tue 10/12/2019

Classical Features

theartsdesk at the Pärnu Music Festival 2016

David Nice

Where would you go to hear the most electrifying and collegial orchestral playing in the world? It used to be Lucerne while Claudio Abbado was alive. Now that the Lucerne Festival Orchestra has become like any classy superband, the answer is Pärnu in the south of Estonia.

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Pick of the BBC Proms 2016

theartsdesk

"Refreshingly traditional" is how one of our writers describes this year's BBC Proms programme. Alarmingly unadventurous might be another way of putting it, though only in comparison with many of the golden years under Roger Wright.

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First Person: the Herbert Howells Cello Concerto completed

Guy Johnston

In June 2014, I was invited to the late Sir John Tavener’s Memorial Service in Westminster Abbey. It was a poignant occasion, marked by a number of special tributes and performances. My childhood idol Steven Isserlis performed Threnos during the service and as I made my way up to thank him for his moving performance, I was aware he was clutching a big blue score, and talking with Meurig Bowen, the Artistic Director of the Cheltenham Festival.

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theartsdesk in Reykjavík: Nocturnes for Midsummer

David Nice

After a grey start, there was a spectacular sunset around midnight on the second of my two days in Reykjavik. It's what brings one of Iceland's most brilliant younger-generation talents, pianist Víkingur Ólafsson (and yes, he's worked with Björk), back to his homeland every June. He launched Reykjavík Midsummer Music in 2012, the first full year of programming at Olafur Eliasson's ever amazing Harpa concert halls and conference centre on the harbour.

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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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