Friday 25 November 2011

This Week's Classical Music Roundup

Guest Post from The Arts Desk: This Week’s Classical Music Round-Up

This week’s classical music coverage on The Arts Desk includes a disastrous dance piece, a concert that runs hot and cold and the top pick of the latest CDs.

picture credit Sadler's Wells
Combining classical music and dance at Sadler’s Wells on 22 November, choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker put on a show in collaboration with Jérôme Bel and the Ictus ensemble that has provoked strong reactions. Judith Flanders was one of the more sympathetic in the audience for 3Abschied finding the show a fascinating failure. A failure because their cerebral attempt to choreograph Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde using a mixture of discussion, uncertain dance moves, a take on Haydn’s Symphony No 45 in which the orchestra leaves one by one and yet more unsuccessful dance moves was often nothing less than disastrous. But it was fascinating nonetheless because, to Flanders, it encapsulated the everyman’s inability to articulate the enormity of what art means.

While over the weekend Graham Rickson gave his weekly appraisal of the latest classical CD releases. First up was the Ulster Orchestra under George Vass. An unpublished 1902 piece by Vaughan Williams was recognisable Vaughan Williams fare, but it was the first two piano concertos by Welsh composer William Matthias that Rickson deemed the more enjoyable. There are more challenging pieces out there, certainly, but these works still had a thrilling bite to them. Next was the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s latest release with conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste, bringing together Sibelius and Lutoslawki. Another Sibelius’s Fifth was perhaps unnecessary, Rickson thought, and Lutoslawksi’s Concerto for Orchestra was a sleazier, more forbidding performance than he’s ever heard before, but it was Sibelius’s tone poem ‘Pohjola’s Daughter’ that stood out, in a thrilling live performance that brings out every dark narrative twist of this tragic Finnish folk tale. The final recommendation was ‘Five Pieces’, superbly played by the Italian Gazzana sisters on piano and violin. The disc includes works by Hindemith, Janáček and Silvestrov but the real revelation was the delicate yet angular piece ‘Distance de fée’ by Takemitsu which had Rickson grinning helplessly and hitting the repeat button.

picture credit Greg Helgeso
And on 17 November Geoff Brown went to the Royal Festival Hall to see conductor Osmo Vänskä take the London Philharmonic in hand for an uncompromising interpretation of Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony. Though some audience members disliked the results, Brown was not one of them. Vänskä’s treatment was meticulous, drawing a polished performance from the orchestra and daring to bring the sound down to, at times, an almost imperceptible level. The result was exceptionally refined but with a definite wind-chill factor, feeling particularly cool after Janine Jansen’s sublime performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in the first half. A passionate, fiery performance, yet tender and fragile too, she had the audience enslaved.

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