fri 23/08/2019

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Prom 46: Kanneh-Mason, CBSO, Gražinytė-Tyla review - brilliant programme, brilliant playing

Bernard Hughes

Let us never tire of singing the praises of the Proms, nor ever take them for granted. For two months concerts, many of which would be the highlight of any ‘normal’ week, keep coming night after night. And for all that it is a critic’s job to comment in detail and find fault where necessary, it is also helpful sometimes to step back and say: the Proms is an astonishing festival which we should be grateful to have.

Prom 44: Finley, LSO & Chorus, Orfeó Català, Rattle review - lurid inter-war triptych

David Nice

So the Proms ignored the Berlioz anniversary challenge to perform his Requiem and serve up four brass bands at the points of the Albert Hall compass.

Prom 43: Haefliger, BBCSO & Chorus, Oramo...

Jessica Duchen

Time was, not long ago, when the very word “premiere” was enough to ensure a sizeable smattering of red plush holes in the Royal Albert Hall audience...

Prom 41: Ghindin, LPO, Jurowski review - perfect...

David Nice

It was a Disney theme-park of Russian music, and in an entirely good way: none of the usual rides, but plenty of heroes and villains, sad spirits and...

Edinburgh International Festival 2019: MacMillan...

Christopher Lambton

To celebrate the 60th birthday of Sir James MacMillan, the Edinburgh International Festival has programmed his music over five concerts, including...

theartsdesk at Bard Summerscape Festival 2019: unknown treasures and crosscurrents galore

Jessica Duchen

'Korngold and His World' explores a heady confluence of old and new

Prom 40: Hough, OAE, Fischer review - pretty royal things

David Nice

Queen Victoria's piano and Prince Albert's amateur songs give variable pleasure

Edinburgh International Festival 2019: Lawrence Brownlee, Iain Burnside - enthralling song duo

Miranda Heggie

A multitude of musical moods from tender Schumann to racy Ginastera

Classical CDs Weekly: Gounod, James MacMillan, Johannes Pramsohler

Graham Rickson

Frothy French symphonies, Scottish choral music and trio sonatas from London and Paris

Prom 39: Morison, BBCNOW, Chan review - a night of inspiring firsts

Jessica Duchen

The young Scottish mezzo-soprano shines in a vivid Errollyn Wallen premiere

Prom 37: The Childhood of Christ, Hallé, Pascal/ Prom 38: Bach Cantatas, Solomon's Knot reviews - holy radiance great and small

David Nice

Berlioz's gentle miracle shimmers and Bach celebrations resound in an unlikely setting

theartsdesk at the Pärnu Music Festival 2019 - super-orchestra, top clarinettists, transcendent strings

David Nice

Paavo Järvi motivates an ever-growing family of musicians in Estonia's summer capital

Prom 34: Argerich, West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, Barenboim review - erratic star, sleek ensemble

David Nice

Uncollegial virtuosity in Tchaikovsky, sophistication in Schubert and Lutosławski

Edinburgh International Festival 2019: Colin Currie Group, BBCSSO, Dausgaard/DiDonato, NYO-USA, Pappano

Christopher Lambton

Experienced Scots tackle percussive Gubaidulina, young Americans in Prokofiev

Prom 30: The Warner Brothers Story, John Wilson Orchestra review – orchestral riches

Sebastian Scotney

The master of light music keeps on unearthing gems

theartsdesk at Incontri in Terra di Siena: galloping concertos and Stravinsky by starlight

Jessica Duchen

Literary, historical and musical associations light up Tuscany in La Foce's annual festival

Classical CDs Weekly: Bartók, Howells, Third Coast Percussion

Graham Rickson

Hungarian ballet music, a rediscovered cello concerto and lots of marimbas

Prom 28: BBCNOW, Otaka review - fantastical choral expedition

Bernard Hughes

Welsh orchestra sets its sights on Japan, Russia - and the moon

Prom 26: BBCNOW, Stutzmann review – a banquet of fervent favourites

Boyd Tonkin

Brahms, Wagner and Mozart's Requiem make for an enjoyably old-fashioned feast

Prom 25: Gabetta, BBCSO, Stasevska review – stunning Weinberg debut

Gavin Dixon

Stimulating programme introduces a new composer and conductor to the Proms

Prom 23: Floristán, BBC Philharmonic, Gernon review - concerto lacks heft

Bernard Hughes

Young British conductor impresses but the end product proves fallible

Prom 20: Kuusisto, BBCSSO, Dausgaard review – Sibelius between folk and art

Boyd Tonkin

Tastes of the composer's Finnish roots – and the first edition of a masterpiece

theartsdesk at Itinéraire Baroque 2019 - a musical journey through the Périgord

Alexandra Coghlan

Instrumental/vocal conversations and collisions celebrate the full breadth of the baroque

Edinburgh International Festival 2019: Mahler's 'Resurrection' Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Dudamel - detailed judgment day canvas

Christopher Lambton

From 15,000 in a stadium to 2,200 in a concert hall, crowds respond to LA spectaculars

Classical CDs Weekly: Isabelle Aboulker, Swan Hennessy, Schubert

Graham Rickson

Contemporary French song, Celtic-tinged string quartets and Schubert on fortepiano

Prom 18: Andsnes, Mahnke, Skelton, BBCSO, Gardner review – all passion spent

Peter Quantrill

Hall, singers, conductor and musicians lend special eloquence to Mahler’s song of farewell

Prom 17: Shaham, Bavarian RSO, Nézet-Séguin review – a Montrealer brings “l’fun”

Sebastian Scotney

More peaks and joys, with a superb violinist light and agile in Prokofiev

Ludovico Einaudi, Barbican review - a long road to nowhere

Liz Thomson

Seven Days Walking provides a journey through unremarkable terrain

Prom 15: Bavarian RSO, Nézet-Séguin review - perfect Beethoven, nuanced Shostakovich

David Nice

A top partnership hits the heights of engagement and sophistication

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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