The BBC Proms has revealed its 2018 programme, with several French classical stars making their Proms debut.
On 5 September, Joyce DiDonato reprises the role of Dido in highlights from Berlioz's Les Troyens, this time with John Eliot Gardiner and his Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique. The American mezzo's recent recording with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg and maestro John Nelson won the BBC Music Magazine Award for Best Opera Album earlier this month.
French coloratura soprano Sabine Devieilhe will take to the Royal Albert Hall stage for the first time on 26 July in Debussy's sensual cantata La Damoiselle élue, marking the centenary of the French composer's death. She sings Debussy on her latest album of French arias and songs, Mirages.
In another important French debut, Romantic pianist extraordinaire Bertrand Chamayou plays Mendelssohn's First Concerto on 20 July, with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
At Cadogan Hall, on 23 July, Jean Rondeau: another Frenchman in another Proms debut, this time an all-French harpsichord recital including music by Royer (from his album Vertigo), François Couperin and a world-premiere by Eve Risser.
Violinist Renaud Capuçon was in London recently for the launch of his Bartók concertos album with the London Symphony Orchestra. He returns 19 August with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande as soloist in an orchestration of the Ravel Violin Sonata in G Major.
Soprano Diana Damrau sings her heartland repertory, songs by Richard Strauss, with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Vasily Petrenko.
A conductor very much familiar to London audiences, Sir Antonio Pappano, brings his Italian Orchestra dell'Accadamia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia to town for Bernstein's Symphony No.1 marking the centenary of the American composer's birth in August. Pappano has recorded the complete Bernstein Symphonies and The Age of Anxiety with the same orchestra and pianist Beatrice Rana for release later this year.
Discover the complete 2018 BBC Proms line-up here.
The shortlists for the 13th annual BBC Music Magazine Awards, the only classical music awards in which the main categories are voted for by the public, have been announced. A jury of expert critics selected this year’s 21 nominees across seven categories from over 200 longlisted recordings reviewed in 2017 by BBC Music Magazine, the world’s best-selling classical music monthly. The public vote is now open at the magazine’s website.
The many distinguished and varied nominees include, in the Opera category, the epic recording of Les Troyens, hailed the new reference recording and topping many Best of 2017 lists including The New York Times, The Guardian and the Chicago Tribune, thanks to its impressive orchestral and choral forces and an all-star cast headed by Joyce DiDonato, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Michael Spyres and Marianne Crebassa.
'[Conductor John] Nelson drives the drama with unforced tempos but ample theatrical vitality. Spyres...sings with lyrical grace and spirit...Joyce DiDonato sings Dido with characteristic security and expressiveness,' opined BBC Music Magazine in its five-star review.
Flying the French flag in the Chamber category is the sensational team featuring Renaud Capuçon (violin), Edgar Moreau (cello), Emmanuel Pahud (flute) and Bertrand Chamayou (piano) in these mercurial Debussy sonatas - charming one moment, sensual the next. The French critics called the six players a 'supergroup', while BBC Music Magazine noted that 'a sense of joy in collegial music-making pervades these performances. Unlike many, violinist Renaud Capuçon and pianist Bertrand Chamayou and their colleagues do not avoid the vein of sensual passion that glows beneath Debussy's perfectionism...Perhaps the finest all is the beautiful balance of elegiac tone that thins out of the Sonata for Flute Viola and Harp.'
The Concerto category also features French harpsichord firebrand Jean Rondeau on the album Dynastie, with intensely intimate, energised performances of concertos by Bach and sons. 'His spirited and eloquently ornamented playing serves the music of JS Bach and three of his sons uncommonly well,' declared BBC Music Magazine.
There are seven categories open to the public vote: Orchestral, Concerto, Opera, Choral, Vocal, Chamber and Instrumental. Audio excerpts are available on the voting site, and all UK voters will be entered into a draw to win copies of the nominations.
The winners of the Awards will be announced at a ceremony on 5 April at Kings Place, London. In addition to the public awards, there are four jury awards: Premiere Recording, Newcomer of the Year, DVD of the Year and Recording of the Year.
See all the nominees and have your say now!
Gramophone has selected French harpsichordist Jean Rondeau's new album Dynastie as Editor's Choice in its Best New Classical Albums of the month. The critic declares the recital of harpsichord concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach and sons "charming and human...a recording to savour". Rondeau's playing imparts "a sense of absolute connection and improvisatory ease with his harpsichord akin to that of a jazz pianist".
Gramophone points out that "a highlight is Rondeau’s own orchestration of the ‘Lamento’ from WF Bach’s Sonata in G major. Sublimely written and glowingly performed.
"JS Bach’s BWV1056 in F minor has thoughtfulness, fun and flourish, followed by a reading of CPE Bach’s Wq23 Concerto in D minor which captures this stylistic wild child’s maverick choppiness with clipped, buoyant elegance."
The young French harpsichordist Jean Rondeau describes the Bach family as “one of the great dynasties of western music”. Having devoted his first Erato recording, Imagine, to music by the towering Johann Sebastian Bach, followed by a recital of French Baroque music entitled Vertigo, he returns to the world of Bach for his third release, Dynastie. Johann Sebastian is now joined by the most famous of his ten sons, Wilhelm Friedemann (1710-84), Carl Philipp Emmanuel (1714-88) and Johann Christian (1735-82). After two solo recitals, Rondeau also has company in his consort which accompanies him in four concertos and Rondeau’s own arrangement of a sonata by Wilhelm Friedemann.
Imagine, which comprised transcriptions of works by Bach, won Rondeau two top awards in France: for Instrumental ‘Revelation’ of the Year at the Victoires de la Musique and for Solo Classical Instrumentalist of the Year at the Grands Prix de l'Académie Charles Cros 2015. BBC Music Magazine, meanwhile, judged that “Not only is the trajectory utterly sure-footed; he can also generate palpable excitement without resorting to empty bravado ... Rondeau is a natural communicator, unimpeded by the imperative to score academic points ... Make no mistake – this is an auspicious debut.”
The 25-year-old Rondeau has described JS Bach, who has been part of his life since his childhood, as “daunting like a mighty mountain”, but at the same time feels that “his music is so full of humility, so generous, that we have the right and the duty to play it, to share it, and to take the hand that he extends to us.”
Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emmanuel were brothers and Johann Christian was their half-brother. All three of them had a distinctive musical personality: Wilhelm Friedemann’s style vacillated between conservatism (an adherence to the Baroque idiom) and a more progressive approach, whether galant or highly expressive in the North German style; Carl Philipp Emmanuel, the best-known Bach in his time, spent many years at the court of Frederick the Great or Prussia, notably producing a multitude of keyboard works that are sometimes startlingly innovative in form and content, while Johann Christian, who settled in London in 1762, adopted elements of Italian style and exercised an influence on the young Mozart when he spent time in London in 1764-65.
The Bach dynasty provides a wealth of source material for Jean Rondeau: "Wilhelm Friedemann, Carl Philip Emanuel and Johann Christian did their utmost to be worthy of the legacy passed down to them by their father," he explains. "The essential qualities of this legacy are modernity and audacity, which lie at the very heart of musical creativity.
"Musical ideas are not my ideas, they are already in the score. All you have to do is dig deep for them and you will find them. What’s important for me is to be as true as possible in my playing.”
Dynastie will be released on CD, digital platforms and vinyl on 24 February.
"Jean Rondeau polishes the gilded frames of these portraits and character pieces, freeing their intense interior life," declared Classica magazine in the latest issue, in which Jean Rondeau's new album Vertigo has been selected for the 'Choc' Editor's Choice.
"Much more than the seductive photos and his 'cool look', it's the conception of the programme and its interpretation that deserve attention." The album is devoted to two masters of the French Baroque: Jean-Philippe Rameau and Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer, who both wrote extensively for the opera and brought a particularly theatrical sensibility to their music for solo harpsichord.
"In such capable hands, the harpsichord is no longer trapped in a boudoir for pretentious young ladies and English countesses, but becomes a big screen on which emotions are played out...To the point of vertigo."
Jean Rondeau's Vertigo is out now.
The 24-year-old French virtuoso invites listeners to experience the dizzying heights of the harpsichord; the gut-wrenching harmonies of 'Vertigo', and other dramatic works by French Baroque composers Rameau and Royer.
Drama and virtuosity aside, what Rameau and Royer have in common, the young harpsichordist insists, is a touch of "madness" and the fact that they showed "how music transcends social mores, politics and fashion".
Rondeau's new album, Vertigo, was recorded in somewhat mysterious surroundings: by night, in a small French chateau on a historic 18th-century instrument. Tonight's Paris concert takes place in the Salle Corteau, the ideal intimate setting to hear the harpsichord take flight.
Jean Rondeau's album of music by Rameau and Royer, Vertigo, is out now.
Jean Rondeau insists that the music of Jean-Philippe Rameau is "totally wild and crazy, in terms of the drama, the surprising forms..." The French Baroque master's harmonies "can turn the listener on their head." And the young French harpsichordist has just the right temperament for this music.
But it is another, lesser-known composer, Nicolas-Pancrace Royer, who gives Rondeau's new album its title, named for his most intensely energetic, virtuosic work for solo harpsichord, Vertigo.
France’s leading young harpsichordist performs works by two masters of the French Baroque. No surprises there, perhaps … but the harpsichordist in question is Jean Rondeau and the album conceives the harpsichord in vividly theatrical terms.
If Rameau (1683–1764) is the better-known composer today, especially admired for such operatic masterpieces as Hippolyte et Aricie and Platée, the younger Royer (1705–1755) was also a major figure in his time, rising to become master of music at the court of Louis XV. Both Rameau and Royer excelled in keyboard music and in works for the stage. As Jean Rondeau says: “These two illustrious composers battled for the top spot at the Opéra.” He describes them as “two magicians, two master architects, amongst the most wildly imaginative and brilliant of their era … Two composers who also tried to capture echoes of grand theatre with the palette offered by their keyboard.”
The 24-year-old harpsichordist is an eloquent advocate – in both words and music – of the extraordinary descriptive, narrative and expressive scope of these two composers’ keyboard writing. In the 16 tracks on Vertigo he creates a dramatic structure, paying homage to the form of the opéra-ballet.
And what of Vertigo itself, which features in the second entrée? “According to the encyclopedia it is a fantaisie – but it is a fantaisie to the power of ten!" enthuses Rondeau. "It concentrates a CinemaScope movie into five short minutes; Royer gives us an opera in three hundred seconds. It is all there – with nothing borrowed from his stage music; there is even a dizzying cascade at the cadence, my personal homage to Alfred Hitchcock, even though he has nothing to do with the matter in hand … Just for the fun of it!”
Vertigo was recorded at the 18th-century Château d’Assas near Montpellier in southern France, a venue closely associated with the harpsichordist Scott Ross (1951-1989), whose epoch-making box of the complete Scarlatti sonatas was re-released on Erato in 2014.
Jean Rondeau's new album Vertigo is out now.
It's a harpsichord and a place that has inspired many musicians, and has worked its magic on Rondeau's new album Vertigo, too.
Vertigo: Rameau and Royer will be released in February 2016.
Discover two of the year's best in classical music, as chosen by Apple Music in its official Best of 2015 guide.
The 24-year-old French virtuoso Jean Rondeau is not your average harpsichordist - if there is such a thing. His award-winning album Imagine, devoted to the music of Bach (and not The Beatles) is indeed a richly imaginative debut with lesser-known works and transcriptions crowned by the towering D-Minor Chaconne.
From intimate solo harpsichord to Rome's premier orchestDiscover two of the year's best in classical music, as chosen by Apple Music in its official Best of 2015 guide.
The 24-year-old French virtuoso Jean Rondeau is not your average harpsichordist - if there is such a thing. His award-winning album Imagine, devoted to the music of Bach (and not The Beatles) is indeed a richly imaginative debut, with lesser-known works and transcriptions crowned by the towering D-Minor Chaconne.
Rondeau's highly-anticipated follow-up, Vertigo, will be released in February 2016.
From intimate solo harpsichord to large-scale opera - as big as it gets. For Warner Classics' colossal studio recording of Verdi's Aïda, Maestro Antonio Pappano conducts Rome's chorus and orchestra of the Accadamia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (augmented by the police band - La Banda Musicale della Polizia di Stato) and an all-star cast featuring Anja Harteros in the title role, Jonas Kaufmann, Ekaterina Semenchuk, Erwin Scrhott and Ludovic Tézier. The critically-acclaimed complete opera is also top of The New York Times' Gift Guide and Best of 2015, among too many other accolades to list here.
Hear extracts from both these albums in the official Apple Music Best of 2015 Classical Playlist.
Due to security reasons, the Maison de Radio France in Paris was forced to cancel the awards ceremony that would have taken place on 18 November for the 68th Grands Prix de l'Académie Charles Cros, the prestigious annual awards for French recording artists.
The Academy has nonetheless announced the winners: "It has never been more imperative today to defend culture, to support and share it - the essential values that are the mission and raison d'être of the Académie Charles Cros,' the organisers said in a statement.
Among the winners carrying the torch for French music and culture: Sabine Devieilhe's Mozart: The Weber Sisters has been awarded the Classical Album of the Year, recorded with the Pygmalion ensemble conducted by her husband Raphaël Pichon. Fittingly, the first notes she sings on the album are from Ah! vous dirais-je maman (Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star), which Mozart composed in Paris in 1778.
Another young French rising star, Jean Rondeau, was hailed Solo Classical Instrumentalist of the Year. Releasing his debut for Erato early 2015 when he was just 23, the Paris-based harpsichordist took on the great D-Minor Chaconne for Imagine, an album devoted to Bach.
Comprised of 50 music industry critics and professionals and named in honour of Charles Cross, a pioneer of sound recording and a friend of the poets Rimbaud and Verlaine, the Académie was founded in 1947 to support French musicians and recording artists.