Beethoven: 1808 Reconstructed

Beethoven: 1808 Reconstructed
Philharmonia Orchestra
Philharmonia Voices, Rodolfus Choir
Esa-Pekka Salonen, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Stephen Fry
Royal Festival Hall, 15 March 2020

Symphony 6 (Pastoral); Ah! perfido, Op.65; Gloria from Mass in C; Piano Concerto 4; Symphony 5; Sanctus & Benedictus from Mass in C; Fantasia in G minor for piano, Op.77; ‘Choral Fantasy’ in C minor for piano, chorus & orchestra, Op.80

In the first of his several pop-up moments, the genial compere Stephen Fry announced that this was probably “the last mass gathering there will be at for some time”. The empty seats in what was an almost sold-out concert reflected the sorry story, as did the Government announcements the following day. But this day was Beethoven’s, with the Philharmonia Orchestra‘s recreation of Beethoven’s famous 1808 ‘Akademie’ concert. Given just a few days before Christmas at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna, the original concert consisted entirely of the works of the one composer. It included the first performances of several major works, including the 5th & 6thSymphonies, the 4th Piano Concerto and the hastily put-together Choral Fantasy. Continue reading

BBC Prom 33: Thea Musgrave & Brahms

Thea Musgrave: Phoenix Rising
Brahms: A German Requiem
BBC Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, Richard Farnes
Royal Albert Hall, 7 August 2018

I was surprised to find that, despite being composed 21 years ago, this was the first time that Thea Musgrave’s Phoenix Rising (a BBC commission) had been performed at the Proms. It made for a fascinating pairing with Brahm’s German Requiem in this performance by the BBC Symphony Orchestra & Chorus conducted by Richard Farnes, making his Proms debut. Phoenix Rising represents the conflict between the forces of evil and good, darkness and light. The title came during composition and is taken from a sign outside a coffee shop in Virginia. At its core, it is a double concerto for horn and timpani, set within a dramatic kaleidoscope of symphonic colour and texture. The horn player, Martin Owen, is supposed to be offstage, but at the Royal Albert Hall there is always the risk that he would never be seen again, and was therefore positioned high up on the far left of the stage, behind timpanist Antoine Bedewi, and in front of one of the four percussionists spread out across the rear stage.

Thea Musgrave.jpgThea Musgrave. © BBC | Chris Christodoulou
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Glyndebourne: Le nozze di Figaro

Glyndebourne: Le nozze di Figaro
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment,
Jonathan Cohen
Glyndebourne Festival Opera. 15 July 2016

Le nozze di Figaro was the first opera to be performed at Glyndebourne at its opening festival in May 1934, and it has been a regular ever since. This performance was a return of the 2012 production, directed by Michael Grandage, with Ian Rutherford as the revival director. I didn’t see the 2012 version, so am not able to compare or note any differences, but the sumptuous sets, and costumes are the same. Those who wanted more of the story of Figaro could also have seen Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia at Glyndebourne a few weeks earlier, for the back-story to Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, with Figaro relieved of his interim job as a barber and returned as the servant of Count Almaviva and his Countess.

The setting was clearly Seville, although the dating takes a little while to reveal itself. Glorious architectural depictions of Moorish architecture Continue reading