sat 05/09/2015

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Prom 66: Uchida, LPO, Jurowski

Gavin Dixon

After the broad, lyrical Shostakovich Tenth Symphony Andris Nelsons presented at the Proms last week, Vladimir Jurowski’s austere and unrelenting Eighth came as a shock. The two performances were equally fine, but at opposite ends of the Shostakovich spectrum. And the effect was intensified last night by a particularly terse programme, delivered with unrelenting intensity. No easy listening here, but plenty of raw emotion, and everything delivered with utter conviction and to the highest...

Classical CDs Weekly: Mozart, Magdalena Filipczak, Masterworks of the 20th Century

Graham Rickson

Mozart, arr. Makato Ozone: Piano Concerto No.9 Makato Ozone (piano), Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, dir. Tommy Smith (Spartacus Records)This is something pretty special. Jazzed-up Bach usually works, as Jacques Loussier has shown, and I've enjoyed recent arrangements of Stravinsky and Messiaen. But Mozart? Here is Japanese pianist Makoto Ozone's take on the Piano Concerto No.9, the Jeunehomme, accompanied by the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. It's stunning, the most potent musical pick-me...

Prom 65: Coote, English Concert, Bicket

Alexandra Coghlan

What was a stunningly good Alice Coote recital doing trapped inside an A-level Theatre Studies project? I’m not sure that Being Both – the semi-...

Prom 62: Barton, OAE, Alsop

David Nice

A concert of Brahms chamber music I could understand, especially given a balance between early and late. An evening of orchestral Brahms, with or...

Prom 60: Denk, San Francisco Symphony, Tilson...

Geoff Brown

One astonishing creature was missing from the cavalcade of meerkats and whatnot featured in Sunday afternoon’s Life Story Prom introduced by Sir...

Prom 58: Kullervo, BBCSO, Oramo

Sebastian Scotney

Superlative performance of Sibelius's early epic coincides with Tolkien publication

Missa Solemnis, SCO, Ticciati, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Christopher Lambton

Beethoven proves immune to Ticciati magic

Prom 57: Pires, COE, Haitink

David Nice

Perfection within limits from a great conductor, pianist and chamber orchestra

Classical CDs Weekly: Hugi Guðmundsson, Schubert, Les Siècles

Graham Rickson

Contemporary repertoire from Iceland, Viennese symphonies and Spanish music from France

Prom 55: SWR SO Baden-Baden and Freiburg, Roth

Peter Quantrill

An emotional hail-and-farewell to the Proms from a superb German orchestra

Prom Chamber Music 6: Jeremy Denk/ Prom 53: Fray, Philharmonia, Salonen

David Nice

Blocks of Bartók hit hard, but an orchestrated slab of earlyish Shostakovich falls flat

Bach Hours: The Orgelbüchlein Project, St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh

Christopher Lambton

Immersive Bach experience on the Edinburgh Fringe

Prom 51: Boston SO, Nelsons

Gavin Dixon

Compelling Shostakovich rounds out a great partnership's weekend at the Proms

Prom 49: Hardenberger, Boston SO, Nelsons

David Nice

The masterly Latvian and his American orchestra stun in toweringly great Mahler

Colin Currie and Friends, Queen's Hall, Edinburgh

David Kettle

A bracing recital of minimalism and modernism from a fine quartet of piano and percussion

Grande Messe des Morts, Philharmonia, Salonen, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Christopher Lambton

Venerable chorus survives noisy epic

Prom 47 : BBCSO, Oramo/ Prom 48: AAM, Hill

Alexandra Coghlan

Dance rhythms pulsed through two fine Friday-night Proms

Classical CDs Weekly: Prokofiev, Smetana, Valentini

Graham Rickson

20th century orchestral music, Czech quartets and Baroque strangeness

Seven, Ballett am Rhein/RSNO, Edinburgh Playhouse

Hanna Weibye

Danced Mahler symphony is tour de force of energy and invention

Prom 46: Znaider, Danish NSO, Luisi

David Nice

Legendary Brahms playing flanked by a cornucopia of 150th birthday Nielseniana

Prom 45: Leonskaja, RPO, Dutoit

David Nice

Otherworldly Mozart and Shostakovich from a consummate pianist and conductor

Aimard, Philharmonia, Salonen, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

David Kettle

Last-minute replacement soloist makes for confusion in dramatic Edinburgh Festival concert

Prom 43: BBCSO, Vänskä

David Benedict

A surprise and two disappointments from the world's leading Sibelius conductor

Prom 42: Rachlin, BBCSSO, Volkov

David Nice

More earth than air in second Sibelius evening, though the Fourth Symphony impresses

Prom 40: BBCSSO, Dausgaard

David Nice

Launching the Sibelius symphonies, unorthodox Dane raises the First to the level of the rest

Currie, RSNO, Gardner, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

David Kettle

Bold storytelling in a programme of MacMillan and Sibelius at Edinburgh International Festival

Classical CDs Weekly: Schoenberg, Shostakovich, Maria Camahort Quintet

Graham Rickson

An epic cantata, an iconic Soviet symphony and some Spanish chamber music

Prom 38: Osborne, BBC Philharmonic, Mena

Bernard Hughes

Messiaen and John Foulds in an unlikely pairing that made for an intriguing evening

Prom 36: Hamelin, BBCSO, Roth

Sebastian Scotney

Luminous Ravel and cautious Stravinsky in a programme under the shadow of Pierre Boulez

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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