sun 08/12/2019

Classical Features

theartsdesk in Banff: Where quartets compete

Harriet Smith

There are few more beautiful places in the world to make music than Banff, the arts community founded in 1933, originally to teach drama. From small beginnings it became a name uttered with a certain reverence among the music world. And that is still true today, despite the fact that the centre is now as populated by conference attendees and "leaders of the future" as musicians, dancers, writers and artists.

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theartsdesk in Stavanger: A touch of Fröst

David Nice

Three great pianists, one of the world’s top clarinettists and two fine string players in a single concert: it’s what you might expect from a chamber music festival at the highest level. What I wasn’t anticipating on the first evening in Stavanger was to move from the wonderful cathedral to an old labour club up the hill, now a student venue with two halls, for a late-night cabaret and hear five more remarkable performers.

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theartsdesk in Grafenegg: Fairytale festival

alexandra Coghlan

It may not be the land of milk and honey, but as the home of wine and apricots Lower Austria’s Wachau might just be even better. Bookended by the towns of Melk and Krems, this stretch of the Danube valley is absurdly picturesque, strewing the banks of the river with enough wooded hillsides and ruined castles to fill a Gothic novel (or several).

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Opinion: When artists could speak out

David Nice

Take note of the title, with its “could”, not “must”. “The word ‘must’ is not to be used to Princes,” quoth Good Queen Bess as echoed in Britten’s Gloriana. Yet that was the verb used by New York writer Scott Rose, guest-posting on Norman Lebrecht’s Slipped Disc blog.

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Opinion: Cuts to music education are a positive step

Christopher Monks

“Without music, life would be a mistake”: Nietzsche. Sadly for many – indeed tragically, Nietzsche would say – music education in the UK has become so inconsistent that now, music barely features in some children’s lives at all. For years, county music services have been tied in to long contracts with services and teachers, some of whom have consistently delivered outstanding musical education, while others are tired and disconnected from the needs of the pupils they are teaching.

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theartsdesk in Oslo: Trumpets sound for Munch

alexandra Coghlan

Back in the 19th century it was violinist Ole Bull who put Norway on the musical map, likened by Schumann to Paganini and celebrated across Europe for his supreme virtuosity. More recently pianist Leif Ove Andsnes has emerged as the nation’s classical champion, a rare performer whose taste is equal to his technique.

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Extract: The Show Must Go On (2012)

Gareth Davies

As we approach the end of what feels like a long season of concerts, I cannot think of a more satisfying way to finish than with Bernard Haitink on the podium. All conductors have different styles, whether dancelike, quivering, rude, tormented genius, or extended baton (others are available). Bernard is one of a precious few who don’t really seem to do anything much when they stand in front of an orchestra.

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Extract: The Show Must Go On (1912)

Gareth Davies

New York City, the movie star, is so familiar now even to those who have never visited that it’s difficult to imagine the impact on the LSO players of arriving there for the first time. As they stood on the deck of the Baltic, the Statue of Liberty must have been a welcome sight after 10 days at sea. First impressions of the city were not entirely favourable: before they could get to their hotel, the entire orchestra with its baggage, instruments, and music had to be checked through customs...

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theartsdesk in Dresden: Wagner and Vivaldi at the 2013 Dresden Music Festival

alexandra Coghlan

Sitting in the concert hall in Dresden’s Albertinum – the city’s modern art gallery – is a paradoxical experience. You are indoors, but faced on all sides by external walls, framed by Dresden’s typical bourgeois 19th-century architecture but looking up to a giddyingly contemporary, asymmetric ceiling. Neon-lit signs cover one wall, while the other gives way to a gallery of classical sculpture.

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theartsdesk in Göttingen: Handel goes east

David Nice

Let me confess: I had to return to lovely Göttingen as much for the frogs as for the Handel. Puffing out their throats like bubblegum, the amphibians' brekekekek chorus in the ponds of the great university’s botanic gardens actually made a more spectacular showing, in my books, than the main opera of this year’s Handel Festival, the 93rd, with its canny theme linking the German honorary Englishman with the Orient.

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