thu 31/07/2014

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Prom 16: Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic, Goetzel/Prom 17: Les Arts Florissants, Christie

David Nice

The sprightly tread of Handel’s Queen of Sheba, attended by two wonderful Turkish oboists, wove the most fragile of gold threads between full orchestral exotica and Rameau motets of infinite variety last night. Not that any more links need be found: it’s the addition of the late night events which turns the Proms into a real festival, not the mere concatenation of concerts you might find in the main orchestral season. And no-one could have asked for a higher level of engagement last night from...

Prom 14: Pahud, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Fischer

Bernard Hughes

Last night's Prom offered an intriguing mixture of French music both sacred and profane, with a British world premiere as its centrepiece. Duruflé’s pious Requiem rubbed shoulders with Ravel’s wordly homages to the Viennese waltz, Valses Nobles et Sentimentales and La Valse. Perhaps the most intriguing element was the least familiar, the world premiere of Simon Holt’s flute concerto Morpheus Wakes, written for the soloist Emmanuel Pahud, accompanied by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under...

A Hundred Million Musicians: China's...

Jasper Rees

A few years ago I sat high up in a rapt, sweltering Albert Hall as a lone pianist performed for two hours in the round. Neither before nor since has...

Prom 12: Bach St John Passion, Zurich Chamber...

Kimon Daltas

Sir Roger Norrington, 80 this year, produced a masterful St John Passion in the first of his two appearances at this year’s Proms, built around his...

Gallery: CBeebies Prom


In recent years the BBC Proms have woken up to the idea that an audience for classical music can be captured young. The Doctor Who Prom was the first...

Classical CDs Weekly: Dvořák, Haydn, Janáček, Thomas Larcher

Graham Rickson

Sizzling Czech orchestral music, witty classical symphonies from a much-missed conductor and contemporary piano music from Austria

Prom 7: BBCSO, Bělohlávek/Prom 8: Pet Shop Boys

Matthew Wright

Delicate Shostakovich, while the Soviet aesthetic is left to Neil Tennant

Man Overboard, Aurora Orchestra, Collon, LSO St Luke's

Heidi Goldsmith

London's cross-collaborating ensemble wears its USP on its sleeve

Prom 4: World Orchestra for Peace, Gergiev

Sebastian Scotney

International orchestra brings the light of hope in a very dark week

Simon Trpčeski, Wigmore Hall

Jessica Duchen

A Macedonian magician whose still waters run deep

theartsdesk at the East Neuk Festival: Littoral Schubertiad

David Nice

All-day Schubert by the sea and a Sibelius symphony in a working potato barn

First Night of the Proms, BBCSO, Davis, Royal Albert Hall

David Nice

Much-loved Elgarian completes his oratorios sequence with a subdued coda

Classical CDs Weekly: Hartmann, Mahler, Vaughan Williams

Graham Rickson

Three hefty box sets - each one a winner

Lorin Maazel (1930-2014) on Puccini's Golden Girl

David Nice

The conductor, who has died aged 84, enthusing in 1991 about a masterpiece

Classical CDs Weekly: Per Nørgård, Stephen Hough, The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments

Graham Rickson

Contemporary Danish orchestral music, a nocturnal piano recital and 17th century morris dancing

Daneman, Bostridge, Drake, Middle Temple Hall

Sebastian Scotney

Pianist and soprano capture Schumann's emotional range, but the tenor seems distracted

Pinnock's Passions, Handel's Garden, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Kimon Daltas

Musical showman leads candlelit exploration of magpie composer

Classical CDs Weekly: Turina, Rorem, Rhos Male Voice Choir

Graham Rickson

Glittering orchestral music from 20th century Spain, contemporary piano miniatures and an accomplished amateur choir

theartsdesk in Setúbal: Youth and music under the jacarandas

David Nice

A festival with a difference in a stunningly situated Portuguese port city

Classical CDs Weekly: Birtwistle, Shostakovich, ZOFO

Graham Rickson

21st century chamber music, Soviet quartets from Canada and Holst's Planets played by four hands

Jordi Savall, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Sebastian Scotney

An early music pioneer goes solo by Shakespeare's Globe

Crowd Out/Death Actually, Spitalfields Music Summer Festival

David Nice

Musical street theatre for all and meditations on mortality in London's best melting pot

Classical CDs Weekly: Brahms, Elgar, Tobias Hume

Graham Rickson

Violin sonatas, an epic symphony and music from a Scottish soldier

De la Salle, LSO, Luisi, Barbican

Edward Seckerson

Conductor from the New York Met makes LSO debut with Bruckner 8

Owen Wingrave/ Pavel Haas Quartet, Aldeburgh Festival

David Nice

Perfect ensembles in Suffolk vindicate a Britten black sheep and sear in great Czech quartets

Extracts: John Tusa - Pain in the Arts

Ismene Brown

Arts must stop moaning and politicos must trust the public's love of art, says culture chief

Anna Prohaska, Eric Schneider, Wigmore Hall

Geoff Brown

Gifted young soprano triumphs in a kaleidoscopic tour of war's battlefields

Classical CDs Weekly: Bernstein, Donizetti, Stravinsky

Graham Rickson

A compact comic opera, revelatory performances of two ballet scores, and the most sophisticated of musicals gets the recording it deserves

Gilchrist, Bevan, OAE, Devine, QEH

Geoff Brown

The OAE blow the cobwebs off a delightful 18th-century serenata

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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