fri 23/10/2020

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Allan Clayton, Stephanie Wake-Edwards, James Baillieu, Wigmore Hall review - consummate musicality and technique

Alexandra Coghlan

Last seen gurning and camping his way across the Royal Opera House stage in absurdist musical fantasy Frankenstein!!, it was a very different Allan Clayton who held the Wigmore Hall in stillness just a few nights later.

Jeneba Kanneh-Mason, Sode, Chineke! Orchestra, Edusei, RFH review - protest, passion and joy

Jessica Duchen

During the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in London earlier this year, a black man named Patrick Hutchinson hoisted over his shoulder an injured white man from the counter-protest of the English Defence League and carried him to safety. The photographs made headlines.

London Symphony Orchestra, Hasan, LSO St Luke...

David Nice

Big orchestras to serve the late romantic masterpieces and contemporary blockbusters still aren’t the order of the Covid-era day, even in streamed...

Stephen Kovacevich, Wigmore Hall review - a...

Jessica Duchen

What do you want to do on your 80th birthday? Well, playing two of your favourite pieces of music at the Wigmore Hall is not a bad option. To...

Cooper, Aurora Orchestra, Kings Place review - a...

Bernard Hughes

Rarely have I seen so many smiles on stage as at Kings Place on Saturday. The combination of the delight of the performers being back in their...

Classical CDs Weekly: Jess Gillam, John Harle, Voces8

Graham Rickson

Anthologies from a young saxophonist and her mentor, plus a wide ranging choral collection

Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Queen's Hall, Edinburgh online review – two Parisian gems

Miranda Heggie

Salon music – but only from your own salon

First Person: harpsichordist Chad Kelly on reimagining Bach's Goldberg Variations

Chad Kelly

The background to what promises to be a vibrant new performance by Brecon Baroque

Mariam Batsashvili, Wigmore Hall review – the serious virtuoso

Jessica Duchen

An intriguing recital from a strikingly impressive young artist

Baker, Ridout, LaFollette, Schwizgebel, Fidelio Orchestra Cafe review - fun and ferocity

David Nice

Schnittke provides a vital link between early Mahler and a Brahms masterpiece

First Person: composer Brian Elias on the Music@Malling Festival's retrospective of his works

Brian Elias

Fifty years of vibrantly consistent music celebrated in rural Kent

Louise Alder, Roger Vignoles, Wigmore Hall review - German Romanticism meets French eroticism

Alexandra Coghlan

Music by Berg, Bizet and Poulenc makes for a heady lunchtime amuse-bouche

Classical CDs Weekly: Ole Bull, Vítězslav Novák, Schumann

Graham Rickson

Virtuoso violin music from Norway, early Czech modernism and a pair of German romantic symphonies

Elias Quartet, Wigmore Hall review – sinewy, muscular Beethoven

Gavin Dixon

Brisk and cleanly articulated playing, but never lacking expression

András Schiff, Wigmore Hall review – passion, reason and refinement

Boyd Tonkin

From Janáček to Beethoven, the pianist-as-thinker keeps nightmares at bay

Ragged Music Festival review - musical utopia in an East End schoolroom

David Nice

Pavel Kolesnikov and Samson Tsoy hit heights and depths with four remarkable guests

Bryn Terfel, Britten Sinfonia, Barbican review – a moment of re-connection

Sebastian Scotney

A remedial tonic of an evening in a socially-distanced Barbican

First Person: Gregory Batsleer on choirs for the 21st century

Gregory Batsleer

The conductor considers the future for choral music

Istanbul International Music Festival online review – East-West flair and finesse

Peter Quantrill

Turkish soloists and orchestras in fine fettle and spectacular venues

Classical CDs Weekly: Kemel Belevi, Schoenberg, Ondřej Vrabec

Graham Rickson

Exuberant guitar duos, queasy late-romanticism and new music for solo horn

Danny Driver, Wigmore Hall review - ingenious sleight-of-hand

Jessica Duchen

The British pianist returns with an imaginative programme, gloriously played

Viktoria Mullova, Misha Mullov-Abbado, Fidelio Orchestra Cafe review - a rainbow of brilliant artistry

David Nice

The great violinist and her double-bassist son bring light and life to a varied programme

Bach’s The Art of Fugue, Angela Hewitt, Wigmore Hall – the many voices of humanity

David Nice

The Canadian pianist vindicates the master's last big collection in concert

Academy of St Martin in the Fields review - from solo meditations to collective celebrations

David Nice

Messiaen and MacMillan prompt reflection, while ensemble Bach and Mozart dance

First Person: pianist Danny Driver on teaching online and the importance of music education

Danny Driver

The challenges of top-level music lessons during the pandemic

Classical CDs Weekly: Mahler, Shostakovich, Chris Watson and Georgia Rodgers

Graham Rickson

A sprawling symphony, Soviet cello concertos and two new works based on field recordings

Castalian Quartet/Elizabeth Llewellyn, Simon Lepper, Wigmore Hall review - out of this world

David Nice

A young string quartet and a glorious duo take us from the earthy to the sublime

Finley, LPO, Gardner, Royal Festival Hall (p)review - special magic ready for streaming

David Nice

A privileged glimpse of a great orchestra in full flight back in a much-loved venue

Gillam, Miloš, Wigmore Hall review – charismatic performers, charming playing

Bernard Hughes

'Siblings' revel in the pleasure of performing live again

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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