Danger, daring, surprise, the works

Classical Music

THE CURSE of the music scene is its sheer predictability. I've developed a phobia for over-hyped stars, the lumbering orchestral merry- go-round, and all but the most inspired stabs at the exhausted core repertoire. I've heard some fine orchestral concerts, but none sticks in the mind; I've been to recitals by Alfred Brendel, Evgeny Kissin and Mitsuko Uchida, but each served only to send me back to their superlative recordings.

What I do vividly remember - apart from moments of old-fashioned excellence - is danger, daring and surprise. A big hand, then, for the Romanian buskers whose clarinet-and-accordion rendering of Viennese classics kept a Tube- full of passengers entranced between Leicester Square and King's Cross. Let this anonymous pair stand for the unappreciated army who routinely palliate drab city life.

An accolade, too, for the young cellist Richard Jenkinson, whose recent recital of Brahms, Kodaly and Piazzolla at Southwark Cathedral showed him to be on a par with the ubiquitous Steven Isserlis.

Jenkinson is earning his bread as principal cellist in the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra but stands at the head of another army of unsung heroes: professional musicians prepared to give top-notch concerts free.

Among the more kosher events, two left indelible memories. I never expect to hear a more wrenchingly vivid account of Bach's St John Passion than that by New College choir in their natural habitat under the baton of Edward Higginbottom and supported by a brilliant period ensemble. And the opening recital of Louis Lortie's Beethoven cycle - continuing next month at the Wigmore - was so fresh as to have us on the edge of our seats.

But concerts are constricted by their etiquette: the year's most intense experiences all involved the fusion of music, drama and visual invention, with the most magical being Shockheaded Peter. Based on cautionary tales for delinquent German tots, this Grand Guignol extravaganza depended for its frisson on the extraordinary presence of falsettist Martin Jacques. While the human marionettes on stage did unspeakable things to each other, Jacques gave each grotesque scene a diabolical musical spin. They'll be back at the Lyric Hammersmith in February, and so will I.

This year saw five sensational opera productions, of which three were at Glyndebourne. You couldn't wish for a more perfect Glyndebourne opera than Strauss's Capriccio, nor a more perfectly judged production of it than John Cox's 1973 version, back in a stunning revival with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

Nicholas Lehnhoff's revived production of Katya Kabanova - starring Amanda Roocroft - was no less stunning, visually and vocally.

And in a film-noir staging of Handel's Rodelinda (back in repertory next year) we at last got to hear the fabled counter-tenor Andreas Scholl live on stage, and breathtaking it was. Not merely through tonal purity or technical perfection, but through sheer artistry - the way he shaped his phrases, and the noble musicality of his presence. And this year I saw things done to Monteverdi which should have been disastrous but actually were miracles.

Minimalist choreographer Trisha Brown turned Orfeo into an all-dancing dream at the Barbican, while Welsh National Opera extracted raunchy comedy - plus sublime beauty - from the Tarantino horrors of L'Incoronazione di Poppea. If you don't believe me, watch it on BBC2 on 29 December.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SECONDARY SUPPLY TEACHERS NEEDED IN AND AROUND DOVER

    Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Description Randstad Education i...

    English Teacher - From October Half Term

    £120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Secondary English Teacher requir...

    Science Teacher - Spring half term

    £120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Are you QTS qualified and availa...

    Maths Teacher - from October half term

    £120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Long term Math Post - potentiall...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week