Round-up of classical reviews and previews for the coming week.
A Fairy’s Kiss at Philharmonic Hall, tonight
CAUTIOUS souls should in no way be put off by the name of Igor Stravinsky appearing in tonight’s Phil concert programme. The Fairy’s Kiss is ballet music based on the works of Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky and he is much too wise a bird to do too much tampering with the master. But he does add a succulent flavour to a score which is probably his most approachable after The Firebird.
Chloe Hanslip is one of Britain’s brightest young violinists of today, much recorded by the Naxos label, and she plays the famous Violin Concerto of Mendelssohn, while visiting Finnish conductor Hannu Lintu gives the programme a fine send off with the Roman Carnival Overture of Berlioz. Tonight’s concert deserves a sell out.
Elgar: The Starlight Express (Chandos)
STARLIGHT Express was a children’s play which failed in 1915 despite inspired music conducted by the composer himself, Edward Elgar. Now Sir Andrew Davis has prepared a 45-minute suite from the music including the songs, sung here by Elin Manahan Thomas and Roderick Williams. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra support, both here and in a re-creation by Andrew Davis of the original Algernon Blackwood children’s novel, written in such a way as to blend in with the music. The text is read by a rather gusty Simon Callow and Chandos wisely includes the text in the booklet. The 2-disc set at medium price makes an admirable Christmas gift, both for children and for more senior listeners to recall memories of childhood.
Britten: A Ceremony of Carols & St Nicolas (Hyperion)
BRITTEN’S Cantata, which tells the story of the life of St Nicholas, is a something of a rarity, and I don’t know why. It has the same audience participation as does Noye’s Fludde with two well known congregational hymns, and even has something of a hit song when the boys’ choir sings of Nicholas and The Pickle Boys. Stephen Layton conducts tenor Alan Clayton, the Holst Singers, the boys of Temple Church Choir and the City of London Sinfonia in this admirable Christmas CD from Hyperion. It also includes Britten’s enchanting Ceremony of Carols sung by the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge with harpist Sally Price, again directed by Stephen Layton.
A Winter’s Light (Naxos)
THIS CD gives relief to those tired of the same six carols interminably pumped out through the loudspeakers of every shop in town. Here Jeremy Backhouse and the Vasari Singers have some old favourites, such as O Little Town of Bethlehem and In the Bleak Midwinter, and writings by British composers such as Bob Chilcott, Herbert Howells, David Willcocks and John Rutter.