdesk at the Pärnu Music Festival 2024 - youth, experience and old mastery on the highest level

David Nice

"The world meets in Pärnu", slogan for the 14th festival in Estonia's summer seaside capital, has held good ever since Paavo Järvi gathered native musicians and key players from the international teams he inspires to form what's now the Estonian Festival Orchestra. Buzz about the youngsters formerly serving just the conductors’ course is new; 2024's Järvi Academy Youth Symphony Orchestra embraces 30 countries.

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NMC Recordings at 35, Dutch Church, London review - a fitting celebration

Bernard Hughes

NMC Recordings has spent 35 years promoting contemporary music by British composers, and this commitment to both emerging and established voices was represented at this birthday concert in London last night, part of the Spitalfields Festival. From their emergence in 1989 in a different musical and technological world (“NMC” standing for “New Music Cassettes”) my early days of CD buying were guided by NMC’s developing catalogue and they are still a go-to for finding interesting new things.

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Concert Theatre DSCH, Norwegian CO, QEH review - visually stunning, viscerally thrilling Shostakovich

Rachel Halliburton

This luminously persuasive, radically inventive performance of Shostakovich’s music begins – quite literally – at the end. Beneath a slowly revolving monochrome moon, a lone musician delivers a plangent rendition of the Moderato and Allegretto from the final viola sonata the composer wrote before dying of cancer in 1975.

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Nardus Williams, Elizabeth Kenny, Spitalfields Music Festival review - layers behind a sweet Tower hour

David Nice

Behind this poignant, simple-seeming hour of music for soprano and lute(s) lay a spider-web of connections between outsiders in the City: rebels, prisoners, immigrants, Black Londoners. Elizabeth Kenny’s programme note wove it all together brilliantly; we could have heard even more of her talking during the concert. Most of us could have done with seeing more than 15 minutes of the wonderful Nardus Williams, too.

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Bartlett, Fantasia Orchestra, Fetherstonhaugh, Proms at St Jude's review - Americana both fun and fierce

David Nice

Any programme featuring Gershwin’s top large-scale works might tend to the “pops” side. Bernstein’s West Side Story Overture and even the sweet dream of Florence Price’s Adoration fit that bill. But An American in Paris sounded completely different from usual, its radical side highlighted, following Ives’s Three Places in New England and Ruth Crawford Seeger’s Andante for Strings.

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Goldscheider, Royal Orchestral Society, Miller, SJSS review - fine horn playing from the very best

Bernard Hughes

London’s non-professional orchestra sector is an undervalued asset to the city, and deserves more attention. And so last night I went to hear the Royal Orchestral Society, accompanying horn superstar Ben Goldscheider, and it proved a better way to spend an evening than sitting through another tortuous England football tournament game.

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Bach's Mass in B Minor, Collegium Vocale Gent, Herreweghe, Barbican - masterful subtlety proves more intriguing than compelling

Rachel Halliburton

There’s a masterful subtlety to Philippe Herreweghe’s interpretation of Bach’s last great choral work – it shuns blazing transcendence for a sense of serene contemplation that reveals every angle of the mass’s geometrical perfection. Listening to the multiple layers of sound is rather like appreciating the shifting colours in the inlaid mother of pearl on a harpsichord – nothing dazzles, but it draws you in with its meticulous polish and understated beauty.

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theartsdesk at the 2024 Aldeburgh Festival - romantic journeys, cosmic hallucinations and wild stomps

David Nice

It may be unusual to begin festival coverage with praise of the overseer rather than the artists. Yet Roger Wright, who quietly leaves his post at Britten Pears Arts this July after a momentous decade, is no ordinary Chief Executive. I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about him; he has been a beacon during difficult times for the arts in the UK, and especially during lockdown; and he leaves the Aldeburgh Festival in best ever shape, just as he did the BBC Proms before it.

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