CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Michael White’s classical & jazz news: Roderick Williams; Messiah; Wigmore Hall

03 December, 2020 — By Michael White

Roddy Williams. Photo: Benjamin Ealovega

IT’S like going through the cupboard door to Narnia (well, almost): out of lockdown, into Christmas. And although it’s hardly going to be “normal”, some at least of London’s concert halls are ready for live audiences again – with St Johns Smith Square quick off the mark in reinstating its postponed winter season.

This Saturday, at 3pm & 7pm, it has baritone Roderick Williams singing Schubert’s great song cycle Winterreise – a distinctly seasonal piece about a winter’s journey, though not quite the stuff of fireside cheer. Williams is taking advantage of social distancing measures to do the piece in the round and on experimental terms, which will be interesting.

Sunday, at 6pm & 8pm, there’s Libera, the boys’ choir who sing cheesy repertoire in flowing white robes but can be excused because they do it well. And next Thursday at 7.30pm, pianist Rolf Hind plays Messiaen’s transcendental meditations on the Christmas story Vingt Regards sur L’Enfant Jesus.

Personally, I can’t wait to be back inside Smith Square – but it will be the same for many people, so book promptly. www.sjss.org.uk

• Also swiftly back for Christmas business is Cadogan Hall where the English Chamber Orchestra have a reduced Messiah this Sunday, at 3pm & 6pm. You won’t get the full score – it’s what you might call Covid-lite, reduced to 80 minutes with no interval – but you will get classy soloists like Iestyn Davies and Carolyn Sampson. So it’s serious. www.cadoganhall.com

• By comparison, the Royal Albert Hall is finding it harder to get going – it’s a bigger ship to turn around. And though there are a few things scheduled with audience, its annual spectacular with John (Mr Christmas) Rutter and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is only happening online, pre-filmed at St Alban’s Cathedral. But it has the elite vocal group Voces 8 and the ubiquitous Roderick Williams as special guests. And you can see it from Thursday, 7.30pm, at www.rpo.co.uk

Something that’s definitely happening live, with audience, and worth taking note of, is a new series of concerts at St John’s Waterloo, across the road from the station. They have major artists, and next Monday you get none other than, er, Roderick Williams doing more experiments with another Schubert song cycle Schwanengesang. Looking forward, the same series has the Solem Quartet playing Beethoven on Thursday 11; cellist Steven Isserlis playing Bach & Britten on Friday 18; and pianist Angela Hewitt playing Beethoven on Saturday 19. All events start 6.30pm and sound like must-hears. www.spotlightchamberconcerts.com

• Finally, don’t forget the Wigmore Hall’s free live-streams of all its concerts, which stay online for 30 days after the event. They’re the best pre-Christmas gift going. And next week you get the fabulous young soprano Fatma Said on Monday; cellist Natalie Clein on Tuesday; and pianist Paul Lewis on Wednesday. They’re all 7.30 starts, if you want to watch as they happen. Details: www.wigmore-hall.org.uk

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