fri 15/01/2021

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Gillam, Hallé, Bloxham, Hallé online review - music of poetry

Robert Beale

Jonathan Bloxham makes his debut as conductor with the Hallé Orchestra in the third of the Hallé’s Winter Season concerts on film.

The Soldier's Tale, Scottish Chamber Orchestra online review - top performers master a baggy mini-monster

David Nice

Born in exigency at the end of the First World War and soon kiboshed by the Spanish flu, The Soldier’s Tale as originally conceived is a tricky hybrid to bring off. Not so the suite – Stravinsky’s mostly incidental-music numbers are unique and vivid from the off – but the whole story, based on a Russian folk tale about a simple man’s tricky dealings with Old Nick, is awkward, made impossibly complicated and preachy by the Swiss writer Charles Ferdinand Ramuz.

András Schiff, Wigmore Hall review - Bach in...

Jessica Duchen

Amid madness, fear and death, there is still an oasis in the music of Bach - and Bach played by András Schiff in the Wigmore Hall is a special type...

Gabrieli Consort, McCreesh online review - joyous...

Bernard Hughes

After the main portion of the Voces8 Live from London Christmas festival revelled in the variety of its groups and repertoire, the final stretch...

Vienna New Year’s Day Concert, BBC Two/Radio 3...

David Nice

“Without a care” (Ohne Sorgen, the title of a fast polka by Josef Strauss performed here with deadpan sung laughs from the players) was never going...

Classical CDs Weekly: Sibelius, Roger Désormière, George Szell

Graham Rickson

Three life-enhancing box sets

Bevan, LPO, Jurowski, RFH online review – never-ending stories

Boyd Tonkin

A year of disruption ends in gusto – and doubt

'Having to establish a real conversation with the audience is a good challenge': Raffaello Morales on a possible musical future

Raffaello Morales

Pioneer of a rare 2020 success story, the Fidelio Orchestra Cafe, on adapting to change

Best of 2020: Classical music concerts

David Nice

Heroic smaller enterprises have kept music live under unpromising circumstances

Voces8 LIVE from London online review part 2 – an assortment box of Christmas choral treats

Bernard Hughes

The second half of this ambitious festival provides further multifarious pleasures

Best of 2020: Classical CDs

Graham Rickson

Twelve of the year's best classical releases

Stile Antico, The Cardinall's Musick, Wigmore Hall online review – lightening our darkness

Boyd Tonkin

The rapt beauty of a Renaissance Christmas pierces the gloom

Dame Fanny Waterman (1920-2020) - some recollections, with love and affection

Adam Gatehouse

The Leeds International Piano Competition's Artstic Director remembers its founder

Classical CDs Weekly: Christmas CDs 2020

Graham Rickson

Ten choice discs for the festive season

Zimerman, LSO, Rattle, LSO St Luke's review - rainbow colours, continuity and imperial soaring

David Nice

The richest of palettes applied to Beethoven, while Stravinsky sings and dances

First Person: conductor Johannes Vogel on Beethoven’s Ninth as re-orchestrated by Mahler

Johannes Vogel

The importance of celebrating the anniversary year’s end with a bang

Iestyn Davies, Arcangelo, Wigmore Hall review - heavenly Handel as the lights dim again

Boyd Tonkin

The star counter-tenor unlocks a box of lesser-known treasures

Voces8 LIVE from London online review - a cracking choral Christmas

Bernard Hughes

First half of this lavishly-tooled festival offers a range of musical delights

Gabriele Carcano, Fidelio Orchestra Cafe - fresh, funny and focused Beethoven

David Nice

The anniversary composer's wit at its most revelatory in this instalment of a sonatas cycle

Fidelio, Opera North online review - less is really more

Robert Beale

Adaptation leaves Beethoven's music in all its glory

Osborne, Aurora Orchestra, Kings Place review – live music that lives and breathes

Bernard Hughes

Good-natured Mozart and stern Shostakovich make a successful partnership

Kanneh-Mason Trio/Cassadó Ensemble, Kings Place review - the fewer the players, the greater the music

David Nice

Ravel's Duo spoiled us for early Mahler and Dohnányi, but the playing shone

Williams, Hallé, Elder online review - big results from small forces

Robert Beale

Second Covid-style film performance offers a memorable sequence of ensembles

Classical CDs Weekly: Stravinsky, Weinberg, Igor Levit

Graham Rickson

Colourful ballets, neglected chamber music and a great German pianist's lockdown album

Higham, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Emelyanychev online review - I should rococo

Bernard Hughes

Joyous Schubert and Tchaikovsky to lift the spirits

Paul Lewis, Wigmore Hall review – Classical consolations

Peter Quantrill

Haydn and Beethoven's Diabelli Variations, putting life in perspective

Oslo Philharmonic, Mäkelä online review - focus, flair and midwinter heartbreak

Jessica Duchen

Hyperactive filming nearly ruins musical magnificence culminating in ideal Sibelius

Fast Food, Fast Music, Spitalfields Festival online - sizzling, scintillating fun and mastery

David Nice

4am in a Birmingham McDonald's, eating/cooking alongside playing and other wonders

Doric Quartet, Wigmore Hall review – sombre reflections

Gavin Dixon

Late quartets of Mozart and Britten delivered with gentle but sustained intensity

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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