thu 05/12/2019

Classical Reviews

Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax, Barbican Hall

ismene Brown

In every partnership there is a leader, and it’s not always the featured name. While the hall was packed with Ma followers for this rare cello-and-piano recital, what emerged was a richly sensitising foretaste of what the Emanuel Ax residency is going to offer over the next fortnight. This is one marvellous pianist.

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Maurizio Pollini, Royal Festival Hall

Jonathan Wikeley

Was it Chopin’s birthday or wasn’t it? To be honest, no one at last night’s Royal Festival Hall concert probably gave a damn, so wrapped up were they in Maurizio Pollini’s playing. And what playing it was too. The man just sits down and gets on with it – there’s none of that airy-fairy flamboyance and arm waving that certain younger...

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MacMillan's St John Passion, Barbican Hall

David Nice

A fervent believer, James MacMillan has no time for what he's called the "instant spiritual highs" of composer-gurus like Glass, Gorecki or John Tavener.

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Philip Glass: Satyagraha, ENO/ LSO, Alsop, Barbican

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

It has always been a cornerstone of my personal philosophy that beauty and insight can be found in the very lowest of common denominators. That Big Brother, Friends, Love It magazine or Paris Hilton provide revelations about life that are of as much consequence, of as much wonder, as any offered up by the classic pantheon. That that which the people respond to must and usually does have plenty of merit lurking within it.

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LPO, Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall

ismene Brown

This is the fifth time on theartsdesk that a review has been headed as above - so you must be thinking it had better be justified or bribery will be suspected. But it's not just the phosphorescent fascination that flickers around the charismatic young LPO principal conductor Vladimir Jurowski that draws the crowds, it is his inquiring programming. Last night it was another of those games that one couldn’t resist, if a game, in the end, of two halves.

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Krystian Zimerman, RFH

David Nice

Beware of Zimermania - or, for that matter, of idolising any pianist as the Greatest Living Interpreter of Chopin. Our birthday boy, 200 years old last night (and not on 1 March), as a crucial baptismal register now seems to prove, is too big for any one artist to dominate. He looks to his French heritage for sensuality, to the Polish maternal line for Slavic weight and thoughtfulness. If a sometimes impatient Krystian Zimerman inclined more to the former in yesterday's big celebration, that...

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LPO, Jurowski, RFH

David Nice The angel of death, portrayed above by Evelyn de Morgan, strikes twice in Josef Suk's elegiac symphony

Asrael, angel of death, rarely glides up to the concert platform; I've only heard Josef Suk's painful and protracted symphony of the same name once before in the Festival Hall, championed by Rattle. In the past, all Suk's great Czech compatriots, including Ančerl, Kubelik and Neumann, paid their respects. Now Vladimir Jurowski joins the distinguished line for a work he clearly loves. It was no fault of his rainbow-hued interpretation if, in a week where I've sat dry-eyed through...

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BBCSO, Bĕlohlávek, Barbican Hall

David Nice Martinů in New York: master symphonist in exile

Nothing stays the same for long in the hypersensitive symphonies of Bohuslav Martinů. A pastoral idyll accelerates to fairground mania before dropping off the merry-go-round, rapture fades in a single bar and victory may be snatched out of the jaws of brutal conflict at the very last second. The Czech exile's rich, compressed works of the 1940s, when he was living in New York and pining for the European scene he loved so dearly, are winning new admirers. A packed Barbican audience for the third...

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Murray Perahia, Barbican Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

You'll have mazurkas coming out your ears by the end of next month. But what mazurkas they'll be! Fever pitch is approaching as the big pianistic guns line up to celebrate Chopin's 200th birthday anniversary on 1 March. The venerated pianists Krystian Zimerman and Maurizio Pollini and esteemed young pretender Yevgeny Sudbin are all to come at the South Bank. Last night at the Barbican, we had the opening salvo from the poet of the piano, Murray Perahia.

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Julia Fischer, Wigmore Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Is there a greater singleton's soundtrack than Bach's restless, tormented Three Partitas for Solo Violin? The works represent the extraordinary pinnacle of the violin repertoire and also the summit of Bach at his most chromatically and psychologically screwy.

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