sun 08/12/2019

Classical Features

Mendelssohn on Mull: Close-up with Chamber Music

Natalie Wheen

Getting to Mull is an improbably romantic journey to classical music-making. One can easily understand why Mendelssohn was so affected by his experiences in Scotland – and Mull. On the three-hour train journey from Glasgow one sheds the habits of everyday life: the train winds through thickets of Forestry Commission plantations, which suddenly open out into wild panoramas of mountains and lochs, or a dramatic ruined castle against the skyline.

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theartsdesk in Cheltenham: Seven Concerts in Two Days

David Nice

For so many days a year, Cheltenham's Regency symmetry and conservative values totter and buckle as they veer dangerously towards relative festive liberalism. As I sliced into one of the four annual beanfeasts, the Cheltenham Music Festival, it struck me how well lopsided, sometimes painful bendings of a classical framework by Schumann and Brahms sat with a battery of volatile percussion celebrating Steve Reich's 75th birthday.

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Music and Maths: A Yardstick to the Stars

alexandra Coghlan Einstein: His Theory of Relativity was published in the same year as Schoenberg's provocative Kammersymphonie No 1

The history of maths and music is the history of early Greek philosophy, medieval astronomy, of the Reformation, the Enlightenment and the two World Wars. While mathematics at its purest may be an abstraction, the quest for its proofs is deeply and definingly human, charged with biological, theological and even political motive. Whether through performance or discussions about music, this year’s Cheltenham Music Festival (which begins this week) explores the mathematical processes that have...

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Set The Piano Stool on Fire: on filming Alfred Brendel

mark Kidel

When Alfred Brendel first mentioned Kit Armstrong to me, in early 2008, I knew there was a film there. He was brimming with excitement: Kit had come to him with an interpretation of a Chopin Nocturne that displayed a command and maturity that was baffling considering Kit was 13 at the time of the recording.

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Opinion: Is classical music irrelevant?

alexandra Coghlan

Cambridge University, cradle of Newton, Keynes and Wittgenstein, of Wordsworth, Turing and Tennyson, has produced 15 prime ministers and more Nobel Prize-winners than most nations. In its 200-year history, the university’s debating society has hosted princes, politicians and leaders in every field: the Dalai Lama, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, and last week a 25-year-old east-London DJ, Kissy Sell Out.

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theartsdesk in Cuenca: Religious Music Week

Peter Culshaw Houses perched precariously in the medieval town of Cuenca

It’s Holy Wednesday in Cuenca, and going round the corner into Cathedral Square I’m surrounded by hordes of guys in multicoloured mufti who look like the Ku Klux Klan, with unnecessarily pointy hoods. Twenty of them are carrying a heavy float with a large statue of Jesus on it. In Cuenca things are fairly austere, compared to other places where there’s a lot of self-whipping, or where, if you have sin on your conscience, you may end up banging nails into your hands, as in Mexico. Still there...

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Interview: Violinist Daniel Hope

Adam Sweeting Daniel Hope sets off to explore the legacy of Joseph Joachim

In the later 19th century, violinist and composer Joseph Joachim was hailed as the most brilliant fiddler of his day, but today his name lives on via the great works that he helped to bring into the classical repertoire. Brahms dedicated his Violin Concerto to Joachim, while Bruch's First Violin Concerto was substantially revised by Joachim and became closely identified with him. Both the Schumann and Dvořák concertos were written for him, though Joachim never performed the latter.

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Interview: Pianist Nick Van Bloss

Jasper Rees Nick Van Bloss: 'The piano was a safe haven for me'

A new recording of The Goldberg Variations is now available, by Nick Van Bloss. In the annals of British pianism, it’s not quite a name to be conjured with. Or not yet. Until he performed at Cadogan Hall in 2009, he had not visited the concert platform in 15 years. After a promising early career, he retired at the age of 26. It’s not as if he didn’t play the piano at all in the interim. He just didn't play to anyone but himself. The reason why he gave up performing is simple....

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Elgar's Enigma - A Love Child Named Pearl?

ismene Brown

UPDATE 2015: Four years ago, in January 2011, I wrote this article about the music critic and biographer Michael Kennedy's search for the missing portion of Elgar's life. It identified a Mrs Dora Nelson as the composer's mistress and mother of a lovechild, who might have influenced some legendarily enigmatic aspects of Elgar's compositional output.

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Opinion: If the classical concert scene ain't broke, don't fix it

David Nice

Most of us don't object to experiments in concert presentation - the occasional one-off showcase to lure the young and suspicious into the arcane world of attentive concert-going, the odd multimedia event as icing on the cake. It's only those pundits obsessed with the key word "accessibility" who tell us that the basic concept of sitting (or standing, as they have at the Proms for well over a century) and listening with respect for those around us needs overhauling. It's a typical...

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