sawyl: (A self portrait)
Catching up with my proms backlog, I discovered Ákos Ács' delightful encore — part of Béla Kovács Sholem-alekhem, Rov Feidman!. And now it seems there's a video of Ács having entirely too much fun with Ivan Fischer and some members of the Budapest Festival Orchestra:


It's a truly delightful piece and performance, and much, much too short!
sawyl: (A self portrait)
This year's proms seasons has featured a couple of accompanied encores. First Sol Gabetta in Petris Vasks' Dolcissimo. Then Pekka Kuusisto singing a Finnish folk song, assisted by the entire Albert Hall audience. And yesterday, Narek Hakhnazaryan in Giovanni Sollima's strikingly effective Lamentatio:

sawyl: (A self portrait)
Ah, um, well, not at all sure what to make of yesterday's prom combining bits and pieces of A Midsummer Night's Dream with Mendelssohn's incidental music for the same. My immediate suspcious is that, on radio at least, neither item did the other any favours; however I'm willing to believe it may have been different in hall.

On the plus side Matthias Pintscher's piece, Reflections on Narcissus for cello and orchestra which opened the concert, came off much better.

sawyl: (A self portrait)
Despite not writing much about this year's proms, I've been assiduously making keeping up with the concerts on R3. Highlights over the last few weeks have included Huw Watkins' Cello Concerto written for his brother Paul and Tai Murray's premier of Malcolm Hayes' Violin Concerto.

The Sixteen's late night concert, mixing Bach motets with Arvo Pärt's Nunc Dimittis and Triodium was particularly good. The audience had an amazing, focused silence during the Pärt pieces which the BBC's engineers did a superb job of capturing, really adding to the spiritual quality of the broadcast.

The East-West Divan orchestra's prom really stands out a particular highlight. Not only did it feature the legendary Marta Argerich in Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1 but the encore was a true delight: Argerich and Barenboim in Schubert's Rondo for two hands; two brilliant pianists for the price of one in a piece that almost outlasted the conerto that proceded it.

The second half was a series of orchestral interludes from Wagner starting with the overture to Tannhäuser, move through the Dawn and Siegfried's Rhine Journey to the Funeral March from Götterdämmerung before ending with the astonishing counterpoint of the overture to Die Meistersinger. As an encore concert finished with the prelude to act III of Die Meistersinger and then, as a final surprise send off, a really constrast to the brooding Meistersinger prelude: a fast, exciting version of the prelude to the third act of Lohengrin.

I also very much enjoyed yesterday's concert performance of Janáček's The Makropulous Affair. Not a piece I know at all — despite one of my friends learning the part of Emilia Marty when we were at university — I though it was fascinating, especially the shift from the conversational form and constantly shifting music of the majority of the opera to its resolution in the last 10-15 minutes of the piece.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Enjoyble prom with an interesting new piece from Helen Grime — the second part of which opens Sunday's concert — a performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, possibly the only piece by Tchaikovsky I actually like, and Petrushka to finish. The concert was greatly spiced up by Pekka Kuusisto's hugely entertaining encore. He gave a very funny introduction to the traditional folk song from Karelia:

...this first surfaced in a collection in 1850, this is still time when Russia used to be a part of Finland! depending on your point of view, of course. I was going to make a Brexit joke, but they're not really funny...

He the sang along with the piece as he played it, pointed out that the chorus kept on coming back, and, after a couple of practice attempts, got the audience singing along with him in Finnish. Definitely well above and beyond the usual post-concerto encore!

sawyl: (A self portrait)
A single work in tonight's prom: Mahler's vast third symphony conducted by Bernard Haitink, that most supremely experienced of Mahlerian conductors, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of his first appearance at the proms. The performance seemed characteristic of Haitink's approach to Mahler: measured, clear, and thoughful. It reminded me of just how little I know the piece and how I really ought to listen to it more often, despite its size — for the record, today's performance came it at around 104 minutes...

ETA: listening again it's noticeable that, just as the applause starts, there's an enormous whoop from the audience as someone, either close to the microphones or otherwise possessed of a superb set of lungs, shouts a huge "Yes!" indicating just how much they enjoyed the performance...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Really rather lovely swansong from the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra in their final concert before their merger with the Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra. After opening with a Berlioz overture, we got Beethoven's fourth piano concerto with Robert Levin, followed by a dazzling encore in the shape of the Intermezzo from Robert Schumann's Faschingsswank aus Wien — a piece I didn't know at all and which really impressed me.

The final piece on the programme was a clear and direct reading of Brahms first symphony showing all the merits of Roger Norrington's charactertically insightful approach. After a short encore — one of the Hungarian Dances — there was a poignent moment when Natalie Chee, the orchestra's leader, addressed the audience, saying farewell on behalf of the company.

The orchestra's final send-off was a very beautiful performance of Nimrod from the Enigma Variations, a piece which benefited greatly from Norrington's no-vibrato approach and which seemed all the more touching for its brisk tempo and lack of the great, swooping Romantic gestures that often make it seem cloying. It was a delightfully affecting ending and I'm pretty sure that Martin Handley had a wobble in his voice as he concluded the concert and handed over to his colleagues in Broadcasting House.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Michael Berkeley's striking violin concerto formed the centre-piece of tonight's prom, with Chloë Hanslip as soloist. Written following the death of the composer's wife, the piece features an astonishing section on the electric violin which sounds like nothing quite so much as a great cry of pain.

The concerto was prefaced by Paul Dukas' La Péri, which I didn't know at all but which I thought was really rather good, with particularly fine orchestration. The evening was rounded off with a selection of pieces from Sergei Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet — a I piece I remember so clearly from childhood that it came as something of a shock to discover that it was, first and foremost, a play rather than a ballet...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Not quite sure what to make of Tchaikovsky's symphonic fantasy The Tempest, which opened tonight's prom. But I liked Anthony Payne's Of Land, Sea and Sky far more and thought it made a good companion piece to Ralph Vaughan Williams' superb Towards the Unknown Region which closed the concert.

In between was Ray Chen's engaging performance of Max Bruch's first violin concerto — he wrote others, believe it or not! — with a charming version of Paganini's Caprice No. 21 as an encore.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Not much to say about tonight's Rossini prom. Sounded nice enough but, unlike the opera seria of Boris Godunov, I think this sort of opera buffa only really works as a whole if you're there in the hall, able to see the singers acting it up — and, in a concert performance, hamming it up with the conductor and orchestra.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Better programming today, with the world premier of Magnus Lindberg's Two Episodes opening this evening's prom. The orchestral writing was characteristic of Lindberg, creating an open and approachable sound world with definite echoes of the second piece in the concert: Beethoven's 9th Symphony.

The Beethoven was somewhat idiosyncratic, with Jurowsky and LPO emphasising some elements more than others — the winds in the last movement holding their own against the the strings in the early parts of the last movement — and there were some interesting tempo choices. It all seemed to work and made the old warhorse seem fresher than it usually does.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Slightly odd programming in yesterday's prom: a huge bleeding chunk of Wagner in the form of Act 3 from Die Walküre followed by the entirety of Michael Tippett's A Child of Our Time. I'm not sure the combination worked. Neither piece seemed to add much to the other and they don't seem to have a great deal in common. Still it was good to hear A Child of Our Time again. For all the awkwardness of the text, it still feels like it has a great deal of beautiful music to offer.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Hmm, well, Mozart symphonies are very much not my thing — even the final three, which are by far the best of the bunch — but Le Cercle de l'Harmonie seemed to decent job of it. The opening symphony was followed by Mendelssohn's concert aria Infelice and, after the interval, Mozart's concert aria Ah, lo previdi, both new to me and far more my sort of thing, with Rosa Feola taking the solo part. The arias were followed by a spritely performance of Mendelssohn's 4th symphony and, as an encore, a bright and breezy take on the overture to The Marriage of Figaro.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Not particularly convinced by Fauré`s Shylock suite in tonight's prom, but I suppose it fits this year's Shakespearean theme. Poulenc's Stabat Mater was more to my taste and the sound was suitable beautiful, but the tempi seemed a little bit on the slow side — the quando corpus was a solid minute longer than most people take it — but the performers were good enough to keep it together.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
It's a shame the Missa Solemnis does get performed more, because it's up there with the very best of Beethoven's works. Today's performance from BBC Phil under Gianandrea Noseda with the combined forces of the Hallé Choir and Manchester Chamber Choir was very good indeed. The quartet of soloists were very good — I particularly liked Stuart Skelton's heldentenor in the opening kyrie — with the solo violinist on fine form in the Benedictus.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Prior to this weekend's Record Review, I knew nothing about Galina Ustvolskaya. Now, thanks to Saturday's programme and today's Munich Phil prom, I've made the aquaintance of a truly fascinating composer: her third symphony is strange and unique; unlike European avant-garde or Schnittke's symphonies, but with something similarly iconoclastic about it.

Behzod Abduraimov was superb in Rachmaninov's third piano concerto and his encore, Liszt's absurdly virtuosic La Campanella, was dazzling. The main pieces were bookended by Ravel's Boléro and Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier Suite, neither of which is entirely my thing, but they were well acomplished and Berlioz' version of the Rákóczi March from La Damnation de Faust made for a fun final encore.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Very enjoyable choral prom this evening. Lucy Crowe's performance of Exultate Jubilate was dazzling and reminded me why I love Mozart's vocal writing. The Fauré in the second half was also excellent, once I got used to the King's College sound and the (excellent) treble soloist in the Pie Jesu. Roderick Williams was excellent in the baritone solos and the closing In Paradisum was as beautiful as ever, balancing the orchestra, organ and choir perfectly for a hopeful finish the concert.

Exultate Jubilate... )
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Grand opera from Mussorgsky in the form of the 1869 version of Boris Godunov. The Royal Opera House version may not have been as silky-smooth as the Kirov's — I was there in 2002 when Boris was last performed at the proms — and maybe the RoH Russian wasn't quite as authentic, but I like the piece so much, it's hard to be objective.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Solid start to the 2016 proms, from the unscheduled addition of La Marseillaises in response to the events from Nice, to the opening proper with Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Overture and Sol Gabetta's take on the Elgar cello concerto — and her delightful performance of Pēteris Vasks' Dolcissimo as an encore. I confess to skipping out on much of Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky cantata, but I promise to revisit it when I have a spare moment.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Radio 3 are marking International Women's Day this year by spending a week concentrating female composers, which is why I started the day with Alissa Firsova's Stabat Mater. Since I can't find it on YouTube — although there is a short film by the Genesis Foundation discussing the composition of three new settings of the piece — I've decided to continue the recent proms theme and go with a performance of Firsova's Bergen's Bonfire instead:

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