tue 13/04/2021

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Classical CDs: Dramatic symphonies, medieval bagpipes and a solo bassoon

Graham Rickson

 Beethoven: Symphony No. 7, Piano Concerto No. 4, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra/Lahav Shani (piano and conductor) (Warner Classics)

Castalian Quartet, Stoller Hall, Manchester online review - mercurial playing fits a varied programme

Bernard Hughes

The Polyphonic Concert Club is a collective of musicians – including Isata Kanneh-Mason and I Fagiolini – offering recorded chamber recitals released weekly through March and April.

Messiah highlights, English National Opera, BBC...

Boyd Tonkin

Well, it wasn’t quite Messiah, but it was a source of joy. In ENO’s end-of-lockdown staging, BBC Two’s transmission of Handel’s resurrection song...

Bach St John Passions from Oxford and Stockholm...

David Nice

Last Easter, viewing options were limited: no-one who saw it will forget a version of Bach’s St John Passion from the church where it was first...

Ibragimova, Davies, Sampson, Arcangelo, Wigmore...

Bernard Hughes

The baroque music ensemble Arcangelo have been around since 2010 but I hadn’t heard them before this pair of concerts streamed from Wigmore Hall in...

Tenebrae, Short, Wigmore Hall online review - reflections for Holy Week

Gavin Dixon

Rich and clear singing in a programme of Schütz, Bach and Reger

Classical CDs: Music for Easter, vocal anthologies and a trip to Dundalk

Graham Rickson

Seasonal choral music, two contemporary chamber discs and two vocalists showcased

First Person: violinist Abigail Young on getting back to her Japanese orchestra in Covid year

Abigail Young

Leader of the Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa on the trials of returning to what she loves

Lewis, Hallé, Thórarinsdóttir online review - serenity and spice

Robert Beale

More music as cinema from the orchestra’s Manchester centre

theartsdesk Q&A: conductor Klaus Mäkelä

David Nice

Balancing freedom and control in Oslo and Paris

Shakespeare Re-Shaped, Opera Up Close online review - Verdi on the sofa

Richard Bratby

The latest of a series of operatic caffeine shots

Isata Kanneh-Mason, Hallé, Elder online review - triumphant film return

Robert Beale

Extraordinary value for money in a full concert plus cinematic extras

Steven Osborne 50th Birthday Concert, Wigmore Hall online – perfect symmetries

David Nice

Teething sound problems transcended in an out-of-body Ravel Piano Trio

Classical CDs: Big symphonies, archlutes and the healing power of the viola

Graham Rickson

Late romantic symphonies, a soprano's swansong and a 20th century classic reinvented

Myaskovsky Dialogues, Yekaterinburg online review - revival and revelation

Peter Quantrill

A cantata in praise of Stalin transcends its text and time

Levit, Berlin Philharmoniker, Paavo Järvi, Digital Concert Hall review - optimal light and dark

David Nice

Different energies in buoyant Beethoven and disturbing Prokofiev

Pushkin House Music Festival online review - Russian around Bloomsbury

Jessica Duchen

A feast in which the rare and the treasurable have a chance to shine

Two LSO concerts on Marquee TV review - vibrant triptyches

David Nice

Oboist Juliana Koch has fellow players for audience in the highlight of more filmed events

Gillam, Manchester Camerata, Kuusisto, Stoller Hall online review - calm and exhilaration

Robert Beale

Time stands still and enthusiasm cheers the spirits in a concert for the present

‘The Healing Power of Music’: composer Nigel Hess on great-aunt Myra’s wartime concerts

Nigel Hess

Parallels between lockdown solace and a great Dame's National Gallery events

Urioste, Aurora Orchestra, Kings Place online review - superb musicianship in compelling close-up

Sebastian Scotney

Energy, joy and top quality production

Classical CDs: Dusty graveyards, bell sounds on pianos and a cold Cambridgeshire fen

Graham Rickson

Contemporary piano and orchestral discs, plus a pair of Czech violin concertos

Sean Shibe, Wigmore Hall online review - persuasive and poignant

Miranda Heggie

An intimate recital, despite the distance

Hughes, Manchester Collective, Lakeside Arts online review - creating the occasion

Robert Beale

From gentle melancholy to burning conviction in a single stream

Coote, Blackshaw, Fiennes, Wigmore Hall online review – lonely hearts club band

Boyd Tonkin

Tchaikovsky songs and Russian poems harmonise in a melancholy magic

Budapest Festival Orchestra, Fischer online review - Mahler movements for the fish

David Nice

What joy to see a big orchestra in action, even if this isn't all of the Seventh Symphony

Pavel Kolesnikov, Wigmore Hall online review - the joyful wisdom of the Goldbergs

Peter Quantrill

A profound and playful engagement with Bach’s world in miniature

Classical CDs: Elephants, pestilence and lockdown fiddling

Graham Rickson

Six more zingers, including strong British contemporary music and the complete Ravel

Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Emelyanychev online review – versatile virtuosity from Edinburgh

Christopher Lambton

The SCO’s music director leads from the harpsichord and accompanies on the piano

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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