sun 21/07/2019

Classical Features

theartsdesk at the Istanbul Music Festival: classics alla Turca

David Nice

Flashback to 1981, when the Bolshoy Ballet danced Swan Lake Act Two to a tinny Melodiya recording in Istanbul's Open-Air Theatre (seats were cheap for Interrailing students). Turkey was friends with the Soviet Union then. It hadn't been in the 1950s, when Turkish pianist and citoyenne du monde İdil Biret was advised not to play a Prokofiev sonata in her motherland.

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theartsdesk in Prague: Czech Spring with Smetana and Martinů

David Nice

On the itinerary of musical tourists around Europe, the opening of the Prague Spring Festival comes a close third to the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year's Day Concert and the Bayreuth experience. That said, Smetana's Má vlast (My Homeland) – the immoveable opener – is more of an acquired taste than Johann Strauss or Wagner.

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Is Wales really the land of song?

Professor Garet

Culture, said Aneurin Bevan, comes off the end of a pick. A hundred years ago there was no shortage of picks when a quarter of a million coalminers were employed in south Wales. By now the mines have gone but many of the choirs they created are still here, for the male voice choir is one of the distinctive emblems of Welsh identity.

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theartsdesk in Warsaw: Moniuszko Vocal Competition 2016

Gavin Dixon

We don’t hear much about composer Stanisław Moniuszko in the West, but in Poland he’s considered a key figure in the history of opera. Moniuszko’s statue stands at the entrance of the National Opera House in Warsaw, and inside he’s depicted by several busts and portraits.

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theartsdesk in Göttingen: HandelFest 2016

David Nice

What Auden called "the sexy airs of summer" arrived early in Göttingen this year. Frog action in the Botanical Gardens of the town's pioneering University may have been less clamorous than when I first came here in late rather than early May (the annual International Handel Festival usually begins whenever the Ascension Day holiday happens to be, so it's a moveable celebration).

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theartsdesk at Tectonics Glasgow 2016

David Kettle

For a festival of wild, genre-colliding musical experimentation, Tectonics is almost starting to feel like part of the establishment. Which shows, if nothing else, that it must be getting somewhere with its boundary demolishing. The 2016 weekend over 7-8 May was its fourth outing in Glasgow – conductor Ilan Volkov founded it in Reykjavík in 2012, and since then it’s spread its all-embracing eclecticism worldwide to Tel Aviv, Adelaide, New York and beyond.

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theartsdesk in Tallinn: Estonian Music Days

David Nice

A young nation with a small population and the most untarnished democratic credentials in Europe today can do certain things with festivals not so easy to imagine here. When Estonian Music Days, focused on native and contemporary music, took nature as its theme for 2016 – in this case posing a question in the title, "Green Sound?" – it could expect many of its 60 featured composers to respond to commissioning by making a direct link to the native ecology.

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Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016) - 'Music for anyone and everyone'

Peter Quantrill

With the death of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies from leukaemia at the age of 81, the UK has lost the most prolific composer of his generation, as well as one of the most passionate advocates for art music.

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Remembering Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1929-2016)

Marshall Marcus

2016 began with the passing of Pierre Boulez, arguably the doyen of modernism in the field of classical music. Now, only a couple of months later, it is the turn of Nikolaus Harnoncourt, a musician occupying a similar level of singular elevation but this time in what is often described (certainly inadequately in this case) as the "period instrument" movement.

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theartsdesk in Oslo: Vasily Petrenko, the Leningrad Dynamo, comes to town

Adam Sweeting

I've never thought of myself as a Shostakovich fan, tending to regard what I know of his output as bleak and forbidding. Photographs of the stone-faced composer with the mortuary attendant's demeanour haven't helped.

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