sat 01/11/2014

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Thomas Adès, See the Music, Hear the Dance, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

The challenge was already in the title for me: as both a dance critic and a strongly visual person, in the normal order of things I see the dance first and hear the music second.  Last night's show, the second of the Sadler's Wells Composer Series of productions (the first was with Mark-Anthony Turnage in 2011), set out to challenge that order of perception by marrying dance and music in a partnership of equals: the formidable musical heft of Thomas Adès and the Britten Sinfonia on the one...

Classical CDs Weekly: Lutosławski, Panufnik, Strauss, Stravinsky, Varèse

Graham Rickson

 Andrzej Panufnik: String Quartets 1-3, Lutosławski: String Quartet Tippett Quartet (Naxos)Andrzej Panufnik and Witold Lutosławski were close friends, the two men famously earning a living playing piano duets in war-ravaged Warsaw. Panufnik emigrated to the UK in the 1950s, whilst Lutosławski remained in Poland until his death. Having their respective quartets collected on a single disc makes for interesting listening, Lutosławski's 1965 String Quartet is the most obviously radical work...

Uchida, LSO, Haitink, Barbican Hall

David Nice

You know what to expect from a standard programme of masterpieces like this, led by two great performers in careful control of their repertoire, and...

The Fall of the House of Usher, Sound Affairs,...

Stephen Walsh

At least three composers have set about turning The Fall of the House of Usher into operas, including most famously Debussy, whose abortive attempt,...

Arcadi Volodos, Royal Festival Hall

Jessica Duchen

Arcadi Volodos is a relatively rare visitor to London these days. Although the Russian pianist, 42, rose early to fame, his development has perhaps...

Leonskaja/ Pires, Dumay, Meneses, Wigmore Hall

Ismene Brown

Music for lunch and dinner on a great day for pianists and Beethoven

Beatson, Scottish Ensemble, Queen's Hall, Edinburgh

Christopher Lambton

String orchestra pushes boundaries with homage to Mozart and Haydn

Malala/A Child of Our Time, Crouch End Festival Chorus, Temple, Barbican

Bernard Hughes

New choral work inspired by Nobel Peace laureate alongside Tippett’s great pacifist oratorio

RPO, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Zukerman, Royal Festival Hall

Kimon Daltas

Beethoven Ninth in remembrance from a transatlantic orchestral alliance

Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Søndergård, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Christopher Lambton

Fugitive beauty in late Strauss masterpiece, but not much of a helping hand

Classical CDs Weekly: Bach, Prokofiev, Shostakovich

Graham Rickson

Baroque keyboard suites and Soviet violin music

quartet-lab, Wigmore Hall

David Nice

Four brilliant players need a stage director, but still electrify in Beethoven and Crumb

theartsdesk Q&A: Conductor Jonathan Nott

David Nice

An Englishman abroad on balancing Mahler and Strauss with contemporary music

Classical CDs Weekly: Mahler, Poulenc, Orbert Davis

Graham Rickson

Viennese music from Denmark, effervescent ballet scores transcribed for piano, and a 1960s classic gets a reboot

Mitsuko Uchida, Royal Festival Hall

Sebastian Scotney

A standing ovation for a great artist's interpretation of Beethoven's Diabelli Variations

Sioned Williams, Purcell Room

David Nice

The great Welsh harpist celebrates her 60th birthday with six varied commissions

10 Questions for Conductor Alan Gilbert

Kimon Daltas

The New York Philharmonic's music director on recording a Nielsen cycle for 150th anniversary year

theartsdesk in Stockholm: A Nobel Prize for Musical Excellence

David Nice

The 2014 Birgit Nilsson Prize brings the Vienna Philharmonic to the Swedish capital

Meyer, BBCPO, Storgårds, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

Philip Radcliffe

Nielsen's Clarinet Concerto and Shostakovich 4 open the season with a bang

Classical CDs Weekly: Adams, Haydn, Danjulo Ishizaka

Graham Rickson

Cinematic contemporary music, classical piano concertos and folk-inspired cello sonatas

Cargill, Yoshino, SCO, Ticciati, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Christopher Lambton

Chamber orchestra pushes boundaries with sinewy Mahler

Mullova, Hallé, Elder, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

Philip Radcliffe

No dancers but much drama in Daphnis et Chloé, plus ravishing Russian violin

A Night Under the Stars: Latin Spirit, Royal Festival Hall

Kimon Daltas

Charity gala with Latin flavour keeps musical standards consistently high

City of London Sinfonia, Layton, Southwark Cathedral

Sebastian Scotney

First concert in an enterprising Shakespeare series

Classical CDs Weekly: Nielsen, Kristjan Järvi, Benjamin Grosvenor

Graham Rickson

Feisty Danish symphonies, orchestral music from the Balkans and the latest disc from a young British pianist

Piau, Les Paladins, Correas, Wigmore Hall

Alexandra Coghlan

An anniversary concert that was more froth than champagne

'For classical musicians, Radiohead are the band'

Alexandra Coghlan

Richard Tognetti of the Australian Chamber Orchestra on premiering a new work by Jonny Greenwood

Daniil Trifonov, Royal Festival Hall

Jessica Duchen

Plenty to treasure in the prizewinning young Russian pianist's colossal programme

10 Questions for Soprano Sandrine Piau

Sebastian Scotney

The former harpist who became the connoisseur's soprano of choice for Baroque and early music

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 7,000 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

Sheryl Crow, Royal Albert Hall

A likeable and energetic performance, but how much more could she be?

Thomas Adès, See the Music, Hear the Dance, Sadler's We...

Composer's works matched with contemporary choreography by McGregor, A...

Classical CDs Weekly: Lutosławski, Panufnik, Strauss, Stravi...

String quartets from Polish composers, ballet music and orchestral firework...

CD: Mysteries - New Age Music is here

Anonymous doom-tinged oddballs deliver solid opening shot

Mr Turner

Mike Leigh does JMW Turner - and his own artistry - proud

Cassandra, Ludovic Ondiviela, Royal Ballet, Linbury Studio

A new ballet shines a spotlight on mental illness

Uchida, LSO, Haitink, Barbican Hall

Master musicians in just-so Debussy, Mozart and Brahms

Coolatully, Finborough Theatre

Enjoyable drama about Ireland's renewed emigration

DVD: Godzilla

Spectacular effects but little human interest in monster mash-up


Angry Birds simplicity and platform game difficulty meet…