Despite all the general economic gloom and doom, 2012 hasn’t really been too bad for classical music locally.
Chamber music has again featured prominently on the menu. The combined resources of Plymouth University’s Peninsula Arts Chamber Music Series, Kelly College Music Society, the International Lunchtime Recital Series at the City Museum and similar organisations in Totnes and Newton Abbot have brought the likes of the Atrium, Bridge, Leo and, last month, the superb Prague-based Wihan String Quartets to the area.
The Dante Quartet, pictured above, also returned to take part in the annual Dante Festival centred in the Tamar Valley, and which gave them an opportunity to show off their new cellist Richard Jenkinson, who had the unenviable task of stepping into Bernard Gregor-Smith’s illustrious shoes.
Other recitals have featured the Bristol Piano Trio, and the Fournier Trio, whose performance of the Ravel Piano trio was one of the year’s chamber-music highlights, together with the welcome return of Julian Lloyd Webber in a programme to commemorate the death of John Ireland, and where he was joined by pianist John Lenehan, and Plymouth-born Peter Cigleris, now embarked on a successful professional career as a clarinettist.
Lovers of orchestral music have enjoyed visits from the BBC Concert Orchestra, and European Union Chamber Orchestra with young violinist Callum Smart, pictured above, and are still fortunate to have the Ten Tors Orchestra, Plymouth University’s resident ensemble.
But in these days of seemingly never-ending cuts, we should continue to support our own Plymouth Symphony Orchestra who, despite its amateur status, at least provides us with the opportunity to hear large-scale orchestral works we would otherwise not get.
Opera fans haven’t been disappointed either, with the regular spring visit from Welsh National Opera, with Mozart’s Figaro, Berlioz’s less-frequently-aired Beatrice and Benedict, and a well-directed production of Verdi’s Traviata.
Glyndebourne, on the other hand brought only two operas on tour this time – yet another dollop of Figaro, but accompanied by a charmingly refreshing performance of Dvorak’s Rusalka, pictured above, and arguably the year’s operatic high-spot.
Choral-music aficionados have enjoyed the usual fine offerings from the University of Plymouth Choral Society and Plymouth Philharmonic Choir, main picture, where the latter’s superb performance of The Armed Man not only provided the perfect end to the city’s Armed Forces Week, but must also rank as one of the year’s all-time highlights.
Easy-listening and crossover fans haven’t been forgotten either, with return visits from Russell Watson and Katherine Jenkins, pictured above, and London West-End star Ruthie Henshall, getting some extra mileage from the university temporary graduation marquee on The Hoe.
Click here to read my preview of 2013’s classical events. Click on the tags at the top of this story or hit the ‘classical’ and ‘opera’ buttons on the navigation bar to see more of my reviews from the past year.
PHILIP R BUTTALL