sun 20/06/2021

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

First Person: Roxanna Panufnik on a new version of her 'Letters from Burma' in aid of Myanmar refugees

Roxanna Panufnik

A month ago, I sat in St Martin-in-the Fields listening to London Mozart Players recording my orchestral version of Letters from Burma. I have never been to Burma but I was inspired to compose this work after reading a collection of 54 letters by Aung San Suu Kyi. The first excitement that morning was to be in the presence of an orchestra.

Hallé, Berglund, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - taking Beethoven seriously

Robert Beale

Tabita Berglund is that rare species, an up-and-coming orchestral conductor attracting enough attention to secure repeated international bookings in even these straitened times. She also happens to be female and young, which until relatively recently would have been seen as another major handicap to success.

Classical CDs: Bassoons, brass and symphonic...

Graham Rickson

 One Movement Symphonies: Music by Barber, Scriabin and Sibelius Kansas City Symphony/Michael Stern (Reference Recordings)Placing these three...

Matthews, LPO, Ticciati, Glyndebourne review -...

David Nice

Why travel to Glyndebourne for a concert? Well, for a start, none of us has heard a Mahler symphony live in full orchestral garb for at least 15...

From cancellation to new vigour: pianist and...

Joseph Middleton

April 2020 was to have been the celebratory 10th Anniversary Festival of Leeds Lieder, the organisation I’ve been fortunate enough to direct since...

Uchida, Philharmonia, Salonen, RFH review - Bach to the future

David Nice

The conductor as beguiling composer between arrangements and a Beethoven concerto

Bostridge, CBSO, Seal, Symphony Hall Birmingham review - large and live

Richard Bratby

Malcolm Arnold's Fifth Symphony shoots for the stars in a programme of British rarities

Grosvenor, RSNO, Chan, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall online review - too big for the small screen

Christopher Lambton

Polish modernism flanks Benjamin Grosvenor in Chopin's First Piano Concerto

Dark Days, Luminous Nights, Manchester Collective, The White Hotel, Salford review - a sense of Hades

Robert Beale

Musicians and artists find out where the bodies are buried

Bronfman, Philharmonia, Salonen, RFH review – celebration around C major

David Nice

The brilliant first of a great principal conductor’s two farewell programmes

Classical CDs: Three great conductors remembered, Mahler with accordion and a song cycle with no singer

Graham Rickson

Big box sets, a symphonic swansong in miniature and contemporary music for piano trio

Gweneth Ann Rand, Simon Lepper, Wigmore Hall review - a richly hued collection of songs

Miranda Heggie

An exploration of black voices through music

Swan Lake, LPO, Jurowski, Marquee TV review - full Tchaikovsky score perfectly paced

David Nice

Smoke and lights get in your eyes, but the sounds are magnificent

Wigmore Hall at Portman Square / Wang, LSO, Tilson Thomas, LSO St Luke's review - al fresco chamber, full orchestra indoors

David Nice

An exhilarating Sunday moving from percussionists to strings and on to a big symphony

András Schiff, Wigmore Hall review - mystery marvels mesmerise

Jessica Duchen

A surprise programme of less obvious works casts a spell all its own

Bergen International Festival, 26 May - 9 June preview - Norway meets America


Around 30 digital events to watch from anywhere around the world

Ragged Music Festival 2021, Ragged School Museum review - harrowing of hell from great musicians

David Nice

Pavel Kolesnikov and Samson Tsoy welcome colleagues for a mind-blowing weekend

Classical CDs: Horns, musical autobiography and Australian landscapes

Graham Rickson

A great instrumentalist's centenary celebrated, a musical friendship remembered and some unorthodox contemporary piano music

Sean Shibe, Wigmore Hall review - a bewitching hour

David Nice

Pavanes and elegies hold a live audience in hushed, intense thrall

LSO, Rattle, Barbican review - songs and dances in a room with an audience

David Nice

No doubt about the delight in offering a lively programme in a hall peppered with punters

Royal Northern Sinfonia, Sage Gateshead online review – a grab bag of players’ favourites

Bernard Hughes

Piazzolla the centrepiece of an imaginative and varied programme

Das Lied von der Erde, Kožená, Staples, LSO, Rattle, Barbican online review - more joy than sorrow

Peter Quantrill

New life around the corner in Mahler’s multi-faceted farewell

Ryedale Spring Festival online review - sowing the seeds of live music

Miranda Heggie

Music and visuals combine in this seasonal celebration

Europe Day Concert, St John's Smith Square online review – celebrating in style

Jessica Duchen

Portuguese tenor Luis Gomes shines bright in a lively multinational programme

Coote, Philharmonia, Gardiner, Southbank Centre online review - English masterworks

Bernard Hughes

Compelling Tippett and Britten alongside Elgar’s perennial favourite

Classical CDs: Mexican brass, fairy gardens and a socially distanced orchestral recording

Graham Rickson

Hefty piano sonatas, a joyous symphony and a semi-improvised epic from an inventive trumpeter

BBC Young Musician 2020 Finale, BBC Four review - poise versus extraterrestrial ecstasy

David Nice

After a year's wait, three finalists serve up first-rate professionalism - and something more

First Person: Boris Giltburg on lockdown interruptions to filming Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas

Boris Giltburg

The Moscow-born Israeli pianist on an odyssey that took several unexpected turns

First Person: composer and Renaissance man Tunde Jegede on transcending genres

Tunde Jegede

Crossing boundaries for Southampton's 'Mayflower 400: Voyages of the Heart' project

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

Close Footnote


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

latest in today

Reissue CDs Weekly: Dungen - Stadsvandringar

Dungen’s October 2005 appearance on Late Night With Conan O'Brien was incongruous. Here was a...

Solstice, English National Ballet, RFH review - a midsummer...

“A tonic to the nation”. That was the hoped-for effect of the Festival of Britain in 1951, and its concrete legacy was the...

First Person: Roxanna Panufnik on a new version of her...

A month ago, I sat in St Martin-in-the Fields listening to London Mozart Players recording my orchestral version of Letters from Burma. I...

Jimmy Carr, Palace Theatre review - rape gags and risible cl...

What to make of Jimmy Carr? He’s a fantastic gag writer and experienced...

Hallé, Berglund, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - takin...

Tabita Berglund is that rare species, an up-and-coming orchestral...

Album: Kings of Convenience - Peace or Love

The first release that brought folk-...

Happy Days, Riverside Studios review - memory, madness and m...

Just when you thought you couldn’t take any more one- or two-handers, online or in the theatre, along comes the supreme masterpiece to jolt you...