tue 16/08/2022

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Chineke! Chamber Ensemble / Martineau & Osborne / SCO, Marshall, Edinburgh International Festival 2022 review - great musicians, not always great music

Simon Thompson

What happens when great musicians play weak music? I couldn’t help but think about that while I listened to the musicians of Chineke! Chamber Ensemble (★★) on Friday morning in Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall. Chineke! was founded to provide opportunities for black and ethnically diverse classical musicians, so it’s a logical step for them also to promote music written by non-white composers, too.

Prom 35, Wang, Oslo Philharmonic, Mäkelä review - crystalline fantasy and levitational brilliance

David Nice

Klaus Mäkelä, 26-year old chief conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic and Orchestre de Paris, lined up for the same role at the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in 2027, knows exactly where he’s going: a crucial asset in the idiosyncratic ebb and flow of orchestral oddities by Sibelius and Strauss. So, too, does pianist Yuja Wang; boundless imagination matched to phenomenal technique made something far more fascinating than usual of Liszt’s First Piano Concerto.

Prom 34, Soltani, BBC Philharmonic, Ollikainen...

Boyd Tonkin

Proper music tells stories just about itself, the stern pedagogues insist; it doesn’t (or anyway shouldn’t) paint descriptive pictures of places and...

Prom 31, Alder, Ulster Orchestra, Rustioni review...

Boyd Tonkin

The Ulster Orchestra’s Prom finished early to accommodate a late-night concert by the esteemed Tredegar Band – but by then, we’d already enjoyed one...

Prom 27, Dinnerstein, National Youth Orchestra,...

Boyd Tonkin

Danny Elfman – the punk rocker-turned-film composer behind Batman, Spider-Man, Edward Scissorhands and The Simpsons – reports that he felt sceptical...

First Person: Mark Bromley of the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain celebrates a milestone in its history

Mark Bromley

This splendid institution's CEO explains its egalitarian role in the musical ecosystem

Prom 19, Hallé, Elder review - cinematic drama, and plenty of it

Alexandra Coghlan

A stylish visit from Manchester's finest

Prom 17, Walshe, Tsallagova, Shenyang, NYC, BBCSSO, Volkov review - the sublime and the (enjoyably) ridiculous

Boyd Tonkin

Timeless anxieties bind a Romantic masterwork and postmodern musical cabaret

Classical CDs: Wedding cakes, nocturnes and survival

Graham Rickson

British and Latvian orchestral music, plus new commissions for solo violin

theartsdesk at the Pärnu Music Festival 2022 - conductors from 15 to 85, and the greatest players

David Nice

The biggest and best musical family in the world gathers again by the shores of the Baltic

Quo vadis, Three Choirs Festival review - a hundred minutes of smug serenity and flowing piety

Stephen Walsh

Fine singing and playing but not enough muscle in the music

Prom 9, Finch, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Matiakh review - thrilling, conceptually fascinating evening

Rachel Halliburton

Two S(c)heherazades frame a beehive of activity by Sally Beamish

Prom 8, Kozhukhin, BBCSO, Stasevska review - Russian classics meet contemporary Iceland

Bernard Hughes

Romantic warhorses intriguingly placed alongside inscrutable Scandinavian newcomers

Prom 7, Dido and Aeneas, La Nuova Musica review - bold and original from the start

Rachel Halliburton

Levity as well as sadness from David Bates' ensemble, searing intensity from Alice Coote

Prom 6, BBC Philharmonic, Davis review - a bracing pair of British symphonies

Bernard Hughes

Vaughan Williams convinces more than Tippett in two committed performances

Gillam, Brodsky Quartet, Manchester Camerata, Buxton International Festival 2022 review - a freshness in classic Elgar

Robert Beale

Manchester Camerata celebrates its 50th anniversary with celebrity guests

Prom 5, Power, BBC Philharmonic, Mena review - detail and breadth

Gavin Dixon

Multi-faceted MacMillan Viola Concerto, while less is more in Bruckner

Prom 2, Walker, Sinfonia of London, Wilson review - sensuousness and subtlety in excelsis

David Nice

Breathtaking gamut of colours and dynamics, unique vigour from the super-orchestra

Prom 1, Verdi's Requiem, BBCSO, Oramo review - introspective sorrow and consolation between the blazes

David Nice

Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha is the light that burns brightest in a hallowed ritual

Mad Song, Ballance, High Barnet Chamber Music Festival review - Reich towers over the rest

Bernard Hughes

This ambitious new festival offers chamber music, but not as we know it

Classical CDs: sound effects, football teams and waterfalls

Graham Rickson

Quirky Americana, electronically manipulated piano music and early concertos for cello

BBC Proms 2022 preview - big is beautiful again


Our classical music writers choose from the large-scale Royal Albert Hall Proms

theartsdesk at the Ravenna Festival 2022 - body and soul in perfect balance

David Nice

Completion of the city’s big Dante project with 'Paradiso' is only one of three wonders

First Person: Angela Slater on reaping the rewards of the LPO's Young Composers programme

Angela Slater

Working with the best musicians towards one of a number of premieres on Thursday

theartsdesk at the East Neuk Festival 2022 - on Cloud Nine for five days of the greatest music-making

David Nice

Five supreme pianists, two top string quartets and so much more on the Fife coast

Classical CDs: Nightingales, seasons and practical jokes

Graham Rickson

A pair of luxury orchestra own-label releases, plus French piano music and a contemporary composer grappling with time and space

George Fu, St Martin-in-the-Fields review - high intellect and visceral shocks

David Nice

Chopin the modernist, Rzewski the electric in totally satisfying recital

First person: Ukrainian violinist Valeriy Sokolov on performing while his homeland is destroyed

Valeriy Sokolov

His home city of Kharkiv in ruins, a great musician plays on

Hughes, Manchester Collective, Hallé St Peter’s, Manchester review - new work and stunning singing

Robert Beale

Edmund Finnis song cycle gets its launch with passion, anguish and consolation

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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