Royal Opera House, London; Welsh National Opera, Cardiff; Queen Elizabeth Hall, LondonAn eclectic production of Gluck’s opera sets the bar high at the ROH, while Bellini finds a new voice in the heart of 70s Belfast
At first glimpse it was hard to see how a nearly pitch-dark stage with an orchestra on it and the key soloist seated in a metal stacking chair could turn into a full-scale production worthy of launching the Royal Opera House’s new season. That it did, surprisingly and miraculously, is credit to the co-directors, John Fulljames and the Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter, as well as to the combined forces of the conductor John Eliot Gardiner, his English Baroque Soloists and Monteverdi Choir, the cast of three (Juan Diego Flórez, Amanda Forsythe and Lucy Crowe) and Shechter’s own dance company – most of whom were on stage much of the time, song, dance, drama and music folding into one in constant flux, always a coherent whole.
Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice (1774), as in any telling of the Orpheus myth, is about the power of music. The orchestral and choral writing, you could even argue, is the best bit, especially in this later, rarely performed French version of Gluck’s more concise Italian original (Orfeo ed Euridice). With some 45 minutes of dance music, as well as an overture and countless scurrying interjections, the English Baroque Soloists – hydraulically rearranged, rising and falling before our eyes to be below, above or at stage level – were breathtaking, tireless and versatile.
(Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Ticciati)
Are three Haydn symphonies in the same key too much of a good thing? Not if they are so cleverly chosen and done with such brimming fizz and fun as here. Robin Ticciati has selected three from different periods of Haydn’s creative life, launching with the terrific horn calls of No 31. I got to love this piece in an old Academy of St Martin’s Neville Marriner recording, but this new version has all of Ticciati’s period-style flair. No 70 (this one a Rattle favourite) has a sublime neo-baroque andante and a hilarious repeated-note finale (could Rossini have known this?), while Ticciati’s “Clock” ticks along with verve and poise. More, please.
Adalberto Maria Riva, piano(Toccata)
Happy 10th birthday, Toccata Classics. The creation of indefatigable Martin Anderson, the label has so far released 240 CDs, representing the work of 152 sometimes overlooked, often interesting composers (54 of them living). This disc is a perfect example of its mission to promote neglected music. In his short life, Adolfo Fumagalli (1828-1856), known as the Paganini of the piano, was revered by Liszt for his dazzling technique and compositional skill. Adalberto Maria Riva makes a convincing advocate here, particularly in an extraordinary grande fantasie for left hand based on Meyerbeer’s Robert le diable. The laconic Fumagalli wrote or arranged several pieces for the left hand so, they say, he could hold a cigar with his right while performing.
The young British violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen is rapidly making a name as an interpreter of contemporary and less familiar repertoire – especially chamber music. She and the pianist-composer Huw Watkins have created an intelligent recital disc from the contrasting music of the Polish Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) and the Venezuelan-French Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947): composers who probably never met but who sprang from a sound world owing a great debt to the music of César Franck and in particular his masterly violin sonata. The album comprises a sonata each by Szymanowski, impassioned and romantic, and Hahn, subtly Gallic and lyrical, as well as shorter works, all played with verve and style.
The cliche of the reclusive composer who loses their mind over manuscript is unhelpful. But, says pianist James Rhodes, there is a link between music, creativity and mental health that is both real and beneficial to people’s well-being
The mad composer. Note after excruciating note dragged out on to manuscript paper, 2 stone in weight lost while composing his latest opera, bronchial infections from the cold, absinthe on a drip. Mumbling to himself, shouting at strangers, scribbling bar lines on restaurant napkins, sitting at a piano, freezing and alone in a garret with “it doesn’t have to be mad to work here but it helps” written on the wall. In his own shit.
It’s a cliche as erroneous as it is widespread and it is, forgive me, quite maddening and completely false.
The billionaire chairman of the prestigious venue has left after accusing executive director Clive Gillinson of impropriety
Since its opening night in May 1891, featuring Tchaikovsky conducting his own Festival Coronation March, Carnegie Hall has always let its music do the talking. As one of the world’s most celebrated concert venues – host to the greatest performers of the classical, jazz and pop genres – it has largely managed to keep the cacophony of managerial disputes off-stage.
Until this week, that is. In 48 short hours, Carnegie’s calm was shattered with the announced departure of its board chairman after just seven months in the post, after he raised allegations of conflicts of interest and inadequate financial scrutiny in the way the venue was run.
Wigmore Hall, LondonThe Beethoven and Shostakovich quartets received the technically dependable Borodin treatment, but struck no new creative sparks
Beethoven and Shostakovich have been the twin poles by which the Borodin Quartet has steered its collective career throughout its long history, and in London the group is marking the 70th anniversary of its formation with a cycle of the quartets of both composers spread across three seasons.
With changes of personnel inevitable in the quartet over such a long period (though the cellist Valentin Berlinsky was a member for 62 years, replacing Mstislav Rostropovich in the original lineup just a few weeks after the group was formed), the Borodin can sometimes seem more like a musical brand than a group of players that has matured together and shared its creative ideas. As this latest recital showed, there is still very much a Borodin way of doing things, a corporate approach to music-making that is entirely homogeneous and, to my ears at least, rather dull.
Bridgewater Hall, ManchesterThe orchestra opened its new season with energetic and beguiling performances of works by Rachmaninov, Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov
Could it be a riposte to Vasily Petrenko’s rival band up the road that Sir Mark Elder chose to launch the Hallé’s new season with an all-Russian programme? The account of Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto by the young Korean pianist Sunwook Kim was as exhilarating as any recent performance on Merseyside, if a little less idiomatic. Kim took a measured approach, weighing each note with meticulous care. It was poetic, intelligent and equally adept with the passages of gentle rain as those of rolling thunder.
Mussorgsky’s little prelude Dawn on the Moscow River is the deceptively tranquil scene-setter to his far-from-tranquil opera Khovanshchina, and a piece that the Hallé has never played before. In Rimsky-Korsakov’s transparent orchestration, it emerged as a beguiling wisp of a melody that yawned and stretched like the awakening of the Russian soul.
The early-2000s club sound was all but forgotten but now a new wave of DJs and labels are bringing it out of retirement and cementing its place in electronic history
Among the more familiar sounds that make up the capital’s ever shape-shifting club landscape, one rather more niche concern seems to be increasingly relevant: broken beat. The intricate, soulful sound of a few clubs of the late 90s and early 00s is inspiring DJs and labels, who are in turn helping to shape new underground dance music. Jazzy Four Tet affiliate Floating Points, Detroit don Theo Parrish and Canadian producer Kaytranada take influence from its fragmented rhythms, and small dance labels such as Eglo, Rhythm Section and Peckham’s 22a are putting on parties that mirror the broken beat scene’s friendly spirit.
"A spliff and a drink and people were all good
From rousing national anthems to the slogans chanted on marches, there is political power to be gained from good verbal timing – and composer David Owen Norris has captured some of history’s most stirring words in his new choral work Turning Points. He explains its genesis
When Ben Franklin was the American ambassador in Paris, someone asked him how his revolution was getting on at home. “Ça ira,” he replied. “It’ll do.” Once their own revolution arrived, the sans-culottes took this less-than-inspiring answer and turned it into one of the world’s most potent political chants. “Ah! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira,” they bellowed, in the stirring rhythm tum-tutter tum-tutter tum-tutter tah.
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