sat 24/07/2021

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Classical CDs: wolves, woodwinds and a masonic funeral

Graham Rickson

 Martha Argerich Edition (EuroArts)

East Neuk Festival 2021 / Benjamin Baker, Fidelio Orchestra Café review – singing in the rain

David Nice

The heading may be a bit misleading.

Carducci Quartet, Wigmore Hall review -...

Gavin Dixon

This programme was a bit of a calling card from the Carducci Quartet. They have previously recorded all three works, and the three composers, Haydn,...

The Dancing Master, Buxton International Festival...

Robert Beale

How would you solve the problems inherent in a production of Malcolm Arnold’s The Dancing Master, bearing in mind the need for social distancing...

'You have to be willing to kill your...

Clark Rundell

It’s taken me a day to try to find some words to share at the passing of my dear friend, mentor and guardian angel Louis Andriessen and I’m grateful...

Dunedin Consort, Butt, Wigmore Hall review – bijou Bach

Gavin Dixon

Warm and lyrical Baroque textures, but some sagging at slower tempos

Classical CDs: Solo harp, solo trumpet and two discs of orchestral jazz

Graham Rickson

Music with a Czech connection, plus an Israeli bassist and a Norwegian trumpeter

Never to Forget, Spitalfields Festival review – moving musical tributes to lost care and health workers

Bernard Hughes

Premieres by Howard Goodall and Errollyn Wallen speak for the power of live music

Tenebrae, Short, Saffron Hall review - from dark shadows to bright heavens

David Nice

A perfectly balanced programme of ancient and modern

First Person: Héloïse Werner on a live collaboration with fellow composers and performers

Héloïse Werner

New music in a trio concert with a difference

theartsdesk Q&A: composer and conductor Carl Davis

Graham Rickson

The silent film specialist on shot lists, bass drums and the perils of projection speeds

'In music, we are together': saxophonist Jess Gillam on returning to concerts with audience

Jess Gillam

One of our liveliest musical communicators on the slow journey out of lockdown

First Person: Roxanna Panufnik on a new version of her 'Letters from Burma' in aid of Myanmar refugees

Roxanna Panufnik

The composer on why she expanded a chamber piece for London Mozart Players

Hallé, Berglund, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - taking Beethoven seriously

Robert Beale

A young conductor brings confidence and maturity to the fore

Classical CDs: Bassoons, brass and symphonic compression

Graham Rickson

20th century symphonies, romantic chamber music and some ingenious brass transcriptions

Matthews, LPO, Ticciati, Glyndebourne review - out of this world

David Nice

From solemn ritual to far horizons, a brilliantly programmed sequence

From cancellation to new vigour: pianist and artistic director Joseph Middleton on Leeds Lieder

Joseph Middleton

One of our most enterprising younger-generation performers on renewing a major festival

Uchida, Philharmonia, Salonen, RFH review - Bach to the future

David Nice

The conductor as beguiling composer between arrangements and a Beethoven concerto

Bostridge, CBSO, Seal, Symphony Hall Birmingham review - large and live

Richard Bratby

Malcolm Arnold's Fifth Symphony shoots for the stars in a programme of British rarities

Grosvenor, RSNO, Chan, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall online review - too big for the small screen

Christopher Lambton

Polish modernism flanks Benjamin Grosvenor in Chopin's First Piano Concerto

Dark Days, Luminous Nights, Manchester Collective, The White Hotel, Salford review - a sense of Hades

Robert Beale

Musicians and artists find out where the bodies are buried

Bronfman, Philharmonia, Salonen, RFH review – celebration around C major

David Nice

The brilliant first of a great principal conductor’s two farewell programmes

Classical CDs: Three great conductors remembered, Mahler with accordion and a song cycle with no singer

Graham Rickson

Big box sets, a symphonic swansong in miniature and contemporary music for piano trio

Gweneth Ann Rand, Simon Lepper, Wigmore Hall review - a richly hued collection of songs

Miranda Heggie

An exploration of black voices through music

Swan Lake, LPO, Jurowski, Marquee TV review - full Tchaikovsky score perfectly paced

David Nice

Smoke and lights get in your eyes, but the sounds are magnificent

Wigmore Hall at Portman Square / Wang, LSO, Tilson Thomas, LSO St Luke's review - al fresco chamber, full orchestra indoors

David Nice

An exhilarating Sunday moving from percussionists to strings and on to a big symphony

András Schiff, Wigmore Hall review - mystery marvels mesmerise

Jessica Duchen

A surprise programme of less obvious works casts a spell all its own

Bergen International Festival, 26 May - 9 June preview - Norway meets America


The largest curated festival for music and performing arts in the Nordic region. Around 30 digital events to watch from anywhere around the world.

Ragged Music Festival 2021, Ragged School Museum review - harrowing of hell from great musicians

David Nice

Pavel Kolesnikov and Samson Tsoy welcome colleagues for a mind-blowing weekend

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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