thu 18/01/2018

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Alexander Melnikov, Wigmore Hall review - three pianos, four monsterworks

David Nice

Living-museum recitals on a variety of historic instruments pose logistical problems. Telling theartsdesk about his award-nominated CD of mostly 19th century works for horns and pianos, Alec Frank-Gemmill remarked on the near-impossibility of reproducing the experiment in the concert-hall: playing on four period horns would need several intervals, and colleague Alasdair Beatson would hardly be likely to have the four pianos in the same room.

Feng, CBSO, Gražinytė-Tyla, Symphony Hall Birmingham review - pulling it out of the hat

Richard Bratby

Say what you like about Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s partnership with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra – and plenty has already been written – but sometimes the facts speak for themselves. At the end of this midweek matinee concert, an audience that had presumably been lured by the promise of Haydn and Max Bruch exploded in laughter and cheers at the end of a piece by György Ligeti.

Lortie, BBC Philharmonic, Gardner, Bridgewater...

Robert Beale

Edward Gardner was back on familiar ground when he conducted in Manchester last night – his high-profile career began when he was appointed as the...

Classical CDs Weekly: Brahms, Janáček, George...

Graham Rickson

 Brahms: Clarinet Sonatas, Janáček: Sonata (arr. Brill) Shirley Brill, Jonathan Aner (piano) (Hänssler Classic)Brahms's pair of clarinet sonatas...

Kožená, LSO, Rattle, Barbican Hall review –...

Peter Quantrill

Cheers and huzzahs greeted the arrival of Sir Simon Rattle on the Barbican stage last night before the London Symphony Orchestra had even played a...

Komsi, BBCSO, Oramo, Barbican Hall review - Sibelius series ends in glory

David Nice

Two great symphonies plus two haunting tone-poems for soprano and orchestra

Breaking the Rules, LSO St Luke's review – music and murder with Gesualdo

Jessica Duchen

Clare Norburn's concert drama receives a welcome London premiere

National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, Elder, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review – maturity from teenage players

Robert Beale

Birthday celebration includes vivid performance of first complete opera

Classical CDs Weekly: Feldman, Schumann, Vaughan Williams

Graham Rickson

The final work from a minimalist maverick, plus orchestral music from Germany and Britain

theartsdesk Q&A: Composer, chansonnier and conductor HK Gruber at 75

David Nice

On how Weill and Hanns Eisler gave him direction in the 1970s - and on meeting Lenya

Classical CDs Weekly: CPE Bach, Martinů, Walton

Graham Rickson

Three choice discs to end 2017, plus the pick of the past year's releases

Ivana Gavrić, Wigmore Hall review - more earth than air

David Nice

Rugged song and dance from Haydn to Grieg, but this Schumann was too prosaic

Best of 2017: Classical concerts

David Nice

UK orchestras on top form, while there's a bright future for enterprise elsewhere

Bach Cantatas - not just for Christmas

David Nice

Plan a year of listening to the greatest music known to man

Classical CDs Weekly: Adams, Schubert, BBC Legends

Graham Rickson

American minimalism, Viennese pianism and treasures from the archives: three magnificent box sets to end 2017

Joyce DiDonato and Brentano Quartet, Wigmore Hall - not enough variety

Sebastian Scotney

Richard Strauss supplies the highlight in the opera star's slightly one-geared programme

Christmas Oratorio, LPO, Jurowski, RFH review - right piece, wrong place

Peter Quantrill

Chorus and orchestra are the brightest baubles on Bach’s seasonal tree

Coates, Tenebrae, Short, Kings Place review - effective meeting of cello and choir

Bernard Hughes

Delightful programme of old and new music is a refreshing Christmas treat

Zimerman, LSO, Rattle, Barbican review - a diverse Bernstein centenary

Gavin Dixon

A spectacular showcase, both serious and light, 'Wonderful Town' complete with encore revelry

Octets, Wigmore Hall review - Heath Quartet and star friends effervesce

David Nice

Enescu's rare visitor holds its own against Mendelssohn's youthful masterpiece

Classical CDs Weekly: Christmas CDs, part 2

Graham Rickson

High-flying trumpets, department stores and civil war: six more of this year's best seasonal releases

Schumann Street, Spitalfields Festival review - illumination on a winter's night

Helen Wallace

More than a snoop around East End town houses: 'Dichterliebe' in startling focus

Mark Padmore, Mitsuko Uchida, Wigmore Hall review - direct and uncompromising Schubert

Gavin Dixon

A 'Winterreise' of sensitivity and subtly shaded emotion

Chineke! Ensemble, RNCM, Manchester review - musical advocacy

Robert Beale

A ground-breaking group in chamber music with a difference

Salonen conducts Sibelius, RFH/Oramo conducts Salonen, Barbican review - Finnish psychedelia

David Nice

A colouristic master excels as composer and - eventually - as conductor

Capuçon, BBCPO, Mena, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - awesome unity

Robert Beale

A UK premiere for Shchedrin plus two Shostakovich masterpieces

Johnston, BBCSO, Oramo, Barbican review - sheer adrenalin in early Sibelius

David Nice

Perfect salute to the Finnish independence centenary includes a vital UK premiere

Christian Tetzlaff, Lars Vogt, Wigmore Hall review - lyrical Brahms from veteran duo

Gavin Dixon

The great German's three violin sonatas shine in elegant and songful readings

Classical CDs Weekly: Sollazzo Ensemble, Barbara Hannigan, Zoltán Kocsis

Graham Rickson

Songs from the 14th century and a new disc from a versatile soprano. Plus a great Hungarian pianist's last recording

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

Close Footnote

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

latest in today

The Post review - Spielberg's glorious paean to print

It beggars belief that The Post took 10 months to travel from soup to nuts, from...

Alexander Melnikov, Wigmore Hall review - three pianos, four...

Living-museum recitals on a variety of historic instruments pose logistical problems. Telling theartsdesk about his award-nominated CD of...

All's Well That Ends Well, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse revi...

It's the people who are problematic, not the play. That's one take-away sentiment afforded by Caroline Byrne's sparky and provocative take on ...

Selma Parlour: Upright Animal, Pi Artworks review - incandes...

In the dark days of January, white cube galleries are luminous spaces. This is especially true of Pi Artworks right now: the Fitzrovia gallery is...

Feng, CBSO, Gražinytė-Tyla, Symphony Hall Birmingham review...

Say what you like about Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s partnership with the ...

CD: Tune-Yards - I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life

Growing up with the music of David Bowie is probably not the best grounding for being a music critic because it raises expectations unreasonably...

Art UK, Art of the Nation review - public art in a private s...

Art fairs are vaguely promiscuous. So much art, so many galleries, so very many curators. They’re a glut for the eye yet curiously anodyne — the...

The Commuter review - trouble on the main line

Nobody is more sensitive about the notion of becoming a geriatric action hero than Liam Neeson (“guys, I’m sixty-fucking-five,” as he points out...

Art, Passion and Power: The Story of the Royal Collection, B...

Henry VIII had a troubled marital history and Charles I lost his head, but both have also gone down in...