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tamaranth

August 2017

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06MAY17: Their Finest, Greenwich Picturehouse
WW2 comedy/drama/romance set in propaganda film industry.
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18MAY17: Tchaikovsky, excerpts from Swan Lake; Rachmaninoff, Piano Concerto #2; Shosyakovich, Symphony #6, Cadogan Hall. Moscow Philharmonic cond. Yuri Simonov; Freddy Klempf, piano
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19MAY17: Here She Comes, By Jove, Gallery on the Corner
A feminist take on Bacchae in the form of an epic poemRead more... )

20MAY17: Snatched, Greenwich Picturehouse
"Putting the 'fun' back into 'non-refundable'." Oh, if only ... Read more... )

23MAY17: Full Circle, Theatre N16
Clytemnestra, Queen of the Damned, is in hell: so are Phaedra, Medea and Helen. Read more... )

28MAY17: Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge, Odeon, Greenwich
Read more... )JUMPING. ZOMBIE. SHARKS.

28MAY17: Iron Maiden / Shinedown, O2, Greenwich
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31MAY17: KISS, O2, Greenwich
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05MAR17 Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Palace Theatre



I wasn't expecting to enjoy this as much as I did. It is over-long -- the story could have been told in a single 3-hour play -- and there is issues with the characterisation of the 'older generation', Ginny and Draco in particular. (Ginny came across as bland and frumpish; Draco felt like one of those nicely-brought-up boys who has learnt to affect a rough accent.) But the production is splendidly inventive, with special effects to rival anything digital. I think there were a couple of scenes where projections were used -- the rest of it was sheer stagecraft and lighting.

I won't go into details about the plot: suffice to say that Albus Severus Potter is a Difficult Child, and so is his father. There's plenty of fan service and in-jokes, and subversion of canon: and though I can see why the ending disappoints some, I think it works well.

11MAR17 Twelfth Night, National Theatre



An absolutely delightful production, with a female Feste (who's marvellous: Doon Mackichan) as well as the highly-publicised 'Malvolia' (Tamsin Greig). The production's setting is Twentieth Century Modern (shades of Sixties, Seventies, Eighties: 'bring me my veil' produces sunglasses) with a jazz setting of 'O Mistress Mine' and Hamlet's 'To be or not to be' set to a torch song in a sleazy gay bar, the Elephant.

Absolute high-point was the 'cross-gartered' scene, with music (Tamsin Greig has an excellent voice) and a ... surprising costume. Greig brings something new to the role, and her parting words ('I'll be revenged on the whole pack of you') feel more sincere, and more ominous, than in any other production I've seen.

Kudos also to Tim McMullan (Sir Toby Belch, reminiscent of some persons of my acquaintance) and to the musicians, who did not have an easy job of it -- there was genuine (theatrical) weather in the final number, 'Hey ho, the wind and the rain'.

Highly recommended.

31MAR17 Beethoven, Symphonies 1 and 9 -- Dresden Philharmonic (cond Sanderling), Cadogan Hall



The First Symphony is very cheerful but not especially Beethovian, at least to start with. I was there for the Ninth, which is one of my top five in terms of classical music to see live: I wasn't disappointed. The Dresden Philharmonic were precise and vivid and the choir(s) (Cardiff Ardwyn Singers and Cardiff Polyphonic Choir) clear and well-balanced. Thomas Faulkner (bass) was the best of the four soloists, who were behind the orchestra and in front of the choir rather than in front of the conductor -- this may have made the tenor and mezzo harder to hear. But oh, that finale! Thoughts of the dear lost EU (of which this is the anthem) made me weepy: it's such an uplifting piece, but it felt a little like a glimpse of something lost. I wonder how Brexit will affect tours by European orchestras?

But: Beethoven's Ninth. Good for the brain and the heart.
04-DEC-16: Tchaikovsky - excerpts from Eugene Onegin, Swan Lake, Nutcracker: RFH
Veronika Dzhioeva, soprano, has a fantastic loud clear voice that was perfectly audible from the cheap seats behind the orchestra. Tommi Hakala, as Onegin, slid and flowed through the orchestra to face her. Jac van Steen, conducting, clearly really enjoyed the Swan Lake excerpts, which were joyous though a bit heavy on the brass/percussion. I loved the Swan Lake finale especially, and still find the Nutcracker rather tedious.

05-DEC-16: Arrival, Greenwich Picture House
A late contender for my Best Film of Year. Beautiful, understated, intelligent. I need to see this again, as it took me a while to get to grips with the non-sequentiality.

09-DEC-16: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Greenwich Picture House.
Meh.
That is: yes, great CGI; Redmayne rather sweet; Twenties New York (though oddly monoracial) nicely filmed; er; that's it. Did not engage me.

11-DEC-16: Status Quo, O2
Hurrah for my lovely employers and their box at the O2! We knew nearly all the songs; were surprised by the energy and enthusiasm of the band, who played for nearly 2 hours; were, for a change, among the younger members of the audience. A good night out.

15-DEC-16: Rogue One, Barbican Cinema
Need to see this again as I was suffering from a surfeit of boozy Christmas lunch. Definitely wasn't in the right mood -- and some scenes were far too close to the news footage from Aleppo that I'd been watching that morning.

20-DEC-16: The Three Kings -- The Sixteen, Cadogan Hall
A varied selection of seasonal songs, from Palestrina and Handl (not Handel) to popular carols. I think I'd have been happier if they'd stuck to the older, more classical songs -- I enjoyed the Palestrina most, either because of the Latin (not listening to words helps me focus on music) or because of the harmonies. Also, could have done with knowing the year of composition of each piece, to build up a relative chronology.

The Sixteen were on excellent form: the phrase 'ceasing never' in 'We Three Kings' felt like a doom in and of itself. Warlock's 'Bethlehem Down' had, for me, a distinctly modern feel, with sprung rhythm and grace-notes in the bass line. And Anerio's Magnificat -- written in 1614, apparently, so my note 'earlier than Bach?' is accurate -- was a delight: echoes of the Coventry Carol and of Pergolesi.
Brief reviews this month, due to November. Click the links to see what other people thought, and more details about performances etc.

07-OCT-16: Don Giovanni, English National Opera
Utterly splendid production, which managed to introduce a twist! Several twists, actually, including Donna Anna being complicit in her own seduction: I'm not sure this entirely makes sense. Beautifully staged, too: a highlight was Masetto, perfectly silhouetted by stark light, tipping over one of the two figures on his wedding cake. Maybe a new translation of the libretto? I'd surely have remembered 'let my peasant eat my pheasant' ...

15-OCT-16: The Libertine, Theatre Royal
I know this play quite well, having seen it performed live at least once (maybe this performance) as well as owning the DVD of the film starring Johnny Depp. There were a couple of innovations (or possibly things I misremembered) in the Theatre Royal version: I was especially taken by the theatre scene ('play within a play', ha) near the beginning, where it became obvious why Restoration actors relied so much on exaggerated gestures and poses: their audiences made such a racket, there was little chance of anyone hearing the actors declaiming their lines.
Sadly, Dominic Cooper didn't really work as Rochester, at least not for me. He lacked not only the charisma, but the requisite air of danger: and it never felt as though he actually enjoyed the company of his friends, or felt like one of a group. In this production, Billy Downs wasn't central enough, so Rochester's friendship with and abandonment of him lacked impact.
The Theatre Royal is a beautiful building, and this play still makes me laugh: but it could have been better.

21-OCT-16: Bach - Mass in B Minor, Milton Court
'Like being wrapped in a velvet devore shawl," I wrote, '(and slowly smothered?)' The slower movements were beautiful, if ... relaxing: but oh, baroque brass and kettle-drums! The Gloria and the Sanctus Spiritus both sparked exclamation marks in my notebook. The sheer attack on the Resurrexit was like electricity going through the room. And the gradual slowing at the end of the final movement worked very well.
Milton Hall, which is part of the Guildhall School for Music and Drama, is smaller than the Barbican's main concert hall and has great acoustics: I like it, and hope to see more concerts there.

22-OCT-16: Welcome to Night Vale, London Palladium
Not nearly as many women in the audience as the last show I attended. And it didn't seem, from my sparse notes, to appeal to me as much either. Some interesting lines, but the show's accomplishment was the slow build of Cecil's ghost story. Excellent opening act Eliza Rickman: I loved her cover of Let's Dance and recognised the chords before she started to sing.

25-OCT-16: Doctor Strange, Odeon Leicester Square
Not very far up my ranked list of MCU films: it's visually spectacular, but the character arcs don't make much sense, and Cumberbatch is an oddly uninteresting Strange. (Or perhaps Strange is uninteresting? Compare and contrast to the first Iron Man film for how to introduce a new, engaging character.) Some nice lines: 'What's this?' asks Strange in a Tibetan hideaway. 'My mantra?' 'The wi-fi password.' I liked Stan Lee's cameo, reading The Doors of Perception. Tilda Swinton: awesome as ever. The best bit was the first credits scene. Also, is that a new Marvel title sequence? Does not want.
A pretty appalling month for new culture: I attended two half-performances, and came away dissatisfied from both.

11-JUNE-16 - Phaedra(s) (Barbican)
Spectator piece

Isabelle Huppert in the title role(s) was fabulous. Sadly, the production (in French, with surtitles) was not -- beautifully lit minimalist staging, riffing on Euripides' original play and three modern writers who've transformed it ... into three hours of vomit, fellatio, menstruation, rape, and a lot of ranting. Our seats were upgraded but that did not make up for anything. I left at the interval, apparently missing the good bit at the end (but also some more violence, rape and murder).

23-JUNE-16 - Part / Beethoven (RFH, conductor Dohnányi)
review by someone who stayed the whole way through

Part's Fratres is a piece which I usually find very relaxing and meditative: Beethoven's fourth Piano Concerto (pianist Martin Helmchen) is generally a delight. However, I did not enjoy this concert, due to body-odour problem of man next to me (he also fidgeted a lot). Left at interval for trainpocalypse: it took me 2 hours to get home, so I'm glad I abandoned ship, though sorry to've missed Beethoven's Pastoral.

(no subject)

Jun. 7th, 2016 07:24 am
tamaranth: me, in the sun (Default)
07-MAY-16: Fred's House -- The Junction, Cambridge

What an excellent gig! Full of verve, nice Seventies vibe, exuberant singer and good songs. Plus, although it was technically a standing-only gig, we got there early enough to get seats.

11-MAY-16: Lucia di Lammermoor, Royal Opera House

M had a spare ticket, hurrah! This was the Katie Mitchell production that sparked outrage due to explicit sex: I don't know if they'd toned it down by the time we saw it, or if we just didn't notice the worst bits. (We were off to the left of the ROH: the production is 'split-screen', with different action on the left and the right of the stage, and we didn't have a good view of the left half.) The production does highlight the sexual politics and the misogyny -- Lucia's 'wedding feast' is a pool game, not a woman in sight. Blood everywhere, too. But the music is sublime and often cheery. Marvellous singing, especially from Aleksandra Kurzak as Lucia and Artur Ruciński as Enrico.

21-MAY-16: London Choral Sinfonia; Haydn, War and Peace -- Cadogan Hall

Haydn's Masses have become some of my favourite choral music. The London Choral Sinfonia gave us Salve Regina, Te Deum and the Nelson Mass: they started with a shorter piece I had not heard before, Insanae et vanae curae, which was fantastic. Interestingly, the choir includes male altos -- not something I remember seeing before. Will definitely look out for more concerts by this group.

25-MAY-16: Justina Robson interview, BSFA -- Artillery Arms

Interviewed by Kate Keen, who asked plenty of pertinent questions and got interesting responses. JR's recurring theme: 'dead people in your head'. And her apology: 'I naturally complicate things'. An offhand comment provoked me to find and reread Andre Norton's The Jargoon Pard; I also learnt that JR was inspired by Holdstock's Lavondyss -- communal tales, big ideas. Plus some commentary about Glorious Angels, her latest, which I loved.

Cultural April

May. 4th, 2016 09:44 pm
tamaranth: me, in the sun (Default)
03-APR-16: Brahms, Beethoven, Elgar (Nikolai Lugansky - piano; Yuri Temirkanov - conductor) - RFH

Beethoven's Coriolan overture seemed a little slow, a little hesitant. Brahms Piano Concerto #1 was utterly glorious (as ever). I hear something new every time I hear a live performance. This time around I noted that this is piano as percussion: something you hit. And the piano had evolved massively since Beethoven's day ... also a scale in 3rd movement that may have been borrowed by Holst. From where we were sitting I couldn't see Lugansky's hands (was surprised how much I missed that) and occasionally the piano was drowned out by brass. But yes, glorious, and jubilant.

Second half was Elgar Enigma variations. Still not a fan, though I can see they are fun and clever. I wondered if the mystery 'hidden melody' might be 'Lilliburlero': if so, nobody else has ever noticed, so it seems unlikely.

11-APR-16: Harry, by Caitlin McEwan -- N16 Theatre, the Bedford, Balham

A play about being a fan (in this instance a fan of Harry Styles from One Direction) and the intense friendships that fandom can foster. Harry focusses on Caitlin and Sophie, who meet at university and share an obsession with Mr Styles. But Sophie moves on ...

It didn't seem to me to be a play about fandom -- there was no sense of a wider fannish community, no mention of Tumblr or fanfic or meetups, just the two of them stalking Harry Styles via Twitter. It's more about obsession and evolving / failing friendship than it is about the fannish experience. But is that just because I don't recognise my own experience?

Excellent acting from Poor Michelle, in the persons of Cailin McEwan and Sophie McQuillan: sharp and funny and well-observed.

14-APR-16: 'The Italian Job' (Italian Baroque music) -- La Serenissima, Cadogan Hall

Quite a few pieces here that I wasn't familiar with, enlivened by brief introductions from Adrian Chandler. I learnt that Albinoni's famous Adagio is likely a 20th-century forgery, and observed that the proportions of a Baroque orchestra's string section are different to those of a modern syphony orchestra's. Especially liked Torelli's Sinfonia for Practically Everything [free translation] which confirmed my suspicion that Baroque brass is what really grabs my attention. Though Vivaldi's Concerta alla Rustica was also fab.

23-APR-16: Doctor Faustus (Marlowe, with modern interruptions from Colin Teevan), Duke of York's

I'm not sure I would have had the nerve to call this Doctor Faustus -- Marlowe's glorious text frames a comparatively trite and facile centre section, in which Faustus becomes a rock star or possibly a stage magician. There are some clever bits, and some interesting alterations (Wagner and Mephistopheles both female, as was Valdes; Faustus' book a Mac; pre-show soundtrack of songs about hell and the devil): but there is also gratuitous nudity, murder, rape and coprophagia.

Kit Harington was surprisingly good in the title role: Jenna Russell was outstanding as Mephistopheles (complete with a rendition of 'Bat out of Hell'). But I can't say that it was, on average, an enjoyable performance. As one of my companions pithed, "Less than the sum of its parts."

28-APR-16: Captain America: Civil War
no spoilers )
11-MAR - Norma (Bellini) -- English National Opera

Glorious music, sublime indifference to historical fact. Gaul, circa 50BC. Norma is a Druid priestess, who worships Inmirsul [a Saxon deity, here represented quite authentically by a large tree-trunk, albeit not in its erect state] and believes the Romans will be leaving soon. (True, give or take four centuries.) She is in love with a Roman proconsul, Pollione: but he has traded her in for a younger model, Analgesic Adalgisa -- also a priestess. When Pollione is recalled to Rome, guess who he plans to take with him? Norma is not happy. But she does a selfless brave thing.

Very much enjoyed, and thanks to A for taking our spare ticket and bringing us a bottle of wine for the box!

12-MAR - Hail Caesar!

This was immense fun, even for someone like me who has a poor memory for faces. Gosh, that was Christopher Lambert. And Dolph Lundgren. And ... and ... Gosh, Professor Marcuse. I have heard of him.

The plot is basically 'man has to choose between hard-but-fun job or cushy boring job'. George Clooney is brilliantly stupid; Alden Ehrenreich is hilarious as a star of Westerns thrust into a society drama; gosh, Channing Tatum can certainly dance (and what an interesting take).

Yes, it trivialises the anti-Communist witchhunts, and there's a bit of period-typical homophobia (part of it plot-related, e.g. the threatened outing of an actor; part of it not, e.g. the fact that the villain is a homosexual). But it celebrates the myth of the golden age of Hollywood, and has fun recreating thinly-disguised classics such as Ben Hur, On the Town, Shine on Harvest Moon and Million Dollar Mermaid.

13-MAR - Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution -- National Maritime Museum

Using Pepys as a starting point, this exhibition brought together a great many artifacts from the 17th century, and included some audiovisual items: a painting of the execution of Charles I, with areas highlighted as the narrative progressed; a theatrical section with readings from Shakespeare; an animation of the progress of the Great Fire. There wasn't as much about Pepys' own life as I'd have liked, and more about his marriage (happy) than any of his extracurricular affairs. This being the Maritime Museum, they got into their stride with his connections to the Navy. Gosh, a chain link such as would have been used in Pepys' time ... Very nicely done, though. I was accompanied by a friend who asked me about the history of the period: I recommended she read Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver -- and when we reached the gift shop at the end, there it was.

18-MAR - Scriabin, late Poemes (James Kreiling) Peckham Asylum

Well, I went to this concert suspecting that I didn't like late Scriabin, and I came away confirmed in my belief. I could perceive glimmers of structure and sequence, but I didn't understand the music at all. By way of contrast, Kreiling finished with an earlier piece, and I felt I had more of a handle on that. So: still unappreciative of late-period Scriabin, but it was a very impressive performance by a gifted musician. Also, the venue was astounding: lots of peeling and faded paint, stained-glass windows, tealights and bare bulbs, broken masonry. Photo here.
03-FEB - Nightwatchers, Tower of London.
Immersive theatre/experience: we put on headphones, switched on the provided mobile phones, and followed directions around the Tower of London and through a history of espionage, terrorism and dissent. I ended up doing this twice with different friends! An excellent opportunity to soak up the Tower's atmosphere after dark; no interaction with strangers required; some interesting, though occasionally heavy-handed, parallels between C16 Catholics and C21 Islamists.

08-FEB - Dixit Dominus (Handel) -- The Sixteen, Cadogan Hall
Thrilling music beautifully performed. I'm still tending Haydn-wards but this was lovely.

10-FEB - Deadpool, Leicester Square
Fun, hyperviolent, fourth-wall-destroying, surprisingly feminist (or, rather, less mysogynist than a lot of superhero movies). It absolutely does tie into the MCU: look at where the climactic battle takes place ...

13-FEB - St Matthew Passion (J S Bach) St Albans Cathedral
A dramatised performance in the round, with James Gilchrist as the Evangelist: I was initially a little dubious, but the minimalist staging and glorious sound worked very well together. Side note: not sure why St Albans feels so far away. But it does.

20-FEB - Common Property -- Jerwood Space, London
Art about copyright, reuse, mashups and fanworks. Could have done with more explanatory info in the gallery itself, rather than in the official programme. Some interesting ideas and some impenetrable executions. Thought-provoking.

27-FEB - Historical Fictions Research Network Conference, ARU, Cambridge
The first HFRN conference (to which I probably shouldn't have gone, given werk overload and February fatigue). Some really interesting items-- highlights for me included papers on Naomi Mitchison, Doctor Who, creative anachronism in genre painting; Debbie Challis on working with the ENO on Akhenaten; Greer Gilman interviewed by Nick Lowe.
02-JAN - Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovsky), Royal Opera House -- a Christmas present from [livejournal.com profile] ladymoonray. Like any good production, this made me notice aspects of the opera that I hadn't spotted before: the melodramatic music of Onegin's first appearance (a visitor is such an event!); the Offenbach vibe of the Frenchman's song; Tatiana's friends talking about Samuel Richardson. And this production is gorgeous: shades of blue-grey-aqua for everyone except Tatiana, who's in crimson and white. Having a younger version of Onegin, dancing, didn't work for me, but I can see how it illuminated the story.

07-JAN - As You Like It (Shakespeare), National Theatre -- a friend had a spare ticket. I loved the transformation of techie office space into forest: truly arresting. The sheep were fun, too, and Rosalind (Rosalie Craig) was excellent.

14-JAN - Celts: Art and Identity, British Museum. Celtic art is a broad category, extending from decorations on shields and swords to Mackintosh and 'Ossian'. I was taken by The Druids: Bringing in the Mistletoe (George Henry, 1890) until I got closer and realised that the Druids had Native American features. Also, could really have done without the dreamy tinkly New Age music playing throughout.

28-JAN - Sibelius/Martinsson/Sibelius: Philharmonia cond. Rouvali, Royal Festival Hall Rouvali clearly loves Sibelius -- he was a joy to watch, and brought so much energy (and sharp exhalations of breath) to 'Night Ride and Sunrise' and the Second Symphony. Exuberant! Kudos to the Philharmonia -- as usual -- but especially for the perfect union of bass pizzicato at the beginning of the second movement of Second Symphony. ... There was also a Trumpet Concerto, which I did not care for though it was very well executed. More of an argument between orchestra and instrument than a conversation ...

30-JAN - Libertines, O2 -- a.k.a. 'my friend's cousin's band'. Attended with 2 teenagers, who were excellent company. I find I like earlier Libertines best, and have little patience for the celebrity-hungry afterpartiers. Bass was waaaaaay too high on Sleaford Mods (support); Libertines good, energetic and engaged; crowd-watching fun.
Gosh, I used to blog daily. How...?

Beethoven - Symphony #9 -- Warsaw Philharmonic, Cadogan Hall, 20-May-15
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'Alternative Worlds' - Elizabeth Knox and Janine Matthewson -- Kings College London, 31-May-15

"Fiction is the great god of the world of feeling ... the lies that we tell to tell the truth truer."

Read more... )

Waiting for Godot, Barbican Theatre, 9-Jun-15
Mostly booked this because of the two leads: Richard Roxburgh as Estragon, Hugo Weaving as Vladimir. [Why yes, it is in my calendar as 'Waiting for Elrond and Dracula'.] Read more... )

Jurassic World, Odeon Greenwich, 12-Jun-15

No, this is not a feminist movie in the slightest. A strong, intelligent female is shunned and isolated, and when she escapes from her situation she is hunted down like an animalRead more... )

Oresteia, Almeida Theatre, 15-Jun-15

"Forewarned is forearmed, not forestalled."

Read more... )

Beethoven - Fidelio Overture / Piano Concerto #3 / Symphony #5, Dresden Philharmonic (conductor: Sanderling) & Freddy Kempf, Cadogan Hall, 18-Jun-15

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Beethoven - Prometheus Overture / Piano Concerto #5, Dresden Philharmonic (conductor: Sanderling) & Freddy Kempf, Cadogan Hall, 22-Jun-15

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To Kill a Mockingbird, Barbican Theatre, 11-Jul-15

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Ant-Man, Cineworld West India Quay, 17-Jul-15

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Gosh, this paid-employment lark (plus an ev0l commute) doesn't leave me much time to be Me ... but job is good and so will money be. And being back in London (kinda sorta) is Fab.

So!
Electra [Old Vic, 28-Oct-14]Read more... )

Beethoven Coriolan overture, Liszt Piano Concerto #2, Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique [conductor Tugan Sokhiev, piano Khatia Buniatishvili: Royal Festival Hall, 30-Oct-14]Read more... )

Necropolis [Waterloo Station, 31-Oct-14]Read more... )

Interstellar [Curzon Victoria, 07-Nov-14]Read more... )
A summary review, because (a) September has been extraordinarily busy (b) I've lost a notebook (c) inertia.

Medea, Olivier Theatre, 2-Sep-14
Read more... )

Mitch Benn, Junction, 5-Sep-14
Read more... )

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo, 13-Sep-14
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Unthanks with Sam Lee, Barbican, 18-Sep-14
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Julius Caesar, Globe, 20-Sep-14
Read more... )

Berlioz Grande Messe des Morts, RFH, 25-Sep-14
Read more... )

Looking back, I note that the majority of these events were not exactly cheerful. A tragedy, a requiem, a remembrance, another tragedy. Thank heavens for Mitch Benn, and especially Kate Bush.
1. Grand Organ Gala, RFH, 7-Jun-14
Missed the first half due to Abellio Greater Anglia, who did not give me sufficient information to enable me to choose a train that was running on time. Instead, I stood on the terrace drinking wine and firing off embittered tweets, while most of the stuff that I was there to hear (Bach Toccata and Fugue, Saint-Saens Organ Symphony, Mozart Requiem -- excerpts all, but still ...) was playing in the auditorium.

The organ -- which is a spectacular beast -- turned out to be illuminated in colour. I did enjoy Widor's Toccata (blue and red), and Albinoni's Adagio (purple): but I felt that most of the pieces in the second half featured organ as underpinning to orchestra, rather than as the star of the show.

The concert concluded with the Pomp and Circumstance march plus Land of Hope and Glory, featuring full choir. Why, yes, the organ was lit in red, white and blue.

2. Rachmaninov Piano Concerto #3, RFH, 12-Jun-14
Kirill Gerstein on piano: he is a joy to watch and as ever I discovered new aspects of the piece. This was a performance edging on madness, from the histrionics of the flute to the skittery nerves of the piano. (Also, the first time I'd experienced the downside of sitting in the choir: the brass actually drowned out the piano near the end of the third movement.) I'd never noticed before that orchestra and piano play to different beats at several points.

The encore was a showy and virtuousic Etude for the Left-Hand (Opus 36) by Felix Blumenfeld. If Gerstein can play like that with one hand ...

We skipped Shostakovich Symphony #5 in favour of cocktails and dessert at Le Pain Quotidien, because (a) you should quit while you're ahead and (b) adulthood means not having to be grown-up. Or something.
Broadcast live on Radio 3 (so should be available on iPlayer for the next week): I was mostly there for the Piano Concerto, so skipped the second half (Dvorak New World Symphony) though might as well have stayed given the irregularity of trains back to Cambridge yesterday evening.

Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto is, in places, like a nineteenth-century wall of sound. It felt full of movement, spiralling down and then bursting forth.

Denis Kozhukhin (piano) was marvellous (though, due to clubbed blond hair, looked distractingly like Russell Crowe as Jack Aubrey) and I shall be seeking out other performances, live and on CD.

Trains are stupid.
The Tyburn Tree -- John Harle and Marc Almond

Saw this at the Corn Exchange in Cambridge. Although we were right behind the sound desk, the sound was sub-optimal. A lot of the second half was too loud to hear, and made my ears crackle. Might be that I'm too old to do live music :( or might be that moderate ear damage from infections and a misspent youth mean that I'll need earplugs in future. Either way, I didn't feel that I had heard the concert. Also, waaaay too dark to read the programme, so I don't have many specific notes.

The first half ('Songs of Earth and Alchemy') featured John Harle with soprano Sarah Leonard, and felt like a blend of modern classical, prog rock and folk. And, unfortunately (for me), jazz. Some of it was gorgeous (sax and vocal duets, 'Main Diable La'): some was not.

The second half ('The Tyburn Tree') featured a cassock-wearing, almost burlesque Marc Almond. (His voice is still excellent.) Twelve songs about the darker aspects of London life and death, including a rather nasty variation on 'London Bridge is Falling Down', and several songs about famous murderers. Finished with an interesting setting of Blake's 'Jerusalem'.

I'm tempted to buy the album so I can actually listen to the music: only then could I decide whether I actually liked it.
Brahms - Eine Deutsche Requiem (Philharmonia cond. Andris Nelsons: soprano Sally Matthews, baritone James Rutherford)
The first piece was Brahms' Piano Quartet #3 in C minor, which was surprisingly nice given that I am not keen on chamber music. But I was mostly there for the Requiem, which is glorious. Though the text (mostly taken from the Bible) is religious, it's in German rather than Latin, and doesn't follow the structure of a typical requiem mass. I find it a profoundly humanist work: comforting, uplifting and inspirational.

This performance, featuring the newly-completed Festival Hall organ and the Philharmonia Chorus, did not disappoint. It's a complex piece with some really interesting orchestration, full of contrasts and patterns: great to watch the music unfold, and see how it was put together. And after the final jubilant movement there must've been a minute's silence before the applause began. How nice to be part of an audience that takes a moment to reflect!
I'd been waiting for the second of Helene Grimaud's renditions of Brahms Piano Concertos since hearing her play Concerto #1 last summer. I wasn't disappointed. She has a combination of delicacy and brute strength that is exactly right for Brahms.

Also noticed in this performance just how hard the brass (and woodwind) are working in the background, underpinning the whole concerto.

I have to confess I'm not as keen on the finale of Concerto #2 as the finale of #1 -- it's a bit too rollicking (think 'Academic Overture'. which I am also not keen on) and doesn't have the triumphant ambience of the first concerto: plus the ending is shockingly abrupt. But the rest of it -- the peals like bells in 2nd movement, the cello solo in 3rd -- is marvellous, and Grimaud's playing elevates it further.

Skipped the second half as I still haven't really connected with Brahms' symphonies, and needed an early(ish) night.
Philharmonia Orchestra (cond. Tugan Sokhiev); Arcadi Volodos, piano

Due to inclement weather and aftermath of illness, I left this concert at the interval, thus missing Shostakovich (not a hardship for me!): my focus was the Brahms concerto and it didn't disappoint.

Arcadi Volodos's performance of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto #3 at the Proms, in 1997, electrified me: it was viscerally affecting in a way that I'd never experienced with Beethoven, Mozart etc. Obviously a lot of that affect was down to Rachmaninoff, but Volodos' interpretation played its part. ('played', hahaha.)

He's considerably older and more ... successful, but he hasn't lost that touch. His performance was gripping, albeit on occasion so delicate as to be almost inaudible (we were in the choir, on the 'wrong' side of the piano, and I'm certain the inaudibility was due to our position). Because I know one particular recording (Stephen Hough's) by heart, even a split-second hesitation felt like (but wasn't) a mistake -- and engaged me with the music, the ebb and flow and crash and whisper of it, all over again.

One of the things I really love about Brahms' piano concertos is the way it's piano versus orchestra. The Philharmonia were far from being backing music for this piano extravaganza: there's almost as much glorious textured melody and rhythm in the orchestral part as in the piano. Particular kudos to the brass section (as usual), and to the orchestra as a whole for managing to conceal from me the fact that there was no percussion at all: that is, it was loud and rhythmic and forceful without a single kettledrum. So there, Herr Beethoven.

This is the concerto with the bells in it: reading the programme notes about Brahms in ecstasies over Italian cathedrals, I've amended my mental context slightly.