Classical music and opera - including contemporary forms - from London and beyond.

Friday 25 November 2011

An ‘Oliver!’ for the 21st century

Matilda: The Musical, Cambridge Theatre, London

That a musical should have a message is rare these days. That it should have several – about standing up for yourself, intelligence and the fallibility of adults – is nothing short of astonishing. Matilda never patronises its audience, nor its young performers.

A thirst for the new

Nonclassical Club Night, Kings Place, London, Monday 21 November 2011

In truth, ‘Nonclassical Club Night’ might have been a misnomer – ‘Classical Non-Club Night’ would probably have been a more technically accurate description. This isn’t to say, though, that it was a completely standard classical recital – and nor is it to say that the changes of format and tone which it adopted weren’t incredibly beneficial.

Thursday 10 November 2011

The potentials of silence

Cut and Splice: Grúndelweiser, ICA, London, 3 – 6 November 2011

There were moments during these long pieces when I did wish the ICA had some more comfortable chairs. But to describe any of the Wandelweiser repertoire as boring would be – to push Cage a little further – unimaginative. There are very conspicuously more questions than answers in all of this music, but I struggle to see what’s wrong with that. Wandelweiser are radically unpatronising to their audience.

Alien England

English Journey: Re-Imagined, Barbican, London, Saturday 22 October

Vivid scattergun readings by Sinclair and Moore, whose striking first-person narrative was a moving insight into the tragedy of the story, compellingly transported the audience to Clare’s countryside. What the ensuing witch-hanging-blackface-jig-metal-pounding lacked in consistency or subtlety, it made up for in genuine lunacy.

Paul Kilbey in • PoetryMusic
Thursday 3 November 2011

Balance rather than busyness

The Marriage of Figaro, ENO, Coliseum, London

The line ‘What did you expect: the Spanish Inquisition?’ is little more flippant than much of the original text by Da Ponte, who, in adapting his text from the play by Beaumarchais, deliberately expunged all references to politics. The Marriage of Figaro is absolutely not a commentary on the banking crisis, and is all the better for it.

Paul Kilbey in • MusicOpera
Friday 21 October 2011

Loose change

The case for rethinking the state funding of UK orchestras

Why have the subsidised orchestras failed to commission new music that entertains as well as challenges? Why have they done nothing to nurture a single living composer for whom the public might learn to care? Given less generous funding, the Arts Council’s dependents would have been forced to find at least one composer every decade with audience appeal.

John Boyden in • BlogsMusic
Friday 14 October 2011

Meaning and mystery

Boulez Weekend, Southbank Centre, London, 30 September – 2 October 2011

A picture emerged of a composer who clearly cares far more about the brilliant sonic effect of his music than about tiffs within the avant-garde or abstruse questions of technique. Every work we heard unfolded a strange, imagined shape in the air, leaving a trace which sat in some unknown relationship to logic.

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Shifting, shimmering, leaping

The Fairy Queen, by Henry Purcell, Britten Theatre, Royal College of Music, London

Purcell’s music in particular stands out from its contemporaries and even later composers in its exuberant, life-affirming quality, its assuredness in handling mood, from unabated joy to harrowed emotional longing and despair.

Sarah Boyes in • MusicOpera
Thursday 29 September 2011

A musical voice transcending historical hype

The Passenger, ENO, Coliseum, London

Overall though, it is the texture of Weinberg’s music that’s most arresting, the loose tonality and regular use of drums and bells, the often bare and brittle melodies and wide open bits of chord, odd bits of jazz and tugging dissonances. Musically, it is at once easy to listen to but difficult to get lost in, giving way to a state of sort of resigned semi-alertness.

Sarah Boyes in • MusicOpera

Operatic polemic

Manifest Destiny 2011, King’s Head Theatre, London

The commitment of Burstein and Edwards to their piece is never in doubt, and good for them. Furthermore, the creators’ zealousness has attracted the support of a hugely talented young theatre company. It’s just a pity that this company’s faith hasn’t been better rewarded.

Paul Kilbey in • MusicOpera

Asking the right questions

John Cage: Every Day is a Good Day, Hayward Gallery Project Space (Saturday 13 August – Sunday 18 September / John Cage Night, performed by Apartment House, Queen Elizabeth Hall (Tuesday 13 September, 7.30pm)

In the discussion which followed the concert, it was refreshing to hear Philip Thomas and Anton Lukoszevieze (the founder of Apartment House, as well as its cellist) strongly defend Cage as a composer, not just an ideas man, as he is sometimes viewed.

Thursday 8 September 2011

Disappointingly grounded

The Tempest, Theatre Royal Haymarket, London

Sure, he flies about a lot but the strings are always on display. Ariel’s songs are delivered in a strange falsetto and the effect is not spooky but embarrassing. It is a bit like watching a kitten sing.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

All about excess

Don Giovanni, Soho Theatre, London

As Johnny surveys the mess he has created, he comments with characteristic understatement, ‘This is getting awkward.’ It is when the show undermines the epic scale of Mozart’s piece that it actually feels strongest. Other undercutting works less well. So, as Blake merges in his R&B and dubstep beats, the cast is left to valiantly fly Mozart’s flag above this stream of sound.

Sunday 21 August 2011

Capitalism is collusion

Doris Day Can Fuck Off, Zoo Southside, Edinburgh

McLaren spent a month singing instead of speaking, just as they do in Doris Day musicals, recording every encounter on his trusty lapel microphone. That decision makes him a social pariah: people stare at him or walk away, unable to make head nor tail of him.

The ordinary given a sprinkling of glitter

The Caroline Carter Show, Zoo Aviary, Edinburgh

Either we appreciate the songs or we ridicule the songstress. Better taken as slight musical musings with a hefty dollop of whimsy, The Caroline Carter Show is more showcase than show, never really adding up to a satisfying whole.

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Music scholar Cara Bleiman takes a look at the political potential of music past and present in an essay, striking chords

Sarah Boyes asks What Does Music Mean? in a Battle in Print

Frank Furedi looks at the role of truth in music over recent years

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