mon 22/12/2014

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Classical CDs Weekly: Jean Barraqué, Haydn, Mozart, Michael Tilson Thomas

Graham Rickson

 Jean Barraqué: Sonate pour piano Roger Woodward (Celestial Harmonies)An important reissue of a recording originally released in the early 1970s is made even more compelling by the booklet, in which pianist Roger Woodward recalls the time he spent working with the French composer Jean Barraqué: his detailed account is compelling, fascinating and a joy to read. Several aspects of Barraqué's personality sound beyond parody – the chain smoking, the peculiar dietary requirements and the...

Fretwork, Shoreditch Church

Sebastian Scotney

There is nothing quite like Fretwork at their best. When the viol consort put themselves through their paces in the music of the late 16th and the 17th centuries, with music by Byrd, Dowland, Lawes and Purcell, the results are infallibly and unvaryingly stunning. The mutual listening, the sense of pacing, the balance, the homogeneity of sound, the results they reach are joyous.Joined by the light-voiced, highly intelligent mezzo-soprano Clare Wilkinson (pictured below left, by Stefan Schweiger...

Ohlsson, BBCSO, Oramo, Barbican

David Nice

How disorienting it is to find century-old works in the concert repertoire of which you can still say “I’ve never heard anything like it”. That must...

Classical CDs Weekly: Christmas CDs

Graham Rickson

 Christmas Carols from Village Green to Church Choir Vox Turturis/Andrew Gant (Signum) Vox Turturis's director Andrew Gant describes this...

Le Concert Spirituel, Christ Church Spitalfields

Kimon Daltas

The magnificent Christ Church Spitalfields is a masterpiece of the British baroque and very much an ideal venue for this Spitalfields Winter Festival...

Messiah, OAE, Howarth, Royal Festival Hall

Alexandra Coghlan

An earthbound Messiah lacks wonder and urgency

Siglo de Oro, Allies, Shoreditch Church

Geoff Brown

Christmas music from far and wide glowingly sung by a young, rising, gifted British choir

Stefanovich, Currie, Queen Elizabeth Hall

Gavin Dixon

Dream team for Birtwistle, while the pianist shines in Ligeti and Messiaen

Garbarek, Hilliard Ensemble, King's College Chapel Cambridge

Sebastian Scotney

The Hilliards and Garbarek know how to play the building

Aimard, LPO, Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall

Geoff Brown

Birtwistle’s new Piano Concerto dazzles, but that's only one course in an orchestral feast

Birtwistle 80th Birthday Concert, London Sinfonietta, Atherton, Paterson, QEH

Bernard Hughes

Tribute showcases a master of both the miniature and the monumental

Classical CDs Weekly: Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, Christina Sandsengen

Graham Rickson

Russian symphonies, a seasonal ballet and a Norwegian guitarist's debut disc

Levit, LPO, Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall

David Nice

Exhilarating gloom in the young Rachmaninov's First Symphony redeems hazy Scriabin

Chung, Kenner, Royal Festival Hall

David Nice

Hit-and-miss comeback for the great South Korean violinist, with stupendous pianist in tow

Queyras, Melnikov, Wigmore Hall

Sebastian Scotney

First of two Beethoven recitals is mostly persuasive, even if the first half has only one gear

Classical CDs Weekly: Brahms, Schumann, Strauss

Graham Rickson

German romantic music, from Edinburgh, Dresden and Melbourne

Sci-Fi Week: Scoring the Impossible

Graham Rickson

How can music express the unimaginable?

OAE, Tognetti, Queen Elizabeth Hall

David Nice

Australian live-wire violinist leads classical and romantic string music with varying success

Miloš Karadaglić, 'the guitar player of the people'

Adam Sweeting

How the man from Montenegro put the classical guitar in the spotlight

Classical CDs Weekly: Arnold, Messiaen, Poulenc, Saint-Saëns

Graham Rickson

Colourful British orchestral music, organ showstoppers and an avian-inspired piano premiere

Tsujii, RLPO, Petrenko, Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

Glyn Môn Hughes

A rousing standing ovation once again for Torke, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky

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

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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