sun 26/05/2024

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Classical CDs: Cowhorns, gloves and marching drums

Graham Rickson

 Britten: Spring Symphony, Sinfonia da Requiem, Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Simon Rattle (LSO Live)

Kolesnikov, Wigmore Hall review - celestial navigation through a cabinet of wonders

Bernard Hughes

Like his baggy white suit, pitched somewhere between Liberace and Colonel Sanders, Pavel Kolesnikov’s playing was spotless at the Wigmore Hall last night. It comprised two very different halves, the first a miscellany of apparently unrelated pieces, the second devoted to a single set of pieces by a single composer.

Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, Sousa,...

Boyd Tonkin

Better (much better, indeed) late than never. The Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique should have given their cycle of Beethoven symphonies at St...

Hough, Hallé, Elder, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester...

Robert Beale

It’s probably a bit early to be getting misty-eyed about the approaching end of Sir Mark Elder’s time as music director of the Hallé, but the...

Bavouzet, Manchester Camerata, Takács-Nagy,...

Robert Beale

There’s a sense of cheerful abandon about Manchester Camerata’s Mozart concerts with Jean-Efflam Bavouzet and Gábor Takács-Nagy that is hard to...

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Dunedin Consort, Mulroy, Wigmore Hall review - songs of love old and new

Bernard Hughes

First-rate chamber choir explore contemporary and Renaissance approaches to amour

Coote, LSO, Tilson Thomas, Barbican review - the triumph of life

Boyd Tonkin

A great, ailing conductor rises to Mahler's mightiest challenge

Britten Sinfonia, The Marian Consort, Milton Court review - a journey around turbulent spirit Gesualdo

Rachel Halliburton

Contemporary homages among the works in this celebration of the Renaissance 'badass'

Classical CDs: Coffee, peppercorns and puppets

Graham Rickson

A prolific conductor's centenary celebrated, plus Hungarian ballet music and baroque keyboard concertos

Gomyo, National Symphony Orchestra, Kuokman, National Concert Hall, Dublin review - painful brilliance around a heart of darkness

David Nice

A violinist for all facets of a towering Shostakovich masterpiece

Sansara, Manchester Collective, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - sense of a unique experience

Robert Beale

Three world premieres all respond to Feldman’s 'Rothko Chapel'

Remembering conductor Andrew Davis (1944-2024)


Fellow conductors, singers, instrumentalists and administrators recall a true Mensch

Hallé, Wong, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - meeting a musical communicator

Robert Beale

Drama and emotional power from a new principal conductor

Guildhall School Gold Medal 2024, Barbican review - quirky-wonderful programme ending in an award

David Nice

Ginastera spolights the harp, Nino Rota the double bass in dazzling performances

Queyras, Philharmonia, Suzuki, RFH review - Romantic journeys

Boyd Tonkin

Japan's Bach maestro flourishes in fresh fields

Classical CDs: Swans, hamlets and bossa nova

Graham Rickson

A promising young pianist's debut disc, plus Finnish mythology and a trio of neglected British composers

Christian Pierre La Marca, Yaman Okur, St Martin-in-The-Fields review - engagingly subversive pairing falls short

Rachel Halliburton

A collaboration between a cellist and a breakdancer doesn't achieve lift off

Ridout, Włoszczowska, Crawford, Lai, Posner, Wigmore Hall review - electrifying teamwork

David Nice

High-voltage Mozart and Schoenberg, blended Brahms, in a fascinating programme

Sabine Devieilhe, Mathieu Pordoy, Wigmore Hall review - enchantment in Mozart and Strauss

Mark Kidel

Leading French soprano shines beyond diva excess

Špaček, BBC Philharmonic, Bihlmaier, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - three flavours of Vienna

Robert Beale

Close attention, careful balancing, flowing phrasing and clear contrast

Watts, BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Bignamini, Barbican review - blazing French masterpieces

David Nice

Poulenc’s Gloria and Berlioz’s 'Symphonie fantastique' on fire

Bell, Perahia, ASMF Chamber Ensemble, Wigmore Hall review - joy in teamwork

David Nice

A great pianist re-emerges in Schumann, but Beamish and Mendelssohn take the palm

First Persons: composers Colin Alexander and Héloïse Werner on fantasy in guided improvisation

Colin Alexander And Héloïse Werner

On five new works allowing an element of freedom in the performance

First Person: Leeds Lieder Festival director and pianist Joseph Middleton on a beloved organisation back from the brink

Joseph Middleton

Arts Council funding restored after the blow of 2023, new paths are being forged

Classical CDs: Nymphs, magots and buckgoats

Graham Rickson

Epic symphonies, popular music from 17th century London and an engrossing tribute to a great Spanish pianist

Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Philharmonia Chorus, RPO, Petrenko, RFH review - poetic cello, blazing chorus

David Nice

Atmospheric Elgar and Weinberg, but Rachmaninov's 'The Bells' takes the palm

Daphnis et Chloé, Tenebrae, LSO, Pappano, Barbican review - lighting up Ravel’s ‘choreographic symphony’

David Nice

All details outstanding in the lavish canvas of a giant masterpiece

Goldscheider, Spence, Britten Sinfonia, Milton Court review - heroic evening songs and a jolly horn ramble

David Nice

Direct, cheerful new concerto by Huw Watkins, but the programme didn’t quite cohere

Marwood, Power, Watkins, Hallé, Adès, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - sonic adventure and luxuriance

Robert Beale

Premiere of a mesmeric piece from composer Oliver Leith

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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