mon 20/05/2019

Classical Reviews

CBSO, Volkov, Symphony Hall, Birmingham review - Mahler goes Bauhaus

Richard Bratby

Just over a decade ago it was predicted by those supposedly in the know that Ilan Volkov would succeed Sakari Oramo as music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. In the event, the gig went to Andris Nelsons, and it was probably for the best.

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Mitten wir im Leben sind, De Keersmaeker, Queyras, Rosas, Sadler's Wells review - Bach-worthy genius

David Nice

All Bach is dance, a teacher once told me. The justifiable exaggeration switched on a light; leaping to the Brandenburg Concertos followed. This great work of kinetic art is of a different order.

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Brockes-Passion, AAM, Egarr, Barbican review - fleshly Handel for our earthbound times

alexandra Coghlan

Whips, scourges, sinews, blood and pus: where Bach’s two Passions lament from a contemplative distance, Handel’s plunges right to the bone, to the cruel, tortured death that is the heart of the Easter story.

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St Matthew Passion, Ex Cathedra, Skidmore, Symphony Hall Birmingham - powerful, poignant Bach

Miranda Heggie

For the final instalment of their three Matthew Passions this Holy Week, Ex Cathedra gave a large scale performance of Bach’s oratorio in their home town on Birmingham, after dates with lesser forces in London and Bristol.

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Javier Perianes, QEH review - not a Spanish fire-eater but a world-class poet

David Nice

Expect no cliches about toreador pianism. Red-earth flamboyance is not Javier Perianes' style, and the seven dances he offered in his programme - eight including an encore - by fellow Spaniard Manuel de Falla were not the most consistently engaging part of the recital.

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Philharmonia, Blomstedt, RFH review - gravity and grace

Boyd Tonkin

Great conductors, like efficient auto engines, apply a lot of torque – they can use a little energy to achieve great surges of movement. Now aged 91, the American-born Swedish maestro Herbert Blomstedt sometimes hardly seems to raise his baton-free hands. His feet, meanwhile, remain more or less immobile.

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Ehnes, BBC Philharmonic, Wilson, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - contrasts from the 1930s

Robert Beale

John Wilson conducted Vaughan Williams’ Fifth Symphony with the BBC Philharmonic in Manchester just over a year ago with great success, in a programme of music from the 1940s. This time it was the very different, troubled Fourth, and the context was British composition.

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JACK Quartet, Wigmore Hall review – superlative Elliott Carter quartets

Gavin Dixon

At Wigmore Hall the JACK Quartet presented the complete Elliott Carter string quartets in a single day – an astonishing feat given the scale and complexity of the music.

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Voces8, Cadogan Hall review – masterful madrigal singing and more

Bernard Hughes

The vocal octet Voces8, approaching its 15th anniversary, is a purring musical machine: vocally top-notch, precisely and exhaustively rehearsed, imaginative in repertoire and equally at home in Monteverdi and Duke Ellington. And if the classical items grabbed me more than the kitsch swing numbers they ended with, there is no denying the whole concert was put together with panache and musical excellence.

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Judith, Royal Festival Hall review - a musical curiosity gets a rare airing

alexandra Coghlan

If Gilbert and Sullivan did the Bible it would sound a lot like Hubert Parry’s Judith. Premiered in 1888 and last heard in London a year later, the oratorio – whose principal claim to fame is as the original home of tearjerker hymn tune Repton, better known as “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind – has been lovingly restored to life by conductor William Vann and the English Song Festival, who will record it with Chandos later this year.

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