wed 03/09/2014

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Proms Chamber Music 7: Benjamin Grosvenor/Prom 60: Driver, RPO, Dutoit

David Nice

After the enervating excesses of Salome and Elektra at the weekend, the abundance of notes at the Proms continued in a piano recital and an orchestral showstopper, but this time with built-in air conditioning. After all, both 22-year-old Benjamin Grosvenor and septuagenarian Charles Dutoit are absolutely in control of the colours they make, very occasionally too much so. But it was a rainbow-hued day inside the Cadogan and Royal Albert Halls, culminating in a spectacular and perhaps...

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Volkov, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Christopher Lambton

It is the fate of Edinburgh Festival directors to programme their music in the considerable shadow cast by the Proms in London. The undeniable economics of large scale touring means that few orchestras will visit Edinburgh alone, so to attract all-important critical attention the Festival must somehow manipulate a limited touring repertoire to create a unique Scottish event. But on the other hand, the festival must also recognise that for most of their discerning local audience the Proms are...

Classical CDs Weekly: Bruckner, Unsuk Chin, Dvořák

Graham Rickson

 Bruckner: Symphony no 2 Wiener Symphoniker/Carlo Maria Giulini (Wiener Symphoniker)No apologies for reviewing a reissue, as this disc is...

Prom 53: Brahms Symphonies, Budapest Festival...

Jessica Duchen

About 10 minutes into the Brahms Third Symphony I wanted to check a name in the Budapest Festival Orchestra’s programme. I dared to turn a page. Bad...

Prom 52: Budapest Festival Orchestra, Fischer

Sebastian Scotney

The first of this year's two Proms by the Budapest Festival Orchestra had looked like a rather strange confection, on paper at least. With eleven...

Prom 50: Weilerstein, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Bělohlávek

Edward Seckerson

An overly impulsive Dvořák, and a disappointing Beethoven from distinguished visitors

Classical CDs Weekly: Copland, Henry Mancini, Schumann

Graham Rickson

Well-known tunes from influential Americans and a German romantic in cerebral mood

Prom 47: Britten War Requiem, CBSO, BBC Proms Youth Choir, Nelsons

Edward Seckerson

Finely focused reading rings true and powerful

Wall, Mørk, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Davis, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Christopher Lambton

Heartfelt Schumann outplays heavyweight Strauss and lunatic Grainger

Prom 46: West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, Barenboim

David Nice

Subtle touches but too little passionate abandon in this fine team's lopsided programme

Prom 43: Skride, BBCSO, Gardner

Edward Seckerson

Cannonades all round as Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture follows Rachmaninov and Stravinsky

I, CULTURE Orchestra, Karabits, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Christopher Lambton

Music trumps politics in youthful, even joyous Shostakovich 'Leningrad' Symphony

10 Questions for Horn Player Sarah Willis

Jasper Rees

A second album for Berlin Phil musician will expand the repertoire downwards

theartsdesk in Verbier: Festival with Fireworks

Alexandra Coghlan

Mozart and Mahler at a festival that's about so much more than just star-power

Lemper, SCO, Foster, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Christopher Lambton

Full orchestral back-up for the charismatic chanteuse in trademark Weill and others

Classical CDs Weekly: Louis Andriessen, Mozart, Andrzej and Roxanna Panufnik

Graham Rickson

A dazzling contemporary opera, three classical symphonies and piano music from father and daughter

Gerhardt, Osborne, Queen's Hall/Keyrouz, Ensemble de la Paix, Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh

David Nice

Perfect cello and piano duo spotlights Britten, with eastern liturgical music to follow

Prom 34: Piemontesi, BBCNOW, Søndergård

Geoff Brown

Feathery jewels from the pianist, but mixed fortunes for Nielsen’s battle-scarred symphony

Quartet for the End of Time, Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh

Christopher Lambton

Composer-clarinettist Jörg Widmann crowns a strong team in Messiaen's wartime meditation

Prom 33: Schwizgebel, National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, Gardner

David Nice

20th century orchestral concertos in a riot of sophisticated colour from terrific teenagers

theartsdesk in La Foce: War and Peace in Val d'Orcia

David Nice

Musical youth and experience gather in one of the world's most beautiful landscapes

Prom 31: Coote, Hallé, Elder

Edward Seckerson

From Elgar at sea to the Eroica, a special relationship explored

Edinburgh International Festival Opening Concert, RSNO, Knussen, Usher Hall

Christopher Lambton

Debussy, Schoenberg and Scriabin induce only mild ennui in an unfestive launch

Prom 29: Grosvenor, Goode, BBC Philharmonic, Noseda

Geoff Brown

Disappointing Chopin, but an Italian rarity and the Royal Albert Hall organ offer honey and fire

Classical CDs Weekly: Grundman, Messiaen, Aki Kuroda

Graham Rickson

Diatonic Spanish contemporary music, a gargantuan post-war symphony and a disc of piano transcriptions

Prom 28: D'Orazio, Clayton, BBCSO, Oramo

Edward Seckerson

A great Stravinskyan king and queen surpass mood music for electric violin and strings

Prom 27: Trusler, BBCNOW, Wigglesworth/Inspire Workshop, Royal Albert Hall

David Nice

Youth and experience take turns in lighting up Elgar, while a violinist dazzles in a lesser work

Prom 26: European Union Youth Orchestra, London Voices, Petrenko

Alexandra Coghlan

A youth orchestra teaches musical history in an astonishingly mature performance

Prom 24: BBCSSO, Runnicles/Solemn Vigil of Commemoration, Westminster Abbey

David Nice

Vaughan Williams and Mahler engaged as World War One laments, but Purcell and Bach crown solemnities

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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