"For our first big Russian opera, there was one candidate," says Birmingham Opera Company's artistic director Graham Vick. But Khovanshchina as it is usually known in English is a daunting undertaking for any fully staffed opera house (just three previous homegrown British productions in the last 50 years), let alone an organisation such as BOC that relies on bringing together a vast range of both professional and amateur performers and backstage workers for each of its site-specific shows.
In fact, getting to the first night of Khovanskygate: A National Enquiry, as Mussorgsky's epic becomes in this English version, has been more fraught than usual. Vick's production had to be moved and redesigned (by Samal Blak) in just a few weeks, when the original venue was abandoned for safety reasons. It now occupies a huge tent in an Edgbaston park, with the orchestra, the full might of the City of Birmingham Symphony, powerfully conducted by Stuart Stratford and stationed on a gantry above the action. The audience move from scene to scene around the performing space in now-familiar BOC style. There's plenty of scope for the massive choral effects and dramatic set-pieces, the marches and riots, that are the company's trademark opera as Cecil B DeMille might have imagined it.
Federico Colli closed his Southbank debut recital with Schumann's Sonata No 1 in F sharp minor, a work haunted by the imaginary figures of Florestan and Eusebius, whom Schumann summoned in his critical work as well as his music, to convey the differing, even contradictory sides of his own temperament.
Florestan is the gregarious extrovert, Eusebius the introverted dreamer, and by the end of the evening, I couldn't help but wonder whether Colli thrives on the same contradictions. Dressed to kill in a shiny suit with an emerald-green cravat, he nevertheless sidled on to the platform with immense shyness. Since he won the Leeds Piano Competition in 2012, he's become a bit of a star. But he responded to the standing ovation that greeted his recital with surprise and genuine bewilderment.
The first release in Mark Wigglesworth's Shostakovich cycle for BIS (of the Seventh Symphony) appeared as long ago as 1997. This pairing of the first and last symphonies completes the project, which has been shared between the Netherlands Radio Orchestra and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. In fact, both these works were recorded eight years ago, and Wigglesworth's performance of the First has been issued before, on a disc with the Second and Third Symphonies two years ago.
Reissuing it with the work at the very opposite end of the canon makes a good deal of sense, though. For there's something about Wigglesworth's approach to the First that seems determined to link it with the mainstream of Shostakovich's symphonic writing, rather than treating it as a brittle example of his early flirtation with neoclassicism (which was followed by the modernist experimentalism of the Second and Third, and only after that by the evolution of a personal, genuinely symphonic style from the Fourth Symphony onwards). Wigglesworth shows that some of the qualities he finds in his delicate, almost balletic treatment of the first movement and especially the weighty elements he unearths in its lento and finale can be transferred directly across almost half a century to the 15th.
The chief conductor of Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Mariss Jansons, is to step down after leading the world-famous ensemble for a decade.
The RCO announced on Tuesday that the celebrated conductor will retire at the end of the 2015 season from what is widely considered to be one of the greatest posts in the orchestral world.
What is the nation's favourite piece of classical music? Beethoven's Fifth? Mozart's Requiem? That one in Platoon which makes you cry? Classic FM's latest poll has deemed it Ralph Vaughan William's The Lark Ascending; they also think he's possibly the greatest composer of all time.
It seems a typically English choice as English as cricket, cream teas, queuing and saying "sorry" when you don't need to. It's worth pointing out that the main reason this has booted Rachmaninov off the top spot is because it was used to accompany a teary recent death scene in Coronation Street.
His continuing relationship with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra means that we can still enjoy a conductor at the height of his musical powers
News: Jansons announces RCO departure
News that Mariss Jansons is to leave his job in charge of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra some time in 2015 sets the seal on one of the most successful partnerships in recent orchestral history: no-one who heard their recent concerts at London's Barbican of three Bruckner symphonies can be in any doubt of the quality of the ensemble that Jansons has continued to nurture in their decade together. They had the "greatest orchestra in the world" tag to live up since 2008's Gramophone magazine poll; and it's credit to the symbiosis between Jansons and the players that they've been able to live up to that reputation. Their time together is celebrated in their recordings, and the concerts they will continue to give, of course; some highlights include Mahler, Strauss, Stravinsky and Dvorak; but frankly everything they've released on the RCO Live label, the Concertgebouw's inhouse record company, is of outstanding quality.
The conductor's 10-year reign as chief of the world-renowned Amsterdam orchestra will end after 2014-15 season
Comment: Tom Service on Jansons and the RCO
Mariss Jansons announced today that he will resign his position as chief conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra after the 2014/15 season.
The Latvian-born conductor, 71, has held the position since September 2004, succeeding Riccardo Chailly. He is also chief conductor of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra; his current contract there comes to an end in 2018.
Aaron Copland's monumental symphony gave post-war America what it needed - 'the Great American Symphony'.
There were many candidates for the "Great American Symphony" by the 1940s (among them Roy Harriss Third, Samuel Barbers First, and William Schumans Third) and yet by the end of the second world war there was still a need for a grand musical expression of a nations hopes, joys, and anxieties about the post-war world. And there remained a musical gap for a piece that would genuinely galvanise the widest possible musical public as well as satisfy the stringent demands of what a popular but serious mid-century American symphony might be; music that would take on the most symbolically European of forms and reform it in the image of a post-war, post-New Deal America.
We had won three world championships by the time the 1984 Winter Olympics came around, so we were in a position to take a real risk. Even though it is a piece of classical music, Jayne and I knew our choice of Ravel's Boléro would be seen as radical. Most skating music goes fast-slow-fast, building to a finish with a big hurrah. But Boléro was different: we had often used it as a warmup and realised it would be perfect for where we wanted to go. Some people find a style and stick with it. We wanted to shake things up.
Catholicism's sublimation of suffering is responsible for some of the church's most enduring artistic treasures, such as the Stabat Mater, the medieval poem that turns compassion for Mary's anguish into a desire to suffer in Christ's place. Setting the poem to music has been part of Eastertide liturgical practice for centuries, but few versions are more excruciatingly delightful than Pergolesi's 1736 setting.
Not many performing collaborations could capture this spirit better than the Italian soprano Roberta Invernizzi and contralto Sonia Prina with the English Concert.
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