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.

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.

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.

 

 

Netherlands Radio Choir in sublimely contemplative German Requiem

Brahms: Netherlands Radio Phil/De Waart

Concertgebouw, 24th January 2016

The Netherlands Radio Choir (Groot Omroepkoor) is currently celebrating its 70th anniversary with a series of jubilee concerts. In a list of their favourite choral works drawn up for Dutch radio, choir members put Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem in first place, followed by Verdi’s Messa da Requiem and Britten’s War Requiem. The chorus is undoubtedly the star in the Brahms. It is prominent in all seven movements, including the three featuring solo singers. The work that established Brahms’ reputation certainly received star treatment last Sunday at the Concertgebouw, not only from the chorus, but from the excellent soloists, in a controlled and sympathetic transcription by conductor Edo de Waart.

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Netherlands Radio Choir (Groot Omroepkoor)

Full review on Bachtrack.

Lianna Haroutounian resplendent in Madama Butterfly

Puccini: Madama Butterfly

Concertgebouw, 16th January 2016

The title role is a deciding factor in Madama Butterfly. Despite a last-minute conductor cancellation, last Saturday’s concert performance at the Concertgebouw was a resounding success, thanks to Lianna Haroutounian’s opulent, heart-stealing Cio-Cio-San.

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Long and loud ovation for Madama Butterfly at the Concertgebouw, 16th January 2016

Full review on Opera Today.

Rette dich, Tristan!

Tristan und Isolde, Prelude to Act I

Opening bars to Tristan und Isolde

The NTR ZaterdagMatinee concerts at the Concertgebouw are an intrinsic part of classical Amsterdam. Their season opened last Saturday with conductor Jaap van Zweden returning to continue his Wagner series, this time with Tristan und Isolde. He and the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic triumphed, inspite of one late and one terribly late cast cancellation. Thrillingly, Jennifer Wilson was as vocally complete an Isolde as you could wish for. You can read my review for Bachtrack here. A radio broadcast of the concert is available on demand for the next three months.