sun 04/12/2016

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Classical CDs Weekly: Prokofiev, Daniel Röhn, Ayreheart

Graham Rickson

Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet (Complete) Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra / Vasily Petrenko (Lawo Classics)

Uchida, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, RFH

Bernard Hughes

Leonard Bernstein once said that his favourite piece of Stravinsky was whatever one he happened to be listening to. I have a similar feeling about Mozart piano concertos: I love them all in their turn, and last night I heard Mitsuko Uchida bring two of the greatest of them to life, as pianist and director, alongside the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

Douglas, LSO, Søndergård, Barbican

Gavin Dixon

Thomas Søndergård stood in for this concert at a day’s notice – Valery Gergiev is apparently recovering from a knee operation and unable to travel....

Total Immersion: Richard Rodney Bennett, Barbican

Sebastian Scotney

Send in the paradoxes. Richard Rodney Bennett (1936-2012) had been so obsessed as a young man by music of the avant-garde, he would hitch-hike to...

Carols From King's: How a tradition was made

Alexandra Coghlan

For the first decade of its life, King’s Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols remained a local phenomenon, a “gift to the City of Cambridge”. But that...

Classical CDs Weekly: Elgar, Mahler, Georges Prêtre

Graham Rickson

Three hefty box sets, each one a winner

Large, Hudson Shad, BBCSO, Gaffigan, Barbican

David Nice

Storm-force Brecht and Weill means lumpy Korngold is worth enduring

theartsdesk Q&A: Pianist Idil Biret at 75

David Nice

A great artist's life, from lessons with legends to playing marathons from memory today

Classical CDs Weekly: Beethoven, Schubert, Tosti

Graham Rickson

German piano sonatas, Austrian symphonies, Italian songs

CBSO, Gražinytė-Tyla, Symphony Hall Birmingham

Richard Bratby

Head and heart triumph together in Mahler, Haydn and a UK premiere

Grande Messe des Morts, BBCSO, Roth, RAH

Peter Quantrill

A very French Requiem for Remembrance Day

theartsdesk Q&A: Mezzo Anne Sofie von Otter

David Nice

Most elegant and eclectic of singers on new operas and fresh collaborations

Classical CDs Weekly: Jonathan Dove, Ayako Fujiki, Anne Sofie von Otter

Graham Rickson

A cantata for Remembrance Sunday, a young Japanese pianist and an eclectic recital from a much-loved mezzo-soprano

Ehnes, Hallé, Elder, Hayward, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

Robert Beale

Elder tackles Vaughan Williams' symphonic masterpiece in a generous programme

Sampson, BBCSSO, Runnicles, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Christopher Lambton

Icy Mahler undermines heavenly vision

Steve Reich at 80, Barbican

Helen Wallace

Britten Sinfonia, Synergy Vocals and Clark Rundell hail the king of ruthless focus

Borodin Quartet, Wigmore Hall

Gavin Dixon

Longstanding traditions as vibrant as ever in Shostakovich and Beethoven

Classical CDs Weekly: Glazunov, Shostakovich, Wagner, Dragon Voices

Graham Rickson

Russian violin concertos, light-footed opera highlights and brass music from the Iron Age

The Sixteen, Kings Place

Alexandra Coghlan

A glorious finish to this year's Choral Pilgrimage

The Schumann Project, Oxford Lieder Festival

David Nice

Late songs, requiems and ensembles find serenity in times of trouble

'We should take a 1:1 ratio of male to female talent as the norm'

Odaline De La Martinez

Conductor Odaline de la Martinez on the female composers featured in this year's London Festival of American Music

Gerstein, BBC Symphony Chorus and Orchestra, Bychkov, Barbican

David Nice

Final instalments of Tchaikovsky series go deep in the hands of a master conductor

Classical CDs Weekly: Josquin, Mozart, Set in Stone

Graham Rickson

A pair of masses from the Renaissance, three iconic symphonies plus music inspired by landscapes - and perfumes

Wallfisch, LPO, Vänskä, RFH

David Nice

Sibelius' Fourth Symphony nears spare perfection in a mixed evening

Jamie Barton, Wigmore Hall

Sebastian Scotney

A wonderful Sibelius interpreter and canny programmer shows more than promise

Classical CDs Weekly: Leo, Martinů, Schubert

Graham Rickson

Neapolitan Baroque music, a witty Czech opera and a pair of piano trios

Zehetmair, LPO, Jurowski, RFH

Peter Quantrill

A trio of modernist magpies sing in strident harmony

MacMillan's Stabat Mater, The Sixteen, Britten Sinfonia, Barbican Hall

David Nice

Perfect world premiere of a spiritual masterpiece for choir and strings

Smith, Wyn-Rogers, Philharmonia, Pons, RFH

Gavin Dixon

Stand-in singer elevates Mahler, but Schubert disappoints

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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