Concert Concat 2

This post is one in a sequence which lists live music I have heard, as best my memory allows, from the Pandemic onwards. I will update this as time permits. In some cases, I am also motivated to write about what I heard.

Other posts in this collection can be found here.

  • Ariel Lanyi – piano recital at the Wigmore Hall, London, 27 December 2023. The program was:
    • Beethoven: Sonata #2 in A, Op 2 No 2 (1794-5)
    • Franck: Prelude, Aria et Final (1887)
    • R. Schumann: Etudes Symphoniques Op 13 (with posthumous etudes) (1834-7)

    A very refined performance to a house about 3/4 full. Many people seemed to know each other. I was not able to stay for the Schumann.

  • Bach at 300: Two Cantatas and the Magnificat in E flat BWV243a with Christmas Interpolations, by Solomon’s Knot, at Wigmore Hall, London, 7 December 2023. The cantatas were: O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, BWV60 and Wachet! betet! betet! wachet!, BWV70. All three works date from 1723. In the first cantata, one of the trumpets had a cylindrical bell arising like a helix at right angles to the main line of the instrument. In the second cantata, the trumpet played was a slide trumpet, in which the body of the trumpet was slid along a very long mouthpiece (perhaps 2 foot long). The performances were superb, and the Magnificat masterful and rousing.

    The concert is available on BBC Radio 3 for another few weeks.

  • Emmanuel Despax – Bach/Busoni’s Chaconne and Chopin’s 24 Preludes, Opus 28. Solo piano recital at St John’s Church Waterloo, London, 26 November 2023. The interior of this church was refurbished in a (very beautiful) minimalist, modernist style after lockdown, with limited decoration, so the acoustics can sometimes be austere. Sitting at the front for this performance, I did not feel this at all. This performance, especially the Bach, was profoundly intense and deeply moving, indeed transcendent.

    Chopin’s Preludes seem to be having a moment. In addition to this concert by M. Despax, recitals of the Opus 28 collection are scheduled shortly by pianists Boris Giltburg (Wigmore Hall, London, 16 December 2023, available to view online here), Kasparas Mikužis (Aylesbury, 7 December 2023, Faversham, London and Warwickshire, January 2024), Veneta Neynska (London, 10 February 2024), and Jan Lisiecki (a recital series across Europe, January and February 2024). In addition, I notice that two contestants in the 18th European Piano Competition in Bremen, Germany have put these Preludes on their dance cards for the semifinal round: Francesco Maccarrone and Vincent Neeb. And both reached the semifinal round.

  • Gabriele Sutkute: Solo recital at St-Mary-Le-Strand, London, 23 November 2023, details here. The programme was:
    • P. Rameau: Suite in D major (Pièces de Clavecin) (I. Les Tendres Plaintes (Rondeau) and #VIII. Les Cyclopes (Rondeau))
    • Scriabin: Piano Sonata in G-sharp minor, Op. 19 No. 2
    • Bartók: “Out of doors” (“With Drums and Pipes”, “Barcarolla”, “Musettes”, “The Night’s Music”, “The Chase”)
    • Liszt: Venezia e Napoli, Années de pèlerinage II, S.162 (Gondoliera, Canzone, Tarantella).
  • Ayane Nakajima: Solo piano recital at Steinway Hall, London, 15 November 2023. The programme was:
    • JS Bach: Prelude and Fugue #12 in Book 2 of the 48, in F minor
    • Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor Op. 111
    • Chopin: Andante Spianato et Grand Polonaise Brilliante in E-Flat major, Op. 22.

    Ms Nakajima played with great technical skill and impressive power. This was a performance that would have easily filled a large hall, but here there was too much force for the small size of the room. When the acoustics of a performance space enable intimate whispers, it seems a shame to shout. And, although Bach was (probably) not writing with a piano in mind, playing his works on a modern piano (or indeed on other instrument combinations) allows us to appreciate aspects that we would miss, for instance, on a harpsichord. Personally, I think the suspended sonorities of Prelude II.12 are better appreciated at a slower pace than the one Ms Nakajima took.

  • Kasparas Mikužis: Solo Piano Recital at St Mary’s Church, Sittingborne, UK, 11 November 2023. The programme was:
    • JS Bach: Prelude and Fugue #8 in Book 1 of the 48, in Eb/D# minor
    • Rachmaninoff: Variations on a Theme of Corelli
    • Mikalojus Čiurlionis: Five Preludes
    • Chopin: Scherzo #3, Op. 39 in C# minor.

    The concert began at 11am on Armistice Day, so the 50 or so people present first held two minutes of silence to remember the war dead. The opening Bach Prelude and Fugue was very fitting for a recital in a church and on this particular day, and allowed the thoughts that had arisen during the Remembrance silence to linger.

    The Preludes by fellow Lithuanian composer (and painter) Mikalojus Čiurlionis were new to me, and were quite charming. They are impressionistic in a style akin to Debussy; definitely music to seek out and play. Both the Rachmaninoff/Corelli and Chopin Scherzo #3 were excellent. A recording of a previous performance by Mr Mikužis of these two pieces can be heard here.

    Overall, the acoustics of the church were bright, which allowed us to enjoy this superb performance, one of great intelligence, maturity and artistry. Particularly for the Bach, Mr Mikužis’s performance was transcendent and sublime.

  • Various artists: Drake Calleja Trust Scholars Concert 2023, Corinthia Hotel, London, 4 November 2023, to an audience of about 100 people. The artists were: Vladyslav Biliachenko, Joseph Chalmers, Aleksandr Doronin, Bryan Evans, Maria Filippova, Dmytro Fonariuk, Siping Guo, Oleksandr Ilvakhin, Misha Kaploukhii, Anastasia Koorn, Liu Miao, Kasparas Mikužis, Alexandria Moon, Henna Mun, Eyra Norman, and Agustin Pennino.

    The Drake Calleja Trust channel on Youtube has videos of the performances. A video of bassoonist Siping Guo and pianist Kasparas Mikužis in a superb performance of Weber’s Andante and Hungarian Rondo can be found here.

    In a concert program of mostly pretty-sounding nineteenth century music, the highlight for me was Aleksandr Doronin making a compelling case for serious late twentieth century music in his performance of two Ligeti Etudes, #10 – Der Zauberlehrling (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) and #13 – L’escalier du diable (The Devil’s Staircase). A recording of these by Drake Calleja Trust is here. As well as being technically demanding, these are musically very interesting, and this was clear in Mr Doronin’s interpretations. Here is another performance by Mr Doronin of Etude #13 at the Moscow Piano Open International Piano Competition in December 2019. (He was, incidentally, the First Prize Winner of this competition.)

    I first heard a live performance of some of Ligeti’s Etudes, including #10, in Liverpool in 2002 in a recital given by the Hungarian-Danish pianist, Ms Elisabeth Klein, who was then aged 91. She had been a student of Bela Bartok, and she played on that occasion to an audience of about 10 people. She became a public performer of modern piano music only in her sixth decade.

    Mr Doronin can also be heard here in a thrilling performance of Prokofiev’s fiendish Second Piano Concerto (1913/1923), with the Symphony Orchestra of the Royal College of Music, London, under Martyn Brabbins, at the RCM in London in May 2023. This public performance was the result of Mr Doronin winning a concerto competition for any instrument for students of the RCM. My introduction to Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto was via this recording, and it has helped me to better understand and appreciate his music. I am most grateful to Mr Doronin for helping me change my view of Prokofiev’s music.

    Frederic Rzewski’s The People United will never be Defeated was played by Mr Doronin in a recital at the Pianissimo Winter Festival at the State Hermitage in St Petersburg in December 2021. The video recording of that performance is unfortunately truncated at the beginning.

  • The Fidelio Trio in an early-evening concert at St Mary-Le-Strand Church, London, Friday, 20 October 2023. The programme was:
    • Beethoven: Archduke Trio
    • Chick Corea: Addendum

    The Archduke was superb, and I wanted to leave with its music in my ears, so did not stay for the second piece. The pianist had a page-turner, a young man uncredited in the programme notes.

  • Louis-Victor Bak in a solo recital at the Steinway Hall, London, Wednesday, 18 October 2023. The programme was:
    • Haydn: Sonata No. 31 in A flat major, Hob XVI:46
    • Debussy: Images Book 1, L. 110
    • Debussy: Images Book 2, L. 111
    • Chaminade: Sonata Op. 21 in C minor

    Mr Bak’s playing was elegant and appropriate for the small size of the room.

  • Louis-Victor Bak in a solo recital at St-Mary-Le-Strand, 28 September 2023.
  • Oklahoma! at Wyndham’s Theatre, 8 August 2023. It is a long time since I had last seen this Rodgers & Hammerstein musical and I had forgotten about the tragic ending. What a downer that ending is, on music that is so life-affirming and optimistic. This was a wonderful production, apart from the solo dance interlude at the start of Act II.
  • Filippo Gorini: Bach’s The Art of Fugue, Wigmore Hall, Sunday 23 July 2023. Superb performance, entirely from memory, and a very intense experience. The emotions of the work were heightened by this being the last concert of the 2022-2023 Season at the Wigmore, it being a Sunday evening, and the weather being wet and unusually cold. There was definitely an end-of-something vibe. Sadly, in one of the early fugues, a phone in the lobby rang for a long time. (For shame, Wigmore Hall!).

    This concert is part of a longer-term intellectual project exploring and performing The Art of Fugue.

  • Peter Moore, trombone, and Robert Thompson, piano, in a recital at Wigmore Hall, Sunday 16 July 2023. The program comprised:
    • Cesar Frank: Sonata in A (arranged by Moore) (1886)
    • Reynaldo Hahn: A Chloris (1916)
    • Lili Boulanger: Le retour (1912)
    • Carlos Salzedo: Piece Concertante Op. 27 (1910)
    • Arthur Pryor: Love’s Enchantment (c. 1902).

    This was an excellent and adept performance by a young master of the trombone. The hall was about 2/3 full, and was much younger than the usual Wigmore Sunday morning chamber music audience. The last piece was technically very challenging, like a brass band competition piece, but light in meaning.

  • Astral Quartet: Elgar Room, Royal Albert Hall, London, Sunday 25 June 2023. Sublime saxophone quartet, comprising:
    • Soprano – Leopoldo Mugnai
    • Alto – Oliver Lee
    • Tenor – Annabella Chenevix Trench
    • Baritone – Ethan Townsend

    An online performance of this quartet in St James Church, Piccadilly, can be found
    here. (Photo credit: Astral Quartet)

  • I Musicanti, with Peter Donohoe on Piano, in a concert at Wigmore Hall, London, Wednesday 12 April 2023. The programme was:
    • Farrenc: String Quintet Op. 38
    • John McCabe (1939-2015): Sam Variations (1989)
    • John McCabe: Pueblo (for solo double bass)
    • Schubert: Piano Quintet in A, D667 (“Trout”).

    I attended in order to hear Louise Farrenc’s String Quintet, which was excellent. I stayed to hear the Schubert, which was also excellent. The long piece for double-bass struck me as self-indulgent. By chance, I sat next to the pianist and a friend at an early Lebanese dinner before the concert.

  • Mervyn Hogg, organ recital at St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, London, Friday 31 March 2023. The programme included Buxtehude (Toccata and Fugue in F, BuxWV 157), JS Bach (Fugue on the Magnificat, BWV 733), Byrd (Fantasia in C), Max Reger (Ave Maria in Db, Op80 No 5), and J Rheinberger (Pastoral Sonata in G, Op. 88 No 3). Another recital by Mr Hogg at St. Bride’s is available here.
  • Consone Quartet at Wigmore Hall, London, Sunday 12 March 2023. The programme was:
    • Haydn: String Quartet in E flat, Op. 33 No. 2 (“The Joke”) (1781)
    • Mendelssohn: String Quartet No. 5 in E flat, Op. 44 No. 3 (1838)
  • Dorian Rambaud in a late afternoon violin recital in Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre Church, Paris on Sunday 5 March 2023. This was a very fine recital in a small church with good acoustics, as twilight turned to darkness inside the church.
  • Lucas Jussen and Arthur Jussen: The Rite of Spring for two pianos, at the Wigmore Hall, London, 23 January 2023, and at Theatre des Champs Elysées, Paris, 5 March 2023. Both profound experiences, as I reported here.
  • A Mass for the Fourth Centenary British Province of the Society of Jesus, Farm Street Church, London, 21 January 2023. Celebrated by Vincent Cardinal Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, and homily by Fr Damian Howard SJ, Provincial of the British Province. The music included the world premiere of James MacMillan’s “Precious in the sight of the Lord” (with MacMillan in the congregation).
  • The Mozartists: 1773 – A Retrospective at Wigmore Hall, Tuesday 17 January 2023. A concert of music from 1773 by Mozart, Haydn, CPE Bach J. Myslivecek and A. Schweitzer.
  • Eggner Trio: Recital at Wigmore Hall, Sunday 16 October 2022. The programme included Hummel’s Piano Trio in G Op. 65 and Beethoven’s Archduke Trio.
  • Orchestre National de France under Aziz Shokhakimov with my favourite French pianist Cedric Tiberghien in a concert in the Auditorium, Maison de la Radio et de la Musique, Paris, on Thursday 14 April 2022. The programme was:
    • Rimsky-Korsakov: Capriccio Espagnole, suite pour orchestre
    • Ravel: Concerto en sol
    • Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4

    (Photo credit: Resmusica)

    I was told by an usher that this concert was presented in honour of members of the French Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur, and many legionnaires were in attendance.

    I was fortunately seated in the first row behind the orchestra, very close to the percussion, and so could see the conductor. This was one of the greatest concerts of my life, and the Tchaikovsky was transcendent. I was on a great high for days afterwards.

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