fri 03/12/2021

Classical Reviews

Bryn Terfel, Royal Festival Hall

David Nice

Bryn Terfel is a good guy. I know; he never forgets a face, and I’ve seen him making the tea for the entire team at a recording session – no one-off, they assured me. Yet the nature of the bass-baritone beast is given over to more villains than noble souls. The "bad boys" of opera and musical theatre are grist to Terfel’s satanic mill in his latest CD-linked tour.

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Angela Gheorghiu, Royal Festival Hall

Adam Sweeting

The famously tempestuous Romanian soprano is, we learn, living a separate life from her husband Roberto Alagna. If Opera's Most Romantic Couple is no more, will Brand Angela be terminally damaged? Surely a showcase performance in the South Bank's International Voices season would be just the thing to rally the faithful and reaffirm Ms Gheorghiu's spectacular star quality, but I must admit that by the time we reached the interval, I was beset with gnawing doubt.

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LSO/Tilson Thomas, Goerne, Barbican Hall

Ismene Brown

Michael Tilson Thomas’s association with the London Symphony Orchestra runs deep - he was its principal conductor for eight years, and for his latest return to his old band last night the American programmed works that, while they had a Viennese theme, also seemed vividly designed to show off the jewels of this great orchestra, its wonderful wind players.

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Maria di Rohan, Royal Festival Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic Krassimira Stoyanova's Maria di Rohan was the show-stopper

So many 19th-century opera plots park themselves on fertile historical ground, amid all the colour, character and juice you could ever want, and then spend three hours picking at some anaemic daisies at the edges. It was a worry last night as I watched Donizetti’s Maria di Rohan in concert at the Royal Festival Hall.  By sidestepping the heavyweight power players of Louis XIII’s reign, the eminently operatic figures of Cardinal Richelieu (endlessly...

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Philharmonia Orchestra, Pletnev, Royal Festival Hall

Edward Seckerson Mikhail Pletnev: a cool customer

Shostakovich’s Festive Overture marked the 30th anniversary of the 1917 Revolution with earnest fanfares and jolly tunes. 62 years on it smacks more of “Looney Tunes” and a cheesy kind of newsreel patriotism and you can’t help wondering if, behind all the laughter and frenetic flag-waving, the disillusionment had already set in. Mikhail Pletnev’s face suggested it had.

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Renée Fleming, RPO, Festival Hall

Edward Seckerson Renee Fleming: 'the almost indecently glamorous diva knows the value of expectation and anticipation'

The irony won’t have been lost on many in the audience that the South Bank’s International Voices series began with Ballet. A whole first half of it, actually. Just as well the diva-in-waiting – the almost indecently glamorous Renée Fleming – knows the value of expectation and anticipation. Her very first album was entitled The Beautiful Voice and if that isn’t pressure for a burgeoning career I don’t know what is.

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Thomas Quasthoff, Barbican

Jonathan Wikeley

It is probably fair to say that the concert hall at the Barbican Centre isn’t one of London’s most intimate spaces. It’s not the sort of place that would put one immediately in mind of, say, a drawing room – in fact, to do so requires a particular willingness to suspend one’s disbelief. Tonight, Thomas Quasthoff and friends endeavoured to make us do just that, and got within a hair’s breadth of pulling it off.

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LPO, Nézet-Séguin, Royal Festival Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

We Brucknerians aren't easy to please. Few musical partnerships get the official seal of approval. Horenstein and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Wand and the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra, Böhm and the Vienna Philharmonic, Knappertsbusch and the Vienna Philharmonic. These are among the handful of collaborations that have gained a place in my Brucknerian pantheon.

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Till Fellner, Wigmore Hall

Jonathan Wikeley Till Fellner's ear for detail makes an artful musical argument compelling

Much like Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in G, Op 79, with which he started the programme, I’ll get straight to the point. Till Fellner is a very good pianist. To demonstrate this, I’d like to jump to the last sonata of five we heard in this all-Beethoven programme last night: the Piano Sonata in E flat, Op 7. When you look at this music on the page, you could easily see this piece becoming a bumptious triplet-fest of mind-numbing proportions. When it is  in the capable and stylish hands of...

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L'Heure Espagnole and Gianni Schicchi, Royal Opera

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Will UK Gold now be permanently available at the Royal Opera House? Or was Italian TV being beamed into the auditorium last night by mistake? The 1970s scene before us actually just meant the return of Richard Jones’s inspired sitcom treatment of Ravel’s L’Heure Espagnole and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi to Covent Garden. Even before the curtain had lifted we were raising a 1970s titter, being prepped for a...

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