mon 26/09/2022

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Gurrelieder, LPO, Gardner, RFH review - everything in place, but still something’s missing

David Nice

Schoenberg’s “Song of the Wood Dove” takes up a mere 11 of the 100 minutes of his epic Gurrelieder, though it’s a crucial narrative of how King Waldemar of Gurre’s beloved Tove was murdered by his jealous queen. Last night, as in Simon Rattle’s 2017 Proms performance, stunning mezzo Karen Cargill came on stage, immediately in character, and with no reference to the score on the stand in front of her, showed everyone else how to do it.

theartsdesk at Musikfest Berlin - orchestral and choral rainbows around the clock

David Nice

In its three weeks of world-class events, Muskfest Berlin has managed to be all things to all people – like a mini-Proms distilling the aspects of top international visitors alongside home-grown excellence, and of a focus on at least one relatively unfamiliar 20th century/contemporary work per concert.

Classical CDs: Civil service, bassoon laments and...

Graham Rickson

 Mozart: The Piano Sonatas (Robert Levin, playing Mozart’s fortepiano) (ECM New Series)There is no doubt about the brilliant uniqueness of...

First Person: violinist and music director Bjarte...

Bjarte Eike

History first. The 17th century London of Oliver Cromwell and its puritanical quest to curb all creativity – banning music, closing down theatres,...

Leonskaja, Staatskapelle Streichquartett, Wigmore...

David Nice

Epic-lyric magician Brahms wears a very adaptable garment for certain masterpieces: black on the outside with fur trimming, reversible to show its...

Dunedin Consort, Butt, Lammermuir Festival review - majestic Mozart at St Mary’s Haddington

Simon Thompson

Star sopranos steal the show in a C Minor Mass of magisterial power

A hair-raising season: conductors at the 2022 BBC Proms


Top photographer Chris Christodoulou's annual gallery of full flight on the podium

Denk, RSNO, Macdonald, Lammermuir Festival review - dark Sibelius and mighty Brahms

Simon Thompson

Top Scottish orchestra joins forces with major pianist in its debut at St Mary’s Haddington

BBC Proms 2022 - silence after Mass

David Nice

No official Last Night, for the first time ever, but it's been an extraordinary season

Classical CDs: Five-pointed stars, unspecified instrumentation and talented siblings

Graham Rickson

Double lieder treats, Sarah Willis back in Cuba, Rachmaninoff transcriptions

Prom 69, Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, Monteverdi Choir, ORR, Gardiner review - shock, fervour and total focus

David Nice

A crazy masterpiece cuts like a knife through Albert Hall haze

The Goldberg Variations, De Keersmaeker, Kolesnikov, Sadler's Wells review - keyboard harmony and atonal dance

David Nice

Two major artists collaborate, leaving some unanswered questions

Prom 64, Beethoven's Last Three Piano Sonatas, Schiff review - morning glory

Boyd Tonkin

A tasteful but forceful journey

Prom 62, Mahler's Seventh Symphony, Berlin Philharmonic, Petrenko review - hallucinogenic night's journey into day

David Nice

Orchestral playing and winged conducting simply don't get better than this

Prom 61, Cabell, Chineke! Voices and Orchestra, Edusei review - a thrilling, fiercely rational Beethoven 9

Rachel Halliburton

Crystalline clarity, and ravishing vocals from BBC Cardiff Singer of the World

Sheku Kanneh-Mason & Friends, Bold Tendencies review - intimate tenderness under a car-park roof

David Nice

Peckham magic once more from a star cellist who values collaboration

theartsdesk Q&A: Horn player Sarah Willis on returning to Cuba

Graham Rickson

Guaguancós, cha-cha-chas and crickets as the horn player commissions a new work in Havana

First Person: Geoffrey Paterson on conducting the London Sinfonietta and working with Marius Neset

Geoffrey Paterson

The conductor's 51st concert with a legendary ensemble due at the Proms tomorrow

Prom 59, The Dream of Gerontius, Clayton, Barton, Platt, LPO, Gardner review - most sure in all its ways

David Nice

Elgar’s time-become-space odyssey floats and soars in the perfect venue

Prom 57, Bach Mass in B Minor, OAE, Butt review - passion and precision

Boyd Tonkin

Period accents combine with vocal splendour in Bach's late-career epic

TUKS Camerata, Voces8 Live from London online review - a diverse choral selection

Bernard Hughes

South African students offer voices of hope within a typically colourful festival

Batiashvili, Philadelphia Orchestra, Nézet-Séguin, Edinburgh International Festival 2022 review - classy playing, mismatched programme

Christopher Lambton

The magic of Karol Szymanowski casts two American composers in the shade

Prom 52, Kuusisto, Finnish RSO, Collon review - fairytales, folksongs and a soaring lark

Bernard Hughes

Impish Finnish violinist irresistible in a pair of contrasting showpieces

Classical CDs: Symmetrical storms, basset horns and a happy workshop

Graham Rickson

20th century Swiss vocal music, a trumpet recital and a pair of important box sets

Pavel Haas Quartet, Edinburgh International Festival 2022 review - a scorching team on top form

Simon Thompson

Balance and energy in Haydn, Martinů and Schubert

Prom 49, Mahler's 'Resurrection' Symphony, Connolly, Alder, LSO, Rattle review - a long and grand goodbye

Boyd Tonkin

A great Mahlerian marks his signature work with a thrilling flourish

Duval, Isserlis, Beatson, Fidelio Cafe review - in seventh heaven with the greats

David Nice

Hyper-communicative Lalo, Ravel, Fauré and Schumann from the best

Stagg, Australian World Orchestra, Mehta, Edinburgh International Festival 2022 review - Antipodeans with a global sound

Simon Thompson

One of the world's great veteran conductors still has what it takes

Prom 43, Solomon, The English Concert, Jeannin review - a Handelian box of delights

Boyd Tonkin

Unexpected drama, and tenderness, amid a grand pageant

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


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

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals, Modern Art Oxford and P...

I have powerful memories of performances by Marina Abramović. Back in 1977 at Documenta in Kassel,...

The Big Moon, Oran Mor, Glasgow review - partying prevails d...

Presumably before setting out on their current tour the Big Moon smashed a few mirrors, walked under some ladders and crossed the paths of...

Gurrelieder, LPO, Gardner, RFH review - everything in place,...

Schoenberg’s “Song of the Wood Dove” takes up a mere 11 of the 100 minutes of his epic Gurrelieder, though it’s a crucial narrative of...

Music Reissues Weekly: Bill Nelson's Red Noise - Art /...

The British music weeklies were clear about where the Sound-On-Sound LP and its singles fitted into the current musical topography when...

theartsdesk at Musikfest Berlin - orchestral and choral rain...

In its three weeks of world-class events, Muskfest Berlin has...

Am I Being Unreasonable?, BBC One review - comedy thriller d...

In case you're not au fait with Mumsnet, the title of Daisy May Cooper's follow-up...

The Wonderful World of Dissocia, Theatre Royal Stratford Eas...

Lisa has lost an hour in a (somewhat contrived) temporal glitch. As a consequence, her world is always sliding off-kilter, not quite...

Juniper review - a classic role for Charlotte Rampling

Juniper provides, above all, an absolutely unforgettable role for Charlotte Rampling....

Album: Gabriels - Angels & Queens, Part I

Lauded by Elton John (who called their 2020 debut EP Love and Hate in a Different Time “probably one of the most seminal records I've...