Classical

Bristol’s new concert hall is extremely fine

Bristol has a new concert hall, and it’s rather good. The transformation of the old Colston Hall into the Bristol Beacon has been reported as if it was simply a matter of upgrading and renaming. There were probably sound reasons for doing so, but in fact (and despite protests from the Twentieth Century Society) the

Meet the man who says improvisation is the key to Mozart

In August 1993, the pianist Robert Levin sat down in Walthamstow Assembly Rooms with the conductor Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music (AAM) to record the complete piano concertos of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Mozart was big – the bicentenary celebrations of 1991 had made a global impact. And Hogwood and the AAM were

The mutilation of Radio 3

On Saturday 12 December 1964, Harold Wilson addressed his first Labour party conference as prime minister, George Harrison was photographed with his new girlfriend in the Bahamas, Pope Paul VI told Catholics they could drink alcohol ‘in moderation’ before Midnight Mass and, according to the Mirror, ‘two strip-tease girls fought in the nude in their

Baffling and vile: ETO’s Manon Lescaut reviewed

In 1937, John Barbirolli took six pieces by Henry Purcell and arranged them for an orchestra of strings, horns and woodwinds. Nothing unusual about that: arranging baroque music for modern symphony orchestras was what famous conductors used to do. Beecham and Hamilton Harty re-upholstered Handel. Mahler did something similar with Bach, then directed the result

What would Tanner say?

On the train home from the Royal Festival Hall I learned of the death of Michael Tanner, who wrote this column from 1996 to 2014 and beyond. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment had been playing Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony, and it’s not strictly true to say that the news made me wonder about his

In defence of noise music

It’s curious to consider what a venerable old thing noise music is. That this most singularly untameable of musics – the place where melody, harmony and pulse all go to die – is an Edwardian invention. It first arrived in this country 110 years ago when futurists Filippo Marinetti and Luigi Russolo set up camp

Death of a choir

Always make your redundancy announcement when the people at the receiving end of it are on a high. This seems to be the favoured method of today’s managing executives, who perhaps imagine that adrenalin will somehow anaesthetise the blow of getting the sack. For the Cambridge student choir St John’s Voices, the news of its

Top oratorio-mongering: Elijah, at the Barbican, reviewed

As a young music critic, Bernard Shaw poked fun at anyone who thought Mendelssohn was a genius. Shaw conceded that Mendelssohn was capable of touching tenderness and refinement and sometimes ‘nobility and pure fire’, but his music was marred by kid-glove gentility, conventional sentimentality and – worst of all – ‘despicable oratorio-mongering’. Shaw’s pet hate

The miracle of watching a great string quartet perform

Joseph Haydn, it’s generally agreed, invented the string quartet. And having done so, he re-invented it: again and again. Take his quartet Op. 20, No. 2, of 1772 – the first item in the Takacs Quartet’s recital last week at the Wigmore Hall. The cello propels itself forward and upward, then starts to warble like