Steve Moffatt

Steve Moffatt

Born within the sound of tennis balls in Wimbledon, Steve Moffatt’s earliest musical memories are of his father’s dubious tenor accompanying 78s of Gigli and Bjorling. As a reporter he covered Jimi Hendrix’s inquest. He now attends concerts and reviews them for NewsLocal newspapers where he is production editor.


Articles by Steve Moffatt

CD and Other Review

Review: Gluck: Iphigénie en Tauride (Pinchgut Opera)

Based on the premise that far more operas were written before 1750 than since, Pinchgut has been unearthing a rich stash of rediscovered treasures for Sydney audiences since 2002. Starting off with one production a year, the company under its Artistic Director Antony Walker has moved to two short seasons at the intimate City Recital Hall. For its 2014 offerings Pinchgut moved to the decade before the French Revolution to stage two contrasting works, Salieri’s comedy The Chimney Sweepand Gluck’s Euripidean saga of parricide, matricide and near-fratricide, Iphigénie en Tauride, which marked the 300th anniversary of the composer’s birth. You can now share the performance of the latter, containing some of Gluck’s finest music, with this live two-disc set. Premiered in Paris in 1789 Iphigéniewas an instant hit and this disc shows why – the vocal and orchestral writing are both wonderful. The mystery is why it has taken so long for it to re-emerge from relative obscurity. Gluck pitches the listener straight into the dramatic action. Dispensing with an overture we hear the timpani signalling an approaching storm at sea off Scythia where Iphigénie, exiled after the goddess Diana saved her from being sacrificed by her father Agamemnon,…Continue reading…

February 18, 2016
CD and Other Review

Review: Janáček & Smetana: String Quartets (Takács Quartet)

Editor’s Choice, Chamber – Jan/Feb 2016 In-between a heavy international concert schedule and fulfilling their teaching commitments as resident ensemble at the University of Colorado in Boulder, it’s a wonder that the Takács String Quartet finds time to record for the Hyperion label, let alone live their lives outside of music. Luckily for us they manage, and hot on the heels of their first recorded venture into the wintry landscape of Soviet Russia and Shostakovich with Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin (reviewed in October‘s Limelight), they bring a contrasting blaze of colour, warmth and emotion with their latest release. The three works on this disc are custom-made for the Takács with their fearless attack, faultless technique and dazzling emotional range. Just listen to Geraldine Walther’s driving viola work in the first piece, Bedrich Smetana’s From My Life. This is a remarkable autobiographical work, depicting in the first two movements the Czech composer’s youthful love of art, his fondness for dancing polkas and for folk tunes. The beautiful, yearning slow movement is given over to his first wife, who died from tuberculosis, and two of their daughters who didn’t survive childhood. Of the finale Smetana wrote: “The fourth movement describes my discovery…

February 9, 2016
CD and Other Review

Review: Wagner: Tristan und Isolde (BBC Symphony Orchestra/Runnicles)

If you saw David Robertson’s masterful concert version of Tristan und Isolde with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra earlier in the year you would be familiar with the compelling singing of US soprano Christine Brewer in the title role. Here she is 13 years earlier in an equally powerful performance recorded live at London’s Barbican Centre under the masterful baton of Scottish conductor Donald Runnicles.  Celebrated English tenor John Treleaven is a superbly convincing Tristan and there is a great chemistry between the pair. His is a many-layered performance as our hero runs the gamut of emotions over four exhausting hours. This stellar partnership is complemented by Czech mezzo Dagmar Pecková – a star in her own right and with an asteroid named after her to prove it – as Brangane and British bass Pete Rose gives King Mark’s big aria, Tatest du’s wirklich, a finely expressive reading with his nuanced timbre. Jared Holt makes a fine Melot as well. Israeli baritone Boaz Daniel impressed as Tristan’s faithful servant Kurwenal in Sydney and he does the same on this disc. Runnicles and the BBC Symphony are in fine form – the crescendos will clear the wax out of your ears. The…

January 15, 2016
CD and Other Review

Review: Nessun Dorma: The Puccini Album (Jonas Kaufmann)

  Editor’s Choice, Opera – October 2015 Jonas Kaufmann was 21 when the Three Tenors made Nessun Dorma into the most popular aria of them all by featuring it in their 1990 concert on the eve of the FIFA World Cup Final. It’s taken 25 years for the star German tenor to put it on record, saying that for a long time he hardly dared sing it because of Pavarotti and Co’s legacy. “Even today, when I hear and sing this aria, I still get goosebumps,” he says in the liner notes to his new all-Puccini album. Well, the wait has been worth it as it makes the perfect finale to this five-star feast of the finest moments from “the people’s composer”. When Kaufmann hits the high B at the climax it’s as thrilling as anything produced by any of the other great tenors, and if you purchase the deluxe version with the bonus DVD you’ll see how happy he is when he nails it. But the stellar aria is only three minutes of what is a 16-track, hour-long roller coaster of emotion, all majestically delivered in that special timbre with its baritone shading. “Kaufmann can turn on a coin…

January 11, 2016
CD and Other Review

Review: Shostakovich: String Quartet No 2, Piano Quintet (Takács Quartet, Hamelin)

Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet in G Minor first came into the world as his second string quartet. Then he wrote what we now know as his A Major, No 2 and reworked the G Minor piece into a quintet so that he could join the Beethoven Quartet on piano when the two works were premiered. They therefore sit side by side very comfortably on disc, and they could be in no better hands than those of the Takács Quartet and Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin. This excellent Hyperion release marks the Takács’ first recorded venture into Shostakovich territory, and it is most welcome. From the quartet’s densely layered opening moments it’s obvious that the Colorado-based foursome are very much at home here. The Recitative and Romancesecond movement, which poured out of Shostakovich in a single day and probably with late Beethoven in mind, is perfect for Edward Dusinberre’s distinctive solo violin. The Piano Quintet, on the other hand, gives several nods to JS Bach, especially in the pivotal Fugue. Here Hamelin – a Hyperion regular with 50 albums under his belt – makes an exciting companion for arguably the…Continue reading Get unlimited digital access from $3 per month Subscribe Already a subscriber?…

December 22, 2015
CD and Other Review

Review: Ives: Symphonies Nos 1 & 2 (MSO/Davis)

Far from hinting at the avant garde orchestral works to come, Charles Ives’ symphonic debut could almost have been penned by Dvorˇák with Brahms and Tchaikovsky looking over his shoulder. Ives had heard the New York premiere of the New World Symphony and he paid it more than a passing nod, almost channelling the famous Largo (including cor anglais). This engaging work, written when he was still at Yale, shows the insurance salesman-cum-composer was no mere hobbyist. It includes a highly competent fugue in the Scherzo, engaging melodies and skilful use of orchestral palette. The five-movement Second Symphony, championed by Bernstein, is more characteristic with snatches of Stephen Foster’s Camptown Races and American hymns vying with quotes from Beethoven, Brahms, Bach and Wagner. There’s a hint of what was to come in the final bars where it ends on an abrupt, comical key change – a musical thumbing of the nose? The work was applauded at its premiere although Ives is said to have spat at its reception. The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra are clearly relishing their collaboration with Chief Conductor Sir Andrew Davis judging from the playing in both works. Phrasing and tempi are excellent and technically they are up there with overseas orchestras. Production from Chandos is exemplary….

November 6, 2015
CD and Other Review

Review: Verdi: Otello (Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia)

Last month we reviewed the 1954 Rigoletto, not an opera one normally associates with the thrilling tenor, but this recording of Verdi’s Otello from the same year on Decca’s budget Eloquence label features Mario del Monaco in a role which fits him like a glove and which he made very much his own in the 1950s and ‘60s. And it pairs him with Tebaldi as Desdemona. You can tell straight away, despite the obvious drawbacks of a mono recording, exactly why this partnership set the opera world alight for two decades. Their musical chemistry is still potent 60 years on. Alberto Erede conducts the magnificent Accademia di Santa Cecilia with dramatic verve and gusto. Italian baritone Aldo Protti, so compelling as Rigoletto on the companion disc, is equally impressive as the wilily conniving Iago, while tenor Piero de Palma (Cassio) and mezzo Luisa Ribachi (Emilia) give great support. But this is all about Tebaldi and Del Monaco. They had recorded Aida two years earlier so their partnership was well established, but the Decca executives must have been rubbing their hands with glee to have found such a magnificent double act whose true worth would flower with the emergence of stereo…

October 22, 2015
CD and Other Review

Review: Anne Sofie von Otter: 10 Classic Albums

Anne Sofie von Otter has crossed more genre boundaries than most and with effortless ease, so when DG marked her 60th birthday by asking her to pick her best 10 albums it was no surprise that she would come up with this stunner. The set, branded “10 Classic Albums”, lives up to the name. We get lavish helpings of Brahms, French chansons, late-Romantic lieder and Scandinavian songs alongside von Otter’s brilliant collaboration with Elvis Costello, and we are given a bonus with her 1997 arias from Handel’s Ariodante, her first collaboration with Marc Minkowski and Les Musiciens du Louvre. They also collaborated on an all-Offenbach album, done with wit and elan and even if it’s not your aperitif of choice von Otter’s ability to inhabit the music will impress you. English conductor John Eliot Gardiner is another regular partner and their 1994 Kurt Weill tribute, Speak Low, represented another outstanding departure. Two further jewels in the set are her Baroque ventures with Reinhard Goebel and Musica Antiqua Köln, Lamenti and (my favourite) Handel’s Marian Cantatas. But it is her 30-year association with fellow Swede, pianist Bengt Forsberg, which is the beating heart here. Their broad musical landscape takes in Cécile Chaminade’s…

October 12, 2015
CD and Other Review

Review: Father & Son (Christoph & Julian Prégardien)

There is something special about the blend of voices among family members – witness the Everlys or the McGarrigals in the pop world  – but there are few instances that exist in the field of classical music. German father and son team Christoph and Julian Prégardien, however, are two exceptional tenors in their own right and have been performing duets over recent years. Now they have taken their popular recitals with pianist Michael Gees into the studio for the Dutch label Challenge Classics. The result, Father and Son, is an entertaining collection of curiosities and rearrangements of what some may consider to be sacred cows. The arrangements, mostly by Julian Prégardien and Gees, include 12 Schubert songs and were the product of rehearsals followed by in-the-moment improvisations, much like you would hear in a folk club. This, they argue, is in the spirit of contemporary accounts of the original Schubertiade evenings. The Goethe setting Der Erlkönig divides logically into the two roles of the night-riding father and the son who dies in his arms. Other songs sit less comfortably as duets, for this listener at least, although the Prégardiens and Gees perform them all impeccably. Two little-known German composers are…

October 12, 2015