tue 05/07/2022

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

theartsdesk at the East Neuk Festival 2022 - on Cloud Nine for five days of the greatest music-making

David Nice

Last year’s relatively slimline East Neuk Festival felt like a feast in time of plague. This July everything was back to full strength in numerous venues, with the most remarkable line-up, and the greatest single day of concerts, I feel certain, ENF has ever seen. But that was in spite of the apocalyptic signs all around.

Classical CDs: Nightingales, seasons and practical jokes

Graham Rickson

 Beethoven, Berg, Bartók: Violin Concertos Frank Peter Zimmermann Berliner Philharmoniker/Daniel Harding, Kirill Petrenko, Alan Gilbert (Berliner Philharmoniker Recordings)

George Fu, St Martin-in-the-Fields review - high...

David Nice

Semi-standing ovation at a lunchtime concert in a London church? Predictable, perhaps, from the first recital I heard George Xiaoyuan Fu give at the...

First person: Ukrainian violinist Valeriy Sokolov...

Valeriy Sokolov

A fortnight ago I performed Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto with the Aurora Orchestra, joining them and their Principal Conductor Nicholas Collon in...

Hughes, Manchester Collective, Hallé St Peter’s,...

Robert Beale

Manchester Collective were back on home ground last night in the tour of a programme featuring the first performances of a new song cycle by Edmund...

First Person: director Richard Wilson on a musical midsummer night film premiere

Richard Wilson

Mendelssohn around London with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields

Isabelle Faust, Alexander Melnikov, Wigmore Hall review - surprise and spontaneity

Gavin Dixon

Innovative and dynamic Beethoven on period instruments

First Person: composer Gavin Higgins on his new cantata 'The Faerie Bride'

Gavin Higgins

Aldeburgh premiere tonight for setting of Welsh tale about acceptance of the other

theartsdesk at the Dublin International Chamber Music Festival - extraordinary women to the fore

David Nice

Ambitious programmes in venues from botanical gardens to Palladian country houses

Classical CDs: mediation, survival and the conquering of shyness

Graham Rickson

Two conductors get the big box treatment, plus contemporary choral music and the return of a minimalist master

Hewitt, Concerto Budapest SO, Keller, Cadogan Hall review - magical Mozart and bullish Beethoven

Bernard Hughes

Smiles all round from a visiting orchestra revelling in a programme of surefire hits

Davidsen, Oslo Philharmonic, Mäkelä, Barbican review - full workout for the nervous system

David Nice

Tearjerking moments and electric shocks, but always a sense of the whole

LSO, Pappano, Barbican review - four centuries of Italian music on parade

David Nice

The London Symphony Orchestra's chief conductor designate marshals wonders

First Person: folk violinist István 'Szalonna' Pál on true Magyar style

István 'Szalonna' Pál

Lynchpin of the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble on their visit to London

First Person: Christina McMaster - seeking musical cures for modern malaise

Christina McMaster

Lying down and listening; a pianist and healer contemplates her work

Classical CDs: Forests, mountains, cowbells and cushions

Graham Rickson

Contrasting landscapes, vibrant chamber music and revolutionary oboe repertoire

Wigmore Soloists, Wigmore Hall review - superb Janáček

Sebastian Scotney

A new group starting to make its stylish and confident mark

theartsdesk at the Dresden Music Festival - orchestral abundance in a spectacular setting

Gavin Dixon

The Saxon city’s world-famous orchestras front and centre in a full programme of events

Berrut, ECO, Guzzo, Cadogan Hall review - Schubert with a smile

Bernard Hughes

Sparkling symphony makes up for a slightly lacklustre concerto

Vondráček, LSO, Tilson Thomas, Barbican review - mixed messages

Gavin Dixon

Fine detail in Liszt and Mahler, but drama was lacking

Dandy, BBC Philharmonic, New, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - energy and fierce attention

Robert Beale

Gustav and Alma Mahler, and pictorial music, are linked in a fascinating programme

Classical CDs: Double reeds, double pianos and double string orchestras

Graham Rickson

Poetry from a great bassoonist, Slavic jazz, and two fizzing collections of music for string orchestra

Osborne, Hallé, Elder, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - an eclectic mix

Robert Beale

Glory in conclusion of Manchester's Vaughan Williams symphonies cycle

Buchbinder, Gewandhausorkester Leipzig, Nelsons, Barbican / COE Soloists, St John's Smith Square review - European sophistication in spades

David Nice

Sonic wonders from a great orchestra in the City and chamber ensemble in Westminster

Baráti, Bournemouth SO, Riveiro Böhm, Lighthouse, Poole review - a quartet of musical child prodigies

Ian Julier

A telling demonstration of how less really can be more

Ridout, SCO, Manze, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh review - sensual mystery and searing intensity

Simon Thompson

Welcome return for an imaginative programmer of British music from Dowland to Clyne

CBSO Musicians, Hockley Social Club, Birmingham review - creative coalescence of music and dining

Miranda Heggie

Third instalment of what's now a slick creative collaboration

Bevan, Williams, Bebbington, RPO, Davan Wetton, Barbican review - Vaughan Williams celebrated

Bernard Hughes

Anniversary marked by three classics and a peculiarity

Rangwanasha, Williams, Hallé Orchestra and Choirs, Elder, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - epic Vaughan Williams

Robert Beale

Two extraordinary symphonies take to the high seas with noble captain and crew

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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