thu 25/04/2019

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Brockes-Passion, AAM, Egarr, Barbican review - fleshly Handel for our earthbound times

Alexandra Coghlan

Whips, scourges, sinews, blood and pus: where Bach’s two Passions lament from a contemplative distance, Handel’s plunges right to the bone, to the cruel, tortured death that is the heart of the Easter story.

St Matthew Passion, Ex Cathedra, Skidmore, Symphony Hall Birmingham - powerful, poignant Bach

Miranda Heggie

For the final instalment of their three Matthew Passions this Holy Week, Ex Cathedra gave a large scale performance of Bach’s oratorio in their home town on Birmingham, after dates with lesser forces in London and Bristol.

Classical CDs Weekly: Gabriel Jackson, Lansing...

Graham Rickson

 Gabriel Jackson: The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ Emma Tring (soprano), Guy Cutting (tenor), Choir of Merton College Oxford, Oxford...

Javier Perianes, QEH review - not a Spanish fire-...

David Nice

Expect no cliches about toreador pianism. Red-earth flamboyance is not Javier Perianes' style, and the seven dances he offered in his programme -...

Philharmonia, Blomstedt, RFH review - gravity and...

Boyd Tonkin

Great conductors, like efficient auto engines, apply a lot of torque – they can use a little energy to achieve great surges of movement. Now aged 91...

Ehnes, BBC Philharmonic, Wilson, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - contrasts from the 1930s

Robert Beale

Walton’s Violin Concerto makes a deep impact alongside angst-ridden Vaughan Williams

Classical CDs Weekly: Mozart, Poulenc, Jeremy Denk

Graham Rickson

Strings and winds from Vienna and Paris, plus eight centuries of keyboard music

JACK Quartet, Wigmore Hall review – superlative Elliott Carter quartets

Gavin Dixon

Young American ensemble gives agile and luminous readings of complex scores

Classical CDs Weekly: Brahms, Haydn, Sibelius

Graham Rickson

Brahms cello richesse, Rabinovich sketches Haydn, Sibelius from Paris

Voces8, Cadogan Hall review – masterful madrigal singing and more

Bernard Hughes

Leading British vocal ensemble entertain with music from Weelkes to Britten and beyond

Judith, Royal Festival Hall review - a musical curiosity gets a rare airing

Alexandra Coghlan

Plenty of smoke but no musical fire in Parry's Biblical oratorio

Bach St John Passion, OAE, Rattle, RFH review – earnest devotions

Peter Quantrill

Peter Sellars presents Bach for 2019 in a ritual without religion

Classical CDs Weekly: Beethoven, Mysliveček, Tippett

Graham Rickson

19th century piano music, and symphonies from a 20th century British maverick

In the spirit of the composer as innovator: Samir Savant on the London Handel Festival

Samir Savant

The director presents a month of enterprising events

Melzer, Albion Quartet, Birmingham Town Hall review - songs without words

Richard Bratby

A quartet recital for a new century, if only we knew what it said

Biss, Philharmonia, Boyd, RFH review – compulsive life-force

Peter Quantrill

Polished Mozart complements late Schubert living in the moment

Soltani, LPO, Gardner, RFH review – disciplined and dynamic accounts

Gavin Dixon

Elegant Elgar, keenly focussed but sometimes lacking nuance

Vasari Singers, Backhouse, St Bride’s Fleet Street review - rarely heard choral classic soars

Bernard Hughes

Schnittke’s challenging Concerto for Choir given a committed reading

Classical CDs Weekly: Martinů, Prokofiev, Sullivan

Graham Rickson

20th century violin music, a Russian fairytale in a Scots makeover and an exhumed Victorian oratorio

Bach St John Passion, Les Arts Florissants, Christie, Barbican review – sombre but engaging

Gavin Dixon

An atmospheric but unfocused reading, elevated by a fine Evangelist

Schiff, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, RFH review – antique kit, modern sounds

Boyd Tonkin

Instrumental time-travels rejuvenate a Romantic trio

Connolly, Drake, Berrington, Wigmore Hall review – between the acts

Boyd Tonkin

Virginia Woolf inspires a rich if distracting mix of words and music

Classical CDs Weekly: Mahler, Sibelius, Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti

Graham Rickson

Two romantic symphonies, plus a Scots guitarist venturing east

Faust, Matthews, LSO, Haitink, Barbican review - glimpses of heaven

David Nice

Nature relished in Dvořák and carefully observed in Mahler

Janine Jansen, Alexander Gavrylyuk, Wigmore Hall review - a totally convincing recital

Sebastian Scotney

A superb duo on commanding form

Oelze, Oakes, Gould, BBC Philharmonic, Gnann, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - trio of surprises

Robert Beale

New conductor, new soloists, new programme – and a fascinating New World Symphony

Fellner, LSO, Haitink, Barbican review - the master at 90

David Nice

Mozart fine-tuned to the soloist, ideal but never idealised Bruckner

Berlioz Requiem, Spyres, Philharmonia Orchestra, Nelson, St Paul's Cathedral review - masses and voids

David Nice

Shock and awe on the 150th anniversary of the composer's death

Classical CDs Weekly: Bach, Lyatoshynsky, esbe

Graham Rickson

Solo suites, Ukrainian orchestral music and settings of Afghan poetry

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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