Monthly Archives: November 2014

ENO cutting Orfeo in Bristol: same old London bias?

First published in the Guardian on 11 November, 2014

What a shame that English National Opera has pulled out of its spring co-production of Orfeo with Bristol’s Old Vic. It would have been the company’s first UK project outside of London in 15 years. While it’s unsurprising that ENO is in panic stations – Arts Council England dealt a 29 per cent blow to its annual funding in the summer – the decision to cut this of all possible corners smacks of a London bias that will come as grimly familiar for the 87 per cent of UK residents who live outwith the M25.

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Review: Emersons + Leonskaja

First published in The Herald on 11 November, 2014

The cumulative experience on stage was vast: Elisabeth Leonskaja has been giving piano recitals since the 1950s, while the Emersons have been at the forefront of American concert life since the late 1970s. This pairing should have easily filled City Halls but on Sunday the balcony was empty and the stalls had scores of folded seats. Was it scheduling? Basic marketing? Either way, the atmosphere was dishearteningly flat for such esteemed musicians.

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Interview: Donald Runnicles

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First published in the Sunday Herald on 9 November, 2014

The day after my interview with Donald Runnicles a press release is issued by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra: Runnicles will be standing down as the orchestra’s Chief Conductor in 2016. It’s the post that brought the Edinburgh-born conductor back to Scotland five years ago and one that has solidified the BBCSSO’s sound and status as one of the world’s great orchestras. For those of us who have marvelled at the epic repertoire, world-class singers and musical gravitas Runnicles has brought to City Halls over the past few seasons, the blow was softened by news that he will become the orchestra’s first Conductor Emeritus (a title created especially for him) and will be back in Glasgow every year. Ask any party involved –audience, musicians, management or the man himself – and the response is fairly unanimous: this is a relationship worth preserving.

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Interview: Elisabeth Leonskaja

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First published in The Herald on 5 November, 2014

It is hard to imagine Elisabeth Leonskaja doing anything trivial. Reading a trashy magazine at the dentist’s, watching naff telly on an overnight flight – the image just doesn’t fit. The great pianist is unrivalled doyenne of the Russian old school and an awesomely dignified persona. Born in Tblisi in 1945, once a regular duet partner of Sviatoslav Richter, her monumental performances of core 19th century repertoire link us with a pianism of the past in which musical gravitas eclipses anything as potentially trite as flash technique or quirky presentation. There is vast heritage to her playing but also clarity: in Schubert, in Beethoven, in Chopin, in Brahms, she strips away all gloss and ponders the music in deepest terms. Her performances don’t make for easy listening, but then this isn’t always easy music.

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