fri 12/02/2016

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Mahler 3, Fink, Philharmonia, Hrůša, RFH

Peter Quantrill

"It’s all very well, but you can’t call it a symphony". So said William Walton of Mahler’s Third, all six movements and a hundred minutes of it. Jakub Hrůša conducted the Philharmonia last night on fine if hardly infallible form in a performance notable for its restraint in a work remarkable for the excess which raised Walton’s eyebrow.There is a Czech tradition of Mahler which means something in the Third most of all his symphonies. Not for Kubelík, Neumann or Běhlohlávek the heaped-up...

Callow, Hough, LPO, Vänskä, RFH

David Nice

2015, Sibelius anniversary year, yielded no London performances of the composer's last masterpiece, the Prospero's farewell of his incidental music to The Tempest. With Shakespeare400, 2016 has already made amends: even if the Bardic input came solely from Simon Callow doing all the voices, and summing up the plot – "elsewhere on the island", "meanwhile..." – Osmo Vänskä served up more of the original numbers for the 1926 Copenhagen production than we've ever had live before. I'd hazard a guess...

Zavalloni, Saeijs, Britten Sinfonia, Rundell,...

Gavin Dixon

The music of Louis Andriessen is instantly recognisable but frustratingly difficult to define. The American Minimalists are a strong influence, but...

The Mighty Handful, ROH Orchestra, Pappano, Royal...

David Nice

What fun it must have been to attend any of the St Petersburg Free Music School concerts during the second half of the 19th century. Balakirev,...

Fleming, BBCSO, Oramo, Barbican

Gavin Dixon

Renée Fleming recently announced her imminent retirement from the opera stage. But she has no plans to stop performing, and will instead devote her...

Classical CDs Weekly: Dutilleux, Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, Amy Dickson

Graham Rickson

Early works from a French 20th century giant, Russian piano concertos and Australian saxophone music

White smoke at the CBSO: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla for Music Director

Richard Bratby

29-year-old Lithuanian conductor follows Andris Nelsons in Birmingham

Kraggerud, Gimse, Wigmore Hall

Gavin Dixon

Grieg’s bold Nordic spirit conveyed, but often at the expense of his charm

Benedetti, CBSO, Shani, Saffron Hall, Saffron Walden

Gavin Dixon

Young conductor leads dynamic and detailed Haydn, Szymanowski and Dvořák

Green Mass, LPO, Jurowski, RFH

Peter Quantrill

An ecologically themed pairing of Beethoven and Raskatov, memorable for all the right and wrong reasons

Classical CDs Weekly: Debussy, Tippett, Heinz Holliger

Graham Rickson

French piano preludes, British quartets and 14th-century choral music refracted through modern ears

Dutilleux Centenary, BBC NOW, Rophé, Cardiff

Stephen Walsh

Well planned tribute to a great French composer who bucked the fashion

Gutman, LPO, Jurowski, RFH

David Nice

A legendary cellist and a long Bruckner original face difficulties

Van de Wiel, Philharmonia, Wilson, RFH

Bernard Hughes

Great moments in Vaughan Williams's mighty 'A Sea Symphony'

Roméo et Juliette, BBCSO, Davis, Barbican

David Nice

Berlioz's fantastical invention superbly realised by Sir Andrew and company

Classical CDs Weekly: Bartók, Brahms, Copland, Wien-Berlin Brass Quintet

Graham Rickson

A pair of violin concertos, uncut Americana and chamber music for brass

Giordano, SCO, Mendez, Queen's Hall, Edinburgh

Christopher Lambton

Chamber orchestra delights in core repertoire

Trio Shaham Erez Wallfisch, Wigmore Hall

Jessica Duchen

Full-blooded music-making from a streamlined ensemble

Alder, Hulett, Classical Opera, Page, Wigmore Hall

David Nice

Second year of 'Mozart 250' places the boy wonder among the grown-ups of 1766

Mitchell, Atkins, Johnston, Queen's Hall, Edinburgh

David Kettle

A voyage around Debussy launches the Scottish Chamber Orchestra's 2016 chamber recitals

Barenboim 60th Anniversary Concert, Simón Bolívar SO, Dudamel, RFH

Sebastian Scotney

Monumental Brahms concertos celebrate six decades of RFH performances

Turangalîla, Wang, Millar, Simón Bolívar SO, Dudamel, RFH

Bernard Hughes

Messiaen’s 20th century classic was good, but only occasionally great

Mozart's Piano 1, Butt, Aurora Orchestra, Kings Place

Sebastian Scotney

An evening of fabulous musicianship, though veering in the direction of a lecture-recital

Classical CDs Weekly: Feldman, Nielsen, Scriabin

Graham Rickson

Spare pianism, ripe Russian symphonies and the greatest of all wind quintets

Boulez, The Rite and the National Youth Orchestra


Six former members of the NYO remember the late master's inspirational Stravinsky

Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, Dudamel, RFH

David Nice

Stravinsky ballet scores impressively articulated but with no whiff of greasepaint

Kavakos, Bullock, LSO, Rattle, Barbican

Peter Quantrill

Unabashed freedom and sensuality in an all-French affair

Watkins, BBCSO, Bychkov, Barbican

Gavin Dixon

An impressive programme, offering elegant Haydn and dynamic Brahms

Rana, CBSO, Gražinytė-Tyla, Symphony Hall Birmingham

Richard Bratby

Colourful Sibelius and selfless Schumann as Birmingham seeks a new music director

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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