Monthly Archives: August 2014

EIF 2014 review: Concerto Italiano

First published in the Guardian on 22 August 2014

There are few performers better versed in the music of Claudio Monteverdi than Rinaldo Alessandrini and the ensemble he founded 30 years ago, Concerto Italiano. In 2007 they brought a five-part madrigals series to the Edinburgh International Festival; this year their visit was all-too-brief – a single concert done and dusted in less than an hour. I could have happily sat through several times that.

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EIF 2014 review: Renaud Capucon and friends

First published in The Herald on 22 August, 2014

Erich Korngold is not everyone’s slice of Sachertorte. (Oh to have never heard that indelible ‘more Korn than Gold’ quip). The Viennese composer is best known as the man who invented the sound of Hollywood: think schmaltzy strings, harp glissandos and angelic offstage female choirs. The chamber music he composed in Europe before fleeing the Nazis in the late 1930s is similarly tuneful and breathless, but more intimate and occasionally daring in its way.

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The Royal Concertgebouw, building and orchestra

concertgebouw

First published in The Herald on 21 August, 2014

The great Dutch conductor Bernard Haitink once described Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw as the best instrument of the orchestra that it houses. There are many iconic concert halls in the world: Berlin’s Philharmonie; Vienna’s Musiekverein; London’s Royal Festival Hall; Reykjavik’s new Harpa – the list could go on. Many have settings more dramatic or architecture more bling, but none can top the Concertgebouw’s trump card: the best acoustics in the world.

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EIF 2014 review: Philippe Herreweghe & Collegium Vocale Gent

First published in The Herald on 21 August, 2014

Four nights ago at the International Festival, Philippe Herreweghe’s account of Bach’s B Minor Mass was intimate, delicate and unhurried – a marvel, but too finespun for a venue the size of the Usher Hall. Last night found the Belgian conductor and his terrific Collegium Vocale Gent choir in altogether grander form, and the results were spectacular.

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EIF 2014 review: Simon Keenlyside

First published in The Herald on 21 August, 2014

The English baritone Simon Keenlyside is tremendous in Verdi, gripping as Berg’s Wozzeck, a superb actor who can command the world’s grandest opera stages and turn them inwards for incisive psychological portrayals. So it was touching that his manner at the Queen’s Hall was almost shy. He didn’t seem to know what to do with his hands and his demeanour was earnest. Pianist Malcolm Martineau gave warm support throughout, but the recital had a sense of genuine searching and introspection.

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Interview: Gianandrea Noseda on William Tell

william_tell_

First published in The Herald on 20 August 2014

Everyone knows the overture to William Tell: that sweet cello section solo, those bucolic Swiss cowbells, peppy trumpet fanfares and – of course! – the rollicking finale, up there with the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony as the most famous soundbite in classical music. (How many people can hear the overture and not immediately pretend to ride a galloping horse is a different matter. There’s even an old joke about it. Q: What’s the definition of an intellectual? A: Somebody who hears the William Tell Overture and doesn’t think of The Lone Ranger.)

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EIF 2014 review: Kronos Quartet

First published in The Herald on 20 August, 2014

In the programme for this concert, each piece was annotated with either a star or a cross: star meant the piece was written for Kronos Quartet, cross meant it was arranged for them. There are few ensembles that could boast responsibility for such a repertoire. In quick succession we heard Syrian wedding tunes, Malian balafon music and a quartet by Terry Riley (The Serquent Risadome – his 28th work for Kronos and not very interesting). There was a beautiful whispered miniature by Laurie Anderson called Flow, the best work of the night. There was Nicole Lizée’s take on 1960s East German Komische pop music that integrated quaintly archaic instruments like the Stylophone and the Omnichord.

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EIF 2014 review: Michael Houston

First published in The Herald on 20 August, 2014

The pianist Michael Houston is best known in his native New Zealand, where he lives and gives most of his performances. The 61-year-old isn’t a particularly well-kent name in the UK (which explains the number of empty seats at the Queen’s Hall yesterday) but this recital, broadcast live on Radio 3, had the potential to help change that.

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EIF 2014 review: LPO, Jurowski, Kopatchinskaja

First published in The Herald on 19 August, 2014

Vladimir Jurowski has been principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra since 2007 and seems to have honed his conducting of them down to bare essentials. At times during this concert he hardly conducted at all, just a flick of the hand or a bob of the head indicating his intentions. The result was orchestral playing both relaxed and engaged: seductively loose around the edges, still clean and properly balanced when need be.

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EIF 2014 review: Anna Prohaska

First published in The Herald on 19 August, 2014

First there was an announcement informing us that Ms Prohaska hasn’t been feeling well for the past few days, then an unnervingly long wait for the Austrian soprano to appear on stage. When she did, though, her opening lines were fearless. She sang a foreboding German folk song (‘Es geht ein dunkle Wolk herein’), her rendition quiet, unaccompanied and unblinking. What a striking start to her Edinburgh debut.

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