Stenz conducts an impressive Babylon at the Holland Festival

Widmann: Babylon

Concertgebouw, 3rd June 2017

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The Ziggurat of Ur in Iraq, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

According to the programme, at one point composer Jörg Widmann requires the chorus in his opera Babylon to split into 94 parts. I hope this is a misprint, but Babylon is a fearlessly ambitious composition. This impressive performance at the Holland Festival, led by the intrepid Markus Stenz, was deservedly cheered at length.

Full review on Backtrack.

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra premieres Easter Passions

Debussy/Ali-Zadeh/Živković: RCO/Brabbins

Concertgebouw, 7th April 2017

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Saint Sebastian by Mattia Preti (1613-1699), Sarria Church, Floriana, Malta

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra continues its recent tradition of commissioning a new Eastertide passion every four years. This year they commissioned two new works, Mystical Sacrifice by Djuro Živković and Nasimi-Passion by Franghiz Ali-Zadeh. Symphonic fragments from Debussy’s incidental music for a mystery play about Saint Sebastian completed the programme.

Full review on Bachtrack.

Semyon Kotko: Jurowski drowns out propaganda with Prokofiev in Amsterdam

Prokofiev: Semyon Kotko

Concertgebouw, 26th November 2016

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The libretto of Prokofiev’s Soviet opera Semyon Kotko clobbers you on the head with revolutionary doctrine. Understandably, the work has never gained an international foothold. Even in Russia, where it is now part of the repertoire, it was ignored for decades shortly after its 1940 première, which was by no means an unequivocal success. Then the critics focused on the opera’s lack of instant popular appeal rather than its musical qualities. As this concert version at the Concertgebouw demonstrated, these are considerable.

Full review on Bachtrack.

Magnificent terror in new Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch

Glanert: Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch

Concertgebouw, 5th November 2016

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Detail from The Last Judgement (circa 1505) by Hieronymus Bosch

Like the work of it’s dedicatee, Detlev Glanert’s Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch spans the mortal and the immortal, the demonic and the angelic, the putrid and the sublime. It is one of the events commemorating the 500th anniversary of the painter’s death, and premiered one day before this Amsterdam performance, at St John’s Cathedral in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Bosch’s birthplace. It was an extraordinary performance…

Full review on Bachtrack.

A rousing I due Foscari at the Concertgebouw

Verdi: I due Foscari

Concertgebouw, 17th September 2016

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Bust of Doge Francesco Foscari by Bartolomeo Bon © Sailko via Wikimedia Commons

 

There is no reason why, given the right performers, second-tier Verdi can’t be a top-tier operatic experience, as was the case with this concert version of I Due Foscari.

Full review on Opera Today.

Savage and noble: Wozzeck at the Concertgebouw

Berg: Wozzeck

Concertgebouw, 4th June 2016

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Johann Christian Woyzeck’s beheading in Leipzig

Alban Berg’s opera Wozzeck is a perfect amalgam of music and text and, as such, cries out for a worthy staging to maximise its theatrical impact. Although neither Georg Büchner’s unfinished play Woyzeck nor Berg’s setting of fifteen of its scenes can be given a single-genre sticker, one way to describe them is as psychological thrillers. Even without stage direction, this concert performance played out like a thriller, with shudders aplenty.

Full review on Bachtrack.

 

 

Valiant but tentative: La straniera at the Concertgebouw

Bellini: La straniera

Concertgebouw, 14th May 2016

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This concert version of La straniera felt like a compulsory musicology field trip, but it had enough vocal flashes to lobby for more frequent performances of this midway Bellini.

Full review on Opera Today.