Classical review: Jason, English Touring Opera

English Touring Opera have a sure touch in choosing repertoire: their exhumations of neglected works are always successful. Thus it was with Francesco Cavalli’s Jason, in its day the most popular opera in Europe. Cavalli sang and played the organ under the tutelage of Monteverdi, and in Jason there are stretches when you could easily believe it was by his great master: the ritornelli, the ornamentation, the whole thrust of the music feels Monteverdian, until you are pulled up short by something which reminds you it’s not.

Sting sisters: Jordis Richter (above) leads the way in The Wasp Factory at the Royal Opera House

Opera review: The Wasp Factory

Royal Opera House, London

Classical review: Marin Alsop/SPSO, Prokofiev Symphony 4/‘The Prodigal Son’ (Naxos)

The Prodigal Son was Prokofiev’s fourth and final ballet score for Diaghilev, whose death in the year of its first performance, 1929, ended the great collaborations of composers and artists at the Ballets Russes.

The Wasp Factory at the Linbury Theatre

Opera review: The Wasp Factory

A mind-numbingly pretentious 75 minutes

Opera review: Die Fledermaus - English National Opera, London Coliseum

Die Fledermaus in jackboots? Is it no longer possible for a piece referring to Germany or Austria to be staged in this country without them? If it is, someone forgot to tell Christopher Alden. Johann Strauss's operetta is a work that bubbles over with champagne-sluiced melody and humour. Alden shoehorns it into the 1930s and brings us the decline and fall of Vienna. I'd never imagined that Die Fledermaus could leave you feeling depressed.

Classical review: Vox Luminis/Meunier, Wigmore Hall, London

No family has ever rivalled that of the Thuringian Bachs for inherited musical talent: they were all either town pipers, organists, or instrument makers, and they frequently gathered together to sing and play; Johann Sebastian, though the greatest by a mile, was by no means the first significant Bach composer. He was so proud of his antecedents that he compiled his own genealogy, and he possessed a collection of motets by a medley of Bachs.

L'Orfeo at the Barbican

Classical review: Orfeo, Academy of Ancient Music/Egarr

Britain’s first Academy of Ancient Music was founded in 1726 as a private club of singers meeting in a London tavern to entertain each other: ‘ancient’ meant anything not in the contemporary repertory. Britain’s second AAM was founded in 1973 by harpsichordist Christopher Hogwood, to perform what was now called ‘early music’ on original instruments. Over the past four decades they have helped revolutionise early-music performance, blazing a trail followed by Baroque ensembles everywhere.

Album review: Steven Isserlis, Dvorak cello concertos (Hyperion)

Isserlis, who has resisted for 40 years recording this much-loved piece from the heart of the cellist’s repertoire, breaks his duck, and even adds an earlier Dvorak concerto, orchestrated by Gunter Raphael.

Opera review: Fidelio, English National Opera, London

What is it? The ENO stage Beethoven’s opera; director Calixto Bieito replaces the dialogue with Jorge Luis Borges and Cormac McCarthy quotations. Edward Garner conducts.

A scene from Fidelio by Beethoven

Classical Review: Fidelio, Coliseum, London

Fussy direction from Calixto Bieito, but magnificent singing from the cast

Classical review: Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots, Wigmore Hall, London

Mozart, despite his infant brilliance, was not the all-time classical prodigy. As a performer he was beaten to the wire by the English infant phenomenon William Crotch, who gave his first performance at the age of two. And with Saint-Saens composing waltzes at three, Mozart’s compositional start at five looks relatively sedate. Indeed, as Bayan Northcott suggests in his book “The Way We Listen Now”, the boy Mozart’s rigorous training and easy command of the standard genres and musical clichés of the day meant that he was comparatively late in finding his own true voice. The Wigmore performance of an opera he wrote at eleven gave us a chance to test that theory against reality.

Album review: Jonas Kaufmann, The Verdi Album (Sony)

Murder, humiliation, self-sacrifice, revenge … it’s all in  a day’s work for Verdi’s heroes and villains, given voice on this full-throttle compilation by the go-to tenor of his generation.

Classical review: Quartet-Lab

What is it? The experimental quartet – Pekka Kuusisto and Patricia Kopatchinskaja on violins, Lilli Maijala (viola) and Pieter Wispelwey (cello) – play Beethoven, Britten, Bartok, Mozart, William Byrd, and George Crumb.

Pianist Mitsuko Uchida

Classical review: Christian Blackshaw, Wigmore Hall / Uchida, Ticciati, LSO, Barbican London

Christian Blackshaw occupies a unique niche on the piano circuit. His brilliant early career was powered by the ability, which he had absorbed from his great mentor Clifford Curzon, to make every note sing. His wife’s illness then took him out of the game, which he has now re-entered.

Classical review: Fabio Biondi and Europa Galante bring the music of the Red Priest to gutsy life

We tend to think of Vivaldi’s violin concertos as springing from a spontaneous urge to create material through which his brilliant pupils could display their talents. And although the twelve works in the collection known as La Stravaganza were indeed dedicated to a Venetian nobleman who had been trained by him, their genesis had more to do with commerce than with art for art’s sake.

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