Wigmore Hall, LondonA host of friends great and good help the Russian pianist celebrate her 70th, with music that ranged from Widmann to Mozart
Russian pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja turned 70 this week. This birthday concert included appearances by nine other artists celebrating with her – indeed the focus of the event seemed reluctant to push herself forward, even though she took part in every piece.
Only one of them, however, was a solo work: the Eleven Humoresques (2007) by the German clarinettist, composer and conductor Jörg Widmann. Schumann is the inspiration behind this substantial collection of miniatures – there’s the odd quotation and several clear references to his highly personalised art.
Barbican, LondonThe pianist moved from subtle to solid textures in his determination to make us look beyond Chopin’s surface glitter
How to make Chopin your own? That’s a challenge every pianist faces, and those who cheered Simon Trpceski on to a perhaps excessive five encores at the end of this recital would say their man has met it. While his determination not to take the obvious approach led some of the smaller-scale pieces in intriguing directions, it arguably left the larger-scales ones wanting.
He opened with the four Op 24 mazurkas. In the first, his left hand was grounded but his right was sometimes skittish and inclined to break away, creating an interesting tension within the piece’s apparent simplicity. These introspective pieces came over well, as did the first of the two Op 26 polonaises, which largely shared their pensive restlessness. But Op 26 No 2 needed brilliance and definition in the upwards reaching run near the start, and instead of that just had bulk and solidity. This became a recurring element: Trpceski wasn’t going to let us fall into the trap of admiring Chopin’s surface glitter, but in his determination to focus our attention elsewhere he created some thick, cumbersome textures.
25 November 1892: Manchester’s music lovers flock to Lady Hallé’s performance of Dvorak concerto
Grand Concerto, Violin - Lady Hallé, in A minor, Op. 55 (first tune)........Dvorak
Lady Hallé’s admirers were in force last night. Some of them would, we believe, willingly have heard the Dvorak concerto a second time if persistent applause could have brought such a consummation about. And the audience generally were at one with them in admiration of the work, even if their enthusiasm stopped short of a demand for a repetition. For the more experienced and the more discriminating listened to the work with a feeling that they were having developed before them one of the latest forms of modern musical thought.
He’s the father of modern opera but nowhere near as celebrated as he should be. Soprano Elizabeth Watts decided it was time to change that, and embarked on a five-year quest to discover and record Scarlatti’s finest arias
So you’ve heard of Alessandro Scarlatti? Vaguely perhaps. Didn’t he write some rather good keyboard sonatas? Well, actually no: that was his son, Domenico. There are two Scarlattis, and given not many people have heard of even one of them, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this composer is off the beaten track because it’s not really worth the effort. So it falls to me to convince you that Alessandro Scarlatti is not only worth the effort but actually rather good.
Like many singers, I first came across Scarlatti as a student. A teacher recommended I try one of his more florid arias (Ergiti, amor) as something a bit different from the usual competition fare. I really liked it, and thought then that there must be more to this composer.
2 October 1938: in a classic interview from our archive, The Observer meets Proms founder Sir Henry Wood as he celebrates 50 years as a conductor
Sir Henry Wood, busiest and most versatile of Britain’s musicians, is happily and busily celebrating his musical jubilee. It is a far cry back to 1888, when young Henry Joseph Wood first publicly ruled by his baton and, as he told me, earned “the enormous sum” of two guineas for conducting at a church choral society concert.
He has conducted nearly 3,000 Promenade Concerts - he is now in his forty-fourth season at the Queen’s Hall - nearly 1,000 Sunday concerts and 600 symphony concerts. So punctilious in other matters, he has failed to keep an exact log, but it is no exaggeration to say that in half a century he has 5,000 concerts to his credit.
Huddersfield contemporary music festival Lewis’s opera was heavy-handed, badly crafted and unbearable. The Bozzini Quartet redeemed matters with a beautiful performance of two of Jürg Frey’s quartets
The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) has a noble history – founded in 1965 as a black artists’ collective in south Chicago; pioneering force in American avant garde culture and racial politics – but that history has yet to make the subject of a noble opera. Afterword is an abysmally misconceived lecture-meets-musical by trombonist and longtime AACM member George Lewis, with a libretto based on his own essays about the organisation and semantic arguments over words such as “original” and “music”. Its UK premiere at the Huddersfield contemporary music festival was alarming. How did a work so self-important, so heavy-handed and plain badly-crafted, ever reach the stage? Hints of Lewis’s spark as an improviser occasionally gurgle through the frenetic instrumental score (stoic playing from the International Contemporary Ensemble, conducted by David Fulmer) but the vocal writing is unbearable: drab, inflated and nonsensical, no rhyme or reason to how words and music fit together.
Sean Griffin’s torpid staging was equally dismal. It would have worked better if singers Joelle Lamarre, Gwendolyn Brown and Julian Terrell Otis had stood and spoken their lines.
Coliseum, LondonJonathan Miller’s classic production of the Gilbert & Sullivan opera might be on its 14th revival but this fine cast make the evening hum
Jonathan Miller’s ageless ENO production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado is beginning its 14th revival. The Coliseum performance on 6 December will be the 200th. Revivals always differ, but it is as fresh as paint this time. If you have never seen it, go. If, like me, it’s a decade or two since you last went, then go again.
Individual good things abound in this latest outing. But it is Miller’s production, part Noel Coward, part Marx Brothers, part Busby Berkeley tap-dance routine, with its grand hotel setting and its essential insight that The Mikado says infinitely more about England than it says about Japan, that still makes the evening hum. The Mikado is a wonderful score, with both Gilbert and, in particular, Sullivan stretching themselves to great effect, but Miller’s show liberates the piece to give of its best, as a good production should.
Wigmore Hall, LondonPlaying pieces by Britten and a Julian Anderson premiere, the classical guitarist put on a poignant, mesmerising show
Julian Bream is the classical guitarist who inspired a generation of 20th-century composers to look seriously at the instrument. Now 82, he no longer performs, but his trust still commissions new work and supports those who might play it – young guitarists such as Laura Snowden, who here held the Wigmore Hall rapt with a performance of unassuming poise and intensity.
The latest composer to be commissioned by the Julian Bream Trust is Julian Anderson, whose Catalan Peasant With Guitar is inspired by the painting by Joan Miro. The painting is fierce, sparse, bright blue. Anderson recreates the impact of a first glance at it with an arresting slow volley of single notes at the opening. Thereafter the music, like the painting, has depths of nuance that reveal themselves behind the brightness. A defining feature is that some of the strings get retuned during the performance. Loosening one string by a quarter-tone meant that Snowden’s instrument acquired a new, darker resonance; returning the string to its original pitch brought the guitar back to a newly noticed brightness. Some retunings were slickly done, in one twist, while others held the music up slightly; on balance, it was worth it for the intriguing shifts in colour.
London recital venue will host singers and musicians from both sides of Irish Sea to celebrate Britain’s relationship with republic
The centenary of the Easter Rising in Dublin, in 1916, will be commemorated by a week-long festival at Wigmore Hall in London next April, with music ranging from premieres of new work to traditional Irish songs and harp music.
It will include a gala concert on 21 April, that will honour both the Irish and English who died in the rising, and also those who died in the first world war, including many Irish volunteers.
Once maligned for its naff image and sugary euphoria, trance is being embraced by DJs such as Evian Christ and Rustie. Time to break out the confetti canons
In the fickle world of dance music, trance has long been ridiculed. While still undeniably big business around the world, it conjures club scenes of hands in the air, outstretched to DJs in all-white ensembles and Oakleys. It’s hardly fashion-conscious or “cool”. But 26-year-old producer Evian Christ had a different experience when he first heard its aspartame melodies. “I remember being 11 and listening to Suburban Train by Tiësto, and it moved me to tears,” he says.
Related: It was 20 years ago today: the year British dance music went wild
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