contemporary music

Handsome and revivable but I wasn’t moved: Royal Opera’s Death in Venice reviewed

30 November 2019 9:00 am

Premièred within two years of each other, Luchino Visconti’s film and Benjamin Britten’s opera Death in Venice both take Thomas…

Why are Haydn’s operas so lousy? La fedelta premiata reviewed

16 November 2019 9:00 am

There’s a book about musicals that every opera lover should read. Not Since Carrie by Ken Mandelbaum is a history…

In his new piano concerto Thomas Ades’s inspiration has completely dried up

2 November 2019 9:00 am

There’s nothing like a good piano concerto and, sad to relate, Thomas Adès’s long-awaited first proper attempt at the genre…

English National Opera's triumphant new production of Harrison Birtwistle's The Mask of Orpheus, directed by Daniel Kramer. [Photo: Alistair Muir]

A triumph: ENO’s Mask of Orpheus reviewed

26 October 2019 9:00 am

ENO’s Mask of Orpheus is a triumph. It’s also unintelligible. Even David Pountney, who produced the original ENO staging in…

You leave awe-struck but also a bit frazzled: Holland Festival’s Aus Licht reviewed

13 July 2019 9:00 am

In Stockhausen’s Klavierstück XI hands become fists, arms and elbows clubs, shoving, pounding and ker-pow-ing the keyboard to near oblivion.…

Richard Ayres' The Garden at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Image: © Mark Allan

Hearing Gilbert & Sullivan on period instruments was a revelation

27 April 2019 9:00 am

‘I consider that music is, by its very nature, essentially powerless to express anything at all,’ wrote Stravinsky in one…

ENO’s Jack the Ripper needs to decide if it wants to be a gore-fest or social history

6 April 2019 9:00 am

Is it possible to write a feminist opera about Jack the Ripper? Composer Iain Bell thinks it is, and his…

Read The Spectator article that gave birth to musical minimalism 50 years ago

8 December 2018 9:00 am

The Spectator is responsible for many coinages. One of the most significant came in 1968, when an article by our…

RLPO and the NDR Radiophilharmonie performing Britten's War Requiem in Liverpool Cathedral. Photo: Liverpool Philharmonic / Mark McNulty

Britten’s War Requiem almost sounded like a masterpiece – but it’s isn’t, is it?

17 November 2018 9:00 am

‘What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?’ We’ve heard a lot, lately, of the knell that tolls through the…

The Gyorgy and Marta show: the nonagenarian couple have been an unlikely hit on YouTube

One of the last living avant-gardists speaks – Gyorgy Kurtag on his new Beckett opera

10 November 2018 9:00 am

Arriving in Budapest, I receive a summons I cannot refuse. Gyorgy Kurtag wants to see me. Famously elusive, the last…

A major modernist hiding in plain sight: composer Ennio Morricone at 91

‘Darmstadt taught me how to compose’: Ennio Morricone interviewed

27 October 2018 9:00 am

Ennio Morricone’s staff wish it to be known that he does not write soundtracks. ‘Maestro Morricone writes “Film Music” NOT…

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…

Classical music is awash with virtue-signalling

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…

Debussy Festival

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.…

Does Gerald Barry hate music?

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

Claude Debussy died on 25 March 1918 to the sound of explosions. Four days earlier, the Kaiser’s army had deployed…

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.…