It so rarely happens that the final concert you are due to review of any year ends up being one of the finest of all. Santtu-Matias Rouvali’s all Richard Strauss programme with the Philharmonia Orchestra, however, was often quite remarkable – one might quibble that parts of it were somewhat controversial, and that he even lived a little dangerously, but the impact was never less than imaginative and vivid. This was a distinctly young man’s view of Strauss – and all the better for that.
Were there any justice in this fallen world, serial Stravinsky – not to mention Webern – would be played on every street corner, or at least in every concert hall. Come the revolution, perhaps.
Belgian soprano Sophie Karthaüser’s latest song recital is all about the animal kingdom. As in previous recordings of songs by Wolf, Debussy and Poulenc, pianist Eugene Asti is her accompanist in Le Bal des Animaux, a delightful collection of French songs about creatures of all sizes, from flea to elephant and from crayfish to dolphin.
During the past four years, there have been many musical and artistic centenary commemorations of the terrible human tragedies, inhumanities and utter madness of the First World War, but there can have been few that have evoked the turbulence and trauma of war – both past and present, in the abstract and in the particular – with such terrifying emotional intensity as this recital by Ian Bostridge and Antonio Pappano at the Barbican Hall.
Charles Gounod famously said that if you took the Spanish airs out of Carmen “there remains nothing to Bizet’s credit but the sauce that masks the fish”.
The first performance of Charles Villiers Stanford’s ninth and final opera The Travelling Companion was given by an enthusiastic troupe of Liverpudlian amateurs at the David Lewis Theatre – Liverpool’s ‘Old Vic’ – in April 1925, nine years after it was completed, eight after it won a Carnegie Award, and one year after the composer’s death.
The songs of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov lie at the heart of the Romantic Russian art song repertoire, but in this duo recital at Wigmore Hall it was the songs of Nikolay Medtner – three of which were framed by sequences by the great Russian masters – which proved most compelling and intriguing.
The world premiere recording of Wolfgang Rihm’s Requiem-Strophen (2015/2016) with Mariss Jansons conducting the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks and the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks with Mojca Erdmann, Anna Prohaska and Hanno M¸ller-Brachmann, from BR Klassik NEOS.
Manitoba Opera turned the art of seduction into bloodsport with its 2018/19 season-opener of Mozart’s dramma giocoso, Don Giovanni often walking a razor’s edge between hilarious social commentary and chilling battles for the soul.