sat 04/07/2015

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Classical CDs Weekly: Bach, James Horner, Baltic Sea Youth Philharmonic

Graham Rickson

Bach to Moog: A Realisation for Electronics and Orchestra Craig Leon (Moog synthesizers and conductor), Jennifer Pike (violin), Sinfonietta Cracovia (Sony)Each new year throws up swathes of composer-related anniversaries, but 2015 also marks 50 years since the appearance of Robert Moog's first modular synthesizer. Plus it's the tenth anniversary of Moog's death. 1968 saw the appearance of Moog devotee Wendy Carlos's album Switched-On Bach, so it's fitting that the same record label (or its...

Zimerman, LSO, Rattle, Barbican

Peter Quantrill

Over the past decade Krystian Zimerman and Sir Simon Rattle have created and evolved a performing idea of Brahms’s D minor piano concerto which is still remarkable for its considered weight and grimly imposing grandeur, Michelangelo’s Mosè in music.As played at the Barbican in its latest appearance, hardly so refined as in Berlin but undeniably exciting, that idea of the concerto has attenuated and intensified, not quite towards self-parody but moving ever farther from the sense of a piece from...

NYCC, NYJO, Southwark Cathedral

David Nice

Cleopatra in her barge gliding down the nave of Southwark Cathedral? Only figuratively, in the hypnotic “Half the Fun” movement of Duke Ellington’s...

DVD: The Man with the Golden Arm

Kieron Tyler

When The Man with the Golden Arm was released in British cinemas in January 1956, it was given an “X” certificate by the then British Board of Film...

theartsdesk in Orkney: St Magnus Festival

David Kettle

Ebb of Winter felt about right. It’s one of Peter Maxwell Davies’s most recent works, a yearning for the brightness and warmth of spring at the end...

Classical CDs Weekly: Yotam Haber, Janáček, Mahler

Graham Rickson

Eclectic chamber scores, vivid Czech orchestral music and an epic among symphonies

Max Raabe, Wigmore Hall

Sebastian Scotney

The German crooner plays all too predictably to audience expectations

Habemus maestrum: the Berlin Phil chooses

David Nice

Kirill Petrenko to succeed Simon Rattle as Chief Conductor in 2018

Continuum Ensemble, Headlam, Kings Place

Gavin Dixon

Exploring forgotten music theatre of the Weimar Republic

Classical CDs Weekly: Dubois, Grieg, Martinů

Graham Rickson

Rediscovered music from a neglected Parisian, Norwegian piano miniatures and a magical viola disc

theartsdesk in Denmark: 150 years of Nielsen

David Nice

A great symphonist and a national treasure celebrated at home

theartsdesk at the Cottier Chamber Project

David Kettle

The three-week Glasgow chamber music festival is Scotland's answer to the Proms

Classical CDs Weekly: Gál, Prokofiev, Raffi Besalyan

Graham Rickson

Twentieth-century symphonies and a scintillating piano recital

Juntunen, Philharmonia, Ashkenazy, RFH

David Nice

The Russian adopts the direct Finnish manner in this all-Sibelius 150th anniversary concert

Phantasm, Elizabeth Kenny, Wigmore Hall

Alexandra Coghlan

An intimate evening of musical eccentricity and beauty

theartsdesk in Bergen 2: Leif Ove Andsnes curates

David Nice

Uniquely imaginative programming in special places from a world-class local

Classical CDs Weekly: Bernstein, Carl Davis, Bruce Levingston

Graham Rickson

A life-enhancing Broadway musical, a moving work for children's voices and a striking piano recital

Schubert Sonatas 4, Barenboim, RFH

Jessica Duchen

Barenboim and that piano plumb the heart of darkness in Schubert's farewell

Jansen, LSO, Harding, Barbican

Gavin Dixon

Serviceable Mahler, but the violinist's Mendelssohn is sublime

Schubert Sonatas 3, Barenboim, RFH

David Nice

The composer came first in the happiest concert so far of the revered pianist's series

The Dream of Gerontius, RSNO, Oundjian, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Christopher Lambton

Big-bottomed Elgar masterpiece just falls short of splendour

Schubert Sonatas 2, Barenboim, RFH

Gavin Dixon

Big passions from the veteran pianist threaten to overpower Schubertian tenderness

Classical CDs Weekly: Nielsen, Choir of Gonville & Caius College, St Peter's Singers

Graham Rickson

Rip-roaring Danish symphonies, plus choral music from Brazil and Leeds

Schubert Sonatas 1, Barenboim, RFH

Jessica Duchen

The new instrument sounds sublime, but is the player on this occasion?

Ehnes, Armstrong, Wigmore Hall

David Nice

Flawless violin-and-piano duo in rich programme of works from around 1915

Listed: Essential BBC Proms


Our classical writers choose 12 of the best

Tetzlaff, LSO, Harding, Barbican

Alexandra Coghlan

Ecstatic Beethoven dragged back to earth by some workaday Brahms

Kozhukhin, BBCSO, Oramo, Barbican

David Nice

Kaleidoscope of fascinating scores circa 1925 crowns superlative Nielsen anniversary series

theartsdesk in Dresden: Fire and Ice

Paul Gent

The restored German honeypot looks beyond its musical borders

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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