Arts and Entertainment

Kings Place, London

Martynov Vita Nuova, Royal Festival Hall, London

How seriously can we take Vladimir Martynov's "anti-opera" Vita Nuova? Should we be laughing or crying at its conceit?

National Youth Orchestra/Semyon Bychkov, Roundhouse, London

There was much romantic talk last week, as Britain's leading youth orchestras gave their New Year concerts, about emulating the achievement of Gustavo Dudamel's Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, which is drawn from the poorest parts of Venezuela. Our kids can do it too, people said. But, of course, they can't. If the Venezuelans play as if their lives depend on it, that's because they do; our bright young musicians can never be fired by such desperate determination to triumph against all the odds.

Leon Fleisher, Wigmore Hall, London

The legendary 80-year-old pianist Leon Fleisher has had at least three careers. The first was famously cut short by a neurological disorder that took two fingers of his right hand out of commission. Classic recordings kept the memories alive, but for nearly 40 years he focused on repertoire for the left hand – until, that is, medical science caught up and he was a two-handed pianist once more.

Blacher/LPO/Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall, London

This was thrill-ing: a daring, yet meaningful juxtaposition of four highly contrasted 20th-century showpieces, vividly directed by one of the most inspirational young conductors, and delivered by a London Philharmonic Orchestra at the top of its form to an audience that hung on its every note.

Lucerne Festival Orchestra / Abbado, Lucerne Festival, Lucerne

Slow-moving woodwinds etched out Debussy's "Nuages", the first of his Trois Nocturnes, slowly but surely pulling focus on the festival's opening concert. It's something of a paradox that Debussy's brand of impressionism demands absolute clarity – and the medieval city's handsome concert hall delivers it, blending and delineating to perfection.

Claude Debussy, by Paul Roberts

The key to an enigma: a revealing portrait of a composer who set the tone

The Chopin Experience, Radio 3

Music can be hazardous to your health

Jimmy Giuffre: Jazz clarinettist and composer

The casual listener would perhaps enjoy Jimmy Giuffre's folksy, bluesy clarinet playing, but to jazz historians he was perhaps more potent as a writer and arranger. His "Four Brothers", written for the saxophone players in Woody Herman's 1947 Second Herd, including Stan Getz and Zoot Sims, became one of the everlasting jazz classics. He was perhaps best known for the trio he led on clarinet that played attractive and basic jazz like his famed "The Train and the River", which, in one of the best bits of jazz cinema ever, opened the film Jazz on a Summer's Day (1960), a documentary record of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival.

Nash Ensemble/Tortelier, Wigmore Hall, London

Since the death of Messiaen, Henri Dutilleux has been widely regarded as the Grand Old Man of contemporary French music, and this Wigmore Hall celebration culminated in the presentation of the Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medal to the still-active 92-year-old composer.

Leif Ove Andsnes, Royal Festival Hall, London

Deep Grieg played with fjord focus

Richard Goode, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Concert pianists are almost by definition eccentrics, but Richard Goode's eccentricity is to be found in his life-story. Much of that is a void, in that this cautious, bookish piano tuner's son from the Bronx refused to start the solo career he was born for until nearly 50. Crippled with stage fright, he spent his youth winning prestigious solo prizes, but also seeking safety in numbers as a chamber musician. When he finally screwed up his courage for a Carnegie Hall debut at 47, he caused a sensation: the massive New Yorker profile that followed – who was this man, and where had he been all these years? – put him where he's been ever since, among the unquestioned deities of his profession.

Peter O'Hagan, Wigmore Hall, London

University of Surrey-based Peter O'Hagan is a formidable scholar-pianist whose recent researches have focused on that most mysterious of post-war conceptions, Pierre Boulez's Sonata No 3 (1955-63) – mysterious, not only because its published sections offer the performer some degree of freedom in the ordering of sections, but because other bits of it remain unpublished, unrevised and even, apparently, uncomposed.

Ralph Towner, St George's, Bristol

Make it up before you go-go

BBC S0 / Boulez, Barbican, London

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