London Limelight is the oldest of all of these classical clubbing ventures and has the unique setting of the world famous 100 Club in Soho: Quartets are something that swarms the classical industry because of the enormous repertory they have to choose from. The Badke Quartet, who formed at the Royal Academy of Music back in 2002, performed a somewhat depressing programme for this rather lively setting - I disliked their programming decision - It was like being presented with a gorgeous meal but upon taking your first mouthful you discover it's cold; not to say the playing wasn't fantastic however I did down a few more vodkas to hide from the acute depression filling the room.
Their programme consisted of various movements from Haydn, Mendelssohn and Shostakovich and was played well; in fact there was little error in their playing except a bland first violinist whose performance faltered with little clarity in the upper register often resulting in poor intonation and scratchy textures. Her colleagues, however, were fine with a notable performance by Cellist Jonathan Byers whose rounded dark colour really shaped a lot of the programmed works.
Another drink later and pianist David Greilsammer killed the atmosphere once more with a fairly lengthy (15 minute) introduction that caused much hilarity, not because he was funny, but because he wouldn't stop talking and no one knew what he was talking about; his album presumably. When Israeli pianist Greilsammer finally sat at the piano he began to talk again but only for a short while before he began to play Bach's Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D Minor; he also played works by Rameau and Couperin and through these works I found that Greilsammer plays the piano like a harpsichord, his performances of these works were lead by the idea of staccati and the keyboard being a string instrument which I didn't admire as he brought nothing to the pieces, no colour and no charisma. His contemporary performances were excellent, well thought out and intelligibly played. Greilsammer is no doubt a great pianist and I will enjoy a further inspection by listening to his latest disc on Sony Classical.
Limelight's platform is something that has really changed the way we can present classical music in London and strips away the ever-strict format of the concert hall to a really delightful, enjoyable and fun state and then, drink-in-hand, you can really begin to listen.
Moving swiftly from a dingy Jazz club to the grand bedroom of the Marschallin, where she is enjoying the company of her 17-year-old lover Count Octavian Rofrano in the first act of David McVicar's revival production of the Richard Strauss' comic 1911 opera Der Rosenkavalier. The cast, on paper, were amazing and the cast, on stage, where incredible. Sir John Tomlinson was delectably naughty and raucous in voice and character as the pompous, overbearing womaniser Baron of Lerchenau; Amanda Roocroft sang the Feldmarschallin with some problems, her voice easily became uneven and untidy, especially in her higher register, however when the vocal line stabilised in mid range she sang beautifully; Her opposite, the randy Count Octavian, sang in fine form by Sarah Connolly whose love-filled head led the way to carve out a story of blissful happiness with some comic situations along the way, though, more than all of the distinguished members of this cast it was the bright, young Sophie Bevan who shone as the brightest star and justified her place amongst these stars with a most resplendent voice and gloriously glistening upper quality with a heart-wrenching dynamic creating a somewhat perfect Sophie von Faninal.
This opera ends with the Feldmarchallin, Octavian and Sophie singing a trio where Octavian must choose between the Feldmarchalin and Sophie that left me in tears - I haven't cried during an opera since La boheme. I do have a problem, naturally, with Rosenkavalier's composition: The final trio, in my view, should be the finale and conclusion to this opera instead Strauss composes another ten minutes further to this of, again in my opinion, no relevance.
Nonetheless, the Orchestra of the English National Opera conducted by Edward Gardner actualise Strauss' elaborate and dreamy notes that send you far, far away from your seat in the Coliseum. This is a truly brilliant production.
And now... The anti-climax: Nicola Lefanu's Dream Hunter at Wilton's Music Hall. Perhaps one could say it is an interesting concept that, as the opera goes on, never takes shape. The opera explores a culture in Corsica and women gifted with the prescience of death. The music was clunking and most of the singers lacked diction all the way through the opera, though I'm sure John Fuller's libretto was wonderful. One singer did stand out from the crowded score and that was the voice of Charmian Bedford whose clear-cut and even tone acted as light relief in a work I didn't enjoy.
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