Your clickable banner could be here: details
    If you cannot see an advert immediately above this line click here.


Editor: Marc Bridle


Webmaster: Len Mullenger





WWW MusicWeb

Search Music Web with FreeFind

Any Review or Article



Seen and Heard Concert Review


Butterworth, Elgar, Holst/Matthews, Steven Isserlis (cello), Philharmonia Orchestra, London Symphony Chorus Ladies Choir, Richard Hickox (conductor), RFH, 18th November, 2004 (AR)

A foreigner seeking to find real English music, well played and stimulating, would have been very disappointed by this concert. Except for a splendid Elgar Cello Concerto, and the equally splendid Mr. Isserlis, Richard Hickox’s programme of English ‘classics’ was a dreary affair. The concert got off to a less than flying start with George Butterworth’s The Bank of Green Willow. Anodyne music by anyone’s standards, this could have been a sound track to an animated version of ‘Wind in The Willows’. It was gentle, bromidic and bucolic, played by an etiolated Philharmonia Orchestra, seemingly disinterested.

Things mightily improved with what turned out to be a sublime account of Elgar’s Cello Concerto. Many have come to this work through Jacqueline Du Pré’s overwrought performance filled with emotional overkill. Steven Isserlis’ interpretation was the antithesis of Du Pré’s in its subtle reserve. Indeed, in the opening passages it was this very inner reserve which emphasised the pathos and the passion of the work. This was not to say that he did not play it with feeling: all the emotion was there, but without the excess of histrionics one often hears. With the opening Adagio Isserlis realised that the music should be played as simply as possible – as written – and this provided all the necessary emotion. He has learnt what good actors know – however tempting it may be to have a great time tearing a passion to tatters, it is the audience’s emotions that must be stirred.

Isserlis, playing the Feuermann Stradivarius (1730) produced a magically translucent sound and ravishing tone. The Adagio was tastefully understated, whilst the Allegro had an appropriately gruff, rugged quality to it. In the quieter passages before the closing of the work, Isserlis produced a mellow, achingly melancholic mood of distilled silver sounds. This was a very satisfying and thoughtful performance that really made one listen afresh to Elgar’s music.

Gustav Holst’s The Planets was given an uninspired and routine performance by Hickox who seemed indifferent to the score and lacked authority over his players. While the percussion were superb in the opening ‘Mars’, Hickox failed to tease out the terror in the music. ‘Venus’ was flat footed and four square, and ponderously dragged into infinity with the Philharmonia strings sounding unusually thin. Apart from some superb timpani playing, ‘Mercury’ was under-nourished with the woodwind lacking pointed focus. There was little real jollity in ‘Jupiter’, which sounded brash and harsh, verging on noise for noise’s sake. The saving grace was a ‘Saturn’ which was all brooding atmosphere and drama, with some wonderfully sparkling harp playing and fine, deep double basses. ‘Neptune’ was boomy and bland and the LSO Women’s Chorus sounded so far away that they could well have been on Neptune; not so much subtle as stingy.

As an added bonus (one uses the word loosely) Hickox threw in ‘Pluto the Renewer’, composed by Colin Matthews in 2000 as an optional final movement and dedicated to the memory of Holst's daughter, Imogen; it just seemed out of kilter. Whilst Matthews obviously didn’t want to be a mere pasticheur of Holst, his Pluto still lacked a sense of style.

Alex Russell

Further listening:

Edward Elgar: Cello Concerto; Enigma Variations; Lynn Harrell (cello), Cleveland Orchestra, Lorin Maazel (conductor); Los Angeles Philharmonic, Zubin Mehta (conductor): Decca, Eloquence: CD: 450 021-2.

Gustav Holst: The Planets; John Williams: Star Wars Suite;
Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Zubin Mehta, (conductor):
Double Decca: 2 CD: 452910.

Back to the Top     Back to the Index Page






MusicWeb - The International Web Site Founder: Len Mullenger [UK], Classical Editor: Rob Barnett [UK],  Regular Reviewers:   Steve Arloff [UK], Guy Aron [Australia], Tony Augarde [UK], Terry Barfoot [UK], Melinda Bargreen [USA], David J. Barker [Australia], Rob Barnett [UK], Nick Barnard [UK], Robert Beattie [UK], Dave Billinge [UK], Peter Bright [UK], Byzantion [UK], Colin Clarke [UK], Dominy Clements [Netherlands], Michael Cookson [UK], Hubert Culot [Belgium], Evan Dickerson [UK], Gavin Dixon [UK], Robert J. Farr [UK], Christopher Fifield [UK], Göran Forsling [Sweden], John France [UK], Patrick Gary [USA], Pierre Giroux [CAN], Paul C. Godfrey [UK], Michael Greenhalgh [UK], William Hedley [France], Gary Higginson [UK], Neil Horner [UK], Robert Hugill UK], David Jennings [UK], Bill Kenny [UK], William S Kreindler [USA], Ian Lace [UK], Em Marshall-Luck [UK], Oleg Ledeniov [USA]Rob Maynard [UK], David A McConnell [USA], Kirk McElhearn [France], Robert McKechnie [UK], Ralph Moore [RMo] [UK], Dan Morgan [UK], Margarida Mota-Bull [UK], Glyn Pursglove [UK], John Quinn [UK], Carla Rees [UK], Brian Reinhart [USA], Donald Satz [USA], Mark Sealey [USA], John Sheppard [UK], George Stacy, Kevin Sutton [USA], Bert Thompson [USA], Simon Thompson [UK], Zane Turner [Australia], Steve Vasta [UK], Johan van Veen [Netherlands], Raymond Walker [UK], Derek Warby [UK], Brian Wilson [UK], Jonathan Woolf [UK] Leslie Wright [USA]. A complete list of contributors can be seen here


Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

MusicWeb International thank Naxos for the no-strings use of their server to mount the website.