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Asamisimasa
(Hubro)

Laurence Crane builds graceful, cheeky, elusive music out of ordinary things. Plain triads float across a long drone in the opener of this disc, John White in Berlin. The triads are bright; the drone is a bit murky. In the piece Events, soprano Ditte Marie Braein reads out various lists from the Guardian. Old Life Was Rubbish pivots on just two chords like a line-drawing of a wonky seesaw. There are allusions all over the place, but Crane’s trick is to make them fleeting and decontextualised so that everything sounds new and not new. Electric guitars, electric organs, bass clarinets and vibraphones give these small-ensemble pieces a warbled, vintage-pop sound – like bleached-out surf-rock left in the sun for a few decades then turned to the gentle absurd. The title piece is also the most recent (2009) and the most gleefully wayward; Norwegian group Asamisimasa plays it all with just the right balance of tenderness and deadpan anarchic humour.

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18 days ago | |
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Cédric Tiberghien
(Hyperion)

Related: Bartók: Mikrokosmos 6 CD review – spacious warmth and fiendishness

In the last decade of his life we heard far too little of Zoltán Kocsis, the pianist and conductor who who died on 6 November. But part of Kocsis’s enduring legacy on disc is sure to be the survey of Bartók’s piano music that he completed for Philips in the early 2000s, and it’s a measure of the quality of Cédric Tiberghien’s series that it promises to rival Kocsis’s set when complete. This is the second instalment, and like the first, which came out in March, it is made up entirely of miniatures including the Romanian Folk Dances, the Eight Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs, and the Fourteen Bagatelles. There are 47 tracks in all; the longest of them is the Allegro Barbaro, from 1911, one of Bartók’s earliest exercises in rhythmic primitivism.

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18 days ago | |
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Two years ago, Elim Chan won the Donatella Flick LSO Conducting Competition. Ahead of tonight’s final, she reflects on what her victory has brought her, and why she doesn’t want her gender to define her

Outside my window of my apartment in Los Angeles is the spectacular Walt Disney Hall. I’m soon to be making my debut there with the wonderful Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducting them in Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. And I can’t help thinking back over the last two years and of the roller-coaster ride my life has been since winning the Flick-LSO conducting competition, and of further back, to my earliest thoughts of wanting to be a conductor.

The seed was planted when I first went to a classical concert in Hong Kong, where I grew up. I was in primary school and was taken to an educational concert with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. The conductor explained we were going to hear Holst’s Planets and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and talked briefly about the works. I was fascinated by this figure – everything happened when he started waving his hands. It seemed to me like magic. Just like the sorcerer’s apprentice in Disney’s Fantasia, everyone was under his spell and followed his magic wand. I thought: “I want to make magic like that person.”

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19 days ago | |
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Peter Schreier/Erik Werba
(Belvedere)

Mozart’s songs with piano – 30 of them set to German texts survive – span much of his career as a composer, though they are usually regarded as a relatively insignificant part of his huge output. But they were a regular favourite of the great tenor Peter Schreier, who made two studio recordings of all the settings intended for a male singer. In the earlier of them, his pianist was Jörg Demus; in the other, from close to the end of his career (he retired in 2005), it was András Schiff.

This disc is taken from a recital given in Salzburg during Mozart Week in 1978, when Schreier was at the height of his powers, and for which he was partnered by the veteran accompanist Erik Werba. It’s a treasurable collection of performances, every one a perfect example of Schreier’s supreme art as a lieder singer, one of the greatest of the last half-century. He performs 19 of Mozart’s songs here, in more or less chronological order, together with the strange little cantata to a German humanist text from the last year of the composer’s life, Die ihr des unermesslichen Weitalls Schöpfer ehrt, K619. For two of the settings, he is accompanied by a mandolin rather than piano, immediately conjuring up associations with the serenade in Don Giovanni.

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20 days ago | |
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Milton Court, London
The unconventional violinist sometimes sacrificed clarity for drama but his rendition of Sculthorpe’s Irkanda I with pianist Leschenko was fiery

UK audiences know Richard Tognetti principally as the invigorating lead violinist who has made the Australian Chamber Orchestra into the gang every string player wants to be in. But his two-part Barbican residency this season – the ACO visits in March – started with a conventional recital, with pianist Polina Leschenko.

Relatively conventional, that is. The second half began with the evening’s highlight: Peter Sculthorpe’s Irkanda I, written in 1955. Tognetti, spotlit and alone, played to a microphone that created a cathedral-like resonance, with a muted, throbbing echo that emphasised the piece’s heat-hazy atmosphere, all open space, outback birdsong and itchy dance rhythms. Leschenko, who had crept on in the dark, joined him as he segued into a fiery performance of Brahms’s Sonata No 3. The conjunction worked surprisingly well, shaking the Brahms out of its familiarity. Music with an element of theatre is what Tognetti excels in, and Leschenko was a sparky, sympathetic partner all evening.

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20 days ago | |
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She is revolutionising the classroom scourge – blasting raw experimental music through it, sometimes playing two at once. Meet recorder powerhouse Laura Cannell

The recorder does not enjoy a good reputation. In the popular imagination, it’s somewhere above the kazoo but below the harmonica– an instrument that brings back schoolroom memories of painful, atonal versions of Frère Jacques, with spit dripping on to floors. And that’s why Laura Cannell lies to her hairdresser about what she does.

“I just say I play the violin,” says the professional recorder player and composer. “It’s horrible if your memory is of a plastic instrument that tastes of disinfectant and sounds awful. Kids’ fingers don’t cover the holes, so it’s bound to sound terrible.”

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20 days ago | |
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Lilian Baylis studio, London
The stylised violence is extreme but revealing in Independent Opera’s haunting production of a bitter meditation on tyranny

Given its UK premiere by Independent Opera, Simplicius Simplicissimus is the only full-length opera by Karl Amadeus Hartmann (1905-63), the Munich-based composer who spent the years of the Third Reich in an “inner emigration”, bearing witness to the regime in a series of works that were intended for performance only after its collapse. First heard in 1948 and substantially revised in 1957, the opera actually dates from 1936, and forms a bitter meditation on the nature of tyranny and the violence it unleashes.

Hartmann’s source is the 1669 novel of the same name by Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen, set during the thirty years’ war, which wiped out two thirds of the German population. Simplicius is a simpleton, whose very naivety means that the armies laying waste the country treat him as some kind of joke, which in turn ensures his survival. But he is also a holy fool whose cryptic pronouncements and visions of human inequality make him both the moral arbiter and unheard prophet of the catastrophe around him.

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21 days ago | |
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Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
The singer-songwriter cast a spell over the crowd with her cherished characters and carnival of sounds – but an industro-rock climax proved too much for some

“I’ve just got to do something …” are Julia Holter’s distracted first words tonight, accompanied by a shuffling of papers across the top of her keyboard. Reinforcing the idea that she’s on a more abstruse plane than other singer-songwriters, she spends the first five minutes of her set arranging these sheets on a music stand, bending so far forward that her hair almost touches them. Task completed to her satisfaction, she plunges seamlessly into Lucette Stranded on the Island, from the album she’s currently touring, Have You in My Wilderness. While Lucette clatters and creaks, one thing is proved beyond contest: reports of Holter’s move towards pop have been greatly exaggerated. For the next hour or so, jazzy atonality and avant-rock abstraction, laced with what sounds like synthesised harpsichord, attest to Holter’s singularity: the breadth of imagination that landed her fourth album in many end-of-2015 polls also ripples through her live offering.

Related: Julia Holter: ‘I tend to feel like everything I’m doing is crazy’

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21 days ago | |
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Wigmore Hall, London
Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Shroud was loud and intense in this 40th anniversary concert: other works showed off the Emerson’s springiness better

On the few occasions when composer Mark-Anthony Turnage has turned to the string quartet, it has usually been as a vehicle to express grief or despair. His latest, Shroud – given its UK premiere as part of the Emerson Quartet’s 40th anniversary Wigmore Hall concert – has the same motivation. The first and last movements memorialise two of Turnage’s friends; three movements in between are lighter but still loaded, centring on a peg-legged March. In the final Lament, a baroque-style repeated cello line gives the music a feeling of inevitability that feels something like peace.

The rest of the work, from its intense, unison beginning onwards, had felt loud and insistent, but that perhaps had as much to do with the performance as with Turnage’s writing. The upwardly whirling violin lines in the opening Threnody were delivered with a stress on each beat that kept them stubbornly earthbound; the accompanying voices in the scurrying second and loping fourth movements were always very present. There was no whispering to put the shouting into relief.

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21 days ago | |
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The Scottish Chamber Orchestra pays tribute to the late Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, while the Hallé brings Handel’s glorious oratorio to Manchester

One of the year’s greatest musical losses was the death, in March, of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra pays tribute to the composer who made his home and creative base in the Orkney Islands with a programme that features one of his best-loved compositions – An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise – as well as his second Strathclyde concerto. The soloist is William Conway, who premiered the work with the composer in 1989; rising star Alexandre Bloch conducts a programme that also includes Sibelius and Bartók.
1 December, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh. 2 December, City Hall, Glasgow, sco.org.uk

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22 days ago | |
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