Dorchester Abbey David Matthews’ Norfolk March excelled but Vaughan Williams’ Fat Knight needed trimming in the opening concert of the English Music festival
Alongside the obligatory singing of Parry’s Jerusalem, and music by a couple of the usual suspects, Delius and Coleridge-Taylor, there were three world premieres in the opening concert of this year’s English Music festival, which was given by the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Martin Yates.
Only one of those novelties, though, was really new, and that was also the most interesting of the three. David Matthews’ Norfolk March began as an exercise in musical archaeology, an attempt to reconstruct Vaughan Williams’ lost Norfolk Rhapsody No 3, using the folk tunes that he is known to have incorporated and following a detailed programme note written for the 1907 premiere.
LSO St Luke’s, LondonAdam Donen’s music scrabbles around trying to illustrate holographic images, like a hapless cinema pianist accompanying a silent movie
There’s no doubting Adam Donen’s sense of scale and ambition. Symphony to a Lost Generation is a five-movement epic, arranged for a full orchestra and choir, which attempts to document the horrors of the first world war. To complicate things further, the orchestra and choir aren’t actually here. They’re pre-recorded, accompanying a lavish holographic presentation that is projected on to an empty stage, giving the illusion of a theatrical performance.
Project records tunes that secretly replace adoring references to Kim dynasty with mentions of Jesus and the Holy Spirit
From giant balloons and illicit DVDs to portable media players, campaigners have been extremely persistent in finding ways to smuggle information inside North Korea.
But “stealth gospel”, whereby adoring references to the ruling Kim dynasty in classical propaganda music are replaced with mentions of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, must be one of the most creative.
From Boulez to Baker, plus Mahler, Benjamin and... Sting: the conductor on the music that shapes his life on and off the concert platform.
How do you mostly listen to music?
On my iPhone.
This revival is an exercise in unalloyed nostalgia for Welsh National Opera, celebrating its 70th anniversary in strong musical form. In 1946, the Mascagni and Leoncavallo pairing – familiarly known as Cav & Pag – marked the company’s first production; Elijah Moshinsky’s classic take was created for WNO’s half-century, hence its re-emergence now. Moshinsky and designer Michael Yeargan mix the charm and claustrophobia of southern Italian village life as seen from two perspectives, 50 years apart: Cavalleria Rusticana is set at the end of the 19th century when it was composed; Pagliacci has been updated to the 1940s. The themes of love and betrayal seem sharply contemporary, as Carlo Rizzi, conducting from memory and with uttermost conviction, ensures their emotional veracity. The WNO chorus and orchestra assert themselves with pride.
Born in 1963 and raised in Sheffield, Jarvis Cocker founded Pulp (then called Arabacus Pulp) at the age of 15. Between 1983 and 2001 they released seven studio albums including His ’n’ Hers and Different Class. In 1996 Cocker made headlines by invading the stage during Michael Jackson’s performance of Earth Song during the Brit awards. Since Pulp’s split in 2002, he has released two solo albums, The Jarvis Cocker Record and Further Complications. In 2010, Cocker began presenting Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service on BBC Radio 6 Music, and in 2011 was appointed editor-at-large by publisher Faber. His 7-inch soundtrack EP to the forthcoming TV series Likely Stories was released on 20 May on Rough Trade.
Royal Opera House; Lyric Hammersmith, London; Glyndebourne, East SussexA superb cast ignites Enescu’s neglected 1936 epic in its UK premiere. And Philip Venables makes Sarah Kane’s final work sing
The opening bars of Oedipe, questing and visionary, might be by Bruckner. In a trice we plunge into expressionist harmonies and the world of Schoenberg. Then with a sensuous flourish of flute and harp we are whisked into the glassy spheres of Debussy. All that with hardly time to settle in our seats. First performed in Paris in 1936, George Enescu’s “tragédie lyrique” in four acts and six tableaux recounting the myth of Oedipus has at last received its UK and Royal Opera premiere in a production from La Monnaie, Brussels. The two directors, Alex Ollé and Valentina Carrasco – Spanish and Argentinian respectively – and the British conductor Leo Hussain, are also making their Royal Opera debuts. If you want to see this rarity, now is your chance.
That Oedipe is not convincing is through no lack of commitment on the part of the exceptional cast, chorus and orchestra. A prodigious composer, violinist, pianist, conductor and teacher, whose pupils included the young Yehudi Menuhin, the Romanian Enescu (1881-1955) has always had advocates but never hit the mainstream. His only opera, considered his masterpiece, explains both factors. This is music that traverses idioms and fleetingly finds its own elusive character, but encounters swaths of blank terrain en route. Enescu struggled with the score for some two decades. It has the feel of a ripe fruit grown too large.
Rautio Piano Trio(Resonus)
The Rautio Piano Trio, which specialises in period performance, was established at the Royal Academy of Music and at the International Musicians Seminar, Prussia Cove in Cornwall. This is their debut recording for Resonus. Pianist Jan Rautio here plays a fortepiano (tuned to A=430 Hz in unequal temperament), with cellist Adi Tal and violinist Jane Gordon using gut strings and lighter, shorter bows. The result is playing of great agility and intimacy which immediately solves some of the balance problems in Mozart’s trios when played on a modern grand, especially in accompanying figures. It’s an impressive achievement, a disc to return to often.
At the beginning of an ambitious series to match Bach’s great organ works to original instruments of his time, this first instalment strikes lucky with an instrument begun in the same year – 1739 – that Bach published his huge organ collection Clavier-Übung III in Leipzig. It’s in Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim, by Berlin builder Joachim Wagner. Its pungent, sometimes rasping sounds have immense impact, though James Johnstone has a tendency to favour stridently loud pedals, and the opening Prelude is unbalanced. But the chorale preludes have variety and poise, and the final Fugue is very powerful – the inexhaustible contrapuntal virtuosity of Bach’s music remains astounding.
Vanessa Benelli Mosell (piano)(Decca)
Pianist Vanessa Benelli Mosell has named her second album for Decca Light, a subject that preoccupied both of the composers she features. As with Licht, Stockhausen’s cycle of seven operas, the visionary Scriabin wanted to create massive, total works of art, integrating light and colour with music and dance. Benelli Mosell, once mentored by Stockhausen, plays his Klavierstuck XII, drawn from Donnerstag aus Licht, with considerable aplomb (complete with the required shouts, clicks and whistles), but it’s her performance of Scriabin’s 24 Preludes Op. 11 that stands out. Powerful, emotional, romantic and dramatic, she sweeps us along in a dazzling display of assured technique.
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