Wednesday, 18 January 2017

1767 - a retrospective: eleven-year old Mozart in context

Gemma Summerfield, Ian Page, Stuart Jackson and orchestra of Classical Opera - Flickr photo credit treble2309 (Andrea Liu)
Gemma Summerfield, Ian Page, Stuart Jackson, orchestra of Classical Opera
Flickr photo credit treble2309 (Andrea Liu)
1767 - a retrospective, Mozart, Gassmann, Gluck, JC Bach, Abel, Haydn, Arne; Gemma Summerfield, Stuart Jackson, Ashley Riches, orchestra of Classical Opera, Ian Page; Wigmore Hall
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jan 17 2017
Star rating: 4.0

Over view of the music from Mozart's eleventh year, including some of his first major pieces

Ian Page and Classical Opera's Mozart 250 project has reached 1767, and on Tuesday 17 January 2017, Ian Page and the orchestra of Classical Opera were joined by soprano Gemma Summerfield, tenor Stuart Jackson and bass baritone Ashley Riches for a survey of music from that year. From the pen of the 11-year old Mozart we heard his Symphony No. 6 in F major K43, Grabmusik K42 and the duet 'Natus cadit' from Apollo et Hyacinthus K38. Other music from that year in the programme included arias from Gluck's Alceste, Gassmann's Amore e Psiche, JC Bach's Carattaco, and Haydn's Stabat Mater, plus Abel's aria Fena le belle lagrime (notable for its use of an obbligato viola da gamba) and Arne's Symphony in C major.

Ashley Riches, Ian Page, orchestra of Classical Opera - Flickr photo credit treble2309 (Andrea Liu)
Ashley Riches, Ian Page, orchestra of Classical Opera
Flickr photo credit treble2309 (Andrea Liu)
1767 saw Mozart and his family back in Salzburg after their extensive travels of the previous year. Mozart's compositions for the year would include his first operas and oratorios as well as his first keyboard concertos. Mozart's Symphony No. 6 was written in Vienna in late 1767, and was the first of his symphonies to use the Viennese model of four movements (with a minuet and trio) rather than three. It is a remarkable work for an eleven-year old, not up to the standard of Mozart's mature symphonies, but certainly on a level with much of the music going on around him. The opening Allegro had a lively charm and was robust and vigorous, whilst the lyrical Andante had a lovely texture. The Menuetto & Trio was again robust, briskly striding and there was an infectious Allegro finale.

Next we had a sequence of arias from operas premiered in 1767, two from Vienna which Mozart would have either heard or heard about, and two from London by composers whose work he would have heard during his visit in 1766. Florian Leopold Gassmann (1729-1774) was a native of Bohemia, his Amore e Psiche premiered in Vienna in 1767. We heard the aria 'Bella in in vago viso' sung by Gemma Summerfield, a delightfully lyrical piece about happiness and love. There were attractive orchestral textures, and lyrical vocal line sung fluidly by Summerfield with some stylish passagework. Not an earthshattering piece, but charming.

Gluck's Alceste, premiered in Vienna in December 1767, was more ground-breaking being the second of Gluck and Calzabigi's reform operas. The best known music from the opera, and the most excerpted, are the arias for the title role and then we know the work better in its later French incarnation. Tenor Stuart Jackson sang Admeto's aria 'No, crudel, non posso' from Act Two, when the character has just learned of his wife's sacrifice of her own life for his. We plunged straight in with some dramatic recitative, where Jackson made the words count, and in the aria there was a lovely combining of text and expressive line with an intense climax. Despite a fine performance,  the piece did not tell quite as much as it might have done perhaps because it is not an easy piece to excerpt as it relies for its effect on the dramatic context and even the climax seems to be leading into further drama.

Luca Buratto: Honens piano competition winnner makes Wigmore Hall debut

Luca Buratto
Luca Buratto
The young Italian pianist, Luca Buratto, winner of the Honens International Piano Competition, will be making his Wigmore Hall debut on Sunday 22 January 2017 in a programme of music by Thomas Adès, Beethoven, Byrd/Dowland and Schumann. Buratto studied at Milan Conservatory, and won the Honens International Piano Competition in 2015. The competition, named for the philanthropist Esther Honens, is held in Calgary every three years and is one of Canada's major piano events.

Buratto's intriguing programme at the Wigmore Hall mixes Beethoven's Apassionata Sonata and Schumann's Fantasy in C Major, Op.17 with William Byrd’s keyboard arrangement of John Dowland’s Lachrimae Pavan, 'Flow my tears', and Darknesse visible and Traced overhead by Thomas Adès. Adès' Darknesse visible also has lute song connections, being an explosion of Dowland's In darkness let me dwell, whilst Traced overhead is the longest of Adès' piano works and was premiered by Imogen Cooper at the Cheltenham Festival in 2016.

You can catch Buratto playing the Schuman fantasy in his 2015 solo recital at the Honens Competition on Vimeo.

Full details from the Wigmore Hall website.

Duet for many

The Duet Philharmonic Orchestra, Ronald Corp & soloists at Royal Festival Hall performing Mahler's Symphony No. 8
The Duet Philharmonic Orchestra, Ronald Corp & soloists at Royal Festival Hall performing Mahler's Symphony No. 8
In April 2017, 115 of talented young musicians will gather together for a long weekend to rehearse and play a programme which consists of Mahler's Symphony No. 5 and Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2. The orchestra is the Duet Philharmonic Orchestra, and every two years they gather musicians aged between 13 and 18 who are studying in the UK to perform large scale symphonic repertoire.

The project arose out of the perhaps rather crazy idea to perform Mahler's Symphony No. 8. Conducted by Ronald Corp, a huge choir and orchestra of young people performed Mahler's Symphony No. 8 at the Royal Festival Hall in 2013 (you can see a programme about it on YouTube). Two years later in 2015 it was Richard Strauss's Alpine Symphony (see on YouTube).

This year the concert is on April 10, at the Royal Festival Hall. Ronald Corp again conducts and the pianist in the Prokofiev will be Oxana Shevchenko, winner of the 2010 Scottish International Piano Competition.

The Duet Philharmonic Orchestra is the brainchild of the Duet Foundation, which supports young musicians in a variety ways, with financial support to assist with their fees, travel costs, competition costs, DVD productions, access to masterclasses, as well as both new instruments and loaned instruments. The foundation is supported by the Duet Group.

If you book tickets for the concert of Mahler's Symphony  No. 5 and Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2 on April 10, 2017 at then you can get 50% discount by quoting the discount code DUETFIFTY

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Music in places where orchestras find it hard to reach: Orchestras Live's 2017 season

Members of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Sunningdale School, Sunderland. (c) Kev Brady Photography
Members of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Sunningdale School, Sunderland. (c) Kev Brady Photography
Orchestras Live presents orchestra concerts in areas where you would not normally expect them, and places where large scale professional orchestras rarely go. The line up for 2017 is very impressive with concerts from London Sinfonietta, Sinfonia Viva, City of London Sinfonia, Academy of Ancient Music, European Union Chamber Orchestra, Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Orchestra of the Swan and Manchester Camerata in music ranging from Mozart, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Copland, Schoenberg, Elgar to Stravinsky, Harrison Birtwistle and Steve Reich.

At Wiltshire Music Centre in Bradford upon Avon there is the world premiere of Alasdair Nicolson’s new work for piano, trumpet and strings with Academy of St Martin in the Fields and pianist Inon Barnatan. Toby Young's Anthem is performed by the European Union Chamber Orchestra with pianist Angela Hewitt in Stroud, and the orchestra is performing with BBC Young Musician of the Year finalist, French horn player Ben Goldschneider, in a programme which includes Karl Fiorini, Malta Maltija and Mozart's Horn Concerto No. 4 in Taunton. In Chelsmsford the Academy of Ancient Music will be performing a programme of concertos by Bach, Albinoni, Vivaldi and Marcello directed by violinist Bojan Čičić with Frank de Bruine, oboe.

Also this month, Orchestras Live's Sound Around project continues as eight musicians from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra will be visiting 12 special schools to give children a half-day session including a 45 minute concert with a range of classical favourites and pieces from television and film, interspersed with musician introductions, instrument demonstrations and interactive activities including learning a song specially created for Sound Around.

You can see the full range of concerts on offer at the Orchestras Live website.

Lively reminder: music from the Globe's productions of Twelfth Night & Richard III

Twelfth Night & Richard III - Globe Music
Music for Twelfth Night & Richard III arr. Claire van Kampen; Musicians of Shakespeare's Globe; Globe Music
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jan 10 2017
Star rating: 3.0

Lively Renaissance music selections which do not quite evoke theatrical drama of the pieces

This disc on the still relatively new Globe Music label was issued to celebrate Shakespeare 400 (I'm a bit late with the review I'm afraid). It features the Musicians of Shakespeare's Globe in two of Claire van Kampen's scores for Shakespeare plays, Twelfth Night and Richard III. The music is selected from a wide variety of contemporary sources, and arranged by Claire van Kampen. Twelfth Night was recorded live at the Globe Theatre, whilst Richard III  was recorded in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse under studio conditions.

The music for both plays consists mainly of lively scene-setting pieces with occasional quieter moments. In Twelfth Night we get the two songs sung affectingly by Peter Hamilton Dyer's Feste and we hear part of Liam Brennan's 'If music be the food of love' speech as Count Orsino which introduces Dowland's Lachrymae Pavan. For Twelfth Night, Van Kampen's selection of music ranges widely and there are pieces by Dowland, Morley Michael Praetorius, James Lauder, Playford, and Anthony Holborne. The sense of the live-ness is mainly restricted to applause after some items, though we do hear the audience laughing at the odd bit of unexplained stage business.

New light on old songs: Van Diemen's Land with Sam Lee and Notes Inégales

Sam Lee - photo Frederic Aranda
Sam Lee - photo Frederic Aranda
The folk-singer Sam Lee will be joining with Peter Wiegold's Notes Inégales to perform Van Diemen's Land at St John's Smith Square on Saturday 21 January 2017. The concert is based on the Cd, Van Diemen's Land which is launched this month. The music is a re-working of folk song, presenting a journey down-under to distant places. The idea arose out of Sam Lee's residency at Club Inégales in 2014, where the resulting improvisations have led directly to the music on the CD and the concert. The fluidity of the ensemble, which included violinist Max Baillie, Scottish flute/pipes Fraser Fifield and pianist Martin Butler, meant that the original improvisations wove elements of Stravinsky and Bartok and much else besides into the mix. The CD was edited down from 9 hours of sessions, and the concert will be a distillation of this.

Sam Lee is very much a 21st century folk singer, he comes from North London and studied at Chelsea School of Art. He collects new versions of old folk-songs, but does so on his iPhone and laptop.

Peter Wiegold, Director of Notes Inégales commented: "I believe it's a completely different way of reworking folksong - spontaneously made by the players and myself and thus drawing on our experiences of music of today as well as the past - but then this is curiously authentic! Because in effect it is a genuine 'folk-band' like way of working. Sam's wonderful voice spontaneously tells the musical stories and sometimes, influenced by our improvisation, he goes to much darker or more surreal places than he usually does with a conventional band."

Full information from St John's Smith Square website.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Winter and Spring season at the Howard Assembly Rooms

Howard Assembly Rooms
Howard Assembly Rooms
Opera North's activities in Leeds cover far more than just opera (see my article about the 2017/2018 season), and the Howard Assembly Rooms forms the focus of the company's smaller scale activities. The lively season there continues on 19 January 2017 with a collaboration with Leeds Lieder when soprano Anne Schwanewilms and pianist Malcolm Martineau (a former guest artistic director of Leeds Lieder) perform a programme of Strauss and Wolf songs.

Further ahead there is the chance to hear baritone Christopher Purves away from the operatic stage in a programme a centred on Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death and Schubert’s settings of Heine from Schwanengesang. Other concerts include an accessible, exuberant introduction to the rich world of classical song featuring Opera North Associate Artists Ellie Laugharne and Heather Lowell, the piano duo partnership of Peter Donohoe and Martin Roscoe, and Canadian-Ukrainian pianist Lubomyr Melnyk. In an interesting combination, Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen is joined by compatriots Trio Mediaeval for an exploration of their country’s ancient musical dialogue with Iceland.

There is an Easter celebration of Paolo Sorrentino’s film The Great Beauty and following a screening of the film (8 April), the string section and soloists of the Orchestra of Opera North will perform pieces by William Byrd, Arvo Pärt and others, which colour the bizarre, decadent life of ageing Roman playboy Jep Gambardella in the film (13 April). Further film includes Jean Cocteau’s classic La Belle et la Bête with its striking score by Georges Auric. Concerts exploring the musical exchange between Africa and Cuba will include Sahrawi singer Aziza Brahim and Senegalese legends Orchestra Baobab.

Full details from the Howard Assembly Rooms website.

Black morality tale: Ligeti's Le grand Macabre at the Barbican

Ligeti - Le grand Macabre - Simon Rattle, London Symphony Orchestra and ensemble at the Barbican Hall - John Phillips/Getty Images
Ligeti - Le grand Macabre - Simon Rattle, London Symphony Orchestra and ensemble at the Barbican Hall
John Phillips/Getty Images
Ligeti Le grand Macabre; Peter Hoare, Pavlo Hunka, Ronnita Milller, Elizabeth Watts, Frode Olsen, Heidi Melton, Audrey Luna, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Peter Tantsits, Joshua Bloom, dir: Peter Sellars, London Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Chorus, cond: Simon Rattle; Barbcian Hall
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jan 15 2017
Star rating: 4.0

Musically magical, but a heavy-handed staging dampens the humorous anarchy of Ligeti's surreal opera

Ligeti - Le grand Macabre - Pavlo Hunka, Peter Hoare - John Phillips/Getty Images
Pavlo Hunka, Peter Hoare - John Phillips/Getty Images
Ligeti's opera Le grand Macabre seems to hold a constant fascination for companies, so crops up rather more than you might expect. Latest to stage this is the London Symphony Orchestra, conductor Simon Rattle, whose semi-staging is shared with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (where Rattle conducts it in February with a slightly different cast), with Peter Sellars in charge of the staging. We caught the second of two performances in the Barbican Hall on Sunday 15 January 2017. (It was Sellars in the late 1990s who staged the work in Salzburg after Ligeti had substantially revised it; a staging which replaced the work's ambiguity with explicit references to Chernobyl.) At the Barbican, Peter Hoare was Piet the Pot, Ronnita Miller was Amando, Elizabeth Watts was Amanda, Pavlo Hunka was Nekrotzar, Frode Olsen was Astradamors, Heidi Melton was Mescalina and Anthony Roth Costanzo was Prince Go-Go, with Audrey Luna, Peter Tantsits, Joshua Bloom, Christian Valle, Fabian Langguth and Benson Wilson. Simon Rattle conducted the London Symphony Orchestra and London Symphony Chorus. Hans-Georg Lenhart was assistant director, with lighting by Ben Zamora, costumes by Michelle Bradbury, and video by Nick Hillel.

Ligeti - Le grand Macabre - Peter Tantsits, Joshu Bloom, Anthony Roth Costanzo - John Phillips/Getty Images
Peter Tantsits, Joshu Bloom, Anthony Roth Costanzo
John Phillips/Getty Images
Ligeti's only opera, Le grand Macabre is based on a 1930s surrealist play and was premiered in Stockholm in 1978. Since then the piece has been getting progressively less anarchic, and taking itself more seriously. Early on Ligeti renamed to lovers to the rather less scabrous Amando and Amanda, and the 1990s revision continued this by making cuts in the spoken dialogue and setting the remainder to music. But what remains still has a certain anarchic quality, mixing humour with serious elements and a great deal of sex. At its best the work uses humour and savage irony to treat a serious subject, and Ligeti allows for a variety of points of view in his ending where it is not clear whether the characters are alive or dead.

What remains, of course, is the music with the dazzling array of textures created by Ligeti using his orchestra (reduced strings, extended percussion department), including the famous preludes on car horns and on bells, plus of course clocks and much else besides. There is a logic behind it, the work is not just a jeux d'esprit, but Ligeti uses the virtues of surrealist anarchy to keep us guessing, and the work never preaches.

Having the piece performed at the Barbican rightly put Simon Rattle and the LSO centre stage, and we could appreciate in full the dazzle and subtlety of Ligeti's score, and Rattle drew some wondrous playing for the orchestra. The more mad-cap moments were, perhaps, a bit too serious and heavy handed, Rattle seemed to be saying that this was a serious piece of music. But the ending with its passacaglia, really brought out the sheer beauty of Ligeti's music.

Ligeti - Le grand Macabre - Body of Gepopo (Audrey Luna) being taken off in a body bag by stage crea- John Phillips/Getty Images
Body of Gepopo (Audrey Luna) being taken off in a body bag
by stage crew - John Phillips/Getty Images
For Peter Sellars too, Le grand Macabre is a serious piece of music. And unfortunately by taking the work too seriously, Sellars weakened it by removing much of the sex and humour, simply leaving heavy political posturing. It was far more than a semi-staging, with the cast off the book and full action. Sellars starts it at a nuclear energy conference, with Peter Hoare's Piet the Pot as drunken speaker. The lovers Amando and Amanda (Ronnita Miller and Elizabeth Watts) seemed to be scientists, as were Astradamos and Mescalina (Frode Olsen and Heidi Melton), but there was little sex or humour in the way Sellars staged it, with Amando and Amanda sitting almost motionless side by side, and Astradamos and Mescalina having their abusive relationship on-line. Nekrotzar (Pavlo Hunka) delivered his threat via a nuclear holocaust and in the second half everyone is suited up and dying (soprano Audrey Luna as Gepopo gets taken out in a body bag!). At the end, Sellars is very definite, everyone is dead. For the bits that Sellars was unable to stage, there was Nick Hillel's video to fill in the gaps.

The result had theatrical dazzle, and used the full Barbican Hall to great effect. The London Symphony Chorus invaded the auditorium to great effect (there was no room for them on the stage), which necessitated Simon Halsey as a white-coated subsidiary conductor, and Audrey Luna's Venus appeared from high in the auditorium. Individual groups of instrumentalists were similarly highlighted.

Ligeti - Le grand Macabre - Astradamors (Frode Olsen) and Nekrotzar (Peter Hoare), dragging Mescalina (Heidi Melton)  - John Phillips/Getty Images
Astradamors (Frode Olsen) & Nekrotzar (Peter Hoare),
dragging Mescalina (Heidi Melton) - John Phillips/Getty Images
Of course, this had a bad effect on balance; something very necessary, as Ligeti's world might be dramatically anarchic, but his musical effects are carefully controlled. For one long passage I had the London Symphony Chorus stood in the aisle next to me, so I could hear very little apart from them. At the end of scene two, Pavlo Hunka's Nekrotzar had difficulty establishing his authority because he did not win the contest with Rattle and the LSO, who effortlessly dominated the sound picture.

Peter Hoare was simply brilliant as Piet the Pot, vocally incisive with an awareness of the quality of the words. You felt that he could have been far funnier if he had been allowed. Hunka was an impressive but not ideal Nekrotzar, his voice perhaps a little to light to establish the vocal authority which the role needs, though he was dramatically very vivid. Ronnita Miller and Elizabeth Watts were superb lovers (Miller singing the role as a woman and not en travestie), and went a long way to putting the sex back into their relationship by musical means, giving us some really seductive singing. They made this difficult music sound luxuriously easy. Heidi Melton and Frode Olsen did their best, but their scene was simply lacking in the essential humour and the depiction of their relationship came over as a bit puritanically disapproving, rather than giving us the belly laugh we wanted.

Ligeti - Le grand Macabre - Audrey Luna, Simon Rattle, LSO  - John Phillips/Getty Images
Audrey Luna, Simon Rattle, LSO - John Phillips/Getty Images
There was very little context for Anthony Roth Costanzo (Prince Go-Go), Peter Tantsits (Black Minister), Joshua Bloom (White Minister), they were simply wearing anti-radiation suits, but the three made the drama count. Having Audrey Luna's Gepopo dying of radiation sickness brought a sort of grim sense to the piece, and this scene was one of the few really gripping ones. It helped that Luna was fully up to the crazy radicalism of Ligeti's coloratura.

The non-event/event of the apocalypse was somehow dramatically underwhelming, and it was here that Rattle and his orchestra really took over to fill in the gaps, and we were grateful for being able to have such a luxurious hand on this music. Sellars might have made the ending completely unambiguous but there was something eerily gripping about it, helped by some striking performances with Anthony Roth Costanzo's Prince Go-Go being particularly touching.

I have to confess to still being in two minds about Ligeti's opera. This is the third time I have seen it, having seen it staged at ENO in 1982 and in 2009, and still something about the score eludes me.  Perhaps, partly because directors have a tendency to take the work a little too seriously and that the work's scabrous and savage Monty-Python-esque irony is missed.

In the concert hall, lacking the full facilities of a complete staging Peter Sellars' staging came over as simply heavy handed whereas in the theatre he might have had more space for larger effects and contrasting theatrical subtlety. You cannot help thinking that the sort of semi-staging where the singers are off the book and give us basic entrances and exits would have worked a lot better, allowing room for greater theatrical imagination. What we could admire was the superb control which Rattle and the LSO brought to the score, and a cast who displayed hardly a weak link and made dazzling work of Ligeti's tricky vocal writing.

Opera in four scenes to a libretto by György Ligeti and Michael Meschke freely adapted from Michel de Ghelderode’s play La balade du grand macabre

Original version first performance 12 April 1978, Royal Opera Stockholm; new version first performance 28 July 1997, Großes Festspielhaus Salzburg
English translation by Geoffrey Skelton.

Sir Simon Rattle conductor
Peter Sellars director

Peter Hoare - Piet the Pot (tenor)
Ronnita Miller - Amando (mezzo-soprano)
Elizabeth Watts - Amanda (soprano)
Pavlo Hunka - Nekrotzar (bass-baritone)
Frode Olsen - Astradamors (bass)
Heidi Melton - Mescalina (soprano)
Audrey Luna - Venus, Gepopo (soprano)
Anthony Roth Costanzo - Prince Go-Go (counter-tenor)
Peter Tantsits - White Minister (tenor)
Joshua Bloom - Black Minister (bass)
Christian Valle - Ruffiack (bass)
Fabian Langguth - Schobiak (baritone)
Benson Wilson - Schabernack (bass)
London Symphony Orchestra
London Symphony Chorus
Simon Halsey - chorus director
Duncan Ward - assistant conductor
Hans-Georg Lenhart - assistant director
Ben Zamora - lighting designer
Michelle Bradbury - costume designer
Nick Hillel - video designer
Betsy Ayer - stage manager
Richard Peirson, Zeynep Özsuca - répétiteurs

Elsewhere on this blog:

  • Concentrated intensity: George Benjamin's Written on Skin returns to Covent Garden - Opera review
  • Evening of contrasts: English and German song from William Vann, Mary Bevan and Johnny Herford - concert review
  • Uneven partnership: Maria Katzarava & Stefano La Colla at Rosenblatt Recitals - concert review
  • Playing with personality: Juliette Bausor in Mozart and Nielsen - CD review
  • First recording of opera from Scotland's forgotten composer: Erik Chisholm's Simoon
  • A feast of cello playing: Alban Gerhardt, Aurora Orchestra & Nicholas Collon open Kings Place's Cello Unwrapped - concert review
  • Remembering Ronald Stevenson: memories of the great British composer/pianist - feature article
  • A leasure from end to end: Music for Epiphany from Clare College Choir - CD review
  • Familiar & unfamiliar: RVW Discoveries from Albion Records - CD review
  • Moving beauty: Iestyn Davies, Arcangelo, Jonathan Cohen in Bach cantatas - CD review
  • Orchestral adventures:New South American Discoveries - Cd review
  • Wintry Darkness: The Tallis Scholars at St John's Smith Square - concert review
  • Home
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    Sunday, 15 January 2017

    A treatie of humane love: Martin Peerson's setting of Fulke Greville's Caelica

    A Treatie of Humane Love - Martin Peerson
    Martin Peerson Mottects or Grave Chamber Musique; I Fagiolini, Fretwork, James Johnstone; REGENT
    Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jan 8 2017
    Star rating: 4.0

    Martin Peerson's collection of consort songs shown to be far more than just historical interest

    If Martin Peerson's collection Mottects or Grave Chamber Musique is known at all it is for its historical interest. It is one of the (if not the) earliest use of figured bass in England, the figured organ part is the first printed organ score in England, and it is the first (and last) major English songbook of the pre-Commonwealth period devoted to the texts of one poet. But this new recording from I Fagiolini, Fretwork and James Johnstone on Regent Records (released 20 January 2017) aims to re-capture the work's musical interest.

    Peerson's songs set texts taken from Fulke Greville's Caelica a huge collection of poems written throughout Greville's life. Sir Fulke Greville (1554-1628) was a contemporary of Sir Philip Sidney, and was known to Peerson and may have patronised the composer. Peerson's songs were not published until Fulke Greville's death in 1628, and the printed score shows signs of haste, as well as having a final lament for Greville added (to words of unknown provenance).

    This recording uses a new edition of the songs by Richard Rastall (who also contributes an excellent booklet essay).

    Saturday, 14 January 2017

    Concentrated intensity: George Benjamin and Martin Crimp's Written on Skin revived at Covent Garden

    Barbara Hannigan - Written on Skin, The Royal Opera © ROH/Stephen Cummiskey, 2012
    Barbara Hannigan - Written on Skin,
    The Royal Opera © ROH/Stephen Cummiskey, 2012
    George Benjamin Written on Skin; Barbara Hannigan, Iestyn Davies, Christopher Purves, Victoria Simmonds, Mark Padmore, dir: Katie Mitchell, cond: George Benjamin; Royal Opera House
    Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jan 13 2017
    Star rating: 5.0

    Slightly re-cast revival sheds new light on Benjamin's powerful opera

    Having received its UK premiere in 2013, George Benjamin and Martin Crimp's opera Written on Skin returned to Covent Garden on 13 January 2017 in Katie Mitchell's production. Benjamin again conducted and Christopher Purves, Barbara Hannigan and Victoria Simmonds returned to their roles, with Iestyn Davies and Mark Padmore new to the opera at Covent Garden. Time has passed, and changes in casting inevitably shed different light on a work so the revival formed a welcome chance to re-assess the opera and the production. (See my review of the 2013 performance).

    Katie Mitchell's production, with dazzling designs by Vicki Mortimer, remains one which I can understand but cannot love. The archly analytical nature of the production, with the need to rationalise everything and provide a coherent back-story, means that we receive rather too much information. I was less worried this time about the scenes in the modern part of the set (the Angels and the Angel Archivists preparing the props for the reenactment of the story). But by giving us multiple points of view, Mitchell is able to ensure that every detail of George Benjamin's stunning score is illustrated. The orchestral interludes which Benjamin provides, covering moments like Agnes' (Barbara Hannigan) seduction of the Boy (Iestyn Davies), and the Protector's (Christopher Purves) murder of the Boy, are illustrated in great detail when in fact much of the drama and emotional argument is in the orchestra.

    Jorge Navarro-Colorado wins Audition Oracle Singers Preparation Scholarship

    Jorge Navarro-Colorado - Photo: Jamie Capewell
    Jorge Navarro-Colorado
    Photo: Jamie Capewell 
    The Spanish tenor Jorge Navarro-Colorado has been popping up in the blog ever since we saw him as Flute in Britten's A Midsummer Nights Dream and in Ned Rorem's Our Town with the Guildhall School in 2012. He has performed chorus and small roles/covers for several companies including Glyndebourne, Garsington & Wexford, and in 2017 he makes his role debut at a major international festival, and has been awarded the first Audition Oracle Singers Preparation Scholarship. The award of will pay for lessons and coaching to enable Jorge to prepare thoroughly for his role.

    An anonymous sponsor has enabled a second award of £300 to help another singer from the shortlist of six. This will be awarded to British soprano Nazan Fikret to support her in the preparation of two role debuts, Euridice in Orfeo ed Euridice for Longborough Opera and Arasse in Hasse's Siroe for the Nederlandse Reisopera.

    Audition Oracle is a website, founded by the singer Melanie Lodge, which has become a leading source for professional opera singers and auditions, enabling employers to find singers and singers to find auditions & opportunities, further information on Audition Oracle at their website.

    Friday, 13 January 2017

    Digital, Diversity and Brexit! Tough topics at ABO Conference

    ABO Conference 2017
    The Association of British Orchestras (ABO) holds its 2017 conference in Bournemouth on 25 to 27 January 2017. Rather intriguingly the conference theme is Disruption and there will be sessions on diversity, digital and Brexit. The conference is hosted by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, (BSO), the only UK orchestra to have received Arts Council Change Makers funding for their project with conductor James Rose. James uses a specially developed head-baton, and he will develop a new ensemble for the BSO comprising disabled and non-disabled musicians, the first of its kind. 

    Disruption comes in various guises, some welcome and some unwelcome. Many people agree that the classical concert format is a bit stale, and conference delegates will explore key questions such as 'How can new technology revolutionise the orchestral experience?' and 'Are there completely new business models to explore?'. Other key topics include what potential disruptors there are which will influence the diversity of orchestras and audiences, and of course in the era of Brexit, is politics the ultimate disruptor?

    Delegates will also attend a concert conducted by Kirill Karabits, Chief Conductor of the BSO, featuring Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2 (with Valeriy Sokolov) and Shostkovtich Symphony No. 8; the concert will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.

    Full details from the ABO website.

    On the road: Edward Gardner and the Bergen Philharmonic in UK and Netherlands

    Edward Gardner and the Bergen Philharmonic on Tour
    Edward Gardner and the Bergen Philharmonic on Tour
    Edward Gardner has been chief conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra since 2015, and now he is bringing the orchestra to the UK to give British audiences a chance to hear their extraordinary chemistry in action. They begin their tour of the UK and the Netherlands on Sunday 15 January 2017 at Saffron Hall, with Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Elgar's Cello Concerto with cellist Leonard Elschenbroich, and Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra.  The UK takes in City Hall, Birmingham, the Anvil Basingstoke, City Hall Sheffield, and Cadogan Hall with the same programme, with Leonard Elschenbroich and Truls Mørk sharing the soloist honours in the Elgar, and Basingstoke will get to hear Baibe Skride in Sibelius' Violin Concerto. The tour concludes in Amsterdam with a programme which combines Elgar's Cello Concerto (with Truls Mørk) and excerpts from Grieg's Peer Gynt.

    Edward Gardner became chief conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in October 2015, when the orchestra celebrated its 250th anniversary. He recently renewed his contract with the orchestra until 2021. Gardner's recording with the orchestra of Schoenberg's Gurrelieder has recently been gaining plaudits.

    Further information from the Bergen Philharmonic website.

    An evening of contrasts: German lieder & English song at Kensington and Chelsea Music Society

    The Arab Hall in Leighton House
    The Arab Hall in Leighton House
    Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann, Johannes Brahms, RVW, Britten, Walton, Roger Quilter; Mary Bevan, Johnny Herford, William Vann; Kensington and Chelsea Music Society at Leighton House
    Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jan 11 2017
    Star rating: 4.0

    Mix of German and English songs & duets in this engaging, intimate recital

    Kensington and Chelsea Music Society runs a regular concert series in Leighton House, Kensington and on Wednesday 11 January 2017 we went along to hear soprano Mary Bevan, baritone Johnny Herford and pianist William Vann (who is co-chair of the society) in a programme of English and German songs and duets, with music by Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms, alongside RVW's Songs of Travel, plus songs by Britten, Walton, RVW and Roger Quilter.

    Leighton House is the former home of the artist, Frederic Leighton, and recitals take place in what was his studio, surrounded by his pictures and by his casts of Greek and Roman antiquities. The concert also presents a chance to wander round the house, with its collection of Leighton's pictures but the biggest attraction is perhaps the exotic splendour of the Arab Hall, where we could have a glass of wine at the interval.

    Each half of the concert paired German lieder with English song. We started with Mary Bevan singing a group of songs by Robert Schumann, Widmung, Mondnacht and Requiem. Bevan sang with a lovely warm centred tone and a fine shapely line, and created a real sense of engaging intimacy. Widmung was lyrical and flowing, whilst Mondnacht was quiet and inward with long spun lines. In Requiem, the latest song of the three, Bevan sang with controlled intensity & beauty of line, but rising to intense passion at the climax. Throughout William Vann formed an equal partner, bringing the beauty of Schumann's piano writing to the fore.

    Thursday, 12 January 2017

    Semele in Wales

    Mid-Wales Opera - Semele
    Mid-Wales Opera, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD), and the Academy of Ancient Music are joining forces for a production of Handel's Semele which will tour Wales from 8 February 2016. The cast and orchestra will combine student singers and musicians with professional singers from Mid-Wales Opera and players from the Academy of Ancient Music, including leader Pavlo Beznosiuk. This co-production builds on Mid-Wales Opera and RWCMD's collaboration in 2014 on Handel's Acis and Galatea.

    Semele will be directed by Martin Constantine and conducted by Nicholas Cleobury. The production opens at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff on 8 February and runs there until 11 February before touring to Newton, Llanelli, Colwyn Bay and Brecon.

    See the Mid-Wales Opera website for full tour details.

    Wednesday, 11 January 2017

    Eight new productions: Opera North's 2017/18 season announcement

    Opera North - Mati Turi as Siegfried in Gotterdammerung Photo credit: Clive Barda
    Opera North - Mati Turi as Siegfried in Gotterdammerung Photo credit: Clive Barda
    In an era of stagnant or dwindling government funding, Opera North has become adept at making a little go a long way, creating striking seasons, bringing imagination to bear on the problems of producing Wagner's Ring Cycle, and balancing things by popular and theatrically vivid musical theatre. The launch of the company's 2017/18 season showed that they have not lost their touch. The season will include a remarkable eight new productions, as the Autumn offering is a package of six one-act operas, being presented in a flexible format, with Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana, Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, Ravel's L'enfant et les sortileges, Janacek's Osud, Gilbert and Sullivan's Trial by Jury and Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti. Winter will see a new production of Verdi's Un ballo in maschera alongside revivals of Mozart's Don Giovanni and Puccini's Madama Butterfly whilst the Summer has a new production, a concert staging, of Richard Strauss's Salome plus an as yet to be announced musical theatre work. The company's 2016 production of Britten's Billy Budd will be going to Snape Maltings to close the 2017 Aldeburgh Festival.

    But opera is only part of what the company does, at the launch Aleksandar Markovic (the company's new musical director) had warm words for the orchestra and talked of ideas for long term plans for concert seasons, whilst general director Richard Mantle talked of the expansion of the company's education work.

    The present funding climate is challenging, Opera North's grant is frozen for four years and as 65% of the company's funding comes from central government, any change in grant has a significant effect. But there are positive points, the company has doubled its private sector funding, and has been confident enough to restore the chorus to full strength at 36. The company puts on a diverse range of work in its second venue in Leeds, the Howard Assembly Rooms where 90 performances were mounted in 2016.

    In 2004 the company mounted its Eight little greats season, of eight one-act operas, and the Autumn 2017 season sees a return to this format. This time the operas have been chosen to be accessible, yet with a wide variety of works. In Leeds the operas will be performed in flexible fashion, with people able to book for one or two in an evening. This has been done out of a desire to relax the rigid nature of opera going, and allow people to be more flexible and sociable, and to choose repertoire which will encourage newcomers to experiment.

    Uneven partnership: Maria Katzarava & Stefano La Colla at Rosenblatt Recitals

    Maria Katzarava
    Maria Katzarava
    Verdi, Puccini, Massenet, Gounod, Giordano; Maria Katzarava, Stefano La Colla, Simon Lepper; Rosenblatt Recitals at the Wigmore Hall
    Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jan 10 2017
    Star rating: 3.5

    Some fine soprano solos redeem and evening of unequal duet partnership

    The first Rosenblatt Recital of 2017 on 10 January at the Wigmore Hall saw the Mexican soprano Maria Katzarava and the Italian tenor Stefano La Colla, accompanied by pianist Simon Lepper performing a programme of arias and duets by Verdi, Puccini, Massenet, Gounod and Giordano including music from Aroldo, Manon Lescaut, Le Cid, Romeo e Juliette, Andrea Chenier, Tosca, La Boheme and Madama Butterfly.  Neither singer seems to have worked much in the UK so it was a welcome opportunity to hear them their core repertoire. Maria Katzarava won the first prize and zarzuela prize at Placido Domingo's Operalia 2008 and plans include Maguerite (Faust) in Lausanne, Mimi (La boheme) in Bologna, and Madama Butterfly in Palermo. Stefano La Colla's plans include Radames (Aida) in Naples and Verona, Des Grieux (Manon Lescaut) in Amsterdam, Rodrigue (Le Cid) in St Gallen, Ismaele (Nabucco) in Milan and Calaf (Turandot).

    Stefano La Colla
    Stefano La Colla
    The evening started with an element of confusion. The programme led the audience to believe that we were were to hear Aroldo and Mina's duet Sotto il sol di Siria ardente from Verdi's Aroldo, his 1837 re-write of Stiffelio. But Stefano La Colla sang us a solo, which turned out to be the tenor cavatina extracted from the duet with the soprano part omitted, which seemed a shame given that there was a soprano included in the evening. But this was indicative of the general tenor of the evening, when the partnership of Stefano La Colla and Maria Katzarava seemed, from our side of the footlights, to be somewhat one-sided with the tenor as the dominant partner. At least it was noticeable that Maria Katzarava gave her best, and most subtle performances in her solos.

    Stefano La Colla has an attractive, spinto voice and a vocal style which seems to be modelled on Mario del Monaco with a firmness of line, yet a rather unsubtle robust attitude to phrasing. He has the virtue of reliability, with a nice evenness of emission though he seemed to have only two volume settings, mezza-voce and loud. The mezza-voce moments were lovely, and we could have done with hearing more, but virtually everything at the top of his voice was sung full. This was rather too loud for the Wigmore Hall, and in the duets it forced Maria Katzarava to match him. La Colla also had a habit which, heard once was acceptable but when repeated came to annoy. For climactic top notes he tended to push his voice somewhat and kept going sharp.

    Tuesday, 10 January 2017

    Prizewinning Spanish pianist makes his UK debut

    Juan Perez Floristan
    Juan Perez Floristan
    The young Spanish pianist Juan Perez Floristan took the first prize and the audience prize in the 2015 Paloma O'Shea Santander International Piano Competition in Spain, and UK audiences will get a chance to hear him when he makes his UK debut at the Wigmore Hall on Thursday 12 January 2016. His eclectic programme mixes the popular forms of Ginastera's Danzas argentinas and Gershwin's Three Preludes  with Bartok's Sonata Sz80, Liszt's Sonata and four Debussy Preludes.

    Perez Floristan trained at the Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofía with Galina Eguiazarova, and now studies at Hanns Eisler School of Music in Berlin with Eldar Nebolsin. The Paloma O'Shea Santander International Piano Competition (formerly known as Concurso de Piano de Santander) takes place in Santander, Spain and was founded in 1972 by Paloma O'Shea, a Spanish pianist and patron of the arts (her husband was Emilio Botín, Executive Chairman of Grupo Santander ) Paloma O'Shea's surname comes from Irishman William O'Shea who came to Spain in the 18th century.

    Full information from the Wigmore Hall website.

    Looking ahead: the London Handel Festival 2017

    Handel - Ariodante - London Handel Festival 2016 - photo Chris Christodoulou
    Handel - Ariodante - London Handel Festival 2016 - photo Chris Christodoulou
    The London Handel Festival will be upon us again in March and April 2017, when we can look forward to an interesting selection of music by Handel and his contemporaries. It is heartening that this year the festival seems to be continuing to extend the venues it uses, rather than rely on the historic, but limited, St George's Church, Hanover Square, and this year there are concerts at the Wigmore Hall, Cadogan Hall, Royal Academy of Music, the Foundling Hospital as well as St Lawrence's Church, Little Stanmore. This year's festival opera is the rather undeservedly neglected Faramondo whilst for the oratorio the festival turns its attention to the also rather neglected Joseph and his Brethren

    The festival opens with a come-and-sing event at the Grosvenor Chapel on 18 March 2017 when you can come and sing some of Handel's Coronation Anthems.

    The Handel Singing Competition is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. So in addition to the competition itself, there is a gala concert with four past finalists of the competition Ruby Hughes, Iestyn Davies, Rupert Charlesworth and Josep-Ramon Olive, plus Lawrence Cummings conducting the London Handel Orchestra at Cadogan Hall. The competition proper takes place at the Grosvenor Chapel and St George's Church, Hanover Square and the panel of adjudicators for the final will be chaired by Iestyn Davies. There is also an extra event, at the Foundling Hospital, Canzoni Italiane which will showcase the winners of the 2016 festival.

    There are two operas this year. Opera Settecento return, conducted by Leo Duarte with a young cast performing Handel's pasticcio Ormisda. Premiered in 1730 it contains a fine selection of arias by Orlandini, Hasse, Vinci, Giacommelli, Sarri and Leo. And the festival production at the Britten Theatre is Handel's Faramondo, It is a late work, premiered in 1738 and there were only ever 8 performances in Handel's lifetime. The libretto is problematic in the extreme, but there is much good music. A lot of the best is written for the title role which was Handel's first part for Caffarelli, reckoned one of the finest (and most temperamental) singers of the age, though he never went down well in London. Lawrence Cummings will conduct, and William Relton directs, with singers from the Royal College of Music.

    A fine array of concerts celebrate Handel and Telemann's friendship (with soprano Rowan Pierce and the London Handel Players), the Chandos Anthems at the church of St Lawrence, Little Stanmore, Handel's duets (with Louise Alder and Emilie Renard, with David Bates conducting La Nuovo Musica).

    This year's oratorio is Joseph and his Brethren, which will be conducted by Lawrence Cummings with Christopher Ainslie, Elizabeth Watts, Anna Starushkevych, Edward Grint, and William Wallace (winner of the 2016 Handel Singing Competition). Not Handel's best oratorio, but there are still some fine scenes and I have happy memories the wonderful prison scene with Ian Partridge at a previous Handel Festival.

    Playing with personality: Juliette Bausor in Mozart & Nielson Flute Concertos

    Nielsen + Mozart - Juliette Bausor
    Mozart Flute Concerto No. 1, Nielsen Flute Concerto; Juliette Bausor, Royal Northern Sinfonia, Jaime Martin; Signum Classics
    Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jan 5 2017
    Star rating: 4.0

    Fine pairing of Mozart and Nielsen concertos in characterful performances

    Mozart's concertante works for flute and orchestra are some of the only major such works in the classical repertoire, so flautists wishing to pair Mozart with another composer have to look further afield. For her disc on Signum Classics, Juliette Bausor, principal flute of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, has rather imaginatively paired Mozart's Flute Concerto No. 1 in G major, K313, with Carl Nielsen's Flute Concerto, FS 119 written nearly 150 years later and thus giving us two very different views of the flute as concertante instrument. Bausor is accompanied by the Royal Northern Sinfonia, a group of which she was principal flute for over 10 years, conducted by Jaime Martin (who is also flautist)

    Mozart famously complained to his father about hating the flute, though there is little sign of this in his Flute Concerto No. 1 in G major, K313 written in 1778 though the work perhaps lacks the emotional depth of works like the Clarinet Concerto, (and for the second flute concerto (delivered to the same patron as the first) Mozart hastily re-cycled an oboe concerto).

    The opening Allegro maestoso introduces us to the modern yet stylish chamber orchestra-scale Mozart from Martin and the Royal Northern Sinfonia. It is full of crisp details, and Martin keeps the tempo moving. The chamber-orchestra balance means that we hear some lovely details from the orchestral wind players, without them being overpowered by the strings.

    Monday, 9 January 2017

    BBC Proms Inspire

    BBC Proms Inspire
    The 2017 BBC Proms Inspire Competition opened today (9 January 2017) with a closing date for entries of 25 May 2017. The competition, now in its 19th year, offers a platform young composers aged 12-18 year olds from across the UK to develop their skills, share their ideas and get their music heard. 

    The winners of the competition have their composition performed by professional musicians at the BBC Proms. Young composers will also have the opportunity to take part in projects aimed to encourage their skills including a project around International Women's Day, and Inspire session of Sir James MacMillan. Entrants from last year's competition will be invited to take part in a project to create a new piece of music for the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s Total Immersion: Philip Glass at 80 on Saturday 28 January at the Barbican Centre.

    Every night this week, BBC Radio 3’s programme In Tune will mark the launch of Inspire with recordings of pieces from previous competition winners including Jack Robinson, James Chan and Shoshanah Sievers, as well as interviews from judge Kerry Andrew and 2016 winner Sam Rudd-Jones. Past competition winners and highly commended composers are also invited to join the team of Inspire Ambassadors, who act as a sounding board and champion the work of the Inspire scheme across the UK. Announced today, the 2017 Inspire Ambassadors are: Sarah Gait, Electra Perivolaris, Grace Mason, Sofia Swenson-Wright, Tammas Slater, Thomas Brown, Alex Jones, Ellis Howarth, Max Bilbe, William Kidner and Sarah Jenkins.

    Full details from the BBC Proms Inspire website.

    Poulenc's La voix humaine at Temple Song

    La voix humaine
    Poulenc himself produced the piano version of his opera, La voix humaine, and though he preferred the original full orchestra version, I have always thought that a performance with just voice and piano matches the concentrated (almost disturbing) intensity of the work. There is a chance to find out on Monday 23 January 2017 when mezzo-soprano Christine Rice and pianist Julius Drake perform La voix humaine at Middle Temple Hall for the Temple Music Foundation's first concert of 2017.

    In a full and wide-ranging programme, Christine Rice and Julius Drake will start with Haydn's cantata Arianna a Naxos about another woman abandoned by her lover, followed by Ravel's Chants Populaires and Kaddish, with La voix humaine to finish.

    La voix humaine was written in 1958 using a text based on a play by Jean Cocteau. Poulenc wrote the work for his muse Denise Duval (the first Blanche in Dialogues des Carmélites). Duval helped with the adaptation of Cocteau's text and Poulenc's writing for her was so aligned to her voice that her regarded her as co-creator.

    Full details from the Temple Music website.

    Intense & visceral: first recording of Erik Chisholm's Simoon

    Erik Chisholm Simoon; Jane Irwin, Damian Thantrey, Philip Sheffield, Charlie Drummond, Music Co-OPERAtive Scotland, Ian Ryan; Delphian
    Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jan 5 2017
    Star rating: 4.0

    A first recording for a dramatically intense opera from Scotland's forgotten composer

    The music of the Scottish composer Erik Chisholm still has not received the coverage which it deserves, particularly when it comes to recordings of his major works. So this new disc from Delphian is more than welcome. Here we have the first recording of Chisholm's 1953 opera Simoon based on a text by August Strindberg (translated into English by the Swedish-American journalist Edwin Björkman) performed by Music Co-OPERAtive Scotland, conductor Ian Ryan with Jane Irwin as Biskra, Philip Sheffield as Yusuf, Damian Thantrey as Guimard and Charlie Drummond as a voice.

    Erik Chisholm's achievements were remarkable. Born into relatively humble circumstances he was only able to study music at Edinburgh University under Sir Donald Tovey thanks to a special exemption owing to the fact that Chisholm had no School Leaving Certificate. As musical director of Glasgow Grand Opera Society he conducted the the British premieres of Mozart's Idomeneo and Berlioz's Les Troyens and Béatrice et Bénédict in the 1930s as well as bringing contemporary composers like Bartók, Hindemith, Szymanowski, Bax, Walton, and Medtner to Scotland and helping found a ballet company and composing. Yet he failed to achieve a musical post of significance in Scotland and in 1946 he emigrated to South Africa to take up the post of Chair of Music at Cape Town University, where he remained until he died. It was in South Africa that Chisholm finally had the resources to write opera, 11 in all.

    Simoon, written in 1953, is a one-act opera which Chisholm intended as part of a three-act trilogy, Murder in Three Keys. Simoon was premiered in New York in 1954 as part of the Murder in Three Keys Trilogy, which enjoyed a six-week season. The performances were just with piano accompaniment, and Chisholm never heard the opera. The recording, made live, is based on staged performances which took place in Glasgow in June 2015.

    It is a short, intense piece.

    Sunday, 8 January 2017

    December on Planet Hugill: two Marschallins, Alice and Mrs Pankhurst

    Renée Fleming, Sophie Bevan in Act 3 of Der Rosenkavalier © ROH. Photograph by Catherine Ashmore
    Renée Fleming, Sophie Bevan in Act 3 of Der Rosenkavalier © ROH. Photograph by Catherine Ashmore

    Welcome to December on Planet Hugill, a month when we managed to catch two very different casts in Covent Garden's Der Rosenkavalier, heard a variety of Christmas music and theatre, and I was lucky enough to interview the film composer Rachel Portman.
    Planet Hugill has been named as one of Feedspot Blog Reader's Top 25 Opera Blogs & Websites on the Web.

    Opera Heroines

    Rising to the challenge: W11 Opera's new opera The Price about the Suffragette movement by Russell Hepplewhite.
    A touch of greatness: Renée Fleming returned to the Marschallin at Covent Garden in Robert Carsen's new production of Der Rosenkavalier.
    Second view: Rachel Willis-Sørensen & Anna Stéphany in Der Rosenkavalier, a return to Robert Carsen's new production to hear two very different singers as the Marschallin and Octavian.

    Performing Solo

    Epic Theatre? Heloise Werner in Scenes from the End, challenging one-woman music theatre piece addressing universal issues.
    Solo viola: Rosalind Ventris in Blake, Bach, and Roxburgh.

    Wigmore Hall

    Gravely moving: Philippe Jaroussky in Bach and Telemann with Le Concert de la Loge.
    Telling stories: Sir John Tomlinson on vivid form in Schubert's Swansong in a new English translation.
    Vibrant music making: Arcangelo in early cantatas by Bach with an undeservedly neglected one from Telemann.

    Various Venues

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