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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Proms 36/37: Sixteen/Christophers/Kremer/BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Davies, Royal Albert Hall, London
Thursday 13 August 2009
Since the Queen of Sheba normally enters like a bulldozer, The Sixteen’s approach to this hackneyed moment from ‘Solomon’ came as a lovely surprise: so dainty was their sound, so nimble their oboes, that for once one could see what a perfectly crafted piece this is.
Monday 03 August 2009
The Bamberg Symphony Orchestra's curtain-raiser – Jorg Widmann's Con Brio – felt custom made. New pieces (and this one was commissioned as a season opener for last year) usually benefit from taking account of an orchestra's character and traditions, but this one took great delight in subverting everything that had been so painstakingly cultivated over its 63-year history. Blasts from the past – specifically snatches of Beethoven's Seventh and Eighth Symphonies – morphed into a cartoonish freak show where a lot of hot air was moved about, blown noiselessly into trumpets and horns or overblown through startled woodwinds. A virtuosic timpanist played almost anywhere but on the skins of his instruments. Flashes of Beethovenian consonance kept us grounded, but, as rides go, this one was about five minutes too long.
Thursday 30 July 2009
The Bamberg Symphony Orchestra’s curtain-raiser - Jorg Widmann’s Con brio - felt custom made. New pieces (and this one was commissioned as a season opener for last year) usually benefit from taking account of an orchestra’s character and traditions but this one took great delight in subverting everything that had been so painstakingly cultivated over its 63-year history.
Thursday 23 July 2009
Some concerts develop a momentum before they've begun. The London Symphony Orchestra's Prom with Bernard Haitink conducting Mahler's Ninth Symphony was one such. With all of musical London seemingly heading into the hall, the buzz was palpable, and it heralded an incomparable evening.
Tuesday 14 July 2009
Renowned conductor Sir Edward Downes and his wife, who died together in an assisted suicide clinic, were devoted to each other, the musician's manager said today.
Sunday 12 July 2009
Paavo Järvi's curious Mahler programme with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra brings together the original versions of three symphonic movements that were either once intended for different purposes ("Blumine" and "Totenfeier") or formed part of an incomplete work (the "Adagio" from the 10th Symphony).
Thursday 09 July 2009
Sunday 28 June 2009
The symphonic debut of a new conductor and orchestra partnership is always an event. Long associated with contemporary music, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra tears into the first of a cycle of Tchaikovsky's symphonies for the German label Orfeo under its young Latvian music director Andris Nelsons.
Tuesday 09 June 2009
Andris Nelsons knows that Mahler's Second Symphony is inextricably linked with Sir Simon Rattle's time as Music Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Back in his native Latvia, Nelsons more or less grew up with the famous Rattle recording of the Resurrection Symphony but, conducting the work with the CBSO, he talks of "polishing the mosaics in a different way". Polish, however, is exactly what was lacking here. At the same time, you could argue that however much this sprawling performance also lacked depth, Nelsons' dynamic interpretation made up for it in breathtaking immediacy and striking theatricality.
Sunday 10 May 2009
Monday 20 April 2009
You don't have to be a devotee of Handel – and estimations of his place in the musical canon differ – to appreciate the vision and planning that went into yesterday's Handel Day, arranged by the European Broadcasting Union, or to have enjoyed the result. Listeners feasted on 17 hours of live music relayed, as the world turned, from almost everywhere to almost everywhere else. But Handel Day was just one of many treats of cross-border music-making in recent days.
Thursday 09 April 2009
Brahms's Ein Deutsches Requiem should be mandatory for anyone (and there are many) who has ever uttered a disparaging or ill-considered word against its composer. Under the conspicuously talented Yannick Nezet-Seguin, it shone, it thundered, it inspired all-enveloping awe and consolation.
Wednesday 08 April 2009
Another night, another student orchestra. If you want to learn the secret of classical music's perennial good health, look no further; the conservatoires are bristling with talent. The Orion draws its players from all four London conservatoires, and the Sonitus Chamber Choir, which joined it for this event, does likewise. One purpose of this orchestra is to promote "unjustly forgotten masterpieces"; another is to give the players experience of working under real-world pressure.
Monday 06 April 2009
Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem should be mandatory for anyone (and there are many) who has ever uttered a disparaging or ill-considered word against its composer.
Wednesday 01 April 2009
After the sunset, a new dawn. There was a kind of poetic symmetry about the pairing of Strauss' Four Last Songs and Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe in the second half of this Mariss Jansons concert with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. The Straussian sunset was richly evoked in precisely the kind of dusky autumnal colours that are the signature of this splendid orchestra – and if Strauss imagined a dramatic yet lyric voice for his poignant valedictions in song then he had it all in Anja Harteros.
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