Egyptian soprano Fatma Said:  first prize at the Veronica Dunne International Singing Competition

Is there a gender or national bias in our high-profile music competitions? Sorry, conspiracy theorists, but no

For Courtney Lewis, above, Haydn is a bedrock of the repertoire. Photograph: Travis Anderson

The conductor and the RTÉ NSO show Haydn a good time; and Ó Riada’s score for Mise Éire leaves me cold

Steibelt: Piano Concertos Nos 3, 5, 7Ulster Orchestra/Howard Shelley (piano)Hyperion CDA 681043

The new Ortús Festival is the brainchild of two young musicians, violinist Mairéad Hickey and cellist Sinéad O’Halloran

Two long-standing music series lose out as new events hit the jackpot, but the lack of continuity from year to year is mind-boggli(...)

Veronica Dunne with competition hopefuls Maria McGrath, Niamh O’Sullivan, Rachel Croash, Aoife Gibney and Sarah Richmond. Photograph: Leon Farrell/Photocall

Veronica ‘Ronnie’ Dunne began teaching in 1962. At 88 her passion is still obvious and she is alarmingly direct in her opinions ab(...)

You could look at Boulez’s always baton-less hands and see suggestions of refinements that had not yet actually made it into the playing. Photograph: Christophe Ena/File/AP Photo/

Boulez was the last of a great avant-garde line. But was Gilbert Kaplan, another conductor who died last week, just faking it?

Courtney Lewis: currently conducting the Jacksonville Symphony orchestra in Florida

The Belfast man studied at Cambridge with the goal of becoming a composer, but the lure of conducting led him to a rewarding caree(...)

Valery Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra concentrate on the big picture

The best-known Irish musical name was that of tenor John McCormack (above), who abandoned the opera house in favour of a concert career

That was the scene internationally, but what would a Dublin music lover have had to choose from?

Check out the work of the Dublin Youth Orchestras, above, at the NCH on January 9th

Orchestra members fulfil vital extracurricular functions such as providing music education and road-testing new music

We are lucky to have a number of Irish promoters whose taste and empathy for the audience’s experience set them apart

Granados: Piano Quintet; Turina: Piano Quintet; CaliopeJavier Perianes (piano), Cuarteto QuirogaHarmonia Mundi HMC 9022264

Annilese Miskimmon, above, was not the only applicant with an Irish connection who applied for the job

Norway’s top opera job is being taken up by Annilese Miskimmon. The post comes with its own dramatic history

Three organisations – Music in Wexford, Music in Kilkenny, and Lismore Music Festival – have lost €30,000 in grant funding from the Arts Council. Photograph: Thinkstock

Times have been hard, but the decision to cut funding to three musical organisations is unnecessarily damaging

Valentin Silvestrov: Piano SonatasSimon SmithDelphian DCD 341514

“The steering committee controlled the first New Music Dublin festival, and then handed the later festivals to Donnacha Dennehy and David Lang (above). It’s easy to see why it has lacked a coherent vision”

New Music Dublin has suffered numerous abuses in its short life and has been postponed for 2016. Can it be fixed?

NCH chairman Gerry Kearney, Minister of State Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys and NCH chief executive Simon Taylor with Martin Hayes (fiddle) and Dennis Cahill (guitar) at the launch of Imagining Home

Only one living Irish composer is part of the NCH’s seven-concert series for the 1916 centenary

Rothko Chapel Houston Chamber Choir/Robert Simpson, Sarah Rothenberg (piano)ECM New Series 481 17964

Deborah Borda, above, once told me that when orchestras started holding blind auditions, they found themselves hiring far more women

Many years ago I wrote about music for a while under a female pseudonym. It was a real eye-opener

The clarity of definition that Danish conductor Thomas Dausgaard produced conjured up the idea of a Brahms who had been working out in gym, with all that implies

The Swedish Chamber Orchestra offered an alternative to ‘stouter’ performances of Brahms's second symphony

NI Opera’s staging of Puccini’s “Turandot”: set in a kind despotic oriental factory, it benefits from striking designs by Rebecca Ringst and Ingo Krügler

NI Opera’s ‘Turandot’ is stunning, while Leif Ove Andsnes enjoys stint at the NCH

The opera house in Wexford generates opera on just 12 nights a year in a town with a population of about 20,000 in the southeastern corner of the country. Photograph: David Sleator

The renaming of Wexford Opera House is odd: what’s fine for a festival does not necessarily make sense for a national institution (...)

Eric Huchet’s Cantarelli (on right) balances the demands most successfully

Charm and sentiment dominate in a story of multiple marriages in 16th-century France

Charm and sentiment dominate in a story of multiple marriages – forced, mixed, secret, or not – in 16th-century France

Norman Garrett in Koanga. Photograph: Clive Barda

The cast struggle to make an impression in an opera that never gets off the ground

The ghosts of the deceased mingle on stage with the living in a production that moulds Mascagni’s opera into a fascinating whole (...)

The Last Hotel: ‘The high-impact nervous energy of Dennehy’s score is often topped by almost impossibly creamy-sounding soprano lines from Claudia Boyle and Katherine Manley’

The second year of the Ros Tapestry Suite saw top-notch piano performances of five commissioned compositions

Dennis Russell Davies: ‘The immediacy of live performance, you can’t beat it’

The conductor has done it all and is marked out by the strength of his commitment to new music

Bruckner: Symphony No 1 (Linz version)Netherlands Radio PO/Jaap van ZwedenChallenge Classics CC 725564

Lang Lang: ‘Every night, onstage, you need to be in the same condition. That is very difficult for a lot of people’

Lang Lang takes a strict approach to consistency – so is two out of three acceptable when it comes to a concert?

Agrippina: director Oliver Mears plays it as a contemporary soap opera

Handel’s first great opera is a comic piece about a serious subject

At this year’s Wexford Festival Opera, weekend performances of Delius’s Koanga, Mascagni’s Guglielmo Ratcliff and Hérold’s Le Pré aux clercs (above) are already sold out

Organisers have had to change schedule for next year’s event after failing to secure venues

Schumann: Piano Concerto; Piano Trio No 2Alexander Melnikov (piano), Freiburger Barockorchester/Pablo Heras-Casado, Isabelle Faust(...)

The Bergen Philharmonic: Norway’s oldest. It was founded when Mozart was just nine

The Bergen Philharmonic, which is certainly one of the oldest, played with great character in its Irish debut

Conductor Andrew Litton

Andrew Litton, who is in Dublin for one of his final appearances as conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, explains the j(...)

Tara Erraught: the Irish mezzo soprano of the moment gives recitals at Wexford Festival Opera, the NCH and in Galway. Photograph: Dieter Nagl/AFP/Getty Images

The new season is strong on singing and orchestral debuts, and composers from Sibelius to Mahler

Zhu Xiao-Mei survived the rigours of China’s Cultural Revolution. She makes no secret of how severely scarred she was by it. Photograph: Martin Jehnichen/Accentus Music

Kilkenny’s 10-day immersion in Bach was a box-office success and provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

Wartime ConsolationsLinus Roth (violin), Württemberg CO Heilbronn/Ruben Gazarian, José Gallardo (piano)Challenge Classics CC 73680(...)

Mahan Esfahani, who was born in Tehran in 1984, makes music like someone who has an old head on young shoulders. Photograph: Marco Borggreve

A performance of JS Bach’s Mass in B Minor was the real highlight of the arts festival’s first weekend

Mahan Esfahani: Photograph: Getty Images

This year the Kilkenny Arts Festival’s music strand focuses on the great composer. Here, five renowned interpreters reflect on hi(...)

HJ Lim: gives the impression that, musically speaking, punctuation and cadence are of little concern to her

Classical music: The problem with HJ Lim’s in-your-face style is that, when nothing is normal, you can get to the point where noth(...)

Claudia Boyle  who stars in The Last Hotel by Donnacha Dennehy

Happily, the composer has got over his anxieties, and his second collaboration with Enda Walsh, ‘The Last Hotel’, is shaping up to(...)

The original theme lacked grandeur, but such portmanteaus can be a source of creativity

George Enescu could play whole operas from memory and almost everything by Bach

The intriguing role of memory in musical performance has been a hot topic lately

So complete was the rift that opened up, that Bakels (above) has had to wait more than two decades before conducting in Dublin again

An NCH concert hinted at what might have been had the plans of the 1990s not unravelled

Mozart: Piano Sonatas Vol 3 Christian BlackshawWigmore Hall Live WHLive 0076/2 (2 CDs)4

The Borodin Quartet: their playing was extraordinarily contained, as if any dynamic level could be suggested or conjured without need for major change

The festival needs its own dedicated venue, and its director’s pursuit of one might be about to bear fruit

Dvorak: New World Symphony; Varèse: AmériquesSeattle Symphony/Ludovic MorlotSeattle Symphony Media SSM 10065

Alina Ibragimova: a gutsy player who dives into the music, body and soul. Photograph: Sussie Ahlburg

In Bantry, musical depth was lost in the Cremona Quartet’s approach, whereas Alina Ibragimova did Bach justice

Shostakovich: Symphony No 9; Violin Concerto No 1Leonidas Kavakos (violin), Mariinsky Orchestra/Valery GergievMariinsky MAR 05243 (...)

The Borodin Quartet will play at the West Cork Chamber Music Festival

The Russian quartet have been performing in various incarnations for 70 years, which is no mean feat: it isn’t easy to find new (...)

Photograph: Thinkstock

A heavily redacted report on RTÉ’s orchestras gives the lie to the Government’s claims about transparency

Tenor Robin Tritschler was in exemplary form in the NCH John Field Room on Sunday, where his programme embraced Yeats settings with the Vanbrugh String Quartet

Yeats might well have appreciated the wordiness of William Brooks’s Everlasting Voices, which revisits the poet’s ideals of ‘chaun(...)

Tara Erraught: The law of unintended consequences made her, for a while, ‘the most famous mezzo on Earth’. Photograph: Dieter Nagl/AFP/Getty Images

Having silenced a clutch of male critics, Erraught showed she has the X factor on stage at the NCH

John Cage was happy to write in a letter of recommendation that Christian Wolff (above) ‘is not known as a student of mine for the reason that I learned more from him than he from me’

The composer Christian Wolff, of the New York School, was central to a memorable night in Louth

‘It has been a particularly gruelling competition, with a higher proportion of players striving to make an impression through sheer volume than I remember from any previous year.’ Photograph: Cyril Byrne

The technical standard at this year’s competition has been high, but other shortcomings have become apparent

‘This year was marked by lots of flaws, the most annoying being a frequent insistence on unnecessary loudness.’ Photograph: Jason Clarke Photography

In the opening round, 63 young players were whittled down to 24. My verdict often diverged from the jury’s

Kevin Neville, Monica Marin, Luciano Botelho (the Duke), Sarah Ryan and Doreen Curran in Opera Theatre Company’s Rigoletto

Marina Carr’s new translation puts Rigoletto in the ring: can the formidable back room team whip it into shape for a knockout?

Brahms & SchumannAnn Murray (mezzo soprano), Malcolm Martineau (piano)Linn Records CKD 4434

‘Kirkos’s playing was rather rough- edged, the ensemble not yet bedded in, the colours not quite true.’ Photograph: Tara Thomas

Classical music round-up: The young ensemble played Messiaen’s dark music – which he composed as a POW – in near-darkness

John O’Conor’s playing had something of the air of a grand master about it, the big picture always well-understood

Classical Music round-up: Recitals by John O’Conor, Marino Formenti and Philip Glass ranged from the masterful to the radical

Conductor Sakari Oramo: ‘We [Finns] hate people who can’t understand Sibelius’s music, like most of the German people. We think Sibelius is better than Richard Strauss and Wagner put together’

What better excuse for a symphonic festival than the 150th anniversaries of two Scandinavian composers?

Celine Byrne (centre) ‘is not what you would call a sympathetic Butterfly’

A few revivalist tweaks can’t hide the age of the Moscow State’s Opera’s tired Butterfly

Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato sang with a kind of effortless aplomb, as if singing of beauty and precision were something that could just be made to happen

The orchestra’s appearance at the NCH kept things contemporary, unorthodox and sensual

Opera of a different kind featured on Dublin’s streets over the weekend in Things We Throw Away (above). A public street with pedestrians passing around and sometimes through the performing space is not exactly an easy spot for pop-up opera. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Classical Music: The ensemble is to give a series of concerts in the dark; elsewhere, street opera proves a slippery business

Mezzo soprano Sharon Carty: firm in tone, expressively to the point, and with an almost instrumental sureness of delivery

Holy Week used to be quiet in the musical calendar, but no more. This year RTÉ’s music division stepped up with Bach’s St Matthew (...)

‘Left Behind’ is a set of songs marking the Rising through poems by Simon O’Connor (above), which imagine 1916 and its fallout through the experiences of the wives of the rebel leaders. Photograph: Eric Luke

RTÉ tends to give new Irish music just one airing in concert, so its plans to celebrate the past century of Irish music is a very (...)

Schumann: Violin Concerto; Piano Trio No 3Isabelle Faust (violin), Freiburger Barockorchester/Pablo Heras-Casado, Jean-Guihen Quey(...)

‘It’s hard to think of anyone better-equipped than Niall Doyle [above] to provide the advocacy that music and opera need in these straitened times.’ Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Doyle comes to the job as someone who knows how bruising the council can be to clients

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