Igor Levit

Igor Levit, Wigmore Hall, London

Born in Russia, but rigorously trained in Germany from early childhood: a surprisingly large number of piano stars have emerged via this route, with 26-year-old Igor Levit prominent among them.

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Album: Brahms/Schumann/Schumann, Sonatas and Romances – Jennifer Pike/Tom Poster (Chandos)

The violinist's interpretation of Brahms's Sonata in G presents the young composer as a hungry outsider in the marriage of Robert and Clara Schumann.

Ava June (right): Lyric soprano equally at home with Britten, Wagner and Italian romantic opera

Ava June: Lyric soprano equally at home with Britten, Wagner and Italian romantic opera

Her portrayal of Tosca in the 1970s was described by one critic as 'valiant and touching'

Andras Schiff, Wigmore Hall (****)/ Mitsuko Uchida, Royal Festival Hall (*****)

Those who don’t like Andras Schiff’s Beethoven say he plays like a tyrant: for those who do, his way with the great sonata-cycle has something approaching the authority of an oracle. But even oracles can get things wrong, and so did Schiff’s account of the Rondo of Opus 31 No 1: Beethoven may have written in some quirkiness, but not to the mannered degree we got it here. Sometimes Schiff gets carried away by his own doctrinaire convictions.

Album review: Pierre Boulez, Wiener Philharmoniker, Mahler: Das Klagende Lied; Berg: Lulu-Suite (Deutsche Grammophon)

Album review: Pierre Boulez, Wiener Philharmoniker, Mahler: Das Klagende Lied; Berg: Lulu-Suite (Deutsche Grammophon)

Rarely performed, Mahler's Das Klagende Lied is a grisly fantasy in which the bones of a victim of regal fratricide are used to make a magic flute which, when played by the murderer, reveals his guilt – a sort of cross between Hamlet and Saw.

Classical performer Alice Sara Ott

Khatia Buniatishvili, Wigmore Hall (*****) / Alice Sara Ott, Royal Festival Hall (**)

Khatia Buniatishvili and Alice Sara Ott have more than their youth and keyboard skill in common: they both enjoy the dubious privilege of being their record companies’ pianistic pin-ups.

Perfect pace: Esa-Pekka Salonen in rehearsal for Woven Words, which marks the centenary of Witold Lutoslawski

Yoshikazu Jumei (***); Christian Ihle Hadland (*****), Wigmore Hall, London

Yoshikazu Jumei rarely gives piano recitals in the West, and the Wigmore was packed with a largely Japanese audience, due no doubt to the fact that the proceeds would go towards helping the victims of the 2011 tsunami.  

Ashley Wass; Yevgeny Sudbin, Wigmore Hall, London

Few pianists give as little away with their body-language as Ashley Wass does in his neat dark suit: impassive from start to finish, he even acknowledges tumultuous applause without cracking a smile.

Christian Zacharias (*****)/ Ruby Hughes, Julius Drake (****)

Wigmore Hall, London

Benjamin Grosvenor, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Litton, Barbican Hall, London

How often does it need to be said that a self-laudatory programme-note is a hostage to fortune? As a preamble to her new orchestral work ‘Night Ferry’, Anna Clyne pre-empted what critics might say by providing her own review.

Award-winning violinist Joshua Bell

IoS Sounds of 2013: Classical

Old stories ignite new passions as Oliver Knussen conducts Angelika Kirchschlager in The Rape of Lucretia, and Barbara Hannigan, James Gilchrist and Jasper de Waal join Amsterdam Sinfonietta for Les Illuminations and Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings.

The best music of 2012: Classical

From the slow heartbeat of Richard Tunnicliffe's Bach Cello Suites, to the quicksilver figures of Carole Cerasi's Scarlatti Sonatas, this was a great year for imagination and invention.

Oleg Marshev (***) and Tra Nguyen (****),
Wigmore Hall, London

Prokofiev’s ‘Visions fugitives’ are popular these days, so the Melodya label’s newly-released archive recording of the composer playing these piano miniatures comes à propos, and it also shows how wide of the mark most contemporary performances are.

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