Blog Archives

Bernstein “Candide”, London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, Kristjan Jarvi, Barbican Hall

Leonard Bernstein’s most bountiful score – a mouth-watering confection of sugar and spice and all things nice – is also a masterpiece of parody and counter-parody. Voltaire’s Candide was short and pithy; Bernstein and his legion of collaborators (this was a Broadway breech-birth if ever there was one) went for long and elaborate and terminally … [Read More]

Posted on 06/06/2011
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London Symphony Orchestra, Uchida, Davis, Barbican Hall

It says something for Sir Colin Davis’ eternal vitality and musical curiosity that he should come to the dynamic Carl Nielsen symphonies so late in life. The Sixth and last of them carries the elliptical subtitle “Sinfonia Semplice” and surprise, surprise, is anything but “simple”. With the chiming of the glockenspiel (so redolent in spirit … [Read More]

Posted on 27/05/2011
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London Symphony Orchestra, Bronfman, Gergiev, Barbican Hall

As sometimes happens in live performances a soloist’s encore might display a brilliance and precision that one might have felt lacking in the main event – or, in this case, events. Yefim Bronfman’s account of the Paganini-Liszt Étude No.2 in E-flat major was dazzling and alert and focused in ways that his back-to-back performances of … [Read More]

Posted on 13/05/2011
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London Symphony Orchestra, Jarvi, Barbican Hall

The Scandinavians were coming: Nielsen and Grieg had tall tales to tell and Sibelius’s Violin Concerto had promised the über-virtuosic Julia Fischer. But the German never arrived, an accident in her kitchen resulting in an eleventh hour call for a replacement. That call was answered in true “local hero” fashion by the London Symphony Orchestra’s … [Read More]

Posted on 08/04/2011
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London Symphony Orchestra, Rattle, Barbican Hall

Another ingeniously apposite piece of programming from Simon Rattle – but this time the Berlin Philharmonic had stayed in Berlin and a long awaited re-match with the London Symphony Orchestra presented two mighty instrumental canvasses as startling in sonic contrast as they were bonded in spirit. Intimations of mortality dominated the evening and from “out … [Read More]

Posted on 08/03/2011
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Elgar “The Kingdom”, London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, Elder, Barbican Hall

Elgar’s The Kingdom arrives in the heat of inspiration on a surge of orchestral magnificence. A glorious theme representing “New Faith” is announced in the strings, as noble and aspirational as anything Elgar wrote. If his own faith was compromised at the time of composition (as we are reliably informed) then there is certainly no … [Read More]

Posted on 31/01/2011
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London Symphony Orchestra, Khachatryan, Gergiev, Barbican Hall

Valery Gergiev’s survey of the Tchaikovsky symphonies began here on a chilly January night with youthfully idealistic “Winter Daydreams” thrown into the sharpest relief against a disillusioned and angry Shostakovich whose own journey into the bleak mid-winter was by the time he penned his 2nd Violin Concerto very much a one-way ticket. Two revealing performances, … [Read More]

Posted on 19/01/2011
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London Symphony Orchestra, Douglas, Roth, Barbican Hall

Programming Liszt is like counting calories: you can blow your entire month’s intake in less than an hour. Whoever thought of pairing the Symphonic Poem Mazeppa with the 2nd Piano Concerto – presumably the conductor Francois-Xavier Roth – clearly placed musical symmetry over sensory overkill. One tub-thumping Cossack march might quicken the senses; two in … [Read More]

Posted on 07/01/2011
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LSO, Mullova, Gardiner, Barbican Hall

The tricky opening chord of Weber’s Der Freischutz Overture needed warming up – didn’t we all – but a quartet of horns quickly lent a dappled glow to the proceedings and the mercury began to rise. Weber’s most dramatic opera sports an overture full of surprises and special effects and Sir John Eliot Gardiner and … [Read More]

Posted on 22/12/2010
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LSO, Alsop, Barbican Hall

It was extraordinary but not especially surprising how Gustav Mahler’s presence could loom so large in a concert containing not one single note of his music. His pointless “retouching” of the Beethoven symphonies and wholesale repression of his wife Alma’s compositional talent were both marked by the same motives: a willful self-interest.

So there was, … [Read More]

Posted on 06/12/2010
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