Music

Peter Phillips bids farewell to his music column after 33 years

7 May 2016 9:00 am

This, my 479th, is to be my last contribution as a regular columnist to The Spectator. I have written here…

The rotten fruits of Peter Maxwell Davies’s modernism

9 April 2016 9:00 am

The intransigence of Maxwell Davies, Boulez and Stockhausen is coming home to roost. Here were three composers, famous if not…

Why is the organ such hard work?

13 February 2016 9:00 am

My old Oxford college, Mansfield, isn’t a famous establishment, though its current principal, ‘Baroness Helena Kennedy’, as she incorrectly styles…

A musician plays in the lobby of the Regal hotel in Hong Kong. Photo: Lucas Schifres/Bloomberg/Getty Images

If we really cared about mental health, muzak would be a top priority

30 January 2016 9:00 am

No one is consulted. No one is held to account. No one has the authority to turn it off. How…

Was Barenboim happy hiding inside a provincial orchestra from Venezuela?

23 January 2016 9:00 am

Daniel Barenboim back at the Festival Hall! Cue The Grand March of the Musical Luvvies Across Hungerford Bridge, a bustling…

Spare us this unanimous chorus of praise for Pierre Boulez

16 January 2016 9:00 am

Pierre Boulez, who died last week at the age of 90, would have been the last person, one hopes, to…

Can this year’s Gesualdo celebrations be about the music rather than the blood and gore?

2 January 2016 9:00 am

The allure of Carlo Gesualdo, eighth Count of Conza and third Prince of Venosa, has been felt by music-lovers from…

Musical maestros and football managers have more in common than you think

12 December 2015 9:00 am

You don’t have to be a follower of Liverpool Football Club, or football at all, to spot the difference. Two…

Late Brahms is wonderfully crafted - which is why it's so dull

21 November 2015 9:00 am

Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet begins, writes his biographer Jan Swafford, with ‘a gentle, dying-away roulade that raises a veil of autumnal…

I want to put on a concert in Antarctica. Who will help me?

7 November 2015 9:00 am

In this exciting new era of Spectator cruises I have been put in mind of a dream event long in…

On song: Bob Dylan performs at the 53rd annual Grammy Awards at Staples Center in 2011; photographers are banned on his current tour

Never again, I told myself last time Bob Dylan was in town

29 October 2015 9:00 am

We were like four hapless contestants on University Challenge. None of us knew the answer. But just like they do…

Why I’m glad my piano teacher spent more time chatting than teaching

17 October 2015 8:00 am

At the entrance to Marylebone railway station is an old piano that anyone can play. Unfortunately, whoever had this sweet…

Clara Schumann

There's a good reason why there are no great female composers

19 September 2015 8:00 am

Last week a 17-year-old girl forced the Edexcel exam board to change its A-level music syllabus to include the work…

Orchestral conductors would be much better if they tried performing Renaissance music

5 September 2015 9:00 am

To be honest, my friendship with Michael Tilson Thomas hasn’t gone quite as I had hoped. It started in February…

Magic in the air: Berlin Comic Opera’s exuberant ‘Magic Flute’ at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre

The Magic Flute has never made more cartoonish sense - an Edinburgh Festival roundup

5 September 2015 9:00 am

London may cry foul over Hamlet’s misplaced to-be-ing and not-to-be-ing but Edinburgh is in raptures over a Magic Flute which…

Jascha Spivakovsky: the great lost pianist we can finally hear

22 August 2015 9:00 am

William Kapell was an American concert pianist with the looks of a male model and the fingers of a wizard.…

Ruben Gonzalez (Photo: Adalberto Roque/AFP/Getty)

The band that nearly saved the Cuban revolution

8 August 2015 9:00 am

By chance, my first night in Havana in 1987 was the night the clubs went dark to mark the death…

Why are symphony orchestras expected to survive indefinitely?

1 August 2015 9:00 am

Watching the Berlin Philharmonic going into conclave to choose a successor to Simon Rattle — after countless hours of secret…

Compiling my greatest hits (and my Twitter trolls')

25 July 2015 9:00 am

Compilation schompilation. Having been in music for as long as I have you would think I had a good idea…

After coming forth in the Tchaikovsky competition, Lucas Debargue is the only competitor anyone is talking about

The real winner in the Tchaikovsky competition is the man who came last

18 July 2015 9:00 am

Lucas Debargue, a 24-year-old French pianist, came fourth in the finale of the Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow on 30 June,…

New works at the Proms that some would rather dernière than première

11 July 2015 9:00 am

This year the Proms are to stage 21 world premières and 11 European, UK or London premières. It is good…

Michael Eavis has brought more joy to more people than almost any Englishman alive

4 July 2015 9:00 am

I had meant to write a dispassionate account of this year’s Glastonbury, really I had. But I’m afraid my plans…

The most powerful man in classical music

27 June 2015 9:00 am

When Margaret Thatcher imagined perfect power, she thought of the orchestral conductor. ‘She envied me,’ said Herbert von Karajan, ‘that…

Is this the greatest piano work of the 21st century?

20 June 2015 9:00 am

The award of a knighthood to the composer James MacMillan will have ruined last weekend for lots of unsavoury people:…

Three tiny cheers for Mumford & Sons’ new album

13 June 2015 9:00 am

Like a lot of essentially cautious people, I like my music to take some risks, play with fire and damn…