The haunting Spanish lilt of its first movement betrays the composer's anti-war sympathies in Britten's Violin Concerto Op 15, written in the late 1930s; the looming shadow of a larger war is then discernible in the tuba lurking behind the gay violin and piccolo of the second movement. But it's the way that James Ehnes closes the opening movement that most impresses, essaying a gossamer thread of such subtlety it becomes almost transparent.
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Sunday 09 August 2009
The raw immediacy of Yossif Ivanov's tone is the first thing to strike in this pairing of two of the mid-20th century's most pungent violin concertos.
Thursday 16 July 2009
Edward Downes spent more than 50 years of his life at Covent Garden Opera House, as prompter, répétiteur, translater and, of course, conductor. He spent four years as the music director of Australian Opera, but returned at least once a season to Covent Garden where, in 1992, he was appointed assistant music director and principal conductor of the Royal Opera. He had been knighted the year before. He was one of the finest Verdi conductors of his generation, and in 1995 he launched an ambitious plan to perform all Verdi's operas at Covent Garden by 2001, the centenary of his death, a plan which unfortunately foundered from lack of funds. Downes's other great strengths were in Russian opera, especially Prokofiev and Shostakovich, though he did not neglect Tchaikovsky or Mussorgsky, and in 20th-century opera: he conducted several premieres and British premieres.
Wednesday 15 July 2009
Ted Downes had a formidable love and knowledge of opera – particularly Russian opera – and his pebbly glasses made him look like Shostakovich, who was one of Ted's great heroes. He was a huge Verdi man and was instrumental in creating the Verdi festival in London's Covent Garden in the 1990s. I remember when he and David McVicar came for the 2001 production of Rigoletto. I had to introduce them to each other and wondered how they would get on. But Ted was marvellous with younger people and very interested in their ideas, and this senior conductor and rising director got on fantastically well. The revival of this production of Rigoletto in 2005 was one of the last things Ted was able to conduct.
Wednesday 01 July 2009
Boris Pokrovsky dominated Soviet opera for over 50 years and his productions – lavish, traditional, even sometimes staid – defined the Bolshoi style. But his chamber opera company often moved in a very different direction.
Wednesday 08 April 2009
Another night, another student orchestra. If you want to learn the secret of classical music's perennial good health, look no further; the conservatoires are bristling with talent. The Orion draws its players from all four London conservatoires, and the Sonitus Chamber Choir, which joined it for this event, does likewise. One purpose of this orchestra is to promote "unjustly forgotten masterpieces"; another is to give the players experience of working under real-world pressure.
Tuesday 10 February 2009
It's a brave (or foolhardy) man who dares to make an opera of Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. Throughout the long first act of Alexander Smelkov and Yury Dimitrin's adaptation for the Mariinsky Theatre, the effect was a little like speed-reading it while under the influence. If you didn't know the novel at all, the seemingly reckless dash of the narrative, the dislocation of characters and ideas, will have left you feeling marooned in some grand farce. To some extent, Dostoyevsky's last novel is just that – the anatomy of a chaotic society and the human conditions driving it. But still I wonder if the composer and his librettist have got the balance right between the grimly ironic and the tragic?
Monday 02 February 2009
It’s a brave (or foolhardy) man who dares to make an opera of Dostoyevsky’s seminal novel The Brothers Karamazov.
Monday 05 January 2009
It doesn't seem so very long ago (but it was) that André Previn crossed over from the darkside (aka Hollywood) and sought the classical limelight in London. He sported a Beatles haircut and a spring in his step, and Eric Morecambe called him Mr Preview.
Monday 22 December 2008
It doesn’t seem so very long ago (but it was) that Andre Previn crossed over from the darkside (a.k.a. Hollywood) and sought the classical limelight in London.
Thursday 18 December 2008
They sit closer than do most duo recitalists, reflecting the now intimate nature of their musical partnership. Indeed there was one note of Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata in A minor when a pizzicato in the cello and a staccato quaver in the right hand of the piano chimed in such a way as to belie the fact that there was absolutely no eye contact. Pure musical telepathy.
Pehr Henrik Nordgren: Modernist composer who incorporated folk music into his work and relished his artistic freedom
Wednesday 15 October 2008
Pehr Henrik Nordgren was a rare phenomenon among composers: he wrote music which held a place at the forefront of contemporary culture and which also managed to speak directly to his listeners. He took an essentially humanist view of the composer's role:
Prom 70 Messiaen St Francis of Assisi<br/>Prom 71 Mahler CSO – Haitink <br/>Prom 72 Shostakovich/Mozart CSO Haitink/Perahia, Royal Albert Hall, London
Sunday 14 September 2008
Friday 22 August 2008
Many have lost relatives, some no longer have homes, but they all put on their best evening dress and flocked to Tskhinvali's central square to see one of the world's most famous conductors lead an emotional concert in support of his people – and Russian military action.
Monday 26 May 2008
This was Gianandrea Noseda's debut with the LSO. Let's just say that his presence was felt. So much so that it was his and not his soloist Janine Jansen's personality that was initially stamped on Beethoven's Violin Concerto.
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