Michael White’s classical news: The Creation; Andras Schiff; La Boheme

Thursday, 24th February — By Michael White

Lakeside Terrace Barbican Centre_CREDIT Max Colson

The Barbican’s Lakeside Terrace. Photo: Max Colson

HAYDN’S oratorio The Creation follows the poetic, biblical account of how the world came into being as a journey from chaos to order, darkness to light; and it’s a fitting choice for the London Syphony Orchestra’s Barbican concert on March 3, which commemorates 40 years since the Barbican Centre opened.

Readers of a certain age might just remember that the process of creating the Barbican was long, tortuous and beset by problems that ran on. The building was impenetrable, the acoustic of the Hall was bad, the LSO (its orchestra in residence) came close to bankruptcy. But triumphs did eventually result. With visionary concert programming, the LSO turned its fortunes around to become the leading British orchestra. And with impressive management from the likes of John Tusa, the artistic standing of the Centre acquired world renown – eclipsing the Southbank which, by comparison, seemed shambolic.

So there’s plenty for the Barbican to celebrate as it looks back over four decades of achievement. And it will do so, proudly, next week when Simon Rattle leads the LSO through Haydn’s darkness-to-light trajectory. Concert repeats Mar 6. barbican.org.uk

Talking of Haydn, the pianist Andras Schiff calls him the most underrated of the really great composers – up there in the pantheon, but often thought a space-filler in concert programmes rather than the star turn. Schiff, a champion, is always trying to redress that problem. And his latest effort is a Haydn Festival running throughout next week at Wigmore Hall. It offers Schiff with the period-performance group Quatuor Mosaiques playing every night. And the concert on March 1 plays not just to the audience in the Hall but to the world, with a live broadcast on the Wigmore website. wigmore-hall.org.uk

• English Touring Opera has had stormy issues in its management of late; but it fights on artistically, with a new La Boheme that should be good box-office (you can never go wrong with Boheme. Well, hardly ever). It launches the company’s spring tour, playing Hackney Empire, Feb 26 and Mar 4. Booking: hackneyempire.co.uk

Easter is a way off, but Graham Ross, director of Clare College Cambridge Choir, isn’t a man to hang around and he brings the choir to St John’s Smith Square on Feb 26 for a Bach Matthew Passion with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Soloists include the fabulous Mary Bevan. And for proof of how outstanding Clare Choir is these days, listen to its new CD called Ice Land – which has nothing to do with the frozen food store but a lot to do with the deep-frozen sonorities of modern Icelandic music: steeped in muscular mysticism, ethereal but strong. sjss.org.uk

• Two more intimate events evoking the lost world of salon performance happen to be running at the same time: 6.30pm Feb 27. At Conway Hall, Holborn, the Linos Trio summon the ghosts of a Parisian salon with music by Ravel and Lilly Boulanger (conwayhall.org.uk). While up the hill in Highgate School Chapel, the London Chamber Ensemble provide a Russian alternative – in a programme that reflects what you’d have heard at one of the famous 1890s salons at the St Petersburg home of industrialist Mitrifan Balaiev.
A Russian oligarch (they had them even then), Balaiev was more civilised than his modern counterparts in that he played the violin and commissioned new music. This concert reveals all, in an attempt to resurrect the spirit of the salon that will bring similar events to Highgate. Watch this space – or visit salonmusic.co.uk

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