sat 02/12/2023

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Grosvenor, Park, Ridout, Soltani, Wigmore Hall review - chamber music supergroup in perfect accord

Bernard Hughes

Frank Bridge’s Phantasie Piano Quartet was astutely described by his student Benjamin Britten as “Brahms tempered with Fauré”, so it made a lot of sense to programme it alongside the first piano quartets of those other composers. A “supergroup” of brilliant young soloists came together as an ensemble as tight as any that plays together every day, and made a committed case for each piece.

Dariescu, BBC Philharmonic, Storgårds, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - sounds of unquenchable optimism

Robert Beale

John Storgårds found himself literally facing both ways for the third item on the BBC Philharmonic’s programme on Saturday: towards the audience, with one music stand in front of him, as he played the solo violin role in Sebastian Fagerlund’s Helena’s Song, and frequently turning 180 degrees, with the full score in view, to conduct at the same time.

MacMillan's Christmas Oratorio, Lois,...

Christopher Lambton

It is not every day that a new choral work by a living composer can confidently be labelled a masterpiece. Yet this is what we have here. James...

Louise Alder & Friends, Wigmore Hall review...

David Nice

Sometimes all the stars align in musical performance. There’s no soprano more alive to the expression of musical joy and rapture than Louise Alder,...

Aurora Orchestra, Kings Place review -...

Rachel Halliburton

The Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottír found her work put under a strangely unforgiving lens when it was featured in Tár, the now infamous Todd...

Morison, Immler, BBCSO, Bychkov, Barbican review - a Kafka journey and a mighty landmark

Boyd Tonkin

Multi-tasking maestro shines with new songs and old forms

Classical CDs: Microphones, mazurkas and mad scenes

Graham Rickson

Piano concertos, operatic intermezzi and a striking collection of songs

Grosvenor, SCO, Emelyanychev, Usher Hall, Edinburgh review - lightness of touch and a sprinkling of humour

Simon Thompson

Romantic music played with period style, and the pianist finds the wit in Mendelssohn

Hallé, Elder, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - championing the rich and rare

Robert Beale

Solo qualities and thunderous climaxes in Rossini’s 'Stabat Mater'

Accentus, Insula orchestra, Equilbey, Barbican review - radiant French choral masterpieces

Bernard Hughes

A familiar warhorse alongside a neglected curiosity

Classical CDs: Drawing rooms, timpani strokes and domestic fiddling

Graham Rickson

Vintage recording techniques, partsongs and Soviet orchestral music

Selaocoe, Schimpelsberger, LSO, Ward, Barbican review - force of nature crowns dance jamboree

David Nice

Cellist, composer and singer is one in a million – and the whole programme zings

West-Eastern Divan Ensemble, Michael Barenboim, QEH review - enchantment and conviviality

Boyd Tonkin

In fearful times, a precious enclave of musical grace

Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Currie, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh review - maximum minimalism

Christopher Lambton

A singular pick of modern classics

Perfection of a Kind: Britten vs Auden, City of London Sinfonia, QEH review - the odd couple

Boyd Tonkin

An exuberant celebration of twin giants – but with a chapter missing

The Creation, Choirs of King's College & New College Oxford, Philharmonia, Hyde, King's College Chapel, Cambridge - sublime setting for mundane performance

Sebastian Scotney

A one-off reading which needed more joy and better choral diction

L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, Monteverdi Choir, EBS, Sousa, St Martin-in-the-Fields review - Handel at his most magical

David Nice

Milton's odes to the best of day and night in gorgeous settings and jewelled performance

Maxim Vengerov, Polina Osetinskaya, Barbican review - masterclass in technique with a thrilling rage of emotions

Rachel Halliburton

Complete mastery from the violinist, fire and vigour from his pianist

Lang Lang, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - playing with the music

Robert Beale

Passion and extroversion grow throughout Bach's Goldberg Variations

Lugansky, RPO, Petrenko, RFH review - so sure in all their ways

David Nice

Depth and clear intent revitalise two classics, while a contemporary work takes flight

Fanny: The Other Mendelssohn review - a tale of two siblings

Graham Rickson

Salutary tale of a neglected composer, neatly told

Feldmann, BBC Philharmonic, Storgårds, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - adventures in the unusual

Robert Beale

Enthusiasm rewards a musical journey to Finland and beyond

Classical CDs: Polkas, fans and chestnut trees

Graham Rickson

Czech piano music, Cuban mambo and a pair of Renaissance choral blockbusters

Capuçon, Philharmonia, Bancroft, RFH review - enjoyable all-American classics

Bernard Hughes

Meaty 20th century masterworks alongside a spry newcomer

Marwood, Hallé, Adès, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - winning way with new music

Robert Beale

By the end there was shouted approval for the new artist-in-residence

Schiff, Höbarth, Coin, Wigmore Hall review - Schubert minus transcendence

Sebastian Scotney

A disappointing concert

Paris Chapters, Barbier Serrano, Finegan, Ling, Bloomsbury Festival review - beguiling journey around Irishmen abroad

David Nice

French soprano and Irish saxophonist excel in new works and popular charmers

Rice, Ridout, Drake / A Human Document, Oxford International Song Festival review - a cornucopia of song, speech and vision

David Nice

Young artists, word, and image enrich two remarkable events in the Holywell Music Room

Song of Songs, Pam Tanowitz/David Lang, Barbican Theatre review - sublime music and intricate dance bring life to a 2,000-year-old love poem

Jenny Gilbert

Music and movement co-exist but don't align in a glimmering new take on an ancient text

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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