wed 01/10/2014

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

'For classical musicians, Radiohead are the band'

Alexandra Coghlan

The first time I interviewed Richard Tognetti he told me a story. Prior to touring the Australian Chamber Orchestra to Japan, the group’s leader and artistic director was discussing publicity with a local PR. Faced with disappointing ticket sales he asked for advice. The response? Remove two letters from the orchestra’s name and transform it into the Austrian Chamber Orchestra – problem solved. It was a tale told with a smile and a roll of the eyes, but one that still had a frisson of Old World...

Daniil Trifonov, Royal Festival Hall

Jessica Duchen

Daniil Trifonov, 23, has shot to prominence as one of the hottest pianistic properties of the moment. With multiple competition wins behind him, including the Tchaikovsky in his native Russia, plus a recording contract with DG and a frenetic globe-trotting schedule, he is now a very busy young man. Last night’s London appearance was his recital debut at the Royal Festival Hall, a venue only accorded to the biggest names in the Southbank Centre’s International Piano Series, the new season of...

10 Questions for Soprano Sandrine Piau

Sebastian Scotney

French soprano Sandrine Piau, born in 1965 in a south-western suburb of Paris, has an agile, supple voice. It soars, so critics reach readily for all...

theartsdesk in Bamberg: Top Town, Top Orchestra

David Nice

As a town of 70,000 or so people, Bamberg boxes dazzlingly above its weight in at least two spheres. The Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, risen to giddy...

Remembering Christopher Hogwood (1941-2014)


He was not only a bracing conductor/harpsichordist pioneer in period-instrument authenticity, writes David Nice, but also a gentleman and a scholar....

Classical CDs Weekly: Aho, Bartók, Zelenka

Graham Rickson

Finnish concertos, Hungarian chamber music and glorious sounds from a neglected Bohemian

Grande Messe des Morts, Philharmonia, Salonen, RFH

Sebastian Scotney

Berlioz mass suffers from insufficient attention to the large chorus

Bavouzet, LPO, Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall

David Nice

Shostakovich's greatest war requiem, a modern masterwork and scintillating Prokofiev

BBC Singers, BBCSO, Litton, Barbican Hall

Edward Seckerson

Visionary Ives caps a fabulous programme with a BBC institution celebrating its 90th birthday

10 Questions for Conductor Vladimir Jurowski

Jessica Duchen

LPO maestro on the ins and outs of Rachmaninov, focus of this season's celebration

Benedetti, Manchester Camerata, Takács-Nagy, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

Philip Radcliffe

In a wonderful curtain-raiser violinist Nicola Benedetti demonstrates her passion for music education

Classical CDs Weekly: Gallay, Emma Johnson, Wihan Quartet

Graham Rickson

Rousing music for natural horns, clarinet sonatas and the Beatles as you've never heard them

Maestri: Conductors at the 2014 Proms


Chris Christodoulou's sensational shots of baton-wielders in action

Last Night of the Proms, Jansen, Williams, BBCSO, Oramo

Sebastian Scotney

Other agendas have swirled furiously around this year's Last Night

Prom 75: Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Gilbert

Alexandra Coghlan

A monumental season's close to the 2014 Proms from a great orchestra

Classical CDs Weekly: Elgar, Fuzzy, James Rhodes

Graham Rickson

English romanticism, Danish electronica and an engaging piano recital

Prom 74: Wainwright, Voigt, Britten Sinfonia, Debus

David Nice

Songs great and less good weirdly miked and mostly mumbled by the singer-songwriter

Prom 72: Berthaud, BBCSO, Litton

Alexandra Coghlan

A concert of English music that moved beyond pastoral stereotypes

Prom 71: Time for Three, BBC Concert Orchestra, Lockhart

Matthew Wright

Routine American programme blown away by Chris Brubeck's Travels in Time for Three

Prom 69: Cleveland Orchestra, Welser-Möst

Geoff Brown

Gleaming music-making, trimmed like topiary, from a reticent conductor and a superb American orchestra

Prom 66: St Matthew Passion, Berlin Philharmonic, Rattle

Alexandra Coghlan

A deeply moving and daringly simple staging of Bach's great Passion

A Season at the Juilliard School, Sky Arts 2

David Nice

Infomercial about arts training looks set to be distinctly undramatic

DiDonato, Pappano, Wigmore Hall

Sebastian Scotney

A joyous recital of songs from Rossini to the American songbook

Prom 64: Berlin Philharmonic, Rattle

David Nice

Colour and subtlety, but not always depth, from the Proms' favourite visitors

Classical CDs Weekly: Grieg, Mahler, Choir of Gonville & Caius College

Graham Rickson

Folk-tinged fun from Norway, the bleakest of symphonies, and an enchanting choral disc

Façade/Eight Songs for a Mad King, Grimeborn Opera, Arcola Theatre

Bernard Hughes

Two groundbreaking classics brought together in a new theatrical interpretation

Prom 63: McAllister, BBCSO, Alsop

Matthew Wright

Alsop's intelligent programming draws out the vernacular in Mahler and Adams

Proms Chamber Music 7: Benjamin Grosvenor/Prom 60: Driver, RPO, Dutoit

David Nice

Rainbow colours with a cooling shower or two in Proms showpiece time

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Volkov, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Christopher Lambton

Supercharged Janáček marks the end of festival director’s eight year reign

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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