Monday, 20 February 2017

Romanticism and contrast: Parnassius Piano Duo in Parry, Copland and Rachmaninov

Simon Callaghan and Hiroaki Takenouchi, the Parnassius Piano Duo - photo Benjamin Ealovega
Simon Callaghan and Hiroaki Takenouchi, the Parnassius Piano Duo
photo Benjamin Ealovega
Parry, Copland/Bernstein, Rachmaninov; Parnassius Piano Duo (Simon Callaghan, Hiroaki Takenouchi); St John's Smith Square
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Feb 20 2017
Star rating: 4.0

A new two-piano arrangement of Rachmaninov's richly romantic second symphony at the centre of a contrasting programme

Simon Callaghan and Hiroaki Takenouchi, the Parnassius Piano Duo, brought a striking programme  of works for two pianos to St John's Smith Square for the Sunday afternoon concert, 19 February 2017. They opened with Hubert Parry's rarely performed Grosses Duo in E minor, following it with Leonard Bernstein's two-piano arrangement of Aaron Copland's El Salon Mexico. The programme was completed with the premiere of the duo's own two-piano arrangement of Sergei Rachmaninov's mammoth Symphony No. 2.

Written in the mid-1870s when the composer was still in his 20s and had not yet full developed his recognised style, Parry's Grosses Duo is a large-scale and eminently serious work. Each of the three movements makes a rather Brahmsian exploration of Baroque counterpoint, but shot through with the sort of bravura which makes the whole invigorating listening. This was Bach's counterpoint viewed through a 19th century lens, and from the opening notes of the Allegro energico first movement we could appreciate the rich textures which Parry created with just four hands at two pianos. Of course it helped that we were listening to a well matched pair of huge Steinways played by such a long-established piano duo. The second movement was a gentle Siciliano which, for all the movement's gentle lilt, included some remarkably elaborate figuration and rich textures. The final movement started with a very impressive long crescendo which led to the concluding fugue, based on a very strikingly angular fugue subject. The sheer business of the fugue subject kept the movement bubbling along to a terrific climax.

This seems to have been something of a weekend for rare English piano duo works, having heard RVW's Introduction and Fugue on Friday (see my article), and I did wonder whether RVW knew the Parry work (RVW studied with Parry in the 1890s).

Hidden Lives: Secret Loves - Song in the City

LGBT History Month
Song in the City's Spring series starts today, 20 February 2017, at lunchtime in the hall of St Botolph without Bishopsgate. For today's event artistic director Gavin Robert's has curated a concert which explores the tragic life of the pianist Noel Mewton-Wood who was esteemed in the British Music establishment, yet sadly committed suicide in 1953, blaming himself for the death of his lover William Fedrick, with whom he lived. (Benjamin Britten wrote Canticle III: Still falls the rain for a concert in Mewton-Wood's memory).

The concert is one of a pair Song in the City is presenting for LGBT History Month, under the title Hidden Lives: Secret Loves. On Monday 27 February, 2017 the concert will tell the story of the poet AE Housman with settings of his poems including RVW's On Wenlock Edge. Further ahead the Young Artists in the City series presents programmes devised by piano accompaniment students and recent graduates, starting with a programme about strong female figures in the arts.

Full details from the Song in the City website.

Diverse and engaging: Alina Ibragimova and the Scottish Ensemble

Scottish Ensemble
Scottish Ensemble
Mendelssohn, Pärt, Hartmann, Vasks, Bach; Alina Ibragimova, Scottish Ensemble, Jonathan Morton; Wigmore Hall
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Feb 18 2017
Star rating: 4.5

Two contrasting violin concertos form the centrepiece of a fascinating programme

The Scottish Ensemble, artistic director Jonathan Morton, brought a diverse programme to the Wigmore Hall on Saturday 18 February 2017, centred on a pair of violin concertos played by Alina Ibragimova, Bach's Violin Concerto in E major, BWV1042 and Karl Amadeus Harmann's wartime masterpiece Concerto Funebre. The Scottish Ensemble played two of Mendelssohn's early string symphonies plus Arvo Pärt's Silouan's Song and Peteris Vasks' Viatore.

The Scottish Ensemble began each half with Mendelssohn, the three movement String Symphony No. 6 in E flat (from 1821 when Mendelssohn was 12), and No. 10 in B minor (from 1823). Though these are remarkable works for a teenager, once you have got over the composer's young age and spotted the influences, and traces of the mature Mendelssohn, the pieces very much rely on the performers to sell them. And this the Scottish Ensemble did, playing with vivid presence, great engagement and liveliness.

The contrast with Pärt's Silouan's Song, which followed in the first half, could not have been greater. Made from a few simple building blocks and a great deal of silence, the piece received a performance which was very intent even in the passages which were barely there. And the quality of the group's silences was amazing.

Looking ahead: WNO 2017/18 - Russian themes, new Verdi, Elena Langer and a Welsh suffragette

Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina The Chorus of Welsh National Opera - credit Clive Barda
Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina - The Chorus of Welsh National Opera - credit Clive Barda
Welsh National Opera's 2017/18 season starts with a Russian-themed Autumn with Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina and Janacek's From the House of the Dead (which is based on a book by Dostoyevsky), all part of R17, a cultural exploration of the centenary of the Russian Revolution involving arts organisations across Wales. The Spring 2018 season, Rabble Rousers includes Verdi's La forza del destino (the first in a planned new Verdi trilogy), Mozart's Don Giovanni and Puccini's Tosca. And in Summer 2018 there will be the premiere of a new opera by Elena Langer, a smaller scale cabaret opera touring to venues across England and Wales.

The revival of Eugene Onegin is conducted by Latvian Ainars Rubikis with Nicholas Lester (whom we last saw as Dandini in Opera Holland Parks 2016 La Cenerentola) in the title role and Natalya Romaniw as Tatyana (a role she sang at Garsington last year, see my review). The revivals of From the House of the Dead and Khovanshchina will be directed by David Pountney and conducted by WNO's music director Tomas Hanus and the casts will feature a number of singers appearing in both productions including Robert Hayward, Mark Le Brocq and Adrian Thompson. From the House of the Dead will be the premiere of a new critical edition by John Tyrrell.

Also in Autumn 2017, WNO will give the premiere of Tom Green's The World's Wife a piece for soprano and string quartet with a libretto by Carol Ann Duffy which looks at the men of history from the perspective of their better halves.

2018 marks the start of a new trilogy of Verdi operas which WNO is producing in collaboration with Oper der Stadt Bonn. Verdi's La forza del destino premieres in Spring 2018, with Un ballo in maschera in Spring 2019 and Les Vepres Sicilienne in 2020. The operas will all be conducted by Carlo Rizzi and directed by David Pountney. The design team, Raimond Bauer, Marie-Jeanne Lecca and Fabrice Kebour, will be creating a 'design machine' common to all three opera but capable of making each look different.

The cast for La forza del destino includes Gwyn Hughes Jones as Don Alvaro, Mary Elizabeth Williams as Leonora and Luis Cansino as Don Carlo, plus Mikos Sebestyen, Justina Gringyte, and Donald Maxwell. Kerem Hasan joins WNO as associate conductor, initially assisting Carlo Rizzi on La forza del destino.

The Spring season is completed by a revival of John Caird's production of Mozart's Don Giovanni which includes Elizabeth Watts as Elvira and David Stout as Leporello, and Puccini's Tosca conducted by Carlo Rizzi with Claire Rutter and Mary Elizabeth Williams in the title role, Hector Sandoval and Gwyn Hughes Jones as Cavaradossi and Mark Doss as Scarpia.

Summer 2018 sees the world premiere of Rhondda Rips is up! a 'cabaret opera' by Elena Langer with a libretto by Emma Jenkins in which an all female cast, including soprano Lesley Garrett, tells the story of the Welsh suffragette Margaret Haig Thomas. The production's small scale will enable it to tour to venues across England and Wales including the Hackney Empire. Elena Langer's previous opera Figaro gets a divorce was a great success as part of WNO's 2015/16 season.

Music director Tomas Hanus will conduct the WNO orchestra in three concerts at St David's Hall, Cardiff with programme complementary to the opera seasons so in November 2017 they will be performing a Russian programme including Shostakovich's Symphony No. 7 'Leningrad'

New educational initiative during the season include the first concert from the newly formed WNO Community Chorus North, which takes place at North Wales International Music Festival, and the 2017/18 season sees the launch of a fully integrated international opera school at the Royal Welsh College of Music an Darma

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Discovering the music beneath: Janusz Wawrowski's Sequenza on Warner Classics

Janusz Wawrowski - Sequenza - Warner Classics
Berio, Ysaye, Brustad, Bacewicz, Pendercki, Opalka, Przybylski; Janusz Wawrowski; Warner Classics
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Feb 12 2017
Star rating: 4.0

A fearless account of Berio's solo violin piece the centre-piece of this stunning recital of modern music for unaccompanied violin

Luciano Berio's Sequenza VIII per violino solo forms the centrepiece of Sequenza a recital of 20th and 21st century music for solo violin from the Polish violinist Janusz Wawrowski on Warner Classics.  Wawrowski's recital moves from Eugene Ysaye's Violin Sonata in E major, Op.27 no. 8 through Bjarne Brustad's Eventyrsuite for violin solo to Grazyna Bacewicz's II Sonata per violino solo and Krzysztof Penderecki's Cadenza for violin solo. Following Berio's piece we hear two by Polish contemporaries of Wawrowski, Tomasz Jakub Opalka's Fil d'araignee pour violon and Dariusz Przybylski's Up for violin solo.

As a student Janusz Wawrowski performed all of Paganini's 24 Caprices in a single evening, a feat which found its way onto Wawrowski's first recording (available from Amazon). So it should come as no surprise that Berio's fearsome Sequenza should hold no terrors for him, and he surrounds Berio's work with an invigorating survey of mainly 20th century music for violin solo.

He starts with one of Eugene Ysaye's sonatas for solo violin from 1924, the last sonata in the group dedicated to the Spanish violinist Manuel Quiroga. From the first Wawrowski displays a lovely sweet tone allied to a superb technique. The sonata is stylistically diverse, Ysaye regarded it as a sort of portrait of Quiroga, but Wawrowski throws off the sheaves of notes with aplomb and plays in a manner which shows he really believes in the music.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Introduction and fugue: CD launch with RVW rarity

Mark Bebbington & Rebeca Omordia at Schott Music
Mark Bebbington & Rebeca Omordia at Schott Music
Mark Bebbington's new disc of piano music by RVW on SOMM contains something of a surprise, the Introduction and Fugue for two pianos. Not yet another early work being rediscovered, but prime RVW dating from 1949 yet the work has only ever appeared on disc once before and this is its first CD outing. Last night, 17 February 2017, Mark Bebbington and his piano duo partner Rebeca Omordia played the work at the launch of the CD in the recital room at Schott Music in Great Marlborough Street. Bebbington and Omordia also gave us another rarity from the disc, RVW and Maurice Jacobson's two piano arrangement of the Tallis Fantasia which also dates from the 1940s.

The Introduction and Fugue was written for piano duo team of Phyllis Sellick and Cyril Smith, the couple had given the first performance of RVW's Concerto for two pianos and orchestra (the 1946 revision to the Piano Concerto) and they premiered the Introduction and Fugue in 1949. There is an interesting link between Sellick and Smith and the SOMM recording. Siva Oke, who runs SOMM, was a pupil of Cyril Smith, whilst pianist Mark Bebbington was a pupil of Phyllis Sellick.

At the CD launch Mark Bebbington talked about his time with Phyllis Sellick. She was a lively 91 year old at the time, and over lunch after his lessons he persuaded her to talk about the past and working with some of the great British composers. Mark thought that whilst RVW was a great friend, the music of RVW that Smith and Sellick loved was the RVW of The Lark Ascending and Tallis Fantasia rather than the tougher RVW of the Symphony No. 4. And he felt that Sellick had reservations about the Introduction and Fugue. Though she and Smith played it, they did not do so extensively, and Sellick does not seem to have recommended the work to any of her students.

The result is that no major UK piano duo team has performed the work, and despite being published in 1949 it has seemed to languish. When the SOMM disc was being planned, it was thought that the recording of the Introduction and Fugue would be the first recording, though in fact it was issued on vinyl many year ago. It is a very sophisticated work, lasting well over 15 minutes and the fugue develops into a double fugue (thus giving the lie to RVW's protective covering as an 'amateurish composer').

That Maurice Jacobson and RVW's arrangement of the Tallis Fantasia dates from the same period is very telling. In some ways it is an unlikely transcription, but the result brings remarkable clarity and insight into the piece.

The Piano Music of Ralph Vaughan Williams - Mark bebbington and Rebeca Omordia - SOMM, available from

First UK appearance for 15 years: conductor Peter Dijkstra talks about the Netherlands Chamber Choir

Peter Dijkstra and Netherlands Chamber Choir ©FoppeSchut
Peter Dijkstra and Netherlands Chamber Choir ©FoppeSchut
On 8 March 2017, the Netherlands Chamber Choir (Nederlands Kamerkoor) and its chief conductor Peter Dijkstra, will be performing at Cadogan Hall, the choir's first UK appearance for 15 years. Their programme consists of music by Britten (Hymn to St Cecilia, Sacred and Profane), Gabriel Jackson, Luciano Berio and the Swedish composer Lars Johan Werle. I caught up with Peter via Skype to find out more about the programme.

Peter DIjkstra - photo Wiebrig Krakau
Peter DIjkstra - photo Wiebrig Krakau
His starting point was Benjamin Britten's Sacred and Profane, a cycle of eight pieces from the end of Britten's life (1975), Peter describes it as demanding for the vocal ensemble. Britten set a mix of sacred and profane ancient texts, so Peter wanted to pair the work with music which had a similar combination of the sacred and the profane. For us in life, do we turn to the sacred or are we more interested in the temptations of profane things, these are questions which Peter wanted to ask in the programme. In fact, when we spoke Peter and the choir were immersed in an entirely different programme, performing minimalism with music by Arvo Pärt and Philip Glass.

For the Sacred and Profane programme, Peter also wanted to find texts which worked well together. Peter describes Gabriel Jackson's Ave Regina coelorum as a very pure setting of a Marian antiphon, yet it is accompanied by electric guitar, one of the most profane instruments you could image. Jackson's treatment of the guitar is very diverse, so the twangy sounds of the guitar work well and there is even an aria for soprano and guitar. Peter calls it 'a wonderful thing'.

Lars Johan Werle is, for Peter, a dear composer from the Swedish choral tradition. Peter feels that when the listener starts listening to Werle's Canzone 126 di Francesco Petrarca they might think they were listening to an ordinary Monteverdi madrigal, but then it takes flight into an extraordinary contemporary piece with note clusters and spoken passages, a madrigal in a new guise. So the work picks up on another theme of the programme, 'old texts with new music'.

The choir has a very broad range in its programming, from Renaissance, through oratorios by Bach and Handel, to new music and commissions. In every programme they have a new aim regarding the sound the choir makes, depending on what the music asks for. For the Sacred and Profane programme, Peter will be searching for an expressive sound from the singers which will work well with the texts. Berio's Cries of London is very soloistic for the singers, yet more experimental in style and asks for straight tone. Whereas the works of Lars Johan Werle will need more expressive sound.

Peter Dijkstra, Netherlands Chamber Choir - photo Martina Simkovicova
Peter Dijkstra, Netherlands Chamber Choir - photo Martina Simkovicova
To sing a programme based around English texts to an English audience was not in fact the choir's specific choice, they simply presented a selection of possible programmes to Cadogan Hall and it was Sacred and Profane which was chosen. It reflects a level of curiosity, about a Dutch choir singing English music, which Peter finds wonderful.

Friday, 17 February 2017

An immersive experience: Even You Song at Peterborough Cathedral

Ready for Even You Song - Peterborough Cathedral
Ready for Even You Song
Peterborough Cathedral
Bettina Furnée, Lucy Sheerman, Cheryl Frances Hoad Even You Song; Peterborough Cathedral Choir, choir of schoolchildren, David Humphreys, James Bowstead, Steven Grahl; Peterborough Cathedral
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Feb 16 2017
Star rating: 4.5

An immersive experience in Peterborough Cathedral based on Evensong and benefiting from a striking core by Cheryl Frances Hoad

An experience combining text, visual images and music, which referenced the structure of Evensong yet integrated interviews with Peterborough residents about a trip to the moon along with images of their houses, combined with a heavy dose of community involvement. Even You Song sounds like the sort of immersive experience which you might get in an art gallery, and in fact it arose our of the residency of artist Bettina Furnée and writer Lucy Sheerman at Metal Peterborough (Metal Peterborough is a community cultural hub housed in a gatehouse at the entrance to Peterborough Cathedral). 

Even You Song proved substantial and striking; partly because the community involved was that of Peterborough Cathedral so that the immersive experience took place within the cathedral, and the music performed by the cathedral choir along with a choir of school children was a substantial score by Cheryl Frances Hoad.

Even You Song was performed at Peterborough Cathedral on Thursday 16 February 2017, where a huge audience filled the nave and the chancel, whilst the choir of Peterborough Cathedral, children from St Augustine's CE (V) Junior School, Bishop Creighton Academy, West Town primary Avademy and William Law CE Primary School, organist David Humphreys, James Bowstead (conductor of the children's choir), and conductor Steven Grahl (director of music at Peterborough Cathedral), plus Reverend Canon Bruce Ruddock (cantor), Reverend Canon Jonathan Baker (welcome and reflections) and Sue Baker & Keely Mills (readings), performed something which was structured like Evensong, yet had a new text by Lucy Sheerman, and music by Cheryl Frances Hoad.

Sheerman's text was based on interviews done with Peterborough couples about going to the moon; this might sound gimmicky, but it was a neutral way of getting people to talk about the unknown and the resulting text was surprisingly thoughtful and poetic. During the performance, images were projected created by artists Bettina Furnée, who had taken pictures in the interviewees homes. Sometimes these were illustrative of the text being sung or spoken and sometimes they were profoundly abstract details.

Cheryl Frances Hoad's score was large scale, she had set the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, along with the Preces and Responses, created psalms and settings for the new collects, plus a long anthem, a hymn along with organ voluntaries. A striking and substantial achievement,

What lies beneath: welcome development plans at St George's Hanover Square

St George's Hanover Square
St George's Hanover Square
The last few years or so have seen a great deal of activity at St George's Church, Hanover Square, as the PCC has substantially re-furbished the historic interior and commissioned a brand new Richards, Fowkes & Co organ. Now there are plans afoot to remedy a significant lack in the church facilities, decent loos and somewhere casual for parishioners and concert goers to gather. Lack of space is a familiar reason why historic churches have difficulty fitting in facilities, but St George's has a secret weapon.

As Handel's parish church, St George's Hanover Square is the home to the London Handel Festival and, as concert goers and artists all know, the church's historic interior and fine acoustic are not matched by the back stage and front of house facilities. But when the church was built it was with a significant undercroft. Never, apparently, used for burials this may have been intended as a school but seems to have spent most of its life as storage, perhaps most memorably by a wine merchant.

I visited the church recently when the parish administrator Stephen Wikner kindly took me down to the undercroft. There are still remains from previous existences, with the hoist for the wine, and brick partitions vaults. These latter are not structural and the plan is to remove them to reveal a handsome vaulted space. This will be multi-functional, with a commercial restaurant Monday to Friday, and availability for weddings at weekends. It will provide handsome facilities for concert goers, and a new meeting room (available for hire) which will double as a green room (no more using the church vestry).

The undercroft extends into the area under the portico, and this will house the handsome new toilets. The existing toilets and access staircase are 20th century and can be stripped out to provide space for a fine staircase linking to the grand stair upstairs.

Of course restaurants need kitchens and facilities, and these will be created by excavating the courtyard south of the church. When complete, the courtyard will return to use, providing external access to the new restaurant, as well as housing the new disable access lift (something that St George's sorely lacks).

The undercroft plan is an imaginative solution to a tricky problem, and the restaurant should provide a welcome income stream for the church (which will be funding the changes partly using its own investments). Concert goers and artists at the London Handel Festival will certainly be grateful. The new undercroft development will also provide welcome facilities for those who attend St George's services. And perhaps the development will encourage more people to take advantage of the church's fine acoustic to mount concerts there.

Louise Alder and Gary Matthewman at the Wigmore Hall

Louise Alder - photo William Alder
Louise Alder
photo William Alder
Soprano Louise Alder and pianist Gary Matthewman are giving a recital at the Wigmore Hall on Sunday 19 February 2017, at 3pm. They will be performing Huw Watkins' Five Larkin Songs (which were premiered by Carolyn Sampson in 2010 and won the vocal category of the 2011 British Composer Awards), plus a group of songs by Sibelius (Kyssens hopp Op. 13 No. 2, Vilse Op. 17 No. 4, Säv, säv, susa Op. 36 No. 4, Flickan kom ifrån sin älsklings möte Op. 37 No. 5) and songs by Puccini and Verdi.

Louise Alder's recent roles have included Ilia in Mozart's Idomeneo at Garsington (see my review), and Zerlina in Mozart's Don Giovanni with Glyndebourne on Tour (see my review) and she will be making her Welsh National Opera debut as Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier later this year.

The concert is part of the Wigmore Hall's Chamber Zone, the free ticket scheme for 8-25 year olds, and tickets for those under 35 are £5. Full details from the Wigmore Hall website.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

The Food of Love: settings of the Song of Songs from Ensemble Plus Ultra

Illustration for the first verse of the Song of Songs, a minstrel playing before Solomon (15th century Rothschild Mahzor)
Illustration for the 1st verse of the Song of Songs,
a minstrel playing before Solomon
(15th century Rothschild Mahzor)
The Food of Love - Song of Songs Victoria, Palestrina, Lassus, Ceballos; Ensemble Plus Ultra; Cadogan Hall
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Feb 16 2017
Star rating: 4.0

Beautifully realised vocal ensemble performances of texts which hover between sacred and secular

Ensemble Plus Ultra made its Cadogan Hall debut as part of the Choral at Cadogan series on Wednesday 15 February 2017, with a programme of settings of the Song of Songs by Victoria, Palestrina, Lassus, and Ceballos, interleaved with readings of Shakespeare's sonnets. The ensemble, soprano Grace Davidson, mezzo-soprano Martha McLorinan, counter-tenor David Martin, tenors William Balkwill and Simon Wall and bass Jimmy Holliday, makes something of a speciality of music from the Spanish Golden Age but in this programme they also visited Rome for the music of Palestrina and Munich for the music of Lassus.

Liturgically the text of the Song of Songs was taken to refer to the Church as the bride of Christ, though not all settings of the texts from the Song of Songs were written to be used liturgically. Palestrina's 29 settings may well have been designed for private performance, we don't really know. And some of the texts get a bit near the knuckle for liturgical use. Composers responses to the texts varied, with settings ranging from the positively madrigalian with lots of word colouring, to the simple pure lines of classic Palestrina.

The programme opened with three settings of Nigra sum sed formosa, by Victoria and by Palestrina with chant in the middle. In Victoria's setting the group brought out a real sense of the word play, with some vivid interaction between different groupings, whereas Palestrina's response was much more smooth lines and nice blend. In between we had the poised chant sung by the two women in the group.

The ensemble consists of some of the most experienced consort singers around, and this shows in the group's combination of blend and character; individual lines were characterised but the whole was highly responsive. I felt that they took some time to quite get the measure of the tricky acoustic of the Cadogan Hall and balance in some of the early items in the programme was not ideal.

I felt that the group did not always get beyond the calm beauty of Palestrina's music. Their performance of his four-part Surge propera was perfectly done but it was the more extrovert, madrigalian five-part setting which came alive. The same was true of Trahe me post where they really brought out Palestrina's mobile lines, whereas his Osculetur me was perfectly poised and controlled.

Pembroke College - Bliss series

Joseph Middleton in the Old Library, Pembroke College
Joseph Middleton in the Old Library
Pembroke College
As part of Pembroke College's Sir Arthur Bliss International Song Series which is curated by pianist Joseph Middleton, soprano Felicity Lott and Joseph Middleton are giving  recital in the college's Old Library on Friday 17 February 2017, when they will be performing songs by Faure, Duparc, Debussy, Hahn, Poulenc, Berners and Britten. Further ahead soprano Carolyn Sampson and Joseph Middleton will be giving a recital on 8 May 2017, and on February 24, 2017 Sir Thomas Allen is giving a public masterclass.

The series is named for the composer Sir Arthur Bliss who studied at the collect. The singers who come to the college as part of the Bliss series also work with students. The Bliss series came about because the college wanted to encourage students involved in non-chapel centred music and Joseph Middleton was appointed in 2006. Since then the scheme has evolved into the song recital series in the college's Old Library, and young singers and pianists at the college get coaching from Joseph and the high profile singers work with them too. On May 1, 2017 the performers from the Pembroke Lieder Scheme give a showcase in the Old Library.

Full details from the Pembroke College website.

Looking ahead: Britten Sinfonia in 2017/18

Britten Sinfonia - photo Harry Rankin
Britten Sinfonia - photo Harry Rankin
The 2017/18 season sees the Britten Sinfonia celebrating its 25th birthday. Thomas Ades continues his cycle of Beethoven symphonies paired with the music of Gerald Barry, including the London premiere of Barry's piano concerto with soloist Nicolas Hodges.

The Choir of King's College, Cambridge joins the Britten Sinfonia with conductor Stephen Cleobury for Bernstein's Chichester Psalms and RVW's Dona Nobis Pacem with soprano Ailish Tynan, and a new work by Emma Ruth Richards. Britten Sinfonia Voices joins the orchestra for Stravinsky's Mass alongside Mozart and Esa Pekka Salonen's Concert Etude for solo horn performed by BBC Young Musician finalist Ben Goldscheider.

Sir Mark Elder conducts Mahler's Ruckert Lieder with mezzo-soprano Elisabeth Kulman, plus Brahms and Finzi. The orchestra is taking part in the Barbican's This is Rattle celebration, performing Stravinsky, Britten, Oliver Knussen, Helen Grime and Thomas Ades.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Pepys the musician: music by Cesare Morelli

Cesare Morelli - Eight songs for Samuel Pepys
Cesare Morelli is not a household name. He was a 17th century Italian musician whose posthumous reputation now owes something to the fact that his employer from 1675 to 1682 was one Samuel Pepys, and Morelli, a singer and guitarist in Pepys' household, wrote songs for Pepys. A programme on Morelli is planned for BBC Radio 4 and the programme will look at four neglected music manuscripts written for Samuel Pepys by Cesare Morelli (who was a Roman Catholic), giving us a fresh window on to the religious Catholic/Anglican struggles of the 16C and 17C, through the relationship between Pepys and Morelli.

As part of this, there is a concert of Morelli's music Pepys the Musician, at St Olave's Church, Hart Street, London EC3R 7NB tonight (15 February 2016) at 8pm. Bass baritone David Ireland, guitarist Toby Carr and lute/theorbo player James Bramley will be performing a selection of songs by Morelli, plus one by Pepys himself and Morelli's arrangement of Pelham Humphrey's Lord I have sinned which was made for Pepys. Dionysius Kyropoulos, the stage director and academic who has done a lot of work on Morelli's music, will also be talking.

Full details from the Overtone Productions website. The finished programme is planned for 11.30am, 4 April 2017 on BBC Radio 4.

Farinelli - A Portrait: Ann Hallenberg, Chrstopher Rousset & Les Talens Lyriques

Farinelli - A Portrait
Farinelli - A Portrait Riccardo Broschi, Geminiano Giacomelli, Nicola Porpora, Leonardo Leo, Handel; Ann Hallenberg, Les Talens Lyriqes, Christophe Rousset; Aparte Music
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Feb 07 2017
Star rating: 4.0

Astonishing virtuosity and style in this disc of arias written for the castrato Farinellii

The castrato Farinelli was a phenomenon; Charles Burney said of him 'In his voice, strength, sweetness and compass; in his style, the tender, the gracious and the rapid'. Farinelli - A Portrait from Aparte Music attempts to give us an idea what he sounded like. Recorded live at the Bergen International Festival in 2011, it features mezzo-soprano Ann Hallenberg accompanied by Les Talens Lyriques and Christophe Rousset in arias by Riccardo Broschi, Geminiano Giacomelli, Nicola Porpora, Leonardo Leo and Handel.

Apart from the Handel (which were included in the concert as encores), all of the arias are from operas premiered by Farinelli, which means the arias were written for him. And in fact Riccardo Broschi was his brother and Nicola Porpora his teacher, so we should presume they had a fair idea of what he was capable.

Of course the frustrating thing for modern Baroque lovers is that Farinelli never sang any Handel. The two never worked together and the only time Farinelli sang in a Handel opera, for the Opera of the Nobility in London, he used his own arias.

Hallenberg starts of with 'Son qual nave ch'agitata' from Riccardo Broschi's Artaserse which Farinelli made his UK debut with in London to thrilling effect. Opening with a stunning messa di voce (gradual swelling and diminution) the audience was so impressed it applauded for five minutes before he could go on. Quite what he was capable of is displayed by Broschi's outrageously ornamented aria, and here we start to appreciate Hallenberg's rock solid technique so that she make the aria real bravura fun. Even the slower aria by Broschi, 'Ombra fedele anch'io'  is full of notes, Farinelli did not seem to do simple.

A unique campus of the arts: a walk round Snape Maltings with Roger Wright

Snape Malting - photo Philip Vile
Snape Maltings - photo Philip Vile
Snape Maltings in Suffolk has an intriguing history, built as a maltings in the 19th century it owes its existence partly to the location on the river Alde which provided a means of transport (by barge), and it is this location which has proved so evocative in the building's more recent history as a concert hall, where the very location seemed to reflect the essence of Benjamin Britten's music. But there is drama and complexity in the story too.

Snape Maltings By Ashley Dace, CC BY-SA 2.0,
Snape Maltings - photo Ashley Dace, CC BY-SA 2.0, 
Thanks to Britten visionary idea, the maltings was yurned into a concert hall for the 1967 Aldeburgh Festival. Yet Snape Maltings burned down at the opening of the 1969 festival and yet was re-built in time to open the 1970 festival. Since then the use of the site has increased, and Snape has developed from being a location for the Aldeburgh Festival to a year-round musical arts campus. During my recent trip to Aldeburgh (see my article), we were taken round Snape Maltings by the present director, Roger Wright, to talk about what has been achieved and the ambitious plans for the future.

In 1938 Britten moved to a house in Snape village, the first of his houses in the Snape/Aldeburgh area. The house was on a hill, and overlooked the Snape Maltings, then still in use as a maltings. By 1965, the maltings were no more and the buildings were available as warehousing. It was Britten's visionary idea to turn the largest of the buildings into a concert hall. And this proved to have superb acoustics, a large rectangular shape with rough red bricks which have just the right acoustical qualities. As he shows us round Roger Wright also comments that the hall is highly democratic, there is no particular place where sight and sound are better than elsewhere.

Semyon Bychkov conducting the Britten Pears Orchestra in Snape Maltings concert hall - photo Matt Jolly
Semyon Bychkov conducting the Britten Pears Orchestra in Snape Maltings concert hall - photo Matt Jolly
It was Britten's vision that the maltings would become more than a concert hall, though lack of money prevented the development. In 1979 the granary store was converted into the Britten-Pears School, and in the 1990s more foyers and circulation spaces were added to the concert hall. The big turning point came in 2009 when the Hoffmann Building opened, containing a mix of performance studios and rehearsal spaces. This musical campus was still surrounded by further buildings from the former maltings, some of which were ruinous and others were run as a commercial enterprise by the original owners. It was this Aldeburgh Music of which Roger Wright became chief executive in 2014. Yet this is a job which he has never actually done!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Looking ahead: Wigmore Hall's 2017/18 season

Jorg Widmann - photo Marco Borggreve
Jorg Widmann - photo Marco Borggreve
The Wigmore Hall's 2017/18 season has nearly 500 concerts in it including 120 chamber recitals. Gerald Finley opens the season with songs by Schubert, Poulenc,Turnage and Britten on 9 September 2017, whilst the Dutch bass-baritone Robert Holl gives his final Wigmore Hall recital on 27 September.

Baritone Roderick Williams will be singing Schubert's Die schone Mullerin, Winterreise and Schwanengesang for the first time, and will be exploring the works with young performers from the Guildhall School. Winterreise is also the focus for tenor Mark Padmore's recital with pianist Mitsuko Uchida.

Returning divas include Sarah Connolly, Joyce DiDonato, Elina Garanca, Anna Bonitatibus, Alice Coote, Ann Hallenberg, Robert Invernizzi and Sandrine Piau. Counter-tenor Philippe Jaroussky will be giving an all-Handel programme with Ensemble Artaserse. Also returning are Christian Gerhaher, Simon Keenlyside, Matthias Goerne and Florian Boesch.

Residencies include violinist Isabelle Faust whose focus will include Mozart's mature violin sonatas. German violinist Christian Tezlaff will be exploring Brahms' violin sonatas with Lars Vogt,as well as performing in chamber music including Schubert's String Quintet in C. Italian contralto Sonia Prina gives three concerts performing French melodies, and Italian repertoire with period groups Akademie fur Alte Musik Berlin and Concerto Copenhagen. Jorg Widmann will be appearing as both composer and performer; the Heath Quartet is performing five quartets, other groups also perform his chamber music whilst he will be performing with Sir Andras Schiff and the Tezlaff Quartet.

Composer in Residence Helen Grime is developing a new project exploring motherhood, to be performed by Ruby Hughes and Joseph Middleton.

There will be 17 concerts in which various groups explore the full gamut of Haydn's string quartets, whilst Cuarteto Casals performs the complete Beethoven quartets alongside works by living composers.

Igor Levit will be celebrating Frederic Rzewski's 80th birthday with The People United WIll Never Be Defeated and a specially commissioned new work. Nelson Freire also celebrates the 50th anniversary of his Wigmore debut with a recital.

John Butt and the Dunedin Consort will be performing Bach's Christmas Oratorio, St Matthew Passion and Mass in B Minor. Philip Higham will be playing Bach Cello Suites.

Wigmore Hall Learning programme has been running for 20 years and in 2016 led 539 learning events and engaged with 11531 people. Recent initiatives include a new choir for people living with dementia and their carers.

Music among friends: Klangrede

Klangrede, Eres Holz, Johannes B Borowski, Stefan Keller; Zafraan Ensemble, Titus Engel; bastille musique
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Feb 06 2017
Star rating: 4.5

Clarity of texture and rigour of thought in this disc of recent music by three Berlin-based composers

This disc is the fourth issue from a new Berlin-based label, bastille musique, whose recordings are carefully chosen both in terms of the content and the presentation. This disc Klangrede, is performed by the Berlin-based contemporary music ensemble, Zafraan Ensemble, conducted by Titus Engel. Engel is perhaps best known for his conducting the premiere of Charles Wuorinen's opera Brokeback Mountain in Madrid in 2014 (see the review in the Financial Times).

On this disc, Engel and the Zafraan Ensemble perform two works each by three contemporary composers, Quintett and Katakothes by Eres Holz, Klaviertrio and Dex by Johannes B Borowski and Hammer and Soma oder Die Lust am Falienlassen by Stefan Keller. All except Klaviertrio being premiere recordings.

A link between the composers and performers is the Hochschule fur Musik "Hanns Eisler" in Berlin, where they all studied, and so it is as a coming together as colleagues and friends that they have created the programme. The title Klangrede (sound-speech) is a rhetorical term first developed by Handel's colleague from Hamburg, Johann Mattheson. Whilst the three composers all seem to have been interested in Mattheson's rhetorical basis for constructing a piece of music, none follows Mattheson's strict six-part structure. Instead we get music which is rather freer, but still with a sense of rhetorical dialectic, a feeling we are listening to conversational argument in music.

The pieces have other elements in common, all are single-movement works, and all were created in the same six year span, so we have something of a snap-shot.

Robert Levin to become the Academy of Ancient Music's first Hogwood Fellow

Robert Levin - photo Clive Barda
Robert Levin
photo Clive Barda
The Academy of Ancient Music has created the Hogwood Fellowship in honour of the orchestra's founder Christopher Hogwood and it is intended to further his commitment to providing historical insight and cultural context to the music they perform. 

The inaugural Hogwood Fellow will be the pianist, conductor and musicologist Robert Levin whose tenure will last until the end of the 2017/18 season. Robert Levin's period as Hogwood Fellow will include performances with the orchestra as well as interviews, talks, articles and programme notes. This will continue the Academy of Ancient Music's tradition of ensuring the performances are grounded in scholarship and cultural context.

Robert Levin will next perform with the Academy of Ancient Music at the Barbican Centre's Sound Unbound weekend, 29-30 April 2017. The Academy of Ancient Music directed by Frank de Bruine (oboe) and Bojan Cicic (violin) is performing its programme Bach and the Italian Concerto, concertos by Bach, Vivaldi, Albinoni and Marcello, at the Barbican's Milton Court Concert Hall (15 Feb), the Assembly Room, Bath (16 Feb), Civic Theatre, Chelmsford (18 Feb), the Apex, Bury St Edmunds (23 Feb), the Sheldonian, Oxford (24 Feb).

Monday, 13 February 2017

Looking Ahead: Aurora Orchestra in 2017

The Aurora Orchestra and Nicholas Collon at the Proms
The Aurora Orchestra and Nicholas Collon at the Proms
During 2017 the Aurora Orchestra and conductor Nicholas Collon continue their two London concert series. At the Southbank Centre, where the group is an Associate Orchestra, the Orchestral Theatre concerts deliberately challenge the accepted concert formats and genres. Whilst at Kings Place the group is working its way through the complete cycle of Mozart piano concertos. Outside of London they have a variety of events including performing Britten's Albert Herring at the Grange Festival under conductor Steuart Bedford.

Having recently explored Metamorphosen with Edmund de Waal, Anthony Marwood and Sara Mohr-Pietsch, the Aurora Orchestra's Orchestra Theatre series at the Southbank Centre continues on 3 June 2017 when at St John's Smith Square (the Southbank Centre's Queen Elizabeth Hall in exile), the orchestra will continue its exploration of Brahms symphonies from memory, with Symphony No. 1, paired with Richard Ayres' No. 42: In the Alps. The concert is repeated on 4 June at Symphony Hall, Birmingham. Further ahead in September Brett Dean's Pastoral Symphony is paired with Messiaen's Oiseaux Exotiques and Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony from memory.

At Kings Place the Mozart piano concerto series will be featuring pianists Imogen Cooper, Shai Wosner, John Reid, Katia & Marielle Labeque and Tom Poster. There will also be free pre-concert events, the first being Imogen Cooper in conversation with Alfred Brendel. And the late night series, The Lock-In continues its informal format.

As well as collaborating with the Grange Festival on Britten's Albert Herring which is conducted by Steuart Bedford and directed by John Copley with Yvonne Howard as Lady Billows, the orchestra will be joining with Tenebrae, conductor Nigel Short for performances of Faure's Requiem at St John's Smith Square (part of the Holy Week Festival) and at St George's Bristol.

Further information from the Aurora Orchestra website.

Ben Gernon in Manchester, Scotland and Salzburg

Ben Gernon and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Ben Gernon and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
The young British conductor Ben Gernon (aged 27) was recently announced as becoming the principal guest conductor of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. Gernon has appeared twice at the BBC Proms, and in 2013 won the Nestle and Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award, also becoming Dudamel Fellow with the LA Philharmonic. 

Gernon started his musical life as a tuba player in his local brass band conducted by his father. He went on to study tuba and conducting at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Patrick Harrild and Sian Edwards respectively, and also cites Sir Colin Davis as a profoundly important figure in his musical development. He already has a couple of discs under his belt, so we look at those to see what his tenure at the BBC Philharmonic might herald.

Gernon will formally take up his position with the BBC Philharmonic in Autumn 2017, but has already built up an admirable relationship with the orchestra. He recently conducted a programme which included Walton's Viola Concerto and Malcolm Arnold's Electra with music by John Foulds and Frank Bridge, a programme which paired Debussy's La Mer with Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 1 with Saint-Saens Piano Concerto No. 2 with Benjamin Grosvenor, as well as Beethoven's Eroica Symphony. Not a bad mix! (and there is still a chance to catch him in action on BBC iPlayer)

Ben Gernon - Prokoviev Symphony no. 5 - Salzburg Festival
In 2013, Gernon won the Nestle and Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award, and the recording of Gernon's performance of Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5 with the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester has been issued as a CD by the Salzburg Festival. Prokofiev's symphony, written during the Second World War and his first since returning to Soviet Russia, is a complex and often dark piece, very far from the sort of Soviet realism expected of composers. Gernon makes the Andante first movement sober and thoughtful, there are moments of high drama but overall a feeling of steady exploration. Whilst there are some fine details from the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester, it is Gernon's overall control of the large scale paragraphs which impresses. The Allegro marcato evokes the composer ballet Romeo and Juliet (not surprisingly as it uses discarded material), but though the players make it perky they bring an edge to it though not as satirical as a Shostakovich scherzo. Rhythms are crisp and tight, with great sense of movement and a suave trio. The Adagio is a combination of lyric beauty and neoclassical elegance, developing an interesting degree of complexity with a serious undertow. Gernon makes the Allegro giocoso finale quite a sober and thoughtful ending to the symphony, certainly not as mad-cap as David Nice's programme note implies, but there is a wonderful control of texture. You can still pick up the disc from Amazon.

In 2014, Gernon made his Proms debut with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in a concert celebrating the 80th birthday of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, and Gernon's 2016 recording with the orchestra on Linn records showcases some of Davies most attractive works, the concert overture Ebb of Winter, Last door of light, Farewell to Stromness and An Orkney Wedding with sunrise, plus guitarist Sean Shibe playing the solo guitar piece Hill Runes (available from Amazon).

Queer Talk: homosexuality in Britten's Britten

Queer Talk exhibition detail ©Britten-Pears Foundation
Queer Talk exhibition detail ©Britten-Pears Foundation
The composer Benjamin Britten and his partner Peter Pears were not known either for their openness about their sexuality or any sort of activism. In modern parlance they certainly were not out. But yet people knew. When Britten died in 1976 (nine years after the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales) he was determined that his biographer should tell the whole truth about his relationship with Pears, and Pears bravely spoke openly about their relationship on Tony Palmer's film A Time There Was

Queer Talk exhibition, detail of timeline  ©Britten-Pears Foundation
Queer Talk exhibition, detail of timeline
©Britten-Pears Foundation
Whilst Britten and Pears might have been discreet, a distinct thread of homosexuality runs through Britten's work, and the composer did a sort of balancing act as he sought to reflect this and acknowledge his relationship to Pears whilst never being too overt. 

This is the background to the exhibition Queer Talk: homosexuality in Britten's Britten which is in The Red House, Britten and Pears' home in Aldeburgh now owned by the Britten-Pears Foundation. In an exhibition space formed from Britten's former swimming pool curator Dr Lucy Walker, director of public programming and learning at the Britten-Pears Foundation, has assembled a small but telling exhibition which relates Britten's experience and works to the attitudes of the outside world.

Key to the exhibition is the juxtaposition of the public and private. All along one wall runs a lively timeline which places events in Britten's and Pears' life against the wider political and social homosexual context, include a line of flags indicating when countries legalised homosexuality. On the opposite wall there is another display, culled from the recent book of Britten and Pears' correspondence (some 350 or so letters). These are more intimate expressions of regard, love and affection, the sort of private slang phrases which any could develops. In a way this is to shine a light on something which they kept very private, and the organisers are aware that there are still people alive in Aldeburgh who knew the couple. But in historical terms Britten and Pears are moving from private people to historical figures, and Dr Walker feels that it is important for people to know Britten and Pears fully.

Two of Britten's works are featured in detail, Canticle 1 and the opera Billy Budd and there is a video which includes excerpts from them, as well as the out gay tenor John Mark Ainsley talking about the canticle, the role of Captain Vere in Billy Budd and Britten's Nocturne.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Introducing Mezzo Violin

Mezzo Violin
Mezzo Violin is an on-line music shop offering string instruments and a wide range of accessories. The store was founded by a group of players whose experience playing professionally and tutoring had made them want to find a store which would give impartial advice on purchasing an instrument without prioritising commercial interests. So with 30 years performing and teaching experience they have established the showroom to offer advice, consultation and on then, dealership services.

The website offers everything from violins, violas, cellos and double basses through bows and cases to a wide range of accessories. Violins range from a Heritage ‘II Cannone’ made in Beijing but inspired by the ‘II Cannone’ by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu, 1742, to a highly affordable Stentor Student Standard Violin Outfit. 

They offer a repair service, with the possibility of contacting them on-line with images of the problem and getting an expert opinion from them. There is also a Blog with informative articles about playing and choosing an instrument.
Sponsored post

New Teeth4 - Bastard Assignments

Josh Spears and Timothy Cape in Timothy Cape's 'Wildflower'
Josh Spears and Timothy Cape in
Timothy Cape's Wildflower
New Teeth 4; Bastard Assignments; Hackney Showrooms
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Feb 10 2017
Star rating: 4.0

From the bizarre to the wonderful, another one of Bastard Assignments evenings of cross-arts performance

The composers collective Bastard Assignments has been presenting a season of cross-arts performances across London under the intriguing title New Teeth. On Friday 10 February 2017 I caught up the final event, New Teeth 4, in the theatre at Hackney Showroom. The group's regular line-up of composers Timothy Cape, Edward Henderson, Caitlin Rowley and Josh Spear (who performed their own work as well as performing that of others), were joined by guests Ludwig Abraham, Andy Ingamells and Sharon Gal, cellist Sarah James and Impermanence Dance Theatre (Eleanor Perry, Danny Hay Gordon, Patricia Langa and Ale Marzotto Levi).

There were eight pieces, Ludwig Abraham's Tykes, Timothy Cape's Wildflower, Caitlin Rowley's Paper, Josh Spear's Extended Play, a set by Sharon Gal, Andy Ingamells and Maya Verlaak's Tape Piece and Andy Ingamells' Solo and He that plays the English Gentleman shall be welcome, with the evening concluding with a set by Impermanence Dance Theatre. Apart from the dance at the end, all the pieces involved an element of performance and many evinced a fascination with using non-traditional objects as sound sources.

Edward Henderson & Andy Ingamells in Andy Ingamells & Maya Verlaak's Tape Piece
Edward Henderson & Andy Ingamells
in Andy Ingamells & Maya Verlaak's Tape Piece
We opened with Ludwig Abraham's Tykes (performed by Ludwig Abraham), which began with a series of instructions to the audience before Abraham's started to receive instructions himself from a disembodied voice, mainly about learning hip-hop. It was an intriguing piece which finished as suddenly as it started.

Timothy Cape's Wildflower (performed by Timothy Cape, Caitlin Rowley and Josh Spear) continued his fascination with orchestrating sounds of natural objects, which we have experienced to memorable effect in previous Bastard Assignments events. Wildflower started with two film sequences, first a random selection of object (glass and plastic bottles, empty containers etc) which were made to resonate by a steady stream of water from a hose-pipe, this was followed by a wind-chime arranged from random objects at the sea side with the clinking sounds backed by the rush of the sea. The final sequence was Timothy Cape, Caitlin Rowley and Josh Spear re-creating the sounds from the final sequence (thankfully we did not have the danger of getting wet in a recreation of the first film sequence), so there were clinking bottles, cans and others backed by white noise from the radio hiss. The results were surprisingly evocative, subtle and complex, with a remarkable range of timbres.

This fascination with the timbre of natural objects continued with Caitlin Rowley's piece Paper, but with a difference. In the past I have heard Rowley working live with paper and card to produce a range of subtle complex sounds. For Paper we saw her working with paper, card and a variety of objects, but the sounds were all produced by cellist Sarah James, combining pitched and unpitched sounds, and a variety of extended techniques. There were some magical moments, but some unsupportable ones too, particularly the unbearable sound levels when the film showed paper being cut.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

In case you missed it: January on Planet Hugill - Ligeti, Menotti and George Benjamin

Ligeti's Le grand Macabre with Simon Rattle, London Symphony Orchestra and ensemble at the Barbican Hall, photo John Phillips/Getty Images
Welcome to January on Planet Hugill, a month when we were named as as one of Feedspot Blog Reader's Top 25 Opera Blogs & Websites on the Web.
It was month which also included three remarkably different 20th and 21st century operas, Menotti's The Medium, Ligeti's Le grand Macabre and George Benjamin's Written on Skin.
Concentrated intensity: George Benjamin and Martin Crimp's Written on Skin revived at Covent Garden
Black morality tale: Ligeti's Le grand Macabre from Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican
Dark doings: Menotti's The Medium from Magnetic Opera, Menotti's grand-guignol opera in a performance from a strong young cast in a basement theatre

Wigmore Hall

Uneven partnership: Maria Katzarava & Stefano La Colla at Rosenblatt Recitals
1767 - a retrospective: eleven-year old Mozart in context from Classical Opera
Muhly, Argento and Schumann from Alice Coote and Julius Drake, three powerful cycles, exploring creativity and mental health
Twentieth century Romantic English song at the centre of this engaging recital from counter-tenor Tim Mead and pianist James Baillieu

Various Venues

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