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Anima Eterna Brugge/Van Immerseel
(Zig-Zag Territories)

The period-instrument colonisation of the 20th-century French orchestral repertoire, pioneered by François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles, continues with Jos van Immerseel and Anima Eterna Brugge's disc of two of Ravel's best known arrangements. It's very interesting but not entirely successful. As always with Immerseel and his band, attention to detail is faultless, and it's good to hear more portamento in their phrasing than we're used to; the violin solo in the last movement of Ma Mère l'Oye is delightful, and the trumpet's slurs in Promenade of Pictures at an Exhibition seem just right. Such small-scale revelations are found in both works, but real character is lacking not the plushness of modern-orchestra versions of Pictures, but something more fundamental. The Market Place at Limoges hardly bustles, The Hut on Fowl's Legs is too civilised, while the final Great Gate of Kiev lacks majesty. It seems too much of an historical exercise, and not enough of a real performance.

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16 days ago | |
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Prégardien/Bochum Symphoniker/Sloane
(CPO)

Christoph Prégardien's selection of Des Knaben Wunderhorn songs, 10 of the 20-odd settings of the collection of folk poetry that Mahler made in the 1880s and 90s, contrast perfectly with Wolfgang Rihm's Rilke cycle, which the tenor introduced for voice and piano in 2002, and sang for the first time in their orchestral form two years later. The guileless world of Mahler's songs, with their bittersweet sentimentality and jaunty melodies, is far removed from Rilke's intensely wrought verse (taken from a posthumously published volume) and the chromatically drenched expressionism of Rihm's settings of it, which sometimes recall Schoenberg's early orchestral songs. Prégardien sings both composers with meticulous attention. He's wonderful at characterising the Mahler songs without ever making them twee; the shape of each phrase and the colours in it are there for a reason.

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16 days ago | |
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Ambika P3, London
Thomas Adès' opera on the downfall of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, can seem heartless, but Amanda Roocroft's nuanced performance is full of pathos

Opera

Powder Her Face Ambika P3, London

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16 days ago | |
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Royal Festival Hall, London
An all-Beethoven programme featuring three of the composer's greatest piano sonatos is intellectually taut, with some loose ends

Just six weeks after his recital of Chopin and Debussy at the Royal Festival Hall, Maurizio Pollini was back there with a programme of Beethoven. It contained three of the greatest of the piano sonatas Tempest, Op 31 no 2; Waldstein, Op 53; and Hammerklavier, Op 106. It is musical territory in which Pollini has always been at his best, his playing most tightly focused and engaged.

That intellectual tautness was also evident at the start this time, in the way the opening movement of Op 31 no 2 was laid out, its drama slightly reined in, its energy fiercely concentrated, and in how the finale carried a surging, remorseless inevitability. Other pianists invest the extraordinary recitatives in the first movement with more pathos and the Adagio with more warmth, but the detached way Pollini presented them was of a piece with the rest of his performance.

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16 days ago | |
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Fancy a seven-hour stroll through the complete piano works of Philip Glass and 92 other pieces inspired by him? Then get to Paris next week

There is to be a Philip Glass marathon at the Palais du Tokyo in Paris next week. Now, the prospect of Nicolas Horvath's free seven-hour, non-stop recital of Glass's complete piano music on Friday 11 April may bring you out in a cold sweat: either of anticipation or with the feeling that a cohort of wild chevaux couldn't drag you anywhere near. I'm caught between both reactions which is a decidedly uncomfortable place to be but I have to admire his sheer stamina.

Horvath has impeccable and unique form in the field of the piano marathon: last year, also at the Palais du Tokyo, he played a complete performance of Satie's ever-vexating Vexations, an astonishing non-stop 35-hour stint at the keyboard that makes, say, John Ogdon's performance of Sorabji's four-hour Opus Clavicembalisticum look like a trifle. (There's also a version lasting nine hours and 41 minutes by Horvath that he recorded in Lagny-sur-Marne, in what must surely be one of the longest videos on YouTube.)

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17 days ago | |
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Part of this years Its All About Piano! festival at the Institute français is an exhibition of photographs taken by Amy T Zielinski. Here, she picks some of her favourite shots, and tells us why.

The exhibition is from 4-6 April at the Institute français, London SW7

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17 days ago | |
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Royal Festival Hall, London
Marriner led the orchestra with his habitual good-humoured perfectionism, revealing its distinctive polished and balanced sound in Mozart, Saint-Saëns and Elgar

I've been living with Neville Marriner and the orchestra he formed in 1958, the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, for most of my life. So prolific, in fact, has this partnership been in its recording projects which, though it has concentrated on baroque and classical repertoire, embrace music of the 19th and 20th centuries that many listeners will have had the same experience: Marriner and his band's uniquely balanced and polished sound have become an indelible part of classical music's heartlands.

Indeed, the truly extraordinary thing about this concert, held in celebration of the conductor's 90th birthday later this month, wasn't the fact that Marriner is still capable at this advanced age of leading the orchestra with his habitual good-humoured perfectionism. Rather, it's that the sound produced seems completely unchanged: close your eyes and it's like being suspended in a gilded time warp.

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17 days ago | |
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Dunedin Consort
(LINN)

Most new recordings of Mozart's famously unfinished Requiem have a new completion of the score as their selling point. Scholars queue up to offer their ideas of what the work might have sounded like had Mozart lived to complete it himself, and demonstrating in the process that what his pupil Frank Xaver Süssmayr did to make the work performable he produced the version of the score that was always heard until the last quarter of the 20th century was nothing more than the most routine hack work.

John Butt's approach with the Dunedin Consort, though, is different. He maintains that whatever the weaknesses in Süssmayr's work, he did at least know Mozart, and the version that he came up with proved hugely influential for the next two centuries.

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17 days ago | |
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Boxe Boxe, choreographer Mourad Merzouki's form-busting blend of sparring, hip-hop dance and classical harmonies, explores the common ground shared by two ancient arts

Sometimes, seemingly disparate worlds are closer than you think. Take the bloody bouts and broken noses of the boxing ring and the rarefied arenas of dance and classical music in the eyes of choreographer Mourad Merzouki, they're not so far apart.

In Merzouki's latest show, Boxe Boxe, he melds boxing, hip-hop dance and classical harmonies into whimsical entertainment. As the protagonists come into the ring (complete with stripe-shirted umpire), boxing mitts turn into glove puppets, a dancer's body curves in a feline swoop only to be caught in a firm headlock, and limbs jab, swipe and kick while a string quartet roams the stage playing Schubert and Ravel, turning this fight club into something fantastical.

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17 days ago | |
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The distinctive qualities of the Russian instrumental tradition come across with impressive character in this Prince Igor, yet the archaic staginess of its costumes and sets lets it down

On their first visit to the UK, the Kolobov Novaya Opera Theatre of Moscow bring with them a major 19th-century work that British companies seldom tackle. Despite its position close to the heart of the Russian repertory, Borodin's Prince Igor is a problematic piece. Its composer was a professor of chemistry who wrote music in his spare time and left his only opera, on which he had been working for 18 years, unfinished when he died in 1887. His musical associate Rimsky-Korsakov and Rimsky's star pupil, Glazunov, set to work on the fragmentary manuscripts, filling in the blanks and coming up with a viable, if episodic, entity.

Though there have been other attempts to edit the material, it is the Rimsky/Glazunov version that stage director Yuri Alexandrov adapted for his own production, his major intervention being to drop the entire third act though he's not the first to do so. The staging apparently opened in Moscow a few years back, but it looks, frankly, much older.

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17 days ago | |
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