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Classical music | The Guardian
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Tuesday brought a Double Victory for the Incorporated Society of Musicians' Protect Music Education Campaign. But challenges remain.

Tuesday brought genuine, actual, bona fide, what-I-call Good News, thanks to months of pressure from the Incorporated Society of Musicians Protect Music Education campaign, which was supported by over 5,000 individuals and 134 music education and industry institutions. The government confirmed extra funding for the Music Education Hubs, to the tune of £18m, which means that the Hubs will receive £75m in 2015-16. And perhaps even more significantly, in a statement from David Laws, the Minister of State for Schools also released on Tuesday - the government U-turned on its previous advice to Local Authorities that they shouldnt continue to fund Music Services. Snuck in at the end of the statement is the following: Local authorities will continue to have total discretion about whether to spend any of the ESG [Education Services Grant] they receive on providing music services. Within the convolutions of Department-of-Education speak, that may not sound like much of a ringing endorsement, but its a return to the status quo, at least, in which the money for the Hubs is ring-fenced for music education, and Local Authorities still have the power and privilege of funding music in their area.

So, with all the twists and turns of these facts, figures, and jargon, it all means that more children will have access to music education, to instrumental tuition, and singing, and that the Hubs can plan their next year with confidence. Yet problems remain: those discretionary grants from Local Authorities have been slashed in recent years, and are still at threat, and the overall grant for Music Education is not back to the historic high that it reached a few years ago. The ISMs wider campaign goes on, to secure commitments about what happens after 2016, and meaningful pledges from all the major parties about what happens in the next parliament. Along with the still patchy success of the Hub-project, theres still a lot of work to be done even if theres also reason to celebrate just a little too

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12 hours ago | |
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Royal Albert Hall, London
The Proms' first complete Rosenkavalier featured vivid orchestral colours and memorable performances from the principal singers

In May, reviews of Glyndebourne's new production of Der Rosenkavalier triggered a media storm about sexism. But the reviews also discerned a musical coolness in the production. Now, two months later, in this semi-staged rendering for Glyndebourne's annual Prom visit, many of those reservations can be set aside.

That may be because Richard Jones's iconoclastic production had to be severely scaled back for the Albert Hall. But the principal reason is musical. Robin Ticciati conducted with a sure feel for the ebb and flow of Strauss's score, and with the London Philharmonic rearranged in front of the staging, orchestral colours were vividly pointed. The offstage band at the start of act three, often muddily distant in the theatre, has rarely sounded so interesting.

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12 hours ago | |
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Leading authority on Russian music with a long-running interest in the enigmatic character of Tchaikovsky

The musicologist David Brown, who has died aged 84 after suffering from Alzheimer's disease, was a leading authority on Russian music whose four-volume study of the composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was acclaimed as the definitive work on the subject.

He also produced other books on Tchaikovsky and on the composers Modest Mussorgsky and Mikhail Glinka, was editor of the New Grove Russian Masters series of composer biographies, and served on the editorial committee of Musica Britannica, the national collection of British music.

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13 hours ago | |
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Concentus Musicus Wien/Harnoncourt
(Sony Classical, two CDs)

Since Charles Mackerras's superb recordings with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra appeared in 2008, we have been quite spoiled by new accounts of Mozart's last three symphonies, most recently from Frans Brüggen and the Orchestra of the 18th Century (Glossa). Nikolaus Harnoncourt's versions, the first time he's recorded these works with Concentus Musicus Wien, the orchestra he founded in 1953, is the latest of the sets, but typically for Harnoncourt there is much more to it than just fine period-instrument performances of three of the most familiar works in the symphonic repertoire.

After 60 years of studying and conducting these works, Harnoncourt is convinced that Mozart intended the three symphonies, famously composed in just two months in the summer of 1788, as a unity the parts of a gigantic instrumental oratorio, which was perhaps inspired by a choral work of CPE Bach's, Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu, that he had conducted earlier the same year. That, Harnoncourt's reasoning goes, would explain the thematic connections between the three works, and also why the opening to the E-flat Symphony K543 is conceived like an overture, and why neither that work nor the G minor Symphony K550 has what he calls a "proper" finale, unlike the C major Jupiter Symphony K551, whose last movement seems intended to sum up everything that has come before.

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14 hours ago | |
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At the heart of this years BBC Proms is a celebration of global classical music. Musicians from Lapland, Qatar and Turkey tell us how they came to be playing in SW7

Ten international ensembles are making their first Proms appearance this year. Many are from countries that do not have an established tradition of classical music and operate outside the mainstream Euro-American hub that has dominated classical music for the past 300 years. Ten or 20 years ago many of these countries, which now boast world-class ensembles, barely even had an orchestra. We talked to players from the orchestras making their Proms debut and asked them to tell us about the role the orchestra plays in their countrys cultural life.

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17 hours ago | |
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Wigmore Hall, London
Donohoe played a fascinating selection of rarely heard Opus 1s

Designating a work as "Opus 1" meant something special to many 19th- and early 20th-century composers; it was a public statement, a manifesto signalling a coming-of-age musically. Beethoven's Op 1 was a set of piano trios, Rachmaninov's his First Piano Concerto, Stravinsky's a Symphony in E flat. Others did not choose quite so well an all-but-forgotten Rondo in C Minor for piano in Chopin's case but there are still plenty of worthwhile piano works that serve as significant landmarks, and Peter Donohoe selected six of them for his Wigmore recital.

Whether by accident or design, the two halves of this recital left very different impressions. While the music that Donohoe played before the interval, by Tchaikovsky (two flashy salon pieces), Prokofiev (his Rachmaninov-like First Sonata) and Bartók (a Lisztian rhapsody), hardly hinted at what those composers would write for piano later in life, the three in the second half all seemed to emerge fully formed in their Op 1s.

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1 day ago | |
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Royal Albert Hall, London
David Zinman's final concert as chief conductor of the Zürich Tonhalle was a superb example of his intelligent musicianship

This beautiful Prom marked the end of an era. It was David Zinman's last concert as chief conductor of the Zürich Tonhalle, and it brought to a close a 20-year partnership that has ranked among the most distinguished and consistently successful of recent years. The bittersweet feel of the occasion was captured in a programme in which sadness and celebration went side by side: Strauss's Till Eulenspiegel and Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony flanked Dvoák's Violin Concerto, with Julia Fischer as soloist. All three works were performed with the intelligence and emotional refinement that are integral to Zinman's style.

Till Eulenspiegel was all elegance, wit and disarming grace, a portrait of a roguish charmer, rather than a prankster. Zinman's understanding of Strauss's need to balance narrative and sentiment with classical structure was exceptional, and the logic of the underlying rondo was delineated with considerable clarity.

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Beethoven's Pastoral is no musical cul-de-sac, writes Tom Service. It's a radical work, and in its final movement is music more purely spine-tingling and life-enhancingly joyful than almost anywhere else in his output

This week, Beethovens Pastoral Symphony, his Sixth. Well, it does what it says on the tin, doesnt it? A sentimental romp through the Viennese countryside, a programmatic sideline to the central sweep of Beethovens development, a gentle counterpart to the fire and brimstone of the Fifth Symphony and the bacchanal of the Seventh.

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For Weir, the first woman in the position, it means supporting composers and exploring the state of music education

Judith Weir must be the most modest master of the Queen's music in the job's 388-year history. "The palace asked a lot of people who it should be, and I said Jonathan Dove would be the best person," she said, after her appointment was confirmed on Monday. "But they took no notice of me and a few weeks ago they told me they had had the most suggestions that it ought to be me so well done."

But it's a mistake to read 60-year-old Weir's self-deprecation as a sign that she is not up for the public profile of the role. I first met her more than a decade ago, but have never known her to be more relaxed, forthcoming or fired-up. Weir, who is the first woman to hold the job, is clearly going to be in her element as she tackles this position.

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2 days ago | |
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Isle of Eigg, Hebrides
This inaugural event showcased a wide range of music from Jens Lekman to cellist Olly Coates' Messiaen but the island was the real star

Could there be a more magical setting for a music festival? The little Hebridean island of Eigg is a gem: tucked between Skye and Ardnamurchan, flanked by craggy Rùm and tiny Muck, topped by its iconic knobbly An Sgùrr. The ferry trip involves whale and dolphin spotting; and the campsite is a white sandy beach, perfect for morning swims among the seals. In recent decades, Eigg has become famous for its progressive collective land ownership (its residents bought the island in 1997), and that community spirit was evident everywhere at the festival from locals giving punters lifts on the back of pick-ups to headline acts taking voluntary shifts on the bar. It's a cliche, but the star of the show was the island itself.

Strictly speaking, this was Howlin' Fling's inaugural year, though the festival has provenance. Run by musician and Eigg resident Johnny Lynch, AKA the Pictish Trail, it's the successor to the Fence Records' Away Game, held before Fence imploded in 2013 and Lynch set up his own label, Lost Map. Mercifully, the weekend bore few vestiges of that acrimonious split, aside from the odd cheeky quip.

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2 days ago | |
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