fri 20/07/2018

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Prom 5, Pelléas et Mélisande, Glyndebourne review - for the ears, not the eyes

Stephen Walsh

What a fabulous score Pelléas et Mélisande is, and what a joy to be able to hear it in a concert performance without the distraction of some over-sophisticated director’s self-communings. Well, if only.

Prom 4, Simpson, BBCPO, Mena review - terrific Lindberg, brooding Shostakovich

Bernard Hughes

The fourth Prom of this season featured only two contrasting pieces, pitching the unabashed joyfulness and good humour of Lindberg’s Clarinet Concerto against the angst and defiance of Shostakovich’s “Leningrad” Symphony. It was the former that left the greater impression.

Proms at...Cadogan Hall 1, Perianes, Calidore...

David Nice

Light-filled Cadogan Hall is hosting the most fascinatingly programmed concerts in a Proms season not otherwise conspicuous for its adventurousness....

Prom 3, BBC Young Musician at 40 review - multi-...

David Nice

How do you go about co-ordinating a spectacular like this, the first ever BBC Young Musicians' Prom? With 23 brilliant soloists from clarinettist...

Prom 1, BBCSO, Oramo review – spectacular First...

Gavin Dixon

The First Night of the Proms is always a tricky one to programme, bringing together themes of the season, perhaps a new work and, most importantly, a...

Classical CDs Weekly: Berio, Maderna, Mozart, Matthew Gee

Graham Rickson

Two imaginative discs of transcriptions, plus spills and thrills from a top trombonist

Pick of the 2018 BBC Proms: women composers first and last, blockbuster Bernstein


Our classical and opera writers choose their favourites in prospect

'Stepping right out of my comfort zone': James Gilchrist on mixing Debussy with jazz

James Gilchrist

The tenor writes about working on Eddie Parker's boundary-crossing project

Tenebrae, Short, St John’s Smith Square review - choral majesty in New World marvels

David Benedict

Radiant self-confidence from a world-class ensemble

Classical CDs Weekly: Handel, Holloway, Korngold, Nielsen

Graham Rickson

Baroque violin sonatas, 20th century violin concertos and contemporary chamber music

theartsdesk at the East Neuk Festival 2018 - Bach as bedrock

David Nice

Music along the Fife coast at the highest level, fluidly and expertly programmed

theartsdesk in Orkney: St Magnus Festival 2018 - choral music to the fore

David Kettle

No visiting orchestra, but Orkney's annual cultural celebration felt as rich as ever

Classical CDs Weekly: Olivia De Prato, Kärt Ruubel, Third Coast Percussion

Graham Rickson

Electro-acoustic violin, aquatic percussion and a disc of baroque keyboard suites

Manchester Collective, Chetham's, Manchester review - flair and variety

Robert Beale

In-the-round chamber music breaking new ground in every direction

Imogen Cooper, Wigmore Hall review – Viennese schools refreshed

Jessica Duchen

Rare refinement enhances originality in Haydn, Schoenberg and late Beethoven

Anthony Marwood and Friends, Peasmarsh Festival - elegies in a country church

David Nice

World-class chamber music in a secluded corner of Sussex

Benedetti, LSO, Noseda, Barbican review – power and focus

Gavin Dixon

Dark-hued intensity in compelling Shostakovich programme

The Abduction from the Seraglio, The Grange Festival review - enjoyable if conventional production

Bernard Hughes

Traditional take on Mozart classic delights country house audience

Classical CDs Weekly: Bach, Prokofiev, Moonkyung Lee

Graham Rickson

Solo sonatas, piano duos and new music for violin

theartsdesk at Leipzig's Blüthner Piano Factory - a perfect family business

David Nice

From the wood to the polished final article, a living lesson in piano-making

The Courtesan’s Gaze, Fieri Consort, Handel House review – historical female composers in context

Bernard Hughes

A fascinating insight into the work of Barbara Strozzi and Francesca Caccini

Enter theartsdesk / h Club Young Influencer of the Year award


In association with The Hospital Club's h.Club100 Awards, we're looking for the best cultural writers, bloggers and vloggers

Bach Weekend, Barbican review - vivid and vibrant celebrations

Gavin Dixon

John Eliot Gardiner’s mini cantata pilgrimage alongside world-class recitals

Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill, Opera North, City Varieties Music Hall review - life as a cabaret

Graham Rickson

Informative, entertaining trot through a composer's life and work

Classical CDs Weekly: Martin, Martinů, Vivaldi, 4 Girls 4 Harps

Graham Rickson

Unaccompanied choral music, baroque concertos and a harp quartet

theartsdesk at the Setúbal Music Festival 2018: youth leads the way

David Nice

Community spirit infusing high-level events in a Portuguese port

theartsdesk at the Leipzig Bach Festival: a cantata blockbuster

Stephen Walsh

Gardiner, Suzuki, Koopman and Rademann offer a musical and historical revelation

Roscoe, BBC Philharmonic, Mena, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - a scenic send-off

Robert Beale

Spanish sunshine in an operatic farewell to orchestra’s departing chief

Classical CDs Weekly: Haydn, Poulenc, Varèse

Graham Rickson

Classical piano sonatas and French orchestral music, plus the modernism that inspired Frank Zappa

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

Allelujah!, Bridge Theatre review - hilarious but dark, dark...

The NHS is us. For decades our national identity has been bandaged together with the idea, and reality, of a health service that is free at the...

Saul, Glyndebourne review - from extravaganza to phantasmago...

It's swings and roundabouts for Glyndebourne this season. After the worst of one director currently in fashion, Stefan Herheim, in the unhappy...

Gary Numan, Assembly Hall, Worthing review - hot and hammeri...

Arriving back onstage for an encore a broadly smiling Gary Numan bathes in roared football chants of “Numan! Numan!”. He tells us it’s just over...

CD: Pram - Across the Meridian

Birmingham outfit Pram achieved profile amongst alt-...

L'Ange de Nisida / JPYAP Summer Programme, Royal Opera...

Two rules should help the non-Donizettian: avoid all...

theartsdesk at Cornbury: Pixie Lott, Amy MacDonald and Alani...

Cornbury Festival holds a very special place in my heart. When the babies were young, we realised that if we were going to be up all night without...

A Monster Calls, Old Vic - wild, beautiful theatre that begu...

A raw pagan vitality animates this extraordinary story about a teenage boy wrestling with tumultuous emotions in the face of his...