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  • A tenor short
    Tannhäuser, Royal Opera House, April 29th, 2016

    Alexandra Coghlan

    Published: 01/05/2016

  • ENO appoints Daniel Kramer new Artistic Director

    Tom Sutcliffe

    Published: 29/04/2016

  • Dead on arrival
    Lucia di Lammermoor
    Royal Opera House
    7 April

    Tom Sutcliffe

    Published: 11/04/2016

  • Look to the lady
    City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
    Symphony Hall
    31 March

    Christopher Morley

    Published: 04/04/2016

  • Gustav by Gustavo
    LA Phil, Barbican residency

    Rick Jones

    Published: 30/03/2016

  • Nasty business
    The Barber of Seville
    Welsh National Opera
    Bristol Hippodrome
    14 March

    Lucien Jenkins

    Published: 20/03/2016

  • Not really Godunov
    Boris Godunov
    Royal Opera House, 14 March

    Tom Sutcliffe

    Published: 16/03/2016

  • Mixed messages
    Iphigénie en Tauride
    Pia de’ Tolomei
    English Touring Opera
    Hackney Empire, 5 & 10 March

    Tom Sutcliffe

    Published: 14/03/2016

  • And then there were nuns
    Il trittico, Royal Opera, 25 February

    Amanda Holloway

    Published: 01/03/2016

  • Figaro’s Progress
    The Marriage of Figaro
    Figaro Gets a Divorce

    Welsh National Opera
    Wales Millennium Centre
    20 & 21 February

    Lucien Jenkins

    Published: 23/02/2016

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Music

An Introduction to the Music Section

Published: 08/11/2010

Chairman: Guy Dammann
Hon Secretary: Amanda Holloway
Amanda@mandah.net

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Featured articles

  • A tenor short

    Tannhäuser, Royal Opera House, April 29th, 2016

    Alexandra Coghlan

    01/05/2016

    Strong though the musical case is for this Tannhäuser, the haze of director Tim Albery’s unfinished dramatic thoughts makes it all rather vague.

    Read more…

  • ENO appoints Daniel Kramer new Artistic Director

    Tom Sutcliffe

    29/04/2016

    Read more…

  • 'Incredibly committed and accomplished' – Diana Damrau as Lucia
Photo: Stephen Cummiskey

    Dead on arrival

    Lucia di Lammermoor
    Royal Opera House
    7 April

    Tom Sutcliffe

    11/04/2016

    The image of Lucia coming on stage, mad, covered in blood, singing like an angel, is one of the of most famous scenes in the whole operatic rep. This definitive mad-scene (accompanied memorably by a glass harmonica) embodies the results of too much pressure within the family in a way Hilaire Belloc 80 years later might have made comic...

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  • Look to the lady

    City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
    Symphony Hall
    31 March

    Christopher Morley

    04/04/2016

    What was going through Nicholas Collon’s mind as he stepped onto the CBSO podium for his third visit this season? No doubt he had been in the frame to succeed Andris Nelsons as the orchestra’s principal conductor, but if he felt any disappointment at being passed over in favour of Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla it didn’t show. A pity the listeners to the Radio 3 relay of the concert couldn’t see the elegant modesty of Collon’s conducting.

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  • Gustavo Dudamel conducts the LA Philharmonic at the Barbican, March 2016

    Gustav by Gustavo

    LA Phil, Barbican residency

    Rick Jones

    30/03/2016

    Read more…

  • Claire Booth as Rosina
Photo: Richard Hubert Smith

    Nasty business

    The Barber of Seville
    Welsh National Opera
    Bristol Hippodrome
    14 March

    Lucien Jenkins

    20/03/2016

    With Rossini’s Barber of Seville, the first of their trilogy of Figaro operas, Welsh National Opera set out their stall. Sue Blane’s costumes were bright, Ralph Koltai’s set was contrastingly downbeat, the activity of Sam Brown’s production was frenetic and the atmosphere that of panto.

    Read more…

  • 'Terfel’s bass-baritone was not ideal in colour for this majestic role'
Photo: Catherine Ashmore

    Not really Godunov

    Boris Godunov
    Royal Opera House, 14 March

    Tom Sutcliffe

    16/03/2016

    Richard Jones’s new Royal Opera production of Boris Godunov is excessively house-trained. Has there ever been so tidy a production of Mussorgsky’s sprawling epic? Admittedly this original 1869 completion, a version never before staged here (where the composer’s and Rimsky’s revisions have mostly been the norm) took fewer operatic liberties than the 1872 version which was designed for more conventional tastes.

    Read more…

  • Catherine Carby 'made an imposing contribution' as Iphigenie
Photo: Richard Hubert Smith

    Mixed messages

    Iphigénie en Tauride
    Pia de’ Tolomei
    English Touring Opera
    Hackney Empire, 5 & 10 March

    Tom Sutcliffe

    14/03/2016

    English Touring Opera has a strong programme of fine operas, with 21 towns to visit from Truro to Perth this challenging season. Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride was sung in French, though I think English (which they are using for Don Giovanni) would have been better. Donizetti’s hardly-known Pia de’ Tolomei was in Italian, best for bel canto even when the voices are not so Italian. The Hackney Empire, a wonderful Frank Matcham theatre, was packed out, the works enthusiastically attended and applauded.

    Read more…

  • The 'radiant' Ermonela Jaho as Sister Angelica
Photo: Bill Cooper

    And then there were nuns

    Il trittico, Royal Opera, 25 February

    Amanda Holloway

    01/03/2016

    Richard Jones’s production, set in the austerity ’50s, captures the claustrophobia as well as the colour of these human storiesIt was much admired when it opened in 2011, especially the detailed set designs: Ultz’s Seine-side quay with a realistic barge deck, Miriam Buether’s airy convent hospital ward and John Macfarlane’s fusty old man’s bedroom.

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  • David Stout and Marie Arnet in WNO's Figaro Gets a Divorce
Photo: Richard Hubert Smith

    Figaro’s Progress

    The Marriage of Figaro
    Figaro Gets a Divorce

    Welsh National Opera
    Wales Millennium Centre
    20 & 21 February

    Lucien Jenkins

    23/02/2016

    Even before Welsh National Opera’s orchestra under Lothar Koenigs strikes up the overture to The Marriage of Figaro, members of the cast in modern dress are on stage, reading or stretching as if for a work-out. Enter Figaro in 18th-century dress: he shows them the contents of the costume hampers and shepherds them offstage. Yes, it’s a dumb show, intended to provide some kind of framing device.

    Read more…

  • Jennifer Holloway, Marjorie Owens, Peter Auty, Adrian Dwyer, James Creswell and chorus in ENO's Norma
Photo: Alastair Muir

    Bad Gauls

    Norma, English National Opera, London Coliseum, 17 February

    Alexandra Coghlan

    20/02/2016

    Those keen to update Bellini’s druidic tragedy can take their pick from colonial history – so how Christopher Alden lit on 19th-century America is anyone’s guess. These Gauls and Romans play out their oppression and rebellion in a big wooden barn somewhere in the Midwest. 

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  • Soraya Mafi and Peter Coleman-Wright and company in ENO's Magic Flute
Photo: Robbie Jack

    Manic Flute

    The Magic Flute, English National Opera, 16 February

    Robert Thicknesse

    17/02/2016

    If ENO can get only half an audience for the fourth performance (of 13) of one of the most popular and glorious of all operas, whose fault is that? The tantrums of an arts sector with an infantile inability to take responsibility whenever the Arts Council asks someone to pull their socks up are pathetic. ENO isn’t the NHS, and nobody should have to pour endless money into a hole the company has dug for itself.

    Read more…

  • Nicholas Sharratt in The Devil Inside
Photo: Bill Cooper

    Careful what you wish for

    The Devil Inside, Music Theatre Wales, Peacock Theatre, 6 February

    Amanda Holloway

    09/02/2016

    Some malign force must have been at work on the second night of The Devil Inside when conductor Michael Rafferty stopped the performance ten minutes into the second scene because all the lights in the pit had gone out. Perhaps the evil spirit at the heart of this opera – a flickering absinthe-green light in a glass globe – was making his presence felt.

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  • Kate Lindsey, centre,

    No stars

    L’Etoile, Royal Opera House, 1 February 2016

    Alexandra Coghlan

    02/02/2016

    A wholesale rewrite – a brace of new characters, a bucket-load of new dialogue – and more pantomime than the back end of a horse makes Chabrier’s L’étoile more Agincourt than entente cordiale in Covent Garden’s first-ever production. How you react to Mariame Clément’s riotous jumble-sale of cultural references – buy one get five free – will probably depend on your opinion of Chabrier’s score.

    Read more…

  • Robert Hayward as Carlo Gérard 
Photo: Robert Workman

    Passion on the scaffold

    Andrea Chénier, Opera North, 19 January

    Tom Sutcliffe

    27/01/2016

    Umberto Giordano’s most successful opera immortalises a worthwhile subject: a poet and political activist guillotined in Robespierre’s terror. But it is not just for the fabulous lyricism of the opera and its tenor title role that one should catch this well-judged, satisfyingly-cast Opera North production, but for the quality and memorable fervour of Luigi Illica’s fine libretto and the intelligent theatricality of Annabel Arden’s well-focused staging, which really works at words and ideas harnessing text and music.

    Read more…

  • Magdalena Kožená in Pelleas et Melisande with the LSO at the Barbican Hall

    Less is more

    Pelléas et Mélisande, Barbican Hall, 9 January

    Robert Thicknesse

    13/01/2016

    The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. As Debussy’s magical score was sprung from the orchestra pit and played to a sort of heavenly perfection by the London Symphony Orchestra on the platform – giving every instrumental nuance the exact degree of delicate freightedness it wants – so an adolescent staging by Peter Sellars galumphed all over a drama which owes everything to the art of suggestion.

    Read more…

  • Nicole Car as Tatyana in the Covent Garden Eugene Onegin
Photo: Bill Cooper

    Too much reading

    Eugene Onegin, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, 4 January

    Lucien Jenkins

    08/01/2016

    A revived Eugene Onegin at the Royal Opera House won a roar of approval from its audience. And no wonder: it had been a roaring musical success. The title role (sung by Dmitri Hvorostovsky in the earlier part of the run) was performed by the Polish baritone Artur Rucinsky. An Onegin the audience could sympathise with, this was a man who messed up, not a romantic villain.

    Read more…

  • 'Well-rehearsed precision' – Christina Pluhar
Photo: Erato

    Barocking

    Arpeggiata, Wigmore Hall, 21 December

    Rick Jones

    23/12/2015

    And lo, the early music virtuosi L’Arpeggiata cast a spell over a sold-out Wigmore Hall three nights before Christmas. Their sins of sub-jazz impro with Purcell, committed during their last visit in 2014, were forgiven; that local hero is still a protected species as far as the English are concerned.

    Read more…

  • Aurora Orchestra with Nicholas Collon
Photo: Simon Weir

    Is your journey really necessary?

    Winterreise, St Leonard’s Church, Shoreditch 8th December 2015

    Amanda Holloway

    11/12/2015

    Anyone expecting a straightforward recital of Schubert’s Winterreise from bright young British tenor Allan Clayton at Shoreditch Church will have been broadsided by this wacky ‘reimagining’ for orchestra and voice by Hans Zender, first heard at the QEH in 1993.

    Read more…

  • Carmen Giannattasio as Nedda

    Passionless peasants

    Cavalleria rusticana/Pagliacci, Royal Opera House, 3 December

    Robert Thicknesse

    08/12/2015

    Call it Damiano Michieletto’s revenge. Earlier this year the Italian director took a shellacking for his production of Rossini’sGuillaume Tell at Covent Garden – for an opportunistic scene of sexual molestation, but mostly for being generally boring and pretentious. His response is a bit of old-skool banality that would hardly look out of place done by a populist producer at the Albert Hall. (Although unlike the Royal Opera, Raymond Gubbay never troubled the public purse for 25 million quid a year.)

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  • Riccardo Massi, Ermonela Jaho & BBC Symphony Orchestra
Photo: Russell Duncan

    Soap opera scrubs up well

    Zazà, Barbican Hall, 27 November 2015

    Mark Valencia

    30/11/2015

    Among Italian operas à la françaiseZazà has fared particularly badly. Though more credible than Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur and better structured than Puccini’s La rondine, Leoncavallo’s tale is a domestic doodle with as little action as Waiting for Godot. And yet, as Opera Rara’s latest archaeological dig has revealed, musically it’s a feast, drenched in lushly melodic colours that favour the waltz and sway with a heady, schmaltz-free sentimentality. 

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  • Photo of Brandauer as Olai

    From Morning to Yawning

    Morgen und Abend, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 13 November

    Tom Sutcliffe

    18/11/2015

    Haas’s music is inventive, carefully suited to Fosse’s purpose, and does create the sort of implicit world redolent of various happenings that people who like this sort of thing will take as meaningful...

    Read more…

  • ENO The Force of Destiny (c) Robert Workman

    Guernica’s Destiny

    The Force of Destiny, English National Opera, 9 November

    Jessica Duchen

    10/11/2015

    A brother is obsessed with murdering his sister for revenge; both are deranged. What better metaphor could there be for civil war? Calixto Bieito, directing his first staging of La forza del destino (a co-production with the Canadian Opera Company Toronto and the Met in New York), homes in on the parallel and ties the opera’s levels of conflict together so soundly that its drama becomes almost believable.

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  • Susanna Hurrell as Melisande and Jonathan McGovern as Pelleas. Photo copyright Richard Hubert Smith

    Luke-warm Debussy

    Pelléas et Mélisande, English Touring Opera, Malvern Theatres, 22 October

    Richard Bratby

    27/10/2015

    A chamber version of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande: it should make perfect sense. The complexity of the relationships between Maeterlinck’s characters, the million delicate refinements of Debussy’s score: surely a scaled-down version could only reveal further subtleties to this most poetic of music dramas? 

    Read more…

  • Riccardo Chailly conducts the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra at the Barbican

    Critics Mocked by Great German Orchestra

    Leipzig Gewandhaus in great form at the Barbican

    Rick Jones

    21/10/2015

    Read more…

  • Sam Furness in ETO's The Tales of Hoffmann
Photo: Richard Hubert Smith

    Fruitful wounds

    The Tales of Hoffmann, Britten Theatre, London, 9 October

    Robert Thicknesse

    14/10/2015

    In James Bonas’s staging for English Touring Opera the scene is shifted from old Nuremberg, and Hoffmann has become instead a '30s film director – cue echoes of German Expressionism, plus plenty of Tim Burton’s Ed Wood. Everything is properly grotesque, including the lurking nemesis Lindorf, done up like Count Orlok and stalking about with panto-villain glee in Warwick Fyfe’s somewhat over-emphatic performance.

    Read more…

  • Lise Lindstrom, photo Kevin Clifford

    From Lolita to Lulu

    Salome, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Hall Birmingham, Friday 2 October

    Christopher Morley

    05/10/2015

    Among many sensational opera performances at Symphony Hall over nearly a quarter of a century, this Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra presentation of Richard Strauss' powerful one-acter is an immediate stand-out.

    Read more…

  • The Critics' Circle music section

    BBC Broadcasts Philosopher’s Tone

    BBC Symphony Orchestra, Barbican Hall, Friday 25 September

    Rick Jones

    25/09/2015

    When Friedrich Nietzsche was asked in what category he placed his book Also Sprach Zarathustra, he replied ‘Symphonies,’ so it was appropriate when, in the same year as Strauss’ wordless version, their contemporary Mahler set a text from it at the heart of his Third Symphony, completed in 1896

    Read more…

  • Outstanding musician – George Benjamin.
Photo: Robert Millard

    Critics’ Circle Announces Music Awards for 2014

    George Benjamin wins 2014 Critics’ Circle Award for Outstanding Musician

    17/10/2014

    The fourth annual Critics’ Circle Music Awards are announced today, with composer George Benjamin to receive the 2014 Award for Outstanding Musician. The awards for Exceptional Young Talent in music were made to composer Charlotte Bray, singer Mary Bevan and pianist Igor Levit

    Read more…

  • Jack Massarik. Photo: Benjamin Amure

    Jack Massarik 1940-2014

    Veteran musician, jazz writer and critic succumbs to cancer aged 74

    Kimon Daltas

    18/07/2014

    Jack Massarick, long-time Critics' Circle member and the Evening Standard's jazz critic for 35 years died on Sunday 13 July, due to late diagnosed pancreatic cancer.

    Read more…

  • Iestyn Davies (right) with Guy Dammann

    Iestyn Davies receives Outstanding Young Talent award

    Countertenor is presented with award on Barbican stage

    Kimon Daltas

    18/12/2013

    Music section awards

    Read more…

  • John Eliot Gardiner being presented with the 2013 Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Musician by Section Chair Guy Dammann

    John Eliot Gardiner receives 2013 Outstanding Musician Award

    Conductor and Bach scholar presented with award at Royal Opera House ceremony

    Guy Dammann

    26/09/2013

    Read more…

  • Music Section Awards 2013

    Gongs for John Eliot Gardiner, Ryan Wigglesworth, Iestyn Davies and Yevgeny Sudbin

    Guy Dammann

    16/09/2013

    Read more…

  • Benjamin Grosvenor at the Barbican

    Presented with his 2012 Award for Exceptional Young Talent

    Geoffrey Norris

    13/06/2012

    Read more…

  • Oliver Knussen

    Oliver Knussen at Aldeburgh

    Knussen Receives 2012 Outstanding Musician Award

    Geoffrey Norris

    11/06/2012

    Read more…

  • Oliver Knussen

    2012 Music Awards

    The winners are announced

    Geoffrey Norris

    07/06/2012

    Read more…

  • Robin Ticciati Music Award, Glyndebourne

    2011 Music Awards Presentations

    The first two Awards for Exceptional Young Talent

    Geoffrey Norris

    09/06/2011

    Alina Ibragimova and Robin Ticciati receive their Music Awards

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  • Critics' Circle Music Awards

    Geoffrey Norris

    02/04/2011

    The Music Section announces its Outstanding Musician Award and Awards for Exceptional Young Talent

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  • The Critics' Circle music section

    Members of the Music Section

    Including Honorary Members

    Geoffrey Norris

    11/01/2010

    The music section has about 80 members. It at present consists overwhelmingly of classical music and opera critics, though we would welcome as members critics of other kinds of music (jazz, pop, and world music) if they want to join us.

    Read more…

  • Edward Greenfield

    Edward Greenfield, 30 July 1928 – 1 July 2015

    Veteran classical music critic dies at 86

    03/07/2015

    Edward Greenfield, a legendary figure in classical music criticism, died on 1 July having never stopped listening and writing.

    Read more…

  • Andrew Porter, 1928-2015

    Music critic, cultural commentator and translator of operatic libretti

    07/04/2015

    Andrew Porter, who established an eminent reputation on both sides of the Atlantic over a long career in music criticism, has died in London at the age of 86.

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  • Kennedy

    Michael Kennedy, 1926-2014

    Critic, writer, biographer and journalist dies

    02/01/2015

    Michael Kennedy, the prolific critic, writer, biographer and journalist, has died at the age of 88.

    His lifelong association with the Telegraph began at age 15 in 1941 at the newspaper's Manchester office. He began writing music criticism regularly in 1948 while climbing up the sub-editor ladder, becoming chief sub-editor and eventually, in 1960, the newspaper's northern editor. When the Telegraph stopped its Manchester edition, Kennedy turned to criticism full time and in 1989 moved to become chief music critic for the Sunday Telegraph.

     

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  • My Dear Mozart

    The plight of music criticism

    Tom Sutcliffe

    17/01/2011

    Circle President, Tom Sutliffe, on the plight of music criticism today.

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  • Boris Johnson

    Reflections on the state of the arts

    We Do Things Differently Here

    Tom Sutcliffe

    21/06/2013

    Reflections on the state of opera and the theatre in Britain today.

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  • Geoffrey Norris head shot

    New Music Section Awards

    Watch this space

    Geoffrey Norris

    06/01/2011

    The 77 members of the music section will soon be casting their votes for the 2010 awards.   Awards have been given from time to time in the past, but the plan is now to put them on a permanent footing by presenting them annually.

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