sat 28/05/2016

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Classical CDs Weekly: Kenneth Hesketh, Vaughan Williams, Ensemble Pygmalion

Graham Rickson

Kenneth Hesketh: horae (pro clara) Clare Hammond (piano) (BIS)Pianist Clare Hammond writes of Liverpudlian composer Kenneth Hesketh’s ‘fierce intelligence’ in her sleeve notes. He’s not yet a household name, but he deserves to be: the music on this handsomely produced disc is strikingly original. His mentors include Oliver Knussen and the late Henri Dutilleux, both composers with fastidious ears. Hesketh’s dense, complex textures never sound too congested, and many of the heavier passages have...

theartsdesk in Warsaw: Moniuszko Vocal Competition 2016

Gavin Dixon

We don’t hear much about composer Stanisław Moniuszko in the West, but in Poland he’s considered a key figure in the history of opera. Moniuszko’s statue stands at the entrance of the National Opera House in Warsaw, and inside he’s depicted by several busts and portraits. In the second week of May, the venue hosted not only the Ninth International Stanisław Moniuszko Vocal Competition but also – in its Moniuszko Auditorium – Straszny dwór (The Haunted Manor), one of his most famous works....

Cédric Tiberghien, Wigmore Hall

Gavin Dixon

This programme looked like a non-starter on paper, a long sequence of short Bartók dance settings, followed by a second half that was dominated by...

Prohaska, Eberle and Friends, Wigmore Hall

Sebastian Scotney

A quick plot summary might be required here, because how this programme of Schubert, Pergolesi and Webern came into being was far from obvious. Two...

St Ludmila, Hallé, Elder, Bridgewater Hall,...

Robert Beale

The Victorians liked their oratorios long and loud (most of the time), and when Dvořák wrote St Ludmila for the Leeds Festival of 1886 he got the...

Ibragimova, BBCSO, Oramo, Barbican

Gavin Dixon

Eclectic but stimulating programme to close the BBCSO season

BCMG, Galbreath, Adrian Boult Hall Birmingham

Richard Bratby

A quiet requiem for Birmingham's least glamorous concert hall

Rysanov, Neary, BBC NOW, Outwater, Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff

Stephen Walsh

Welsh festival ends with two big, slow concertos, superbly played

theartsdesk in Göttingen: HandelFest 2016

David Nice

Two big concert successes atone for one frigid staging in German Arcadia

Classical CDs Weekly: Mozart, Vivancos, Rufus Wainwright

Graham Rickson

Wind serenades, a modern Requiem and a flamboyant disc of Shakespeare settings

Van de Wiel, Philharmonia, Järvi, RFH

Sebastian Scotney

Performances of Nielsen and Haydn that needed more orchestral focus

Lill, Moscow State Symphony Orchestra, Kogan, Symphony Hall Birmingham

Richard Bratby

An Anglo-Russian collaboration from an orchestra with a voice of its own

BBC Young Musician 2016

Jasper Rees

Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason triumphs in a final reaching remarkable standards

Stravinsky: Myths & Rituals, Philharmonia, Salonen, RFH

Peter Quantrill

Finding the fun in early and late ballets

theartsdesk at Tectonics Glasgow 2016

David Kettle

Hits and misses amid the weekend's genre-colliding exuberance

Classical CDs Weekly: Maurice Greene, Mahler, Stravinsky

Graham Rickson

18th century English music, a youthful symphony and a Faustian theatre piece

The Dark Mirror: Zender's Winterreise, Barbican Theatre

Alexandra Coghlan

Less a remix of Schubert's song-cycle than a fascinating conversation with it

Andsnes, LSO, Flor, Barbican

Peter Quantrill

Best-laid plans go awry in Mozart and Bruckner

theartsdesk Q&A: Violinist and Conductor Nikolaj Znaider

David Nice

A fine thinker among musicians discusses competitions, Mozart and Nielsen

Coote, CBSO, Wilson, Symphony Hall Birmingham

Richard Bratby

Sonic ecstasy and symphonic power in an all-British programme

Classical CDs Weekly: Beethoven, Cindy Cox, Nielsen

Graham Rickson

Two hefty box sets and contemporary string quartets from California

Igor Levit, Wigmore Hall

Sebastian Scotney

Indifferent Bach but a towering performance of Busoni's 'Fantasia Contrappuntistica'

A Midsummer Night's Dream, Middle Temple Hall

David Nice

Mendelssohn's incidental music adds to an enchanted Shakespeare evening

Zuev, LPO, Jurowski, RFH

David Nice

Rachmaninov's strangest adventure excels even Strauss's Alpine journey

Q&A Special: Sir Mark Elder on Dvořák

Jasper Rees

The Hallé's music director introduces a sumptuous festival of the Czech composer's work

Piau, Les Talens Lyriques, Rousset, Wigmore Hall

Alexandra Coghlan

An unexpectedly lacklustre evening from Rousset and his musicians

Classical CDs Weekly: Ibert, Martinů, Ravel

Graham Rickson

Czech piano trios and fireworks from 20th century France

Tharaud, CBSO, Volkov, Symphony Hall Birmingham

Richard Bratby

An instant classic from Hans Abrahamsen, and Mahler in inverted commas

Glennie, Ticciati, O/Modernt Kammarorkester, Kings Place

David Nice

Percussion and strings, contemporary and Tchaikovsky, brilliantly interwoven

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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