Skip to main content

Posts

Bruckner 7 and Haitink's last appearance at the BBC Proms

I was lucky to have gotten a ticket to see Bernard Haitink conduct the Vienna Philharmonic in Bruckner 7th Symphony. No doubt it is a work that Haitink knows well - he did it without score. The movements were broad, had shape, and above all nuanced rather than bombastic. His mildmannered gestures were in starck contract to Andris Nelsons's rendition of Bruckner 8 (earlier in the season). It was a real treat to see this maestro still deliveirng the musical umph at 90. A memorable concert that was.


Recent posts

Benvenuto Cellini at BBC Proms

So few opera houses dare to stage Benvenuto Cellin, why? The last time was at the ENO - which was a colourful and fun production, and in the process probably bankrupted the house.

In a more modest approach, Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchetre Révolutionnaire et Romantique brought a concert version of the opera to the stage at the Royal Albert Hall. Michael Spyres's rendtion of the title role was pretty good - torn yet full of punch. The Monteverdi Choir was fantastic at those fiendishly fast and difficult choruses (famously in the carnival scene): the text was clear, the light acting was effective, and the choreography (Noa Naamat as stage director) worked. Rick Fisher's lighting, though you wouldn't notice it, was just right for that challenging venue.


Vaughan Williams, Hugh and Elgar, BBC Proms

Vaughan Williams's Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis was neatly played, though the placement of the small orchestra at the back of the main band meant it came out as one wash of sound: couldn't they have put small orchestra in the middle of the Arena? That would have made an interesting musical experience.

Hugh Wood's Scenes from Comus was tightly played. Andrew Davis brought out the contrast between Wood's Viennese colours and the almost tonal world of early 20th Century. One could hear what was to come later in subsequent decades. This was the highligh of the concert.

Elgar's The Music Makers was in the second half. Dame Connolly's effort was noted, and the general ensemble of the choir and orchestra under Andrew Davis was fine. BUT I had a real issue with the work - it's Edwardian remix - the best of Elgar cobbled together for some much needed cash. The text, though well chosen, was fitted into a bunch of recycled tunes. It just sounded ever so dull…

Bruckner 8, Andris Nelsons and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra

Bruckner 8 Symphony was a gigantic piece of symphonic writing. What better to hear a mature and thoughtful Andris Nelsons conducting the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra? The slow measured start gave rise to the hallmark relentlessness of the later Bruckner symphonies. Nelsons brought out the rising and falling phrases, and ensured the episodic chunks together form a coherent whole. The scherzo second movement was precise and at pace. Feierlich langsam (3rd movement) was subtle, mournful with a glimmer of light. The masculine sound for the brass section delivered a memorable finale

Stephen Hough plays Memdelssohn, BBC Proms

The stars of this Prom were Stephen Hough and Queen Victoria's own richly gilded piano made by Érard (1856). Hough played Mendelssohn's piano concerto no 1 with poise and pace. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Ádám Fischer provided well balanced accompaniment. Though one could hear Hough was battling with an instrument that lacked a resonant upper register. The Érard sounded like a large fortepiano with good middle and lower register voice, but to modern ears that are used to Steinway Model Ds it sounded somewhat dull. The encore (Chopin Nocturne No 2 in E Flat) suited the keyboard much more - with a mellow sound one could imagine a musical soireé in a drawing room at Buckingham Palace. An interesting concert, memorable for different reasons.

Joyce DiDonato sings Les Nuits d'été, BBC Proms

Young Benjamin Beckman's work (European premiere) Occidentalis turned out to be a fun piece confidently played by the The National Youth Orchestra of the US of A.

The real highlight of the concert was Joyce DiDonato singing Berlioz Les Nuits d'été. Not exactly a jolly set of songs, and DiDonato's voice painted a gloomy and dark world of longing and grieve. Her French text was superbly clear and the orchestra under Pappano's baton provided the lush orchestra backdrop.

The band than embakred on a mighty journey climbing up the Alps (Ein Alpensinfonie) - the sound was fresh, eager and above all enjoyed - in that I felt the players did enjoy playing this symphonic poem in the RAH. The brass section of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain was up in the gallery offering the off-stage effect: though one could hear a little competitiveness in their, hmm, dynamics. A fun Sunday morning that was.

Le Nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera

I went to hear and see Christian Gerhaher as Figaro in this revival production. He didn't disappoint - his singing delivered real nuance and understanding of the role.  Simon Keenlyside made a very good Count Almaviva. The surprise (and delight) was to hear Kangmin Justin Kim singing Cherubino (normally a trouser role) - his acting and agile voice was well suited to the role. Hope to see more of him in the future (may be as Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier?)

John Eliot Gardiner's conducting was interesting. Sure we know and love Mozart's score. But somehow, the orchestra seemed very present throughout the four acts. If anything, it was too present (not loud, just present) - to the point of distracting.

Still, this David McVicar (revived by Thomas Guthrie) production was always a joy to see - simple yet clever.