For an opera conceived as a paean to reconciliation, Wagner’s “Parsifal” has sown much discord. Some people have read anti-Semitism into Klingsor, its evil genius whose self-hatred leads him to castrate himself; many regard the work as a Christian tract, though it’s as much a celebration of pre-Christian paganism. But its deep import is Freudian.
The fortepiano doesn’t make much noise, but under good hands it can cast a powerful spell with the works which were written for it. Facing us were two such beasts, neatly folded into a companionable embrace – ready for period-performance maestro Robert Levin and his Taiwanese wife Ya-Fei Chuang to deliver the rarely-performed “Concerto for Two Pianos in A flat” written by a fifteen-year-old Felix Mendelssohn, to showcase the brilliance of the greatest virtuoso of his day.
After his revelatory Beethoven cycle at the Wigmore, Andras Schiff has now embarked on a Bach cycle which promises to be no less remarkable.
From the Wreckage, Turnage’s 2005 trumpet concerto, was written for the Swedish virtuoso Hakan Hardenberger. Speranza, an LSO commission, is played without the fourth of five movements that Turnage dropped after February’s premiere. The remaining four, the title of each, like that of the work, meaning “hope” – in Arabic, Gaelic, German and Hebrew – are partly inspired by the bleak poetry of Jewish-Romanian poet and Holocaust survivor Paul Celan.
A revival of the Phelim McDermott/Julian Crouch production of Philip Glass’s operatic masterpiece means another chance to savour its inspired marriage of sight and sound.
Seldom had the cathedral been so full, and not often for so poignant a reason. Last Monday John Tavener had eloquently stated his artistic credo on Radio 4’s ‘Start the Week’, and on Tuesday he had died. Friday night’s concert had been scheduled months back, but instead of a cheerful celebration of his latest choral work – a setting of three Shakespeare sonnets - it turned into his memorial service with family, friends, and fans, and with the opening line of the last poem sounding a note of awful appropriateness: ‘No longer mourn for me when I am dead.’
Britten’s sole violin concerto is constructed from simple scales rising and falling expressively over exotic Spanish rhythms, but within this framework, from the opening silken thread to passages of great passion and profundity, the concerto unfolds into a piece of great magnitude.
Seldom had the cathedral been so full, and not often for so poignant a reason. On Monday, John Tavener had eloquently stated his artistic credo on Radio 4's Start the Week, and on Tuesday he died.
How do you write a play about someone you can't stand? When I set out to create a new drama about Richard Wagner for the 2013 International Wimbledon Music Festival, that question left me frozen for a time, staring at the oncoming headlamps with ears askew.
No other composer had to endure pressure as Shostakovich did. It was written in his face, and rings through every bar of his music: pressure from the Soviets to stifle his voice, and inner pressure from that voice to be heard.
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