Sunday 26 February 2012

The New York Philharmonic at The Barbican

On Saturday 18th February 2012 I made the journey to London to attend the New York Philharmonic Orchestra's concert at The Barbican which was part of their residency as one of the Barbican's International Associate ensembles. The New York Philharmonic are one of the oldest symphony orchestra in the USA. Their Music Director is the dynamic Alan Gilbert, the first native New Yorker to hold the post.

The programme consisted of Feria - Magnus Lindberg, Piano Concerto No.2 - Bartok and Symphony No.5 - Prokofiev. With Alan Gilbert conducting and Lang Lang the soloist on Bartok's Piano Concerto No.2 this was always going to be a thrilling night and it proved to be.

The concert opened with Feria from the Orchestra's Composer in Residence Magnus Lindberg. The word feria is Spanish for an outdoor festival or fair which is portrayed in this piece of music. A wonderful celebration to began this special night.

Lang Lang is a global superstar and it was brilliant for me to see him live. He has inspired 40 million classical piano students in China and has made it his mission to broaden the reach of classical music around the world. Bartok's Piano Concerto No.2 was completed in 1931 as a companion piece to No.1 which audiences found difficult. No.2 was similar in style but lighter for audiences to enjoy. After a stunning performance of this piece from Lang Lang we were treated to an encore of Paganini/Liszt La Campanella.

After the interval there was a dramatic performance of Prokofiev's Symphony No.5 from Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic which was full of live. A symphony of the grandeur of the human spirit as Prokofiev would say. This piece was composed in 1944 and was greatly enjoyed by the large audience. There was an encore of Bernstein's Candide overture which was a splendid finish to the evening as New York made it's mark on the City of London.

Wednesday 15 February 2012

I Was Glad to be at St. Peter Mancroft Church

An Evening of English Song awaited us on the evening of Saturday 11th February 2012 at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich from the Norwich Music Group with conductor Philip Aldred and leader Frances Banham. This concert was in support of Central Norfolk Stroke Services at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

The programme consisted of The Clock Symphony - Haydn, Aria - Handel, Dear Lord and Father - Parry, Lux Aeterna - Elgar, Jerusalem - Parry, Faint with Love - Hawes, Love's Echo - Hawes, The Seals Lullaby - Whitacre, The Bluebird - Stanford, Quanta Qualia - Hawes, Blessed Pair of Sirens - Parry and I Was Glad - Parry.

One of the country's most popular and inspirational composers Patrick Hawes was in attended on the evening to make this a truly special night. Haydn's Clock Symphony is called this because of the ticking rhythm throughout the second movement and was a wonderful way to commence the concert. Veronica Grint gave a splendid performance of Handel before a trio of songs took us to the interval included a rousing version of Jerusalem which had the audience on their feet.

After the interval Patrick Hawes witnessed three of his own compositions which were performed to the highest standard by the Norwich Music Group and Sonia Waters. Faint with Love, Love's Echo and Quanta Qualia are all wonderful pieces that delighted us all at St. Peter Mancroft Church. The evening came to an end with two classic compositions from Parry. Blessed Pair of Sirens and I Was Glad which are always a delight to listen too and especially on an evening like this.

Lunchtime Music at Norwich Assembly House

On Friday 10th February 2012 I attended the UEA School of Music's Music at One lunchtime concert at Norwich Assembly House which featured Hannah Obasaju - clarinet with William Fergusson - piano and Robert Peck - Alto and Soprano saxophones with David Runciman - saxophone.

The programme consisted of Pastoral - Bliss, Sonatina - Horovitz, Two Majorcan Pieces - Horovitz, Dear Old Stockholm - Fryxell, Autumn Leaves - Kosma, Beautiful Love - Young, King and Van Alstyne, Everything Happens to Me - Dennis and My Favorite Things - Rodgers.

This was a wonderful concert at Norwich Assembly House that attracted a large audience on a cold Friday lunchtime. The concert started with music for clarinet and piano from Bliss and Horovitz while the second half was very jazz influenced with a fine performance of My Favorite Things from The Sound of Music to finish the concert in splendid style.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Madama Butterfly at Norwich Theatre Royal

On Tuesday 7th February 2012 I attended the Ukrainian National Opera of Kharkiv's performance of Madama Butterfly. This is one of the world's most popular operas with music by Giacomo Puccini and was performed by one of the great East European national companies. 

With Elena Dee as Cio-Cio-San (Madama Butterfly) and Andriy Perfilov as Lieutenant F B Pinkerton along with the Orchestra being conducted by Gheorghe Stanciu this was always going to be a special night at Norwich Theatre Royal.

A young Japanese girl, Cio-Cio-San of Nagasaki decides to  marry Lieutenant Pinkerton of the American Navy the man she loves. Pinkerton sees this marriage as a short-lived adventure while Cio-Cio-San's love knows no boundaries.

The marriage broker Goro shows Pinkerton around the home he will share with Butterfly and warns him about the tragic consequences his game could have. Pinkerton ignores the warning and the marriage ceremony begins. The unexpected appearance of her Uncle Bonze unnerves the guests. He utters blasphemies against the girl who has denied the ancient customs. Uncle Bonze leaves taking all the guests with him leaving the two lovers alone at last. They sing of their love binding them together into a serene and endless happiness.

Cio-Cio-San lives with her devoted friend and servant Suzuki. Pinkerton left the country promising to return in one year but three years later he has still not returned. Consul Sharpless brings Cio-Cio-San a letter announcing the expected arrival of an American ship but he does not have the heart to tell her Pinkerton has remarried, especially when she introduces him to her and Pinkerton's son.

A cannon announces the ship's arrival and Cio-Cio-San embellishes her house with flowers. Suzuki and the child sleep and only Cio-Cio-San is awake listening to the Marines' chorus. She retires to her bedroom exhausted. Meanwhile Sharpless and Pinkerton enter the house while Pinkerton's new wife Kate waits in the garden.

Suzuki is asked to explain to Cio-Cio-San that Pinkerton wishes to take her child away with him and his wife. Cio-Cio-San appears filled with happiness at the sight of her husband but seeing Suzuki's solemn face she realises his true intentions are to take away her child. The child is separated from his loving mother, who, distraught, kills herself.

This was a wonderful evening to be at Norwich Theatre Royal as we were brought a splendid performance from the Ukrainian National Opera of Kharkiv of Puccini's masterpiece. This is a heart-breaking story that made an emotional mark on this truly magical night.

Sunday 12 February 2012

The Cavick Quartet at Eaton

We were promised Turina and we were not disappointed as The Cavick Quartet turned a cold winter afternoon into sunny Spain in the latest Eaton Concert Series concert at St. Andrew's Church, Eaton, Norwich. Me and the others who made their way through the snow were well rewarded with a concert of wonderful music.

On Sunday 5th February 2012 the programme from The Cavick Quartet was Quartet No.1 in G, opus 77 - Haydn, La Oracion del Torero - Turina, Serenata, opus 87 - Turina and Quartet in F, opus 96, American - Dvorak. Ben Lowe -violin, Anne Vallins - violin, Ben Payne - viola and Chris Lawrence - cello formed The Cavick Quartet in 2009 with a shared passion for chamber music.

It may have been cold outside but the splendid music and brilliant performance from The Cavick Quartet warmed us all and made this an afternoon to remember. Dvorak's American was a great piece to play and after an encore of Haydn we all showed our appreciation to The Cavick Quartet.

Thursday 9 February 2012

Oberon magic at St. Andrew's Hall

On Saturday 4th February 2012 I attended the Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra concert at St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich which featured pianist Mihkel Poll and conductor Matthew Andrews.

The programme for the evening was Oberon Overture - Weber, Piano Concerto No.1 in D minor - Brahms and Symphony No.3 in A minor - Rachmaninov.

It was cold outside the venue and during the concert snow started to fall but inside we were all filled with the warmth of the music. The concert began with Weber's Oberon Overture which is based on the story of Sir Huon, who undertakes a perilous rescue mission, protected by a magic horn which can summon the elf-king, Oberon.

Soloist for Brahms Piano Concerto No,1 was Estonian Mihkel Poll who gave an intense performance that delighted the audience. This piece started as a sonata for two pianos in 1854, it turned into a symphony the following year before Brahms combined piano and orchestra in a concerto in 1856.

After the interval we were treated to a wonderful performance from the Orchestra of Rachmaninov's Symphony No.3. This piece was written during the final phase of the composers career and has a contemporary style that was met with a lukewarm reception in 1936. Despite this the composer remained convinced that it was one of his best works.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Romeo and Juliet at Norwich Theatre Royal

I made my way to Norwich Theatre Royal on Wednesday 1st February 2012 to attend the Moscow City Ballet performance of Romeo and Juliet. The Company was formed in 1988 by Victor Smirnov-Golovanov who enjoys bringing his heritage of classical ballet in the Moscow style to audiences all over the world.

Sergei Prokofiev's classic ballet was brought to Norwich Theatre in style with Liliya Orekhova as Juliet and Daniil Orlov as Romeo. The music was played by the Moscow City Ballet Orchestra conducted by Igor Savruk.

The ballet begins with a struggle between The Lords Montague and Capulet. Wearing a disguise, Romeo Montague crashes a party at the Capulet house, where he meets Juliet Capulet and falls in love. Hoping to finally put an end to the family feud, Friar Laurence secretly marries the couple. But the feuding continues. Tybalt kills Romeo's friend Mercutio and after Romeo avenges Mercutio's death by killing Tybalt he is sent into exile.

Friar Laurence devises a plan to help Juliet. She is to drink a sleeping potion to make her appear dead. After her family bury her Romeo will rescue her from her tomb and take her away. They will then live happily ever after. Romeo returns home on hearing the news of Juliet desperately grieving. He never received the message from Friar Laurence and believing that Juliet is really dead he drinks poison. Juliet awakes and sees that Romeo is dead and stabs herself.

This was a powerful performance from the Moscow City Ballet full of beauty with Liliya Orekhova as Juliet being the star of the night. Everyone in attendance at Norwich Theatre Royal must have been enchanted by her and thrilled by Sergei Prokofiev's magical ballet. The music from the Moscow City Ballet Orchestra was splendid and uplifting and truly made this a night to remember.

Friday 3 February 2012

Allegri Quartet Delights!

On Tuesday 31st January 2012 I attended the Allegri Quartet concert at the UEA School of Music in Norwich. They are the UEA Ensemble in Residence and are one of the oldest chamber music ensembles in existence, going back to its foundation in 1953. With a line-up of Ofer Falk - Violin, Rafael Todes - Violin, Dorothea Vogel - Viola and Vanessa Lucas-Smith we were all in for a musical treat.

The programme consisted of String Quartet in A, Op 18, No.5 - Beethoven, String Quartet No.7, Op 108 - Shostakovich and String Quartet in A minor, Op 132 - Beethoven.

Beethoven's String Quartet No 5 is the one most directly indebted to Mozart. This piece is an example of the composer relaxing with the music having an easy going energy. Dmitri Shostakovich dedicated his Seventh Quartet to the memory of his first wife, Nina and was completed in 1960. Beethoven's Op 132 was produced in response to a commission from Prince Galitsin received in 1822.

It was a wonderful night at the UEA School of Music with a performance from the Allegri Quartet of the highest quality. With lots of power and energy they brought us the true beauty of these pieces from Beethoven and Shostakovich.

Thursday 2 February 2012

Music at One

On Friday 27th January 2011 I took an extended lunch break to attend the Music at One series concert at Norwich Assembly House put on by the UEA School of Music.

The concert featured Jessica Allen - oboe with Elizabeth Willians - piano and Kathleen Lower - flute with Camilla Rossetti - piano. The programme consisted of Italian Dance - Dring, Concerto in E flat major - Bellini, Duo for Flute and Piano - Copland, Sonata for Flute and Continuo - Bach, Spiral Lament - Clarke and Orange Dawn - Clarke.

This was a wonderful concert full of splendid and varied music that filled the Assembly House with echoes of Italian Dance and visions of the Great Rift Valley of East Africa. The Music at One concert series is a brilliant way to spend your Friday lunchtime.