Michael White’s classical news: Oleg Kogan; Ferrier Competition; Ralph Vaughan Williams

Thursday, 21st April — By Michael White

Bill Nighy

Bill Nighy

UNTIL the nightmare started in Ukraine I don’t think many of us realised how many fine musicians from that country live and work in Britain. And among them is the cellist Oleg Kogan who set up the strange but wonderful Razumovsky Academy in Kensal Green: a performance venue that resembles an unprepossessing shop until you go inside and, as though walking through the cupboard into Narnia, find yourself in a completely different world. Equipped with one of the most stylish small-scale concert rooms in London.
Understandably concerned about his homeland, Kogan is organising a concert and dinner to support Ukrainian charities, with music played by him, his family and friends, and words delivered by the actor Bill Nighy. It happens this Sunday, April 24. Tickets aren’t cheap, but the cause is good. And needless to say, it runs at that Narnia-like portal: Razumovsky Academy, 56 College Road NW10. Details razumovosky.co.uk

Kathleen Ferrier was a singer whose deep-velvet voice reached way beyond the normal boundaries of classical music-lovers. She was northern, down-to-earth, no-nonsense, but an artist of impeccable distinction that lives on not only in her recordings but in the now-famous singing competition that bears her name. And the 2022 Ferrier Competition reaches its finals this Friday, April 22, at Wigmore Hall where from 6-10pm (it’s a long one) you can hear some of the best young vocal talent around engaged in sonic battle for the potentially life-changing first prize. wigmore-hall.org.uk

• This year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Ralph Vaughan Williams: a composer whose work has always had a place in the hearts and minds of English music-lovers (not a week goes by on radio without somebody performing Lark Ascending) but whose symphonies did go off-radar until fairly recently. These days they’re back in fashion with a vengeance, proving themselves great works of resurgent power and beauty. And you can catch up with two of them in the coming week: the early “London” Symphony on April 26 performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Vasily Petrenko, and the sublime 5th Symphony on April 27, done by the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Edward Gardner. Both at the Royal Festival Hall, both highly recommended. Details: southbankcentre.co.uk

Also at the Festival Hall this week, on April 22, is a gala concert with the ever-glamorous American soprano Renée Fleming. Don’t expect to hear her sing too much (she’s not so young now, and the voice needs taking care of), so a good deal of this programme is orchestral filling from the LPO. But she’ll relive some Strauss and Verdi highlights that have made her name over the years. And Fleming fans will go home more than happy. southbankcentre.co.uk / lpo.org.uk

• Another illustrious diva in town is Magdalena Kožená who appears at the Barbican with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by her husband Simon Rattle in two nights of edgily subversive Kurt Weill classics from the 1920s/30s. On April 27 she sings, dances and otherwise re-enacts his theatrical Seven Deadly Sins. And on April 28 she does the Sins again as part of a larger programme with music from Weill’s Threepenny Opera. Should be stunning. lso.co.uk

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