fri 24/02/2017

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Farewell, Stanisław Skrowaczewski (1923-2017)

Gavin Dixon

Bruckner conductors improve with age: Haitink, Blomstedt, Gielen – octogenarians all. But Stanisław Skrowaczewski went further, conducting his favourite composer almost to his death, this week at the age of 93. And more than any of his contemporaries, he seemed to embody the Brucknerian qualities of wisdom, experience and patience.

Mirjam Mesak, Kristiina Rokashevich, St Bartholomew the Great

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Treasure our young continental European musicians in London while you can. Only last week I learned that so many of the overseas students at London's Guildhall School had stories to tell about being questioned in public (usually "are you Polish?" with the negative ramifications that implied).

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Polish composer Szymanowski's Ovid triptych Mythes achieved something like cult status thanks to an iridescent recording. Everyone knew the pianist,...

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Refined Italian orchestral music, downsized Americana and pastoral pianism

Listed: How I Do Love Thee


Let theartsdesk count the ways with our romantic favourites from all over the arts

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Hamburg concert hall tested out, 1970s minimalism, and Bach on a vibraphone

Kaufmann, Mattila, LSO, Pappano, Barbican

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Restraint and reward in a Wagner evening of intermittent thrills

Grosvenor, BBCPO, Gernon, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

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A striking debut for a new Principal Guest Conductor

theartsdesk in Rome: Bartoli and Pappano on home turf

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Bach and Mozart in distinguished profile

theartsdesk Q&A: Conductor Jakub Hrůša

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Heir to the Czech tradition discusses his Bamberg orchestra's links to the homeland

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Spirited premiere for innovative new concerto

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Orchestral delights from Bamberg, Cincinatti and San Francisco

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Compelling accounts of Schumann and Mozart offer darkness and light

Argerich, St Petersburg PO, Temirkanov, RFH

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Touring Russians on fine form, and the Argentinian pianist shines in Prokofiev

Gauvin, Le Concert de la Loge, Chauvin, Wigmore Hall

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One of baroque's most beautiful voices delivers a flawless Handel recital

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Epic Czech orchestral music, Hungarian wind sounds and Soviet quartets

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Magisterial turbulence in Beethoven and Brahms, serene good humour in Schubert

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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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