Balmain boys don't cry

One of my great-great-great-grandfathers, William Graham Peverley (1811 – 1893), established a ship-building business in East Balmain, Sydney, in 1853 or 1854.    The location was east of St Mary’s Street and south of Pearsons Wharf,  an area which is nowadays a harbourside park, Illoura Reserve.  The suburb of Balmain had been named for Dr William Balmain (1762-1803), a surgeon with the First Fleet, and later Principal Surgeon in the colony of New South Wales, who was first to be granted land on the peninsula.   They have always bred them tough there – the saying is: Balmain boys don’t cry.  Among the residents have been two Premiers of NSW, Sir Henry Parkes and Neville Wran, neither someone to mess with.  And the State MLA for Balmain in recent times was the very tough Dawn Fraser, Olympic swimmer and publican, elected as an Independent.
It therefore felt like a chance meeting of a long-disappeared friend to enter the Church of St Giles-in-the-Fields in London’s West End this week, and discover it had been Dr Balmain’s home church upon his return to Britain in 1802.   At the back of the church is a plaque erected by The Balmain Association.   The church was the venue for a performance of Handel’s Messiah, by Solistes de Musique Ancienne and Siglo de Oro, under the direction of  the latter’s founder, Patrick Allies.   This was the second time I have  seen SMA perform, having heard their superb Sloane Square concert earlier in the year.   This time they had an audience of about 50 people, perhaps one quarter of the church’s capacity.
Despite the empty seats, the acoustics of this church were much better than that of Holy Trinity Sloane Square, and the performance was just superb.    St. Giles has two long parallel first-floor balconies, each about 1/4 of the width of the building, running the length of the church, and these two overhangs, together with their supporting columns and multiply-surfaced stone decorations, created strong reverberation, with a medium-duration delay.  The result was to make the choir and orchestra sound at least 5 times their size, filling the space with sound.   Even sitting at the back of the church, the sound was both warm and clear, something rare in churches, whose acoustics usually make concert performances sound either fuzzy or cold.   As with their previous concert, SMA made use of the space, having two of the trumpeters in Part I play from the left balcony.
This was one of the greatest Messiahs I have ever heard.  All the vocal soloists were excellent, and projected well.  Similarly, we could hear well the instrumental soloists (which was not the case in the earlier SMA concert).   Unfortunately, the program notes did not list the names of the soloists specifically; I was only able to infer the name of one vocal soloist, William Morrison, who’s aria in Part I was extremely clear and very moving.  Joel Newsome’s trumpet solo, on an instrument with cylindrical valves, on “The trumpet shall sound” in Part III, was also very powerful.    I left the church uplifted and  inspired.
I had not known before reading the program notes that Handel’s librettist for The Messiah, Charles Jennens (1700-1773), was a supporter of the Stuarts, and that his words for the oratorio – people in darkness awaiting a redeemer who returns in triumph and glory, etc – could be taken as political commentary on the Hanoverians, even as late as this (1741).
A very different experience last night, in another London church, St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate.  This was a performance of (excerpts from) Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and his Mass in B Minor, by the Medici Choir and the Brandenburg Baroque Soloists.  The church this time was overflowing, with perhaps 250 people seated and more standing at the back.    The acoustics of this church with its much higher ceiling and absence of balconies was very different to that of St. Giles.  The performers were not raised above the audience, and their sound disappeared upwards; it seemed not to come back to us.   Sitting behind a column meant I head some sounds with clarity — those of the choristers I could see — while  other singers and the orchestra were fuzzy.   For the most part, the soloists sang without projecting their voices.  At first, I thought this was due to the acoustics, but on occasion the soloists did project, and the difference was noticeable.   Why would a professional opera singer, as these soloists were, not project, I wonder?  Why not seek to fill the space one is performing in?  The lady who sang “Schlafe, mein Liebster” in the Oratorio, was particularly disappointing, filling powerfully the ears of the lucky people in the first row, it seemed, and no one else.   Those of us at the back of the church could barely hear her.   Was this due to some silly authentic-performance notion or a Lutheran disdain for aural spectacle, perhaps?
I suspect some silly notion at play.   Bach’s music in the Mass was “improved” by the addition of a new section composed by director John Baird for this concert.  One has to admire the self-confidence of someone willing to try to complete what Bach did not himself finish.  However, the real absurdity for me, and evidence of a lack of musical seriousness, was to end the concert with the congregational singing of Christmas carols:  rather than leaving with the sound of Bach in one’s ears, instead it would be, “We wish you a merry Christmas”.  It was important for me that my ears and mind be not so corrupted, so I left before the end.   What a contrast in integrity of musical purpose between these two concerts!  And how great again were the Solistes de Musique Ancienne and Siglo de Oro.

Bands

Gripped as I seem to be by listmania, here is another:  of orchestras and ensembles I have seen perform live.   I omit chamber music groups, counting only ensembles large enough to need a conductor.

  • Academy of St Martin in the Fields, London
  • Aurora Orchestra, London
  • Australia Ensemble
  • Australian Brandenburg Orchestra
  • Australian Chamber Orchestra
  • Australian Youth Orchestra
  • BBC Philharmonic, Manchester
  • Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tanglewood
  • Brandenburg Baroque Soloists, London
  • Britten Sinfonia, London
  • Canberra Symphony Orchestra
  • Chicago Symphony Orchestra
  • Birmingham Contemporary Music Group
  • City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
  • Ensemble 10:10, Liverpool
  • Ensemble 11, Manchester
  • European Brandenburg Ensemble
  • Halle Orchestra, Manchester
  • Hamburger Symphoniker
  • Harare City Orchestra
  • Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Irving Symphony Orchestra
  • Isabella a Capella
  • Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
  • Lismore Regional Symphony Orchestra
  • London Philharmonic
  • London Sinfonietta
  • London Symphony Orchestra
  • Mahler Chamber Orchestra
  • Manchester Camerata
  • Medici Choir, London
  • Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
  • Merseyside Youth Orchestra
  • Moscow Soloists String Chamber Ensemble
  • Northern Sinfonia, Gateshead
  • Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, London
  • Orchestra Mozart, Bologna
  • Orchestre Philharmonique de Nice
  • Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique, London
  • Orquestra Gulbenkian, Lisbon
  • Patonga Orchestra
  • Queensland Conservatorium Chamber Orchestra
  • Queensland Symphony Orchestra
  • Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
  • RNCM Chamber Orchestra, Manchester
  • Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Siglo de Oro, London
  • Silk Road Ensemble
  • Solistes de Musique Ancienne, London
  • Soweto Symphony Orchestra
  • Sydney Symphony Orchestra
  • Vienna Chamber Orchestra
  • University of Liverpool Symphony Orchestra

 

Conductors

This is a list, as best I can recall, of the conductors I have seen in live performance.  If memory serves, I add the ensemble I saw them direct.

  • Claudia Abbado, Orchestra Mozart Bologna
  • Thomas Ades, Britten Sinfonia, London
  • Yuri Bashmet, Moscow Soloists String Orchestra
  • Stuart Challender, Sydney Symphony Orchestra
  • Nicholas Collon, Aurora Orchestra
  • Matthew Coorey, RLPO and Halle Orchestra
  • Gustavo Dudamel, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Mark Elder, Halle Orchestra Manchester
  • John Eliot Gardiner, Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique, London
  • Edward Gardner, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, London
  • John Gay, Soweto Symphony Orchestra and Maseru Singers
  • Richard Gill, Patonga Orchestra
  • Reinhard Goebel, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
  • Hector Guzman, Irving Symphony Orchestra
  • Bernard Haitink, Sydney Symphony Orchestra
  • Nicholas Kraemer, Manchester Camerata
  • Marcelo Lehninger, Boston Symphony Orchestra
  • Charles Mackerras, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Neville Marriner, Academy of St Martin in the Fields
  • Diego Matheuz, Orchestra Mozart/Mahler Chamber Orchestra
  • Michael Morgan, Queensland Conservatorium Chamber Orchestra
  • Joel Newsome, Solistes de Musique Ancienne
  • Gianandrea Noseda, BBC Philharmonic
  • Sakari Oramo, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group
  • Libor Pesek, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Vasily Petrenko, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Trevor Pinnock, European Brandenburg Ensemble
  • Simon Rattle, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
  • Gerard Schwarz, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Brian Stacey, Lismore Regional Symphony Orchestra
  • Marcus Stenz, Halle Orchestra Manchester
  • Patrick Thomas, Queensland Symphony Orchestra
  • Robin Ticciati, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
  • David Urquhart-Jones, Lismore Regional Symphony Orchestra.

Pianists

As with violinists I have heard live, I thought it interesting to list the pianists I have heard perform (modulo the vagaries of memory):

  • Caroline Almonte – Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos in Eb K365 (MSO, Melbourne 2009)
  • Ksenia Bashmet – Bach’s D Minor Keyboard Concerto (BWV 1052) (Moscow Soloists Chamber Ensemble, London 2011)
  • Alessio Bax (Liverpool)
  • Alasdair Beatson  – Mendelssohn’s Concerto for Violin, Piano and Strings in D Minor (London 2011)
  • Richard Rodney Bennett (Canberra 1976)
  • François Dumont (Brussels 2018)
  • Kathryn Eves – Shostakovich’s Second Piano Concerto (Cheshire Sinfonia, Manchester 2008)
  • Nelson Freire – Mozart’s Piano Concerto #20 in D minor and Villa Lobos’ Momoprecoce, Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra (Boston Symphony Orchestra under Marcelo Lehninger at Tanglewood, 2012).
  • Angela Hewitt – The 48:  A truly awesome feat of memory and physical performance, with superb touch and an integrity of interpretation.  I don’t think rubato and the North German Baroque belong together but, so not an interpretation to my taste. (Manchester)
  • Rolf Hind (Birmingham, Liverpool, London 2013).  Hind’s masterful performance of John Coolidge Adams’ sublime Phrygian Gates in Liverpool was entrancing and unforgettable, and helped change my mind about minimalism.   I heard him play this again in London in 2013 – again sublime.
  • Stephen Hough (RLPO Liverpool, Manchester)
  • Elisabeth Klein (1911-2004, Liverpool)
  • Pekka Kuusisto (Britten Sinfonia, London, 2012, playing piano part of Stravinsky’s Suites 1 & 2 for Small Orchestra)
  • John Lill (RLPO, Liverpool)
  • Yvonne Loriod – Messiaen’s From the Canyon to the Stars (Australian Chamber Orchestra, Sydney Opera House, 1988).
  • Joanna MacGregor – Bach’s D Minor Concerto BWV 1052 (Manchester)
  • Stephen McIntyre – Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos in Eb K365 (MSO, Melbourne 2009)
  • Brad Mehldau (Manchester)
  • Olli Mustonen – Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto #1 (BBC SO, with Sergei Nakariakov, London 2013)
  • Roberto Prosseda – UK premiere of Mendelssohn’s 3rd Piano Concerto in E minor (ca. 1840-42, unpublished, completed by Marcello Bufalini) (RLPO, Liverpool)
  • Lauma Skride – Mozart and Mendelssohn Violin Sonatas (London 2011)
  • Cedric Tiberghien (RLPO, Liverpool)
  • Simon Trpceski (RLPO, Liverpool).

Mendelssohn in Wigmore Street

At Wigmore Hall last night was a thrilling performance by the Scottish Ensemble, a string orchestra, together with Scottish pianist Alasdair Beatson. The program comprised works by Stravinsky and by Mendelssohn.  Both the Stravinsky pieces were  rhythmically complex, but hard to parse otherwise – melodic invention, as so often with this composer, was absent and large-scale musical form, if indeed any was present, was not discernible from a single hearing.   I have remarked before that music instantiates or executes a thought process, and some music involves thinking processes that are alien to me.  Most of Stravinsky’s late music is in this category, while that in his middle phase (in the so-called NeoClassical style), while not alien, is quite often banal.  Yet his early music speaks to me profoundly. Last night’s two pieces were clearly challenging to perform well, with the subtle rhythmic interactions and off-piste counting, despite their unpleasant listening.
What I lost there, however, was more than compensated by the Mendelssohn.  The first half saw the Ensemble play two of his Four Pieces for String Quartet, which really should be called “four pieces for String Quartet”, since the composer never grouped them together in this way.  The fugue of the first piece, furiously intense, gives the lie to the claim one still sometimes hears that Mendelssohn’s music lacks profundity or intensity.   The playing and cohesion here was superb, and as always with this fugue, spine-chilling.  It would be nice to hear this group play some of Mendelssohn’s 12 string symphonies, particularly the fugal movements of the later symphonies.
The real excitement last night came with Mendelssohn’s Concerto for Piano, Violin and Strings, in which Alasdair Beatson played piano and Jonathan Morton, solo violin.   Morton also joined in the ensemble parts when not soloing.  I know this piece very well, although I can recall only once hearing it in performance.  The placement of the performers was somewhat strange, with the high and middle  strings behind the piano (and hence behind the upraised lid), dulling their sound.
In any case, the performance was thrilling in the extreme.  Beatson captured the many, varied moods of the piano part – from church-like chorale harmonies, through rolling, lieder-style accompaniments for a cantabile violin, to a tempestuousness that made the instrument sound like an angry, rampaging animal.     You can tell how good Mendelssohn was as a pianist himself just by listening to this part, and also how much he enjoyed playing.   The first movement, particularly, has flourishes of pleasure and delight throughout.  Strange, then, was the positioning on stage of the two soloists, with the violinist standing behind the pianist.   The first movement has such witty interplay between the two performers – calls-and-responses, mimicry, quoting, and transforming, etc – that for each player not to be able to see the eyes of the other seems untenable.   I cannot imagine young Felix on piano and Eduard Rietz, his friend and violin teacher, for whom this music was written, not facing each other and smiling with each returned flourish.
Like the Australia Chamber Orchestra, most members of the Scottish Ensemble stand while performing.  As with the ACO,  this strikes me as an insidious type of ageism, and is entirely unnecessary.  Only young or very fit people can do this, and one wonders at what average age of ensemble members will the group regain their commonsense.    Also, for the historical record, Beatson’s pages were turned by one of the hall staff:  even the stage-hands at the Wigmore can read music, apparently.
Program:

Stravinsky:  Concerto in D
Mendelssohn:  Capriccio and Fugue from opus 81 (arranged Morton)
Stravinsky:  Concertino (arranged Morton)
Mendelssohn:  Concerto for Piano, Violin and Strings in D minor.

A review of another concert in the same tour, in Dundee, is here.
This concert is listed in my concatenation of live music events.
 

William Booth in Bundamba

A great free community concert last weekend, to celebrate 125 years of the Salvation Army in Bundamba, Queensland, held in the Ipswich Civic Hall.   The hall is relatively new and has an interesting shape and footprint: outwardly-opening tiered fan-shaped for the stage and the front half of the hall, leading to a square box at the back, and having multiple box-shaped extrusions on the walls; the seating was flat on the wooden floor in the front, with demountable and translatable tiered-seating in the back.  About 2/3 of the hall was used for this concert, the movable rear wall being translated forward.  The acoustics were surprisingly good, at least in the front half, even though the sound was amplified.
The performers included four groups: the prize-winning Brisbane Excelsior Brass Band, one of Australia’s (and the world’s) best; the 125-year-old Blackstone-Ipswich Cambrian Youth Choir, a legacy of the area’s 19th-century Welsh coal-miners;  the young jazz ensemble Jazz Effect; and Bundamba Quartette, a mature male barbershop quartet.     Jazz Effect comprised 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, 4 saxes (tenor and alto), 2 guitars, drums, keyboards, an occasional singer (who also doubled on bongos for one number), and a flugel-horn-playing conductor.   Most of the performances were very good, although I think the Jazz Effect vocalist could have benefited from a tuning fork.    The music ranged from popular numbers to favourite Salvation Army hymns.    Although no national anthem was played, the audience was asked to join the singing of one hymn at the end of the evening.   The impact of the Salvos on Australian brass music is not something to be under-estimated, as the personal links between the various musicians, the groups, and even the compere Greg Aitken (himself head of brass at the Queensland Conservatorium) demonstrated.  An off-duty statistician might have estimated the audience at about 200-strong.
Some of these performers were later seen here.

Concert concat

As part of the diverse mental attic that this blog is, this post simply lists live music I have heard, as best my memory serves.    In some cases, I am also motivated to write about what I heard.

  • Gulce Sevgen, piano, in a concert at the Gesellschaft fur Musiktheatre, Turkenstrasse 19, Vienna 1090, Austria, 15 November 2018.   This venue turned out to be a small room holding 48 seats in a converted apartment.  There were 20 people present to hear Ms Sevgen play JS Bach’s Chromatic Fantasie & Fugue in d-minor BWV903, Beethoven’s Pastorale Sonata, excerpts from Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet”, Mendelssohn’s Variations Serieuses, Op. 54, and Liszt’s Concert Etude E/M A218 and Zweite Ballade, E/M A181.  Ms Sevgen’s performance throughout was from memory, a quite remarkable feat.  Her playing was perhaps too loud for the size of the room, even with the piano lid half-down.   The Bach, Beethoven and Mendelssohn were all excellent.  I have remarked before that I do not “get” the music of Prokofiev.  His music for Romeo and Juliet is a prime example:  the famous dance with its large-footed stomping bassline conjures up, for me, Norwegian trolls not feuding Italian merchant families, as if the composer had read a different play altogether. (Mendelssohn’s and Shostakovich’s incidental music to Shakespeare, by contrast, both make perfect sense.)  The playing of the Liszt works was fluent and articulate, but devoid of any meaning; it is perhaps unfair to ask performers to add meaning where there was none, since these are simply show-off pieces, all style and no substance.  But it is not unfair to ask performers not to play such vapid, meaningless music in public.
  • Adrian Brendle, piano, in a re-creation of a wartime concert by Myra Hess in the National Gallery, in St. Giles-without-Cripplegate, 27 June 2018.  The program was: J. S. Bach:  Prelude and Fugue in C# minor, BWV 849;  Beethoven:  Piano Sonata ‘Appassionata’ in F minor, Op. 57; Brahms:  Three Intermezzi from Op. 119; Chopin: Nocturne in F# major, Op. 15 No. 2; Chopin:  Waltz No. 1 in Eb major, Op. 18; and  J. S. Bach: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.  Sublime.
  • Francois Dumont, piano, in a lunchtime recital of Debussy at the Recording Studio in Flagey, Brussels, Belgium, 8 June 2018.  This was a fine performance in a room with good acoustics, perhaps 70% full.
  • Carducci Quartet and Reiki Fujisawa, piano, at King’s Place, London on 6 May 2018, playing Haydn’s Quartet in D (Op. 20, #4), Mendelssohn’s Quartet No. 6 in F minor, Op. 80.  After the interval, Schumann’s Piano Quintet in Eb was scheduled, but I wanted to leave with Mendelssohn in my mind, not Schumann.   Oddly, this was a very similar program to a concert almost exactly a year earlier (see below) – a Haydn quartet from Op 20, Mendelssohn’s 6th quartet, and then a piano quintet.
  • Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Mark Padmore, performing Bach’s St Matthew Passion, Royal Festival Hall, 26 March 2018.
  • Theatre of Voices performing Stockhausen’s Stimmung (Copenhagen Interpretation), King’s Place, 9 February 2018.  Although this is one of my favourite works, I have only heard it performed live once before.  That occasion was a decade ago in Cottonopolis in a performance preceded by two hours of unadvertised medieval plainsong, which I am sure not a single person in the audience came specially to hear.  That bait and switch offended me.  This time, before the performance, the lead singer spoke and led demonstrations of overtone singing for about 10 minutes, which was both interesting and helpful.  But he also promised the work would last 70 minutes, but it was closer to 100 minutes.   What is it about this music that leads performers to mislead their audiences?   In any case, the piece has all the long-windedness of the 1960s; it would be a much better work if it ended after 50 minutes.
  • Virginia Black, piano, with the Bristol Ensemble, at King’s Place on 18 January 2018, in Haydn’s Symphony #49 in F minor (La Passione) and Bach’s Concerto #4 in A, BWV 1055.  Hall One of King’s Place, like most modern concert halls, has been designed on the assumption that the performers will be seated.  The Bristol Ensemble stood which meant their sound was directed over our heads.  As a consequence, the higher pitches disappeared.  I was seated in the front row, and had a very good appreciation of the cello line, but could barely hear the higher instruments.   For the Bach, Ms Black used a foot-controlled iPad for her score, instead of paper and a human page-turner; perhaps using this is what caused her to lose her place in the opening movement.   Without a conductor, the orchestra managed to keep playing, with soloist and orchestra somehow finishing the movement at the same time.   Live performances can be thrilling, but this was too many thrills in too short a time, so I did not stay for the second set. The D minor concerto BWV1052 was scheduled but that piece is too important to me to hear it misplayed.
  • Castalian String Quartet at the London School of Economics on 11 January 2018 playing Haydn’s String Quartet in D minor (Op. 76, #2) and Schumann’s Quartet No. 3 in A (Op 41, #3).  A fine performance.
  • Handel’s Messiah by the Orchestra of St John’s and the OSJ Voices under John Lubbock, at St John’s Smith Square, December 2017.  A fine performance in fomer church with very good acoustics.
  • A concert of Mendelssohn performed by stars:  Mendelssohn’s Cello Sonata No. 2 in D, Op. 58; Piano Trio no. 2 in C minor, Op. 66; and String Quintet No. 1 in  A, Op. 18.  Performers:  Joshua Bell, Arisa Fujita, violin, Amihai Grosz, Rachel Roberts, viola, Steven Isserlis, cello, and Denes Varjon, piano. Wigmore Hall, London, Monday 24 July 2017.
  • Niel Dr Preez, piano, playing Beethoven’s Sonata in Fminor, Op. 57, Scriabin’s Preludes Op. 11 numbers 1, 10, 21 and 6; and Liszt’s Ballade No. 2 in B minor, at St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, London on Tuesday 4 July 2017.
  • Drew Steanson, piano, Beethoven’s Sonata Op. 54 and excerpts from Schumann’s Carnaval, Opus 9, St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, London,  2 June 2017.  Superb performance from memory.  The acoustics worked better for a piano than I had expected.  Mr Steanson spoke before each work about the themes, which most of the  audience probably appreciated.  I would prefer just to hear the music.  And I had to struggle to forget his mention of Donald Tovey’s description of the complexity of the intricate passagework in the second movement of the Beethoven, as being “like a dog chasing its own tail.”
  • Solem Quartet, and Maksim Stsura, piano, at King’s Place, London on 14 May 2017, playing Haydn’s Quartet in Eb (Op. 20, #1), Mendelssohn’s Quartet No. 6 in F minor, Op. 80.  After the interval, Frank Bridge’s Piano Quintet in D minor was scheduled, but not being a Bridge fan, I missed this.
  • Adam Brown, solo guitar, in a program of Latin American works – Barrios, Callado, Lauro, Morel, Salgan, Villa-Lobos – in St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, London,  9 May 2017.  Excellent performance of some very poignant music, heard by about 25 people.
  • St Matthew Passion, Bach, London Bach Singers and The Feinstein Ensemble, Kings Place, London, 8 April 2017. The acoustics of this room are soo good that a chorus comprising one person per line (8 singers in all) filled the hall and made it resound. Superb.
  • Candide, opera by Leonard Bernstein (1988 version), King’s College London Symphony Orchestra and King’s Opera, Chapel of King’s College London, 4 February 2017.
  • Quattro Rueda Libre, comprising Catherine Smet p & composer, Benoit Leseure v, Ignaas Vermeiren db, Pato Lorente button accordion, Sounds Jazz Club, Tulipstraat, Ixelles, Brussels, Belgium, April 2016.   Through-composed Argentinian style tangos, with even the solos written, with performances of great ability and warmth.  No good ever came from playing an accordion, however, and one small drink’s worth was enough.
  • The Necks, at the Union Chapel, Highbury, London, 12 April 2016. As usual, a superb set. Pity the warm up was some experimental organ music, lacking charm or musical form or interest. With the exception of some pieces by Philip Glass, this preface was a waste of time and of the organ.
  • Bach Collegium Japan, under Masaaki Suzuki, Concerto for Two Violins in d minor and Manificat, Barbican, London, 9 April 2016.
  • Bach Collegium a Japan, under Masaaki Suzuki, Mass in B minor, Barbican, London, 8 April 2016.
  • Catherine Manson, violin, Partita #2 in d minor, King’s Place, London, 1 April 2016.
  • Feinstein Ensemble and London Bach Singers, Brandenburg Concerto #5 and Concerto in C minor for oboe and violin BWV 1060R, and Cantatas BWV 82a & BWV 55, King’s Place, London 1 April 2016.
  • Medici Choir and Brandenburg Sinfonia, under John Baird, St Matthew Passion, St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate, London, 19 March 2016.
  • LSE Orchestra and Choir, under Matthew Taylor, Mozart Requiem and Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in e minor, Raphael Todes, violin, St. Clement Danes Church, Temple, London, 15 March 2016. The strings displayed some shaky intonation at the start of the Mozart, but this improved as the evening advanced.  Todes used a score for the Mendelssohn.  There were about 400 people in the audience, but this fell to about 300 once the choir was no longer needed.  Why do choristers and their friends so often show their lack of interest in orchestral music, I wonder. The acoustics were mostly okay, although the sound was quite muddy at times.
  • Gooden.Semble, under Michael Poll and Ray Chan, in a concert on Thursday 22 October 2015 in the Great Hall of Goodenough College, as part of the Bloomsbury Festival. The programme comprised David Grahame’s Embiosis, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto #2 (soloist: David Malusa), and Dvorak’s Symphony #8. Energetic performances in a room with great acoustics, the orchestra filling the room superbly. Grahame’s slow, chilled-out dissonances were very relaxing to listen to. Dvorak, as always, avoided any irregular rhythms and phrase lengths, lumbering square-footedly from the opening bars to the very end. One listens in vain in Dvorak’s plainly symmetrical music for anything dappled: nothing here is counter, original, spare, strange, or fickle, freckled.
  • South Brisbane Federal Band, under Patrick Pickett, in a concert of classics, in the Old Museum Concert Hall, Brisbane, 4 July 2015. Good to hear Sousa on this day! But also Land of Hope and Glory, in a theme and variations arrangement for tenor horn solo; strange that no variation allowed the band to fully rip. Overall, very good performances to a thin audience of friends and family. The band was not as loud as I expected it would be, even in the war horses, such as the 1812 Overture. Perhaps the sound disappeared into the high ceilings.
  • King’s College London Orchestra and current and former members of the King’s College London choir, performing Haydn’s Nelson Mass, in a Memorial concert for David Trendall, Chapel of King’s College London, 17 June 2015. This was a thrilling performance with about 60 singers, ranging in age from late teens to over 70 years. This ornate room has superb acoustics, and the walls shook with the force of the sound.
  • Christian Tetzlaff, playing Bach’s violin Partita #2 in Dm BWV 1004 and Sonata #3 in C BWV 1005, at LSO St Luke’s, Old Street, 21 May 2015. Masterful and deeply moving.
  • Jayson Gillham, piano, and the Australian Piano Quartet, in a recital in the Chapel of King’s College London, as part of the Australia and New Zealand Festival of Literature and the Arts, 30 May 2015. Gillham played the piano in the first half, competently if flamboyantly. Bach, some arranged by Percy Grainger, was followed by Grainger, Vine, and Matthew Hindson’s exhilarating AK47. The second half was a performance by the APQ of Sculthorpe’s Landscapes II, Faure’s Second Piano Quartet, and, a great find, a movement from Frederick Septimus Kelly’s String Trio in Bm, of 1911. I could hear the strong influence of Mendelssohn in this music, evidence no doubt of the training Kelly had received at the Schumann-Brahms-informed Hoch Conservatorium in Frankfurt. The audience comprised perhaps just 40 people, and included the Australian High Commissioner and family, wine glasses in hand.
  • Chilly Gonzales and the Kaiser Quarter, at Milton Hall, Barbican, London, April 2015. This music was not to my taste at all, and I struggled to stay to the end.  The music was technically undemanding and intellectually shallow, the very opposite of Jazz.  Is there such a genre as Light Jazz? Perhaps Kenny G would appreciate this music, although G’s music can be used to chill out, while Gonzales’ music is generally too raucous and emotionally roller-coasting for that. Almost every number had a piano ostinato, often starting quietly and then becoming loud and climactic. It was not easy to listen to this pattern repeatedly, although the witty lyrics on the rap numbers were enjoyable. The treatment of Reich’s Different Trains, by imposing a strong 4/4 beat over the top of what became yet another piano ostinato, destroyed completely any possibility of appreciating the minimalist subtleties of Reich’s original sound world. I was reminded of a 4/4 version of Desmond’s Take Five that I once heard. For shame!
  • Bach’s St Matthew Passion, performed by the Academy of Ancient Music, under Richard Egarr (director & harpsichord), at the Barbican, London, Good Friday 2015, with James Gilchrist (Evangelist), Matthew Rose (Jesus), Elizabeth Watts (soprano), Sarah Connolly (alto), Mark Le Brocq (tenor), Christopher Purves (bass) and the Choir of the AAM. This was a very good rendition on original instruments, which led (as always) to some dodgy sound moments.
  • Manhattan String Quartet, playing Haydn’s The Horseman Quartet (Op 74, No. 3), Craig Walsh’s String Quartet (2010), and Elgar’s String Quartet in E Minor (Op. 83), Westminster Cathedral Hall, London, 16 January 2015. Sadly, the acoustics were terrible. The quartet were positioned at the side of the hall, instead of on the raised stage at the front. The first violinist was sitting with his back to me, and I could hardly hear his playing at all. Prior to the second quartet, the cellist spoke about the music. Even 20 feet away, I could not make out a word he said.
  • Messiah, BBC Singers and the Norwegian Wind Ensemble, arranged by Stian Aareskjold, under David Hill (conductor), with Fflur Wyn (soprano), Robin Blaze (counter-tenor), Samuel Boden (tenor) and Mark Stone (bass), in Temple Church, Temple Winter Festival, 19 December 2014.
  • Sacconi String Quartet, Friends Christmas Concert, December 2014: Mendelssohn’s String Quintet in A, Op. 18, and Ravel’s String Quartet, with Lisa Bucknell (viola). Queen’s Gate Terrace, London.
  • Bach Magnificat, Barbican, December 2014.
  • Salon de Swing (Jan Van Dijkstra, violin, and Miranda Deutsch, guitar) with Peter Walters, bass guitar, Oz Manouche Festival of Gypsy Jazz, Brisbane Jazz Club, 27 November 2014.
  • BBC Symphony Orchestra, under Sakari Oramo, with Javier Perianes (piano), playing R. Strauss Don Juan, Grieg Piano Concerto, Sibelius En Saga, and Stravinsky Firebird Suite, in the Barbican, London, 24 October 2014.
  • Wien und Venezia, a concert comprising mostly German choral music, by the Anton Bruckner Choir, under Christopher Dawe, at St Clement Danes Church, Strand, London, 11 October 2014. Chitarrone played by Richard MacKenzie, violin Liam Shinar, viola & violin Andrew Stern, organ Paul Ayers.  The Bach and Mendelssohn stirring. (HT: WP)
  • Anthony Marwood and friends, including the Heath Quartet, at the Wigmore Hall, playing Mendelssohn’s Octet, London, 7 October 2014. A thrilling performance, certainly one of the best I have heard.  The last movement was taken faster than usual, so it much better invoked the feeling of a wild fight between Good and Evil for Faust’s soul. Good prevailed, but the speed meant that it was only by a whisker.  Those speedsters Felix Mendelssohn and Eduard Reitz would have loved this version.  The programme also included Enescu’s Octet, but I wanted to leave with the Mendelssohn in my ears, so did not stay for the Enescu.
  • St James Sinfonia and New London Singers at St James Anglican Church, Picadilly, London, under Paul Goodwin, 2 October 2014.  The programme comprised:CPE Bach – Magnificat
    JS Bach – Singet dem Herrn
    Nystedt – Immortal Bach
    Zelenka – Miserere
    Pärt – Collage sur B-A-C-HSoloists were:Grace Davidson soprano
    Martha McLorinan mezzo soprano
    Nathan Vale tenor
    Stephen Kennedy bass.The acoustics of this church suit choral and orchestral music much more than they do chamber music (see below), and this was a superb concert.  Zelenka’s Miserere is spine-chilling in its harmonies.   Nystedt’s dissonances are also tender and moving. It is a wonder that CPE Bach’s Magnificat is not performed more often, so good it is.  The suspended seconds are achingly beautiful, and the final Amen chorus has to be the greatest, most rousing chorus of the whole 18th century – better, even, than The Messiah’s Hallelujah.  With the simple scale-like melodies of the first and last movements, one can hear that the young Mendelssohn must have had this work in mind when he composed his own Magnificat. How great it would be to hear them both performed together.
  • Members of Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, at King’s Place, London, playing Brahms String Sextet #1, Shostakovich’s Two Pieces for String Octet, Op. 11, and Mendelssohn’s Octet in E flat, Op. 20, 25 September 2014.  Hall 80% full.   The Brahms proved to me again how conservative and turgid this composer is, a Henry James of the acoustic, without James’ irony or sensitivity.  If I never hear another chamber work by Brahms, it will still be too soon.  The Shostakovich was exciting and thrilling, as he always is.   The Mendelssohn was marred by the American woman sat next to me, acting as if attending her first ever classical concert, who drank too much too quickly at interval, and returned to her seat with hiccups:  there were thus 9 people in this octet!  Even closing my eyes gave no relief, as her hiccups could be felt all along our row of seats.  Hard to concentrate on the playing with such rhythmic overlay.
  • Quartet Volute, at St. James Church, Picadilly, playing Hayden Opus 50 # 1, and Beethoven Opus 18 # 6, 27 August 2014.  About 150 people present.  The resonant acoustic of this Church make it most unsuitable for the delicacy of chamber music.  The playing was fine, but the sound arrived muddy and echoing. Pity.
  • Pekka Kuusisto and Teemu Korpipaa: Improvisations on Bach’s Partita in D minor, at St Eanswythe’s Primary School, Folkestone, 24 May 2014.  Review here.
  • Sacconi Quartet, RCM Chamber Orchestra under Christopher Bucknall, and Pekka Kuusisto, performing Stephen Deazley’s Folkestone Road, Richard Strauss’ Metamorphosen, and Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, at St Mary and St. Eanswythe’s Church, Folkestone, 24 May 2014.  A review here.
  • L’Orchestre du Monde, under Janusz Piotrowicz, and Giovanni Guzzo (violin), performing The Hebrides Overture, Violin Concerto in Em, Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Symphony No. 3, at Cadogan Hall, London, 20 May 2014.  A very fine performance, although the conductor seemed to be following rather than leading.  Or else, perhaps, I was sitting in a zone where some laws of physics were suspended, because the sound of the downbeat reached me sooner than the sight of it.
  • Sinfonia d’Amici, under David Alberman, performing Mozart’s Overture to Don Giovanni, Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto (Konrad Elias-Trostmann), and Beethoven’s 4th Symphony, at Jerwood Hall, LSO St Luke’s, 21 April 2014.  Among the best performances of the Mendelssohn I have ever heard, Elias-Trostmann’s tone was warm and rich.  His instrument is by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume.  The acoustics helped – this hall is very intimate, as befits a Hawkesmoor Church, and there is no stage. Thus, sitting in the front row is the next best thing to being an orchestral member oneself.
  • London Symphony Orchestra under John Eliot Gardiner, performing Mendelssohn’s Ruy Blas Overture, Schumann’s Violin Concerto (with Alina Ibragimova), and Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony, at the Barbican, London, March 2014.  What an awful piece of music is the Schumann!   Although its performance, like that of the two Mendelssohn pieces, was excellent.
  • Handel’s Semele, by King’s Opera and King’s Baroque, directed by Jordan Theis and conducted by James Way, in the Chapel of King’s College London, Wednesday 12 March 2014.  A superb production, and well worth seeing in the two remaining  performances.  What is the opposite of po-faced?  This is a witty and funny production, one which does not take itself or opera too seriously.  Clever use of ipads as (video) mirrors and for selfies, and of lights and video monitors generally.  Excellent use of the physical space, especially up and down the central aisle.  Some of the singing was simply stunning, and filled the Chapel gloriously.   The long reverb of this room, however, sometimes made it sound as if orchestra and singers were not perfectly in synch, which was perhaps an artefact of where I was sat.
  • Re-enactment of Benny Goodman’s famous 16 January 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert, by Pete Long and His Goodmen, at Cadogan Hall, London, 26 January 2014.   I grew up listening to a recording of this concert, so I greatly enjoyed the music.  The re-enactment, however, had some oddities.  Goodman was famous for playing with black musicians, but the band on stage at the Cadogan was entirely white.   Many of the musicians also appeared quite old – in their 70s and even 80s.  In this regard, they matched the audience, who were almost entirely over 50.
  • The Vienna Piano Trio (Bogdan Bozovic – v, Matthias Gredler – vc, Stefan Mendl – p) at the Wigmore Hall, London, 18 January 2014, playing: Beethoven’s Trio in D “Ghost” (Op 70, #1), Henze’s Kammersonate, and Mendelssohn’s Trio #1 in D Minor (Op. 49).   For an encore, the second movement of another Beethoven trio was played. Absolutely superb and thrilling playing, this was the performance of a lifetime. Bozovic’s tone was treacly and sublime, especially in the Mendelssohn.   Oh, to achieve such a tone!   His face was also very expressive, and he kept looking to the cellist, but received little response.  Despite this, the performance was extremely tight, and demonstrated the strength of dedicated ensembles over ad hoc collections of stars; I was reminded of the disappointing performance of the same Mendelssohn trio by Vadim Repin, Mischa Maisky, and Lang Lang at the RFH in 2011 (see below).
  • The Messiah, by Mousai Singers and Solistes de Musique Ancienne, directed by Daniel Cook, in The Chapel, King’s College London, 11 December 2013.   Another  superb  Messiah from this orchestra, albeit with a different choir.
  • Rolf Hind, at the Milton Concert Hall, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, 5 December 2013, playing: Liszt’s Nuages Gris, James Weeks’ Gloomy Clouds and Siciliano; Mark Simpson’s Barkham Fantasy, and John Adams’ Phrygian Gates.   As when I heard him perform the piece in Liverpool,  Hind’s performance of Phrygian Gates was sublime.
  • The Magic Flute, by the English National Opera, in a production by Simon McBurney, London, 3 December 2013.  As with all his theatrical work, this production was visually stunning.  I particularly liked the actor shoals – flocks of birds, a group of people moving around the stage, each person dressed in black, and each rustling paper.
  • Maggini Quartet at King’s Place, London, 1 December 2013, playing quartets by Mozart (Hoffmeister), Bridge (#2 in Gm), and Mendelssohn (#3 in D, Op. 44-1).   Performance spoilt by poor intonation of the first violinist, and a lack of togetherness.  The two middle movements of the Mendelssohn were so loose they sounded as if played by two ensembles with slightly different timings – one comprising the first violinist, and the other comprising the rest of the quartet.   I had not thought of these movements as difficult, until hearing them done poorly.  Perhaps more rehearsal together would have helped.
  • Matthew Jorysz, recital on the organ of King’s College London Chapel, 18 November 2013, playing JS Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C Minor BWV537, Dieterich Buxtehude’s Canzonetta in G BuxWV 171, William Cole’s Broken Chaconne (world premiere), and Edward Elgar’s Sonata in G, Op. 28, Movement 1:  Allegro Maestoso.
  • Unfunny music:  BBC Symphony Orchestra, under Sakari Oramo, with Olli Mustonen (piano) and Sergei Nakariakov (trumpet), at the Barbican, London, 2 November 2013, playing Tristan Murali’s Reflections/Reflets and Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto #1.
  • Members of the Philharmonia Orchestra under Alejo Perez, at the Royal Festival Hall, London, in a memorial concert for Christophe Bertrand, playing his Virya, Madrigal and Yet (all UK premieres).  The concert was part of a series on Music of Today, curated by Unsuk Chin, who spoke before the music.
  • Ljova and the Kontraband, at Jamboree, Cable Street, Limehouse, London, Wednesday 23 October 2013.
  • Matthew Searles, recital on the organ of King’s College London Chapel, 21 October 2013, playing JS Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in B Minor BWV544, Nicolas de Grigny’s Recit de Tierce en taille, and Camille Sant-Saens’ Sept Improvisation, # vi and # vii.
  • Sacconi String Quartet, in The Temple Church, Tuesday 15 October 2013, playing Puccini’s Crisantemi, Verdi’s String Quartet in Em, Purcell’s Chaconne in Dm and Britten’s String Quartet #2 in C, Op. 36 (the last two played without pause).
  • Alex Goodwin, recital on the organ of King’s College London Chapel, 7 October 2013, playing JS Bach’s Prelude in B Minor BWV544 and Ebarm’ Dich Mien, O Herre Gott BWV 721, Louis Vierne’s Berceuse, #19 from 24 Pieces en style libre Op. 31, William Walton’s Three Pieces from Richard III (arr. Robert Gower), Frank Bridge’s Adagio in E Minor and Kenneth Leighton’s Paean.
  • Christopher Woodward, recital on the organ of King’s College London Chapel, 30 September 2013, playing Simon Preston’s Alleluyas, Bach’s Passacaglia in Cm (BWV 582), Finzi’s Forlana (from Five Bagatelles for Clarinet and Piano, arr. Robert Gower), and Louis Vierne’s Symphony #1, op. 14, movements iv and vi.
  • quartet-lab at London’s Wigmore Hall, 15 September 2013, playing Mozart’s Divertimento in D K136, Bartok’s Duos for 2 Violins, William Byrd’s Sanctus, and Beethoven’s String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 95, “Serioso”.  The quartet comprises Pekka Kuusisto, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Lilli Maijala and Pieter Wispelwey.  With the exception of cellist Wispelwey, the quartet stood, with Kopatchinskaja playing in barefeet.  Byrd’s Sanctus was played as a short prelude, without pause, to the Beethoven.  The Grauniad review is here, the Independent here.
  • Pekka Kuusisto (violin) and Olli Mustonen (piano), at London’s Wigmore Hall, 11 April 2013, playing Beethoven’s Violin Sonata in A (Op. 30, #1) and Mustonen’s Sonata for Violin and Piano (world premiere).
  • The Choir of King’s College London and Baroque Ensemble under David Trendell, in Bach’s St. John Passion, with Rupert Charlesworth as the Evangelist, Chapel of King’s College London, March 2013.  The bright and resonant acoustics of this chapel were filled perfectly by this warm interpretation.  In the German Lutheran tradition, the Rev. Richard Burridge gave a short sermon before the interval, on Bach’s imperfect use of John’s gospel text.
  • Chilingirian Quartet and Bulgarian Friends, at King’s Place London, as part of the Second London Festival of Bulgarian Culture, November 2012, playing Moreni (Dobrinka Tabakova, composed 2007), Piano Quartet in Eb (Schumann), and the Octet (Mendelssohn).   The additional performers  in the Octet were Ivo Stankov and Yana Burova (violins), Dimitar Burov (va), and Tim Wells (cello).  As an encore, the performers replayed the Scherzo of the Octet.
  • Solistes de Musique Ancienne, in St James Church, Picadilly, directed by Joel Newsome, playing Leclair (Recreation Deuxieme de Musique), Corelli (Christmas Concerto, Op. 6, No. 8) and Bach (Cantata BWV 132), October 2012.  The second half  (which I missed) included Allegri’s Miserere Mei, Deus and Vivaldi’s Dixit Dominus RV807.   Another fine performance from this great ensemble.   Of the music, the Leclair was justly forgotten, the Corelli very well known but not profound, and only the Bach worth the effort of braving the heavy rain to hear.  The acoustics of the church, with its barrel roof and its wide balcony on 3 sides, supported by 5 stone columns down each side, had a strong reverberation.   The sound was thus strong and clear, although the bass soloist in the Cantata did not project his voice well:  that he was looking down at, instead of out at, his score, meant his voice hit the floor instead of the audience.  Why do singers in churches so often not project their voices, I wonder?  Does singing in a church make them timid?   The soprano at this concert was an exception, superbly filling the length of the church to the top of its high ceiling with her voice.  (The program notes do not, sadly, name the soloists.)
  • Brass in Tyalgum:  Queensland Conservatorium Brass Band at the 21st Annual Tyalgum Classical Music Festival, Tyalgum Literary Institute Hall, Tyalgum, NSW, September 2012.
  • 68th Annual Composers Conference and Chamber Music Center Concert in Jewett Arts Centre, Wellesley College, Wellesley MA USA, August 2012, including performances of:  Concertino by Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942), Year without Summer by  Jacob Gotlib, Excerpts from 44 Duos for Two Violins by Bela Bartok (1881 – 1954), fluttuazione/attimo by John Arrigo-Nelson, Trio for Piano, Oboe and Bassoon by Francis Poulenc (1899-1963), Reves Transcendants by Hendel Almetus, and the Horn Trio in Eb Major by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897).   I last heard Brahms’ horn trio 37 years ago (in Murwillimbah, with the piano part played by David Urquhart-Jones) and even after all these years I think this combination of instruments perverse and unpleasant;  those aspects of the horn timbre that combine well with the piano sound clash with the aspects which combine well with the violin sound, and likewise for the other two pairings.  What a shame nobody listens to this piece:  If they did, no one would play it.
  • Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire playing Mozart (Piano Concerto #20 in D minor) and Villa Lobos’ Momoprecoce, Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra, and Mussorsky/Ravel’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Boston Symphony Orchestra under Marcelo Lehninger at Tanglewood, July 2012.   There is a review here.
  • Mendelssohn in Mansion House:  Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, under Edward Gardner, with Alina Ibragimova, in the Egyptian Room of Mansion House, London, June 2012.
  • Organ and Trumpet: Richard Hall, organ, and Robert Landen, trumpet, in St Mary le Bow Church, Cheapside, London, June 2012.
  • Brahms’ String Sextet #2 in G and Mendelssohn’s Octet, performed by the Piatti and Castalian Quartets in Duke’s Hall, Royal Academy of Music, 3 May 2012.   The Sextet was performed by the Castalian 4tet together with David Wigram (viola) and Jessie Richardson (cello) from the Piatti.  The Octet had some unfamiliarities:  chiefly, an extra note after each ascending phrase in the 1st violin in the theme of the first movement, the extra note being lower than the top of the phrase.  The first time, I thought I heard a mistake.  A second time and I thought perhaps I was hearing some acoustic artefact, an echo perhaps.   By the time the theme returned, with these extra notes still to be heard on each phrase, I thought either a deliberate affectation or perhaps the performers were not playing the standard score.   Was this the original manuscript version, perhaps, which Mendelssohn later revised?   In any case, the standard version is better, as the force of the ascending phrase is reduced with a lower note after each top-most one.
  • Bach’s St John’s Passion, Solistes de Musique Ancienne and Siglo de Oro in St Stephen’s Church, Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead, London, April 2012.
  • Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Britten Sinfonia and Sinfonia Voices, under Andreas Delfs, London Barbican, March 2012.
  • Bach’s Mass in B Minor, Baroque Ensemble of The Royal Academy of Music and the Choir of King’s College London, under David Trendell, King’s College Chapel, London, February 2012.  An excellent and moving performance. The acoustics of the KCL Chapel are very clear, with little reverb, and the sound was full.  The organ continuo part was shared by Christopher Woodward and Richard Hall, the current College Organ Scholars.
  • Pekka Kuusisto (violin) and Britten Sinfonia under Thomas Ades, in a program of Couperin, Stravinsky and Ades (Violin Concerto), Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, February 2012. PK also briefly played the piano.
  • Baiba Skride (violin) and Lauma Skride (piano) in Mozart’s Violin Sonata in B-flat (K454) and Mendelssohn’s Sonata in F, Wigmore Hall, London, December 2011.
  • Moscow Soloists Chamber Orchestra under Yuri Bashmet, London, December 2011.
  • Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (excerpts) and Mass in B Minor, Brandenburg Baroque Soloists and Medici Choir, St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, London, December 2011.
  • Handel’s Messiah, Solistes de Musique Ancienne and Siglo de Oro in the Church of St Giles-in-the-Field, Holborn, London, December 2011.
  • Mendelssohn in Wigmore Street:  Scottish Ensemble and Alasdair Beatson playing Stravinsky and Mendelssohn, Wigmore Hall, London, October 2011.
  • Queensland Conservatorium Chamber Orchestra, under Michael Morgan and with Cameron Jamieson (violin), playing Mozart and Arriaga, Brisbane, August 2011.
  • String Fest 2011, including Grammar Chamber Strings, Ferny Grove State High School Chamber Orchestra, Mansfield High School Camerata, Brisbane Girls Grammar School Senior Strings, Somerville House Strings, and the Festival String Orchestra, at Brisbane Grammar School, August 2011.
  • A Celebration of 125 Years of the Salvation Army in Bundamba, Queensland, August 2011.
  • Premiere of Two Boys, opera by Nico Muhly, performed by English National Opera, London, June 2011:  I say thee, Yay, Mr Muhly, Yay!
  • Daniel Hope (violin) and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Mendelssohn’s E-Minor Violin Concerto (original version) and Respighi’s Pines of Rome at Royal Festival Hall, London, May 2011.
  • Mulatu Astatke (vibes, keyboards, percussion) at Jazz Cafe, Camden, May 2011.
  • Luka Sulic (cello) and Nadav Hertzka (piano) at Wigmore Hall, London, May 2011.  Winner’s Recital for the RAM Patron’s Award 2011.   Program included Debussy Cello Sonata, Sibelius (Valse, Berceuse and Rondino) and Britten’s Cello Sonata in C.   A superb performance. I could only catch the first half, which meant I left humming the catchy final theme of the Britten.  Both these artists will be worth watching in the future.

Continue reading ‘Concert concat’

Palm Sunday Concert

Another concert caught in Bologna this past weekend was a short concert for Palm Sunday in the Crypt of the Basilica of San Pietro.  The music was by Quartetto d’Archi G. B. Martini and Corale Convivium Musicum, playing the following programme:

  • Vivaldi:  Sinfonia al Santo Sepolcro
  • Schubert:  6 Antifone per al Domenica della Palme
  • Haydn:  da Le Sette Parole di Cristo in CroceIntroduzione, Pater, and Terremoto.

The string quartet comprised  Cesare Carretta (1st), Stefano Chiarotti (2nd), Margherita Fanton (viola), and Antonio Mostacci (‘cello).
The acoustics of the crypt were surprisingly good:  despite the stone walls and columns, the low, curved ceilings bounced the sound around the chamber, and the crowd absorbed it well.  Perhaps all the palm fronds being waved helped.  The music was performed well, although the concert was over in under 30 minutes.    We were left wanting more.

Firebird in Bologna

A superb concert last night in Bologna, with Orchestra Mozart and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra combining forces under young conductor Diego Matheuz.    The concert took place in Auditorium Manzoni, where I have enjoyed concerts before, sometimes under Maestro Abbado.  This hall has a relatively modern interior, almost fan-shaped, with undulating wooden walls and an undulating wooden ceiling over the stage.  The acoustic is warm, bright and fast.  The stage is only small, and barely took the forces arranged last night.   The cellos were placed in the middle, with the violas on the conductor’s immediate right, and so the sound of the violas may well have been lost.   Similarly, only the percussion and brass were (slightly) elevated, the woodwinds seated at the same level as the strings. I was close enough not to miss anything from these placements.
Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto was played by Vadim Repin, who also played Ravel’s violin rhapsody, Tzigane.  Both pieces were fiery and technically impressive, my strong distaste for Prokofiev’s music notwithstanding.   His music strikes me as truly incoherent, using types of expression (eg, multiple simultaneous keys) and modes of musical cognition that are alien to me.  My distaste is stronger than mere dislike, being incomprehension.   The abrupt change in mood, for example, between the second and third movements, seems meant to provoke the listener, as if to say, I have the power to change your attitude to this music at a whim, and to prove it, I will now do it. Who could enjoy the company of such a person?
I have heard Repin perform before, a few years ago in Barcelona (playing the Sibelius concerto).  As on that occasion, he encored with theme and variations of Carnival of Venice, a crowd-stopping showpiece of skill and effects made famous for violinists by Pagannini and for trumpeters by Arban.   This time, however, Repin began with a fiery introduction, then detoured into several bars of accompaniment vamping before launching the theme.  The vamping allowed him to signal to the orchestral musicians what to play as they joined him, something he had tried unsuccessfully in Barcelona while himself playing the theme.
The concert also included Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, in what was certainly the most thrilling, spine-tingling, edge-of-seat performance of this work I have ever heard.  Matheuz conducted from memory, which is not nothing for this jagged music, and his energy and enthusiasm was compelling.   The principal violinists had swapped places for this piece.   Before the interval, the principal for the Mahler CO, Gregory Ahss, was lead.   For the Stravinsky after interval, Orchestra Mozart’s principal, Raphael Christ, took over.   I was seated close enough to see them play, and both were very impressive.   Both people to watch, along with Matheuz.

Programme:
Maurice Ravel:  Daphnis et Chloé, Suite #2.
Sergei Prokofiev: Concerto for Violin  #1 in D Major op. 19
Maurice Ravel: Tzigane, Rhapsody for violin and orchestra
Igor Stravinsky:  L’Oiseau de feu (Suite, version of 1919).
The Auditorium Manzoni is mildly fan-shaped, a shape that is not common for concert halls.  (Another example is the art deco Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool, UK, whose fan shape is much more pronounced.)  The walls around the stage and the hall, along with the ceiling over the stage have an undulating wooden veneer, which would help sound propagation in diverse directions.   The balcony overhands a large part of the auditorium, but at quite a high level, so that seats under the balcony are not “dark” in terms of the sounds they receive from the stage.
The photo shows Claudio Abbado in London in October 2011 with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, which shares members with the ensemble seen in Bologna .  Credit:  Chris Christodoulou.

Classical Violinists


Hearing a concert by Vadim Repin, the second time I have heard him play, I thought to list all the classical solo violinists I have heard perform live (in alpha order, with the music where recalled):

  • Alena Baeva – Mendelssohn’s D minor Concerto (Moscow Soloists Chamber Ensemble, London 2011)
  • Joshua Bell – Mendelssohn’s E minor Concerto (London), Mozart Concertos (Manchester), and the Concerto of Behzad Ranjbaran (world premiere, Liverpool)
  • James Ehnes (Manchester)
  • Konrad Elias-Trostmann -Mendelssohn’s E minor Concerto (Sinfonia d’Amici, London, April 2014)
  • Thomas Gould – e-Violin Concerto of Nico Muhly (world premiere, London)
  • Giovanni Guzzo – Mendelssohn’s E minor Concerto (L’Orchestre du Monde, under Janusz Piotrowicz,  Cadogan Hall, London, May 2014)
  • Simon Hewitt Jones (Liverpool)
  • Daniel Hope – Mendelssohn’s E minor Concerto (both the standard and the original versions, London)
  • Alina Ibragimova – Mendelssohn’s E minor Concerto, with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (London, 2012);  Schumann’s Concerto, with the London Symphony Orchestra (London, 2014).  Schumann wrote his concerto for Joachim (pictured), who never performed it publicly, and tried to keep it out of print for a long time.   Pity that Joachim did not succeed.
  • Cameron Jamieson – Mozart’s 5th Violin Concerto (Brisbane 2011)
  • Sergey Khachatryan (Manchester)
  • So Ock Kim – Mendelssohn’s E minor Concerto (London)
  • Gidon Kremer (Copenhagen)
  • Pekka Kuusisto – Concerto for Violin by Thomas Ades (Britten Sinfonia, London, 2012); Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (RCM Chamber Orchestra and Sacconi Quartet, Folkestone, May 2014); Bach’s D Minor Partita (Improvisation with Teemu Korpipaa, Folkestone, May 2014).
  • Tasmin Little – Mendelssohn’s E minor Concerto (Liverpool 2003),  and (Manchester)
  • Jonathan Morton – Mendelssohn’s Concerto for Piano, Violin and Strings in D Minor (London 2011)
  • Rachel Podger – Bach Double in D min (Manchester)
  • Vadim Repin – Sibelius’ Concerto (Barcelona) and Prokofiev’s Concerto #1 (Bologna 2011)
  • Linus Roth (Liverpool)
  • Baiba Skride – Mozart and Mendelssohn Sonatas (London 2011)
  • Valeriy Sokolov – Sibelius’ Concerto (Manchester)
  • Christian Tetzlaff – Bach Partita #2 in Dm & Sonata #3 in C, and Beethoven Concerto (London 2015)
  • Richard Tognetti (Sydney, Brisbane 2009)
  • Nikolaj Znaider – Tchaikovsky Concerto (London 2015)

The drawing is Adoph Menzel’s 1853 drawing of Joseph Joachim (1831-1907), famously a pupil of Mendelssohn and a cousin of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s grandmother.   Joachim taught Jeno Hubay (1858-1937), who taught Leo Birsen (1902-1992), with whom I had some lessons.