Why imperfect operas like Don Carlo are more interesting than perfect ones

In the 62 years since I first heard and saw Don Carlo, in the famous and long-lasting production by Visconti at the Royal Opera, my feelings about it have grown ever stronger, both in passionate attachment and in critique. Imperfect operas, like other imperfect phenomena, can be more interesting than perfect ones, because they’re more thought-provoking, more enticing. The libretto, very freely based on Schiller’s play, was by two Frenchmen, and Verdi, eager to make a bigger splash than he had so far in Paris, made too much of one. The first performance, in 1867, ran so late that the members who lived outside central Paris missed their last trains,

I’m still not wholly convinced by Kirill Petrenko: Berlin Phil’s Digital Concert Hall reviewed

At the start of Elgar’s Second Symphony the full orchestra hovers, poised. It pulls back; and then, like a dam breaking, the music surges forward in wave upon wave of golden sound. ‘Rarely, rarely, comest thou, Spirit of Delight!’ writes Elgar, quoting Shelley, at the top of the score, and you won’t hear that spirit captured more exuberantly than in a performance from May 2009 by the Berlin Philharmonic under its future music director Kirill Petrenko. The violins gleam, the horns swell and every player is audibly leaning into the music. Under Petrenko, Elgar’s leaping compound rhythms almost seem to dance. The catch, of course — the truth that gives

The best recordings of the greatest symphony

I am daunted. Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony is a work that I regard with love, awe and even anxiety. I always wonder whether I’ll be able to cope with such large and deep demands on me and, if I hear a performance or recording that doesn’t disappoint me, be able to articulate why I find it so powerful, one of the supreme masterpieces of Western music, the greatest of symphonies. With musical works that one has the strongest kinship with, there is, as everyone finds, an urgent need to locate the qualities that make it so penetrating an experience, combined with misery at the gap between how one responds and what