sun 23/07/2017

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Classical CDs Weekly: Beethoven, Louis Frémaux, Les Passions de l’Ame

Graham Rickson

 Beethoven: Symphonies 1-9 Gewandhausorchester Leipzig/Herbert Blomstedt (Accentus)

Prom 7 review: Weilerstein, BBCSO, Weilerstein - new cello concerto enthrals

Alexandra Coghlan

It’s at times like this that I give thanks for the Proms. Who else would (or could) have put together a programme pairing Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique with an 18th-century sonic fantasy, or topped it off with a substantial UK premiere? A bit bonkers on the page, it remained so in performance.

Prom 6: Benedetti, BBC NOW, Søndergård - dazzling...

Gavin Dixon

Nicola Benedetti was the star of this show, no doubt about that. She is a Proms regular and favourite, attracting a large and enthusiastic audience,...

Prom 3: Faust, COE, Haitink - Europeans tread air...

David Nice

The message must be getting through. On the First Night of the Proms, Igor Levit played as encore Liszt's transcription of the great Beethoven melody...

Enter theartsdesk's Young Reviewer of the...


The Hospital Club’s annual h.Club100 awards celebrate the most influential and innovative people working in the UK’s creative industries, with...

Prom 1 review: Levit, BBCSO, Gardner - fizzing Adams finally ignites mixed First Night

Bernard Hughes

Controlled premiere and subdued Beethoven redeemed by a choral blockbuster

Classical CDs Weekly: Leonid Desyatnikov, Dimitar Nenov, Ars Nova Copenhagen

Graham Rickson

Fascinating discoveries from Russia and Bulgaria, plus a winning choral disc from Denmark

Ke Ma, Wigmore Hall review - a debut of distinction

Peter Quantrill

A showcase for a young pianist, but Chopin's the jewel

Kozhukhin, LSO, Rattle, Barbican

David Nice

A self-love scene, a rehearsal-level concerto and weird Haydn don't quite add up

East Neuk Festival review - Schubert, brass and nine electric guitars

David Nice

A Schubertiad with the great Elisabeth Leonskaja isn't the only highlight on the Fife coast

Pick of the 2017 BBC Proms: from Orthodox chant to Oklahoma!


theartsdesk's classical music writers make their choices

Classical CDs Weekly: Peter Eötvös, London Conchord Ensemble, Kate Lindsey

Graham Rickson

Viennese chamber music, Hungarian opera and smouldering songs from composers in exile

'Oh, the glamour!' - Roderick Williams weighs up a singer's life

Roderick Williams

The baritone and composer on reaching out to the audience

OAE, Christie, St John's Smith Square

Gavin Dixon

Vibrant programme exploring Bach’s French connection

Classical CDs Weekly: Brahms, Haydn, GrauSchumacher Piano Duo

Graham Rickson

Keyboard music from Austria, Germany, France and Bali

Classical CDs Weekly: Falla, Ravel, Antoine Tamestit, The American Brass Quintet

Graham Rickson

French and Spanish piano music, plus seductive viola sounds and phenomenal brass playing

Ensemble InterContemporain, Wigmore Hall

Gavin Dixon

Eccentricity inspires colour, nuance and slapstick from young composer Matteo Franceschini

Classical CDs Weekly: Antheil, Debussy, Hosokawa, Schmidt

Graham Rickson

Symphonies from a self-styled 'bad boy', plus music from Austria, France and Japan

Kuusisto, London Chamber Orchestra, Ashkenazy, Cadogan Hall

David Nice

Elegies abounding in Elgar and Sibelius, but the encore was the biggest tearjerker

theartsdesk at the Istanbul Music Festival: East and West in perfect balance

David Nice

From Sufi music magically reimagined to high-quality Mozart from Turkish players

Classical CDs Weekly: Mahler, Shostakovich, Michael Barenboim

Graham Rickson

Late romantic symphonic excess, post-war Soviet pianism and epic music for solo violin

'You are my hero, dear Jiří': Karita Mattila and others remember Jiří Bělohlávek


A younger conductor, a diva and four players salute the greatest of Czech musicians

Britten Sinfonia, Adès, Barbican

Gavin Dixon

High-octane accounts, but Beethoven lacks finesse

Gurrelieder, Hallé, BBCPO, Elder, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

Robert Beale

Super-orchestra and choirs deliver Schoenberg's affirmation of the victory of love

Evgeny Kissin: Memoirs and Reflections review - Russian education, European conviction, Jewish heritage

David Nice

The one-time prodigy is now the wisest and most generous of great pianists

theartsdesk in Göttingen: Handel for all

David Nice

Dazzling singers, clavichord at sunrise and a generous spirit in the heart of Germany

Classical CDs Weekly: Brian Elias, Stravinsky, Palaeolithic Bone Flutes

Graham Rickson

Sophocles set to music, Stravinsky from Sydney, and sounds of the Stone Age

Little, CBSO, Seal, Symphony Hall Birmingham

Richard Bratby

First-rate Walton tops second-rate Britten, but Beethoven carries the day

Richard Goode, Royal Festival Hall

Jessica Duchen

The American master pianist's recital casts rewarding light on chewy repertoire

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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