CDs September 2021-2

BIS-2385 63’03

Tango seems to be all around us at the moment and this disc is a treat for anyone who loves music with infectious rhythm, melodic interest and slightly exotic harmonies. For those with a particular interest in the music of Astor Piazzolla this is a wonderful collection showcasing three of his more substantial works. Opening with his own take on Vivaldi, Cuatro Estaciones Portenas (The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires) and ending with the popular Histoire du Tango this CD also includes Etudes Nos 3, 4 and 5 from Tango Etudes. These arrangements for violin make for excellent performances from Karen Gomyo and her fellow performers.


Containing a number of world premiere recordings this CD continues Grand Piano’s survey of this early 20th century writer for the piano. Palmgren’s work covers a range of styles and i some charming and interesting repertoire for the pianist. The music here ranges from a miniature, Tanssiaskeleita (Dance Steps), lasting just 20 seconds to the twenty minute suite, Sol och Skyar (Sun and Clouds). A student of Busoni, much of his music is descriptive, often drawing on local folk influences and crossing the boundaries of ‘classical’ and ‘light’ music. An interesting concluding work is his Intermezzo for the Left Hand.


Remaining with the piano but with a very different programme this CD presents 3 larger scale works by a composer also writing in the twentieth century but in a much more experimental style. Programmed chronologically the CD begins in the 1940s with the Piano Sonata which takes the traditional three movement structure but allows for much freedom of expression in terms of all the other elements of the music. The composer’s own arrangement of the ballet music from Le Loup (The Wolf) comes next, followed by Three Preludes, written at different times but satisfyingly grouped together here as they were when first published many after their composition. A very interesting disc of lesser known twentieth century piano repertoire expertly realised by Jean-Pierre Armengaud.

BR KLASSIK 900335 59’24

Anyone who knows the work of Arvo Part knows that he composes sublime music that plumbs the depths and scales the heights of emotion. Here is a wonderful programme of choral and orchestral music which together creates an intensely moving and spiritual experience. The title work completes the CD which begins with the sparse textures of the instrumental Fratres. Also included are Silouan’s Song, La Sindone, Summa and Fur Lennart in memoriam.

HYPERION CDA68373 78’28

The cello, to me, has a purity of sound that makes it ideal for unaccompanied solo performance and for a relaxing listening experience. Sometimes mournful, at other times more joyous, the programme here, given life with such commitment by the master of the instrument, Steven Isserlis. Britten’s Cello Suite No 3 is complemented by Frank Merrick’s Suite in the eighteenth century style together with some shorter items including works by Walton, John Gardner and Thomas Ades.

DECCA B0034074-82

The cover text invites the listener to “escape into another world”. This collection of wonderfully evocative performances from Voces 8 certainly provides an oasis of tranquil and sublime contemporary choral music. Described as a “space-inspired concept album” it includes music by established choral composers including Ola Gjeilo and many more often associated with other musical genres including film and electronic music. Some tracks are a capella, whilst others include additional sparse instrumentation. A beautiful album that really has the capability to transport the listener somewhere beyond. It contains many interesting and unusual pieces.

IDIL BIRET ARCHIVE (distributed NAXOS) 8.504058 (4CDs) 4”58’38

It is not often that a collection as large as this contains music that is all completely unknown to the reviewer. Here, over 4 CDs, is an archive release of recordings by the same pianist spanning over 60 years. All the music is by Turkish composers and together this collection presents a fascinating survey of music that has come about as a result of the meeting of the particular traditions of this region and the encounter with the so-called western classical tradition. As well as repertoire for solo piano there are pieces for for piano and other instruments including four concerti (Saygun, Isikozlu, Erkin and Pars). This is a set that will be a very useful reference for those wishing to explore new repertoire as well as providing plenty of interest to enjoy.

RUBICON RCD1071 52’54

This programme was put together as a response to the situation the world has found itself in with the pandemic and social distancing. The husband and wife team give some heartfelt performances of a variety of American art songs. There are some particularly interesting musical settings by composers including Aaron Copland, Stephen Foster, Charles Ives, Florence Price, William Grant Still and Kurt Weill as well as some less familiar names. There is a very positive focus here on what draws people together. Although the accompanying notes emphasise these values, as a non-American I still find the overt nationalism of the opening track difficult to listen to and wonder if it would have been better to leave this unsung! Proceeds will go to the Meacham’s Perfect Day Music Foundation which supports young musicians and encourages an appreciation of composers who have been ‘historically excluded’.


HASTINGS PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA White Rock Theatre Hastings 21st September 2021


At the beginning of the 6th season for the Hastings Philharmonic Orchestra it was lovely to be in the surroundings of the White Rock Theatre for this concert, under the direction of conductor Marcio da Silva. In the earliest years this building (then the White Rock Pavillion) was home to another local orchestra, the Hastings Municipal Orchestra. The Municipal’s first conductor, Julian Clifford died in 1921 and to mark the centenary the opening piece in this concert was Clifford’s own Meditation. It seemed very appropriate to hear this music in these surroundings played by the original orchestra’s descendant. Although a later genre this piece had something of the British Light Music feel. I do wonder if it would have been better for this piece to appear slightly later in the programme rather than being the opening item. Further items in the programme had connections with concerts conducted by Clifford in the Municipal Orchestra’s earliest years.

Two of Mendelssohn’s works followed, their pairing emphasising some melodic links between them and also Mendelssohn’s historic importance as a popular composer. First we heard A Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture, followed by the Violin Concerto in E minor. It was in this that I felt the orchestra truly came alive, aided in no small part by the passionate and, at times, virtuosic playing by soloist Emil Chakalov. It was obvious that his fine performance was much appreciated by the audience.

Prior to this I felt that the orchestra sounded a little distant, possibly the result of the large draped curtains at either side of the stage and the alterations made to the ceiling when the building was redesigned decades ago. The positioning of the soloist that bit nearer to the audience seemed to also enhance the whole ensemble sound. Thankfully this more immediate sound continued into the second half with the climax of the concert, Beethoven’s Symphony No 5 in C minor. This well loved piece had obviously been keenly anticipated by many in the audience and gave a suitably thrilling ending to a fine evening of music.

It is wonderful to be able to hear this youthful and professional orchestra without having to travel to a distant destination. It is good to see the local musical heritage being valued and celebrated as the tradition of music making develops further. In this larger venue it is to be hoped that audiences will continue to grow as the season unfolds.

Further information at

Stephen Page

Bromley and Beckenham International Music Festival Concert 4

Credit: Andrej GrilcThe last of the four concerts which formed this weekend-long festival was a beautiful piece of synergistic programming. First we got Schumann’s Piano Quartet op 47 written in 1844 when the composer was 34. Then came Piano Quintet op 34 by Brahms first aired in 1865 when its composer was 32. Of course the two men knew each other well. Schumann championed the young Brahms and, famously, Brahms’s fondness for Clara Schumann lasted for the rest of his life.

And yet, separated by only 21 years these two works are very different and the group of top flight musicians led by Benjamin Grosvenor at Bromley Parish Church made sure that we noticed every nuance.

The Schumann was played by Grosvenor with Hyeyoon Park (violin). Timothy Ridout (viola) and Bartholomew LaFollete (cello). So attuned to each other are they that it felt like eavesdropping on a conversation – there is something very personal about chamber music played well. I admired the warm intensity they brought to the opening movement, the precise delivery of the scampering semiquavers in the scherzo and the majesty of the fugue in the finale. The highlight though, as usual with this work, was the sublime lilting 3|4 melody of the andante which these four played with gentle passion.

A different line up for the Brahms meant that Grosvenor and Park were joined by Raja Halder (who directed this delightful festival) playing second violin and Laura van de Heijden on cello. It was a fine rendering of this rather sombre work with lots of F minor melancholy delivered with plenty of dramatic tension in the first movement. In his introduction Grosvenor mentioned that the andante is clearly influenced by Schubert and yes, this quintet leaned on the rueful Schubertian insouciance before settling into Brahmsian richness. There was some especially lovely cello work from van der Heijden. And so to the portentous and then frenzied scherrzo played with all the right energy and stamina before the soulful finale opening. It was the contrasts they handled so well – taking this movement through its dance melody section to the well articulated anger at the end.

One of the remarkable things about this feisty festival is that, although these players clearly know each other very well they don’t work together regularly as a quartet or quintet – and yet the results were stunning. Lucky Bromley and Beckenham. I’m looking forward to next year already.

Susan Elkin

Bromley and Beckenham International Music Festival: Concert 2 Bromley Parish Church

Bromley and Beckenham International Music Festival (BBIMF) was co-founded last year by pianist Benjamin Grosvenor, who comes from Bromley and violinist Raja Halder. This concert was the second in a series of four over the festival’s single weekend – and a thing of wonder it was too happening as it did at 4.30 on Saturday afternoon, an oasis of culture and calm a few yards from the busy high street with its shops and pubs.

It’s a treat to see Grosvenor, who famously won Young Musician of the Year aged 11 and is still only 26, on his home turf and doing the chamber music he is so committed to. I last saw him 11 days earlier playing Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto at the Proms.

We began with Britten’s Lachrymae op 48a which is based on Dowland’s song “If my complaints could passions move”. Premiered at Aldburgh in 1950 and scored for viola and piano, it was new to me as it was, I suspect, to most of the audience. It is actually a theme and variations but Britten reverses the usual order and doesn’t let us hear the plain theme until the end. At this performance a group of four musicians, almost out of sight near the high altar played the soulful, hymn-like Dowland so that we could hear it first. Then it was down to Timothy Ridout and Benjamin Grosvenor to make it sing in the fabulously resonant acoustic of Bromley Parish Church. The effects were surreal and otherworldly especially in the third variation with pizzicato pinging out over wide chords on the piano and I loved the end with Ridout sending the harmonics off into the lofty blue domed roof like stars dying away in the distance.

The second work was the much more familiar Schubert Trio in E flat major in which Grosvenor was joined by violinist Hyeyoon Park (his regular duet partner) and cellist Bartholomew LaFollette. It was supremely well played with warmth and drama in the interwoven melodies of the opening movement. I liked the elegance they brought to the andante as the tune is passed round before those entrancing octave leaps and there was lots of light and dark in the Scherzo. Then they played the Allegro Moderato with delicious charm especially in the witty rotating solo. There was absolutely no blurring of sound in this performance. You could hear every note of every part because speeds were judged to accommodate the loftiness of the space.

I was delighted to see several children at this concert and also noted with approval that the vicar, James Harratt is clearly pleased to have this remarkable festival in his church. He personally welcomed people in at the door, ticking our names off his list and spoke enthusiastically to the audience at the beginning. Too often, when there are concerts in churches, the priest-in-charge, vicar or rector is nowhere to be seen.

Susan Elkin

Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra announces a return to live concerts after a year of pandemic postponements.


Before lockdown the orchestra pulled off a major coup in appointing one of the world’s leading musicians, Joanna MacGregor CBE as their new Music Director. COVID delayed her first season, but one year on her exciting programme is being re-instated at Brighton Dome Concert Hall and other venues across the city.

COVID-19 has not thwarted Joanna from producing a wonderful programme for the BPO featuring the Mozart, Brahms, Elgar and Ravel but also including film, folk music and Argentinian tango. The orchestra can’t wait to get back on stage to fire up audiences once more.

The 2021/22 season is Joanna MacGregor’s first season with the BPO and alongside the usual Brighton Dome Concert Hall events Joanna has programmed a number of chamber music concerts featuring the orchestra’s star players at Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts and St Luke’s Church (Queens Park).


Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra streams four free concerts with Steven Isserlis, Michael Collins and Nardus Williams from Oxford’s historic Sheldonian theatre


23, 30 September and 7, 14 October 2021
Streamed on the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra’s YouTube channel

Steven Isserlis cello
Anthony Robb flute
Caroline Dale cello
Michael Collins clarinet
Charlotte Scott, Yuri Zhislin, Tereza Privratska, Katerina Nazarova, Shlomy Dobrinsky violins
Robert Murray tenor
Nardus Williams soprano

Marios Papadopoulos director
Marios Papadopoulos, Hannah Schneider, Douglas Boyd conductors
Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra

This autumn, the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra and Music Director Marios Papadopoulos will stream concerts from the historic Sheldonian Theatre, including an environmentally-themed concert, Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1 with Steven Isserlis, and two concerts exploring the works of Chevalier de Saint-Georgesand his contemporary, Mozart.

The concerts were recorded in front of a live audience in June 2021 as the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra made their long-awaited return to live performance. Free tickets for all concerts are available from the Orchestra’s website at, available to access for three months. All concerts are filmed by Apple and Biscuit Recordings.

Joanna MacGregor with Brighton Philharmonc Orchestra at Brighton Dome on 26th September 2021

Argentine Tango’s advance into European classical concerts reached its ultimate seal of British approval and media exposure this month. Astor Piazzolla’s most well-known composition Libertango was included in The Last Night of The Proms, complete with twice-appearing accordionist Ksenija Sodorova, from Latvia, front-stage.

Along with bandoneon – the Argentine accordion – piano, double bass and violin constitute core Piazzolla tango orchestration and the nostalgic Hispanic atmosphere began enthusing amateur recreational dancers across Britain before it did musicians. The jazz and improvisational element ruled out classical musicians becoming practitioners, unless of wider breeding or stylistic bent.

Two exceptions have emerged from London in the recent years of tango dance centres taking root in enlightened cities (Brighton included) – one the programmatically-pioneering British pianist Joanna MacGregor, the other and London-based Polish violinist Kamila Bydlowska.

Captivated by Argentine Tango, MacGregor became a pianist with Piazzolla’s authentic posthumously-revived orchestra. Bydlowska is today one quarter of London-based band Tango Terra Kuarteto, an otherwise male ensemble of Argentinians embedded in the London tango tuition and dance culture. Two women who thus prepare classical concertos for performance one day, and another day leap eagerly as well as comfortably into the tango groove.

MacGregor gave her own arrangement of Three Piazzolla Tangos (Michelangelo 70, Milanga del Angel, Libertango) with five Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra string players in a Brighton Dome livestreamed Sunday Coffee Concert of chamber music in April. Now on Sunday, September 26 (2.45pm) her arrangement will separate Mozart’s 9th and 21st Piano Concertos in the opening orchestral concert of BPO’s 2021-22 season.

Two days earlier, Bydlowska is also in Brighton action, at the Music & Wine at St Luke’s series on Friday 24th September (7.30). She will be playing Piazzolla’s Tango for the 1988 film Sur called Vuelvo Al sur’ (‘I’m going back to the South’). This comes in her concert with the Ukrainian pianist Olga Paliy, alongside Igor Frolov’s virtuoso Concert Fantasy on Themes from Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess. Yet included on the same programme are Brahms’ FAE Sonata Scherzo, Saint-Saens’ substantial Violin Sonata No 1 in D minor, and some Prokofiev. We are in freshened new times.

We find two women in classical music taking the tango game to the guys. But doesn’t the woman do that in the tango dance itself? Is there any matching historic classic dance where traditionally the woman does as much controlling as the man?

Unsurprisingly, it’s women who are driving tango in city venues in our and provincial pockets of growth. Tango Terra Kuarteto are in hotspot demand not only in the capital (including The South Bank Centre), Brighton, Bristol and Portsmouth, but also enclaves such as Dorchester and Hertford.

But why is Tango now rubbing shoulders with classical like this? Is it because audiences rather like watching musicians in black and white concert dress undoing buttons, shedding their straitjacket, flexing their improvisatory muscles, creating a more relaxed spontaneity – and stirring up a more palpable passion?

Richard Amey

Kamila Bydlowska is an associate artiste of The International Interview Concerts



Despite being first performed in 1665 the music in this recording feels fresh and vital. Written at the request of Louis XIV in honour of his sister-in-law, Henrietta of England, the sounds conjure up something of the sumptuousness we have come to associate with the royal court. Voices form an important part of some sections of the ballet and some additional excerpts from four other works of Lully are included at the end of the disc.

OEHMS 0C492 48’21

This is a lovely collection of mostly contemporary works for violin and piano. The set of Four Nocturnes with Masks by Louis Franz Aguirre, themselves dedicated to other contemporary composers are particularly effective miniatures. Similarly Giacomo Platini’s Four Souvenirs for violing and piano show that much can be communicated in within a small space. Alongside these and other contemporary works are Biber’s Rosary Sonata IX – The Carrying of the Cross. The mostly reflective nature of all of this music is contrasted with the lovely violin and piano rendition of Saint-Saens’ Danse Macabre.


A feast of new music blending diverse sources and traditions in vibrant performances make for a very exciting compilation. Themes of inclusion and diversity are to the fore. A wide variety of timbres feature throughout, with electric violin in the title track, voice and electronics in Pamela Z’s The Unravelling. Theofanidis & Wingate’s What is the Word? begins with spoken word. The closing track, We will sing one song, by Eve Beglarian features a range of traditional percussion and viola. Much to explore and enjoy.

NAXOS 8.574306 64’56

The music of Joseph Boulogne, often known as the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, is being rediscovered and rightly appreciated much more. An early pioneer of the symphonie concertante style this substantial music can certainly hold its own alongside compositions of his often better remembered contemporaries. Fresh performances of the 4 Symphonies Concertantes making up Op 9 & 10 are joined by Symphony in G major, Op 11.

COVIELLO COV92111 62’41

A poignant but important release commemorates the 20th anniversary of this appalling event which continues to leave its mark. Adam Swayne is obviously fully immersed in this well thought out programme of American piano music which includes newly written works alongside the still contemporary sounding music of Henry Cowell. Two movements of Karen Walwyn’s Reflections on 9/11 and David Del Tredici’s Missing Towers bookend the CD with Kevin Malone’s Sudden Memorials at the centre. This work references many different musical styles and traditions. Another style is also included in the form of Scott Joplin’s Solace. This is unusual for Joplin in that it is a more reflective piece than most of his output. Here a beautifully understated performance really adds something to this collection. A very impressive commemoration with much of interest.

NAXOS 8.555190 72’26

Included here alongside his three best known pieces, Elizabethan Serenade, The Watermill and Sailing By is a wealth of Ronald Binge’s lesser known miniatures. Many of these are rather charming and worthy of a wider audience. A surprise to me was the inclusion of the Alto Saxophone Concerto, showing a different aspect of the composer’s output.

FRANK DUPREE, piano, conductor

I find the piano music of Kapustin to be an exciting blend of jazz and classical influences. Here we have a disc of three medium scale chamber and orchestral works. Opening the CD is the title work. This is followed by the Concerto for violin, piano and string orchestra. The Op 57 Chamber Symphony concludes the recording. Spirited performances by all including pianist Frank Dupree bring this music to life in a thoroughly entertaining programme.

ONDINE ODE 1390-2 68’01

There are also jazz influences here, including moments of vibraphone, in this welcome release showcasing the work of contemporary French composer Eric Tanguy. The oldest of these pieces is the Violin Concerto No 2, in a revised edition produced in 2004. The Clarinet Concerto and Matka have both been written in the last decade. These fine performances bring the music to life and made this listener want to hear more of Tanguy’s music.

ONDINE ODE 1355-2 68’41

This music moves between the expansive and the introspective, with a wonderful fusion of large orchestral textures and solo lines together with the occasional unexpected (temple block?) timbre. I am very drawn to the composer’s soundworld brought to life here in these committed performances. Opening with the newest and longest work, the Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra (2018) the programme ends with Lauda for Symphony Orchestra dating from 1985. Also included is Message (Vestijums) for two pianos, strings and percussion.


Prom 7th September Halle Orchestra Sir Mark Elder

In many ways this was the concert I’ve been yearning for. For eighteen long months I have hankered wistfully to be in a concert hall, packed to capacity with a large orchestra including double brass, sax, contrabassoon, tuba and lots of percussion. This one ticked all those boxes with two handed piano and the massive Royal Albert Hall organ thrown in for good measure.

It was very neatly linked programming too with Unsuk Chin’s homage to Beethoven subito con forza leading to Beethoven’s fourth piano concerto which used the Saint-Saens cadenzas as a pathway to the latter’s third symphony. Joined-up thinking was the order of the day.

Chin’s piece, commissioned for last year’s Beethoven celebrations but, perforce, not heard in the UK until now, is full of Beethovenian chords, cadences, rhythms and snatches of melody offered and then snatched away by a battery of percussion. It’s good fun, very ingenious and Elder ensured that we heard and enjoyed every strand.

It’s always a treat to hear Benjamin Grosvenor play Beethoven and an especial pleasure to hear the beautiful fourth which doesn’t get quite as many outings as the third and fifth. I liked the emphasis on the filigree texture in the first movement and the Elder’s cheerful focus on every orchestral interjection. Sir Mark smiles a lot from which I infer that he really is having as good a time as the audience is. In what was, a warm, friendly but unshowy performance there was gentle passion in the melodious adante with a moving segue into the last movement.

The Saint-Saens cadenzas were interesting but far too heavy and “Romantic” for what is, in essence a classical concerto, notwithstanding its unusual opening. I’m glad I heard them, and understand exactly why they fitted this context, but I certainly wouldn’t want them as my go-to version of this concerto,

And so to Saint-Saens in all his glory. The performance of the 1886 third symphony Organ was magnificent from its quavery first movement (I can’t be the first person to detect a nod to Schubert 8 in there?) to the marvel of Anna Lapwood, making her Proms debut seated at the organ a very long way from Elder at the front of the distanced Halle orchestra – whose pizzicato work, by the way, is exceptionally effective. Lapwood brought tender lyricism to the lovely melody in the poco adagio and then all the dramatic grandiloquence that the last movement requires. “Excitement” is an overused word but it really was extraordinarily exciting – almost awe-inspiring – to hear the Royal Albert Hall resonating to that huge sound as the final chords blasted over the timpani. If I were several decades younger I might say “wow!” and capitalise it.

Susan Elkin

Barefoot Opera Almeida Outside Orfeo ed Euridice/Zanetto 5th September (and touring)

This neat double bill sets a pared down version of Gluck’s 1762 three act opera alongside Mascagni’s 40 minute Zanetto (1896) and it makes a pleasingly accessible evening of opera, running less than two hours in total. Surtitles clarify the storytelling so that we can enjoy the musicality of the original Italian.

It’s an almost all female project too with an on stage band comprising Lesley-Anne Sammons directing the music from keyboard with Lucy Mulgan on guitar and double bass. The cast – three for Gluck and two for Mascagni – is all women too.

And that brings me to the glorious alto performance from Emma Roberts as Orfeo and then – a very different role – as the travelling musician, Zanetto. Roberts can really act convincingly which is vital in this bijoux performance in an intimately small space. And she is adept at carving out resonant low notes and making them speak poignantly. It isn’t easy to deliver a pot boiler like Che faro senza Euridice and carry it off as if it’s fresh because nearly everyone in the room has vivid sound memories of Kathleen Ferrier and Janet Baker. Roberts, however, does a fine job, packed with anguish as she mourns over the body of the now finally lost Euridice (Lizzie Holmes) and I was moved by her poignant ornamentation on the final repeat. In Orfeo ed Euridice, at the performance I saw, Katie Blackwell, standing in at short notice gave us a silver-voiced, cheeky, smiling Amore.

Lizzie Holmes comes into her own as Silvia in Zanetto. It is, of course, a very different musical world from Gluck and she gives us a lonely but very worldly “hostess” who finds herself drawn to the young musician who asks her for help. She is troubled by her own mixed feelings and her soprano singing usually supports that strongly. There’s some sensitive duet work with the Roberts as the insouciant Zanetto too.

Several things strike me about this enjoyable project. First, it’s a good showcase for the versatility of young singers because the roles they play in the two works are quite different. Second, I’m all in favour of chamber opera companies working in small spaces on low budgets because it makes opera available and affordable for people who simply can’t afford Royal Opera House, ENO or Glyndebourne. Third the two musicians wear white rather than black which makes a cheerfully fresh statement. Why should such talented people try to efface themselves in black?

Susan Elkin