thu 27/11/2014

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Sci-Fi Week: Scoring the Impossible

Graham Rickson

Classical composers have always enjoyed depicting the implausible. Operas based on mythological subjects abound, creating near-impossible staging demands. Musical works based on science fiction are far rarer. Haydn's plodding opera Life on the Moon isn't one of his most scintillating works. More engaging is the first act of Janacek's comedy The Excursions of Mr Brouček, its pickled hero dreaming himself onto the surface of a moon inhabited by a colony of fey artists and intellectuals. The most...

OAE, Tognetti, Queen Elizabeth Hall

David Nice

As I sat, engaged and occasionally charmed but not always as impressed as I’d been told I would be, through violinist-animateur Richard Tognetti’s lightish seven-course taster menu of string music with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, it was worth bearing two things in mind. One was that this happened to be merely the official zenith of a truly enlightened three-part project; on Monday, parts of the programme had been played first to educate all ages and later to grab a young audience...

Miloš Karadaglić, 'the guitar player of the...

Adam Sweeting

Compared to grand divas, virtuoso pianists or stupendous fiddlers, legends of the classical guitar have been few in number. Once you've ticked off...

Classical CDs Weekly: Arnold, Messiaen, Poulenc,...

Graham Rickson

 Malcolm Arnold: Four Scottish Dances, Symphony no 3 London Philharmonic Orchestra/Malcolm Arnold (Everest)“Carefully wipe surface with soft...

Tsujii, RLPO, Petrenko, Philharmonic Hall,...

Glyn Môn Hughes

The knots on the purse-strings have certainly been untied at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and it was good to hear another world première in less...

Vogt, LPO, Nézet-Séguin, Royal Festival Hall

Edward Seckerson

Shapeliness and soul-searching in Brahms, Schubert and Strauss

BBC Singers, BBCSO, Pons, Barbican

David Nice

Blue skies from Respighi and Strauss, seasonal mystery from Brett Dean

Samuelsen Duo, RLPO, Petrenko, Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

Glyn Môn Hughes

Revamped concert hall and new concerto launch a delayed Philharmonic season

Classical CDs Weekly: Hindemith, Colin Matthews, Walton, The Vocal Constructivists

Graham Rickson

Remembrance-themed choral music, 20th-century cello concertos and an avant-garde vocal disc

Leonskaja, SCO, Kamu, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

David Nice

Magisterial partnership triumphantly encompasses two Brahms concertos in one concert

Currie, Aurora Orchestra, Collon, QEH

Bernard Hughes

Star percussionist leads tribute to maverick composer Steve Martland, but John Adams rules

Classical CDs Weekly: Barry, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Shostakovich

Graham Rickson

A startling new comic opera, picturesque orchestral music and a terrifying Soviet symphony

Monteverdi Vespers, The Sixteen, Christophers, Winchester Cathedral

David Nice

One of music's iconoclastic glories breaks through cathedral murk in searing performance

Rachmaninov Vespers, Maryinsky Chorus, Llandaff Cathedral

Stephen Walsh

Russian choir superb in unexpected masterpiece by a great piano composer

Soumm, LPO, Vänskä, Royal Festival Hall

Matthew Wright

Delightful Sibelius programme compels despite a somewhat dogged soloist

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

Hanna Weibye

Composer's works matched with contemporary choreography by McGregor, Armitage, Whitley and Pite

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

Graham Rickson

String quartets from Polish composers, ballet music and orchestral fireworks

Uchida, LSO, Haitink, Barbican Hall

David Nice

Master musicians in just-so Debussy, Mozart and Brahms

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

Stephen Walsh

Jean Epstein's twenties classic enriched by Cardiff composer's sonorous new score

Arcadi Volodos, Royal Festival Hall

Jessica Duchen

Sublime sounds from the high peaks of pianism

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

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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