wed 28/09/2016

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Beethoven Ninth, RLPO, Petrenko, Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

Glyn Môn Hughes

The new season at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic is focusing on revolutionaries. Bach, Beethoven and Berlioz all feature strongly over the next few months, as will Stravinsky and – where else but Liverpool? – The Beatles.The RLPO has another reason to celebrate, too. It’s 10 years since Vasily Petrenko took up the baton as chief conductor of the orchestra and much has changed in that decade, not least the edgily confident way in which Petrenko and the RLPO explore the repertoire. The start of...

Mariinsky Orchestra, Gergiev, Cadogan Hall

Sebastian Scotney

This year, Valery Gergiev is marking the Prokofiev 125th anniversary with concerts and projects in no fewer than 17 countries. Yet much of last night’s concert, the first of a three-night stint in London, made this whole endeavour feel more like a duty than either an imperative – or a pleasure. The buzz that was around in London concerning the Mariinsky (then the Kirov) in the mid-Nineties, when they dazzled audiences in unfamiliar repertoire, has long gone. Gergiev himself is now very...

Stravinsky: Myths and Rituals 4, Philharmonia,...

David Nice

Stravinsky's music, chameleonic yet always itself, offers so many lines of thought. One struck me immediately with the descending, even harp notes...

First Person: Steven Isserlis on Schumann's...

Steven Isserlis

All musicians have particular musical passions, composers, styles or genres to which they are irresistibly drawn. I have many – almost too many at...

Lammermuir Festival 2016, East Lothian

David Kettle

It’s just a short trip down the A1 from Edinburgh. But East Lothian – with its big skies, wide-open spaces, empty beaches and seemingly inexhaustable...

Benedetti, LPO, Jurowski, RFH

Gavin Dixon

Imaginative programme delivered with intensity and precision

Classical CDs Weekly: Copland, Charlemagne Palestine, Lincoln Trio

Graham Rickson

American modernism, unhinged minimalism and a vibrant disc of piano trios

Jeremy Denk, Wigmore Hall

Gavin Dixon

Panorama of musical history reveals surprising connections

Modulus Quartet, Brunel Museum, Rotherhithe

David Nice

From the human to the cosmic, new works for strings in an atmospheric setting

Classical CDs Weekly: Michael Nyman, Stravinsky, Emily Pailthorpe

Graham Rickson

British minimalism, sacred sounds from a Russian exile and a disc of oboe music

Two Quixotes, The English Concert, Bicket, Wigmore Hall

David Nice

Invigorating early journeys around Cervantes' woeful knight

Eyes and teeth: Conductors at the 2016 Proms


Feast on our annual parade of bulging eyeballs and windmill arms at the Royal Albert Hall

Last Night of the Proms, BBCSO, Oramo

Bernard Hughes

Prommers delighted by a typically silly and overblown end to the season

Prom 74: Verdi Requiem, OAE, Alsop

Gavin Dixon

Verdi’s choral spectacular showcases impressive youth choir, but period instruments add little

Classical CDs Weekly: Elgar, Alec Roth, Australian Brandenburg Orchestra

Graham Rickson

British music from an Anglo-Italian combo, contemporary string quartets and a sizzling Baroque disc from Sydney

Prom 71: Staatskapelle Dresden, Thielemann

Peter Quantrill

A sunny trio of works for a feel-good Proms finale

Prom 71: Trifonov, Staatskapelle Dresden, Thielemann

David Nice

A reticent Mozartian turns triffid, and Bruckner is liberated by dance

Prom 70: Staatskapelle Berlin, Barenboim

Gavin Dixon

Adventurous Mozart and accomplished Bruckner from the Proms' latest visitors

theartsdesk at the D-Marin Festival: Turkish poetry in music, Bach at sunrise

David Nice

Open-air adventures from an epic Turkish oratorio to solo strings by the sea

Prom 67: Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, Dudamel

David Nice

From siesta to fiesta, with subtle textures the Venezuelans' unusual keynote

Prom 66: Berlin Philharmonic, Rattle

Alexandra Coghlan

A stylish send-off from the most distinguished of orchestras

Prom 64: Berlin Philharmonic, Rattle

David Nice

Superlative devil in the detail of a multi-layered Mahler Seventh Symphony

Classical CDs Weekly: Melartin, Rachmaninoff, Rzewski

Graham Rickson

Finnish tone poems, Russian sacred music and some eccentric piano variations

Prom 63: B Minor Mass, Les Arts Florissants, Christie

Alexandra Coghlan

A stylish B Minor that never quite reached transcendence

Prom 62: Skride, BBCSO, Young

Alexandra Coghlan

Heady Zemlinsky soars, but Mozart remains earthbound

Prom 60: Gerhaher, Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester, Jordan

David Nice

Young Europeans glow, but a usually great baritone disappoints

All Together Now: The Great Orchestra Challenge, BBC Four

Graham Rickson

Another 'Bake Off', with violins and trumpets

Edinburgh Festival 2016: Così fan tutte, Pekka Kuusisto, Gurrelieder

David Kettle

Explicit opera and a choral blockbuster among the closing highlights

Prom 55: Hannigan, CBSO, Gražinytė-Tyla

Alexandra Coghlan

A thrilling Proms debut full of invention and the unexpected

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

Close Footnote

Advertising feature


Belarus Free Theatre presents


Wed 31 Aug - Sat 24 Sep 2016, 7.15pm (2.30pm Sat matinees)

Soho Theatre

Tickets from £10


Belarus Free Theatre combine forces with Pussy Riot’s Maria Alyokhina to share stories of persecuted artists, living under dictatorship, who will not be silenced.


What happens when you are declared an enemy of the state simply for making art? Where do you belong when your government suppresses your basic right to expression? And how do you survive in one of the most brutal prison systems in the world?


This brand new production blends sensuous theatricality and vigorous physicality to shine a light on the suppression of artistic freedoms. Drawn from the real-life stories of Russian performance artist Petr Pavlensky, incarcerated Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and Maria Alyokhina, who makes her stage debut.


One of the bravest and most inspired underground troupes on the planet.’ New York Times


‘For the BFT, political theatre is not a genre, but a necessity.’ Vanity Fair


Created in partnership with ArtReach as part of Journeys Festival International; Co-commissioned by Art Centre Melbourne. Funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.


Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

latest in today

The Libertine, Haymarket Theatre

'History Boy' Dominic Cooper triumphs as the Restoration rake Roc...

Ana Moura, Barbican

The glamorous fado star shines bright with songs from her new, upbeat album

Damned, Channel 4/ Morgana Robinson's The Agency, BBC T...

Social comedy and sketch impressions

Beethoven Ninth, RLPO, Petrenko, Philharmonic Hall, Liverpoo...

Standing ovation ends series of all nine Beethoven symphonies

CD: Craig David - Following My Intuition

The ultimate re-re-wind for the Miami-fied UK garage behemoth

Free State of Jones

Remarkable true story of Civil War renegades suffers from shagginess

Helaine Blumenfeld: 'Beauty has become synonymous with...

To coincide with her retrospective 'Hard Beauty', the sculptor ta...

Kew's Forgotten Queen, BBC Four

How Marianne North mastered the art of capturing nature

Swiss Army Man

Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano go too far in self-indulgent indie two-hande...

Mariinsky Orchestra, Gergiev, Cadogan Hall

Prokofiev's 125th marked with mostly workaday playing