fri 22/03/2019

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Bach St John Passion, Les Arts Florissants, Christie, Barbican review – sombre but engaging

Gavin Dixon

William Christie kicked off Passion season in London this year with a particularly sombre reading of the St John.

Schiff, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, RFH review – antique kit, modern sounds

Boyd Tonkin

Standing next to the warm brown beast of a piano built by Blüthner in Leipzig in 1867, Sir András Schiff advised his audience last night to clear their minds and ears of preconceptions.

Connolly, Drake, Berrington, Wigmore Hall review...

Boyd Tonkin

Vary the stale format of the vocal recital and all sorts of new doors open for performers and listeners alike. The only downside, as became clear at...

Classical CDs Weekly: Mahler, Sibelius, Simon...

Graham Rickson

 Mahler: Symphony No 3 Düsseldorfer Symphoniker/Adam Fischer, with Anna Larsson (alto) (Tonhalle Düsseldorf)Mahler's vast Symphony No 3 is his...

Faust, Matthews, LSO, Haitink, Barbican review -...

David Nice

Vibrant rustic dancing to conclude the first half, a heavenly barcarolle to cast a spell of silence at the end of the second: Bernard Haitink's 90th...

Janine Jansen, Alexander Gavrylyuk, Wigmore Hall review - a totally convincing recital

Sebastian Scotney

A superb duo on commanding form

Oelze, Oakes, Gould, BBC Philharmonic, Gnann, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - trio of surprises

Robert Beale

New conductor, new soloists, new programme – and a fascinating New World Symphony

Fellner, LSO, Haitink, Barbican review - the master at 90

David Nice

Mozart fine-tuned to the soloist, ideal but never idealised Bruckner

Berlioz Requiem, Spyres, Philharmonia Orchestra, Nelson, St Paul's Cathedral review - masses and voids

David Nice

Shock and awe on the 150th anniversary of the composer's death

Classical CDs Weekly: Bach, Lyatoshynsky, esbe

Graham Rickson

Solo suites, Ukrainian orchestral music and settings of Afghan poetry

Bernheim, Finley, LSO, Pappano, Barbican review - top Italians in second gear

David Nice

Keenly urged playing and singing, but this was Verdi and Puccini lite

Total Immersion: Ligeti, Barbican review - exploring a 20th-century master mind

Miranda Heggie

Superb interpretations from BBC forces in a day dedicated to the great Hungarian

Bevan, Padmore, Foster-Williams, LPO, Jurowski, RFH review - rural bliss

Boyd Tonkin

A delightful escape to the country with Haydn's Seasons

A Previn treasury

David Nice

Selected recordings of the great musician, who has died just short of his 90th birthday

Johnson, Carducci Quartet, Warwick Arts Centre review - new work with well-loved quintets

Miranda Heggie

A beautiful contemplation by Stephen Johnson sits alongside Mozart and Brahms

Classical CDs Weekly: Brahms, Dvořák, Higginson, Zender

Graham Rickson

Symphonies from a pair of close friends, contemporary English music and a reinvented song cycle

Joanna MacGregor, Kings Place review - soul and storm

Boyd Tonkin

The 'Appassionata' meets Nina Simone in an eclectic evening

Hardenberger, BBC Philharmonic, Storgårds, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - new work trumpets a sun journey

Robert Beale

A rarity, a premiere and a symphony of thoughtful modernity

Kulman, Skelton, BBCSO, Oramo, Barbican review - romantic sign-offs

Peter Quantrill

Beauty first and last in Mahler's long goodbye

Classical CDs Weekly: Artyomov, Mozart, Smith

Graham Rickson

Contemporary music from Denmark and Russia, and a master hornist tackles a favourite composer

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Ádám Fischer, Barbican review - ferocious Mahler 9 without inscape

David Nice

Brutally brilliant playing, but inwardness only came at the end of this performance

Hussain, Symphony Orchestra of India, Dalal, Symphony Hall, Birmingham review - new sounds from a new band

Miranda Heggie

Vigorous, fresh playing from India’s only professional symphony orchestra

Tynan, Appl, Burnside, Wigmore Hall review - the music of domesticity explored in song

Bernard Hughes

Wide-ranging duet recital covers the joys and trials of home and family

Trifonov, LSO, Rattle, Barbican review - Russian style with French chic (and cheek)

Boyd Tonkin

Piano prodigy meets his match in a blistering band

Elīna Garanča, Malcolm Martineau, Wigmore Hall review - towards transcendence

David Nice

Perfect expression and technique in Schumann, Wagner and Mahler

Ek, CBSO, Gražinytė-Tyla, Symphony Hall, Birmingham review - epics of sea and land

David Nice

Mirga pairs a Lithuanian late-romantic tone poem and familiar Grieg in an unusual context

Montero, Scottish Ensemble, Kings Place review - new music with a political edge

Bernard Hughes

Imaginative programming but the message sometimes overwhelmed the music

Classical CDs Weekly: Mahler, Saint-Saëns, Danish National Vocal Ensemble

Graham Rickson

Romantic orchestral music and Danish songs

Sarah Chang, Ashley Wass, Cadogan Hall review – a virtuoso's disturbing 'inner game'

Sebastian Scotney

A short yet uneven concert

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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