Friday, 20 April 2018

What an unalloyed joy! And if all this isn’t advert enough for some sensible funding I don’t know what is.

Christopher Purves, singers from the Guildhall School, London Schools Symphony Orchestra, Dominic Wheeler
Christopher Purves, singers from the Guildhall School, London Schools Symphony Orchestra, Dominic Wheeler
Stravinsky Pulcinella, Puccini Gianni Schicchi; Christopher Purves, singers from Guildhall School, London Schools Symphony Orchestra, Dominic Wheeler; Barbican Hall
Reviewed by Anthony Evans on 18 April 2018 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
A programme inspired by commedia dell’arte & performances which fizzed

Whilst the huge benefits of musical education, to me at any rate, seem self-evident, it’s not uncommon these days to see headlines "Music 'could face extinction' in secondary schools". Andrew Lloyd Webber has described the decline in provision as a "national scandal" and Louise Mitchell CEO of Bristol Music Trust warned recently that "by dismissing the value of the arts in schools we risk stunting the creative capacities of the next generation".

Thankfully the work of the London Schools Symphony Orchestra (LSSO) continues to provide opportunities for young people to develop their skills. Founded in 1951, the LSSO draws its musicians from students in London schools, who work with some of the world’s most distinguished musicians.


Sitting in the Barbican Hall this Wednesday (18 April 2018) surrounded by some incredibly well-behaved school children and some less well-behaved parents there was at least some consolation to be had amongst all the doom-mongering. In a concert drawing inspiration from commedia dell’arte, Stravinsky’s neo-classical mashup the ballet Pulcinella rubbed shoulders with Puccini’s one-act comic opera Gianni Schicchi. Dominic Wheeler conducted the London Schools Symphony Orchestra and they were joined by baritone Christopher Purves and singers from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Based on an 18th-century libretto ‘Quartre Polichinelles semblables’ Pulcinella’s music was believed originally to have been composed by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi but that attribution has now been revised. Stravinsky re-wrote some of the harmonies and rhythms in his “own accent” and it was bold to have chosen such a challenging and novel work.


Boulez confessed that conducting Pulcinella is “like playing with a toy” and whilst the performance was full of exuberance and sparkle the opening betrayed a few jangling nerves and the singers' portentous demeanour blunted the satirical edge. As the musicians loosened their stays though there was plenty to admire not least the luxuriant lyricism (sorry about the alliteration) that gave me a hefty musical slap across the chops in the trio ‘Sento dire non c’è pace’ which was delectable.

Everyone’s girdles now properly loosened, the second half of the concert Puccini’s kaleidoscopic opera Gianni Schicchi, which has its origin in a handful of lines from La Divina Commedia, erupted on to the stage. With a cast of emerging professional singers from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and Christopher Purves in the titular role, this was an energetic, expressive, free-flowing joy ride. The orchestra immersed themselves in Puccini’s richly varied sound world, as sensitive to the irrepressible comedy as to the moments of poetic repose. The singers, not to be outdone, made hay with even the slenderest of their roles. It fizzed with energy.

What an unalloyed joy! And if all this isn’t advert enough for some sensible funding I don’t know what is.
Reviewed by Anthony Evans

Stravinsky - Pulcinella
Emily Kyte, Filipe Manu, Bertie Watson

Puccini - Gianni Schicchi
Gianni Schicchi : Christopher Purves
Gherardino : Emily Kyte
Buoso Donati : Filipe Manu
Simone : Bertie Watson
Lauretta : Claire Lees
Zita la Vecchia : Georgia Mae Bishop
Rinuccio : Eduard Mas Bacardit
Gherardo: Frederick Jones
Nella : Lucy Anderson
Betto di Signa : Samuel Carl
Marco : Michael Vickers
La Ciesca : Chlöe Latchmore
Spinelloccio : Henri Tikkanen
Notaio : Sean Boylan
Pinellino : Matthew Dixon
Guccio : Alexander Jones

Elsewhere on this blog:
  • Songs of Vain Glory: Sophie Bevan & Sebastian Wybrew (★★★★) - CD review
  • William Billings to contemporary Icelandic & Finnish music: Skylark's Seven Words on the Cross (★★★) - CD review
  • Missa Tulerunt Dominum Meum: Siglo de Oro (★★★★★) - CD review
  • Returning home: Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen at Oper Leipzig (★★★★)  - Opera review
  • Sacred and Profane: The Sixteen's 2018 Choral Pilgrimage opens at St Albans Cathedral (★★★★)  - concert review
  • Light Divine: a final glimpse of treble Aksel Rykkvin (★★★½) - CD review
  • David Hare's The Moderate Soprano at the Duke of York's Theatre (★★★★)  - theatre review
  • Handel's Teseo at the London Handel Festival (★★★★) - opera review
  • Handel's Giulio Cesare in Egitto from Early Opera Company at London Handel Festival  (★★★★★) - opera review
  • Concrete Dreams (★★★★)  - exhibition review
  • Britten, Bernstein, Moore, Sutherland, Chagall, Piper - Walter Hussey & his commissions (★★★★)  - Book review
  • Shedding light on Claude le Jeune's psalm settings (★★★½) - CD review
  • Journey to Nidaros: Alexander Chapman Campbell (★★★) - CD review
  • Fantasies can be dangerous: Mark-Anthony Turnage's Coraline (★★★) - opera review
  • Home

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