The inaugural BBC Proms Japan


The inaugural BBC Proms Japan announced

30 October – 4 November

BBC SSO and Thomas Dausgaard at 2017 BBC Proms credit Chris Christodoul.._

·         The first ever BBC Proms Japan with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and its Chief Conductor, Thomas Dausgaard

·         BBC Proms Japan marks the first time that the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra has toured Japan

·         Venues include Bunkamura Orchard Hall (Tokyo) and The Symphony Hall (Osaka)

The BBC Proms today announces that it will travel to Japan in 2019, as BBC Proms International continues to evolve following successful tours of Australia in 2016 and Dubai in 2017.

The BBC Orchestras and Choirs are the backbone of the BBC Proms each year and, as part of this remit, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra will take the spirit of the festival to audiences in Japan, marking the orchestra’s first ever trip to the region. Taking place from 30 October to 4 November in Tokyo and Osaka, the six-day festival will see Chief Conductor Thomas Dausgaard lead the BBC SSO in daily concerts covering a wide range of repertoire.

The festival will give local audiences the opportunity to experience the world-famous BBC Proms for themselves, with a rich programme including core classical repertoire, British music and new music, all accompanied by a full and varied schedule of learning activity in the region. It will feature many recognisable features of the BBC Proms, including the iconic First and Last Nights, featuring well-loved musical favourites and traditions. Full details of the programme will be announced in early 2019.

English National Opera launches free tickets for Under 18’s 

English National Opera (ENO) today (Tuesday 18 December) announces that anyone aged under 18 will get free tickets to ENO productions on Saturdays. The tickets will be for seats in the Balcony and be available for any or all of the 11 Saturday performances in the Spring 2019 season in the London Coliseum.

This scheme dramatically expands ENO’s audience engagement strategy and forms part of the company’s central mission to ensure the art form is accessible to everyone.

Children under the age of 16 will need to be accompanied by an adult. However, as part of the initiative, adults who pay full price for a balcony ticket can bring up to four children under 16 free of charge. Teachers bringing school groups can accompany up to 10 children under 16 and free of charge. Children aged 16 and 17 can be unaccompanied, and can book one ticket to each performance free of charge.

The applicable performances are: Akhnaten (23 Feb, 2 Mar); La bohème (2, 9 & 16 Feb); The Merry Widow (9 Mar, 13 Apr); The Magic Flute (16 & 23 Mar, 6 Apr)and Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel (30 Mar).

Bookings for free tickets can be made via the ENO Box Office phone line 020 7845 9218.

The balcony is widely regarded as having acoustically the best seats in the house. Additionally, the London Coliseum is unique in that all seats have unrestricted views of the stage.

ENO CEO Stuart Murphy said: “We were founded on the belief that opera is for everyone. We strive to continually stage opera of world class quality and bring it to as many people as possible. Removing cost as a barrier to entry for Under 18’s is a seismic leap forward for ENO and for opera as a whole, and we hope to entice as many Under 18’s as possible, from the musically obsessed, to the just plain curious. ENO is founded on passion and we want young audiences to feel alternately passionate, excited and transfixed. We can’t wait to welcome them to the London Coliseum.”

Hastings Philharmonic: Christmas Concert

St Mary-in-the-Castle, Hastings, Saturday 15 December 2018

St Mary’s full to the gunnels; Hastings Philharmonic on top form; Marcio’s O Holy Night – it has to be Christmas! But the heart of the evening was subtly different this year with a lot of unaccompanied singing of a more reflective nature after the breezy account of Malcom Archer’s arrangement of Angels from the Realms of Glory. The gently lyrical El Desembre Congelat was followed by John Rutter’s moving arrangement of the spiritual Rise up, shepherd, and follow. Marcio da Silva drew on the strengths of solo voices in the choir not only in the spiritual but also for the opening of In the bleak mid-winter and the voices of the kings in We three kings.

Ding Dong Merrily on High allowed the harmony to crystalize before a fine a cappella version of Mary had a baby. We have become accustomed now to Marcio’s loving rendition of O Holy Night but it still makes an indelible impression and led effortlessly into the section with Guestling-Bradshaw Children’s Choir. They joined all of us for Once in Royal David’s City adding a well-focused treble solo before two favourites of theirs – This Little Light of Mine and The Twelve Days of Christmas.  Children from the large audience made their way to the front to join in Away in a Manger before our final carol – O Come all ye Faithful. At key points throughout the evening we all joined in communal carols and it was a pleasure to welcome back Inspiritus Brass with their own approach to carols and Christmas songs. To ensure we didn’t drop off we were encouraged to do all the actions in Snow Waltz – and quite right to.

Before the concert proper started we heard three young violinists (one of them very, very young!) and at the end Marcio spoke about the establishment of a Violin school and scholarships for Young Singers to work with Hastings Philharmonic. With the continuing dearth of school music, community involvement is ever more important and any interested singers can find further details at

New Year’s Eve Viennese Gala – Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra

Brighton Dome, Mon 31 December, 2.45pm

Richard Balcombe makes a welcome return to Brighton as guest conductor for the Brighton Phil’s annual Viennese Gala, joined by the Russian-born soprano Ilona Domnich whose lyric coloratura will add sparkle to our afternoon with a selection of delightful songs and arias from well-known operettas and musicals from the 19th century and beyond. This is always one of our most popular concerts of the season and, now in its 29th year, is firmly established as part of the city’s festivities. We nearly sold out last year so if you would like to join us to see out the old year and welcome in the new, book your tickets now to avoid disappointment!

Originally destined to be a pianist, Ilona was plucked from a masterclass by legendary singing teacher Vera Rósza, and won the prestigious Wingate Scholarship to study at the Royal College of Music. She was chosen by Opera Now Magazine as one of their top ten high flying sopranos destined to have impressive careers, in which a personal highlight has been a masterclass with Montserrat Caballé. Ilona is also an actress and has developed and performed a one woman show based on songs sung by Marlene Dietrich, Jacques Brel and Edith Piaf.

As you would expect this concert will be a programme full of musical gems from the waltz kings of Vienna – the Strauss family – with an array of waltzes, marches and polkas from this talented musical dynasty who dominated the music scene in Vienna throughout the 19th century. Alongside these evergreen favourites Richard Balcombe has also included songs by Ivor Novello and Oscar Straus (no relation), Charmaine (made famous by Mantovani) and the Westminster Waltz by Robert Farnon. The full concert programme is available at:  

We are most grateful to the John Carewe Brighton Orchestra Trust for their continued support of the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra and of our annual New Year’s Eve Viennese Gala.


Tickets £12.50-£39.50 (50% student/under18 discount, children just £1) are available from Brighton Dome Ticket Office, 01273 709709,

Discounted parking for concert-goers is available in the NCP Church Street Car Park – just £6 between 1pm and 6pm. Simply collect a follow-on ticket at the concert.






English National Ballet: The Nutcracker

London Coliseum, 13 December 2018

An Elkin Christmas is not complete without a good Nutcracker and a decent Messiah (latter next week although I’m not reviewing it). There are several Nutcrackers in town at the moment but this rather sumptuous offering from English National Ballet, first staged in 2010, more than ticks my boxes with its puppet theatre, hot air balloon and red-eyed mice.

I have long thought that Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker score is one of the most evocative ever written not least because of its sublimely colourful orchestration. Gavin Sutherland and English National Ballet Philharmonic make a pretty good job of delivering it, helped by the Coliseum’s generous acoustic. You can hear all the detail played from different corners of the pit from the pianissimo filigree string work in Waltz of the Flowers to the bass clarinet in The Dance of the Sugar Plum fairy. Every note is allowed to tell its own story.

This is a pretty conventional Nutcracker in that the framing device is firmly in place. We begin and end in Clara’s bedroom. Children (Tring Park School for Performing Arts) play the young Clara and Freddie. Others from Tring Park, who also form a choir, and young dancers from English National Ballet School appear in some of the ensemble scenes.

Rina Kanehara as the “adult” Clara looks very childlike but dances with mature assurance. Partnered by Fernando Carratala Coloma as the Nutcracker Prince, she is a compelling performer. Both dancers make leaps and lifts look effortless. Kanehara gets a spontaneous round of applause for her sustained pirouettes and her Sugar Plum lives up to its name. Coloma is immaculately lithe spending more time airborne than on the ground in his two Act 2 solo spots. I really admired their pas de deux too – charismatically danced against Tchaikovsky’s heavy brass alternating with piccolo.

There’s some lovely work from the corps de ballet in this production too with an especially attractive pink-tinged Waltz of the Flowers. Wayne Eagling’s choreography is particularly fresh and interesting here with lots of sweeping shapes and formations.

Amongst the set pieces presented by Drosselmeyer (Fabian Reimar – good) the exciting Spanish Dance stands out. And the Arabian Dance is as silkily seductive – leaning into the minor harmony – as I’ve ever heard it. Most of these dances were taken at sedate tempo which enhances the music but requires and gets even more control from the dancers than usual.

I’m struck too by the way the industry has progressed to enlightenment in recent years. No longer, it seems, is absolute uniformity of height and build imposed on female ballet dancers. Some of these women are taller than the men they’re dancing with and of course it matters not one iota. I smiled happily through every bar and step.

Susan Elkin


CDs/DVDs December 2018

Pierre Gaveaux: Leonore
Opera Lafayette, Ryan Brown
NAXOS 2.110591

While we can assume all readers will know Fidelio I doubt if many will know the earlier version by Pierre Gaveaux. What is immediately obvious is how quickly he deals with the emotional states of the characters, concentrating on the narrative rather than their inner life. Consequently the whole thing lasts less than ninety minutes and those glorious moments of introspection and emotional awareness with which Beethoven imbues his setting are here almost entirely missing. If that might imply this is not worth investigating then far from it as not only is it a perfectly workable opera in its own right (with some fine singing throughout) but also reminds us of how a genius can raise a basic story to a totally different level.

Verdi: I Lombardi
Orchestra and chorus Teatro Regio Torino, Michele Mariotti

Less familiar than most of Verdi’s operas, this is a welcome addition and in a straightforward medieval production by Stefano Mazzonis di Pralafera. Angela Meade leads as Giselda with Giuseppe Gipali as Arvino and Alex Esposito as Pagano.

Mstislav Rostropovich: a film by Bruno Monsaingeon
NAXOS 2.110583

This film gives us an intimate portrait of the great cellist, with a wide range of contributors as well as additional tracks with previously unreleased performances of Tchaikovsky, Beethoven and Bach. For those who may only know him as a performer, his lifelong involvement in politics and society as a whole may be something of an eye-opener.

(Speak to me)  new music, new politics
Adam Swayne, piano

With most cds the liner notes may occasionally be useful but too often they are little more than a list. Not so here. The works recorded can be played and certainly enjoyed by themselves but make far more sense when heard once one is aware of the context. Adam Swayne draws us in through Gershwin’s Preludes for Piano 1926, which are delightful and deceptively easy on the ear. We then move on to Frederic Rzewski’s Four North American Ballads. Here the underpinning folk tunes emerge just enough to feel we are keeping one foot on the ground before we are launched into Amy Beth Kirsten’s (speak to me) and Kevin Malone’s The People Protesting Drum Out Bigly Covfefe. If by this point we are beginning to feel a little overwhelmed Adam Swayne returns to Morton Gould’s indulgent Boogie Woogie Etude to bring things to a joyous conclusion. These days we are frequently encouraged to ‘go on a journey’ but in this case it certainly makes sense to do so, and enjoy the trip. The acoustic is also interesting as it really does sound like a large, if empty, concert hall.

George Antheil: Symphonies No 3 & 6
BBC Philharmonic, John Storgards

If you don’t know George Antheil this might come as something of a surprise. While modernism was in full flood, here was a composer who deliberately retains a close hold on tonality though never in a way which feels derivative or patronising. He has very individual voice, strongly within the American tradition but one which is immediately appealing. If in doubt, listen to Archipelago, written in 1935 with strong Latin-American rhythms and a real sense of joy.

Dvorak and Suk
Eldbjorg Hemsing, violin, Antwerp Symphony Orchestra, Alan Buribayev
BIS 2246

While the Dvorak violin concerto is well played it has a great deal of competition. Thankfully what makes the recording more interesting is the inclusion of Josef Suk’s Fantasy in G minor for violin and orchestra and an arrangement of his Liebeslied Op7No1. Less familiar they may be but they come up fresh and appealing here.

Divertimento Italian: Music for Harmonium and piano in nineteenth-century drawing rooms
Andrea Toschi, harmonium; Carlo Mazzoli, piano    
TACTUS TC 850004

Harmoniums are in such scarce supply these days and so rarely heard that the combination here sounds strange at first. There are many moments when the harmonium could be mistaken for a large accordion – for which many of the works here recorded could easily be arranged. Thankfully, the music itself is delightful and engaging, very much what would have been performed by amateurs on a quiet evening. Perhaps it might encourage some of that larger houses or chapels who have a lurking harmonium to dust it off and give it try with something other than gospel songs?

Thomas Tallis
Gentlemen of HM Chapel Royad, Hampton Court Palace, Carl Hackson

In time for Christmas, this is a pleasing disc of less familiar Tallis. The settings are all for lower voices and include the Missa Puer natus est nobis and the Mass for Four Voices. Recorded live in the Chapel at Hampton Court, the opening Suscipe quaeso Domine is particularly impressive.

Weiss in Nostalgia
Alex McCartney, Baroque lute

Sylvius Leopold Weiss was born is Silesia (now part of Poland) in 1686. As a professional musician he moved to Germany and ended his days in the court in Dresden. His work may be very familiar to professional lutanists but not so to a wider public. All the more welcome then this fine recording by Alex McCartney in a series which continues to impress.

Images of Brazil
Francesca Anderegg, violin; Erika Ribeiro, piano

I am not sure what I was expecting here but it was not quite what I expected. While covering a wide range of twentieth century composers and an equally wide range of styles it struck me that there was not really enough variety to engage the sympathetic listener quickly enough to retain the attention. Probably an enthusiast would find more in it than I regret I did.

Mandolino e Fortepiano
Anna Torge, mandolin, Gerald Hambitzer, fortepiano
CPO 555 112-2

Works by Jophann Nepomuk Hummel, Gabriele Leone, Porto Feliziano and Beethoven make up an eclectic but none the less enjoyable release. Using a mandolin of 1770 from Naples and a 1793 fortepiano from Munich, the sound is unique and intimate throughout. The Leone and Feliziano works are of particular interest as they sits quite comfortably alongside those of more familiar composers.

Sullivan: The Light of the World
BBC Concert Orchestra, BBCSO Chorus, John Andrews

I really wanted to enjoy this; I wanted to be able to say that the reputation Sullivan has for not writing anything worthwhile outside of the Savoy Operas was all wrong and here was the evidence. Unfortunately the reverse is true. No matter how good the singing and the strength of John Andrews conducting, there is nothing here that comes anywhere near the lighter works. The scoring sits uncomfortably between Mendelssohn and Stainer, and has neither the joy of the first nor the genuine emotional truth of the latter. Natalya Romaniw and Kitty Whately do what they can with their solos, but the chorus is often hamstrung by poor word setting and a lack of impact.

J S Bach:
Federico Colli, piano

The recording opens with the Partita BWV828 and moves through the familiar Concerto in the Italian style BWV971 to Busoni’s fine arrangement for piano of the Chaconne from BWV 1004. The notes include a lengthy essay by the performer analysing the transcendent relationship of the works to each other as a complete programme. This may not mean a lot to the listener, but could add to their understanding of what is in itself a fine set of performances.

Arvo Part and J S Bach
Jorgen van Rijen, trombone; Camerata RCO
BIS 2316

One would not normally put Bach and Arvo Part together, still less associate both with the trombone, but here Jorgen van Rijen makes a strong case for the combination. Part’s Fratres opens the recording and is surprisingly mellifluous, and this is followed by an arrangement of the concerto BWV 974 for trombone and strings. This pattern continues for the rest of an engaging if certainly unusual recording.

LSO: Candide

Barbican Hall, Sunday 9 December 2018

In this anniversary year for Leonard Bernstein I was really waiting for Candide. Often dismissed in its early years as almost impossibly rambling it is now recognised as one of his most important works and last night was given the most consummate staging I can recall.

At the helm was Marin Alsop, and we were tactfully reminded, through the overhead screens at the end, that she had worked with Bernstein. If she does not take the work quite as rapidly as he did she nevertheless brings a zip and enthusiasm which carries the narrative forward without any loss of musical finesse.

Tiny moments – the pique of the piccolo in the overture, the romantic string melodies and bite of the chorus – all added up to an evening that did not drop for a second. Added to this, a cast which could surely not be bettered. Jane Archibald’s Cunegonde had the cynicism of the rich coupled with a magnificent coloratura enabling her to throw off Glitter and be gay as if it were a walk in the park. Leonardo Capalbo’s Candide moved from a lighter, almost naïve, tone at the start to a weighty helden-tenor in the final scenes.

Thomas Allen’s Pangloss combined humour with a gently firm characterisation but possibly the surprise of the evening was Anne Sofie von Otter’s remarkably mobile Old Lady – both physically and vocally. Of the impressive line-up of singers for the numerous smaller parts tenor Thomas Atkins was notable for his virile and very pleasing tone, as well as his warm characterisation.

The LSO played with wonderful energy for Marin Alsop, and the LSO chorus provided us with a weight of sound unheard in the theatre. I can’t recall Bernstein’s chorus items as well sung before, and their involvement in the evening – storm movements, Hawaiian shirts and numerous sound effects – added hugely to the overall impact. Garnett Bruce’s semi-staging was just that, intelligent movement for the soloists, a minimal setting which stood in for ship, coach, stately home, and a close relationship between orchestra, chorus and singers.

I would hope to encounter Candide again with forces as good as this, but I don’t expect to hear better.

Bexhill Choral Society

St Augustine’s Church, Bexhill, 8 December 2018

Bexhill Choral’s annual Carols and Music for Christmas may follow a well-worn path but it is the insertion of unexpected items which add to the pleasure of the event each year. On this occasion it was the opening items – an exhilarating Torches! Torches! followed by the mellow glow of Berlioz’ Shepherd’s Farewell which set the tone. Throughout, the crisp rhythms of the choir and the clear diction added to the sense of immediacy.

If Gounod’s Nazareth is almost too sentimental for a 21st century audience, Bob Chilcott’s arrangements are always apt and Kenneth Roberts’ own adaptations – in particular the Gloucestershire Wassail and the concluding popular numbers – move the whole evening into a lighter and more personal vein.

The choir were joined on this occasion by Peter Grevatt who sang with them for the Gounod and two carol arrangements, but was in his element with Bach’s Grosser Herr from the Christmas Oratorio. Here he was supported by solo trumpeter, Andy Gill, and organist Nigel Howard. Performing from the balcony, in the vibrant acoustic, it was spine-tinglingly exciting.

We were as usual invited to join in the choral carols, which included the Yorkshire version of While Shepherds to the tune of Ilkley Moor, and a rousing finale with O come all ye faithful.

Accompaniment throughout was provided by Nigel Howard on piano and organ – commuting between the two as needed – and the Cinque Ports Brass who flowered beautifully in the final movement of  Schutz’ Christmas Story. As is now traditional, Kenneth Roberts played clarinet and saxophone for the final songs, and had joined the brass from the piano for the jazz classic Christmas night in Harlem.

All involved were on fine form throughout and we can look forward to the spring concert which will bring us works by John Rutter and Kenneth Roberts on 11 May 2019.

Tenors UnLimited

Opus Theatre, 7 December 2018

Opus Theatre was packed for the return of Tenors UnLimited even if they were almost upstaged by the wonderful enthusiasm of Guestling-Bradshaw school choir. The evening was however focussed on a higher cause and before a note was heard we had a brief but powerful introduction to the work of World Water Works and their campaign to provide Water Survival Boxes for immediate emergency use.

After two Italian songs we heard one of the Tenors recent hits – Viva la vita – the energy from which launched easily into the Brindisi from La Traviata, and so, sequentially, to Unchained Melody and Volare. If some of this, particularly given the over-amplification within the fine acoustic of Opus Theatre, was rather too much in-your-face, the gentler opening of Who is he? proved to be much more effective. The young singers then joined the stage for This Little Light of Mine­ and a joint rendition of O Holy Night.

The second half allowed the tenors to demonstrate the individuality of their talents, most noticeably in the three pieces from Les Miserables.  Paul opened with Javert’s Out in the darkness – showing that he only just sneaks in as a tenor given that his voice is essentially high baritone – Jem impressed with Empty tables, and Scott rounded the section off with Bring him home. All finely done without any unnecessary emotionalism.

The choir joined them again and, in singing the opening of Once in Royal David’s city both unaccompanied and unamplified, Poppy showed once again just how fine the acoustic is here, if a young voice can carry so easily and with such finesse. After a couple of carols, the choir came to their piece de resistanceThe Twelve Days of Christmas – complete with movement and bling!

A brief run through Jingle Bells and we were in to the final numbers with a moving interpretation of You Raise Me Up. Everyone went away happy – and what more can you ask of a Christmas show.

Full details of the Water Survival Boxes can be found at