Monday, 28 December 2015

Concert Highlights for 2015

My ticket stubs tell me that I went to 62 performances during 2015, of which 15 were in Berlin, 9 in Manchester and most of the rest in London.  By what may no longer be merely coincidence I also went to 62 performances in each of 2014 and 2013.
I saw a large range of fantastic performances in 2015, mostly with the company of great friends.  What sticks in my mind from the year most includes:
  • Hildur Gudnadottir playing a solo set on her electric cello – Hildur creates with her playing an enclosed and rather magical world that sucks you in as you listen. If you don't know her music I recommend her various CDs. (24.02 Café Oto, London)
  •  Wagner’s Tannhauser, played by the Staatskapelle Berlin conducted by Daniel Barenboim, with staging by Sasha Waltz.    While I find Waltz’s choreography in its own right a bit pedestrian, and Wagner a bit overbearing and slow, the combination of the two unexpectedly made something rather perfect. (02.04 Staatsoper, Berlin)
  • Joe Phibbs’ Quartet No 1, played by the Piatti String Quartet.  Joe’s compositions are very beautiful.  Most reviewers compare his music to Britten, but I think he makes much more modernist soundspaces than that, and if anything his songs are like Schubert Lieder.  On the strength of hearing this quartet, I have commissioned him to write some piano solos!  (26.04 Conway Hall, London)
  • Tree of Codes at the Manchester International Festival – a collaboration between Wayne McGregor (choreography) Olafur Eliasson (design) Jamie XX (music) and soloists from the Paris Opera Ballet – was visually stunning.  In particular a solo dance by Marie-Agnès Gillot, étoile of the Paris Opera Ballet, to trance like dub music from Jamie XX achieved a rare moment of transcendence.  I liked it so much I saw it twice in its two week run. (July, Manchester International Festival)
  • Sunn O))) – drone metal band from Seattle playing the loudest music I have ever heard, reverberating through my body for 2 hours.  Despite wearing earplugs it still took months for my hearing fully to recover afterwards.  So I shan’t see them again without industrial ear protectors, but it was truly unforgettable and stirring.  (08.09 Neukoln, Berlin)
  • Iliad Overnight, by the National Theatre of Wales – a performance based on Christopher Logue’s poem “War Music” that started at 18:00 on a Saturday evening and finished at 06:00 the next day.   Utterly gripping rendition that had me rushing to read every poem Logue had ever written – once I had caught up on my sleep!  The reviews were equally fulsome, the Guardian calling it the “Theatrical Event of the Year” (03.10 The Ffwrnes, Llanelli, Wales)
  • Nederlands Dans Theater showing Shoot the Moon and Stop-Motion by Sol León and Paul Lightfoot, and Solo Echo by Crystal Pite.   Great dancers, and the Pite piece in particular has all the sublime abstraction that keeps me going back to more and more contemporary dance.  My new favourtite dance company! (31.10, Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Berlin)
  • Annual concert performance for the charity “Awards for Young Musicians” at which some incredibly talented young people played, including a stand out pianist, Laura Newey, who played Chopin’s Preludes 1-5 with precocious passion and grace.  (09.11 Charterhouse, London)
  • Cédric Tiberghien, playing a programme of piano pieces by Bartók  and Boulez.  One of the most intelligently thought out concerts I have heard in a long time, Tiberghien alternated the composers to show us the connections between them.   A real education, and beautiful playing. (24.11 Wigmore Hall, London)

 As a footnote, the 2015 events included:
22  classical concerts (ie written before about 1960)
18 contemporary classical music concerts
16 contemporary dance performances
6  plays
The concerts included
21 Chamber recitals
9 Ensemble performances
8 Orchestral concerts
4 Operas
The most visited London venues were:
8 at the Southbank    (16 in 2014)
9 at the Wigmore Hall  (8 in 2014)
7 at Sadler’s Wells (6 in 2014)
2 at the Barbican (3 in 2014)
3 at Royal Opera House  (2 in 2014)