Arts and Entertainment

Barbican, London

Classical: The symphonies of Sibelius; A players' guide

The London Symphony Orchestra has been closely associated with the music of Sibelius since the early 1930s, when it recorded Symphonies Nos 1, 2, 3 and 5 with Robert Kajanus, a close colleague of the composer. In the 1950s, it recorded the first complete cycle of the symphonies under another conductor/composer (and former principal viola with the LSO), Anthony Collins. Forty years on, it has just completed a second recorded cycle (on RCA/BMG) under Sir Colin Davis, its principal conductor, with whom it is just about to launch a further cycle, live at the Barbican, starting this Sunday. Here four of the orchestra's chief players tell Mike Ashman about their big Sibelian moments.

Letter: Musical education

Sir: I was shocked but not surprised to read Lucy Ward's report (Music taught to dwindling band of school pupils", 4 November) on the state of instrumental playing in schools, but delighted to read Diana Hinds comment ("It's instrumental to everything", 4 November) on the relationship between learning and music. Everything she says is absolutely right; music should be as much a part of our lives as breathing. Not only does it help learning itself, but it can and does combat drugs and delinquency when applied by those who understand the problem.

Music Review: The quite appallingly dismal Widow

Wilderness experiences are meant to be chastening, and the Royal Opera's annees de pelerinage are proving nothing less. News broke this week that after only a month or so of busking from theatre to theatre, the company has hit financial crisis. And its brave attempt to make its homelessness a time for repertoire experiments has got off to a crazily uneven start, following a sublime Turn of the Screw with a Merry Widow so inadequate, you can only wonder how a major state-supported company has the gall to show it to the public.

Classical music review: A chorus of approval

Visions of Albion

A heartfelt plea for Clemenza; MUSIC

We All Know La Clemenza di Tito as the opera in which Mozart, in the last year of his life, revisited the old, dying-on-their-feet conventions of baroque opera seria he abandoned years before. And so we think of it as musically regressive, staid, a touch dull: inexplicable as the exact contemporary of Zauberflote and the Requiem. That Mozart has improved on the conventions, slimming down the arias and sharpening the pace, eludes us. And while Titus's grapeshot forgiveness for everyone in the cast who has abused his kindness, torched his capital and tried to murder him may have struck 18th-century audiences as clemency, to us it seems more like a failure of imagination. Not much substitute for the diverting spectacleof vengeance.

Serious business, being a prodigy

The London Symphony Orchestra launches its new season at the Barbican tonight with a performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto given by Japanese- American child prodigy turned international violinist Midori

Sun, sea... and symphonies

Daytona beachwear: T-shirt, baseball cap and black tie. Malcolm Hayes joins the LSO at the seaside

Country: Where there's grass there's brass

The Bretforton village band, the only one in the country, owes its existence to asparagus, writes Chris Mowbray

Symphonic sausage roll without the sausage

CLASSICAL Christian Thielemann / LSO Barbican Centre, London

CLASSICAL MUSIC: CBSO / Rattle, LSO / Rostropovich RFH / Barbican, London

Anyone with half an interest in contemporary music and within reach of London in the last few days would have been spoilt, perhaps agonised, for choice. If it wasn't Michael Nyman storming the Royal Festival Hall on Saturday, it was Sir Simon Rattle on Sunday inexorably creeping forwards in his "Millennium" series, or Rostropovich on Tuesday having himself a party to celebrate his 70th birthday. Michael Nyman's music is sui generis but what must strike any punter who's kept up with new orchestral work in the last 20 years is the sheer virtuosity of playing nowadays (and on precious little rehearsal); works of frightening difficulty are simply rattled off.

Arts: All in good time

Next month the Barbican celebrates its 15th birthday. But for John Tusa, its new managing director, this is Year Zero and he's starting from scratch. By Michael Church

Unravelling Ravel

As the LSO prepares to present a series of four concerts featuring the works of Maurice Ravel, the conductor Andre Previn explains why the composer deserves to be known as more than just the man who wrote the music for Torvill & Dean

Classical Reviews: LSO Brahms Centenary series Barbican Hall, London

George Bernard Shaw reviled the German Requiem, and Benjamin Britten poured scorn on the piano pieces. Even so, the music of Brahms remains one of the good things of life. True, as the celebrations roll in this the centenary year of his death, some people will no doubt find their pet aversions in his work. At its best, however, Brahms's art is balanced, warm and humane. In any celebration of this composer, his positive qualities are bound to predominate.


Sir Colin Davis conducts the LSO in Brahms's Violin Concerto and 3rd Symphony at London's Barbican Hall on 29 and 30 Jan at 7.30pm

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