wed 28/09/2022

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Purcell's Playhouse, Bevan, Barokksolistene, Eike, Purcell Room review - kaleidoscopic delights

David Nice

“What about the communication with the audience?” asked violinist and impresario Bjarte Eike in his First Person piece for theartsdesk. “How can a 'normal' concert be turned into a special event?” Explaining how is one thing – but doing it to dazzle our senses is what counts. Though the Alehouse Session which followed out in the foyer was brilliant business more or less as usual, “Purcell’s Playhouse” took us further on the road of making the old absolutely new.

Igor Levit, Wigmore Hall review - titanic talent shows his lighter side

Rachel Halliburton

It probably tells you all you need to know about Igor Levit that when a mobile phone pinged just before his encore, he neither ignored it, nor seemed annoyed, but turned it into a seamless musical gag. After sending a ripple of laughter through the audience as his eyes widened in comedic shock, he played a responding ping on the piano at exactly the same pitch.

Gurrelieder, LPO, Gardner, RFH review -...

David Nice

Schoenberg’s “Song of the Wood Dove” takes up a mere 11 of the 100 minutes of his epic Gurrelieder, though it’s a crucial narrative of how King...

theartsdesk at Musikfest Berlin - orchestral and...

David Nice

In its three weeks of world-class events, Muskfest Berlin has managed to be all things to all people – like a mini-Proms distilling the aspects of...

Classical CDs: Civil service, bassoon laments and...

Graham Rickson

 Mozart: The Piano Sonatas (Robert Levin, playing Mozart’s fortepiano) (ECM New Series)There is no doubt about the brilliant uniqueness of...

theartsdesk Q&A: Abel Selaocoe

Tim Cumming

The South African cellist and rising star of World and Classical on the music, life and history embedded in his debut album 'Where Is Home'

First Person: violinist and music director Bjarte Eike on bringing the Playhouse to his 'Alehouse Sessions'

Bjarte Eike

Barokksolistene's freewheeling spirit of delight returns to the Southbank tomorrow

Leonskaja, Staatskapelle Streichquartett, Wigmore Hall review - Brahms the chameleon

David Nice

Every quick-change nuance in the first two Piano Quartets transcendentally realised

Dunedin Consort, Butt, Lammermuir Festival review - majestic Mozart at St Mary’s Haddington

Simon Thompson

Star sopranos steal the show in a C Minor Mass of magisterial power

A hair-raising season: conductors at the 2022 BBC Proms


Top photographer Chris Christodoulou's annual gallery of full flight on the podium

Denk, RSNO, Macdonald, Lammermuir Festival review - dark Sibelius and mighty Brahms

Simon Thompson

Top Scottish orchestra joins forces with major pianist in its debut at St Mary’s Haddington

BBC Proms 2022 - silence after Mass

David Nice

No official Last Night, for the first time ever, but it's been an extraordinary season

Classical CDs: Five-pointed stars, unspecified instrumentation and talented siblings

Graham Rickson

Double lieder treats, Sarah Willis back in Cuba, Rachmaninoff transcriptions

Prom 69, Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, Monteverdi Choir, ORR, Gardiner review - shock, fervour and total focus

David Nice

A crazy masterpiece cuts like a knife through Albert Hall haze

The Goldberg Variations, De Keersmaeker, Kolesnikov, Sadler's Wells review - keyboard harmony and atonal dance

David Nice

Two major artists collaborate, leaving some unanswered questions

Prom 64, Beethoven's Last Three Piano Sonatas, Schiff review - morning glory

Boyd Tonkin

A tasteful but forceful journey

Prom 62, Mahler's Seventh Symphony, Berlin Philharmonic, Petrenko review - hallucinogenic night's journey into day

David Nice

Orchestral playing and winged conducting simply don't get better than this

Prom 61, Cabell, Chineke! Voices and Orchestra, Edusei review - a thrilling, fiercely rational Beethoven 9

Rachel Halliburton

Crystalline clarity, and ravishing vocals from BBC Cardiff Singer of the World

Sheku Kanneh-Mason & Friends, Bold Tendencies review - intimate tenderness under a car-park roof

David Nice

Peckham magic once more from a star cellist who values collaboration

theartsdesk Q&A: Horn player Sarah Willis on returning to Cuba

Graham Rickson

Guaguancós, cha-cha-chas and crickets as the horn player commissions a new work in Havana

First Person: Geoffrey Paterson on conducting the London Sinfonietta and working with Marius Neset

Geoffrey Paterson

The conductor's 51st concert with a legendary ensemble due at the Proms tomorrow

Prom 59, The Dream of Gerontius, Clayton, Barton, Platt, LPO, Gardner review - most sure in all its ways

David Nice

Elgar’s time-become-space odyssey floats and soars in the perfect venue

Prom 57, Bach Mass in B Minor, OAE, Butt review - passion and precision

Boyd Tonkin

Period accents combine with vocal splendour in Bach's late-career epic

TUKS Camerata, Voces8 Live from London online review - a diverse choral selection

Bernard Hughes

South African students offer voices of hope within a typically colourful festival

Batiashvili, Philadelphia Orchestra, Nézet-Séguin, Edinburgh International Festival 2022 review - classy playing, mismatched programme

Christopher Lambton

The magic of Karol Szymanowski casts two American composers in the shade

Prom 52, Kuusisto, Finnish RSO, Collon review - fairytales, folksongs and a soaring lark

Bernard Hughes

Impish Finnish violinist irresistible in a pair of contrasting showpieces

Classical CDs: Symmetrical storms, basset horns and a happy workshop

Graham Rickson

20th century Swiss vocal music, a trumpet recital and a pair of important box sets

Pavel Haas Quartet, Edinburgh International Festival 2022 review - a scorching team on top form

Simon Thompson

Balance and energy in Haydn, Martinů and Schubert

Prom 49, Mahler's 'Resurrection' Symphony, Connolly, Alder, LSO, Rattle review - a long and grand goodbye

Boyd Tonkin

A great Mahlerian marks his signature work with a thrilling flourish

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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