Ice flows: Penguin Cafe, Barbican, London

Penguin Cafe’s recent performance at London’s Barbican Centre is likely to go down, in my own personal annals, as one of my favourite concerts of all time. It still feels like hyperbole to type that: it was only a few weeks ago. But how can I explain? – that wave of euphoria that carries you…

Manc union: Prom 20, Manchester Collective with Mahan Esfahani

Back to the ‘dome from home’ for another evening, and for what turned out to be one of the most thrilling Proms I’ve ever attended, for a whole host of reasons. Mainly, I think it was the sheer energy sustained throughout – the performers set out to electrify the audience, and succeeded. Rewind to what…

World’s Finest Musicians Perform in Raphael Court at the Victoria and Albert Museum

Photograph : Rebecca Reid Just when you think you are getting blasé about streamed events, there comes along a concert that you shouldn’t ignore.  Conductor Oliver Zeffman is young and has grand ideas. During the pandemic, he commissioned opera-film, Eight Songs from Isolation, from eight leading composers to great acclaim. With his latest project Live at the V&A, he…

Set free?

A couple of evenings before writing this, I had the privilege of attending the first art song recital with a live audience at London’s Wigmore Hall since it re-opened to socially-distanced audiences in line with the UK’s current ‘roadmap’ for ending lockdown. The concert was an all-Schubert progamme, performed by soprano Carolyn Sampson and pianist…

Pastoral, personal, political: Sieben before, during and beyond lockdown

Matt Howden is a Sheffield-based singer, songwriter, composer, violinist, looping/sequencing technology expert, and teacher/practitioner of sound design and production. An independent, unstoppable musical force who somehow finds enough room under the radar to soar, he is always unpredictable, always reliable. One might have thought the restrictions imposed by the pandemic would slow him down a…

Spired and emotional: the Oxford Lieder Festival 2020

On paper, the Oxford Lieder festival (wholly online this year, for contagious reasons) ended about a month ago. But not for me. Right up to the last minute, I’ve been extracting the maximum value I possibly can from my catch-up pass, viewing as many concerts as possible before the on-demand video archive finally vanishes from…