Tag Archives: City Halls

REVIEW: The Fiery Angel (Scottish Opera Sunday Series) – City Halls, Glasgow

Masochistic obsession, black magic, demons, mass possession, exorcism, skeletons, nuns, appearances from Faust and Mephistopheles, it’s no wonder Sergei Prokofiev’s The Fiery Angel, often called lurid and sensationalist, is seldom staged. This latest production in The Sunday Series from Scottish Opera sees the work given a stripped back concert style treatment and it’s all the better for it.

Rehearsal for The Fiery Angel
Photos by Julie Howden

While lacking a set, it lacks for nothing else. The principal cast is largely made up of native Russian speakers and some fellow Eastern Europeans and is supplemented by current students of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland opera school. The expertise with the language is partly the reason for the quality of this production, that and the considerable singing and acting skills of its principal players. Russian soprano Svetlana Sozdateleva is fine-voiced and gives a convincing, emotive performance throughout as the mentally unsound Renata, as is Azerbaijani baritone Evez Abdulla as Ruprecht and Russian tenor Dmitry Golovnin as Agrippa von Nettesheim, though it must be said that at times they, and their fellow singers find it hard to be heard over the outstanding orchestra (itself swelled in number by students from the Conservatoire), who, under the commanding baton of Mikhail Agrest, have rarely sounded more powerful.

Rehearsal for The Fiery Angel
Photos by Julie Howden

For all its, quite frankly insane subject matter, the score is an absolute winner: powerful, hypnotic, dissonant, majestic, bold and gripping.

Every aspect of this largely concert hall venue is utilised well: singers enter through the auditorium, sing from the balconies, orchestra stalls and act out the considerable drama in an arrangement of simply staged, but hugely effective scenes.

An absolute triumph for both Scottish Opera and The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and a fantastic opportunity to hear Prokofiev’s masterpiece sounding at its best.

 

 

REVIEW: James Grant and The Hallelujah Strings – City Halls, Glasgow

There’s a tangible atmosphere at Glasgow City Halls, a sense that this is going to be something special…you just know it…you can just feel it in the air..

In a place James Grant says has “a special resonance”, the place where Love and Money debuted “the best thing we ever did”, their 1991 album Dogs in the Traffic, James Grant and The Hallelujah Strings deliver a breathtakingly brilliant set, encompassing both Grant’s solo career and his years in Love and Money.

Grant himself seems to know how special this is, looking genuinely taken-aback at the audience reaction, the self-proclaimed crabbitness thrown to the wind as he declares this is “very much my bag”. It’s not only his bag, but everyone in this auditorium’s, there are collective murmurs of recognition, memories and anecdotes shared between songs, a feeling that it’ll be a long time before we experience something this good again.

Grant’s patter also belies the curmudgeonly exterior, the wry wit, that he promises to keep in check, but never quite manages, is incredibly funny. The smile never far from his lips throughout the night.

Grant’s songs stand strong with only guitar and sublime vocal but you can’t deny the lushness and emotional depth the 14-piece Hallelujah Strings bring to these carefully crafted gems. I Can’t Stop Bleeding is particularly fine.

The night is rounded out with a series of Love and Money anthems that have the audience on their feet and when Grant returns to deliver the blistering encore – culminating in Bowie’s Starman – no one wants to go home.

Arguably Grant’s finest hour – an undeniably five star night – we can only hope it’s not too long until we get the chance to do it all together again.

 

 

 

REVIEW: Blackmail with the BBC SSO

Presented as a companion piece to The Sound of Hitchcock, the BBC SSO present a rare opportunity to see Alfred Hitchcock’s 1929 silent masterpiece Blackmail with full symphony orchestra accompaniment.

Wielding the baton again is silent movie music specialist Timothy Brock, the music created by contemporary composer Neil Brand specifically for the movie. Brand refuses to confine himself to the musical  style of the era, instead taking the best of the early decades of movie music and creating a beautifully appropriate soundscape to match the action.

Blackmail itself has an interesting history, existing in two versions, filming began originally as a silent movie but it was converted to sound during production. It is one of Britain’s first all-talking pictures, filmed on the first purpose-built sound studio in Europe at Borehamwood. It’s Czech-born leading lady Anny Ondra also a classic example of a silent movie star failing to make the grade in the talkies, her strong accent having to be post-dubbed by actress Joan Barry.

The story … During a date with her Scotland Yard detective boyfriend, Alice White has a fight with her boyfriend, Frank. Catching the eye of an admirer, she ditches Frank and leaves with the mysterious stranger. When they go back to his flat he attempts to rape Alice and she kills him in defence. Frank is tasked with investigating the case and soon realises Alice’s guilt. However, a petty thief with blackmail on his mind complicates matters.

What the movie does show is a fascinating glimpse of a film that bridged the gap between the overblown histrionics of the silent era and the more subtle talkies to come. Whilst there are exaggerated eye roles and meaningful glances a-plenty from our heroine, it is a stylistic hybrid which also demonstrates the burgeoning genius of Hitchcock and provides a tantalising glimpse of what was to come, indeed many of Hitchcock’s most famous trademarks are here (including the infamous cameo appearance): the beautiful blonde in peril, and a famous landmark used in the movie’s finale (here it’s a chase across the dome of the British Museum).

Surprisingly, the movie remains remarkably watchable, replete as it is with astonishingly sophisticated scene cutting and special effects for its era, and it is all enhanced wonderfully by the BBC SSO, there’s not much can beat the sound of an 80 piece plus orchestra in full flight.

A thoroughly entertaining evening, hopefully next season’s programme will offer more of the same.

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: BBC SSO The Sound of Hitchcock – City Halls, Glasgow

The BBC SSO have teamed up with Radio 3 to present a special edition of Sound of Cinema featuring the music from the movies of Alfred Hitchcock.

Matthew Sweet presents music from Franz Waxman, Dmitri Tiomkin, Miklos Rozsa and Bernard Herrmann linked with some enlightening background facts about Hitch and his composers, all lead by US born composer and conductor Timothy Brock (a specialist in concert performances of early 20th Century silent movie scores).

This is a fantastic celebration of an often overlooked genre of music, but what this performance perfectly exemplifies just how memorable this so-called background music is. It only takes a few bars from the score of Dial M for Murder, Vertigo, and of course Psycho for the scenes to spring firmly to mind.

Beautifully performed and professionally presented, this evocative, unnerving, unsettling and utterly entertaining production is an absolute delight.

To be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on August 15th at 2pm

REVIEW: Friday Night is Music Night BBC Music Day Concert – City Halls, Glasgow

Once in a while, the stars align to bring a magical evening’s entertainment that will linger long in the memory and so it was at Glasgow’s City Halls to celebrate BBC Music Day, with BBC Radio 2’s Friday Night is Music Night presenting a gala concert featuring the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and a line-up of guests from across the musical spectrum.

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The programme comprising a selection of popular classical pieces, (The Marriage of Figaro, Tosca) to well-loved movie and stage soundtracks (My Fair Lady Overture, the Back to the Future theme tune), as well as some jazz and pop standards, was a popular one.

Jamie Cullum, representing the world of jazz, gave a pared back and perfectly performed version of Pure Imagination as well as the roof raising Bond theme-like Edge of Something, opera tenor Noah Stewart, easy on the eye as well as ear, astounded with an emotive Recondita Armonia from Tosca and a goose-bump inducing Grenada.

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World-renowned violinist Jack Liebeck gave a snippet of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, harpist Catrin Finch (formerly Prince Charles Official Harpist) performed two beautifully melodic pieces, Bhangra artist Jaz Dhami accompanied by kohl and tabla players as well as the SSO delivered two full-blooded Bollywood movie classic themes and Claire Hastings BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2015 gave a lyrical version of Robert Burns The Posie and a stirring Johnny Ramensky.

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Local gal Lulu, appearing first across the water at the BBC HQ at The Quay crossed the river to deliver her 60’s movie hit To Sir With Love.

Less successful in a night of big-hitters were local pop stalwarts Deacon Blue who were woefully underpowered by an on top form SSO. Vocalist Lorraine McIntosh didn’t help proceedings by looking as if she would rather be anywhere else but here.

friday night is music night city halls bbc music day jazz dharmi

That said, this minor blip did not ruin a magical evening of world class talent for a Glasgow audience in roof-raising form – truly breathtaking from start to finish.

REVIEW: John Wilson – Monday Night Live British Classics, City Halls, Glasgow

 

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“Conductor John Wilson, well known for his interpretations of American music, leads the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in an exploration of the varied work of British composers active in the first half of the 20th Century. 

Paul Watkins, acclaimed for his performances of British Music, joins the orchestra as soloist in Gerald Finzi’s Cello Concerto, a work imbued with characteristic lyricism but with darker undertones, written shortly before the composer’s untimely death in 1956.

And the concert, broadcast live on Radio 3, concludes with 2 works: Holst’s Ballet Music from his doomed opera, The Perfect Fool; and Arnold Bax’s, The Garden of Fand, an orchestral tone poem inspired by the ancient Celtic folklore in which the composer was steeped.”

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It would be a waste of words to talk about the technicalities of the playing, the complexities of the music or the astounding talent of John Wilson. All that needs to be said is that this was a tremendously entertaining evening of beautiful music, played by phenomenally talented musicians, led by one of the world’s best conductors in a venue that boasts some of the best accoustics in the world, and a bargain at only £10 – simply perfect.

Look out for further performances at City Halls: http://www.glasgowconcerthalls.com/

More information about the Scottish Symphony Orchestra at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/orchestras/bbcsso/

John Wilson at: http://www.johnwilsonorchestra.com/

Music:

Walton – Portsmouth Point: An Overture (c.6′)

Finzi – Cello Concerto in A minor, Op.40 (c.40′)

Holst – The Perfect Fool: Ballet Music (c.12′)

Bax – The Garden of Fand: tone poem (c.17′)