24 December 2011 - This Christmas Eve brought Puccini's Tosca to the silver screen, a pre-recorded performance from the all-star-cast back in July this year. A rarity indeed to see four operatic giants on one stage: Angela Gheorghiu, Bryn Terfel, Jonas Kaufmann and Maestro Antonio Pappano.The two live performances of this opera went down an absolute treat with audiences roaring with applause on both nights and judging by its response the silver screened performance went down well too. In an age of new technology and social media, Tosca trended on twitter; that surely deems the venture a success. Apart the stonkingly brilliant performance of Tosca, Maestro Pappano presented an introductory documentary on the opera making Pappano a public figure and an operatic front man, perhaps the car salesman of all opera - or not - though this man could sell opera to anyone. Impressed by this fine display of opera on the BBC I would like to urge both companies, the Beeb and the Royal Opera to digress into more projects of this nature beaming opera to the living rooms and therefore the eyes and ears of fans and curious minded folks.
29 December 2011 - Back to the live concert hall and on 28 November 1811, exactly 200 years, one month and one day ago, Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 gave its premiere in Leipzig. The piece was enthusiastically received by the audience and the review in the Allgemeine Zeitung described the work as" undoubtedly one of the most original, imaginative, effective but also the most difficult of all existing concertos." So when all the turkey had been consumed Beethoven was the meal of choice. His Piano Concerto No.5 is easily one of my favourite Beethoven works, nicknamed the "Emperor Concerto" by one of Beethoven's close friends because of its powerful, majestic themes and heroic passages.
This evening, however, it seemed as though the Emperor became more of an Empress this evening. Dariescu reigned high over the orchestra.
Alexandra Dariescu, the bright young Romanian pianist who is making it big, and rightly so, appeared this evening in all the blue sparkles she could find, but was she to give the Emperor some bling? Well yes. There were some apparent errors, mainly that of the relationship between orchestra and conductor which wasn't cemented well by Maestro Warren-Green, who received nothing but slow responses from incredibly clear beating. It took Dariescu time to settle into some of the more tricky passages that demands heavy playing however she thrived in moments of calmer serenity, purely stroking the higher keys of piano. This gentle bliss triggered a stunned silence as she caressed beautiful passages namely in a theme in the adagio un poco mosso when Dariescu really flourished and the concerto finally seemed natural.
The Royal Philharmonic orchestra has never impressed me greatly and the impression they gave this evening was poor; the strings took on a life of their own without a definitive relationship with conductor Christopher Warren Green and one of the horn players remained sharp throughout the entire performance of the concerto upsetting several chords as well as an apparent lack of colour that the other London orchestras seem to achieve.
Despite the orchestra's misdemeanors Dariescu remains as a pianist to watch. She may not be as bold and bolshie as other pianists but she certainly has a way with careful and considered phrasing that makes for blissful listening.