Arts and Entertainment

Kings Place, London

The compact collection

Rob Cowan on the best Christmas CDs

Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Royal Scottish Academy, Glasgow

Soaring, song-like lines

Prom 29: English Chamber Orchestra/Ralf Gothoni, Royal Albert Hall, London

Faultless planning in a sea of chaos

Proms Chamber Music 2: Alexandre Tharaud, Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Precise, philosophical piano-playing


Strauss: Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme Munich Chamber Orchestra, Ustinov, Rickenbacher (Koch Schwann)

Letter: What is science for?

Sir: Philip Hensher is surprised that there have been no great female composers because "to sit at home and write a piano trio" is as feasible for a woman as writing a novel ("Preserving the unique sound of men behaving badly", 16 September).

Classical: The Compact Collection: ROB COWAN ON THE WEEK'S CD RELEASES

IT'S ALL too easy to think of Debussy's operatic masterpiece Pelleas et Melisande as a huge tone poem with voices. Indeed, listening to Herbert von Karajan's 1978 Berlin recording makes it almost impossible to experience the work in any other way. Karajan charts the music's ebb and flow much as he does for Debussy's symphonic sketches La Mer, attending with particular care to the dramatic inter-linking orchestral interludes. Wagner's Tristan and Parsifal are in constant attendance, and the singers fit the grid like additional instruments. Richard Stilwell is an impassioned Pelleas and Jose van Dam a commanding though deeply troubled Golaud. Best, aside from Karajan himself, is Frederica von Stade, a more knowing Melisande than most, though unapproachably tender in her death scene.

Podium: Tim Cordell - Wagner's Ring is more than music

From a series of lectures by the Professor of music at the University of Pennsylvania in America

Arts: The agony and the ecstasy


The Knack: How to Conduct an Orchestra by Jan Latham-Koenig

CONDUCTING IS the loneliest profession in the world. Although you are working with 100 people, you create a barrier which needs to be maintained at all times if you are not to compromise your authority.

Arts: Sound and vision

The ECM label and its founder Manfred Eicher have altered musical history. After 30 years, their albums still range over jazz and classical music, the eclectic and unclassifiable - and have a sound world as distinctive as the record sleeves' famous austere design. By Phil Johnson

First violin to the nation

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