St. Bega’s church resounding once again to Baroque music; David Gibbs bringing the delights of Buxtehude, Telemann and JS Bach’s music to this ancient lakeside venue dating from around 950 AD. An appreciative audience, filling the pews and outnumbering the sheep in the field outside where the cars parked, heard a rich programme of excitingly chromatic pieces from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the programme arranged in a symmetric format from Buxtehude to Bach and back again. Magdalena Loth-Hill (violin) and David Gibbs (harpsichord) finished the first part of the programme with an excellent performance of J.S. Bach’s Sonata BWV 1014, their ensemble and interplay fluidly throwing the counterpoint challenges between the players as the piece developed.
Not just dance and not just circus. This is dance with serious acrobatics, circus with character and all through social comment and much humour. Plus a dash of nostalgia for old Soho, including Madame Jojos and the quieter side of life in Soho Square. The language of dance and circus portraying vividly the rush of complex experiences and emotions of inner-city life lived to the max.
The Brighton Philharmonic gave us much sparkle and snap this New Years Eve afternoon in the Brighton Dome Concert Hall, a full house despite fog and train difficulties outside. The Brighton Dome predates the popularity of the Strauss dynasty in Vienna and most of the music in this programme, its Regency curves were converted to a fashionable concert hall which opened in 1866 and was refitted in Art Deco style in 1935 and refitted most recently in 1999-2002.
Stephen Bell’s acrobatic conducting style brought us a fizzing Entrance March from Johann Strauss’s operetta of 1885, The Gypsy Baron. Much precision and enthusiasm from the back row, the brass, percussion and tympani, which was matched from the front desk with fine string ensemble led by principal violinist and leader, John Bradbury.
Curtain up in daylight on a brand new production of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger, a radical reimagining at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden of this much-loved opera. It took a moment or two to adjust to the setting in a modern era club, modern enough for smoking and plastic framed spectacles but still the era of notebooks, and Beckmesser’s blackboard and chalk.
The shock of the new is what Die Meistersinger is about and that also means us, the audience, confronted full-on with a revelatory new translation on the surtitles which highlights contemporary values (feminism and populism etc), a modern stage setting and even a more fluid, responsive musical interpretation than many recordings.
An excellent concert - a heavyweight programme given top level performances. When you open a score and see that it starts with two bass clarinets and then the bass tuba comes in at only bar nine you know to expect an exceptionally large orchestra on stage. Richard Strauss’ Alpine Symphony gives an impression of an alpine mountain hike which starts in the pre-dawn, ascends the mountains wandering through meadow, forest and pasture (these programme points are all itemised quite precisely in the score) before reaching the summit with a huge and expansive view. Strauss’ orchestral textures are dense but Antonio Pappano’s reading showcased Strauss’ effects and impressions without loosing the overall theme and thrill of a day out in the mountains. Crossing the glacier was spiky and perilous, the apparition scary and the vision mysterious. Even the organ solo suggesting passing a village church on the last leg of the homeward hike was given due prominence. A full respectful silence from the audience as the music faded in to the night, followed by an enthusiastic reception.