sat 07/12/2019

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Classical CDs Weekly: Josquin, Tchaikovsky, Janet Sung

Graham Rickson

 Josquin: Missa Mater Patris, Bauldeweyn: Missa Da pacem The Tallis Scholars/Peter Philips (Gimmell)

Haas Hommage à Bridget Riley, London Sinfonietta, Lubman, QEH review - vibrant abstraction

David Nice

Music and visual art, at least at the highest level, should go their own separate ways; put them together, and one form will always be subordinate to the other. A composer being inspired by an artist's work, or vice versa, is something else altogether.

Tynan, Clayton, Murray, Aurora Orchestra, Dean,...

Boyd Tonkin

Benjamin Britten died on 4 December 1976. Last night’s Wigmore Hall concert, on the 43rd anniversary of his passing, proved that his real legacy lies...

Remembering Mariss Jansons (1943-2019)

David Nice

He was indeed "one of the greats" among conductors, as theartsdesk's Gavin Dixon put it in reviewing Mariss Jansons' January visit to the Barbican,...

Kolesnikov, Tsoy, Currie, Walton, Wigmore Hall...

David Nice

Fine-tuning piano sound to Wigmore acoustics can elude even the greatest. Add a second Steinway and a wide range of percussion instruments, and the...

Schiff, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Fischer, Barbican review – generosity and geniality

Boyd Tonkin

Post-imperial Beethoven and convivial Dvořák from two Hungarian masters

Family Total Immersion: Lift Off!, BBC SO, Glassberg, Barbican review – 50th anniversary tribute to Apollo 11

Gavin Dixon

Varied and dynamic event given input here from receptive young critics

Classical CDs Weekly: Coates, Dvořák, Martinů, Peñalosa

Graham Rickson

British light music, two Czech piano concertos and sacred sounds from 16th century Spain

Behzod Abduraimov, Queen Elizabeth Hall review - enchanting engagement and breathtaking virtuosity

Jessica Duchen

Rising star offers an evening of magnificent musicianship from three different worlds

Highgate International Chamber Music Festival opening concert review - top soloists blend to perfection

David Nice

Sheku Kanneh-Mason is only the best-known name in a quintet of leading string players

Classical CDs Weekly: Catalogue d'Emojis, Tessa Lark, Melody Moore

Graham Rickson

Emojis given musical substance, plus a pair of recital discs

Eyck, BBC Philharmonic, Storgårds, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - theremin takes centre stage

Robert Beale

A rare visitor for the UK premiere of Kalevi Aho's 'Eight Seasons'

Shaw, Attacca Quartet, Kings Place review - composer portrait shows strengths and limitations

Bernard Hughes

American composer and singer is impressively multi-talented but the music a bit unvaried

theartsdesk in Warsaw: musical perspectives on culture beyond communism

Gavin Dixon

Troubled history beneath the surface in festival of music from Poland and its neighbours

Wang, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Dudamel, Barbican review - much more than glitz and glamour

David Nice

Players and conductor on top form, John Adams in his latest major work slightly less so

O/Modernt Soloists, Sonoro Ensemble, Wimbledon International Music Festival review - pure instrumental poetry

David Nice

Hugo Ticciati programmes superbly, but the choral side lets the peerless players down

Classical CDs Weekly: Donnacha Dennehy, Handel, Strauss

Graham Rickson

Historical and Biblical tragedies set to music, plus three character-driven tone poems

Wegener, LPO, Jurowski, RFH review – on the revolutionary road to Mahler

Boyd Tonkin

How to blow away the schmaltz, and recover the shock, of an iconic work

ECO, Zacharias, Fairfield Halls Croydon review - green-fingered Haydn

Peter Quantrill

The lights are back on and burning cheerfully at south London’s new/old orchestral venue

Pavlů, Prague SO, Inkinen, Cadogan Hall review - exhilarating but uneven Mahler Third

Gavin Dixon

Czech band brings excitement and colour, but their dizzy climaxes overwhelm

'The Academy and I': composer and viola-player Sally Beamish on a special relationship

Sally Beamish

On composing anniversary pieces for an ensemble she knows from the inside

Roméo et Juliette, LSO, Tilson Thomas, Barbican review - surprisingly sober take on Berlioz epic

David Nice

'MTT' celebrates his 50th anniversary with a top orchestra, but the panache has gone

Williams, LPO, Alsop, RFH review - sleek lines and pastoral tones

Gavin Dixon

Power and precision in all-British programme, but the music retains its poetry

Music for Youth's Judith Webster: '91% of the young people we work with are from state schools'

Judith Webster

As their big Albert Hall Proms approach, MFY's CEO explains the essentials

Wallfisch, Northern Chamber Orchestra, Stoller Hall, Manchester review - Weinberg UK premiere

Robert Beale

Subtlety and haunting qualities in a little gem for solo cello and string orchestra

Classical LPs Weekly: Weinberg, Keaton Henson, Riopy

Graham Rickson

On vinyl: enigmatic preludes, trauma-based string music, and minimalism from a self-taught pianist

Urioste, Chineke! Orchestra, Edusei, QEH review – a precious gem catches the light at last

Jessica Duchen

Coleridge-Taylor's Violin Concerto shines ready for this idealistic orchestra's tour

Poster, Cabeza, Aurora Orchestra, Collon, Kings Place review – shock of the new

Boyd Tonkin

Musical quests through city and country for the roots of the modern

'These were the quartets that made us fall in love with the genre': Dudok Quartet Amsterdam on Haydn

Dudok Quartet Amsterdam

The Dutch players speak as one on recording the Austrian composer's Op 20

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: Rob Halford - Celestial

If there’s one man who has got the chutzpah to sing songs about the Baby Jesus while flashing the Devil’s horns, it’s Judas Priest frontman Rob...

Classical CDs Weekly: Josquin, Tchaikovsky, Janet Sung


Josquin: Missa Mater Patris, Bauldeweyn: Missa Da pacem The Tallis Scholars/Peter Philips (Gimmell)


My Baby, Concorde 2, Brighton review - Dutch three-piece del...

“Trance boogie,” states My Baby frontwoman Cato van Dijck before submersing herself in the rising tribal rhythm of “Sunflower Sutra". Trance...

Giri/Haji, Series Finale, BBC Two review - a thriller, but m...

Happily, Joe Barton’s tinglingly original thriller (BBC Two)...

Honey Boy review - coming to terms with dad

Blue periods can lead to golden streaks. Such is almost the case with Honey Boy, which Shia LaBeouf wrote during a court-ordered stay in...

Ravens: Spassky vs. Fischer, Hampstead Theatre review - it...

We’ve had Chess the musical; now, here’s Chess the play...

ABBA: Super Troupers The Exhibition, O2 - one for the superg...

Abba fans can already have an immersive dining/dancing/singing experience at the O2 in Mamma Mia! The Party, and now, almost as a...

CD: Liam Payne - LP1

Liam Payne is a Simon Cowell-manufactured pop star worth...