Arts and Entertainment

Avi Avital "Between Worlds" (Deutsche Grammophon)

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Labeque Sisters, BBCSO, Bychkov - classical review

Barbican, London

The King’s Consort, Wigmore Hall, London: classical review

To hear Robert King and his Consort presenting Bach’s Christmas music directly after hearing Stephen Layton and the OAE do the same is to realise what a wealth of approaches are now on offer. King’s forces were much smaller, but they more than made up for it through the gutsiness of their vocal sound and the exoticism of their instrumentation.

The Christmas party season is extending into January

Businesses choose to come late to the (Christmas) party

December is typically when staff enjoy a cocktail of office Christmas parties, festive team lunches and client drinks, followed in the New Year by vows of abstinence and resolutions to hit the gym. The calorie counting may have to be delayed this year, however, due to a rise in companies holding their annual celebrations in January.

Classical album review: Mark-Anthony, Turnage
Speranza etc (LSO Live)

From the Wreckage, Turnage’s 2005 trumpet concerto, was written for the Swedish virtuoso Hakan Hardenberger. Speranza, an LSO commission, is played without the fourth of five movements that Turnage dropped after February’s premiere. The remaining four, the title of each, like that of the work, meaning “hope” – in Arabic, Gaelic, German and Hebrew – are partly inspired by the bleak poetry of Jewish-Romanian poet and Holocaust survivor Paul Celan.

Eric and Little Ern: Theatre review - 'funny and affecting'

Vaudeville Theatre, London

Album review: Benjamin Britten, Violin Concerto, Jan Latham-Koenig Orchid

Britten’s sole violin concerto is constructed from simple scales rising and falling expressively over exotic Spanish rhythms, but within this framework, from the opening silken thread to passages of great passion and profundity, the concerto unfolds into a piece of great magnitude.

Album review: Steven Isserlis, Dvorak cello concertos (Hyperion)

Isserlis, who has resisted for 40 years recording this much-loved piece from the heart of the cellist’s repertoire, breaks his duck, and even adds an earlier Dvorak concerto, orchestrated by Gunter Raphael.

Classical review: Fabio Biondi and Europa Galante bring the music of the Red Priest to gutsy life

We tend to think of Vivaldi’s violin concertos as springing from a spontaneous urge to create material through which his brilliant pupils could display their talents. And although the twelve works in the collection known as La Stravaganza were indeed dedicated to a Venetian nobleman who had been trained by him, their genesis had more to do with commerce than with art for art’s sake.

Classical review: Harrison Birtwistle and Nishat Khan unveil their Proms premieres

PCM 5 – BBC Singers/Nash Ensemble/Kok

Prom 39 – Khan/BBC NOW/Atherton

Rick Wakeman

Edinburgh 2013: Rick Wakeman - An expressive evening from a musical demigod

Midway through this set of anecdotes, reminiscences and often breathtaking recitals upon the piano, the former Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman describes his “Countdown ladies” to us. These are the elderly, grey-haired women who enjoyed his wit when he appeared on the game show and have no idea that he also plays piano.

Album review: Isabelle Faust, Bartók: Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2 (Harmonia Mundi)

Bartók's two violin concertos were composed three decades apart, and Isabelle Faust here skilfully brings out the contrasts between youth and maturity, particularly in her detailed attention to the composer's instructions regarding phrasing and articulation in the “Violin Concerto No. 1”. Terms such as “utterly desolate”, “always volatile”, “dreamlike” and “exhausted” hint at the emotional tenor of a work written in romantic fever, which moves from the blissful serenity of the first movement to the more playful, teasing disposition of the second, which presages his later spikier, more angular style. The “Violin Concerto No. 2” is a masterpiece given its head by Faust, the captivating, rhapsodic opening passage heralding a remarkable performance.

Album review: Xavier de Maistre, Mozart (Sony Classical)

The small size, thin sound and restricted harmonic adaptability of 18th-century harps explains the paucity of serious repertoire for the instrument. Virtually the only work of note Mozart wrote for the harp is the Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra in C major, commissioned by an amateur father/daughter duo, here given a subtle but rousing interpretation by de Maistre, his harp trailing delicate tendrils around Magali Mosnier's lead flute line. Elsewhere, de Maistre has capitalised on advances in harp design to perform re-arranged versions of the popular Sonata Facile and the Concerto for Keyboard and Orchestra No 19 in F major.

Album review: Timo Andres & Metropolis Ensemble, Home Stretch (Nonesuch)

The centrepiece of this album by American pianist/composer Timo Andres is Mozart's “Piano Concerto No. 26 in D”, for which he provides the missing left-hand piano parts and cadenzas, an ambitious and confident performance resulting in a compelling blend of ancient and modern. Andres' own “Home Stretch” was itself conceived as a companion piece to another Mozart concerto, but its jagged and disruptive combinations of high, piercing winds and scattered piano figures resolve into an absorbing musical conversation that sounds more about American music, with its bustling drive and echoes of Copland, Ives and Adams.

Classical review: Proms 10 and 11 - Jan Lisiecki makes his proms debut, and Ex Cathedra astonish with Stockhausen

Prom 10 – Lisiecki, Santa Cecilia, Pappano (****)

Prom 11 – Ex Cathedra, Skidmore (*****)

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