Fabulous review of the Arcadia Quartet’s concert in Devon on 18 February 2018


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The Times: Dance review: Elizabeth at the Barbican (Raphael Wallfisch, cello)

Former Royal Ballet principal Zenaida Yanowsky is radiant in a show that explores the Virgin Queen’s relationships with the men in her life

★★★★☆
She arrives on stage, dolled up in her regal finery, her red hair fabulously coiffed, every inch of her dressed to rule. Suddenly the layers are stripped away and Elizabeth I is no longer a monarch but a feeble flesh-and-blood woman. The year is 1603, the year of her death. Will Tuckett and Alasdair Middleton’s dance-theatre collaboration then takes us back to the beginning of her reign, in 1558, in a show that explores Elizabeth’s relationships with the men in her life.

The Virgin Queen didn’t have much luck with the opposite sex, but that wasn’t from a lack of trying. Her list of “favourites” included Robert Dudley (Earl of Leicester), Sir Walter Raleigh and Robert Devereux (Earl of Essex), but she was betrayed by them all. Even the Duc d’Anjou, the French toy boy she was supposed to marry, abandoned her by dying prematurely.

Middleton draws on poems, songs and letters of the time (some of them written by Elizabeth) to flesh out the story. Tuckett’s articulate pointe shoe choreography is classically vibrant with a tinge of period flavours, a sheen of regal authority and bursts of acute emotional pain. Martin Yates’s score for solo cello (played wonderfully by Raphael Wallfisch) draws on the music of Elizabethan composers such as John Dowland and Thomas Tallis. A trio of actresses, led by the marvellous Samantha Bond, deliver the words; the baritone Julien Van Mellaerts brings the songs to life with warmth and wit.

Zenaida Yanowsky, the former Royal Ballet principal (this revival is presented by the Royal Ballet), inhabits the many faces of the Tudor queen, from the coquettish but headstrong young woman who loved to sing and dance to the embittered old woman ravaged by time. Yanowsky is radiant throughout the 90 minutes; passionate, tempestuous, melancholic and majestic. A statuesque presence on stage, she looks gorgeous in a succession of beautiful frocks designed by Fay Fullerton.

Yanowsky is well matched by her brother Yury, who brings humour and pathos to the proceedings as the feisty peacock Leicester, the foolish Duc d’Anjou, the rogueish and randy Raleigh and the treacherous Essex.

Debra Craine, The Times, 18 May 2018

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Raphael Wallfisch and NCO, Stoller Hall, review

Neil Sowerby enjoys a fitting end to the Northern Chamber Orchestra’s 50th anniversary season

WHAT a fitting end to the Northern Chamber Orchestra’s 50th anniversary season, consummating their residency in the acoustic heaven that is the new Stoller Hall inside Chetham’s.

NCO president Raphael Wallfisch took centre stage as soloist in Elgar’s Cello Concerto, which has its own anniversary (100) next year. Under-rehearsed for its 1919 premiere, its elegiac intensity lukewarmly received by audiences struggling to resolve their own grief over the Great War, it was Elgar’s last full length work.

I’ve listened to most of the stellar performances that finally established it in the concerto repertoire – Du Pre, Casals, Tortelier – and to occasional florid takes. That would be the last adjective to describe Wallfisch’s taut, passionate interpretation, where the heartbreak of the Adagio feels like a bereft quest for resolution rather than any wallowing. All aided by those Stoller acoustics.

…it is still a shock to see veteran artistic director Nicholas Ward arranging affairs from his leader’s chair
There was a wonderful stripped down clarity, too, to the post-interval Beethoven’s Fifth. What a fiercely compressed piece this remains, those opening four hammer blow notes reassembling themselves across the symphony with fragmentary horn-led echoes even in the lyrically tender slow movement. More than usual you note, too, how the scherzo echoes Mozart (whose jaunty Magic Flute overture opened the afternoon).

Thirty years since the NCO became one of the first ensembles to dispense with a conductor, it is still a shock to see veteran artistic director Nicholas Ward arranging affairs from his leader’s chair. Now the Stoller seems the perfect home for such an approach.

After their usual involvement in the Buxton Festival the NCO will resume their Stoller Hall residency on Friday, September 28 with more Beethoven – the Eroica and Piano Concerto No.3, Freddy Kempf the soloist.

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Tasmin Little, Piers Lane: Brahms “a seamless flow of intense, controlled emotion”, Review in The Strad May 2018

The Strad Issue: May 2018
Description: Weaving a little more magic in Brahms’s sonatas
Musicians: Tasmin Little (violin), Piers Lane (piano)
Works: BRAHMS Violin Sonatas: no.1 in G major op.78, no.2 in A major op.100, no.3 in D minor op.108
Catalogue Number: CHANDOS CHAN 10977

Tasmin Little begins Brahms’s First Violin Sonata with the mixture of precision, tonal warmth and flexibility that is always a feature of her playing. She will nail one phrase with silvery brilliance and bring gentle mystery to the next. The dolce lead, back to the recapitulation of the first movement, is magical. She plays the theme of the second movement with a richness that brings her mentor Menuhin to mind. The final Allegro combines beguiling simplicity and a sense of confidentiality with a confident reprise of the slow movement at its heart.

The Second Sonata has an air of reverie to it, with liquid phrasing in the first and last movements, as if she is exploring every phrase to find out what comes at the end. The vivace sections of the second movement are quicksilver, with light and nimble playing from Little and the always-excellent Piers Lane. In the first movement of the Third Sonata there are stirring, heroic moments, but here, as in all the sonatas, much of it has a feeling of intimacy, of something personal being shared.

The slow movement is a seamless flow of intense, controlled emotion, and the finale has some splendid theatrical outbursts. The recorded sound is rich, with the musicians close.

TIM HOMFRAY

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