sat 23/06/2018

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Classical CDs Weekly: Bach, Prokofiev, Moonkyung Lee

Graham Rickson

 Sei Solo: Bach's Six Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Alone Thomas Bowes (Navona)

theartsdesk at Leipzig's Blüthner Piano Factory - a perfect family business

David Nice

Have you ever wondered why the Steinway grand piano is invariably the instrument of choice in every hall you visit, great or small? Why do the halls in question not offer a choice between two or three pianos of different manufacture, as so many did before the Second World War?

The Courtesan’s Gaze, Fieri Consort, Handel House...

Bernard Hughes

From an early age, Barbara Strozzi would have entertained the guests of her father’s Venetian academy with songs, including her own works. A...

Enter theartsdesk / h Club Young Influencer of...


Are you a young blogger, vlogger or writer in the field of the arts, books and culture? If so, we've a competition for you to enter.The Hospital Club...

Bach Weekend, Barbican review - vivid and vibrant...

Gavin Dixon

John Eliot Gardiner was 75 in April, and to celebrate, the Barbican Centre staged a weekend devoted to his favourite composer. Gardiner himself...

Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill, Opera North, City Varieties Music Hall review - life as a cabaret

Graham Rickson

Informative, entertaining trot through a composer's life and work

Classical CDs Weekly: Martin, Martinů, Vivaldi, 4 Girls 4 Harps

Graham Rickson

Unaccompanied choral music, baroque concertos and a harp quartet

theartsdesk at the Setúbal Music Festival 2018: youth leads the way

David Nice

Community spirit infusing high-level events in a Portuguese port

theartsdesk at the Leipzig Bach Festival: a cantata blockbuster

Stephen Walsh

Gardiner, Suzuki, Koopman and Rademann offer a musical and historical revelation

Roscoe, BBC Philharmonic, Mena, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - a scenic send-off

Robert Beale

Spanish sunshine in an operatic farewell to orchestra’s departing chief

Classical CDs Weekly: Haydn, Poulenc, Varèse

Graham Rickson

Classical piano sonatas and French orchestral music, plus the modernism that inspired Frank Zappa

RSNO, Oundjian, Usher Hall, Edinburgh review - ending on a high in Mahler

Miranda Heggie

A poised performance of the Ninth Symphony brings a fine tenure to a close

Franco Fagioli on performing the Baroque: 'a challenge is to interpret beyond the musical notation'

Franco Fagioli

The Argentinian countertenor on the pleasures and challenges of singing Handel and Co

Bavarian State Orchestra, Kirill Petrenko, Barbican review - Mahler's Seventh as dance suite

David Nice

The febrile master bound for Berlin makes life-enhancing magic with his Müncheners

Classical CDs Weekly: Messiaen, Shostakovich, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Graham Rickson

Box set special: French pianism, Soviet symphonies and a lavish tour souvenir

Gringytė, Williams, CBSO, Gražinytė-Tyla, Symphony Hall, Birmingham review - living in the moment

Richard Bratby

Lili Boulanger burns fierce and bright in a powerful centenary tribute

Berlin Philharmonic, Rattle, RFH review - everything but inscape

David Nice

Bruckner's Ninth with a conjectural finale resplendent as sound

Ryuichi Sakamoto: 'Ideally I'm recording all the time, 24 hours a day' - interview

Joe Muggs

From Xenakis to Oneohtrix Point Never via Bowie and Bootsy, Sakamoto recalls an extraordinary life in music

Classical CDs Weekly: Beethoven, Scarlatti, Stradihumpa

Graham Rickson

Downsized symphonies, crystalline keyboard sonatas and a musical marriage between high and low voices

Karen Cargill, Simon Lepper, Wigmore Hall review - opulence within bounds

David Nice

Classy subtleties, but this mezzo in a thousand needs more pianistic help to soar

Classical CDs Weekly: Bernstein, Bruckner, Schmitt

Graham Rickson

Americana from Merseyside, plus Austrian sacred music and fascinating French rarities

The Rosenkavalier film, OAE, Paterson, QEH review - silent-era muddle expertly accompanied

David Nice

Superb salon-orchestra playing redeems Strauss's lazy work on a meandering silent film

Chopin's Piano, Tiberghien, Kildea, Brighton Festival review - mumbled words, magical music

David Nice

French pianist runs the gamut of colour and expression, but the framework's shaky

BBC Young Musician 2018 Final, Symphony Hall, Birmingham review - sky-high standards

Gavin Dixon

Three very different musical personalities compete for the trophy

Pierre-Laurent Aimard, QEH review – taking Ligeti to extremes

Gavin Dixon

Long-standing advocate keeps Ligeti fresh and vibrant, and delivers plenty of surprises

Ligeti Chamber Music, QEH review - inventive celebration of iconic composer

Bernard Hughes

Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s programming impresses as much as his playing

BBC NOW, Alexandre Bloch, Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff review - tonal music in an avant-garde sense

Stephen Walsh

Brilliant concert justifies the Vale of Glamorgan Festival's commitment to living composers

Classical CDs Weekly: Delius, Grieg, Martinů, Simon Höfele

Graham Rickson

Unfamiliar (and over-familiar) piano music, a sublime choral work, new music for solo trumpet

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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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