First seen as part of a 1912 double bill, Ariadne auf Naxos was revised and reshaped as Europe plunged into the carnage of the First World War. Strauss was profoundly relieved when his son, Franz, was declared unfit for military service. But his librettist, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, had already served as a reservist when the now familiar version of their backstage comedy on high and low art premiered in Vienna in 1916, four days after the assassination of the prime minister in the dining room of a hotel a few minutes' walk from the opera house.
London Philharmonic Orchestra
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Thursday 23 September 2010
As if it wasn’t enough to open a new London Philharmonic season with a simply tremendous performance of Mahler's 3rd Symphony, Vladimir Jurowski could not resist adding a preface. And the music he chose not only reminded us of the intriguing connection with Mahler's younger contemporary, Alexander Zemlinsky, in that both men loved the same woman, Alma Schindler, it also looked at life, love, and destiny from an obliquely different perspective.
Sunday 05 September 2010
The Mahler had come the night before – this second Berlin Philharmonic Prom imaginatively chronicled the before and after.
Saturday 04 September 2010
Wednesday 01 September 2010
The American composer Benjamin Lees had the bad luck to reach his stylistic maturity at a time when contemporary composition was besotted by modernism; more traditional idioms were regarded as passé. But Lees stuck to his guns, writing music he could be proud of, and when the serialist hegemony fell away he had a substantial corpus of solidly crafted works to show for his perseverance, written in a style that married gritty muscularity with formal clarity. The critic Steve Schwartz described it as "a dramatic neoclassicism, free of Stravinskian pastiche, darker than Piston, more direct than Diamond".
Monday 30 August 2010
If you didn’t know who was playing, the second theme of Dvorak’s Carnival Overture – clarinet in songful counterpoint with the homeliest of tunes in the violins - would have thoroughly given the game away. Only the Czech Philharmonic could phrase this music with such unassuming charm.
Friday 27 August 2010
Wednesday 25 August 2010
The prospect of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra getting down under and dirty with Strauss and Scriabin got off to a frenetic start with Vladimir Ashkenazy’s body language perhaps telling us more than we needed to know about the heated carnality at the start of Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier prelude. And what you saw was what you heard: all sex, not much love-making.
Tuesday 17 August 2010
The Edinburgh International Festival, which this year explores the exchange of cultural influences between Europe and the Americas and beyond, opened with John Adams's nativity oratorio, El Niño, a piece that is as striking for its complex orchestral sonorities as for its often luminous vocal and choral writing.
Monday 16 August 2010
Thursday 12 August 2010
If some musical exhumations were better left underground, others rectify injustices, and thus it was with Rued Langgaard’s ‘Music of the Spheres’, which has now, after a 92-year wait, had its British premiere.
Thursday 05 August 2010
Musical time-travel can often spring surprises, but the three-hour experience represented by Proms 24 and 25 was a uniquely strange journey.
Wednesday 04 August 2010
Questions may be raised in the Scottish parliament about the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra bringing an all-English programme to the Proms (one dear soul even felt compelled to wave the Scottish flag) but no one is likely to be arguing about the quality of the music making. Predictably Vaughan Williams’ Lark Ascending pulled in a massive crowd but it was the concert opener by John Foulds (a Proms first) that really raised curiosity levels.
Mitch Miller: Producer, composer and conductor who made an enduring impact on American popular music
Wednesday 04 August 2010
As a recording manager and record producer, Mitch Miller nurtured the talents of some of the biggest names in American music – Tony Bennett, Frankie Laine, Johnnie Ray, Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney – and he made the US Columbia label the biggest in the country. For several years in the 1950s, he was the most important figure in the record industry and many younger talents followed his example and learnt how to produce records.
Saturday 24 July 2010
It’s the highlight of every “Last Night”, the nation’s unofficial National Anthem, but for its composer Hubert Parry Jerusalem has proved as much of a millstone (as opposed to milestone) as Land of Hope and Glory has for Elgar.
Wednesday 21 July 2010
It was Semyon Bychkov’s last concert as principal conductor of the WDR Symphony Orchestra, Cologne, and reaching the summit of Strauss’ Alpine Symphony could and should have been a big deal – the Albert Hall is a natural environment for this musical blockbuster.
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