Sunday 27 September 2020

A Life On-Line: A disappearing hero in Glasgow, a dramatic soprano in recital, late Schumann in Croydon

Janacek: Diary of One Who Disappeared - Ed Lyon, Lucy Schaufer - Scottish Opera (image take from live stream)
Janacek: Diary of One Who Disappeared - Ed Lyon, Lucy Schaufer - Scottish Opera
(image take from live stream)

As part of the Lammermuir Festival, Scottish Opera performed Janacek's dramatic song-cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared (Zápisník zmizelého) in a new concert staging directed by Rose Purdie streamed live from the Theatre Royal, Glasgow with tenor Ed Lyons and mezzo-soprano Lucy Schaufer. Stuart Stratford conducted members of the orchestra of Scottish Opera, using an orchestration of the piece by the Czech composers Miloš Štědroň (born 1942) and his son Miloš Orson Štědroň.

The opera was filmed on the stage of the Theatre Royal, with Ed Lyon loosely in dress of the period of composition (1917-1919) and seated at a desk, but with his back to the auditorium so that throughout, we were aware that this was taking place in a theatre. Lyons made a passionate protagonist, bringing the role vividly alive whilst Lucy Schauffer was a sexily soignée Žofka, very much not a floozy. 

Technically a song cycle, Janacek included scenic demands in the score and it responds to an element of staging. Here, Purdie's direction was elegantly minimal, yet allowing the drama to live. The three off-stage voices were Catriona Hewitson, Heather Ireson and Sioned Gwen Davies. The orchestration brought an interesting new range of instrumental colours to the score. [Lammermuir Festival]

Voces8's festival Live from London on Saturday 19 September 2020, featured a recital by Harry Christophers and The Sixteen which came live from Kings Place, complete with a live audience. The Sixteen, fielding just eleven singers, were joined by narrator Antonia Christophers for a programme called Music for Reflection which interleaved works by Anerio, Josquin, Sheppard, Victoria and Arvo Pärt with readings from TS Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral.

Things began and ended with a pair of striking litanies to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the first by Felice Anerio and the last by Tomas Luis de Victoria, whilst we also heard Josquin's hymn to the Virgin, O Virgo prudentissima, and his Pater Noster and Ave Maria, plus John Sheppard's glorious Respond Libera Nos I (written during the revival of the Roman Catholic liturgy in England during the reign of Queen Mary I). Interleaved with these were Arvo Pärt's The Deer's Cry, Da Pacem Domine, and Morning Star. Familiar pieces but receiving finely elegant performances which took on an added resonance in the intimate performances in the present situation. [LiveFromLondon

The London Mozart Players (LMP) has just launched its own on-line series, Classical Club with concerts performed live from various venues around London and streamed live (also available for catch up). I caught the first concert of the series when the orchestra, directed from the violin by Ruth Rogers, performed Prokofiev's Symphony No. 1 'Classical' and Schumann's Cello Concerto with soloist Maciej Kulakowski (who is currently a member of YCAT).

The concert came from LMP's home, the church of St John the Evangelist in Upper Norwood, a spacious Victorian church. Yet the space was needed, even in chamber orchestra formation the players, socially distanced, took up an enormous amount of space and throughout the performance I was impressed with the way they achieved such fine coordination despite the difficulties of distance. Having the Prokofiev played by a chamber orchestra meant that we could hear all sorts of felicities of detail, as the strings no longer dominated. The first movement was steady, yet crisp with added zip at the end. The elegant slow movement had a nice incisive element too, whilst the third was robustly decisive. Any steadiness of tempo vanished for the finally, which whizzed along with a sense of vivid energy and the players' sheer enjoyment at music making.

The young Polish cellist, Maciej Kulakowski brought a lovely rhapsodic feel to the cello part of Schumann's late concerto (written in 1850 yet never performed during his lifetime). There was also a chamber-like intimacy in the performance as Kulakowski's performance fitted in with that of LMP to create a fluidly flowing whole. You could hear Kulakowski throughout with great clarity, yet it never felt like a bravura, show-off performance, instead he brought out the lyrical elements and a sense of being part of the orchestra. The second movement includes the lovely section where the soloist duets with the orchestral cellos, and this was finely rendered. Throughout there was a great transparency of texture. Finally, the engaging third movement, with its echoes of the first. The next concert in the series, on 1 October 2020, features clarinettist Michael Collins with players from LMP in clarinet quintets by Weber and Mozart. [London Mozart Players]

Hatfield House Chamber Music Festival continued with a lovely song recital from soprano Katherine Broderick, pianist Kathryn Stott and cellist Guy Johnston in music by Schubert, Faure, Berlioz and Quilter. Broderick's operatic repertoire encompasses Brunnhilde in Wagner's Siegfried, the Marschallin in Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier and Lady Billows in Britten's Albert Herring, and she recently made her role debut as Leonore in Beethoven's Fidelio at Garsington, yet she is also a keen recitalist and I still vividly remember her performance of 'The Fieldmarshal' from Mussorgsky's Songs and Dances of Death with the Myrthen Ensemble at the Wimbledon International Music Festival in 2014 [see my review].  

And it was lovely to hear a soprano with such richly luxurious voice singing Schubert. We heard An die Musik, An die Entfernte, and Gretchen am Spinnrade, followed by solo piano, Faure's Nocturne No. 11, then Faure's Les Berceaux, Les Présents, and Après un Rêve. Soprano and pianist were then joined by cellist Guy Johnston for Berlioz' gorgeously exotic, La Captive and the recital ended with a pair of Roger Quilter songs. Not every dramatic soprano sings this sort of song repertoire, and it was lovely to catch the recital in such a lovely setting. [YouTube].

Using the prelude to Verdi's La Traviata, Max Hoehn's new film uses an unusual mixture of animation, contemporary and archive footage, the film is both an experiment in form and an exploration of Violetta's inner world. [OperaVision

The Hanover Band is celebrating Beethoven 250 with on-line performances of Beethoven's symphonies interleaved with Beethoven quartets from the Consone Quartet, recorded in the Stationers' Hall, London and in the orchestra's home in Arundel, West Sussex, and the series culminates in Symphony No. 9 performed on Beethoven's birthday, 16 December 2020. The series started on Wednesday 23 September 2020 with Beethoven's Septet, Op. 20 [The Hanover Band]

Opera Bohemia has been touring live opera around Scotland for 10 years, and as their current tour of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro has been postponed they are planning to release a series of clips from the opera, starting with the conclusion of the finale to Act 2, with Andrew McTaggart, Catriona Clark, Charlie Drummond, Christopher Nairne, Piran Legg, Shuna Scott Sendall and Seumas Begg, with conductor Alistair Digge. [YouTube]

Valerie Solti and Norman Rosenthal hosted a recital by soprano Lotte Betts-Dean and pianist Joseph Havlat, the first of a series of on-line recitals from the George Solti Studio. The recital includes Purcell, Fauré, Satie and Poulenc, along with the UK premiere of Love Songs for Manuela written by Raymond Liu in 2018 [YouTube]

Accordionist Bartosz Glowacki has been busy. He recorded a sparkling account of Autumn from Vivaldi's Four Seasons (playing both solo part and accompaniment!) for Grange Park Opera's Interim Season [Grange Park Opera], and has recorded a lovely recital with soprano Loré Lixenberg for Hay Music (available on Stage Hub) with eight songs by Schubert centred round Der Wanderer, and Hans Eisler songs centred round the image of der Flüchtling, the Refugee, taken from his Hollywood Liederbuch which was written when he was in exile in the USA between 1938 and 1943. I was surprised at how well the accordion turned into an accompaniment for Schubert songs, and of course the instrument fits well into Eisler's sound world, even the edgier Hollywood songs. [StageHub]

Musical Chain–Beethoven's Twilight is a remix of music from Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, created by Kristjan Järvi and performed by members of Baltic Sea Philharmonic. It is most definitely not Beethoven as we have previously known him. Järvi describes it as the 'remix is channelling Beethoven’s spirit from another dimension.' [YouTube]

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