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Archive for October, 2010

London Philharmonic Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
St David’s Hall, Cardiff 7th October 2010

This was the opening performance in St David’s Hall’s new International Concert Series. This year’s is a fantastic season both in repertoire and artists and features orchestras including the Staatskapelle Dresden and London Symphony.

The concert opened with a ‘Scherzo Fantastique’ by Josef Suk, a work unfamiliar to most. Järvi’s direction led the orchestra through a wonderful execution, demonstrating Suk’s nationalist and folk influences superbly.

Next was Schumann’s only piano concerto, with soloist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet. Bavouzet is very much a character, and entered the stage with as much pizzazz as that with which he went on to perform the concerto. His enthusiasm and physical motion made an enthralling performance of a work not always thought of in this way.

Dvorák’s New World Symphony completed the programme, with Järvi making some fairly unorthodox decisions about tempi. The first movement set off at quite a pace, much faster than one expects to hear it but this lent it a driven excitement that it was easy to be carried along with. The slow movement, however, did become a little turgid in the middle as it was played rather slowly. That said, the cor anglais solo was performed with beautiful, elegant tone.

The orchestra, throughout the concert, showed a little too much disregard for the music and came across, as professional orchestras sometimes can, as being bored of the music they were playing. Whether or not this may be the case, other orchestras tend to hide the fact a little better. At the end of the slow movement in the symphony, the orchestration was stripped back to the front 8 string players, who didn’t seem to be able to finish phrases together. This was a little too noticeable.

That said, the audience was ever appreciative, with a contingent of what might be termed ‘groupies’ on their feet and whooping away in an upper tier at the end of the concert. Several other audience members also stood as Järvi encouraged the whoopers, who kept the applause and thrilling atmosphere going for a good few minutes.

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The Magic Flute – Welsh National Opera
Wales Millennium Centre, 6th October 2010

The Wales Millennium Centre, purpose built for opera, really does the genre justice. Even from seats in the upper circle every one of Mozart’s notes, each sound and every consonant was crystal clear.

The visual appearance of this production is much talked of, and rightly so. The set is minimalist with several doors on and off stage, and relies on the excellent lighting design to change scene and mood. Simple colours are used to characterise people generally, with Papageno’s and the Queen of the Night’s costumes more complex.

Neil Davies’ Papageno was the highlight, sung wonderfully with just the right amount of comic timing. Also very commendable were the Queen’s ladies in waiting who moved in unison and sang with a beautiful vocal blend.

The only let-down of the evening was the audience. Coughs and splutters were almost constant from all over the auditorium and one person’s mobile phone even rang towards the end of the first act. Although many are aware of the conventions of being an audience member, one wonders if the opera would benefit from a pre-show pep talk about keeping quiet and turning your phone off. The cinema doesn’t suffer from it.

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