wed 22/08/2018

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Proms at...Cadogan Hall 6, BBC Singers, Oramo review - excellent choristers need to diversify

David Nice

Those of us schooled in the English choral tradition know and love Hubert Parry's "My soul, there is a country", but few have sung or heard it live as the first of a mighty cycle. Parry completed the six Songs of Farewell not long before his death 100 years ago.

theartsdesk at Itinéraire Baroque 2018 - canaries in front of a Périgord altar

David Nice

Brits are the folk you expect to encounter the most in the rural-England-on-steroids of the beautiful Dordogne. In my experience they outnumber the French, at least in high summer, not just as visitors and retired homeowners but also as artisans selling their wares in Riberac's big Friday market.

theartsdesk at the Australian Festival of Chamber...

Jessica Duchen

North of Brisbane, south of Cairns and a short boat trip from the turquoise waters around the Great Barrier Reef, Townsville is the site of a north-...

Classical CDs Weekly: Bernstein, Sibelius,...

Graham Rickson

 Bernstein: Symphonies 1-3, Prelude, Fugue and Riffs Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia/Antonio Pappano (Warner Classics)...

Prom 45, Capuçon, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande...

David Nice

Who is the greatest British conductor in charge of a major orchestra? It's subjective, but my answer is not what you might expect. Jonathan Nott has...

Prom 44, Gringytė, CBSO, Morlot review - eloquently sculpted Gallic riches

David Nice

An impressive rarity lours between established French masterpieces

Prom 43, Batiashvili, West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, Barenboim review – from Russia with love

Boyd Tonkin

Grace, and gravity, from the border-crossing band

Prom 42, Buniatishvili, Estonian Festival Orchestra, Järvi review – bright lights from the North

Boyd Tonkin

A first-rate ensemble wrenches beauty from the abyss

Prom 40, Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Bell review - tea-time treats with wit and dash

Boyd Tonkin

Who needs a conductor with a leader-soloist of this calibre?

theartsdesk at the Pärnu Music Festival 2018 - Pärt, Leonskaja and friends hard at play

David Nice

Wild nights from Paavo Järvi's Estonian Festival Orchestra at home before their first Prom

Prom 39, West Side Story, Wilson review - best heard on the radio

Sebastian Scotney

This concert version must be experienced on its own terms

Prom 37, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Pappano review – order, and delight, out of chaos

Boyd Tonkin

Sir Antonio encourages his Romans to make the most of cosmic, and human, drama

Edinburgh Festival 2018 review: Zimerman, LSO, Rattle - fizzing chemistry

David Kettle

Bernstein, Dvořák and Janáček made for an odd if ultimately majestic concert

Classical CDs Weekly: Berio, Brahms, Schubert, A Map of the Kingdom of Ireland

Graham Rickson

An unfinished symphony is restored, a piano quartet gets new clothes and electronica from the Emerald Isle

Prom 34, Matthews, BBC Philharmonic, Mena - Anglo-American mixed bag

David Benedict

Walton, Copland, Britten, Barber in a 20th-century transatlantic assortment

Prom 33, Schultz, Reuter, BBCSO, Farnes review - powerful Brahms Requiem

Bernard Hughes

Choral classic paired with contemporary work of colour and theatricality

Prom 31, Barnatan, Minnesota Orchestra, Vänskä - American classics take centre-stage

Bernard Hughes

Overly safe choices of repertoire and tempos make for a slightly tame evening

Proms at...Cadogan Hall 4, Connolly, Middleton review - perfect partnering in the unfamiliar

David Benedict

Songs about sleep keep the audience wide awake

Proms 29 / 30, Swedish Chamber Orchestra, Dausgaard review - Bach Brandenburgs and beyond

Sebastian Scotney

Strong instrumental soloists provided some highlights in a long day

Prom 28, National Youth Orchestra, Benjamin review - micro-music from a mega-band

Boyd Tonkin

Agility and accuracy as well as firepower from the well-led teenage army

Classical CDs Weekly: Louis Couperin, Pärt, Bruce Levingston

Graham Rickson

The lesser-known Couperin revealed, early and late Arvo Pärt, plus piano music refracted through church windows

Proms 25 / 26 review - Russian masters, noodling guitar, late-night perfection

David Nice

Modern drama in early music and Tchaikovsky's genius eclipse anodyne new concerto

Prom 21, BBC Scottish SO, Volkov review - horncalls and mountainscapes

Gavin Dixon

Alpine-themed programme to match the scale of the Albert Hall

theartsdesk at the Three Choirs Festival - religion, passion and Nordic fakery

Stephen Walsh

The world's oldest music festival makes a pair of important choral finds

Prom 19, Ten Pieces review – creative format engages young audiences

Gavin Dixon

Fifth incarnation of the deservedly popular Proms children’s concerts

Prom 17, Murray, BBC NOW, Brabbyns review – pastoral vistas, with dark shadows

Gavin Dixon

Hubert Parry celebrated as symphonist, choral composer and teacher

Classical CDs Weekly: Sibelius, Strauss, Bernstein the Pianist

Graham Rickson

Sibelius from Wales, an Alpine travelogue from Jurowski, generous centenary pianism

Prom 16, Elder, Hallé – reason yoked to magic on one enchanted evening

Boyd Tonkin

Manchester's finest bring control as well as passion to spellbinding scores

Prom 15, Lewis, BBC Philharmonic, Gernon - a masterful Emperor took the musical laurels

Alexandra Coghlan

A thoughtful programme on the page didn't quite come into focus in performance

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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