sat 25/10/2014

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Søndergård, Usher Hall Edinburgh

Christopher Lambton

Is there an ideal way to programme Metamorphosen? Richard Strauss’ elegiac masterpiece requires 23 solo strings; that’s more than most chamber orchestras can muster but with a full size symphony orchestra the piece leaves most of the players with nothing to do. In this Usher Hall concert the Royal Scottish National Orchestra chose to let Metamorphosen stand in glorious isolation before the interval. Those  players that could opted to stand – not an option for the lower strings – in a tight...

Classical CDs Weekly: Bach, Prokofiev, Shostakovich

Graham Rickson

 Bach: Partitas 1-6 Igor Levit (piano) (Sony)Martin Geck's sleeve essay accompanying this pair of discs is a good read, hinting at the subtleties and complexities lying just below the surface of what may, superficially, look like six simple suites of dance movements. Bach's title page for the first Partita describes it as music "for keyboard practice... composed for music lovers, to refresh their spirits". Geck quotes from a letter about Bach written by Schumann in 1840: “I confess my sins...

quartet-lab, Wigmore Hall

David Nice

Musical theatre needn’t be dominated by the human voice. Instrumental dramas with an element of acting can be a good way into the wonderful world of...

theartsdesk Q&A: Conductor Jonathan Nott

David Nice

When I entered the light and spacious chief conductor’s room in Bamberg’s Konzerthalle, Jonathan Nott was poised with a coloured pencil over one of...

Classical CDs Weekly: Mahler, Poulenc, Orbert...

Graham Rickson

 Mahler: Symphony no 9 Danish National Symphony Orchestra/Michael Schønwandt (Challenge Classics)The halting, juddering opening of Mahler 9 is...

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

theartsdesk in Bamberg: Top Town, Top Orchestra

David Nice

Conductor Jonathan Nott's world-class team is only one reason for visiting Germany's jewel

Remembering Christopher Hogwood (1941-2014)


Tributes to the conductor, scholar and gentleman from musicians who worked with him

Classical CDs Weekly: Aho, Bartók, Zelenka

Graham Rickson

Finnish concertos, Hungarian chamber music and glorious sounds from a neglected Bohemian

Grande Messe des Morts, Philharmonia, Salonen, RFH

Sebastian Scotney

Berlioz mass suffers from insufficient attention to the large chorus

Bavouzet, LPO, Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall

David Nice

Shostakovich's greatest war requiem, a modern masterwork and scintillating Prokofiev

BBC Singers, BBCSO, Litton, Barbican Hall

Edward Seckerson

Visionary Ives caps a fabulous programme with a BBC institution celebrating its 90th birthday

10 Questions for Conductor Vladimir Jurowski

Jessica Duchen

LPO maestro on the ins and outs of Rachmaninov, focus of this season's celebration

Benedetti, Manchester Camerata, Takács-Nagy, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

Philip Radcliffe

In a wonderful curtain-raiser violinist Nicola Benedetti demonstrates her passion for music education

Classical CDs Weekly: Gallay, Emma Johnson, Wihan Quartet

Graham Rickson

Rousing music for natural horns, clarinet sonatas and the Beatles as you've never heard them

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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