Three years ago, on a train to Newcastle, I met a young soldier on leave from Helmand.
Female artists have sung Winterreise before, but not with the intensity of mezzo-soprano Alice Coote.
An English country house; a rarefied ivory tower in which to explore high art; the performance of tragedy and comedy alike; dinner al fresco; and that's just on stage.
The real Johann Christian Woyzeck (1780-1824) was a jobbing soldier driven mad by an unhappy love-life and the vicissitudes of war, but it was the class system which decreed his beheading for the murder of his unfaithful wife. Georg Buchner, who had inside knowledge of his case, turned his story into a play presenting him as ‘rationally’ paranoid, in that the world really was out to get him. And this was also the premise underpinning Alban Berg’s Wozzeck a century later. All Wozzeck’s encounters with his social superiors – the Captain who accuses him of degeneracy, the Doctor who uses him as a scientific guinea-pig, and the priapic Drum Major who makes off with his wife – are designed to humiliate him beyond endurance.
In no other opera did Verdi dramatise the conflict between romantic desire and political imperative, church and state, idealism and repression with such devastating intensity as in Don Carlo. "Nothing in the drama is historical," he wrote, "but it contains a Shakesperean truth and profundity of characterisation." Those who see it as his greatest work would agree. But with greatness comes the great challenge of casting.
That a choral ode without a plot – a mere debate on how to live - should be as dramatic as L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato is one of the miracles of Handel’s art.
On Hidden Handel, Ann Hallenberg investigates rarely performed arias by Handel as substitutions or additions to existing works.
The haunting Spanish lilt of its first movement betrays the composer's anti-war sympathies in Britten's Violin Concerto Op 15, written in the late 1930s; the looming shadow of a larger war is then discernible in the tuba lurking behind the gay violin and piccolo of the second movement. But it's the way that James Ehnes closes the opening movement that most impresses, essaying a gossamer thread of such subtlety it becomes almost transparent.
In Morton Feldman's lengthy 1979 piece "Violin and Orchestra", neither violin nor orchestra behaves as they do in the standard concerto format.
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