wed 23/05/2018

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Classical CDs Weekly: Bernstein, Bruckner, Schmitt

Graham Rickson

 Bernstein: On the Waterfront Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Christian Lindberg (BIS)

The Rosenkavalier film, OAE, Paterson, QEH review - silent-era muddle expertly accompanied

David Nice

Let's face it, Robert "Cabinet of Dr Caligari" Wiene's 1926 film loosely based on Strauss and Hofmannsthal's 1911 "comedy for music" is a mostly inartistic ramble. Historically, though, it proves fascinating.

Chopin's Piano, Tiberghien, Kildea, Brighton...

David Nice

First the good news: Cédric Tiberghien, master of tone colour, lucidity and expressive intent, playing the 24 Chopin Preludes plus the Bach C major...

BBC Young Musician 2018 Final, Symphony Hall,...

Gavin Dixon

The BBC Young Musician final was a big event in Birmingham. It drew a capacity audience to Symphony Hall, as enthusiastic, engaged and encouraging as...

Pierre-Laurent Aimard, QEH review – taking Ligeti...

Gavin Dixon

After Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s first concert in his weekend Ligeti festival at the Southbank, an innovative programme spanning influential...

Ligeti Chamber Music, QEH review - inventive celebration of iconic composer

Bernard Hughes

Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s programming impresses as much as his playing

BBC NOW, Alexandre Bloch, Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff review - tonal music in an avant-garde sense

Stephen Walsh

Brilliant concert justifies the Vale of Glamorgan Festival's commitment to living composers

Classical CDs Weekly: Delius, Grieg, Martinů, Simon Höfele

Graham Rickson

Unfamiliar (and over-familiar) piano music, a sublime choral work, new music for solo trumpet

Win a Luxury Weekend for Two to celebrate Brighton Festival!


Enter our competition to win a spectacular weekend at England's finest arts festival

The Boy, The Piano and The Beach, Brighton Festival review - dubious dancing but perfect puppetry

Katie Colombus

A simple introduction to classical piano music represented through puppetry and dance

Lucy Crowe, Anna Tilbrook, Wigmore Hall review - the eternal and ephemeral feminine

David Nice

Strong women command texts and songs about them mostly by men

Pianist Christopher Glynn on Schubert in English: 'this new translation never walks on stilts'

Christopher Glynn

On working with Roderick Williams and Jeremy Sams on 'Winter Journey'

Classical CDs Weekly: Beethoven, Méhul, Mozart, Schubert

Graham Rickson

Revolutionary symphonies and a much-loved requiem, plus new translations of German lieder

Los Angeles Philharmonic, Dudamel, Barbican review - brilliant if overwhelming showcase

David Nice

An ensemble on top form makes polished noise a bit too much of a good thing

Chiaroscuro Quartet, Kings Place review – antique melancholy

Peter Quantrill

Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, each granted the luxury of their own place in time

Nikolai Lugansky / Pavel Kolesnikov, Wigmore Hall review - lucidity and depth from two master pianists

David Nice

Schumann and Debussy link two superb recitals, but the connections go much deeper

Anna Meredith, Southbank Sinfonia, QEH review - triumphant genre-busting treat

Bernard Hughes

Classical composer makes a roaring success of crossover project

Violinist Eldbjørg Hemsing: 'in the moments when magic happens, you think, that's why we do this'

David Nice

On a Norwegian rediscovery, communication and twentysomething enterprise

Classical CDs Weekly: Borgström, Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky, Alec Frank-Gemmill

Graham Rickson

A rediscovered Norwegian concerto, a stormy romantic symphony and some virtuoso horn music

LSO, Rattle, Barbican review - symphonies of death and new life

Peter Quantrill

Conception and execution as one, in a new work by Helen Grime and Mahler 9

Matthias Goerne, Seong-Jin Cho, Wigmore Hall review - slow and slower Strauss

Sebastian Scotney

A disappointingly one-geared Lieder recital

LSO, Rattle, Barbican review - incandescent swansongs by Mahler and Tippett

David Nice

The London Symphony Orchestra's supreme soundsmith on top form

Wang, RSNO, Oundjian, Usher Hall, Edinburgh review - percussion sets Shostakovich's 'Leningrad' ablaze

Miranda Heggie

Music Director pairs two very different Russian works in his final season

Ibragimova, Tiberghien, Wigmore Hall review – light, bright and melodic Brahms

Gavin Dixon

Sensitive but dynamic playing perfectly conveys the music’s carefree spirit

Classical CDs Weekly: Hans Abrahamsen, Lully, Strauss, Duo Jatekok

Graham Rickson

Danish string quartets, two sets of incidental music and the legacy of an American pianistic partnership

Andsnes, LPO, Jurowski, RFH review - dazzling symphonic contrasts, plus oddities

David Nice

Stunning articulation in generous helpings of Stravinsky with Shostakovich and Debussy

theartsdesk in Bremen: 150 years of A German Requiem

David Nice

Paavo Järvi conducts Brahms's dramatic masterpiece in its original cathedral location

Philharmonia, Salonen, RFH review – cosmic perspectives

Gavin Dixon

Unsuk Chin explores man’s relation to the universe in new oratorio

Igor Levit, Wigmore Hall review – music for the ages

Gavin Dixon

New work for Rzewski’s 80th a puzzling affair but performed with dedication and authority

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

Close Footnote

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

latest in today

CD: Chvrches - Love Is Dead

When bands move to the US, some find themselves drawn into the commercial machine; when Chvrches crossed the Atlantic, they were targeting direct...

Manchester: The Night of the Bomb, BBC Two, review - devasta...

“I thought she maybe had superpowers to go that high.” Emilia Senior, 12, watched her sister Eve, 15, thrown into the air by the force of the...

Ian Rickson: 'I'm an introvert, I want to stop tal...

Ian Rickson’s route into theatre was not conventional. Growing up in south London, he discovered plays largely through reading them as a student...

DVD/Blu-ray: Coco

The brightness and colour are deceptive; at its heart, Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina’s Coco is an affecting reflection on death,...

A Very English Scandal, BBC One review - making a drama out...

There was a time when Hugh Grant was viewed as a thespian one-trick pony, a floppy-haired fop dithering in a state of perpetual romantic confusion...

Bridget Christie, Brighton Festival review - politics throug...

Bridget Christie tells us at the top of the show that she is a heterosexual, able-bodied, privileged white female – so why is she feeling so...

The Handmaid's Tale, Series 2, Channel 4 review - it...

Not the least startling element of Bishop Michael Curry’s house-rockin’ sermon at the royal nuptials was his quotation from the old spiritual “...

The World Of Moominvalley, Brighton Festival review - a fasc...

It was no matter that journalist Daniel Hahn dropped out ill at the 11th hour of this "audience with" event. Author Philip Ardagh's deep knowledge...

CD: Gretchen Peters - Dancing with the Beast

Gretchen Peters arrived in Nashville in the late eighties from Bronxville, New York, where...