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Berlioz Beatrice & Benedict
and Mainly New: Gudmundsen-Holmgreen

6.00pm David Josefowitz Recital Hall
& 7.00 pm Sir Jack Lyons Thatre,
Royal Academy of Music
, 23rd November 2011

Sir Colin Davis renewed "his exceptionally fruitful partnership with director John Copley" for Royal Academy Opera’s production of Berlioz’s Beatrice and Benedict, so we were assured.

Well, Sir Colin (who had been unwell recently) made evident his special affinity with Berlioz from the first bars of the overture, given a sparkling account by the RAM orchestra, which distinguished itself throughout.

But B & B is a patchwork piece with only an hour or so of good music to give it no more than a tenuous hold in the repertoire.

There was no exceptional singing by the second cast which we saw, and neither John Copley's hearty direction of the large chorus in the drinking scene, nor the incessant and pointless moving around of crude "ancient" columns in the rudimentary staging gave us any pleasure.

Mainly New:

6.00pm Gudmundsen-Holmgreen
at David Josefowitz Recital Hall

A little earlier the same evening, this distinguished Danish composer's first visit to the Academy was timely; his individual and often quirky music, which we have reviewed and appreciated on CD* and, in earlier years live, deserves a higher profile.

Far more rewarding than Beatrice & Benedict had been part of a chamber concert of music by Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen just before the opera's beginning; regrettably the timings were not adjusted to harmonize, so we had to miss the last piece, his "string quartet with ocean" Last Ground**, and the chance to talk with the composer afterwards.

His was fastidious music, especially the trio with horn which, Holmgreen told us with some satisfaction, starts quiet and gets quieter... It induced the sort of intense moment by moment listening that one does for the most slender of Webern's rarified works.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Gudmundsen-Holmgreen's DaCapo discography is extensive, with a wonderful personal/autobiographical DVD, & I recommend its exploration urgently, together with a hope that he will soon be invited back to London and the RAM.

* http://www.musicalpointers.co.uk/reviews/cddvd11/Gudmundsen-Holmgreen.html

** by great good fortune I find I have Last Ground on a beautiful CD of the Kronos Quartet's Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen's commissions over a twenty-years span. The string quartet music is embedded with sounds of the ocean in its power, which makes the string quartet (i.e. humanity) puny and soon swallowed up; a concept which he likes.