Arts and Entertainment

Kings Place, London

Classical Review: Now he is 65 Sixties plus

Alexander Goehr 65th Birthday Concert

Classical review: Playing it straight

Nigel Kennedy Barbican Hall, London

Pop music: Minimalist with the mostest

La Monte Young is the grand old man of minimalism. His influence has been felt in most major strands of music, pop and classical, since the Sixties, yet few actually know his work. Robert Worby looks back at Young's life and previews an all-star benefit gig in aid of the composer's wife and collaborator, Marian Zazeela

Proms: Britten weekend

Heralded as one of Europe's finest chamber orchestras and certainly a popular favourite with the Proms audience, to judge by a Royal Albert Hall filled to capacity on Saturday evening, the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, under their director Iona Brown, took some time to warm to their task in a programme of classic repertory items. Opening with Schubert's Fifth Symphony, they did not immediately achieve the rhythmic point and transparency of texture that has always been their director's principal aim. The bass lines seemed a little heavy in their marking and the wind section needed a more rounded sonority; at the same time there were ragged moments in the rhythmic ensemble. The expression was vigorous but a classical balance and precision were missing.

Fear is not the key...

...or so says Iona Brown, one of the few women to get to wield the big stick in a mainly man's world.

FLUX: The Divine Comedy / Michael Nyman: The Jaffa Cake

Edinburgh Festival: Fringe

music on radio

Proms News, Proms Features, Proms Composer of the Week, even Proms Chamber Music. There's no missing Radio 3's peak time of the year, and good luck to the BBC for cashing in on its most popular classical brand name. Stay tuned for the Proms Shipping Forecast.

LIVE REVIEW Irish Chamber Orchestra Wigmore Hall, London

The Irish renaissance continues apace. Ten years ago, a London concert by an Irish orchestra, with a work by an Irish composer as its centrepiece, would have been a striking oddity. Not now, though. There was no special publicity drive connected with the Irish Chamber Orchestra's appearance last Tuesday, but it managed to fill the Wigmore Hall, and the applause, both for the players and for composer Gerald Barry's La Jalousie Taciturne, was enthusiastic.

Review: CLASSICAL Endymion Ensemble, Blyth Valley Chamber Music Cratfield Church, Suffolk

Anyone making a first pilgrimage to the Sunday afternoon chamber concerts at Cratfield might do well to equip themselves with the relevant 1in Ordnance Survey map. Like so many remote villages in Suffolk, there are many ways to approach it; none direct, and all using the narrowest of twisting country lanes. The reason for such a remote venue becomes clear when you find it: Suffolk has a wealth of lovely churches, but few which seat just about the right numbers and possess such excellent acoustics for chamber music.

Korngold, Grainger Proms at St Jude-on-the Hill, London

Though festivals come in all shapes and sizes, two important kinds may be found among their ranks: the civic celebration, typically hosted by cathedral towns, hiring famous names to bring culture to the community; and the small, independent sort, often coping with problems of resources, yet able to offer, like the Proms at St Jude-on-the-Hill, a sharp original agenda.

Stranglers 21st anniversary concert Royal Albert Hall, London

If the 18-piece all-girl electric chamber orchestra Electra Strings are anything to go by, the Guildhall School of Music doesn't just require grade eight violin but long legs, a full chest and peachy looks. In their stretchy white tops and camouflage trousers, they looked terrific. (If that sounds a gender-specific, it has to be said that Stranglers' concerts are laddish affairs - at this one the band's set was preceded by a dire exercise in "gut-barging".)

LONDON CALLING

While the balmy weather nurtures an overwhelming desire in most of us to get out of town, the City of London Festival looks like being one of the few reasons for staying in the capital. The event celebrates the City's variety of musical and cultural life, in historic venues within the Square Mile. Activities range from concerts of orchestral, choral, opera and chamber music, cinema celebrating Dracula's centenary (below), open-air events, jazz, dramatic readings and workshops for schools. One of this year's highlights promises to be the British premiere of Sarajevo Circle, a platform performance of a new musical, born out of the effects of the war in Bosnia. Other must-sees include the acclaimed Uzume Taiko Ensemble from Canada and Japan who beat a path to the festival's newest venue in Spitalfield's Market, and the Gogmagogs (left), "seven virtuoso string players [who] take classical music out of the concert hall and explode onto the stage...".

Classical music on CD: Mozart - Symphonies Nos 29, 33, 40 Orpheus Chamber Orchestra DG 453 425-2

It is often said that the best a conductor can do for an orchestra is encourage them to listen to themselves, to each other. Orpheus are the best listeners. They've come to listen so well, they've no need of a conductor. Really? None? Well, there's no question that this 26-piece band play, relate, interact like a string quartet, that their reflexes are now so well attuned that they can turn phrases on a sixpence. But still I can't help feeling that the presence of a conductor (and I'm making the assumption here that we're talking about a conductor of substance) might just facilitate a slightly stronger collective identity.

CLASSICAL MUSIC: Frankl/Pauk/Kirshbaum; Wigmore Hall, London

It was Fritz Kreisler who at the height of his career in 1910 remarked: "Ensemble playing is a luxury for which I now have very little time. And so I look forward to every summer, when Ysaye, Thibaud, Casals, Fogno and I meet in Paris. Ysaye and I alternate in playing the viola, but the queer thing about it is that we all want to play second violin."

CLASSICAL: Records of the Week

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