fri 24/02/2017

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Farewell, Stanisław Skrowaczewski (1923-2017)

Gavin Dixon

Bruckner conductors improve with age: Haitink, Blomstedt, Gielen – octogenarians all. But Stanisław Skrowaczewski went further, conducting his favourite composer almost to his death, this week at the age of 93. And more than any of his contemporaries, he seemed to embody the Brucknerian qualities of wisdom, experience and patience.

Mirjam Mesak, Kristiina Rokashevich, St Bartholomew the Great

David Nice

Treasure our young continental European musicians in London while you can. Only last week I learned that so many of the overseas students at London's Guildhall School had stories to tell about being questioned in public (usually "are you Polish?" with the negative ramifications that implied).

Juan Diego Flórez, Vincenzo Scalera, Symphony...

Richard Bratby

“Who says Mozart is not like Rossini?” remarked Juan Diego Flórez, about a quarter of an hour into his debut recital at Symphony Hall. “There are...

Aimard, Philharmonia, Salonen, RFH

Gavin Dixon

A new work by Igor Stravinsky is always going to be a major event, so Sunday evening’s UK premiere of his rediscovered Funeral Song was hotly...

Isabelle Faust, Alexander Melnikov, Wigmore Hall

David Nice

Polish composer Szymanowski's Ovid triptych Mythes achieved something like cult status thanks to an iridescent recording. Everyone knew the pianist,...

Classical CDs Weekly: Ghedini, Ives, Vaughan Williams

Graham Rickson

Refined Italian orchestral music, downsized Americana and pastoral pianism

Listed: How I Do Love Thee

Theartsdesk

Let theartsdesk count the ways with our romantic favourites from all over the arts

Classical CDs Weekly: Brahms, Julius Eastman, Überbach

Graham Rickson

Hamburg concert hall tested out, 1970s minimalism, and Bach on a vibraphone

Kaufmann, Mattila, LSO, Pappano, Barbican

Peter Quantrill

Restraint and reward in a Wagner evening of intermittent thrills

Grosvenor, BBCPO, Gernon, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

Robert Beale

A striking debut for a new Principal Guest Conductor

theartsdesk in Rome: Bartoli and Pappano on home turf

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Bach and Mozart in distinguished profile

theartsdesk Q&A: Conductor Jakub Hrůša

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Heir to the Czech tradition discusses his Bamberg orchestra's links to the homeland

Widmann, BBCSO, Oramo, Barbican

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Spirited premiere for innovative new concerto

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Graham Rickson

Orchestral delights from Bamberg, Cincinatti and San Francisco

Mitsuko Uchida, Royal Festival Hall

Gavin Dixon

Compelling accounts of Schumann and Mozart offer darkness and light

Argerich, St Petersburg PO, Temirkanov, RFH

Gavin Dixon

Touring Russians on fine form, and the Argentinian pianist shines in Prokofiev

Gauvin, Le Concert de la Loge, Chauvin, Wigmore Hall

Alexandra Coghlan

One of baroque's most beautiful voices delivers a flawless Handel recital

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Epic Czech orchestral music, Hungarian wind sounds and Soviet quartets

Elisabeth Leonskaja, Wigmore Hall

David Nice

Magisterial turbulence in Beethoven and Brahms, serene good humour in Schubert

Van Keulen, LPO, Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall

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Mourning and heavy-footed satire in a tough but rewarding programme

Aimard, Stefanovich, St John's Smith Square

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Superlative Messiaen, but Brahms disappoints

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Glorious abandonment and perfect technique from one of the world's great mezzos

Mørk, Bergen Philharmonic, Gardner, Cadogan Hall

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Gardner’s dynamic leadership perfectly complements the Bergen sound

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Fruity opera suites, classical banjo and fiery pianism

LSO, Rattle, Barbican

Peter Quantrill

Symphonies by Mahler and Turnage explode in an ecstasy of grieving

Summerfield, Jackson, Riches, Classical Opera, Page, Wigmore Hall

David Nice

Three outstanding singers and an early Mozart revelation focus on 1767

The Last Supper, BBCSSO, Brabbins, City Halls, Glasgow

David Kettle

A thrilling renaissance for Birtwistle's ritualistic religious opera

Bavouzet, BBCPO, Collon, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

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A new mirror on Ravel, left-hand piano virtuosity and subtle Shostakovich

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Brass bands, viols and a pair of 20th-century piano concertos

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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