Tag Archives: London

Great Singers

26 May

Tonight’s Ariodante concert performance at the Barbican’s sold out Hall made me wonder of the consequences on booking great singers and then letting them down with a really sloppy orchestra.

We had Joyce Didonato, Karina Gauvin and Marie-Nicole Lemieux on the podium and somehow feel cheated that such amazing singers were short-changed and did not get the backing they deserved. Il Complesso Barocco should be ashamed for give us badly tuned, bland music making while observing dubious tempi in quite a few passages. The great singing thankfully soared despite the music…a statement I never thought I’d make for any opera by Handel.

Will elaborate in a further post but for now I wanted to get out there my frustration about a missed opportunity for an amazing evening that somehow did not materialise.

Alexander the great

14 Apr

Was terribly surprised, to find by chance today that the retrospective exhibition is about to open in New York! To say I’ve always have been a huge fan of his ideas and mix of art and fashion would be an understatement. I truly envy the visitors to the Met that will enjoy such beauty…let’s hope it gets a transfer the V&A a place that inspired him greatly.

I’ve already pre-ordered my catalogue as there is such penury of decent literature on his career, this catalogue will be a wonderful tome to have and to flick through for inspiration. Hopefully a worthy tribute to his intellectual curiosity and true pioneering spirit. I unfortunately never had the chance to meet him but will be eternally inspired by a lot of his creations and more importantly his ideas of what fashion can become. In my mind he was the designer that really did not go after the market, he was much closer to an installation artist with a particular love for the darker coves of the human soul. As twee as it sounds a true visual art visionary.

The boring bits:

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

May 4, 2011–July 31, 2011

Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall, 2nd floor

Here’s the link to the catalogue: http://store.metmuseum.org/met-publications/alexander-mcqueen-savage-beauty/invt/80011804/

Here’s the link to the exhibition blog:  http://blog.metmuseum.org/alexandermcqueen/

Elizabeth Llewellyn – some impressions / St John’s Smith Square – 13 April 2011

14 Apr

Elizabeth Llewellyn, Soprano

Simon Lepper, Pianist

Programme

HANDEL

Alcina \ Ma quando tornerai

Rodelinda \ Se’il mio duol

MOZART

Le Nozze di Figaro \ E Susanna non vien!… Dove sono

WALTON \ A Song for the Lord Mayor’s Table

The Lord Mayor’s Table

Glide gently

Wapping Old Stairs

Holy Thursday

The Contrast

Rhyme

– INTERVAL –

STRAUSS

Ständchen

All’ mein Gedanken

Du meines Herzens Krönelein

Nachtgang

Allerseelen

PUCCINI

La Bohème \ Mi chiamano Mimì

VERDI

Simon Boccanegra \ Come in quest’ora bruna

GOUNOD

Faust \ Ah! je ris de me voir

This was a very interesting evening, one of those nights one goes home feeling that something beautiful has started.

The programme was very ambitious, the first half almost felt something the young Joan Sutherland would have sung, while the second was more like a young Grace Bumbry! That kind of wide-ranging ambition is at once interesting but at the same time does not make an as satisfying live concert as it reads on paper.

The first half was marred for me by what seemed rather plodding piano playing for the two Handel numbers, and while her voice was bright and penetrating somehow it lacked the limpid quality the best Handel singers possess. It was well sung but not a natural fit. The Mozart aria was interesting but again it did not quite work in my view and it sounded a bit on the generic side. The Walton cycle was much more sympathetic to her voice and it brought out her charming stage persona with a distinct sense of humour.  When the interval arrived I was happy to be there and enjoying myself but somehow feeling a bit let down by the two first arias.

On the second half the Strauss songs were very vividly portrayed with a natural sense of drama and joy. Her accurate tone and phrasing were a real treat. This was followed by a truly masterful and heartfelt Mimi, clearly informed by her stage experience, she gave the fragility and the youthful attitude of the heroine in the most wonderful mezza voce with dazzling high passages. As I normally cannot be bothered with Puccini this was captivating and full of study and beauty. Her Verdi was again beautiful but I kept thinking that she was lacking the reserves of a more wide-ranging tessitura, her voice is extremely strong in its middle and upper registers while having a totally underdeveloped lower register, which in Verdian roles adds that extra bit of expression and depth.

The final item on the programme was the jewel song from Faust and while it was again very honest and immediate, it seemed to lack the thrilling trills that the style demands. Of course that opens the old can of worms about trills and how some singers naturally cannot accomplish them. Could Elizabeth trill like there’s no tomorrow with further tuition? I really do not know, but the lack of those all important trills spoiled a beautiful aria. (Listening to Nellie Melba and Joan Sutherland sing it as I’m writing this make it all too clear)

All the above may seem like a mixed bag of a review/impressions. But I can honestly say that Elizabeth does posses a very warm stage presence and a really remarkable voice that can hopefully mature with a stronger lower register and find repertoire that fits and brings out the most attractive aspects of it. I can imagine her singing verismo with huge success and even Elena in I Vespri and I’m titillated at the possibility for any bel canto roles. This was a very interesting introduction for a new artist and hope it will be the springboard for a fruitful career.

It seemed that the concert was being recorded so looking forward to listening to it again in the future and maybe revising this quick appraisal.

Pimlico and the subtle art of deterring thugs

4 Feb

For a couple of months now
when I arrive to Pimlico tube every morning I seem to be walking as a late-comer
to a Symphonic concert.
Normally I end up somewhere in the middle of the final
movement of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony or like today when I landed mid flow
of a Telemann quartet.

I remember when London
Underground trialled playing orchestral music at Brixton Station back in 2001
with the obvious target being the various drug dealers that used to frequent
directly outside the foyer of the station. They even installed speakers on the
outside!

It is rather intriguing
how the choice of music reflects back on Transport for London. They seem to go for a certain “unfashionable –
uncool” kind of music that petty criminals would not enjoy listening to (or at
least is what their advisors are telling them).

While orchestral music is
in terminal decline in the public’s consciousness. And the record companies
have pretty much given up on new (studio recordings, live recordings don’t
really need the same amount of investment) ambitious recordings of Opera, Classical,
Romantic and Baroque repertoire. Most record companies seem to be more than
happy to rehash their back catalogue from the 1950s-80s into compilations.
And
so avoiding taking any commercial risks and giving new artists and orchestras
the chance to record in studio conditions either contemporary music or give a
new breath of life to older repertoire.
It is symptomatic of this
decline in support that most of the large orchestras have set up their record labels
(e.g. The LSO and the Hallè in Manchester) in order to disseminate their distinctive ‘sound’
out of the big record labels and their politics.

My personal response to
the classical muzak, that Transport for London is putting us through, is contradictory. On one
side I like listening to the music itself (the performances seems to be decent
and the sound adequate) but on the other I have an uneasy feeling on the ethnic &
economic profiling that has gone on in the background. Clearly TfL must be
thinking that orchestral music will not appeal to the caricature of a mugger
that they have in their minds (probably non-Caucasian and under 30). To me the
amount of presumption that has gone on, before settling in this “novel” way to
combat petty crime, creeps me out.

 
And a few links

Hallé: http://www.halle.co.uk/publishedSite/products.asp

LSO: http://lso.co.uk/buyrecordings/catalogue

http://www.urban75.org/brixton/features/brixton_tube.html

http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/music/2007/08/should_music_be_used_for_crowd_control.html

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