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Classical music | The Guardian
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From sampling, Jordi Savall and Stravinsky, to the wonders of Muse and Vivaldi, the bassoonist on the music that inspires him

Vinyl or digital?

I’ve got a collection of more than 1,000 LPs, but I surrendered to the accessibility of streaming services long ago.

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8 days ago | |
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Wigmore Hall, London
Jonathan Berman led a debut of new work in Alexander Goehr’s Manere series, rounded out with modern classics by Knussen and Stockhausen

New in this programme by the Frankfurt-based contemporary music group Ensemble Modern were two of three pieces called Manere by Alexander Goehr, heard alongside the first, which was written in 2008.

Goehr is, at 84, still adding to a body of work whose aesthetic parameters are wide ranging, though its density and rigour derive from a European tradition that has always been central to his heritage.

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8 days ago | |
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An opera you feel through a pillow is par for the course in Huddersfield. Plus, an intimate Firebird for four hands in Bath

Lie on the floor. Mat provided. Wrap yourself in the soft white blanket if you like. Open the black box in front of you. Retrieve and insert the foam earplugs. Put on the eye mask. Clasp the oddly bumpy pillow, in crisp cotton pillowcase, to any part of your body. Try not to sneak a look at your hundred or so fellow audience members doing the same (my additional instruction to those issued). Huddersfield contemporary music festival, now in its 39th season and more ambitious than ever, never lets you down when it comes to exploring, in the organisers’ own words, “new sounds, new experiences and new approaches to music-making”.

The desire to lie down in a concert or opera comes to us all at times. It’s strange how, when invited, with the word “immersive” attached, you feel quite reluctant. In Wojtek Blecharz’s Body-Opera, the idea was to make opera out of pretty much everything but singing. The riverside Calder gallery, a former warehouse, now part of the Hepworth Wakefield, had been transformed into a network of open cages, with suspended sheets of steel, lit by harsh beams, creating mirror effects. The four main performers, dressed in reflective foil costumes – all a bit Lost in Space – banged and shook the steel, themselves and anything else in sight. The audience lay as if in readiness for yoga.

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9 days ago | |
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Daniel Röhn (violin), Paul Rivinius (piano)
(Berlin Classics)

The career of violinist Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962), famous for his short, virtuosic salon pieces, coincided with the growth of recording. Daniel Röhn has this music in his blood, through his grandfather Erich Röhn, leader of the Berlin Philharmonic under Furtwängler, who heard Kreisler play. Here, Kreisler’s celebrated Liebesfreud, all the schmaltz and grace of another age in a mere few minutes, sits alongside his arrangements of caprices by Paganini and Wieniawski, Tartini’s The Devil’s Trill and Bach’s Partita No 3 in E: stylistically a bit of a shock but all wonderfully played by Röhn, springy, stylish and incisive. As a bonus, Kreisler’s own 1911 recording of his exuberant La Chasse is included.

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9 days ago | |
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Café Zimmermann, Rupert Charlesworth (tenor)
(Alpha Classics)

Zimmermann’s cafe was the scene of the Leipzig Collegium Musicum concerts during the 1730s, and it is easy to imagine the talented Carl Philipp Emanuel being presented along with his younger siblings by their proud father, Johann Sebastian. Most of the music here dates from later in Emanuel’s European career, and it ranges fascinatingly from the bold and eccentric in the A minor Sinfonia, to the sweet and sentimental in the songs and arias that give the disc its title. A middle course is steered by a B flat Trio Sonata and a lively Sonatina with horns and (too reticent) harpsichord. Excellent, tight-knit playing by the eponymous cafe players.

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Daniel Grimwood (piano)
(Edition Peters)

Hailed as the equal of Liszt and Chopin and dubbed “the hero of the pianoforte” by Schumann, the Bavarian Adolph von Henselt (1814-89) is all but forgotten today, but his virtuosic compositions have found a modern champion in British pianist Daniel Grimwood. Titanic variations, lilting waltzes, thundering impromptus and reflective nocturnes send the senses reeling in a blizzard of dazzling pianism, Grimwood admirably demonstrating why Henselt, who settled in St Petersburg, was considered the father of Russian pianism. All 78 minutes in one sitting can make you slightly dizzy, but this is a disc well worth exploring. The great Ballade, Op 31 in B flat major is a wonder and the Grand Valse, Op 30 in C sharp minor will leave you totally breathless.

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Das Rheingold | Richard Rodney Bennett | Andersen-Liederkreis | Alice’s Adventures Under Ground

Mark Elder and the Hallé are certainly taking their time over their Ring cycle. After Götterdämmerung in 2009 and Die Walküre two years later, they now go back to the beginning with Rheingold. Iain Paterson is Wotan this time, with Samuel Youn as Alberich.
Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, Sun

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11 days ago | |
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Couturier/Vassilakis/Hughes/Ensemble Intercontemporain/Pintscher
(Alpha)

Matthias Pintscher is now in his mid-40s, with a highly successful career as a conductor running in parallel with his prolific work as a composer. He’s currently music director of the Ensemble InterContemporain and artist-in-association with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, but his twin activites often seem to reinforce each other, and it’s with the EIC that Pintscher has recorded these three works composed between 2009 and 2012, each with links to Jewish culture.

Bereshit for Large Ensemble – the title employs a Hebrew word from the Torah for “beginning” – traces out a creation myth of sorts, beginning in the depths and tracing out a half-hour arc by steady accretion and mounting activity, virtuosically scored and played, until it more or less returns to where it began. The ruminative Uriel, for cello and piano, shares its title not only with the angel who expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, but with a painting by the abstract expressionist Barnett Newman, while Songs from Solomon’s Garden sets the Hebrew texts for baritone more as chant than true song, with a chamber orchestra providing the dramatic backdrop. It’s all very accomplished, all very well “heard”; how substantial this slick music is, though, is harder to say.

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11 days ago | |
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Our series ends in the German capital with Berg, Busoni, Bowie and Bernstein.

In putting Berlin under the microscope in the last of our post-Brexit tours of the great cities of Europe, it seems that all roads lead to Kurt Weill. “Berlin will forever be associated with the turbulent times of the 20th century,” says @abkquan, whose suggestions have been a mainstay of these surveys. “The Weimar period produced the definitive Berlin work – Weill’s Threepenny Opera with its many familiar tunes, especially with Lotte Lenya singing Jenny.”

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11 days ago | |
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Mühlemann/Kammerorchester Basel/Michelangeli
(Sony)

Here is a soprano with the kind of crystal-clear tone you could pour over ice and drink. Regula Mühlemann’s Mozart selection eschews the obvious arias while still showing off considerable musicality and a superior technique. In the fast final section of her aria from Der Schauspieldirektor the notes are as even, accurate and well defined as they would be on the piano; the syllables of Geme la Tortorella from La Finta Giardiniera fall in fat, clear raindrops; Servilia’s aria from La Clemenza di Tito is short but beautifully done. All have supple, flowing accompaniments from the Basel Chamber Orchestra. The stratospheric Vorrei Spiegarvi is the first thing that seems to touch her limits – it takes the voice up to the edge of what any singer might be expected to reach – but even if she doesn’t quite have the two low notes she needs at the end, she tackles it very convincingly.

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