Reviews: Wednesday 1 May 2013 – Ryan Wigglesworth conducts Vaughan Williams & Tippett

May 3, 2013

On Wednesday 1 May at Royal Festival Hall, the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Ryan Wigglesworth performed Vaughan Williams’s Symphony No. 4, and Tippett’s A Child of Our Time with the London Philharmonic Choir and soloists Claire Booth, Pamela Helen Stephen, Ben Johnson and Matthew Rose.

Here are the reviews of the concert:

‘Tippett’s great oratorio, in contrast, was done with tremendous subtlety. Moments of objectivity on Wigglesworth’s part, together with brief but notable pauses between sections, reminded us of the work’s structural roots in Bach, without detracting from the power of its harrowing analysis of totalitarian persecution. Orchestral textures were lean yet beautiful, while the London Philharmonic Choir sang with an accuracy that was breathtaking.’ (4 stars)
Tim Ashley, The Guardian

‘The conductor, Ryan Wigglesworth, charted this repeated journey [the Vaughan Williams] skilfully and obtained first-rate playing from the London Philharmonic Orchestra with a fine, warm bloom to the sound…The London Philharmonic Choir excelled itself in Tippett’s often testing choral writing.’ (4 stars)
Richard Fairman, Financial Times

‘This [second] movement had great clarity and you felt that the formal structures of RVW’s work were far more clearly apparent than in some performances. This wasn’t a comfortable performance though (in the best possible sense) and some moments in this movement were more astonishing than I have ever heard. The final flute solo was unutterably bleak … There was a feeling, in this performance, of Wigglesworth removing layers of accumulated paint from RVW’s symphony to reveal its true structure. It was a complete tour-de-force from the orchestra, who stunningly followed Wigglesworth’s speeds and need for impetus and controlled violence.’ (5 stars)
Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill (blog)

‘The London Philharmonic Chorus [sic] were vivid and strong, whether they were sympathising or condemning. Their intricate weave showed that this work is ‘all about counterpoint’ too. But again, Wigglesworth and the performers turned this purely musical device into something richly expressive.’ (4 stars)
Ivan Hewett, Daily Telegraph (not online)

This concert was part of The Rest Is Noise festival of 20th-century music, which continues at Southbank Centre throughout 2013. The next LPO concert is on Friday 17 May, when Vladimir Jurowski conducts Stravinsky’s Jeu de Cartes, Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 with soloist Patricia Kopatchinskaja, and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 6. Find out more.
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Reviews: Saturday 27 April 2013 – Vladimir Jurowski & Barbara Hannigan (Webern, Berg, Bartók & Martinů)

April 29, 2013

On Saturday 27 April at Royal Festival Hall, the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Vladimir Jurowski performed Webern’s Variations Op. 30, Berg’s Suite from the opera Lulu with soprano Barbara Hannigan, Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste, and Martinů’s Double Concerto for Two String Orchestras, Piano and Timpani.

Here are the reviews of the concert:

‘Intellectually and emotionally speaking this was a classic of its kind … the accomplishment of its execution was as exemplary as it was gripping … What an extraordinary concert.’
Edward Seckerson, The Arts Desk

‘[Martinů’s Double Concerto] showcased the versatile excellence of pianist Catherine Edwards, who deservedly got the biggest cheer of the evening. In London this charismatic musician is usually confined to the relatively Cinderella role of ‘orchestral pianist’. It’s time we heard Edwards for real, as a proper concerto soloist.’ (5 stars)
Michael Church, The Independent

‘The LPO was in powerfully unanimous and wonderfully articulate form … This [the Martinů] was a sensationally good performance of terror-charged music, bristling with incident, driven without inhibition, the first movement’s angular rhythms spat out with fury (Simon Carrington the judicious timpanist) and the impassioned slow movement (a cry of pain from all of the composer’s pores) only reposed by Catherine Edwards’s piano solos, and even they muse soulfully.
This was not only a must-be-there concert, but a challenging one for the LPO, music that demands unstinting and detailed preparation. The Bartók may have slightly drawn the short straw in this respect, but the evening was a triumph.’
Colin Anderson, Classical Source

‘There was much to admire: this was highly dramatic Webern … Pieter Schoeman’s violin solos were especially well judged, sweetly Romantic, even hyper-Romantic, just as Webern’s music demands.
There was just the right degree of lilt to [Hannigan’s Lulu] performance, as there was to that of the LPO. High notes hit the spot in every sense, and coloratura told dramatically as well as musically. One longed to see her in the entire role. Jurowski balanced his forces and shaped the musical argument well.’
Mark Berry, Boulezian (blog)

‘That the LPO could tackle such a testing programme on a couple of days’ rehearsal speaks volumes for the players’ concentration. There were rough edges in Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste, but also an edge-of-seat excitement. And Martinu’s Double Concerto for String Orchestras, Piano and Timpani sounded by turns scary, eerie, whiplash-driven and doggedly resolute: a compelling document of what it was like to be alive and terrified in 1938.’ (4 stars)
Richard Morrison, The Times (subscriber access only)

‘Some of the concerts at The Rest is Noise contain well-loved and often-played pieces, but it is concerts like this one where the festival’s importance really lies. These four outstanding pieces of music are not heard as often as they should be (perhaps with the expection of the Bartók), but if all the performances are as impressive as the LPO’s, I would not be surprised to see this change.’
Renée Reitsma,

‘An exceptional concert, thoughtfully planned and delivered with tremendous accuracy and intensity.’ (5 stars)
Andrew Clements, The Guardian


This concert was part of The Rest Is Noise festival of 20th-century music, which continues at Southbank Centre throughout 2013. The next LPO concert is this Wednesday, 1 May, when Ryan Wigglesworth conducts Vaughan Williams’s Symphony No. 4 and Tippett’s A Child of Our Time with the London Philharmonic Choir. Find out more.
Follow us on Twitter: @LPOrchestra

Change of conductor: Friday 15 & Saturday 16 February 2013, Royal Festival Hall

February 12, 2013

Mikhail AgrestWe regret that, owing to illness, conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin has had to withdraw from the London Philharmonic Orchestra concerts on Friday 15 February and Saturday 16 February at Royal Festival Hall. We are very grateful to Mikhail Agrest for taking his place at short notice. Both evening’s programmes remain unchanged.


Russian-born American conductor Mikhail Agrest is a prize-winner of the Pedrotti, Mitropoulos and Malko international conducting competitions.

He joined the Mariinsky Theatre in 2001 where he has conducted over 20 operas, ranging from Cimarosa to Stravinsky. With the Mariinsky he has performed in many European capitals and in the Far East, Japan, the UK and the USA. In July 2003, on tour with the Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre, he made his Metropolitan Opera debut conducting Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and his Covent Garden debut with Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Les noces.

As guest conductor, Agrest has appeared with the London, Dresden, Stockholm, Helsinki, and Liverpool Philharmonic orchestras; the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. He has conducted the Indianapolis, Houston, City of Birmingham and BBC symphony orchestras; and the orchestras of the Komische Oper, Berlin, the Teatro di San Carlo and Opera de Lyon.

In the opera house, he has conducted an Olivier Award-winning production of Jenůfa at English National Opera, Tosca with the Royal Swedish Opera, Don Giovanni with Opera Australia, The Rake’s Progress with Opera de Oviedo, and Jonathan Miller’s production of La traviata at Glimmerglass Opera.

In January this year he made his debut at the Semperoper, Dresden in a programme including The Rite of Spring, and was re-invited to conduct a new production of Shostakovich’s Moscow, Cheryomushki.

Reviews: 12 December 2012 – Vladimir Jurowski & Allison Bell: Grisey & Mahler

December 17, 2012

Last Wednesday at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, Vladimir Jurowski conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra in a performance of Gérard Grisey’s Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil with soprano Allison Bell, and Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. The reviewers were full of praise for the performance – here’s what they had to say:

‘Quite apart from the immaculate preparation and the most elegant conducting style in the business, Jurowski programmes with an imagination matched by none of London’s other principal conductors. This stunning event was an excellent demonstration of the art, and introduced with typical eloquence by Jurowski’
David Nice, The Arts Desk

‘The Mahler was as abandoned and emotionally extreme as I’ve heard it. Jurowski took some risks keeping the ferocious energy and tension of the first two movements on the boil, but he and his LPO really delivered … Jurowski’s genius was to enable some sort of connective narrative, which he did with visceral, incandescent brilliance, reflected in the LPO’s thrilling playing. Full of character and insight, this was a gripping performance.’
Peter Reed, Classical Source

‘Jurowski’s Mahler is admirable for the Russian’s desire to achieve similar textual clarity, even in some of the most grandiose music in the canon. He nailed the long, lyrical middle movement, full of fine details and framing a solo spot for David Pyatt’s horn’
Neil Fisher, The Times (not online)

‘Jurowski’s account of the score, with Allison Bell as the superbly controlled and lucid soprano soloist, had a natural, expressive fluency about it; the ensemble of 15 members of the London Philharmonic tackled the microtonally inflected textures with unflappable naturalness. The audience seemed bewitched and beguiled.’
Andrew Clements, The Guardian

‘Bell’s performance across these movements was precise and intelligent: combined with Jurowski’s eloquent direction this made for an exquisite rendition of a modern masterpiece … This was a world-class performance full of imagination and experimentation.’ (5 stars)
Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade, Bachtrack

The concert was broadcast live by BBC Radio 3 and is still available to listen via BBC iPlayer until Wednesday 19 December.

Jurowski and the LPO return to Royal Festival Hall on Saturday 19 January 2013 with an all-Strauss programme to kick off the year-long festival The Rest Is Noise. Tickets are still available and can be booked via the LPO Box Office on 020 7840 4242, from the LPO website, or bought on the door.

Reviews: 28 November 2012 – Vladimir Jurowski conducts Beethoven, Schoenberg & Nono

November 29, 2012

On Wednesday 28 November, Vladimir Jurowski conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall in Beethoven’s Fidelio Overture; Schoenberg’s Ode to Napoleon Bonaparte and A Survivor from Warsaw; Nono’s Julius Fučík; and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. Annabel Arden was the director, and the solo speakers were Omar Ebrahim, Malcolm Sinclair and Robert Hayward. The concert also featured the Gentlemen of the London Philharmonic Choir.

Here’s what the reviewers had to say…

‘This account of Ode was very persuasive, the strings precise, Catherine Edwards notable at the piano, and Robert Hayward simply superb in his Sprechgesang, enunciating much character and sentiment, living every syllable.’
Colin Anderson, Classical Source

 ‘It was, moreover, a rare pleasure to experience such bold and coherent programming … Obar Ebrahim and Malcolm Sinclair offered excellent performances [in the Nono]. This excellent account, antiphonal drumming and all, exuded brutality, psychoticism, and yet inviting, spellbinding beauty.’
Mark Berry, Boulezian blog

‘Narrated again by Hayward but this time with palpable passion, and bolstered by the male voices of the LPO choir, Schoenberg’s achingly spare symbiosis of voice and orchestra emerged with the most intense expressiveness.’
Michael Church, The Independent

‘This was undeniably remarkable programming, and it’s a thrill to have all these issues presented within a single evening. If only more concerts could be as lucid and provocative as this.’
Paul Kilbey, Bachtrack

Jurowski and the LPO return to Royal Festival Hall on Saturday 1 December to perform Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s Ecclesiastical Action and Brahms’s German Requiem.  Tickets are still available and can be booked via the LPO Box Office on 020 7840 4242, from the LPO website, or bought on the door.

Reviews: Osmo Vänskä & Christian Tetzlaff, 31 October 2012

November 2, 2012

On Wednesday 31 October Osmo Vänskä conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra at Royal Festival Hall in Sibelius’s Symphony No. 3, Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 with soloist Christian Tetzlaff, and Nielsen’s Symphony No. 6 (Sinfonia semplice).

Here are the first press reviews:

‘Vänskä and the LPO revelled in [the Sibelius’s] dark rhythmic pulsing, conjuring a performance full of meticulously detailed accents but also with great spaciousness.’
Martin Kettle, The Guardian

‘Vänskä and the LPO, in superb form throughout the concert, did not spare the horses in revealing the many and various facets in this [Nielsen] work. Adopting swift tempos throughout, the music hit home in a most unnerving manner; a remarkable work received a remarkable performance.’
Edward Clark, Classical Source

‘Christian Tetzlaff struck just the right balance of elegance and robustness – and no hint of preciousness. The perfect example was the slow movement where the courtly decorum of a well-turned minuet was pitted against the romantic aspiration of the voicing. The cadenza was an ethereal departure, the fleeting return of the theme quite ravishing.’
Edward Seckerson, The Arts Desk

‘The precision and subtlety of Wednesday’s Sibelius earned an extra mark of excellence.’
Geoff Brown, The Times (available to subscribers only)

Osmo Vänskä and Christian Tetzlaff return to Royal Festival Hall with the LPO tonight (Friday 2 November) to perform more Nielsen (Pan and Syrinx), as well as Dvořák’s Violin Concerto and Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 3. Tickets are still available and can be booked through Southbank Centre or bought on the door, subject to availability. The concert is repeated at Brighton Dome on Saturday 3 November.

Reviews: Stanisław Skrowaczewski & Hilary Hahn, 24 October 2012

October 26, 2012

On Wednesday 24 October, Stanisław Skrowaczewski made the first of two appearances this week with the LPO at Royal Festival Hall. He conducted the Orchestra in Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 with soloist Hilary Hahn, and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7.

The concert received some great reviews: here’s what the reviewers had to say…

‘This was one of those performances that leave you feeling nourished, rather than exhausted … Throughout the performance the LPO played magnificently, wonderfully enhanced by Skrowaczewski’s concern to get the balance right, to let all the inner voices speak … It is his rigorous devotion to music and courtesy to his fellow musicians that has characterised his career, and it continues to deliver music-making of rare quality, an honesty and integrity of which these days we are in desperate need, with the power to shake and rejuvenate the weary heart.’ (5 stars)
Ken Ward (Editor, The Bruckner Journal),

‘The balance of the orchestral colours was extremely attractive. We trekked up the work’s many peaks slowly but with an original rhythmic kick and, once at the top, we were never disappointed. The glory was the final sunrise to the first movement, made all the more impressive by Skrowaczewski’s finessing of both the near-silent roll into the crescendo and the brass fanfare that took us to the end.’
Igor Toronyi-Lalic, The Arts Desk

‘This concert was superb, a wonderful marriage of common purpose. The Mozart was played delightfully. Hilary Hahn’s sweet tone and lyrical playing for her initial entry contrasted nicely with the pointed and insistent playing from the LPO … At spot-on 70 minutes, this reading [of the Bruckner] benefited from such expanse: there was space to breathe with Skrowaczewski, the music never dragging, and was a performance as one dreams of – of majesty, grace and full expression … The ascent to glory was captivating from the off, moments of serene bliss gave way to uplifting climaxes in the opening movement. Skrowaczewski tempted the LPO to great heights of playing.’
Kevin Rogers, Classical Source

‘The LPO were in tremendous form, right across the stage … I never believed I would hear an account of a Bruckner symphony that rivalled Günter Wand at his best, but last night I did … Truly an evening to remember!’
Michael McManus, Gramophone

‘If a dangerously drawn-out Adagio threatened the concentration, there was also little doubt that the conductor knew where this music was headed, and knew that it needed no extraneous interference. The LPO, though not always entirely together, offered him rapt adoration.’
Neil Fisher, The Times (only available online to subscribers)

Skrowaczewski returns to Royal Festival Hall with the LPO tonight (Friday 26 October), conducting Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with Garrick Ohlsson; his own arrangement of the Adagio from Bruckner’s String Quintet in F; and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 1. Tickets are still available and can be booked through Southbank Centre or bought on the door.


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