wed 19/12/2018

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

L'enfance du Christ, BBCSO, Gardner, Barbican review - Berlioz's kindest wonder

David Nice

Like the fountains that sprang up in the desert during the Holy Family's flight into Egypt - according to a charming episode in the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew - Berlioz's new-found creativity in the 1850s flowed from a couple of bars of organ music he inscribed in a friend's visitors book.

Mahan Esfahani / Richard Goode, Wigmore Hall review - clarity and contrast from two keyboard masters

Sebastian Scotney

Two successive nights, two contrasted solo keyboard recitals at the Wigmore Hall: not great for the knees but marvellous for the soul.

Epiphoni Consort, Reader, St Paul's Covent...

Bernard Hughes

Like a supermarket "Christmas Dinner" sandwich, cramming the delights of a full festive lunch into every bite, Epiphoni Consort’s The Christmas Truce...

Classical CDs Weekly: Christmas, part 2

Graham Rickson

 Christmas on Sugarloaf Mountain Apollo’s Fire/Jeannette Sorrell (Avie)Subtitled "an Irish-Appalachian celebration", this disc follows the...

Thomas Adès, Wigmore Hall review - playful and...

Gavin Dixon

Janáček has been an abiding passion for Thomas Adès. As both composer and performer, Adès revels in the whimsical and the absurd, and he finds both...

The Swingles, LPO, Jurowski, RFH review – austere Stravinsky, luminous Berio

Gavin Dixon

Year-long Stravinsky festival wraps up with a diverse sixties showcase

theartsdesk in Brno: Czech 100th feted through Janáček and Smetana

David Nice

Rarities in a festival featuring an entire operatic canon, plus heartfelt celebrations

Mitsuko Uchida, Royal Festival Hall review - conviction and grace

Gavin Dixon

Sophisticated and fragile Schubert, delivered with exquisite beauty

Sophie Bevan, Philharmonia, Rouvali, RFH review - an Alpine blaze

David Nice

Generously flawed at first, the young Finn's conducting hit ever greater heights in Strauss

Bostridge, Pappano, Barbican review - a tough but thrilling march across the battlefield

Boyd Tonkin

Tenor and pianist make intense drama out of the music of modern war

Hallé, Elder, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review – three iconic works

Robert Beale

An ear-stretching showpiece – and more – with glorious playing

theartsdesk in Warsaw - Penderecki at 85

Gavin Dixon

Celebrations for the great Polish composer, and an inspiring audience with Arvo Pärt

CBSO, Kremerata Baltica, Gražinytė-Tyla, Symphony Hall, Birmingham review - numb laments and life after death

David Nice

Mirga is back with tough endgame symphonies by Shostakovich and Weinberg

Iestyn Davies, Aurora Orchestra, Kings Place review - arresting musical miscellany

Bernard Hughes

Charismatic countertenor excels in music from Dowland to Adès and Muhly

The English Concert, Bicket, Wigmore Hall review – small-scale Bach

Gavin Dixon

Elegant and agile playing in Bach’s Advent cantatas, but only one memorable soloist

Trpčeski, RLPO, Petrenko, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall review - one composer, many views

Glyn Môn Hughes

Brahmsfest brings a big spectacular from a dream team

Classical CDs Weekly: Beethoven, Cage, Janáček

Graham Rickson

Dramatic 19th century symphonies and offbeat percussion music, plus a rousing meeting of Czech minds

Kolesnikov, BBCSO, Brabbins, Barbican review - rethought masterpiece, stolid rarity

David Nice

Uninspired Ethel Smyth Mass follows standing ovation for vivacious Tchaikovsky

Our Classical Century, BBC Four review - enthusiasm and delight

Marina Vaizey

From the trenches to the jazz age, Sir Lenny embarks on an enthralling musical journey

Thibaudet/Batiashvili/Capuçon Trio, Barbican review – a supergroup to savour

Boyd Tonkin

Three solo stars come together in ego-free harmony

LSO, Roth, Barbican - not enough pathos, but a remarkable step-in

Sebastian Scotney

Bass William Thomas, still a student, stepped in and shone in Bartók’s Cantata Profana

Classical CDs Weekly: A Walk with Ivor Gurney, Yiddish Glory, For the Fallen

Graham Rickson

Three discs for Remembrance weekend

Borodin Quartet, LPO, Jurowski, RFH review - mixed results in oddball Czechfest

David Nice

More in-your-face playing needed for a bold and unusual programme

Fialkowska, BBCSO, Nesterowicz, Barbican review – a cliche-free night in Poland

Boyd Tonkin

In an unusual programme, the only folksy patriotism came from – Elgar

First Person Plural: the Calidore String Quartet on music for their torn nation

Calidore String Quartet

How Mendelssohn, Prokofiev, Janáček and Golijov speak for our troubled times

Classical CDs Weekly: Josquin, Calidore String Quartet, Ronn McFarlane

Graham Rickson

Renaissance choral music and dramatic string quartets, plus a solo disc from a master lutenist

Federico Colli, Wigmore Hall review – poised on the edge of the possible

Jessica Duchen

The young Italian pianist brings a fantastical, probing imagination to a chewy programme

Refreshing the sonic spectrum: disability and excellence in British orchestras

Joe Turnbull

A musical evolution for the 21st Century

Dmitri Ensemble, Ross, St John's Smith Square review - impressive minimalism for strings

Bernard Hughes

Young ensemble bring a vitality and nuance to American classics

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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