Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Karabits (Onyx)
This is the third volume in Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s well-received Prokofiev series with music director Kirill Karabits. The Fourth Symphony in the original version, played here, is hardly known. Written in 1929 and based on his Diaghilev ballet The Prodigal Son, this early effort has a lightness which Karabits compares to a suite, the style direct and unfussy. (The revised version, Op 112, dates from 1947 and is considered a separate work, though some material overlaps.) In the Fifth, written in 1944 at the height of the Nazi invasion of Russia, Prokofiev keeps any narrative oblique, the mood unexpectedly optimistic. The BSO and Karabits capture the shadows and sparks superbly: they perform No 5 at the Proms on Monday 10 August.
The Night Shift (Radio 4) | iPlayer
Radio 1’s Ibiza Prom (Radio 1) | iPlayer
Kholodenko/Norwegian Radio Orchestra/Harth-Bedoya(Harmonia Mundi)
Does the world need another recording of the Grieg piano concerto? Possibly not, but this pairing with the Saint-Saëns second concerto in G minor, Op 22 makes an attractive package from the young Ukrainian pianist Vadym Kholodenko, who plays with intelligent virtuosity and youthful fire. The first movement of the Saint-Saëns jumps off the page, while his deliciously delicate handling of the central allegro scherzando is irresistible. The Norwegian Radio Orchestra players manage to find some originality in their interpretation of the Grieg and conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya keeps things rewardingly broad and expansive.
It is widely understood that lions, pandas and polar bears are all in serious jeopardy … The fact that bassoons now share this endangered status may come as more of a surprise, but this summer the reed instrument has become a strong candidate for international protection, according to fans of the sound of the symphony orchestra.
A campaign called Save the Bassoon now aims to remind the public of the importance of this engaging member of the woodwind section and to encourage young musicians to take it up. Using the “endangered species” model employed by the World Wide Fund for Nature, campaigners are highlighting the scarcity of bassoonists and paving the way for the promotion of some other orchestral instruments that are under threat, such as the oboe, French horn, viola, trombone and double bass.
There must be many reasons why individual politicians fight shy of declaring a love of the arts (Why you won’t catch a British politician at the opera, 31 July) but in a country like ours, bursting at the seams with talented, creative people, it is both their loss and ours. Theirs, because the arts, of whatever discipline, via an emotional transfusion to the heart, endeavour to speak the truth. In one shot both knowledge and insight for free, what could be more nourishing and wonderful than that? It’s our loss that they resist this insightful, entertaining and character-forming experience. Yes, until very recently, much of the arts have been supported by the better-off in society, but with the advent of live transmissions no school, institution or workplace needs to be deprived of the very best of live performance recordings. What was once commonly held to be true, that the arts were to teach the teachers, is no longer the case. Dear politicians, don’t be embarrassed, don’t be afraid of the truth, embrace it. We will all be richer for it.Judy LiebertNottingham
• Martin Kettle will perhaps have a lot to answer for if politicians decide that the way to broaden their knowledge of life beyond politics is to start going to see opera, where a typical week in an opera house gives us rape, murder, treachery and miscellaneous deception. Still, now that Glyndebourne no longer allows arrival by helicopter, at least we will be all in it together.Tim BarnsleyLondon
Matching music with images is a tricky art in any genre. Classical has some remarkable examples, for better and worse, of how fine the balance can be.
When classical music covers go wrong they really go wrong. There are some corkers out there, from the unfortunate Derek Bell Plays With Himself to Red Priest’s hair metal-style Handel in the Wind, with Julian Lloyd Webber’s Travels With My Cello and much else in between … so it’s gratifying to come across the rare instances when genuine creative thought has gone into the relationship between cover art and the music inside, whatever that might even mean in our ever-more post-product era of music consumption.
The final concert in this year’s Verbier festival features the works of two great Hungarian composers: Lizst and Bartók. You can watch the concert live, for free, here on Sunday 2 August at 1800 (GMT) or on demand until 30 October.
The 2015 Verbier Festival ends with a concert featuring Khatia Buniatishvili (pictured, below), who will perform Lizst’s Second Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in A major, and Bartók’s only opera, Bluebeard’s Castle, with Hungarian mezzo Ildikó Komlósi as Judith and baritone Matthias Goerne as Bluebeard. Marthe Keller narrates, and Charles Dutoit conducts the Verbier Festival Orchestra.
Mark Elder and his Hallé orchestra were perfect advocates for Vaughan Williams’s large and little-known Sancta Civitas
Vaughan Williams’s millennarian oratorio Sancta Civitas is the kind of large and neglected piece that the Proms exist for. Premiered in Oxford in 1926 to texts drawn from the Book of Revelation, it might have been written for the Albert Hall. The work calls for huge vocal forces, an organ and a distant boys choir, tenor and trumpet, here performing high in the gallery under the roof. And since Sir Mark Elder is a great organiser and advocate of such demanding large-scale rarities, these were near ideal conditions for the Hallé players and singers to make the case for this important piece.
They succeeded impressively, despite Vaughan Williams’s occasionally earthbound choral writing and the apocalyptic texts, which make for uncomfortable listening in an era of terrorism. That apart, Sancta Civitas is an expertly structured work, illuminated by haunting and successful orchestral writing, all meticulously marshalled by Elder and idiomatically played by the Hallé principals. Iain Paterson travelled from Bayreuth to sing the visionary text with sympathetic baritonal warmth, while the ending, in which tenor Robin Tritschler brought a jolt of energy from on high, was beautifully managed.
Hereford CathedralMathias’s ambitious Lux Aeterna gets a deserved revival but Nielsen’s Hymnus Amoris felt rather dogged
The Three Choirs festival regularly includes the staples of the choral repertory, but it also makes a point of exploring its more neglected corners, too, especially works it brought into existence in the first place. William Mathias’s Lux Aeterna was commissioned for the 1982 festival in Hereford; and performed there again in 1994 in memory of Mathias, who had died in 1992. Revived again this year, it stood up well – an ambitious, hour-long piece, part requiem (dedicated to the memory of the composer’s mother), part a wider celebration of divine light, using texts culled from a variety of liturgical sources including the requiem mass and the vespers for Trinity Sunday, as well as English versions of poems by St John of the Cross.
Each of the three parts is centred on a setting of one of those poems, sung by the solo contralto, mezzo and soprano in turn, framed by the adult and boys choirs. The first two sections are strikingly effective, with their shimmering washes of sound around the voices conjuring up images of eternal light, but the much longer third part loses its way a bit, and a trio for the three soloists (Sarah Fox, Jennifer Johnston and Claudia Huckle) goes on too long before the affirmative ending. Yet the performance under Peter Nardone certainly made the most of the shining moments, and showed that it well deserved its revival.
Classical music will only survive if it persuades younger audiences to give great music a chance. In Bristol and across Britain, programmers are reaching out to new listeners in exciting and imaginative ways
Related: Why it's do-or-die for classical music at the Bristol Proms
Unless the classical music world finds ways to attract new audiences, it risks losing not just the baby and bathwater, but the whole bathtub. As I wrote last year, musicians and audiences are hungry for change. Here in Bristol at the Old Vic’s summer Proms week – now in our third year – our mission is to feed them with as much of it as we can dream up. Our concerts have included such innovations as big-screen live relays, digital imagery, lasers, robotics, and Google Glasses, all designed to bring audiences as close to the heart of the listening experience as they can conceivably get. We’re not the only ones heeding the call: the Hallé has just created a brilliant pay-what-you-like scheme for an informal concert later this year, and around the country there are concerts in pubs, in nightclubs, opera in the open air, and orchestras in car parks. But before traditionalists begin spluttering, I want to stress that this isn’t gimmickry. It’s about concentrating on the music, presenting it simply and directly, and breaking down the very real barriers that keep people from experiencing it.
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