wed 27/05/2015

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Listed: Essential BBC Proms


Hottest tickets for seats at the Proms have probably all gone already. Yet the beauty of it is that so long as you start queueing early enough you can always get to hear the greatest, or rather the most popular, artists, for £5 in the Arena which is of course easily the best place to be acoustically in the notoriously unpredictable Royal Albert Hall. And don’t say you’re too old to stand: a 91-year-old student of mine – her name, Grace Payne, needs celebrating – has been doing it, with a...

Tetzlaff, LSO, Harding, Barbican

Alexandra Coghlan

With Kavakos, Faust, Shaham and Skride already been and gone, and Jansen, Ehnes, Bell and Ibragimova still to come, the LSO’s International Violin Festival has nothing left to prove. We’re not short of star power in London’s concert scene, but even by our spoilt metropolitan standards this is a pretty unarguable line-up. With excellence a given, then, it takes quite a lot to startle a crowd into delight – especially on a Sunday night. But that’s what Christian Tetzlaff did with the unassuming...

Kozhukhin, BBCSO, Oramo, Barbican

David Nice

No two symphonic swansongs could be more different than Sibelius’s heart-of-darkness Tapiola and Nielsen’s enigmatically joky Sixth Symphony. In its...

theartsdesk in Dresden: Fire and Ice

Paul Gent

Dresden is slowly opening up to the world. All but destroyed by British bombing in the Second World War, locked away inside Communist East Germany...

Classical CDs Weekly: Bach, Shostakovich, Henrik...

Graham Rickson

Bach: Brandenburg Concertos Florilegium, dir. Ashley Solomon (Channel Classics)This is a predictably satisfying pair of discs, another outstanding...

Leçons de Ténèbres, Devine, St John's Smith Square

Sebastian Scotney

Divine singing which deserves to be recorded

The Creation, SCO, Christophers, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Christopher Lambton

Space and light in a radiant telling of Haydn's The Creation

Connolly, West, BBCSO, Davis, Barbican

Peter Quantrill

Masterful Berlioz and the valuable revival of a war requiem. No, not that one...

Classical CDs Weekly: Messiaen, The Knights, Jim Rattigan

Graham Rickson

Awe-inspiring noises from a French giant, snappy sounds from a young chamber orchestra and mellow music for horn trio

Tawadros, AAM, Tognetti, Milton Court

David Nice

Vivaldi meets the Levant in a vibrant mix of strings

Betrayal, I Fagiolini, The Village Underground

Alexandra Coghlan

Thrilling music-making but this story is lost in the telling

Yevgeny Sudbin, QEH

David Nice

One multi-movement symphony from the pianist who goes beyond

theartsdesk Q&A: Pianist Yevgeny Sudbin

David Nice

Phenomenal Russian talks about thinking orchestrally, inspirations, partnerships and Scriabin

Classical CDs Weekly: Brahms, Schubert, Sibelius, Wagner

Graham Rickson

Breezy piano duets, a pair of witty symphonies and rousing playing from a great American orchestra

Röschmann, Uchida, Wigmore Hall

David Nice

Mixed blessings from impressive soprano-and-piano duo in Schumann and Berg

Antonacci, ROHO, Pappano, Royal Opera House

David Nice

Nothing deep, but plenty of glitter as the Covent Garden pit band hits the stage

Hannigan, Britten Sinfonia, WRCH Cambridge

Sebastian Scotney

An evening which needed stronger works and more convincing playing

Classical CDs Weekly: Lutosławski, Szymanowski, Jórunn Viðar, The Revolutionary Drawing Room

Graham Rickson

Orchestral music from Poland and Iceland, and Viennese classical string quartets

SCO, Swensen, Queen's Hall, Edinburgh

Christopher Lambton

Meticulous readings of 20th-century masterworks

Grivnov, LPO, Jurowski, RFH

David Nice

Rachmaninov's dark heart encapsulated in the London Philharmonic's festival finale

Ensemble InterContemporain, Pintscher, Barbican

Peter Quantrill

Merci, Pierre: the group he founded pays stylish homage

Stephen Hough, RFH

Jessica Duchen

Bewitching pianism with powers of transformation make this an evening to remember

Fitzwilliam Quartet, Hay Chamber Music Festival

Stephen Walsh

New chamber festival is a refreshing antidote to second-hand books

Classical CDs Weekly: Arnold, Brahms, Bruch, Hartmann

Graham Rickson

British symphonies, German violin concertos and a dark 20th-century opera

LSO, Eötvös, Barbican

Peter Quantrill

Rituals of savagery and grief from Stravinsky and Boulez

Three Tales, Ensemble BPM, IMAX Science Museum

David Nice

Reich and Korot's dynamic reflections on 'progress' get new life from a young ensemble

Batiashvili, Staatskapelle Berlin, Barenboim, RFH

Gavin Dixon

Passion and intensity in Barenboim’s Elgar, but often taken to excess

Argerich, Staatskapelle Berlin, Barenboim, RFH

David Nice

A Schubert rondo is the unscheduled highlight, but Barenboim's Strauss is all over the place

Handel Singing Competition Final, St George's Hanover Square

Alexandra Coghlan

An exciting showcase, both for young singers and Handel's music

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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