Raphael Wallfisch and NCO, Stoller Hall, review


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

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