contemporary music

An embarrassing and misshapen dud: Opera Holland Park’s Isabeau reviewed

21 July 2018 9:00 am

I’ve been trying to pinpoint the exact moment when it became impossible to take Mascagni’s Isabeau seriously. It wasn’t when…

The virtuoso virtue-signallers of classical music

7 July 2018 9:00 am

All my life I’ve wanted to compose music, and now I’ve done it. I’ve written a sonata for solo flute…

Much is routine – and a fair amount is worse: Glyndebourne’s Madama Butterfly reviewed

26 May 2018 9:00 am

There is no such thing as a moderately good performance of Madama Butterfly, or, to be more precise, it’s not…

The glums: Marisol Montiel and Ana Luisa Montiel in Taryn Simon’s ‘An Occupation of Loss’

Grief-conjurors, space-mincers and earth-shovellers: performance roundup

19 May 2018 9:00 am

They enter two by two. Grannies, mainly. Headscarved, mainly. Some locking arms. A bit glum. Like rejects from Noah’s ark.…

Bravura, assurance and generosity: Mark Simpson's new Cello Concerto reviewed

28 April 2018 9:00 am

The opening of Mark Simpson’s new Cello Concerto is pure Hollywood. A fanfare in the low brass, an upwards rush…

Closing the Queen Elizabeth Hall invigorated the new music scene. Why reopen it?

21 April 2018 9:00 am

Imagine the National inviting RuPaul to play Hamlet. Or Tate giving Beryl Cook a retrospective. The London Sinfonietta offered a…

Adult treats in RNCM’s Hansel and Gretel

This Hansel and Gretel has 'classic' stamped all over it

7 April 2018 9:00 am

It’s been a good couple of weeks for cuddly toys in opera. A big floppy Eeyore is the only comfort…

How Debussy slipped past Wagner into the unknown

31 March 2018 9:00 am

A spectre haunted the first weekend of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s Debussy Festival: the spectre of Richard Wagner.…

A Gerald Barry première really ought to be national news

17 March 2018 9:00 am

Blue Gadoo is one of those cats whose face looks like it’s been bashed flat with a wok. He lives…

Nils Frahm is clever with textures – but it's the melodies which drag you in

10 March 2018 9:00 am

Grade: A Here we are in that twilit zone where post-techno and post-ambient meets modern classical, a terrain that has…

A step too far: the new production of Carmen at the Royal Opera House

A colossal bore: Royal Opera's Carmen reviewed

17 February 2018 9:00 am

The new production of Bizet’s Carmen at the Royal Opera has received mixed reviews. It shouldn’t have done. They should…

Celebrating Carter was one of the most energising musical occasions in years

3 February 2018 9:00 am

Das Rheingold at the Royal Festival Hall was, all told, a disappointment, but it might not have been had there…

Claude Debussy and his daughter Chouchou near Arcachon, France, 1915

Debussy, Tippett and Wagner: the musical treats of 2018

6 January 2018 9:00 am

Richard Bratby on the musical treats in store over the year to come

Some of the greatest moments at HCMF 2017 were the gentlest

2 December 2017 9:00 am

The musicians of Ensemble Grizzana are arranged in the usual way for their concert at St Paul’s Hall in Huddersfield.…

Prodigiously gifted but spiky: Nico Muhly

Composer Nico Muhly on drugs, cults and James MacMillan

25 November 2017 9:00 am

Will Damian Thompson make it out of the room without asking the composer Nico Muhly the Wrong Question?

Tyrone Singleton and Jenna Roberts in MacMillan’s Concerto

Kenneth MacMillan: the dark genius of British ballet – its destroyer, if you listen to some

21 October 2017 9:00 am

The 25th anniversary of Kenneth MacMillan’s death is finally giving us something to celebrate – and about time too, says Ismene Brown

Painted more shades of grey than a Farrow & Ball catalogue: The Judas Passion reviewed

7 October 2017 9:00 am

‘Can the ultimate betrayal ever be forgiven?’ screams the publicity for The Judas Passion, transforming a Biblical drama into a…

Simon Rattle’s Rite of Spring was the best I’ve ever heard

30 September 2017 9:00 am

I was going to start with a little moan. About the shouty marketing, the digital diarrhoea, the sycophantic drivel, which,…

Bruckner’s Ninth is one of the greatest musical works – and also the most baffling

9 September 2017 9:00 am

The two Proms concerts given on consecutive evenings by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra were well planned: a short opening work,…

Pat and Richard Nixon in ENO’s 2006 production of John Adams’s Nixon in China

The woman who changed the direction of opera

19 August 2017 9:00 am

Philip Hensher on the woman who changed the direction of opera

Andrew Shore, Alex Otterburn, Allison Cook and Susan Bullock (left to right) in Edinburgh Festival’s Greek

Terrific production of a bona fide modern classic: Edinburgh Festival’s Greek reviewed

12 August 2017 9:00 am

The Edinburgh International Festival began with a double helping of incest. Curiously, Greek — Mark-Anthony Turnage’s East End retelling of…

The BBC Proms broadcast a piece of gloriously subversive new music – without realising it

5 August 2017 9:00 am

Sir James MacMillan’s European Requiem, performed at the Proms on Sunday, isn’t about Brexit. The composer had to make this…

Haydn would surely have approved of Simon Rattle’s repackaging of the symphonies

22 July 2017 9:00 am

‘Rarely, rarely, comest thou, Spirit of Delight!’ wrote Elgar, quoting Shelley, at the top of his Second Symphony. He should…

Meet the composer who licked Beethoven’s carpet

24 June 2017 9:00 am

Gerald Barry once licked Beethoven’s carpet. At least, that’s what he told me, and I’m as sure as any interviewer…

It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world: Barbara Hannigan (Ophelia) and Allan Clayton (Hamlet) in Hamlet at Glyndebourne

Shattering climaxes and showstopping singing: Glyndebourne’s Hamlet reviewed

17 June 2017 9:00 am

Brett Dean’s new opera for Glyndebourne is a big-hearted romantic comedy, sunny and life-affirming. Only joking — this is contemporary…