Royal Festival Hall

22 May 2013

A 32-piece Brass Band fighting against the wind to perform Vitali Bujanowski’s arrangements of Ring themes for brass instruments

A 32-piece Brass Band fighting against the wind to perform Vitali Bujanowski’s arrangements of Ring themes for brass instruments

A suitably festive atmosphere pervaded the foyer areas of the Royal Festival Hall on 22 May 2013, the focus of the year’s Wagner bicentenary events.  A brass band provided Ring extracts, Opera Forge performed bits of Walküre and Rheingold (well, the bits I heard anyway), and from the balcony above the bar we were summoned to the auditorium by Wagnerian fanfares, Bayreuth-like. (more…)

South Bank festival kicks off with spectacular Strauss

The South Bank are embarking on a six-month festival tracing the development of C20th music, based on Alex Ross’s book The Rest is Noise. The London Philharmonic Orchestra are described as the ‘backbone’ of the endeavour and, fittingly, it was the LPO that kicked off the proceedings with a high-impact Strauss concert of both familiar and rarer fare. (more…)

Swiss Dutchman and Four-Handed Piano

As the year pootles to a close, need a quick catch-up on a couple of events of a couple of weeks ago, and they are two concerts in which I have to declare an interest, knowing people performing in both.

On 15 December, Opernhaus Zürich brought their Fliegende Holländer over, with everything bar the sets, and launched it headlong onto the flat oceans of the Royal Festival Hall. As with much Wagner in concert, it still transcended the rather brightly-lit auditorium and the dry acoustic, and from our seats in the side stalls (sort of ‘slips’ seats along the edge) they managed to get across a good measure of the thrill and drama of the score. (more…)

The Bolívars tackle Strauss with Gust[av]o

As Alpine Symphonies go, this was a Matterhorn-scale reading. Probably best viewed from a Romantic distance, but nonetheless breathtaking in scale.

The Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, teamed with their charismatic conductor Gustavo Dudamel, almost certainly need no introduction. If they do, get yourself googling and within minutes you’ll be well-versed in the kind of hyperbole that surrounds them on their travels. As I contemplated a concert at the Festival Hall on a stuffy Tuesday night, it had a hint of the off-putting about it. Approaching a little warily, perhaps even slightly icily, they certainly thawed me. (more…)

Jessye Norman: still going strong, in her own style

A chance to hear Jessye Norman at the Royal Festival Hall (21/5/12). It could have gone either way, frankly, and I was unsure, maybe a little worried, at what might have been. In the event it was a sensational evening in the company of a remarkable artist. (more…)


Oh look, we’ve all done it. You’re going about your job, perhaps the office is crowded, maybe you knock over someone’s papers, and instinctively say, “shit! sorry!” The thing is, in your case, there aren’t 2,000+ people listening attentively to your every beautiful word at the point you exclaim. To then get a warm, humorous applause in response shows just what a star you are. So Juan Diego Florez lost his way at one point. And? Entertaining though it was (and it was entertaining!) the real news about this recital is just how straightforward, unshowy, serious and, quite simply, stunning it was. As my 2010 finished with the rich combination of Tannhäuser and Hänsel und Gretel, it was perhaps good that this simple, cleansing diet of Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti and Prado was on offer to start 2011. (more…)

Wilful, unmusical, humourless – with a ravishing main course

I am pausing at lunchtime to blog this review because I am still haunted by the irritation occasioned by last night’s concert, so I’m getting it out of my system!

The offending concert was by the Philharmonia Orchestra, under the baton of Tugan Sokhiev, with the main offender, Ivo Pogorelich at the piano.  Liadov’s The Enchanted Lake and Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony framed a maddening, frustrating and, frankly, dire performance of the Tchaikovsky first piano concerto. (more…)