tue 03/03/2015

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Rattle for the LSO: great or just good news?

David Nice

Having manoeuvred to get a new concert hall for London earmarked in principle, Simon Rattle has finally agreed, as we thought he would, to take charge of the London Symphony Orchestra in 2017. By then, he'll by 62 (though I thought the big idea was to leave Berlin at 64, an appropriate reference for a Liverpudlian).Yes, it’s a good move in many ways, even if I can’t be as unreservedly ecstatic as the press at large, which has at least done the classical world the service of giving it a...

BBCSO, Segerstam, Barbican

Peter Quantrill

The BBC Radio 3 announcer came on stage to introduce the concert and promised us "the 100 minutes" of Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony in the second half. Some of us smiled and assumed he (or his scriptwriter) had made a howler. Last time the Eighth was done in London, Jukka-Pekka Saraste led a vigorous account, not unduly rushed, taking under 75 minutes. The announcer, did we but know it, was giving us fair warning. Three hours later, boos and cheers mingled as the Brahmsian figure of Leif Segerstam...

Benedetti, La Cetra, Saffron Hall

Sebastian Scotney

There's a whole fairytale backstory to be told here. The residents of Saffron Walden and the surrounding area still can't quite believe their good...

Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, CBSO Centre...

Stephen Walsh

You might imagine that composers in general would write songs. On my way to the BCMG’s programme of pieces from the songbook assembled by John...

Classical CDs Weekly: Bach, Birkin, Weinberg

Graham Rickson

 Bach: The Six Cello Suites Viola de Hoog (Vivat)Two hours of solo instrumental music may sound daunting. Bach's six cello suites are anything...

Hardenberger, Philharmonia, Nelsons, RFH

Gavin Dixon

Great Swedish trumpeter entertains, but the Latvian conductor disappoints in Mahler

The Seckerson Tapes: Schumann Quartet

Edward Seckerson

Three German-Japanese brothers and an Estonian violist present their second release

Classical CDs Weekly: Monteverdi, Vaughan Williams, Simon Desbruslais

Graham Rickson

An early choral blockbuster, a war-tinged symphony and a disc of contemporary trumpet concertos

Von Otter, BBCSO, Oramo, Barbican

David Nice

Subtle heartbreak in Ravel and poleaxing Nielsen crown another concert stunner

theartsdesk Q&A: Conductor Sakari Oramo

David Nice

A Finn firing up the London concert scene talks Nielsen, Sibelius and concert halls

Kožena, Royal, Berliner Philharmoniker, Rattle, RFH

Jessica Duchen

Rattle's London residency closes more or less on a high

Philharmonic Octet Berlin, Queen Elizabeth Hall

David Nice

Chamber-musical perfection from eight of the world's best instrumentalists

Orpen, Françoise-Green Piano Duo, Aurora Orchestra, Kings Place

Geoff Brown

An uneven preliminary to the Steve Reich weekend, with older music stealing the show

Classical CDs Weekly: Nielsen, Prokofiev, Sculthorpe, Tchaikovsky

Graham Rickson

Danish symphonies, Russian piano concertos and Australian string quartets

Becker, RLPO, Ang, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

Glyn Môn Hughes

New double-bass concerto doesn't go far enough in an intriguing programme

Sibelius Cycle 3, Berliner Philharmoniker, Rattle, Barbican

Peter Quantrill

Rough and ready, ultimately magnificent, the conclusion to a series worthy of the hype

Alexander Ivashkin Memorial Concert, Queen Elizabeth Hall

Gavin Dixon

Great music from top performers and students in homage to the Russian cellist and scholar

Hannigan, Uchida, Philharmonia, Salonen, Royal Festival Hall

Sebastian Scotney

A magical, delightful Ravel opera in an imaginative semi-staging

Sibelius Cycle 2, Kavakos, Berliner Philharmoniker, Rattle, Barbican

David Nice

Well-earthed journeys across middle-period symphonic landscapes don't always move freely

Sibelius Cycle 1, Berliner Philharmoniker, Rattle, Barbican

Edward Seckerson

Sir Simon launches his anniversary series with freshness and fire

Lewis, Philharmonia, Nelsons, Royal Festival Hall

Gavin Dixon

Honest Bruckner surpasses a Mozart concerto pulled in two directions

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra, Scapucci, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

Glyn Môn Hughes

Conductor’s début follows the path of other greats

Bondarenko, LPO, Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall

Geoff Brown

An amazing Enescu symphony tops the bill in an enterprising concert packed with pleasures

Classical CDs Weekly: Strauss, Aurora Orchestra, Valerie Tryon

Graham Rickson

Horn concertos from a father and son, 20th-century Americana and a welcome appearance from a veteran British pianist

Carducci String Quartet, St George's Hall Concert Room, Liverpool

Glyn Môn Hughes

Début performance in city launches Shostakovich anniversary celebration

Tutuguri, BBCSO, Nagano, Barbican

Peter Quantrill

The UK premiere of a fearsome beast in the jungle of late 20th-century music

Classical CDs Weekly: Jürg Frey, Janáček, Trio Mediaeval

Graham Rickson

Minimalist piano music, rousing Czech fanfares and a vocal journey from Iceland to Italy

Florian Boesch, Roger Vignoles, Wigmore Hall

Alexandra Coghlan

An extraordinary musical adventure in the Austrian Alps

Hannigan, LPO, Jurowski, Festival Hall

Geoff Brown

A splendid soprano gets lost in the desert of Lindberg’s new work, but there are compensations elsewhere

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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