tue 07/02/2023

Classical Reviews

The Damnation of Faust, LPO, Gardner, RFH review - the devil's in the detail

Boyd Tonkin

No work gives its listeners such pleasure on the way to hell (and back) as Berlioz’s rule-busting “dramatic legend”, The Damnation of Faust. It delivers not just flamboyant thrills, but low comedy, high drama, pathos, terror, nostalgia, pastoral lyricism and crazy episodes of sheer delirium.

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Philharmonia, Hrůša, RFH review - total brilliance in Bartók, Dvořák and Strauss

David Nice

Salome was not to get her head on a silver platter: Jennifer Davis, due to sing the bloody final scene of Strauss’s opera, had been experiencing abdominal pains during her first pregnancy – mother and child are fine – and had to withdraw at a late stage. Yet Jakub Hrůša, witness to her potential in the Royal Opera revival of Wagner’s Lohengrin which led to his appointment as Pappano’s successor there, took the Philharmonia all the way in a still-dazzling programme.

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Leonskaja, Staatskapelle Streichquartett, Wigmore Hall / Secret Byrd, St Martin-in-the-Fields review - genuine versus theatrical

David Nice

It’s dangerous to claim a sense of absolute rightness about a musical performance; that could mean no more than responding to an interpretation which happens to chime with your own subjective expectations. Yet I’m happy to stick my neck out and say that the partnership of septuagenarian pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja with the young Staatskapelle Quartet of Berlin felt absolutely right in works by Brahms that cry out in every bar for authentic musicianship (★★★★).

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Ólafsson, LPO, Gardner, RFH review - spirit of delight

Gavin Dixon

This concert was advertised as the completion of an Elgar symphony cycle, though in the absence of the reconstructed Third, that meant the second of two. Both were planned with interesting concerto couplings. The First Symphony was presented with the Tippett Piano Concerto earlier in the week, and early publicity for this concert promised a new piano concerto from Mark Simpson, with Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson.

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Gerhardt, BBC Philharmonic, Gernon, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - calm and clear conducting

Robert Beale

Ben Gernon’s calm and clear way of conducting an orchestra (something he once told me he’d observed in the work of his mentor, Colin Davis) is good to watch and, I would guess, welcomed by those he directs. Since his time with the BBC Philharmonic as principal guest conductor (2017-2020) he’s been a welcome visitor to them in Manchester and Salford, and this programme pulled a good crowd and was indeed very rewarding.

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Jansen, LSO, Noseda, Barbican review - hearts of darkness

David Nice

There’s life in the old overture-concerto-symphony format yet – especially if the conductor not only shapes every phrase but takes care over the number of string players needed for each work, the soloist lives every bar of a concerto you thought you knew inside out, and the symphony is a relatively rare neighbour to another regularly on concert programmes.

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Castalian String Quartet, Wigmore Hall review - genius in works and performance

David Nice

The Castalian String Quartet is half what I remember, but only literally: while viola-player Charlotte Bonneton and cellist  Christopher Graves may have departed, their replacements, Ruth Gibson and Steffan Morris, more than earned their laurels in last night’s stunning programme.

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Belcea Quartet, Wigmore Hall review - a riveting new string quartet

Bernard Hughes

I am proud – if surprised – to continue to be pretty much a lone voice in the wilderness singing the praises of the composer Guillaume Connesson (b.1970), whose substantial new string quartet “Les instants retrouvés” was heard at the Wigmore Hall on Saturday.

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Sound Unwrapped Launch, Kings Place review - ravishing combination of ancient and modern

Rachel Halliburton

The distinctive silvery tones of the viola da gamba were eclipsed in the 18th century as music moved from intimate settings to the brasher acoustic demands of the concert hall.

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Watts, BBCSO, Wigglesworth, Barbican review - clarity, control and focus

Gavin Dixon

Ryan Wigglesworth is a man of many talents. He has recently been appointed Chief Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony, but he is also a versatile opera conductor, and an operatic sensibility is clear in the musical personality he projects.

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