Thursday 16 February 2012

This Week’s Classical Music Round Up From The Arts Desk

Two near-perfect piano recitals at the Royal Festival Hall steal the limelight in this week’s classical music coverage on The Arts Desk.

Richard Goode
(photo by Sascha Gusov)
The first was an unexpectedly nimble performance by Richard Goode. Though an unlikely acrobat, Goode amazed Igor Toronyi-Lalic with his musical gymnastics up and down the keyboard. The concert began gently with Schumann’s tender, intimate childhood portraits Kinderszenen, but it was soon woken up by the petulant, stormy, teenaged Kreisleriana. Goode’s playing was all agility and flexibility, and absolutely no showiness. And for the second half of Chopin nocturnes, waltzes and ballades, there was grace and beauty as well as lightning-fast fingers.  

Stephen Hough
(photo by Sim Canetty Clarke)

Earlier in the week Igor also saw Stephen Hough play Liszt with similar panache. After last year’s bicentenary, Hough showed no signs of Liszt fatigue – indeed, his complete familiarity with the first two piano concertos allowed him to sail over all technical hurdles and concentrate on expression. Each piece contains elements that are pure Liszt, and yet Hough managed to give them freshness, transforming cliché into something startling. Risks were taken - daring pauses and fearless changes of pace - which Marin Alsop’s London Philharmonic Orchestra did well to keep up with. And to round off this most satisfying of concerts, there were also finely played renditions of Martinů’s Sixth and Dvořák’s Eighth.

Meanwhile Graham Rickson selected his top three listens from this week’s classical CD releases. The BBC Proms 2011 performance of Havergal Brian’s Gothic Symphony is hugely impressive and brilliantly recorded, he says, even though the piece itself is flawed. A new disc of Shostakovich’s cello concertos played by Italian cellist Enrico Dindo is brave, brash and thrilling. And the 13th and final volume of Swedish series The Sibelius Edition gathers together a four-disc miscellany of odds and ends from the composer’s back catalogue, and is essential listening for fans of the Finn.

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