sun 16/06/2024

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Bach's Mass in B Minor, Collegium Vocale Gent, Herreweghe, Barbican - masterful subtlety proves more intriguing than compelling

Rachel Halliburton

There’s a masterful subtlety to Philippe Herreweghe’s interpretation of Bach’s last great choral work – it shuns blazing transcendence for a sense of serene contemplation that reveals every angle of the mass’s geometrical perfection. Listening to the multiple layers of sound is rather like appreciating the shifting colours in the inlaid mother of pearl on a harpsichord – nothing dazzles, but it draws you in with its meticulous polish and understated beauty.

theartsdesk at the 2024 Aldeburgh Festival - romantic journeys, cosmic hallucinations and wild stomps

David Nice

It may be unusual to begin festival coverage with praise of the overseer rather than the artists. Yet Roger Wright, who quietly leaves his post at Britten Pears Arts this July after a momentous decade, is no ordinary Chief Executive. I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about him; he has been a beacon during difficult times for the arts in the UK, and especially during lockdown; and he leaves the Aldeburgh Festival in best ever shape, just as he did the BBC Proms before it.

First Person: The Henschel Quartet at 30

The Henschel Quartet

We vividly remember the image of Martin Lovett, the cellist of the legendary Amadeus Quartet, bursting out laughing. He tells his favourite true...

Trpčeski, RSNO, Søndergård, Usher Hall, Edinburgh...

Simon Thompson

Edinburgh is lucky to get a lot of high quality musicians coming to perform, not least during the summer festival season, but the most high profile...

Classical CDs: Sailors, serenades and slavery

Graham Rickson

 ECHOES: Duets by Schumann Brahms, Saint-Saëns et al Katharina Konradi (soprano), Catriona Morison (mezzo), Ammiel Bushakevitz (piano)(CAvi/SWR/...

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Abel Selaocoe / Dermot Dunne & Martin Tourish, Dublin International Chamber Music Festival - genius transfigures genius

David Nice

Cellist-plus spellbinds, while Bach's Goldberg Variations soar on two accordions

Hallé, Elder, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - a fine and fitting finale for Sir Mark

Robert Beale

An immediately attractive new choral-orchestral work from Sir James MacMillan

Murrihy, Martineau, Wigmore Hall review - poise, transformation and rainbow colours

David Nice

A great Irish mezzo and Scottish pianist rise to Berlioz and surprise in Britten

St Martin's Voices, Earis, St Martin-in-the-Fields review - music from the beginning

Bernard Hughes

Young singers explore traditional and more unusual settings of biblical creation narratives

Sheffield Chamber Music Festival 2024 review - curator Steven Isserlis spotlights masterly Fauré and Saint-Saëns

David Nice

More delights in the round as Ensemble 360 is joined by very special guests

Sphinx Organization, Wigmore Hall review - black performers and composers take centre stage

Bernard Hughes

A welcome spotlight on diversified repertoire, played with sincerity and humour

Classical CDs: Cowhorns, gloves and marching drums

Graham Rickson

Contemporary sounds from Norway, plus rediscovered American and a brass dectet

Kolesnikov, Wigmore Hall review - celestial navigation through a cabinet of wonders

Bernard Hughes

Quirky but brilliant programme finds connections between unlikely bedfellows

Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, Sousa, St Martin-in-the-Fields review - Beethoven, younger than springtime

Boyd Tonkin

An exuberant cobweb-clearing symphony cycle

Hough, Hallé, Elder, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - affection and adventure

Robert Beale

Sir Stephen Hough’s piano concerto receives its European premiere

Bavouzet, Manchester Camerata, Takács-Nagy, Stoller Hall, Manchester review - fun with abandon

Robert Beale

Approaching the final goal of ‘Mozart, made in Manchester’

Dunedin Consort, Mulroy, Wigmore Hall review - songs of love old and new

Bernard Hughes

First-rate chamber choir explore contemporary and Renaissance approaches to amour

Coote, LSO, Tilson Thomas, Barbican review - the triumph of life

Boyd Tonkin

A great, ailing conductor rises to Mahler's mightiest challenge

Britten Sinfonia, The Marian Consort, Milton Court review - a journey around turbulent spirit Gesualdo

Rachel Halliburton

Contemporary homages among the works in this celebration of the Renaissance 'badass'

Classical CDs: Coffee, peppercorns and puppets

Graham Rickson

A prolific conductor's centenary celebrated, plus Hungarian ballet music and baroque keyboard concertos

Gomyo, National Symphony Orchestra, Kuokman, National Concert Hall, Dublin review - painful brilliance around a heart of darkness

David Nice

A violinist for all facets of a towering Shostakovich masterpiece

Sansara, Manchester Collective, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - sense of a unique experience

Robert Beale

Three world premieres all respond to Feldman’s 'Rothko Chapel'

Remembering conductor Andrew Davis (1944-2024)


Fellow conductors, singers, instrumentalists and administrators recall a true Mensch

Hallé, Wong, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - meeting a musical communicator

Robert Beale

Drama and emotional power from a new principal conductor

Guildhall School Gold Medal 2024, Barbican review - quirky-wonderful programme ending in an award

David Nice

Ginastera spolights the harp, Nino Rota the double bass in dazzling performances

Queyras, Philharmonia, Suzuki, RFH review - Romantic journeys

Boyd Tonkin

Japan's Bach maestro flourishes in fresh fields

Classical CDs: Swans, hamlets and bossa nova

Graham Rickson

A promising young pianist's debut disc, plus Finnish mythology and a trio of neglected British composers

Christian Pierre La Marca, Yaman Okur, St Martin-in-The-Fields review - engagingly subversive pairing falls short

Rachel Halliburton

A collaboration between a cellist and a breakdancer doesn't achieve lift off

Ridout, Włoszczowska, Crawford, Lai, Posner, Wigmore Hall review - electrifying teamwork

David Nice

High-voltage Mozart and Schoenberg, blended Brahms, in a fascinating programme

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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