In recent years, the taste of audiences has increasingly been for music on a big scale, such as the massive symphonies of Bruckner and Mahler. The pandemic put an end to that and orchestras have had to go rooting about in their libraries for works that meet social distancing rules.
How many people have heard Strauss’s Duet concertino for clarinet and bassoon in concert? Not many, for sure. That was the opening work in an imaginative programme from the London Symphony Orchestra and conductor Gianandrea Noseda, on demand at Marquee TV, free until May 12, then on subscription.
The LSO has been scoring full marks for ingenuity of late. Strauss’s concertino is a charming wisp of late-in-life froth, possibly depicting a fairy tale in which an enamoured princess kisses a bear that turns into a prince. Rachel Gough’s bassoon (the bear) and Chris Richards’ clarinet (the princess) duetted affectionately.
Even more of a rarity is Nino Rota’s Symphony No. 3. For a musical world in need of some sunshine, this was a brilliant, Mediterranean ray of good cheer. When he was not writing film scores for Fellini, the Italian Rota was no mean composer of classical fare. This symphony is admirably concise, glinting with its composer’s quick wit and intelligence, and the LSO’s performance brought it sparklingly to life. Noseda, Italian himself, should bring us more of Rota’s music.
Pity poor Josquin des Prez. The French-Flemish composer has been waiting 500 years for an anniversary to get his music more widely known and now it falls in the middle of a pandemic. Performances of his sacred music in cathedrals have already been lost, but English Touring Opera had other ideas.
Deprived of its annual spring tour, ETO has set up a three-month online programme of seven filmed performances. Josquin’s Mille regretz is up first, a compilation not of his religious works, but the less familiar popular songs that offer a strikingly modern take on adultery, sex and depression. Director Liam Steel goes for a trendy, colour-bleached look in an empty church, where five singers, with sharp, modish choreography, act out the songs, bringing Josquin bang up to date. The 20-minute film is on the ETO at Home website, free on demand.
“Small is beautiful” has been the theme of the past year. Los Angeles Opera has taken it to heart and produced a set of films called “Digital Shorts”, opera bites of around five to 10 minutes, free on demand. There are half a dozen so far, including extracts from recent operas by leading American composers Missy Mazzoli and Ellen Reid, the impassioned aria from Reid’s Prism especially worth catching.
The most recent is Let Me Come In, a haunting solo, beautifully sung by soprano Angel Blue, with music by David Lang and film by Bill Morrison. A sensual scene unfolds, as lovers meet in a sepia-tinted 1928 German film that is almost disintegrating before our eyes. Ingenuity has been imposed over the past year. It will be interesting to see how far it carries on once life returns to normal.
marquee.tv; watch.englishtouringopera.org.uk/browse; laopera.org