wed 17/07/2019

Classical Reviews

Handel Remixed, Barbican

Jonathan Wikeley

Are you allowed to like both Andreas Scholl and David Daniels? I've always felt slightly guilty over this one - it feels somewhat indecent to listen ruthlessly to Scholl for some pieces, and drop him like a spurned lover for Daniels when the mood takes you. Tonight, though, was definitely a Daniels night: bits and bobs from Handel's operas and oratorios, and some modern takes on the great man. It was cabaret-goes-slightly-baroque, with Harry Christophers leading a sparkling Academy of St Martin...

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Linda di Chamounix, Royal Opera

Edward Seckerson

The hills are alive with the sound of... well, Donizetti, actually. His mature "Melodramma Semiserio" Linda di Chamounix arrived towards the climax of a prolific career in opera and was clearly a late attempt to capitalise on his successes and give his adoring audiences a little of everything and at great length. This season-opener concert performance at the Royal Opera (recorded, incidentally, by Opera Rara...

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A Henry Purcell Birthday Celebration, Wigmore Hall

Jonathan Wikeley

What a splendid little ensemble the Purcell Quartet is. The sort of group that you rather hope might reduce in size as the years go on, so that in the end you can put them in your pocket and carry them around with you all the time. If ever an ensemble could provide a soundtrack to the ups and downs of life then this is it.

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The Last Night of the Proms, Connolly, Balsom, BBCSO, Robertson

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

The height of naffness? The best of British? A bit of fun? Opinions always splinter over the Last Night of the Proms. The received wisdom is that, if you have a brain or any genuine care for music, you’re not really meant to enjoy the Last Night; you’re meant to endure it, bravely, stoically, heroically, like a terminal illness, by taking each sonic and visual blow on the chin.

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Prom 74: Vienna Philharmonic, Mehta

Edward Seckerson Conductor Zubin Mehta on the cover of Time in 1968

One sure (but expensive) way of luring Zubin Mehta to London is to hire the Vienna Philharmonic, too. He and the orchestra go way back to a time when the Indian-born superstar’s smouldering good looks might have suggested Bollywood as a more likely destination than the Vienna Conservatoire. But only the most precociously gifted 20-something conductor offers up Bruckner’s 9th Symphony for his...

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Handel's Israel in Egypt, Cadogan Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

One after the other came their pleas. “Save us!” they cried, “Save us, or we will be no more!” Not the words of the enslaved Israelites of Handel’s oratorio, however, but the sentiments of the English Baroque Soloists, the Monteverdi Choir and their supporters during their pre-concert supplications. Never has the plea of a fundraising concert chimed so well with the thrust of the music.

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Prom 73: Vienna Philharmonic, Welser-Möst

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra like to do things their way. They still show little compunction about discriminating on sexual and ethnic grounds and for over 70 years have maintained the idiosyncratic position of having no fixed principal conductor. Instead, like the prettiest girl in the school year, they carefully bestow grace and favour on a special chosen few. One of their longest running relationships has been with Nikolaus Harnoncourt, a partnership whose early results –...

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Proms 70 and 71: Sir Peter Maxwell Davies

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

What exactly is the point of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies? I don't ask this with any malice or hostility, just in a tone of inquiry. It is a question that I think his new Violin Concerto, Fiddler on the Shore, raises. That is, is Davies still here to shock and annoy, or to assuage? The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Davies's baton presented the British premiere of the work last night, with Daniel Hope as the soloist, in the first of two proms that...

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Prom 62 Vienna Philharmonic, Mehta

Edward Seckerson

Schumann's

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Doctor Atomic, ENO

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Among the most astonishing moments in John Adams's new opera Doctor Atomic (currently running at the English National Opera) is an aria at the end of the first act. The eponymous brains behind the Manhattan Project, Dr J. Robert Oppenheimer, stands alone on stage with his new creation, a spherical A-bomb coated in wires and tubes like a patient in intensive care, and sings John Donne's holy sonnet "Batter my heart, three-person'd God".

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