tue 27/01/2015

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Classical CDs Weekly: Henry Mancini, Georg Breinschmid, Beethoven

Graham Rickson

 Henry Mancini: The Classic Soundtrack Collection (Sony)You get a good sense of any composer's strengths and limitations when you consume their music in box set-sized quantities. With the Juilliard-trained Henry Mancini, you marvel at the catchiness of the melodic material and the transparent orchestration. Sony Music's new box set collects 18 Mancini film scores, and a casual perusal will also highlight the great man's weak spots. He wasn't a master at developing his ideas, relying...

James Dillon's Stabat Mater, London Sinfonietta, Volkov, QEH

Gavin Dixon

James Dillon calls this major work, premered at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival last November, a “Cubist Stabat Mater”. He sets the hymn, but adds in more recent words, texts on related themes by Picasso, Kristeva and Rilke, among others. The music, too, acknowledges the passage of historical time, with subtle references to musical styles from down the centuries. If this all sounds like a recipe for Postmodern intellectualism and detachment, the results are surprisingly direct – a...

10 Questions for Pianist Benjamin Grosvenor

Jessica Duchen

At all of 22, the British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor has already become one of the best-loved solo pianists in the UK, with an international career...

Latvian Radio Choir, Kļava, St John's Smith...

Gavin Dixon

Latvia likes to be different. At least that’s the message they sent out with the cultural programme marking the start of the country’s presidency of...

JACK Quartet, Wigmore Hall

Geoff Brown

The mixed grilled school of programme-making is not for the JACK Quartet. Contemporary, contemporary, and contemporary: that was the bill of fare...

Colli, BBCSO, Oramo, Barbican Hall

David Nice

Fresh imagination in Rachmaninov, weird Sibelius and affirmative Nielsen

Classical CDs Weekly: Bach, Mozart, Poulenc

Graham Rickson

A baroque Passion in a fresh staging, valveless brass-playing and delectable French chamber music

Hannigan, LSO, Rattle, Barbican Hall

Peter Quantrill

Heroines and hysterics with Stravinsky, Ligeti, Berg and Webern

Jansen, Golan, Wigmore Hall

Sebastian Scotney

Dutch violinist and Israeli pianist fail to match expectations in Shostakovich and Ravel

Winterreise, Bostridge, Adès, Barbican Hall

Alexandra Coghlan

A winter journey where the trauma is real and unsettling

Das Paradies und die Peri, LSO, Rattle, Barbican

Gavin Dixon

Starry line-up makes the best possible case for Schumann’s great oratorio

In C, London Sinfonietta, Kings Place

Geoff Brown

Terry Riley's minimalist masterpiece sweeps all before it in this memorable concert

Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela Concert 2, RFH

Alexandra Coghlan

A second encounter with the Venezuelan orchestra is both exhilarating and exhausting

Classical CDs Weekly: Janáček, Orff, David Childs

Graham Rickson

Rousing choral classics, and an overlooked brass instrument gets to sing

Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, Dudamel, RFH

David Nice

Muscular Beethoven, but the second-half Wagner was wrong in so many ways

Scriabin Anniversary Recital, Ohlsson, Wigmore Hall

David Nice

Flame control and a big orchestral sound from a master pianist

National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, Wilson, Leeds Town Hall

Graham Rickson

Extrovert Elgar from a winning team

Classical CDs Weekly: Konstantia Gourzi, Ravel, Sarah Willis

Graham Rickson

Greek chamber music, French pianism and an entertaining horn disc

Best of 2014: Classical Concerts

David Nice

A triumphant year for youth and pianism

Best of 2014: Classical CDs

Graham Rickson

Ten of the year's most scintillating classical releases

Bach B minor Mass, Trinity College Choir, OAE, Layton, St John's Smith Square

David Nice

Choral and trumpeter angels from the realms of glory in Bach's panoply of invention

Classical CDs Weekly: Jean Barraqué, Haydn, Mozart, Michael Tilson Thomas

Graham Rickson

French modernism, classical piano concertos and a delectable collection of orchestral miniatures

Fretwork, Shoreditch Church

Sebastian Scotney

Among the Christmas staples, it's a relief to find an imaginative take on a different theme

Ohlsson, BBCSO, Oramo, Barbican

David Nice

Hymning the human in a Nielsen masterpiece and the cosmic in a psychedelic epic by Busoni

Classical CDs Weekly: Christmas CDs

Graham Rickson

Six of 2014's best seasonal releases

Le Concert Spirituel, Christ Church Spitalfields

Kimon Daltas

French Baroque specialists take musical journey around early 18th-century Europe

Messiah, OAE, Howarth, Royal Festival Hall

Alexandra Coghlan

An earthbound Messiah lacks wonder and urgency

Siglo de Oro, Allies, Shoreditch Church

Geoff Brown

Christmas music from far and wide glowingly sung by a young, rising, gifted British choir

Stefanovich, Currie, Queen Elizabeth Hall

Gavin Dixon

Dream team for Birtwistle, while the pianist shines in Ligeti and Messiaen

Footnote: a brief history of classical music in Britain

London has more world-famous symphony orchestras than any other city in the world, the Philharmonia, Royal Philharmonic, London Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestra vying with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Royal Opera House Orchestra, crack "period", chamber and contemporary orchestras. The bursting schedules of concerts at the Wigmore Hall, the Barbican Centre and South Bank Centre, and the strength of music in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Cardiff, among other cities, show a depth and internationalism reflecting the development of the British classical tradition as European, but with specific slants of its own.

brittenWhile Renaissance monarchs Henry VIII and Elizabeth I took a lively interest in musical entertainment, this did not prevent outstanding English composers such as Thomas Tallis and William Byrd developing the use of massed choral voices to stirring effect. Arguably the vocal tradition became British music's glory, boosted by the arrival of Handel as a London resident in 1710. For the next 35 years he generated booms in opera, choral and instrumental playing, and London attracted a wealth of major European composers, Mozart, Chopin and Mahler among them.

The Victorian era saw a proliferation of classical music organisations, beginning with the Philharmonic Society, 1813, and the Royal Academy of Music, 1822, both keenly promoting Beethoven's music. The Royal Albert Hall and the Queen's Hall were key new concert halls, and Manchester, Liverpool and Edinburgh established major orchestras. Edward Elgar was chief of a raft of English late-Victorian composers; a boom-time which saw the Proms launched in 1895 by Sir Henry Wood, and a rapid increase in conservatoires and orchestras. The "pastoral" English classical style arose, typified by Vaughan Williams, and the new BBC took over the Proms in 1931, founding its own broadcasting orchestra and classical radio station (now Radio 3).

England at last produced a world giant in Benjamin Britten (pictured above), whose protean range spearheaded the postwar establishment of national arts institutions, resulting notably in English National Opera, the Royal Opera and the Aldeburgh Festival. The Arts Desk writers provide a uniquely rich coverage of classical concerts, with overnight reviews and indepth interviews with major performers and composers, from Britain and abroad. Writers include Igor Toronyi-Lalic, David Nice, Edward Seckerson, Alexandra Coghlan, Graham Rickson, Stephen Walsh and Ismene Brown

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