mon 22/07/2019

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Prom 3, CBeebies: A Musical Trip to the Moon review - a celebration of the Apollo 11 landing

Gavin Dixon

This year’s Proms for children were entitled “Off to the Moon”, and audiences were invited on a musical space voyage to mark the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. The format was a mix of orchestral music, kids’ programmes on big screens and CBeebies presenters keeping the show rolling.

Prom 2, Bell, Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, Hrůša review – Bohemian rhapsody, and refinement

Boyd Tonkin

Eighty years ago this summer, Neville Chamberlain’s indifference to the peoples of Czechoslovakia – “a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing” – reaped its harvest of total war. These days, we have no excuses for not knowing a lot more. And the opening concerts of this year’s BBC Proms have shown why we should.

Prom 1, BBCSO, Canellakis review - space-age...

Gavin Dixon

A new commission, a Romantic tone poem and a choral spectacular – standard fare for the First Night of the Proms. Traditionally, the First Night sets...

Classical CDs Weekly: Stewart Goodyear, Nielsen,...

Graham Rickson

 Stewart Goodyear: Callaloo, Piano Sonata; Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue Stewart Goodyear (piano), Chineke! Orchestra/Wayne Marshall (Orchid...

Pick of the BBC Proms 2019


It's been much the same trajectory over the past few years for many of us: look through the Proms prospectus, feel a bit disappointed that there isn'...

Londinium, Griffiths, St John’s Waterloo review - a choral Grand Tour

Bernard Hughes

Leading London choir demonstrate imaginative programming and committed singing

Classical CDs Weekly: Jupiter String Quartet, Bruce Levingston, Paul McCreesh

Graham Rickson

Newly-commissioned chamber music, a thought-provoking piano recital and a spectacular choral anthology

theartsdesk at the Ravenna Festival 2019 - in heaven with Dante's Purgatorio and Estonian rites

David Nice

A dramatic tour from the tomb of Italy's greatest poet and music among the mosaics

Alder, The Mozartists, Page, Wigmore Hall review - a Mozart feast for eyes and ears

David Nice

Period-instrument thrills and a state-of-the-art soprano

'A product not only of his era but also of his travels': Ian Page on Mozart's cosmopolitan education

Ian Page

The Mozartists' main man on how an early life moving around Europe shaped a genius

The Anvil, Royal, Purves, BBCPO, Gernon, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester - disturbing, baffling and moving

Robert Beale

This commemoration of the Peterloo Massacre is the kind of art that Manchester loves

Chetham's Symphony Orchestra, Chetham's Chorus, Threlfall, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester - a thrilling triumph

Robert Beale

Truly awesome Mahler is the highspot of Chetham’s 50th anniversary year

Classical CDs Weekly: Dove, Leighton, Martin, Vaughan Williams

Graham Rickson

Two very different British composers, and a pair of mass settings

theartsdesk in Treviso - cultural patronage, Italian style

David Nice

High-level attention to detail in the Fondazione Benetton's support for the arts

London Mozart Players, Davan Wetton, St Giles Cripplegate - rousing Shakespearean revel

Bernard Hughes

Summer Music in City Churches festival closes with a celebration of the bard

Classical CDs Weekly: David Matthews, José Rolón, Shirley Smart

Graham Rickson

A new English symphony, Mexican piano music and a transcontinental cellist

Ax, Keenlyside, Dover Quartet, Wigmore Hall review – celebratory Schumann

Gavin Dixon

The great pianist marks his 70th with a congenial if unassuming programme

Classical CDs Weekly: Mahler, Saint-Saëns, Noemi Gyori

Graham Rickson

An emotional symphonic farewell, two French symphonies plus music for flute and guitar

Treatise Project, Goldsmiths review - potent symbols reveal rich music potential

Gavin Dixon

Cornelius Cardew’s graphic score inspires diverse readings, both free and literal

LSO, Guildhall School, Rattle, Barbican review - irresistible momentum

Peter Quantrill

Patience pays off in sublime Bruckner

theartsdesk in Svalbard: cultural excellence at the top of the world

David Nice

At 78 degrees north, polar bears outnumber people - but Norway's musical flag flies high

Goodyear, Chineke! Orchestra, Marshall, Symphony Hall, Birmingham Review - engaging and uplifting

Miranda Heggie

Joy and sparkle from this youthful band

Classical CDs Weekly: Daniel Elms, Hindemith, Tchaikovsky

Graham Rickson

Hull encapsulated in sound, plus German violin sonatas and a tragic symphony

Roger Wright on Oliver Knussen: ‘his challenge to us all to remain curious lives on’

Roger Wright

Inspiring composer, conductor and mentor remembered by Snape Maltings CEO

Kozhukhin, RPO, Petrenko, RFH review - more cultured than electrifying

David Nice

Brahms within bounds and smooth Strauss in a well-measured romantic double bill

Morison, Williams, RLPO, Davis, Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool review – a vision of near perfection

Glyn Môn Hughes

Chorus steals the show in a highly-charged performance of Duruflé's Requiem

Philharmonia, Salonen, RFH review – bittersweet Berlin

Boyd Tonkin

A Weimar culture series kicks off with comedy, joy – and pain

Classical CDs Weekly: Ståle Kleiberg, Lise Davidsen, Park Avenue Chamber Symphony

Graham Rickson

Norwegian contemporary music, a young soprano's debut disc and three 20th century ballet suites

Kuusisto, Aurora Orchestra, Collon, Birmingham Town Hall review - aural voyage through space

Miranda Heggie

Exploring music inspired by the heavens

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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