sat 19/01/2019

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Bang on a Can All-Stars, Kings Place review - a kaleidoscope of vibrant sound and vision

David Nice

Julia Wolfe, Caroline Shaw, Anna Þorvaldsdóttir: three names on quite a list I reeled off earlier this week when someone asked me why I found the compositions of Rebecca Saunders, in the news for winning the €250,000 Ernst von Siemens Prize, too arid, and whom I’d choose instead. Saunders gets a look-in at the very end of this Kings Place year of music by women, Venus Unwrapped, so I'll just have to try again.

Classical CDs Weekly: Mia Brentano, Wim Henderickx, Saint-Saëns

Graham Rickson

 Mia Brentano’s Hidden Sea – 20 Songs for 2 Pianos Benyamin Nuss & Max Nyberg (pianos) (Mons Records)

Ehnes, BBCSO, Ryan Wigglesworth, Barbican review...

Gavin Dixon

The big news on this programme was Schoenberg’s Pelleas and Melisande. This early score, completed in 1903, is a sprawling Expressionist tone poem,...

Murrihy, Britten Sinfonia, Elder, Barbican review...

Boyd Tonkin

As the January chill began to bite around the Barbican, Sir Mark Elder and the Britten Sinfonia summoned memories of spring and summer – but of sunny...

Winterreise, Gerhaher, Huber, Wigmore Hall review...

Boyd Tonkin

As Wigmore Hall audiences really ought to know, silence can be golden. Especially at the close of Schubert’s Winterreise, as the uncanny drone-like...

LSO, Rattle, Barbican review - Bartók dances, Bruckner sings

Gavin Dixon

Intense but deeply personal accounts of two musical monoliths

Fibonacci Sequence, Conway Hall review - characterful chamber music for winds

Bernard Hughes

Ensemble launches its 25th year with a sunny programme

Mutter, Vengerov, Argerich, Oxford Philharmonic, Papadopoulos, Barbican review - a birthday banquet

Boyd Tonkin

A young orchestra celebrates with stellar friends

Classical CDs Weekly: Joe Cutler, Elgar, Septura

Graham Rickson

Anvils, football, bears and trumpets feature in this week's all-British selection

Hannigan, LSO, Rattle, Barbican review - the sublime and the beautiful

Boyd Tonkin

Music of grandeur and delicacy from the Nordic lands

Classical CDs Weekly: Mendelssohn, Shostakovich, Bernstein in Paris

Graham Rickson

Three big box sets: romantic symphonies, Soviet string quartets and an American conductor visits Paris

theartsdesk Q&A: concert pianist Lucy Parham

Sebastian Scotney

Sixth Composer Portrait marks the Clara Schumann bicentenary

Best of 2018: Classical concerts

David Nice

Abundant megatalent in works great and small

Best of 2018: Classical CDs

Graham Rickson

From the year's favourites: a Kazan Shostakovich, Messiaen's birds, Bernstein the pianist

Ed Vulliamy: When Words Fail review - the band plays on

David Nice

Autobiography interwoven with a polyphony on music's healing in war and peace

Alice Coote, Christian Blackshaw, Wigmore Hall review – deep feeling and high drama

Boyd Tonkin

The magnificent mezzo takes a journey though love and death

Classical CDs Weekly: Beethoven, Strauss, La Symphonie de Poche, Temple Church Choir

Graham Rickson

Symphonic sturm und drang, downsized French music and a wide ranging choral compilation

L'enfance du Christ, BBCSO, Gardner, Barbican review - Berlioz's kindest wonder

David Nice

Grace attained in a musical miracle of restraint and its dedicated performance

Mahan Esfahani / Richard Goode, Wigmore Hall review - clarity and contrast from two keyboard masters

Sebastian Scotney

Lessons in Bach partitas, instinctive Chopin mazurkas

Epiphoni Consort, Reader, St Paul's Covent Garden review - historical drama with seasonal spirit

Bernard Hughes

Musical enactment of the 1914 Christmas Truce showcases superb choral singing

Classical CDs Weekly: Christmas, part 2

Graham Rickson

Six more seasonal discs, covering celebrations from Tokyo to rural Virginia

Thomas Adès, Wigmore Hall review - playful and erratic Janáček

Gavin Dixon

Kindred spirits, but quirks sometimes overplayed

The Swingles, LPO, Jurowski, RFH review – austere Stravinsky, luminous Berio

Gavin Dixon

Year-long Stravinsky festival wraps up with a diverse sixties showcase

theartsdesk in Brno: Czech 100th feted through Janáček and Smetana

David Nice

Rarities in a festival featuring an entire operatic canon, plus heartfelt celebrations

Mitsuko Uchida, Royal Festival Hall review - conviction and grace

Gavin Dixon

Sophisticated and fragile Schubert, delivered with exquisite beauty

Sophie Bevan, Philharmonia, Rouvali, RFH review - an Alpine blaze

David Nice

Generously flawed at first, the young Finn's conducting hit ever greater heights in Strauss

Bostridge, Pappano, Barbican review - a tough but thrilling march across the battlefield

Boyd Tonkin

Tenor and pianist make intense drama out of the music of modern war

Hallé, Elder, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review – three iconic works

Robert Beale

An ear-stretching showpiece – and more – with glorious playing

theartsdesk in Warsaw - Penderecki at 85

Gavin Dixon

Celebrations for the great Polish composer, and an inspiring audience with Arvo Pärt

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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