Patrick Rafter: “I thought, if I want to do what Nigel Kennedy does, I need to pull myself together.” Photograph: Tom Honan for The Irish Times

The gifted Kilkenny violinist plays from the heart, but keeps a strong head on his shoulders

Celine Byrne makes her Irish National Opera debut in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre

András Schiff brings enlightenment to NCH; Maxim Vengerov multitasks with RTÉ NSO

 The title page of the printed programme for the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra’s concert at the National Concert Hall on Friday has a banner headline “Towards 2022”. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

NSO sub-season duplicates previous efforts and focuses too much on British connections

Joe O’Grady will play at  the Emily Anderson Memorial Concerts

Plus Nathalie Stutzmann’s French tribute and Rafael Payare’s final season

Jennifer Walshe: one of the first women to be commissioned under an NCH and Sounding the Feminists scheme

Recent concerts have provided persuasive proof-of-concept demonstrations

Italian pianist Alessandro Taverna, has become a regular visitor to Ireland since taking the third prize at the Leeds International Piano Competition of 2009

Italian pianist Alessandro Taverna performs as part of the latest programme in the NCH’s Towards 2022 mini-series

Ensemble Musicfabrik

There was nothing wrong with the New Music Dublin Festival – just its name

Barry Douglass

Plus: the NCH’s Female Composer series features soprano Sarah Power and the IBO

‘Wexford Festival Opera has long traded on its political nous and influence in the corridors of power.’

Michael Dervan: Arts Council is in an almost unprecedented bind over grant for the event

Jennifer Walshe:  “We call it an opera, but it’s not an opera in the conventional sense.” Photograph: AT Schaefer Im Schellenk

Irish-born opera composer Jennifer Walshe on scores, made-up history and globalisation

Nigel North: His programme at the NCH in Dublin on Wednesday is an all-Bach affair

Lutenist Nigel North is the cuckoo in the nest at the NCH’s International Guitar Series

Jascha Heifetz in 1934, aged 33. Photograph: William Vanderson/Fox Photos/Getty Images

The 16-year-old’s recital in 1917 had Mischa Elman remark, ‘It’s hot in here, isn’t it?’

Vilde Frang. Photograph: Marco Borggreve

Frang, one of the nimblest violinists around, takes on a highly athletic Stravinsky work

Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, whose music will be heard again in March at the New Music Dublin festival and in Louth  Contemporary Music Society’s Stations of the Sun in Dundalk in June. Photograph: Andrew Campbell

While awareness of the issue has grown, a huge imbalance remains when it comes to the representation of female composers and perfo(...)

The Irish Chamber Orchestra’s latest programme under opens under Jörg Widmann (pictured). File photograph

Beethoven’s knottiest composition opens ICO’s programme; Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel at NCH

William Thomas: the first male singer to win first prize in the Veronica Dunne Singing Competition

It took nearly 30 years for a woman to win the Dublin International Piano Competition

Paul Lewis plays the NCH, while opera Orfeo ed Euridice tours the country

Final checks made on stage just before opening the doors for the opening of the 57th Wexford Opera Festival. Photograph: David Sleator/Irish Times

Vivaldi opera has smaller cast than previous planned production

Spain’s Jaime Martin, principal conductor of the RTÉ NSO

Association of British Orchestras holds its annual talking shop in Belfast

Fiachra Garvey, right, rehearsing at home in Ballyknockan, Co Wicklow. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

The grand final of Veronica Dunne International Singing Competition is on Thursday

Contempo Quartet

Music for Galway programme is full of highlights with promise of new cello festival

Rosetta Cucchi’s long connection to the festival goes back to 1995

Rosetta Cucchi will succeed David Agler as artistic director

Rosetta Cucchi began her Irish career as a répétiteur at the Wexford Festival in 1995.

Italian-born Rosetta Cucchi has been involved with the festival since 1995

RTÉ ConTempo Quartet

RTÉ ConTempo Quartet play in Sligo and Galway. Plus: ‘Banished’ in Kilmainham Gaol

Wexford Festival Opera artistic director David Agler

Michael Dervan: Festival’s 2019 programme seems to undermine its selling points

Principal Guest Conductor of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, Nathalie Stutzmann Photograph: Maxwell Photography

The highlight classical music events for the coming week

Maud MacCarthy under the pseudonym Swami Omananda Puri

Maud MacCarthy, originally from Clonmel, sought music from across the globe

Brian Boydell: Paints a picture of himself as someone who was never passive about anything

The Irish composer’s memoir is a homage to artistic life in neutral Ireland during the war

Seán Ó Dálaigh in Body Noise Work

Classical music highlights for this week include Kirkos’s Body Noise Work project

Magdalena Kozená

Year in Culture Review: Key directors stepped down, while performers stepped up in classical music and opera

Soprano Sylvia O’Brien performed at Sounding Out at Seanad Éireann

The NCH’s female composer commissioning scheme is a small step in the right direction

Cellist Natalie Clein. Photograph: Neda Navaee

Classical music highlights for the coming week

The four programmes take the opportunities to some of the available extremes.

Classical Music: ‘Before Bach & After’ is Chamber Choir Ireland’s core season concert series for the season

Deborah Kelleher of the Royal Irish Academy of Music: ‘The solo piano was receding. I was nervous as a solo pianist. There wasn’t enough in it for me to want to continue.’ Photograph: Cyril Byrne

The director took over at a tough time. Now she’s driving the academy's expansion for the 21st century

David Brophy: conducted a moving performance of Britten’s War Requiem at the National Concert Hall to commemorate Armistice Day

Composers have always been drawn to honour the dead with powerful, passionate music

Clarinettist Katherine Spencer

British clarinettist Katherine Spencer with the ICO, Yury Revic and Benedict Kloeckner on short tour and Chamber Choir Ireland per(...)

Mícheál  Ó Súilleabháin:  forged an immediately recognisable keyboard style. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / The Irish Times

Composer’s legacy will be his enriching and broadening of the study of music

The Fidelio Trio played a selection of works by Clara Schumann, Joan Trimble, Rebecca Clarke and Lili Boulanger

The Sounding the Feminists initiative hopes to redress the gender balance in composition

The Sounding the Feminists and NCH schemes are designed to present few barriers to entry, while the Arts Council scheme is dizzyingly excessive. Photograph: Aleksandar Georgiev/Getty Images

New commissioning schemes for women composers are not all straightforward

Hugh Tinney

Plus: Female Composer Series at NCH, and piano competition winner Sae Yoon Chon

Wexford Festival Opera: Leon Kim and Joo Won Kang in L’Oracolo. Photograph: Clive Barda/ArenaPal

Wexford Festival Opera reviews: ‘Leoni’ and ‘Mala Vita’; ‘Dinner at Eight’; and ‘Il Bravo’

Paula Murrihy will play Judith in the upcoming production of Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle for the Dublin Theatre Festival

Irish mezzo-soprano on her unusual route into a singing career and her upcoming role as Judith, the fourth wife of Bluebeard

RIAM season: the Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho

Michael Dervan: Moves are afoot to orchestrate more equitable representation

Pianist Louis Schwizgebel. Photograph: Marco Borggreve

Plus: Don’t miss soprano Claudia Boyle’s showstopper in The Tales of Hoffmann

Wu Wei played at New Music Dublin 2018: Defrosted at the weekend.

Michael Dervan: Against the odds, Defrosted event offered memorable performances

The excitingly, wilfully dynamic Jean-Christophe Spinosi. With the NCH out of action the ICO is going to find its options even more limited as other promoters suck up viable alternatives.

DCU’s Helix, whose acoustics wipe the floor with the NCH, will be the only game in town

Cellist Natalie Clein took part in a thrusting account of Shostakovich’s Cello Sonata

The muscle cars of Cannonball Ireland were no match for the velvet sounds of Westport

Claudia Boyle takes on multiple roles in Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffman, on tour nationwide

Jean-Christophe Spinosi conducts the ICO; Claudia Boyle in ‘The Tales of Hoffman’

David Adams: recital at St Michael’s Church focused on music from Pope Francis’s home country, Argentina, and country of residence, Italy

Organ recital in Dún Laoghaire included music from Argentinian composer Ginastera

Raphaela Mangan, Andrew Gavin and Rory Musgrave in Opera Collective Ireland’s   ‘The Return of Ulysses’, directed by Patrick Mason and conducted by Christian Curnyn. Photograph: Marshall Light Studio

Westport Chamber Music Festival is back; plus Monteverdi’s ‘The Return of Ulysses’

The Heath Quartet performs chorales by Bach and Britten’s Second String Quartet at Westport House on  Sunday morning

The historic setting of Westport House is the centerpiece of this fine boutique festival in Co Mayo featuring works by Grieg, Moza(...)

The ConTempo Quartet: Their two programmes in the NCH’s International Concert Series feature  pieces by Jennifer Walshe and Linda Buckley

Why does the NCH need €20,000 before it will bother exploring music by women?

The Dublin native explains life as head coach do at one of the world’s great opera houses

Eugene Downes: his weaknesses in Kilkenny were as clear as his strengths. Photograph: Bryan Meade

He brought an opera focus to Kilkenny Arts Festival, but new music was neglected

Brahms’s career saw many changes in the world of piano design and manufacture

Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin are in Kilkenny on Saturday

Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, Johnny Gandelsman and Stravinsky’s circus music

Emma Morwood and Andrew Gavin in The Return of Ulysses by Claudio Monteverdi. Photograph: Marshall Light Studio

The Return of Ulysses review: The musical equivalent of the world’s best chef using just a clutch of the finest ingredients

The Return of Ulysses

Participants in the first Irish production of ‘The Return of Ulysses’ talk to Michael Dervan

RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra in 2012.

The players have strong views on the major move – not that they’ve been asked

Gavan Ring: playing his native Cahersiveen

Gavan Ring warms up for BBC Proms debut with hometown concert; the first Irish production of Monteverdi’s ‘Il ritorno d’Ulisse’ ta(...)

David Agler: has been in situ at Wexford since 2005 but  will retire after the 2019 festival. Photograph: David Sleator

Will it pivot from David Agler’s taste for still alive composers and underuse of Irish talent?

Soprano Sinéad Campbell-Wallace: lunchtime at the NCH

RTÉ Concert Orchestra taking over summer orchestral slots on Tuesdays and Fridays at NCH

Siobhán Cleary: declined a lucrative Arts Council commission on the basis of gender bias. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Council scheme is set up in a way that cannot deal with idea of ‘equal pay for equal work’

Mezzo-soprano Sharon Carty stars in Orfeo at the Town Hall Theatre in Galway

Sharon Carty, Celine Byrne and Danielle de Niese are all performing in Ireland this week

Nathalie Stutzmann, principal guest conductor of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra 2018. Photograph: Simon Fowler

Female composers are grossly underrepresented, but fixing the issue may not be easy

Eugenio Maria Fagiani. Photograph: YouTube

Organ improvisation in Dún Laoghaire and Gavin Maloney conducts the RTÉ NSO

RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, which is without a principal conductor and recently lost its leader, Helena Wood

Will RTÉ, which has been killing off the orchestra, now be allowed to fill key positions?

Director Emma Martin and conductor Peter Whelan during rehearsals for Irish National Opera’s production of 'Orfeo ed Euridice' at Galway International Arts Festival. Photograph: Jeda de Brí

Emma Martin is stepping out of the dance world to direct Irish National Opera’s new production of ‘Orfeo ed Euridice’

Organist David Leigh

RTÉ NSO’s fanfares at lunchtime and Eugenio Fagiani improvises in Dún Laoghaire

Nathalie Stutzmann, principal guest conductor of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, was not mentioned on   RTÉ  during a piece   about the National Concert Hall’s  Female Conductor Programme. Photograph:  Maxwell

The NSO needs Government action to preserve, protect and nurture it

Sebastian Heindl: senior section winner of 2017’s Northern Ireland International Organ Competition

West Cork Chamber Music Festival, Sebastian Heindl and Anthony Weeden

Belfast-born composer Deirdre Gribbin’s new piece   Kindersang addresses the   movement that brought 10,000 Jewish children to safety in Britain and Northern Ireland in the months before the outbreak of the second World War

Deirdre Gribbin’s Kindersang addresses the plight of 10,000 Jewish brought to Britain and Northern Ireland the outbreak of the sec(...)

Eamonn Quinn: What’s interesting about his curiosity in the world of new music is his lack of ideology. He does not appear to be interested in any style or trend for its own sake

Louth Contemporary Music Society’s Book of Hours Festival was unfailingly adventurous

Heading to Bantry for the West Cork Chamber Music Festival: Cédric Pescia,  Fiona Kelly, Nurit Stark, David Faber and Dudok Quartet, and Nathalia Milstein

Musicians playing the West Cork Chamber Music festival on a few of their favourite things

National Concert Hall Female Conductor  Finale: 12 young conductors gather on Wednesday. Photograph: Mark Stedman

Paul McNamara, Beckett Chamber Music Series and NCH Female Conductor Finale

New York-based Irish clarinettist Carol McGonnell played at the Airbnb International Hub on Hanover Quay

Festival director Eugene Downes’ term to come to an end after five years at the helm

Máire Carroll

Also, Two-day festival in the Oriel from Louth Contemporary Music Society

Pianist Thérèse Fahy: commissioned new pieces from seven Irish composers, and folded in a selection of Debussy’s own piano pieces with some of his instrumental works and songs

Ireland’s Tombeau to Debussy includes new pieces from seven Irish composers and a trio of NCH concerts

Würth Philharmoniker makes its Irish debut at the NCH on Tuesday

Also: Billionaire orchestra Würth Philharmoniker, and Pipeworks at Christ Church

Javier Abreu as Lindoro and Rachel Kelly as Isabella in Rossini’s ‘The Italian Girl in Algiers’. Photograph: Frances Marshall

The festival’s favoured production style is at the gag-rich, pantomime end of the spectrum

Simon Taylor, director of the National Concert Hall. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Director Simon Taylor is at the wishlist phase for the redevelopment of the NCH

ConTempo Quartet

Also: Kaleidoscope’s last in series; Fionnuala Moynihan surveys Schubert in Triskel, Cork

Sae Yoon Chon, from South Korea, became the first Asian winner of the Dublin International Piano Competition

The groundbreaking 22-year-old from South Korea picks up €15,000 prize

Qilin Sun delivered on Corigliano’s stipulation for a ‘stark, fierce’ opening with a vengeance.

International competition has hardly changed in 30 years but has seen increased Asian participation

Josepha Madigan: faced questions on the Boaden report in the Dáil. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The review on the RTÉ orchestras is anything but balanced – even absurd in places

Fiachra Garvey rehearsing at home in Ballyknockan, Co Wicklow with his sheep dog Luas. He set up the West Wicklow Festival. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Highly acclaimed German baritone Benjamin Appl will colse the close the Dublin Song Series

OrchKids: children from Baltimore’s OrchKids initiative, which provides instruments, music education, academic instruction and healthy food. Photograph: Bill Dennison

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is working with disadvantaged schools to help open its doors to everybody

The RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra: The Boaden review has called on the Government take over responsibility for the orchestra.

RTÉ has all but destroyed the National Symphony Orchestra. Should the State rescue an orchestra not fit for purpose?

Composer John Adams: Irish premiere of Four Thousand Holes

John Luther Adams, Bournemouth SO/Kirill Karabits and RTÉ NSO with Christian Vásquez

RTÉ NSO: Boaden’s achievement is to have made the unthinkable thinkable – that the broadcaster will lose an orchestra

The Boaden review says the broadcaster should jettison the NSO

Alan Rusbridger: in Galway on Sunday for an encounter with the Irish pianist Finghin Collins

Sligo International Chamber Music Festival is another highlight of the next seven days

German soprano Juliane Banse: ‘There has to be Brahms in it, or Strauss.’

Dearbhla Collins, curator/planner of the upcoming Dublin Song Series, is hard at work with German soprano Juliane Banse rehearsing(...)

Simon Rattle. I found a huge amount to admire in the LSO’s performance of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony under Rattle.

It helps, of course, that most of what was on offer was what you would call bankable fare

RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra: far better equipped to do what the Concert Orchestra does than the other way around. Photograph: RTÉ

RTÉ’s management of orchestras in recent years was a calculated depreciation of assets

Members of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, one of the national broadcaster’s two orchestras. Photograph: RTÉ

Report says National Symphony Orchestra should be established as separate cultural institution

Storm Large from Pink Martini performs Kurt Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra

The RTÉ Concert Orchestra’s current Essential Classics series ends with a popular selection of Schubert and Beethoven

Irish-American mezzo soprano Joyce DiDonato: described in the Guardian as “the most critically acclaimed and popular mezzo soprano of our day”

The new Irish National Opera is too risk-averse, while Wexford Festival's rare opera is not so rare anymore. And both need to enga(...)

Máire Falvin (Countess) and Tara Erraught (Susanna) in The Marriage of Figaro at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin. Photograph: Pat Redmond

Director Patrick Mason ’s light touch creates the happy illusion of a non-interventionist approach

Simon Rattle conducts the London Symphony Orchestra in Mahler’s Ninth Symphony

Choirland, a collection of 15 pieces for unaccompanied choir, goes on tour

Mezzo-soprano Gemma Ní Bhriain: the first of three recitals in the Dublin Song Series

The spoken word overlaid with music – or should it be the other way around – actually has quite a long history

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