Music

Sadler's Wells Theatre

So Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is not just mainstream, but striped across the schedule for up to two performances per day at Sadler’s Wells theatre as the main Christmas programme. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised, in its original version Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake was uncannily true to Tchaikovsky’s music and spookily accurate with its reading of the Prince as emotionally stunted, almost sociopathic and the swans as the voices in his head of good and evil.

Read more: Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake - New Adventures at Sadler’s Wells Theatre

Charlie Hides as Judy Garland at the RVT

Charlie Hides as Judy Garland performing “All I want for Christmas” the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Her Christmas set this year also includes items as Cher, Abba and (bizarrely) Delia Smith.

Read more: Charlie Hides as Judy Garland at the RVT

Hornroh Modern Alphorn Quartet

Ilan Volkov conductor and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

I thoroughly enjoyed this Prom. It was fun, it thrilled and it had light moments as well as the dark. The colour was turned right up full for the Alpine Symphony, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and conductor Ilan Volkov seemed to be enjoying the piece and that came over in an exuberant joyous performance. The glacier amazed, the mountain peak thrilled and the storm threatened. The homecoming and the final resting peace completed Richard Strauss’ complicated score for a large orchestra. They carried it off with aplomb and more, a pride and sense of occasion. Lots of genuine smiles at the applause. Maybe it helps that they are Scottish and have their own mountains: surely many of them will take their boots to the hills when not performing.
The Alpine Symphony was certainly "maximum acoustic drama" on stage but it was Mozart’s Serenade K286 for Four Orchestras that was billed as "maximum acoustic drama" because the four bands performed from different locations in the hall, the stage, the rear of the arena, in the gallery and the circle. So this was like an Ambisonics demo with sound both all the way around and with height. I was standing down the front and the timing, as the themes were handing around by the score, reminded me of those attempts on the Last Night of the Proms to get remote audiences to sing along to the audience in the Albert Hall. But Mozart’s music thrived on the effect, transporting one to a warm summer evening performance in, say, a castle or a palace

Read more: Prom 21: An Alpine Symphony and an Alphorn Quartet

 Prom 38: West Side Story

Colourful, exuberant and loud: I’ve been at the afternoon performance of one of the most popular of all of this year’s Prom concerts, there are two performances of the same programme; not many programmes get a second airing. The broad audience for musical theatre queued in their droves, this a clearly a bargain for the many tourists who come to London for the musicals. and I am told that the queue for day tickets was already long at 9am. A predominantly girlie audience amongst the promenaders down at the front of the arena. And the concert performance was great fun with lots of exuberant energy. Orchestra and singers with amplification, which is required for the style of musical theatre but does reduce the subtlety of the sound.

Read more: Prom 38: West Side Story - John Wilson Orchestra

Royal Albert Hall, London

MusicAeterna and conductor Teodor Currentzis

Punk Beethoven turned out to be fast and furious. MusicAeterna play on period instruments so the sound is different and there is little or no vibrato. The first movement of the Symphony No 2 was promisingly reminiscent of Furtwängler, the musical pulse unrelenting, then the jokey Sturm und Drang effects and it seemed possible we were in for something extraordinary. The Larghetto flowed but it was only in the last movement, Allego Molto, that the limitations of Teodor Currentzis’s approach became clear. Fast and furious did not allow slowing of the pace either for musical effect or to allow good phrasing of the solo ornamentation in the woodwind, so on the period instruments these ornamentations became garbled or lost.. But an amazing crowd-pleasing vivacity and the strings of MusicAeterna have fantastic ensemble.

Read more: Prom 18: Currentzis conducts “Punk Beeethoven”