Raphael Wallfisch and NCO, Stoller Hall, review

Posted By: Sinead O'Carroll, 21st May 2018

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

Posted By: Sinead O'Carroll, 14th 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.


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Raphael Wallfisch/John York – wonderful review of their April 2018 recital in Painswick

Posted By: Sinead O'Carroll, 8th May 2018

14:04:18 A Concert of Music for Cello and Piano.
The second of Painswick Music Society’s season of concerts featured the prestigious Duo of Raphael Wallfisch (cello) and John York (piano). Their deep musical insights and immaculate playing delighted a capacity audience at St. Mary’s Church.
In order to achieve a balanced sound, it is usual for grand piano lids to be only partially opened when stringed instruments are being accompanied. So, arriving at the church to see the gaping Steinway, with lid fully raised, left one wondering if the sound of the cello might be swallowed up. Worries were groundless: from the first chord of the Beethoven Variations it was apparent that Raphael Wallfisch had tone ‘to burn’. In his masterly hands, the cello throbbed and sang as he projected a gloriously rich sonority which reached every part of the church.
The two artists have performed together for over thirty years and their musical ‘chemistry’ produced a wonderfully balanced account of Beethoven’s 3rd Sonata. They wove a tapestry of sound which flowed seamlessly from one to the other, with both pianist and cellist producing exquisite pianissimos.
The Sonata by the Russian composer, Myaskovsky, was written under the oppressive glare of Stalinist ideology, when composers had to do as they were told – or else! The simple melodies were conveyed with soulful expression.
In the final work, Brahms’ passionate Sonata Op 99, the artists generated a breath-taking range of emotion which swept the audience through the work’s contrasting moods. The pianist’s fine technique enabled him to carry off with ease the difficult and fiery Scherzo movement while the rich melodies and haunting pizzicato notes of the cello part were endowed with a beauty beyond measure.
Listeners, aware that they’d been treated to something very special, conveyed their thanks with energetic applause. In return, as an encore, these fine artists bade us adieu with the lingering beauty of ‘Love Song’ by Karl Weigl.

Reg Wrathmell

Friday, 11 May: London Handel Players perform at the renowned International Handel Festpiele Goettingen

Posted By: Sinead O'Carroll, 3rd May 2018

London Handel Players are joined by renowned Baroque dancers, Mary Collins and Steven Player to perform Music for a king! Louis XIV’s passion for music and dance inspired many Baroque composers to write exquisite dance pieces. The London Handel Players present a selection of these pieces by Lully, Handel and Bach, choreographed by Baroque dancers. With this royal concert programme, Laurence Cummings says goodbye to over 15 years of working together with the London Handel Players.

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15, 23 & 25 May 2018: Trio Shaham Erez Wallfisch, Beethoven Triple Concerto with Orchestra of the Swan in Stratford-upon-Avon, Birmingham and Cheltenham

Posted By: Sinead O'Carroll, 3rd May 2018

Although the concert in Stratford-upon-Avon on 15 May is now sold out there is still an unmissable opportunity to hear Trio Shaham Erez Wallfisch play the Beethoven Triple Concerto with the Orchestra of the Swan in Birmingham on 23 May or Cheltenham on 25 May.

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Raphael Wallfisch takes to the stage in the Royal Ballet’s production of Elizabeth I at The Barbican, 16 – 19 May 2018

Posted By: Sinead O'Carroll, 3rd May 2018

Former Principal of The Royal Ballet Zenaida Yanowsky is Elizabeth I in this dynamic exploration of her life and loves, a chamber work that weaves dance, music, text and song into an opulent tapestry.

Drawn from letters, diaries, poetry and plays, including material written by her famed suitors, the script for this dance-drama is spoken and sung by female actors and a baritone. Their words illuminate the movements of two dancers. Accompanied by an original score – played on cello by Raphael Wallfisch, with borrowed musical structures and harmonies from great Elizabethan composers – the elegant and intimate performance is also enriched by sumptuous costumes.

Intrigued as much by her private passions and physicality as her political triumphs, choreographer Will Tuckett in partnership with playwright Alasdair Middleton turned to the writings of the monarch and those around her as a starting point for their piece. Covering key moments in the queen’s reign, it gives us ‘a strikingly visceral sense of the tightrope Elizabeth walked in maintaining her crown,’ says the Guardian.

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May 4th, Tasmin plays Bruch Violin Concerto No 1 with BBCNOW/Joseph Swensen in Swansea at 19:30

Posted By: Sinead O'Carroll, 3rd May 2018

Friday, May 4th, Tasmin plays Bruch Violin Concerto No 1in Swansea at 19:30

Venue: Brangwyn Hall, The Guildhall, Swansea SA1 4PE, Wales
BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Joseph Swensen

BACH (orch. Stokowski) – Toccata and Fugue in D min
BRUCH – Violin Concerto No 1
BRUCKNER – Symphony No 7 in E maj

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Tasmin Little playing Mozart @ the Auditorio de Galicia in Santiago de Compostela, Spain last week.

Posted By: Sinead O'Carroll, 3rd May 2018

Raphael Wallfisch, recording of the Bertold Goldschmidt and Franz Reizenstein Cello Concerti to be released on 23 April.

Posted By: Sinead O'Carroll, 16th April 2018

Stamina and skill from violinist Jac van Steen at Ulster Hall Review: Ulster Orchestra at Ulster Hall, Belfast

Posted By: Sinead O'Carroll, 16th April 2018

The Ulster Orchestra‘s successful current season is characterised by a shrewd mixture of familiar much-loved pieces balanced by music that is perhaps less well-known to local audiences.

This was the key to the latest concert under the baton of Jac van Steen, the orchestra’s principal guest conductor, who expertly set the stage for a special evening with Sibelius’ tone poem Pohjola’s Daughter.

The main feature in the first half was the 8th Symphony by distinguished English composer David Matthews, now 75, who was present in the Ulster Hall for what was the piece’s Belfast debut.

After a lively introduction there was an elegaic and almost Mahlerian second movement in G minor, where the composer paid tribute to a friend who died when Matthews was writing it.

The final movement was in sharp contrast and featured four exuberant dance tunes. The theme for one of these came to the composer during a walk in the woods when he had no paper – but he wrote the notes down on a leaf from the forest.

He told the story in a lively pre-concert talk with van Steen, and it was quite a privilege to hear a composer share such inner thoughts about the elusive creative process.

The second half belonged to international violinist Tasmin Little, a visitor here during the darkest days of the Troubles and who is still a great favourite with the Ulster Orchestra and local audiences.

She performed superbly Elgar’s lengthy Violin Concerto, a musical tour de force which requires enormous technical skill and stamina, not only from the soloist but also the from conductor and the orchestra, who combined almost flawlessly to give an inspiring account of this masterpiece.

There was enthusiastic and sustained applause at the end.

Next Saturday the mood will change when the Ulster Orchestra and conductor Stephen Bell pay tribute to Abba in the Waterfront Hall. It will be a sell-out.

Alf McCreary, Belfast Telegraph, 16 April 2018

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