fri 22/09/2017

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Stravinsky Ballets, LSO, Rattle, Barbican review - the big three burn with focused energy

David Nice

“Next he’ll be walking on water,” allegedly quipped a distinguished figure at the official opening of Simon Rattle’s new era at the helm of the London Symphony Orchestra. Well, last night, with no celebratory overload around the main event, the homecomer was flying like a firebird, and taking a newly galvanised orchestra with him, at the start of another genuine spectacular.

La Damnation de Faust, LSO, Rattle, Barbican review - infernal dynamite

Peter Quantrill

For his monster concerts in 1840s Paris, Berlioz took pride in assembling and marshalling a "great beast of an orchestra". At the Barbican on Sunday night, the LSO filled the stage and fitted the bill.

Grenfell Tower Benefit Concert, Cadogan Hall -...

Sebastian Scotney

“Keep here your watch, and never part.” There was a strong symbolism of standing and singing together in the last moments of the Grenfell Tower...

Classical CDs Weekly: Cage, Mahler, Satie

Graham Rickson

 John Cage: Two4 Aisha Orazbayeva (violin), Naomi Sato (shō) (SN Variations)The shō is a Japanese wind instrument long associated with...

Tetzlaff, LSO, Rattle, Barbican review - a...

Bernard Hughes

After all the talk and anticipation, at last some music. Simon Rattle took up the reins of the London Symphony Orchestra last night – as its first...

Podium nitrate: Conductors at the 2017 Proms


Feast on our annual treat: BBC photographer Chris Christodoulou's action shots

Bridgewater Hall 21st Birthday review - from voice and guitar to four pianos

Robert Beale

Party time in Manchester brings fun, invention and a romp in unusual form

Last Night of the Proms review: Stemme, BBCSO, Oramo - international array, abundant blue and gold

Gavin Dixon

Final celebrations for a fine season efficient, varied, and fun as ever

Prom 74: Ax, Vienna Philharmonic, Tilson Thomas review - elegance without passion

Gavin Dixon

Orchestra shines but Tilson Thomas plays it safe

Classical CDs Weekly: Henze, Reicha, Shostakovich

Graham Rickson

Quirky pianism from a Bohemian in Paris, an iconic 20th century symphony, plus music from a post-war German master

Prom 72 review: Vienna Philharmonic, Harding - uncertain Mahler Six partly redeemed by brass

David Nice

Nothing like a blow or two from a giant mallet to kick a fits-and-starts performance into life

Prom 73 review: The Well-Tempered Clavier - Book 1, Schiff - glorious solo voyage across Bach's universe

Boyd Tonkin

Drama without fuss in a masterful journey through the keys

Prom 70 review: Denk, BBCSO, Canellakis - high, lucid and bright

David Nice

Bartók and Dvořák shine like new in the hands of two live-wire interpreters

Proms 67 & 68 review: Freiburg Baroque, Heras-Casado / Mariinsky, Gergiev - reformation and revolution

Peter Quantrill

Mendelssohn paints a picture, Prokofiev drives a tank

Proms 64 & 66 review: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Gatti - halfway to paradise with Bruckner and Mahler

Boyd Tonkin

Amsterdam's finest falter on the way to heaven, but get there in the end

Classical CDs Weekly: Mansurian, Ristori, Duo van Vliet

Graham Rickson

A powerful new requiem, baroque cantatas exhumed, and duets for accordion and viola

Prom 63 review: Gerstein, BBCSO, Bychkov - total mastery of orchestral sound

David Nice

Mighty Manfred, Tchaikovsky's grimmest protagonist, scales mountains

Prom 61 review: Fleming, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Oramo - heliotropic ecstasies

David Nice

Great American soprano complements vigorous Swedes and a Finnish master conductor

Proms at...Cadogan Hall review: Pavel Kolesnikov - Chopin takes flight

David Nice

Running the gamut from springy mazurkas to the great Fantaisie

Edinburgh Fringe 2017 review: Concerto for Comedian and Orchestra - gentle, old-fashioned humour

David Kettle

Vikki Stone's musical comedy show needs edgier material to live up to its potential

Proms at... & Prom 56 reviews: Multi-Story Orchestra / BBCSO, Hrůša - the best of all possible worlds

David Nice

Musical revelation in a Peckham car park launches extraordinary day

Prom 54 review: Kavakos, Filarmonica della Scala, Chailly - cool Milanesi mute Roman exuberance

David Nice

Bumpy Brahms and finely coloured but reserved Respighi

Classical CDs Weekly: Dutilleux, Dvořák, Ravel, Tchaikovsky

Graham Rickson

Russian drama, French impressionism and an enterprising new orchestra's CD debut

Edinburgh Festival 2017 review: Iestyn Davies, AAM - exquisite and enlightening

David Kettle

Droll introductions and sensitive musicianship in a memorable morning concert

theartsdesk in Estonia and Latvia - Pärnu Music Festival's great orchestra goes south

David Nice

Orchestral playing on fire, revelatory chamber music in two Baltic countries

Prom 51 review: Perianes, BBCSO, Oramo - brightly coloured musical postcards

Alexandra Coghlan

A glossy, glittering piano concerto and a deeply felt symphony

Prom 50 review: Josefowicz, Clayton, CBSO, Gražinytė-Tyla - personality in every bar

David Nice

Light rather than power in Beethoven, plus two superb soloists in Stravinsky and Barry

Proms 47, 48 & 49 review: Reformation Day - superlative Bach as the bedrock

David Nice

From organ glory to congregational chorales, another epic journey in the Royal Albert Hall

Prom 46 review: Gurrelieder, LSO, Rattle - gorgeous colours, halting movement in Schoenberg's monsterpiece

David Nice

Karen Cargill and Thomas Quasthoff provide the tingle quotient in a Proms spectacular

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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