thu 08/10/2015

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Johnston, RLPO, Petrenko, Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

Glyn Môn Hughes

If you’re going to employ tens of extra musicians for Strauss’s gigantic Alpine Symphony, it’s probably just as well that a few other "biggies" are programmed in the same concert. So it was at the Philharmonic Hall, where the Strauss shared the programme with a new orchestration of Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons as well as a selection of Canteloube’s haunting Songs of the Auvergne. All three pieces are evocations of a place or a season, so this whole concert was almost a musical novel or an...

Belcea String Quartet, Wigmore Hall

Sebastian Scotney

To keep a string quartet on the road for 20 years requires patience, devotion and staying power. Therefore the Wigmore Hall's participation in the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the Belcea Quartet, which is being marked in several European concert halls, is fitting testimony to the achievements of these players. Last night's concert was the first of their London series.The Belcea Quartet in fact has only two members who have stayed the course since the 1990s, first violin Corina Belcea...

Total Immersion: Henryk Górecki, Barbican

Gavin Dixon

This was Henryk Górecki beyond the Third Symphony. His otherwise ubiquitous masterpiece was notable by its absence from yesterday's programme. That...

Classical CDs Weekly: Adams, Bliss, Matthew...

Graham Rickson

Adams: Absolute Jest, Grand Pianola Music San Francisco Symphony/Michael Tilson Thomas, with Orli Shaham and Marc-André Hamelin (pianos), Synergy...

theartsdesk at the Music@Malling Festival

David Nice

One of the summer’s greatest pleasures has been to confirm an often untested truism: that you may hear some of the finest and rarest music-making in...

Nelson Goerner, Wigmore Hall

Jessica Duchen

A life-affirming recital balancing kaleidoscopic detail with the big picture

Ehnes, BBCSSO, Runnicles, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Christopher Lambton

Brilliant realisation of Mahler's last word

Classical CDs Weekly: Haydn, Mahler, Schubert

Graham Rickson

Three sets of Austro-German symphonies

Cargill, BBCSO, Oramo, Barbican

David Nice

Mahler's cosmos vividly realised, but the Third Symphony needs more physical space

Trpčeski, CBSO, Măcelaru, Symphony Hall Birmingham

Richard Bratby

Songful Rachmaninov and imposing Nielsen launch the new season in Brum

LPO, Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall

David Nice

Total mastery over the nocturnal beasts and high-noon revellers of Mahler's Seventh

theartsdesk Q&A: Conductor Mark Wigglesworth

David Nice

English National Opera's new Music Director on Shostakovich, silence and 'accessibility'

Accentus, Insula, Equilbey, Barbican

Peter Quantrill

French polish for early-Classical antiquities

Baroque Alehouse, Eike, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Alexandra Coghlan

Irresistible, ebullient, exquisite music-making from a multitalented band

Perahia, Richter, LSO, Haitink, Barbican

Sebastian Scotney

Unforgettable Mahler, one-sided Beethoven

The Image of Melancholy, Eike, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

David Nice

Meditation, measured dance and catharsis from Barokksolistene

theartsdesk at the Lammermuir Festival

David Kettle

Pleasingly provocative quartet of concerts ends this year's East Lothian event in style

Sir David Willcocks (1919-2015)


A great soprano and mezzo, a choral bass and a conductor remember the chorus master

Classical CDs Weekly: Bernstein, Fučík, Wartime Consolations

Graham Rickson

An American symphony, some effervescent Czech marches and 20th-century violin music

Hofmann, Royal Danish Orchestra, Boder, Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Richard Bratby

Nørgård, Schoenberg and Nielsen from Denmark

'We have a duty to all children to share our rich artistic history'

Sarah Connolly

Transcript of mezzo Sarah Connolly's passionate advocacy of the arts at an ACE event in Westminster

10 Questions for Conductor Laurence Equilbey

David Nice

French music director of the Accentus Choir and Insula Orchestra talks different styles

Shibe, Egmont Ensemble, Wigmore Hall

David Nice

Could a young guitarist and piano trio possibly improve upon this perfection?

Anne Boleyn's Songbook, Alamire, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Alexandra Coghlan

A fascinating blend of musical mystery and history

Dunedin Consort, Butt, Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh

David Kettle

Cantatas, coffee and cake mingle to quietly revelatory effect

Last Night of the Proms, BBCSO, Alsop

Gavin Dixon

A musically variable Last Night, but with plenty of Pomp and Circumstance

Sticky fingers: Conductors at the 2015 Proms


Our annual celebration of photographer Chris Christodoulou's portraits at the Albert Hall

theartsdesk in Lahti: Sibelius 150, Sibelius Hall

David Nice

Top concert hall is the natural heart of this year's anniversary celebrations

Prom 75: The Dream of Gerontius, VPO, Rattle

Alexandra Coghlan

A glowing ending to the Proms season with a celebration of British musical richness

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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