Isata Kanneh-Mason performs Clara Schumann, Coleridge-Taylor & Gubaidulina St George’s Bristol, Polyphonic Concert Club 15th April 2021 – available until 29th April 2021

www.polyphonic.club

The Polyphonic Concert Club concerts are a collaboration between television production company Polyphonic Films Ltd, artists and three leading arts venues outside of London: Bristol’s St George’s, Manchester’s Stoller Hall and York’s National Centre for Early Music.

As with all such online experiences there is the benefit of uninterrupted listening, a front row seat with excellent views and no rush to catch the last train home!

Pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason brings her assured but graceful presence to the platform and draws the listener in from her opening bars. This “personal selection of poignant music” is a beautifully programmed, contrasted set of piano works from names that may be familiar but are not really mainstream. Bookended with substantial works by Clara Schumann the concert begins with the Piano Sonata in G minor and ends with the Scherzo No 2 in C minor. A varied selection of song arrangements from Coleridge-Taylor’s 24 Negro Melodiesand the dramatic posturing of Gubaidulina’s Chaconne provide much interest. The reflective Notturno returns us to Clara Schumann before the final work.

Beautiful music in fine performances form a pianist who communicates so well. It just seemed a shame that without an in-house audience the performer receives no applause.

Stephen Page

 

The House of Life Ralph Vaughan Williams/Dante Gabriel Rossetti Opera Holland Park

The House of Life
-Ralph Vaughan Williams/Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Opera Holland Park

There are at least three good reasons for catching this short film from Opera Holland Park. Firstly, it is pleasing to encounter a work which doesn’t get many outings. Secondly, the rich resonance of David Butt Philip’s tenor voice is stunning. Thirdly, the musical rapport between him and pianist James Baillieu hits you between the eyes, especially during rubato passages.

The House of Life is a song cycle setting by Ralph Vaughan Williams of six of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s most heartfelt love sonnets. RVW wrote this in 1903/4 when he was in his early thirties. The poems, addressed to Rossetti’s troubled wife Lizzie Siddal, who died in 1862, had been published twenty years earlier.

Early RVW it may be but many of the hallmark intervals and harmonies are already there, especially in the third song Love’s Minstrels. The poems are through-set: lines sung one after another like a recitation in music without any of the repetition you get, for example in Baroque settings. Consequently they seem very direct and focused.

Philip delivers the big intervals, including octaves, with charismatic eloquence in Heart’s Haven and brings both passion and precision to Death in Love, with its fanfare intro and heavy chords for the dramatic climax.

James Baillieu, whose music is bravely on a tablet, has a terrific range of moods from a thoughtful, right hand introduction to the tortured ebullience which drives several of these pieces.

Leighton House, where this film was made, has a very warm acoustic which really adds an extra dimension to the recital. It was an appropriate choice, too, since it is very close to Holland Park and Frederic Leighton and Rossetti were friends.

Rossetti’s paintings are almost as well known and loved as Leonardo da Vinci’s or Rembrandt’s. He was also highly acclaimed as a poet in his own day. I have to say that his verse hasn’t stood the test of time very well. There’s only so much “deathless dower” and “hurtling harms” that a 21st century listener can take. That could just be why this work isn’t performed very often.

Susan Elkin

DVDs/CDs April 2021 (2)

Wagner: Das Rheingold
Sofia Opera
DYNAMIC 57897

I am unsure how this actually got to the point of being sold. Who – if anyone – was responsible for quality control? The sound throughout is appalling, as if there was a single microphone somewhere close to the orchestra and singers voices effectively vanished as they moved further upstage. This would be bad enough if the production warranted it but the grotesque costumes and lack of any sense of intelligent direction make this a painful experience. Some of the singers do themselves some justice vocally but the concept is so amateur as to be laughable. Rhine maidens on trampolines and Loge arriving by flying boat give an indication of the stream of ideas which misfire throughout. I thought, after many recent eccentric approaches to the Ring that I had seen it all. It appears I had not.

 

Paganini: Works for violin and guitar
Roberto Noferini, violin; Donato D’Antonio, guitar
TACTUS TC 781607
Paganini was a showman and many of these pieces live up to that expectation, needing a virtuoso performer – which Roberto Noferini certainly seems to be able to bring to them. Most are light weight, charming and easy on the ear, but this still allows us to appreciate the dexterity and sheer professionalism of the playing.

 

Bruckner: Symphony No6
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Mariss Jansons
BR KLASSIK 900190

This is another in the series of fine live recordings, made on this occasion in Munich in 2015. Bruckner’s Sixth is something of an exception within the composer’s opus being shorter and more compact than his usual approach. This may reflect his growing sense of security and recognition both as teacher and as composer. Though he did not live to hear the work performed complete he was very aware of its strengths and the admiration with which individual movements had been received.

 

Haydn: Complete Keyboard Concertos
Melodie Zhao, piano; David Nebel, violin, Camerata Schweiz, Howard Griffiths
CPO 555 400-2

Something of a mammoth undertaking but a very convincing compilation even if most of us would not want to sit down and listen to nine concerti in succession. However, taken in bite size chunks this is an entertaining and convincing demonstration that Haydn seems incapable of ever being dull.

 

Sibelius: Violin Concerto & Humoresques
Nors S Josephson: Celestial Voyage
Fenella Humphreys, violin, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, George Vass

It is difficult to make a case for another recording of the Sibelius Violin Concerto (unless possibly in its original version which I feel needs to be far better known) so I assume this is a good excuse to get Nors S Josephson’s Celestial Voyage on disc. The work was completed in 2019 and draws not only on his close understanding of Sibelius but his love of rock n’ roll and in particular Space Rock.

 

Stradella: Cantatas & Serenatas Vol1
Alessandro Stradella Consort, Estevan Velardi
DYNAMIC CDS 7893

These are premiere recordings of what promises to be an extensive series to cover the major works of Stradella, though one has to admit that very little is actually known about him. As an introduction these go a long way to introduce us to his individual style and emotional impact.

 

Shakespeare Re-shaped – Opera Up Close

The second of a pair of coffee concerts from Opera Up Close –at a time when live audiences are not permitted – this 30 minute programme explores the links between Shakespeare and opera. It also offers a few entertaining, sometimes moving thoughts about spring, new life and hope for the future.

We start with tenor Joseph Doody and soprano Claire Wild as Nannetta and Fenton duetting a Falstaff extract from their own homes with Kelvin Lim on piano also in his own home.

This is followed by Claire Wild, smilingly cross legged on her sofa bringing oodles of youthful excitement to Gounod’s take on Juliet – the change of key and mood for the middle section sensitively negotiated before an exuberant accelerando as Gounod brings her back to the original melody.

Another fine performance is actor Lara Steward perched on a window sill doing Juliet’s “Gallop apace” speech in British Sign Language. It is eloquent, passionate, sparkily bright-eyed and is quite a treat to see BSL silently allowed to speak for itself rather than being an added-on accompaniment to conventionally spoken dialogue.

Other high spots include Joseph Doody searching for Sylvia with Schubert and, back to Falstaff, the rich-voiced baritone Rodney Earl Clarke being outrageous by 21st century standards as Ford. “Only a fool wastes his time with a woman” and “How will I make her suffer?” he sings – his top notes finding all the clarity and resonance of a massive bell.

What an inspired idea, then to follow that with Isabella’s horrified commentary on male domination in Measure for Measure. Kat Rose-Martin’s warm, Northern voice gets the revulsion and disbelief perfectly and somehow makes it seem totally topical. I liked her monologue poem too in which, as an actor, she bewails the compliance of so many women in Shakespeare. “Stop the swooning and start to sway” she advises them. It’s wryly witty but the points it makes are deadly serious.

It makes sense to finish with an upbeat  trio (Finzi’s It was a Lover and his Lass) and even though the syncing is slightly off here so that the three singers are not always quite together, it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this thoughtful little concert.

Susan Elkin

Calming the Tempest – Opera Up Close

One of a series of online coffee concerts from Opera Up Close, this 30 minute offering celebrates the poetry in music and the music in poetry – and does so with verve and originality.

The high spot for me is actor Althea Stevens reciting Sylvia Plath’s poem The Bee Meeting. She is poised, impassioned and totally compelling as she articulates the words defiantly past her disability. It is a moving account of the poem by any standards as is her later rendering of an Emily Dickinson poem.

Two singers offset the spoken work. Tenor Joseph Doody sings two Guy Woolfenden Shakespeare settings written for a 1987 Royal Shakespeare Company production of The Tempest. Mezzo Flora McIntosh sings settings of three songs by Nicholas O’Neill (who also accompanies on piano), each of them a setting of an Emily Dickinson poem.

The latter is a world premiere introduced by Fiona Shaw who explains that the three songs were commissioned by the mother of three siblings whose birthdays fall in March, April and May – a song cycle for spring, then. We see Flora McIntosh seated elegantly in a sitting room – presumably her own – as she sings these three songs. Given the rich formality of her voice it seems slightly incongruous to see her in a domestic setting, as if she were about to offer you tea, but the songs are warm and tender.
This mini concert – very loosely predicated on The Tempest – begins with Rosabella Gregory’s atmospheric piece about the storminess of the witches in Macbeth with lots of arrestingly jagged rhythm. Also included is actor Jade Anouska reading her own poem The Brave Vessel, which is a response to The Tempest.
The curation of this short concert is interesting – lots of links but nothing contrived. It is yet another tribute to pandemic ingenuity.

https://www.operaupclose.com/at-home/coffee-break-concerts

Susan Elkin

Opera North Ring Cycle – on YouTube

Peter Mumford built up Opera North’s Ring Cycle over four years – one opera a year – and I was fortunate enough to review the live performances at the Birmingham Symphony Hall for Musical Opinion. However I never encountered the cycle complete in one week – until now.

Over the Easter holiday we watched the cycle on YouTube and in many ways it is even more impressive than hearing it live.

This is far more than just a semi-staging. The cast are dressed appropriately for their characters and are at the very front of the stage. The full orchestra under Richard Farnes is banked up behind them, and above them are three large screens onto which are projected ambient vistas to reflect the action – fire, water, storm clouds etc – and a running story line, rather than a set of surtitles, which encourage the audience to listen rather than try to follow word for word.

This was the experience in the concert hall. For me, the TV/film experience was even better. The screen was frequently split into six sections. The top, smaller, three covered the conductor in the centre and the orchestra either side. The lower three were for the singers of whom there are rarely more than three protagonists at a time. Where necessary the screen images were bled behind the singers to create added atmosphere, frequently extremely effective – the fire in the immolation scene gradually engulfs Brunnhilde before the Rhine washes over her and Valhalla burns. It is rarely as effective in the theatre.

Then we come to the singers. Wagner took most of his life completing the cycle and managed to write Tristan and Meistersinger between the second and third acts of Siegfried. As a consequence characters develop and where an opera house mounting the cycle will understandably prefer to keep one singer one part, the slow build-up over four years enabled ON to match voices to parts with much more subtlety. One simple example; Wotan changes considerably across the first three operas. Michael Druiett’s young, pushy Rheingold god is clearly headstrong and careless of longer term outcomes, whereas Robert Hayward’s Walkure god is far more troubled and introspective, making his act two scenes with Brunnhilde very moving. Béla Perencz is a gnarled, worldly-wise Wanderer in Siegfried and one who is all too ready to see the end as inevitable and actually welcome.

Of the smaller parts Jeni Bern is a charmingly agile Woodbird, Claudia Huckle a very youthful Erda and Mats Almgren as black a Hagen as one could ask for.

Yet it is the Siegfried and Brunnhilde that were really outstanding. We had met Kelly Cae Hogan as the Walkure Brunnhilde where she certainly made her mark but she really came into her own in Gotterdammerung, radiant in act one, fierce as hell in act two and simply overwhelming in the immolation scene. Alongside her Mati Turi is as totally convincing a Siegfried as one could wish for, with his changes in emotion keenly felt at all times and the voice as heroic as one might wish for. This is a Ring to be proud of – any chance of a DVD!

 

 

CDs April 2021 (1)

BYRD 1588: PSALMS, SONNETS & SONGS OF SADNESS & PIETIE
GRACE DAVIDSON, soprano, MARTHA McLORINAN, mezzo-soprano,
NICHOLAS TODD, tenor
ALAMIRE – FRETWORK – DAVID SKINNER
INVENTA RESONUS INV1006 78’20 (2 CDs)

This recording presents this 1588 publication from Byrd in its entirety over two discs. As such it is a fascinating insight into the variety of music collected together in one published volume. There is music for funerals and with other sacred themes as well as lighter secular songs expressing a range of emotions. Much care has gone into this production.

MUSIC FOR THE KING OF SCOTS 
INSIDE THE PLEASURE PALACE OF JAMES IV
THE BINCHOIS CONSORT
ANDREW KIRKMAN, conductor
HYPERION CDA68333 55’20

Judging from the subtitle to this CD I was expecting a lighthearted entertaining programme. This is a fine recording but it is not a lighthearted listen. The title refers to James IV’s residence, Lingithlow Palace, and the music is devotional, as may have been heard in the chapel there. On this occasion, as the chapel is now ruined, the decision was made to attempt to reconstruct the acoustic properties of the building. This process was part of a project funded by the Arts & Humantities Research Council, “Space, Place, Sound & Memory: Immersive experiences of the past”. By scans, 3D modelling and recording in an anechoic chamber this is as authentic as historic reconstruction gets. The main work is Missa Horrendo subdena rotarum machinamento (‘Catherine Wheel Mass’) Alongside this is a Magnificat from the Carver choirbook and three shorter pieces including the chant from which the mass takes its name. Fascinating.

A CLAUDE
BENEDETTO BOCCUZZI, piano
DIGRESSIONE MUSIC DCTT111 75’75

This CD weaves together music by Debussy, Crumb, Messiaen Takemitsu, and Diana Rotaru together with a short piece and arrangements of Debussy by the performer. There are clear links between many of the works and together they make for a very entertaining, original programme. There is much to discover here.

JOHANN WILHELM HERTEL – CELLO & ORGAN CONCERTOS
BETTINA MESSERSCHMIDT, cello
MERSEBURGER HOFMUSIK
MICHAEL SCHONHEIT, organ & director
CPO 555 203-2 63’35

Hertel was a prolific 18th century German composer and like other contemporaries of his was born into a family of composers. He was an accomplished performer on the violin and harpsichord. He became a court composer and wrote much sacred music as well as instrumental works such as those featured here. The CD comprises 2 Sinfonias, 2 Cello Sonatas and an Organ Sonata.

THE ORGAN TRADITION OF APULIA-NAPLES
FROM RENAISSANCE TO BAROQUE
MARGHERITA SCIDDURLO, organ
Chiesa di Saint’ Antonio, Santa Maria del Passo, Mola di Bari (1747)
TACTUS TC670004 52’37

Don’t be put off by the title! This recording may be a little ‘niche’ but it is exciting and well produced. Spanning the 16th to 18th centuries the music included here is often virtuosic and is brought to life brilliantly on this historic and appropriate instrument. Several pieces have not been previously recorded and I would suggest that, despite its age, to many listeners much of this music will be new.

SP

THE HOUSE OF LIFE – Opera Holland Park

Ahead of the 150th anniversary of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s birth in 2022, Opera Holland Park is releasing a performance of The House of Life. Leading British tenor David Butt Philip and the acclaimed pianist and accompanist James Baillieu were filmed for Opera Holland Park by Simon Wall at Leighton House Museum.

Contemporaneous with Vaughan Williams’s bracing Robert Louis Stevenson cycle, Songs of Travel, the song cycle The House of Life is an uninhibited and intimate celebration of mutual love. It draws together six of the most delicate, devoted and delirious sonnets by poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Love Sight, Silent Noon, Love’s Minstrels, Heart’s Haven, Death in Love and Love’s Last Gift.

James Clutton, Chief Executive and Director of Opera, says:
“David has graced the stage at Opera Holland Park many times, always with that dazzling voice and that golden talent. We had long been discussing ideas for possible recitals but when David suggested The House of Life, I wanted it to be the first in a new series of OHP recitals. It was a pleasure and a privilege to be there at the filming and hear the soaring music of Vaughan Williams, the alluring words of Rossetti and the partnership between David and James Baillieu, and to enjoy the experience of being transported away from 2021 to another time and place – a perfect place at that.”

The House of Life will be streamed via the company’s YouTube and Facebook channels at 7pm on Tuesday 13 April, with a suggested donation of £5. It will be available to watch on demand until 30 April.

Opera Holland Park would like to thank The Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust for making this project possible.

HASTINGS INTERNATIONAL PIANO ANNOUNCES UK GOVERNMENT CULTURAL RECOVERY FUND AWARD

It is good to be able to report this financial support from the Cultural Recovery Fund.
Ian Roberts, Managing Director of Hastings International Piano says “We are delighted that Hastings International Piano has been awarded a significant grant from the Government’s ‘Cultural Recovery Fund’ .

“We are determined to continue to produce our much-needed programme of learning and engagement and our world-class audience experiences in the town and I am grateful to my team, our trustees and our many friends and patrons who have continued to loyally support us during the pandemic. Hasting International Piano is also extremely grateful to Arts Council England, DCMS, Kowitz Family Foundation, MP Sally-Ann Hart and Hastings Borough Council for their ongoing support of our organisation”.

Hastings International Piano will present a new programme of concerts and educational events throughout 2021 and the next edition of the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition will take place in 2022. Hastings International Piano Festival will return in 2023.

For further information please visit https://www.hastingsinternationalpiano.org

 

London Mozart Players perform the world premiere of Polo Piatti’s multi-faith oratorio Libera Nos

Saturday 13 June 2020, 7pm

OPUS THEATRE, HASTINGS

 
  • The very first multi-faith oratorio to be premiered anywhere in the world 
  • Inspired by five major world religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism and Islam 
  • ‘Libera Nos’ is the final concert in the London Mozart Players 2019/20 residency in Hastings 
  • The work took over three years to be researched and completed 
  • Written for five soloists, a mixed choir, a children’s choir and a full symphony orchestra  
  • Performers include London Mozart Players, Hastings Sinfonia, Libera Nos Chorus & Hastings Music Centre Junior Choir.

After a sell-out concert at St Mary in the Castle in February, the London Mozart Players return to Opus Theatre for the final concert of their year-long residency in Hastings to perform the world premiere of Polo Piatti’s long-awaited Libera Nos at 7pm on Saturday 13th June.  

Community, education and outreach lies at the heart of the London Mozart Players’ #LMPbytheSea residency, and this performance is no different. Bringing together an array of local talent and musicians from this world-class orchestra, Libera Nos is an inclusive performance that celebrates the power of music to unite communities across the globe. Scored for five soloists, a mixed choir, a children’s choir and a full symphony orchestra, this is the very first multi-faith oratorio to be premiered anywhere in the world.  

At the helm, Derek Carden will conduct the London Mozart Players, who will be joined by 100 musicians and singers from local orchestra Hastings Sinfonia, Hastings Music Centre Junior Choir, a new specially-formed choir – the ‘Libera Nos Chorus’, and an all-star cast of talented local soloists that include: Sharon Gamble-Tyner, Linda Grace, Matthew Scott Clark and Stephen Holloway. In preparation for the performance, the choirs involved will be coached in a workshop with renowned conductor and choral animateur Dominic Ellis-Peckham. 

Libera Nos, meaning ‘’Deliver us” in Latin, aims to convey and unite the traditional beliefs and spiritual messages of all main world religions using music and narrations inspired by Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism and Islam.  Written by the award-winning local composer Polo Piatti, Libera Nos was originally commissioned by the Musica Sacra organisation and took over three years to be researched and completed. Polo talks about the story behind this monumental work:  

‘Its message is based upon the observation that the world has become a deeply divisive, unjust and unhappy place because we continue disconnecting from each other. Only by looking for common ground and universal similarities we will find understanding and enjoy a better life for all of us on this fragile planet.’