sat 20/04/2024

Classical Music reviews, news & interviews

Bell, Perahia, ASMF Chamber Ensemble, Wigmore Hall review - joy in teamwork

David Nice

All three works in the second of this week’s Neville Marriner centenary concerts from the ensemble he founded vindicated their intention to reign for ever and ever. Those very words as set by Handel in his “Hallelujah” Chorus were treated fugally by Mendelssohn in the coruscating finale of his Octet, and as part of her own homage in the Partita for String Octet, Sally Beamish approached them very differently. Her ethereal fugue deserves immortality, too.

First Persons: composers Colin Alexander and Héloïse Werner on fantasy in guided improvisation

Colin Alexander And Héloïse Werner

For tonight’s performance at Milton Court, the nuanced and delicate tones of strings, voices, harmonium and chamber organ will merge and mingle together to tell tales of a rain-speckled landscape, luck and misfortune, forgotten valour, daily creative rituals and memories slowly vanishing into flames.

First Person: Leeds Lieder Festival director and...

Joseph Middleton

Everyone needs friends and everything is connected. As we throw the doors open on to the 2024 Leeds Lieder Festival I am struck by just how...

Classical CDs: Nymphs, magots and buckgoats

Graham Rickson

 Beethoven: Symphonies 1-9 National Symphony Orchestra/Gianandrea Noseda (NSO)I’m old enough to remember the BBC offering free downloads of the...

Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Philharmonia Chorus, RPO,...

David Nice

Purple patches flourished in the first half of this admirable programme: it could hardly have been otherwise given Sheku Kanneh-Mason’s devotion to a...

Daphnis et Chloé, Tenebrae, LSO, Pappano, Barbican review - lighting up Ravel’s ‘choreographic symphony’

David Nice

All details outstanding in the lavish canvas of a giant masterpiece

Goldscheider, Spence, Britten Sinfonia, Milton Court review - heroic evening songs and a jolly horn ramble

David Nice

Direct, cheerful new concerto by Huw Watkins, but the programme didn’t quite cohere

Marwood, Power, Watkins, Hallé, Adès, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - sonic adventure and luxuriance

Robert Beale

Premiere of a mesmeric piece from composer Oliver Leith

Elmore String Quartet, Kings Place review - impressive playing from an emerging group

Bernard Hughes

A new work holds its own alongside acknowledged masterpieces

Gilliver, LSO, Roth, Barbican review - the future is bright

David Nice

Vivid engagement in fresh works by young British composers, and an orchestra on form

Josefowicz, LPO, Järvi, RFH review - friendly monsters

Boyd Tonkin

Mighty but accessible Bruckner from a peerless interpreter

Cargill, Kantos Chamber Choir, Manchester Camerata, Menezes, Stoller Hall, Manchester review - imagination and star quality

Robert Beale

Choral-orchestral collaboration is set for great things

St Matthew Passion, Academy of Ancient Music, Cummings, Barbican review - moving and humble

Bernard Hughes

A small-forces performance of intimacy and directness

Classical CDs: Fog, overdubs and broken glass

Graham Rickson

An Easter oratorio, plus late-romantic song transcriptions and an iconic ballet score

Bach's Easter Oratorio, OAE, Whelan, QEH review - the joys of springtime

Boyd Tonkin

The upbeat, sunlit side of Holy Week Bach

Schubert Piano Sonatas 4, Paul Lewis, Wigmore Hall review - feverish and sometimes violent

Ed Vulliamy

Explosive new insights in the pianist's latest interpretations of the last three masterpieces

Bach St John Passion, Dublin Bach Singers, Marlborough Baroque Orchestra, Murphy, St Ann's Church, Dublin - choral fire

David Nice

Passion and precision from a very engaging ensemble, soloists more variable

Bach Passions, Dunedin Consort, Mulroy/Jeannin, St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral/Queen's Hall, Edinburgh review - twin peaks

Simon Thompson

Scaling the heights of Saints Matthew and John within a week

Our Mother, Stone Nest review - musical drama in a mother's grief

Bernard Hughes

Touching staged version of Pergolesi’s 'Stabat Mater' features brilliant singing

Gillam, Hallé, Poska, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - an experience of colour and fun

Robert Beale

Sensitive shaping from a consummate Estonian

Ensemble Augelletti, London Handel Festival, Charterhouse review - dynamic framing of the honorary Englishman

Rachel Halliburton

Delightfully inventive repertoire performed with wit and energy

St Mary's Music School, RSNO, Søndergård, Usher Hall, Edinburgh review - a shining role for young choristers

Christopher Lambton

A youthful evening promises more than it delivers

Bevan, Williams, BBCSO, MacMillan, Barbican review - inspirational journey from darkness to light

Rachel Halliburton

UK premiere of 'Fiat Lux' alongside other works evoking transcendence and revelation

First Person: conductor Peter Whelan on coming full circle with the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra

Peter Whelan

From watching Handel's 'Israel in Egypt' on TV to conducting it

Hughes, SCO, Kuusisto, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh review - Clyne shines, Grime fragments

Simon Thompson

Playing and programming admirable, but this concert bulged at the seam

Classical CDs: Cigars, cognac and tarantulas

Graham Rickson

Concertante works for cello and orchestra, plus music for pianos, winds and solo strings

Winterreise, Clayton, Aurora Orchestra, Collon, QEH review - new maps for the great journey

Boyd Tonkin

A mighty tenor surmounts obstacles on stage and in score

Esther, London Handel Festival, St George’s Hanover Square review - a lopsided celebratory oratorio

David Nice

Anniversary acclaim rooted in the honorary Londoner's first concert drama

First Person: Laurence Cummings on his 25th and final year as Musical Director of the London Handel Festival

Laurence Cummings

A blockbuster month begins tomorrow, mixing starry casts with new talent

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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