Christopher Morley looks at this week's classical music highlights in the region.
Saturday brings a night of biggies across our region, and not least here at home in Symphony Hall, when the CBSO under Andris Nelsons presents a concert-performance of Wagner’s vibrant The Flying Dutchman.
This was the work with which Wagner came to full maturity, written at a time when he was fleeing from creditors and political persecution, and it bursts with energy and adrenaline – and much more concise than the monumental works which were to follow.
A performance of the opera at Milan’s La Scala, no less, was the first event I reviewed live after my appointment as the Birmingham Post’s chief classical music critic on April Fool’s Day 1988, and it was conducted by Walter Weller, such a favourite with CBSO players and audiences.
Andris Nelsons has a huge history with Wagner, beginning with his encounter with Tannhauser at home in Riga (where much of Dutchman was composed) at the age of five. He burst into tears, marvelled at the importance of the conductor, and went home to write his own opera.
More recently, we have marvelled at Nelsons’ concert-performances of Lohengrin and Tristan and Isolde.
His casts are always so judiciously assembled, and here we can look forward to the commanding and so-convincingly musical James Rutherford as the doomed Dutchman (Symphony Hall 7pm).
But what riches pull us in other directions! The ever-enterprising Kidderminster Choral Society, with its expert Elgar Sinfonia collaborating, and Geoffrey Weaver conducting, presents the Verdi Requiem in this bicentenary year of the composer’s birth (Verdi and Wagner, joint birthday-boys in 1813).
Excerpts from Verdi operas precede the epic Mass (Kidderminster Town Hall 7.30pm).
Another great choral masterpiece can be heard in Hereford Cathedral, when the Hereford Choral Society performs Mozart’s Mass in C minor, Geraint Bowen conducting, the Hereford Sinfonia accompanying.
This Mass is an amazing work. Mozart wrote it as an appeasement to his father, knowing he would disapprove of his marriage to the soprano Constanze Weber, daughter to a highly-musical family which was nevertheless well below Leopold Mozart’s sniffing-distance.
Wolfgang brought Constanze to Salzburg to meet her grudging father-in-law, and she sang superlative coloratura solos in the unfinished Mass when it was performed in the city’s PetrisKirche, and, job done, Mozart never went on to complete the work.
What a massive masterpiece it would have been (watch the DVD of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus to understand what a dead weight upon Mozart was the presence of his father).
And there is another imagination-grabbing event at the Guildhall in Worcester, when the Worcester Early Music Festival presents a semi-staged production of Acteon by the French baroque composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier. We are promised hunters, nymphs, small woodland creatures, two goddesses and a bear, as a girly swimming-party is interrupted.
On Sunday, meanwhile, there are riches on offer at the Forum Theatre in Malvern, when Michael Lloyd conducts the enterprising and resourceful Chandos Symphony Orchestra in a programme which juxtaposes two strangely-contrasted works composed within a few years of each other (7.45pm).
One is the enigmatic Fourth Symphony by Sibelius, all cool water and cerebral, despite all its imagery of Scandinavian landscapes. The other is Dvorak’s Cello Concerto, passionate, open-hearted and nostalgic for the composer’s Czechoslovakian homeland, written as it was in New York, where Dvorak was head of the Conservatoire there. The soloist is David Cohen (7.45pm).
Later in the week at Symphony Hall comes the latest instalment in Andris Nelsons’ exploration of the complete Beethoven symphonies with the CBSO. The Pastoral Symphony (the first music I ever loved, incidentally) is followed by the irresistibly dynamic Seventh Symphony (see CD reviews), and concertmaster Laurence Jackson will conribute each of the charming Romances for Violin and Orchestra: no.1 in G major on March 20 (7.30pm), the utterly gorgeous no.2 in F major on March 21 (2.15pm).