London Mozart Players
Online until December 1 2020
Various venues, including St John’s, Upper Norwood
and the Royal Hospital, Chelsea
Review: William Ruff
Fine playing, intelligent online presentation and a young artist to watch
The London Mozart Players have clearly thought long and hard about how best to boost their online presence during the current drought of live performances. Their approach offers subscribers an experience which does much more than bring music to computer screens. Concert venues are an important feature, chosen for relevance, architecture and acoustics. Each hour-long programme is introduced in a concise, friendly and informative manner and there are interviews with soloists.
The production team clearly know what they are doing. Filming is intelligent, giving viewers a sense of the concert space as well as presenting the LMP as a large chamber ensemble, listening, watching, reacting, contributing to a musical conversation. And the sound is exemplary, cleverly managing to capture the overall acoustic as well as imparting both bloom and clarity to individual instruments. I listened through headphones and the effect was uncannily realistic.
All this comes at a price, but a very reasonable one considering what is on offer. Tickets for each of the eight concerts released since September cost £12, with all eight (plus two specially for children) available for £60 (see discount offer below). All will remain on the LMP website for on demand listening until December 1.
They launched the series with a concert filmed in St John’s Church, Upper Norwood in front of a socially-distanced audience. After words of welcome, Ruth Rogers (violin) and Sebastian Comberti (cello) play the Meditation from Massenet’s Thais and with it establish the mood of musical intimacy which pervades the whole series of concerts.
The first orchestral piece of the series is an apt choice: Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony, a work which showcases the ensemble’s wit, precision and ability to create smooth, elegant textures. This is no mean feat for an orchestra that plays without a conductor. The performance has plenty of rhythmic bounce and communicates the players’ relish of the way Prokofiev’s themes suddenly lurch into surprising keys before returning home. The compact nature of the LMP ensures clarity throughout, crisply defined phrasing and a zestful sense of classical elegance mixed with earthy good humour.
The other work in the concert is Schumann’s Cello Concerto whose soloist is Maciej Kulakowski, a 24-year-old Polish cellist and protégé of the Young Classical Artists Trust. He provides not only fine playing but also the opportunity to see a young artist at the outset of his career. Before the concerto he appears in conversation with LMP principal cellist Sebastian Comberti about his life so far and his choice of Schumann. This interview must have taken at least as much nervous energy as the music – as English isn’t exactly Maciej’s natural habitat and he is rather reserved in manner. Nevertheless, he offers illuminating comments on the way the music’s sudden mood-swings reflect the composer’s troubled personality.
Schumann’s tempo marking for the first movement is the vague ‘Not too fast’ which had led to cellists taking anything from ten to thirteen minutes to perform it. Having decided that Maciej was too slow I then discovered that his interpretation lies exactly midway between the two extremes. His playing combines poetic lyricism and impressive virtuosity, veering from fierce energy to introspection and melancholy. He endows the slow movement with particular poignancy, the cello singing its solemn melody almost like an operatic aria. And the finale, with its ferociously difficult arpeggios and high passages, is another demonstration that young Maciej is an artist to watch.
Schumann’s Traumerei comes as a lovely encore to round off the concert. If you’re looking for an uplifting lockdown treat, the LMP Classical Club could be just the thing.
London Mozart Players, led by Ruth Rogers (violin)
Maciej Kulakowski (solo cello)
This concert is part of an online series of eight which are available on demand until December 1. There are also two concerts for children.
Tickets for individual concerts (£12) and a series pass (normally £60 but see below) can be purchased at
where full details of music, artists and venues can also be found – as well as free downloadable programmes, children’s activity sheets etc.
NB ReviewsGate readers are offered a 15% discount on the series pass with this code: