Tuesday, 29 December 2009

January brings London back to life

New brooms sweep clean so chimney sweeps bring good luck. To switch metaphors, what an oasis January will be after the desert of December.

András Schiff will be bringing good cheer to the Wigmore Hall with his new series, where he'll be blending songs for voice with songs for piano. He does real "intelligent programming" so look at his selections and drool even if you can't get there. First off on 6th January, he's playing Mendelssohn, Schumann and early Mahler with Juliane Banse.

On Sunday 10th, Peter Schreier will be conducting Bach at the Royal Academy of Music. Modern instruments but Schreier's brilliant. He's been conducting RAM students for years, and he's well loved. Needless to say, it's sold out but lucky me, I've got a ticket. Many tickets still available for Brecht songs on the 12th - not Schreier singing though. He retired gracefully a few years ago, while still relatively in his prime. OTOH Brecht isn't difficult so he probably "could" sing at a pinch, though he evidently has more sense.

On 12th and 14th, though, the big draw will be Strauss's Elektra in a concert performance at the Barbican. Gergiev conducts and a good line-up - Jeanne-Michele Charbonnet, Felicity Palmer, Angela Denoke, Matthias Goerne, Ian Storey. Also on at the same time, Melvyn Tan and the Škampa at the Wigmore Hall, and also Sholto Kynoch there, too.

The biggest feature for me though will be the Hans Werner Henze Total Immersion at the Barbican on 16th-17th. This is the first big retrospective since the South Bank Henze series 10 years ago. Oliver Knussen will be conducting Symphony no 4 and the UK premiere of Elogium musicum, after an afternoon that includes Voices and two films. The Barbican doesn't name the speaker for the talk, which is ominous as if they'd got anyone good he'd be advertised. These days pre-concert talks are becoming a bad joke, a platform for those who know nothing about the subject to show off about themselves, antagonizing genuine listeners. Sit strategically near the door.

Absolutely unmissable though will be opera, Phaedra, for which I booked as soon as tickets were available last year so as not to miss it. Almost the same cast as the Berlin premiere which I attended, which I'll write about closer to the time. Ensemble Modern hardly ever come to UK anymore, so that in itself is a draw. It's an amazingly powerful work, quite hard to take it's so intense, but Henze always confounds.

More clashes, as on the 16th the South Bank kicks back in action with Jurowski conducting Shostakovich. At the Wigmore Hall, the Nash Ensemble has an interesting French programme followed by Raphael Wallfisch next day. AND two concerts of opera and early music (Mingardo and Borsi) Luckily no clash with Netrebko and Hvorotovsky in recital at RFH on the 18th. The rest of the month is just as busy, so I'll write about that later.

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