thu 17/08/2017

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Festival 2017 review: Andreas Haefliger

David Kettle

It was an intriguing, contrast-filled programme that Swiss-born pianist Andreas Haefliger brought to Edinburgh for his Queen’s Hall recital at the International Festival.

Proms 37 / 38 review: Latvian Radio Choir, Gavrylyuk, BBCSSO, Dausgaard - numinous Rachmaninov triptych

David Nice

So it was Rachmaninov night at the Proms, but with a difference: a trinity of works sacred and profane, the first two introduced by the Latvian choir due to perform the third singing harmonised Russian Orthodox chants of the kind on which the composer based so many of his supposedly late-romantic inspirations.

Classical CDs Weekly: Sean Shibe, Morten Gunnar...

Graham Rickson

Dreams & Fancies – English music for solo guitar Sean Shibe (guitar) (Delphian)This is the best solo guitar disc I've heard. That it comes from a...

Prom 33 review: Davidsen, Gerhardt, BBC...

Alexandra Coghlan

Goodness the BBC Philharmonic plays well for John Storgårds. The orchestra’s chief guest conductor has a lovely easy manner on the podium – all...

Prom 31 review: La Damnation de Faust, Gardiner...

David Nice

The road to hell is paved with brilliant ideas in Berlioz's idiosyncratic take on the Faust legend. John Eliot Gardiner proved better than anyone in...

Prom 30 review: Bournemouth SO, Karabits - pagan fire and thunder

Peter Quantrill

Prokofiev and Walton raise the roof thanks to a young choir on blazing form

Classical CDs Weekly: Mompou, Schubert, Martinů, Shostakovich

Graham Rickson

Outré Spanish piano, a finished Unfinished, and two cello concertos

Prom 26 review: Frang, Power, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Järvi – fire and air from a crack team

Boyd Tonkin

Fresh light on old favourites from Mozart and Brahms – and a moving newcomer

Michael Volpe on a Requiem for Grenfell: 'one of the most remarkable evenings in our history'

Michael Volpe

Opera Holland Park's General Director on the company's response to losing a team member in the Grenfell Tower fire

Prom 24 review: Crebassa, Philharmonia, Salonen – thrilling performance of Adams masterpiece

Bernard Hughes

Conductor and performers raise the roof but deserve a bigger audience

Prom 23 review: OAE, Christie - scintillating drama in Handel's Israel in Egypt

Boyd Tonkin

Old warhorse frisks like a foal

Prom 22 review: Pygmalion, Pichon – theatrical take on Monteverdi's Vespers

Bernard Hughes

Impressive young French conductor brings drama to Renaissance choral classic

Prom 20 review: Hough, BBCPO, Wigglesworth - towards the light fantastic

David Nice

Dancing radiance transforms Haydn, Sawer and even Brahms's First Piano Concerto

Classical CDs Weekly: Prokofiev, Skempton, Walton

Graham Rickson

Effervescent Russian piano concertos, plus two discs of British music

Prom 16 review: Osborne, BBCSSO, Volkov - scintillating piano concerto premiere

Peter Quantrill

New Anderson and little-known Liszt make an unlikely, exotic pairing

Prom 14 review: BBCSSO, Wilson - illusion after illusion from musical conjurer

Alexandra Coghlan

An evening of English music without a field or cowpat in sight

Robin Ticciati on conducting Mozart - 'I wanted to create a revolution in the minds of the players'

David Nice

Glyndebourne and Scottish Chamber Orchestra MD on three great symphonies

Prom 13 review: Rana, BBCSO, Davis – Malcolm Sargent tribute lacks punch

Bernard Hughes

Historical recreation of 500th Prom short of sparkle until Britten finale

Prom 10 review: Aurora Orchestra, Collon – a revolution taken to heart

Boyd Tonkin

Beethoven's breakthrough 'Eroica' Symphony swings and dances – all from memory

Classical CDs Weekly: Beethoven, Louis Frémaux, Les Passions de l’Ame

Graham Rickson

Scintillating German symphonies, analogue treats from Birmingham, and a disc of baroque humour

Prom 7 review: Weilerstein, BBCSO, Weilerstein - new cello concerto enthrals

Alexandra Coghlan

Controlled performances struggle to find their release in this striking programme

Prom 6: Benedetti, BBC NOW, Søndergård - dazzling violin magic

Gavin Dixon

Benedetti shines, Søndergård intrigues, but orchestra disappoints

Prom 3: Faust, COE, Haitink - Europeans tread air under 88-year-old master

David Nice

Sheer perfection and personality in Mozart and Schumann

Enter theartsdesk's Young Reviewer of the Year Award


In association with The Hospital Club's h.Club 100 Awards, we're launching a new competition to find a brilliant young critic

Prom 1 review: Levit, BBCSO, Gardner - fizzing Adams finally ignites mixed First Night

Bernard Hughes

Controlled premiere and subdued Beethoven redeemed by a choral blockbuster

Classical CDs Weekly: Leonid Desyatnikov, Dimitar Nenov, Ars Nova Copenhagen

Graham Rickson

Fascinating discoveries from Russia and Bulgaria, plus a winning choral disc from Denmark

Ke Ma, Wigmore Hall review - a debut of distinction

Peter Quantrill

A showcase for a young pianist, but Chopin's the jewel

Kozhukhin, LSO, Rattle, Barbican

David Nice

A self-love scene, a rehearsal-level concerto and weird Haydn don't quite add up

East Neuk Festival review - Schubert, brass and nine electric guitars

David Nice

A Schubertiad with the great Elisabeth Leonskaja isn't the only highlight on the Fife coast

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

Close Footnote

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

latest in today

CD: Man Duo - Orbit

True to their name, Finland’s Man Duo are male and there...

No More Boys and Girls, BBC Two – baby steps lead to great l...

Whether it’s the £400,000 that separates Mishal Hussain from John Humphrys, or the 74 million miles between the metaphorical markers of Venus...

Edinburgh Festival 2017 review: Andreas Haefliger

It was an intriguing, contrast-filled programme that Swiss-born pianist Andreas Haefliger brought to...

theartsdesk Q&A: Director Peter Kosminsky, Part 1

The name will never trip off the public tongue. Millions watch his work - most recently his superb realisation of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall...

CD: Gogol Bordello - Seekers and Finders

As a live phenomenon Gogol Bordello are unstoppable, a crowd-whipping Balkan-...

The Majority, National Theatre review – a minority interest

A new plague is sweeping British theatre: audience participation. Instead of just sitting back and enjoying the show, your visit to a venue is now...

Edinburgh Festival and Fringe 2017 reviews round-up

Wondering what on earth to choose between as you tramp the streets of the festival? These are our highlights so far.


Quest review - intimate documentary about a north Philly com...

Christopher Rainey, aka "Quest" – his hip-hop name – lives with his wife Christine’a and their young daughter PJ in north Philadelphia....

Edinburgh Fringe 2017 reviews: Tom Allen / Cally Beaton / La...


Tom Allen 

Tom Allen is...