wed 24/08/2016

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

theartsdesk at the Rosendal Festival: Schubert above a fjord

David Nice

More than just a great and serious pianist, Leif Ove Andsnes is a Mensch. His special gift in recent years has been to bring young musicians just establishing their careers together with star players like himself in beautiful and/or interesting places. I feel privileged to have heard him and his juniors in a programme of rare Sibelius melodramas in Bergen, Kurtág and Liszt in the main room of Grieg's humble home at Troldhaugen, and two shared recitals linked to the revelatory exhibition of...

Prom 48: Weilerstein, BBC Scottish SO, Pintscher

Peter Quantrill

If you go down to the woods today, to be sure of a big surprise is a contradiction in terms, but this pair of sylvan adventures by Matthias Pintscher and Mendelssohn was another example of the discreetly sensitive programme-building which has distinguished the present season of BBC Proms.Cello concertos have been a theme. Two in the last week alone (from Charlotte Bray and Colin Matthews) alongside classics by Elgar (at the First Night) and Haydn, played in yesterday’s matinee Prom by Narek...

Proms at...Roundhouse: London Sinfonietta, Gourlay

Helen Wallace

Some enchanted afternoon in Camden Town… the Proms returned to the Roundhouse after four decades with a dreamlike fusion of sound, space and light....

Classical CDs Weekly: Strauss, Weinberg, Rolf...

Graham Rickson

 Strauss: Ein Heldenleben, Four Symphonic Interludes from Intermezzo Melbourne Symphony Orchestra/Sir Andrew Davis (ABC Classics)This isn’t a...

Edinburgh Festival: Boulez celebration, Andreas...

David Kettle

Remarkably, Pierre Boulez made his first appearance at the Edinburgh International Festival way back in 1948, at only the Festival’s second ever...

Prom 43: Argerich, West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, Barenboim

David Nice

Two great artists and a Middle Eastern success story give generous measure

Prom 39: Johnston, BBCSO, Oramo

Sebastian Scotney

Mahler with beauty and natural flow, and a premiere with a problem

Classical CDs Weekly: Meister, Prokofiev, Uri Caine & Jenny Lin

Graham Rickson

German baroque sonatas, a Soviet symphony and scintillating music for two pianos

Edinburgh Festival: Bartoli, Barry Humphries, Deep Time

David Kettle

An audio-visual extravaganza, transcendental Mahler and raunchy Weimar cabaret at EIF

Proms at...Cadogan Hall: Hardenberger, Gruber, ASMF

David Nice

Classy not-quite-easy-listening from Berlin, Vienna and Stockholm, with love

Prom 29: NYO, Gardner/Prom 30: Kolesnikov, NYOS, Volkov

David Nice

Best of British youth blaze, with gold going to a London-based Siberian pianist

theartsdesk at the Verbier Festival 2016

Peter Quantrill

One-off hits and misses: what a festival's all about

Prom 27: Kuusisto, BBCSSO, Dausgaard

Alexandra Coghlan

Outstanding Finnish violinist gives the Tchaikovsky concerto a radical makeover

Classical CDs Weekly: Butterworth, Liszt, Nielsen

Graham Rickson

Perfectly formed British music, terrifying piano etudes and Danish songs

Prom 21: Leleux, Aurora Orchestra, Collon

Bernard Hughes

Feat of memorisation threatens to distract from true musical qualities

Prom 20: Roméo et Juliette, Monteverdi Choir, NYCoS, ORR, Gardiner

David Nice

The full Berlioz kaleidoscope well served by one of his greatest interpreters

theartsdesk at the Pärnu Music Festival 2016

David Nice

A love-letter to the greatest orchestral playing in a perfect Estonian seaside town

Prom 18: Mahler's Third Symphony, LSO, Haitink

David Nice

Supreme beauty of sound from a measured master conductor

Classical CDs Weekly: Bach, Graeme Koehne, Schubert

Graham Rickson

Baroque piano concertos, dazzling Australian orchestral music and a great song cycle from a young British tenor

Prom 15: Chen, BBCSO, BBCSC, Davis

Alexandra Coghlan

Mixed-bag Prom yields strong young soloist but some weak choral singing

The Kingdom, Three Choirs Festival, Gloucester

Stephen Walsh

Elgar yet again at the Three Choirs and as gloriously blurred as ever

Prom 13: London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir, Jurowski

David Nice

No-fuss Beethoven Ninth may be the most radical of all

Prom 11: Wilson, Creswell, BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales, Wigglesworth

David Nice

High artistry and deep heartbreak in Wagner and Tippett

Prom 9: Feola, Le Cercle de l'Harmonie, Rhorer

David Nice

Vivacious Italian soprano and first clarinet excel in Mozart and Mendelssohn

Classical CDs Weekly: Bruckner, Mahler, Nielsen, Schnittke

Graham Rickson

Austrian sacred music, a memorable live concert from Manchester and Russian violin sonatas

Prom 5: Missa Solemnis, BBCPO, Noseda

Peter Quantrill

An exhilarating assault on Beethoven's spiritual testament

Prom 3: Crowe, OAE, Cleobury

Bernard Hughes

Fauré and Haydn masses combined tradition with modern interpretation

The Brook Street Band, Wigmore Hall

Alexandra Coghlan

An all-Handel celebration for a baroque band marking a big anniversary

Prom 2: Boris Godunov, Royal Opera, Pappano

Gavin Dixon

Impressive ensemble allows Musorgsky's opera to shine in concert

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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