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: Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov (Bavarian Opera)

That enfant terrible of the opera stage Calixto Bieito must be mellowing in his middle age – either that or we have become numbed to the edgy Spanish director’s naughty ways. How else to explain why his take on Mussorgsky’s masterpiece Boris Godunov has less shock value than your average episode of Midsomer Murders? True he does have the Simpleton shot by a teenage girl, not to mention one of the crowd beaten to a pulp – oh and in Boris’s great death scene the pretender Dmitri strangles Xenia and suffocates the Tsarevich Fyodor.   This Bayerische Staatsoper production is set in recent times. We know this because the chorus hold up posters of Putin, Bush, Sarkozy and Berlusconi. Bieito ditches the third act but strangely this causes little collateral damage. That’s because Bieito has a trump card in 38-year-old Ukrainian bass Alexander Tsymbalyuk, who is undoubtedly on the verge of a stellar career. He has everything – good looks, dramatic nous and a gorgeous voice that has delicacy as well as power. He’s backed by a first-class cast including Anatoli Kotscherga as Pimen and Vladimir Matorin who makes a good Varlaam, looking uncannily like the famous portrait of the…

July 21, 2014
CD and Other Review

Review: Opera arias and ballet music (Vienna Philharmonic)

The latest batch of re-releases from Eloquence includes two Deutsche Grammophon double sets from the 1950s and 60s and some of Mozart’s dance music from the Decca archives. The Rita Streich double set showcases the Russian-born soprano’s versatility by combining her 1950s Waltzes and Arias recordings (some of the tracks in mono), with her Folk Songs and Lullabies collection recorded in 1962 when the doyenne of the Vienna State Opera was still at the height of her powers. Much of the material is lighter fare – Johann rather than Richard Strauss – but we also get a sense of her expressive power in Dvorˇák’s Song to the Moon from Rusalka and her consummate control and technique in Saint-Saëns’ wordless The Nightingale and The Rose, with its seemingly endless trill. The spiritual Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen shows off her rich and mellow chest voice.   While we’re all excited by Jonas Kaufmann’s stellar versatility in both Italian and German roles, there was another tenor who was equally at home with Verdi and Wagner but whose voice is seldom heard these days. Hungarian Sándor Kónya trained in Germany and Italy where he developed the thrilling open voiced high notes which…

July 16, 2014
CD and Other Review

Review: Schubert: Songs (Boesch, Vignoles)

Casper David Friedrich’s painting The Wanderer Above The Sea Of Mist has been trotted out for countless album covers, but for Austrian baritone Florian Boesch’s latest collaboration with Roger Vignoles it couldn’t be more appropriate. From the English pianist’s gloomy opening chords we almost feel the fog that enshrouds the mountains and valleys surveyed by the figure on his lonely crag. Boesch’s gentle, expressive baritone paints in the hopeless despair of a man who wanders “silent and joyless, and my sighs forever ask: Where?” That’s the Wanderer of D489, but this collection of 19 songs is not all Weltschmerz, although Boesch does resignation very well with his lovely sotto voce. In Aus Heliopolis II we hear a more assertive narrator and Auf der Bruck has singer and piano cantering along.  Schubert is a competitive market at the moment. So why buy this one? Well, Boesch is a compelling singer. He already has Winterreise and Die Schöne Müllerin under his belt with accompanist Malcolm Martineau (who has recorded the same repertoire with Bryn Terfel), but he and pianist Vignoles have a great chemistry. This complements their previous outing of songs by the lesser-known Carl Loewe. Boesch’s lines are poetic and beautifully…

July 8, 2014
CD and Other Review

Review: Paganini, Kreisler: Mister Paganini (Paris Chamber Orchestra/Kantorow)

Cementing his place as one of the most exciting violinists of his day, Laurent Korcia has delved into the tradition of the great virtuosi for his latest release. The 50-year-old Frenchman takes on Paganini, Kreisler and Ysäye and he comes out well ahead of rivals on points.  The opener is Fritz Kreisler’s transcription of the first movement of Paganini’s Violin Concerto No 1. Even the excellent Chamber Orchestra of Paris can’t disguise the weaknesses in Kreisler’s orchestration which descends into schmaltziness and shows little evidence of his studies with Bruckner. The violin part, however, is pure Paganini and gives Korcia no difficulties.  He is in similar sparkling form with Eugene Ysäye’s gemlike variations on the famous 24th Caprice accompanied by Haruko Ueda on piano. There’s more Kreisler – his transcription of Albéniz’s Malaguena, La Gitana and the impressionistic Petite Valse for Solo Piano, featuring Ueda again – before Paganini’s own variations on Di Tanti Palpiti from Rossini’s Tancredi brings this charming disc to a stirring close.  Articulation, intonation and bowing are faultless; pyrotechnics handled with aplomb and taste – he knows better than to be flashy and vulgar. His ‘Zahn’ Stradivarius sounds stunning thanks to the Naïve production team who…

June 26, 2014
CD and Other Review

Review: Opera Arias (Kiri Te Kanawa)

With a career spanning four decades Dame Kiri Te Kanawa has established herself as one of the most popular lyric sopranos of all time with a devoted fan base, especially in Britain and here in Australia. This four-disc budget collection comprises what has been (plus a couple of what might have beens) to mark her 70th birthday. The package is home brand rather than anything lavish, but the four discs are all excellent previously released recordings covering 1989 to 1997. Two are devoted to Italian opera – a 1990 compilation of Puccini, Verdi, Cilea, Giordano, Bolto and Leoncavallo favourites and a 1997 Puccini disc which includes three songs with piano accompaniment. But perhaps the cream of the set is the mainly French compilation Te Kanawa made with Jeffrey Tate and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House in 1989, in particular a beautiful rendering of Berlioz’s L’année en vain chasse l’année from The Damnation of Faust. No Te Kanawa collection would be complete without some Mozart and Richard Strauss, and these are provided on the fourth disc, but with them comes a pleasant surprise – a little Wagner with four arias, two from Tannhaüser, O Sachs! Mein Freund from Meistersinger and Du bist der Lenz from Die Walküre. After a…

June 22, 2014
CD and Other Review

Review: Opera Arias (Kiri Te Kanawa)

With a career spanning four decades Dame Kiri Te Kanawa has established herself as one of the most popular lyric sopranos of all time with a devoted fan base, especially in Britain and here in Australia. This four-disc budget collection comprises what has been (plus a couple of what might have beens) to mark her 70th birthday. The package is home brand rather than anything lavish, but the four discs are all excellent previously released recordings covering 1989 to 1997. Two are devoted to Italian opera – a 1990 compilation of Puccini, Verdi, Cilea, Giordano, Bolto and Leoncavallo favourites and a 1997 Puccini disc which includes three songs with piano accompaniment. But perhaps the cream of the set is the mainly French compilation Te Kanawa made with Jeffrey Tate and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House in 1989, in particular a beautiful rendering of Berlioz’s L’année en vain chasse l’année from The Damnation of Faust. No Te Kanawa collection would be complete without some Mozart and Richard Strauss, and these are provided on the fourth disc, but with them comes a pleasant surprise – a little Wagner with four arias, two from Tannhaüser, O Sachs! Mein Freund from Meistersinger…

June 11, 2014
CD and Other Review

Review: 20th Century Wind Quintets (Les Vents Fraçais)

Five of the world’s top wind players have formed chamber music’s equivalent of The Three Tenors to record an absolute pearler of a double album. Going under the name Les Vents Français, flautist Emmanuel Pahud, Paul Meyer, clarinet, Francois Leleux oboe, Gilbert Audin, bassoon, and Radovan Vlatkovic, french horn, are all star soloists in their own right. Together they are magic. The set kicks off with a light and air-filled soufflé in the form of Jacques Ibert’s Trois pièces brèves. This is highly accessible music composed during the inter-war years as an antidote to the heavier fare of modernism. Much of Ravel’s piano music transcribes beautifully for chamber ensembles and American horn player Mason Jones’ arrangement of Le Tombeau de Couperin shows off the group’s matchless balance and flawless intonation. Andre Jolivet (1905-1974) was greatly influenced by both Varèse and Bartók and his 1963 Sonatine for oboe and bassoon slides playfully between keys like a witty conversation between these two instruments. This leads seamlessly into Darius Milhaud’s nod to the 15th century troubadour era, La Cheminée du Roi René, seven exquisite sketches with acrobatic flute and oboe lines depicting jugglers and jousting knights and a serene madrigal/nocturne suggesting a chivalrous…

May 16, 2014
CD and Other Review

Review: Stenhammar: String Quartets (Stenhammar Quartet)

In the first volume we heard Wilhelm Stenhammar pay tribute to Beethoven, and creating in the fourth what some consider to be the finest Scandinavian string quartet. Now the excellent Stenhammar Quartet are back with volume two in which the listener discovers how the composer has progressed after some self-imposed rigorous counterpoint study, and gets to hear the premiere recording of the unnumbered F Minor Quartet composed in 1897. Stenhammar was pleased with the middle movements but worried about the finale and in the end abandoned it. Was he justified? You decide. After the fourth quartet the self-critical Stenhammar felt he needed further refinement, especially in counterpoint, and he spent nine years studying. The results can be heard in the fifth and sixth quartets. The melody and invention are as rich as before but there is a greater homogeneity in the part writing. Gone too are the tributes to Beethoven and Haydn and the flirtation with atonality – this is late Romantic music with strong folk influences and a light infusion of the ‘impressionism’ of Debussy or even Delius and the influence of his great friend Jean Sibelius. Although a celebrated pianist, Stenhammar worked closely with the Aulin Quartet and…

May 15, 2014