Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Passio - from Tallis & Purcell to Kevin Hartnett via Bach

Passio - Zurich Chamber Singers - ARS Produktion
Passio - Tallis, Purcell, Kevin Hartnett, Bach; The Zurich CHamber Singers, Christian Erny; Ars Produktion
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 19 April 2018 Star rating: 3.0 (★★★)
A young Swiss choir in a programme which moves from the English baroque through Bach to the contemporary

This disc from the Zurich Chamber Singers, conductor Christian Erny, on Ars Produktion is an intriguing journey through passion and mourning from Tallis and Purcell, through Bach to the contemporary in the shape of Kevin Hartnett. The centrepieces of the programme are Henry Purcell's Funeral Sentences and Bach's Jesu meine Freude, alongside Hartnett's De profundis from 2016, bookended by a pair of Tallis motets, Salvator mundi and If ye love me.

The choir was founded in 2015 by Christian Erny and musicologist Emanuel Signer, and is made up of 18 young singers from the Zurich area. They make a lovely clear bright sound, with a soprano line which has a focused tonal quality approaching boys voices. Technically, this is a very beautiful disc indeed.

Their opening item, Tallis' Salvator mundi is beautifully poised, with a lovely clarity of line. But the weakness of this approach is apparent in the three Purcell Funeral Sentences. Here the choir's sense of line and clear tone cannot disguise the lack of projection on the words. If you concentrate, you can hear that their English is entirely creditable but the words just do not come over and in this style of music that is essential.

Ben Gaunt premier celebrates Outcry Ensemble 2nd year as Temple Music Associate Orchestra

Ben Gaunt
Ben Gaunt
The Outcry Ensemble is marking its second year as Associate Orchestra of the Temple Music Foundation with a concert on 26 April 2018 in Temple Church. Conducted by James Henshaw the ensemble will premiere a new piece for two trumpets and strings by Ben Gaunt, alongside music for strings by Mozart, Britten and Tchaikovsky.

Ben Gaunt studied at the Royal Northern College of Music with Adam Gorb and Paul Patterson and has recently completed a PhD in Composition at The University of Sheffield studying with Dorothy Ker and George Nicholson, where he won the ‘A Boy Was Born’ Britten Festival Composition Competition. He has received additional private lessons with David Horne and Michael Finnissy and been mentored by Harrison Birtwistle, Alwynne Pritchard and Ian Gardiner. He is currently a senior lecturer at Leeds College of Music.

Full details from the Temple Music website.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Out of the parlour and into the recital room - Hubert Parry's English lyrics

Parry - English Lyrics - SOMM
Hubert Parry English Lyrics; Sarah Fox, James Gilchrist, Roderick Williams, Andrew West; SOMM
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 18 April 2018 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
Second volume of this enterprising and illuminating survey of Parry's English songs

This is the second volume in SOMM's planned three CD series recording all of Hubert Parry's English Lyrics (12 sets of them). On this disc soprano Sarah Fox, tenor James Gilchrist, baritone Roderick Williams and pianist Andrew West present us with 23 songs setting a wide variety of English (and Welsh) poets.

Parry's English songs were written with a purpose, the catch-all title of English Lyrics was deliberate, providing an emphasis on English as sung language, and the songs as sung poetry rather than simple parlour ballads. They were written not for consumption in the parlour or salon, but for professional performance in the burgeoning number of song-recitals which developed in the late 19th century (rather than the more typical mixed format which had song popping up amongst orchestral items). It is no co-incidence that Parry's son-in-law was the baritone Harry Plunket Greene who sang many of Parry's songs in recital. Plunket Greene's devotion to the song recital and English song was deliberate, in 1905 he would feature songs from RVW's Songs of Travel and helped to establish RVW's early songs in the repertoire.

Parry's English Lyrics (written from 1874 until his death, the two final sets were posthumous) are important for the example they set to younger composers like RVW. It was Parry's example which allowed the 20th century flowering of English song and it is somehow strange that Parry's own songs have rather languished. If you enjoy Roger Quilter's settings of classic English poetry then there is no reason to ignore Parry's songs.

This disc explores widely, selecting songs from sets 3,4,5,6,8,9,11,12. Whilst the selection dips about, it does give us a sequence of seven Mary Coleridge (1861-1907) settings from set nine (written in her memory in 1909), all sung by Sarah Fox they make a fine cycle to conclude the disc which moves from the evocations of fairy-land and witches, through the more disturbing magic of Armida's garden to 'There in that other world, what waits for me?'

Elsewhere on the disc the selection is more various, and encompasses a range of poets from Welshmen like Richard Davies/Mynyddog and John Ceiriog Hughes, anonymous early lyrics,  to classic 19th century names such as Walter Scott, George Meredith, Keats, Shelley, Byron, Thomas Lovell Beddoes. There are lesser known names too, Allan Cunningham (1784-1842) and Arthur Gray Butler (1831-1909).

Club Inégales

Club Inégales - Song of Songs
Club Inégales's Spring/Summer season places its focus firmly on the voice. Peter Wiegold and his band, Notes Inégales, will be joined by a number of vocalists. Jazz singer Alice Zawadzki will be joining them for the first concert, on 26 April 2018. The ensemble first performed with Alice at their London Jazz Festival marathons last November, and she will be featuring in three concerts in the season, returning to perform with Rob Luft (guitar) and with Chris Sharkey (guitar), both of whom played with the ensemble in November. 

Also in the season will be singer Merit Ariane Stephanos and qanun-player Nilufar Habibian, performing Aramaic chant and Sephardic songs, as well original material, as well as Jenni Roditi's The Improvisers’ Choir (TIC) which recently won the Nonclassical Battle of the Bands.

Full details from the Club Inégales website.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Anniversaries, commissions and 2018/19 season at Czech Philharmonic Orchestra

Semyon Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Semyon Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
In a year full of significant anniversaries, 3 October 2018 sees the centenary of Czechoslovak independence and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, chief conductor Semyon Bychkov, will be marking the event with an all-Czech programme including works by Smetana, Martinů and Dvořák in Prague, followed by repeat concerts in London (October 24), New York (October 27), and Washington (October 29). The orchestra's 2018/19 programme proper opens on 10 October 2018 when Bychkov conducts Mahler's Resurrection Symphony

Bychkov will also conduct the first performance in the Czech Republic for 20 years of Luciano Berio's Sinfonia for 8 Voices and Orchestra, and the Czech première of Detlev Glanert's Weites Land, both composers with whom Bychkov has enjoyed a long and close association.

For future seasons the orchestra has commissioned new works from 14 composers including Detlev Glanert (Germany); Thomas Larcher (Austria); Bryce Dessner (US); Julian Anderson (UK); and Thierry Escaich (France); and nine Czech composers Jiří Teml; Jiří Gemrot; Pavel Zemek Novák; Martin Smolka; Adam Skoumal; Miloš Orsoň Stědroň; Miroslav Srnka; Petr Wajsar; and Slavomír Hořínka.

Bychkov's Tchaikovsky Project with the orchestra will culminate in with residencies in Prague, Vienna and Paris and the release by Decca of all Tchaikovsky’s symphonies, the three piano concertos, Romeo & Juliet, Serenade for Strings and Francesca da Rimini. Completing Decca's Dvořák cycle initiated by Jiří Bělohlávek, Principal Guest conductor Jakub Hrůša will conduct performances of Dvořák's Te Deum, Piano Concerto in G minor with Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Carnival.

Full details from the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra's website.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Beethoven unbound and Schubert cycles, I chat to Welsh pianist Llŷr Williams

Llŷr Williams in recital in Moscow (Photo Nikolay Nersesov)
Llŷr Williams in recital in Moscow (Photo Nikolay Nersesov)
The Welsh pianist Llŷr Williams' latest recording, Beethoven Unbound, has just been issued on the Signum Classics label. The set is the culmination of his cycle of Beethoven piano sonatas performed at the Wigmore Hall and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and features his recordings of the complete Beethoven piano sonatas plus other works for solo piano recorded live at the Wigmore Hall in a handsome boxed set with an introduction from Llŷr Williams, and extensive notes from Misha Donat. I recently met up with Llŷr to find out more about the background.

Llŷr Williams at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama (Photo Kieran Ridley)
Llŷr Williams at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama
(Photo Kieran Ridley)
The fact the recordings were made live is deliberate. Llŷr explained that John Gilhooly asked him to do a Beethoven cycle, performing all the piano sonatas across nine concerts at the Wigmore Hall (from October 2014 to May 2017), repeated at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. In fact, the concerts would require more than the 32 sonatas, which is how Llŷr came to include the variations and the bagatelles. Llŷr knew the record producer Judith Sherman, with whom he had worked before, and it was she who suggested recording the concerts live and releasing them as digital downloads. Llŷr then ruefully comments that as not enough people were finding the digital downloads, they decided to release the entire set of recordings in a box!

The set includes all the piano sonatas and what Llŷr describes everything by Beethoven of a high enough standard. The Diabelli Variations Opus 120 had to be included, and he also recorded two of the three sets of Bagatelles (Opus 33 and Opus 126), the Eroica Variations Opus 35, the 32 Variations in C minor, as well as the Andante Favori which originally belonged to the opus 53 sonata, and is included on the same disc as the sonata so that listeners can make their own version of the piece, as Llŷr thinks Beethoven intended.

Rather than being performed and recorded in historical date order, Llŷr assembled them into programmes mixing the well-known and the less well known. He points out that having a couple of named sonatas in a concert helps to bring in the audience so that in the first concert he included the first three sonatas and the Appassionata, and in the second he included the Moonlight. He has done a number of Beethoven sonata cycles, including in Perth in 2010 and in Edinburgh in 2012, and sometimes has performed the pieces in chronological order and sometimes taken a mix and match approach.

Such cycles work, Llŷr feels, because they create a journey for both the performer and the audience; complete cycles of the sonatas work because Beethoven provides so much variety, he never seems to repeat himself so there is lots of variety for the audience to listen to.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Bernstein, Debussy, Parry, Smyth, Bridge, Boulanger, Owen - BBC Proms 2018

The programme for the BBC Proms was announced yesterday (19 April 2018) and was launched by the BBC with a celebration at the Imperial War Museum (linking to one of the themes of the season, the centenary of the end of World War One), with live music including the BBC Singer, conductor ,singing Hubert Parry's My soul there is a country, from Songs of Farewell (linking to another theme, the centenary of Parry's death) and two BBC Young Musicians, both cellists, Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Laura van der Heijden, playing a tango.

Whilst David Pickard, director of the BBC Proms, has said in the past that he dislikes concentrating on centenaries, this year includes a number that cannot be avoided and which offer the possibility of a more diverse approach. So for the centenary of Hubert Parry's death, the programme covers not only Parry's Symphony No. 5 and Blest pair of sirens but includes music by Parry's pupils at the Royal College of Music such as Vaughan Williams, Holst, and Bridge. And these composers link into the World War One theme, as RVW's Dona nobis pacem and Pastoral Symphony, and Holst's Ode to death arise directly out of the political situations of the time. 

There are modern comments on the war too, the First Night includes a new commission from Anna Meredith which is being created with 59 Productions to provide an aural and visual event. Then the Last Night will open with another commission from Roxanna Panufnik, also reflecting on the war. In between, at a concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of the London Sinfonietta, George Benjamin conducts the ensemble at the Roundhouse in a programme which includes Messiaen's Et exspectoreurrectionem mortuorum, his tribute to the dead of both world wars, plus four world premeires from composers from countries involved in the conflict, Luca Francesconi, Georg Friedrich Haas, Hannah Kendall and Isabel Mundry.

The number of women composers commissioned this year is high, and the Proms at the Cadogan Hall includes a series of commissions to female composers who have not be commissionned by the Proms before, Caroline Shaw, Eve Risser, Jessica Wells, Lisa Illean, Suzanne Farrin, Laura Mvula, Bushra El-Turk and Nina Senk.

Other women composers feature in the Proms too, including Ethel Smyth whose prelude to Act Two of The Wreckers, On the Cliffs of Cornwall is performed, Morfydd Owen whose centenary is celebrated and Thea Musgrave, whose 90th birthday is also celebrated. Another woman whose work comes in from extensive celebration is the French composer Lili Boulanger (who died in 1918) and four of whose works are being performed including the large-scale setting of Psalm 130, Du fond de l'abime. 

Boulanger is one of a number of French composers featured as part of a celebration of Debussy (an the centenary of his death) and his role in shaping 20th century French music. Of course there is Pelleas et Melisande (from Glyndebourne) but other works too including La demoiselle elue and Jeux.

Another big name during the season is that of Leonard Bernstein, with a variety of events aiming to cover a multiplicity of his talents from the symphonies (conducted by Marin Alsop) and the Serenade to West Side Story (with John Wilson and his orchestra) and On the Town (with John Wilson conducting the London Symphony Orchestra on Bernstein's birthday). Bernstein's own Proms appearance conducting Mahler's Symphony No. 5 and Mozart's Clarinet Concerto will be evoked with that programme conducted by Thomas Dausgaard (himself a pupil of Bernstein's). Bernstein's role as a communicator will be evoked when Gerard McBurney, Joshua Weilerstein and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra will present The Sound of an Orchestra.

Out of the general themes, there are other good things such as Jonathan Cohen and Arcangelo performing Handel's Theodora, Teodor Currentzis and MusicAeterna in Beethoven symphonies, Anna Prohaska, Il Giardino Armonico and Giovanni Antonini in Graupner, Sartorio, Locke, Handel and Hasse, Sally Matthews, the BBC Philharmonic and Juanjo Mena in scenes from Barber's Anthony and Cleopatra and Britten's Les Illuminations.

Visiting orchestras include the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, the Estonia Festival Orchestra, EU Youth Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Orchestra of the Academy of Santa Cecilia, Rome, Swedish Chamber Orchestra and the West-Eastern Divan orchestra. For the Relaxed Prom on Bank Holiday Monday, Sian Edwards and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) will be joined by James Rose and BSO Resound, the BSO's disabled-led ensemble.

Of course, not everything is perfect and it is only too easy to find gaps in the season. You cannot help feeling that the World War One centenary could have been more imaginative, why not John Fould's A World Requiem, or perhaps music from Germany and Italy from the same period, works like Pizzetti's Requiem which seem to partake of the troubled post-war atmosphere. And with the centenary of Women's Suffrage, you can't help wish that Ethel Smyth (who was herself involved with the suffrage movement) was better treated. Granted the BBC is doing her mass in November, but surely we could have had something more substantial than an overture, fine though it is. And why so few other women composers of the period such as Rebecca Clarke.

Full details from the BBC Proms website.

What an unalloyed joy! And if all this isn’t advert enough for some sensible funding I don’t know what is.

Christopher Purves, singers from the Guildhall School, London Schools Symphony Orchestra, Dominic Wheeler
Christopher Purves, singers from the Guildhall School, London Schools Symphony Orchestra, Dominic Wheeler
Stravinsky Pulcinella, Puccini Gianni Schicchi; Christopher Purves, singers from Guildhall School, London Schools Symphony Orchestra, Dominic Wheeler; Barbican Hall
Reviewed by Anthony Evans on 18 April 2018 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
A programme inspired by commedia dell’arte & performances which fizzed

Whilst the huge benefits of musical education, to me at any rate, seem self-evident, it’s not uncommon these days to see headlines "Music 'could face extinction' in secondary schools". Andrew Lloyd Webber has described the decline in provision as a "national scandal" and Louise Mitchell CEO of Bristol Music Trust warned recently that "by dismissing the value of the arts in schools we risk stunting the creative capacities of the next generation".

Thankfully the work of the London Schools Symphony Orchestra (LSSO) continues to provide opportunities for young people to develop their skills. Founded in 1951, the LSSO draws its musicians from students in London schools, who work with some of the world’s most distinguished musicians.

Sitting in the Barbican Hall this Wednesday (18 April 2018) surrounded by some incredibly well-behaved school children and some less well-behaved parents there was at least some consolation to be had amongst all the doom-mongering. In a concert drawing inspiration from commedia dell’arte, Stravinsky’s neo-classical mashup the ballet Pulcinella rubbed shoulders with Puccini’s one-act comic opera Gianni Schicchi. Dominic Wheeler conducted the London Schools Symphony Orchestra and they were joined by baritone Christopher Purves and singers from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Based on an 18th-century libretto ‘Quartre Polichinelles semblables’ Pulcinella’s music was believed originally to have been composed by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi but that attribution has now been revised. Stravinsky re-wrote some of the harmonies and rhythms in his “own accent” and it was bold to have chosen such a challenging and novel work.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

From headphone opera to mechanically-induced synaesthesia, not forgetting the snails

The Sonica Festival returns to Kings Place on 20 & 21 April 2018, with weekend of the best international audiovisual work, intimate installations and multi-sensory performances from Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Ireland alongside emerging talent from across the UK.

Amongst the highlights is NYXedelica, a headphone opera (!) from Belgian mezzo-soprano Els Mondelaers and Dutch composer Dyane Donck (both making their London-debut) in which we are promised a unique performance where modern classical composition meets psychedelic pop. The audience will don state-of-the-art binaural headphones to experience a unique 3D soundscape that is both intimate and immersive. Australia’s top AV artist Robin Fox will present a concerto for a laser beam in his brand new audio-visual piece Single Origin, the the third of his works for laser and sound, which explore the possibilities of mechanically-induced synaesthesia.

More intriguingly, 176 live snails will travel to King’s Cross to take centre stage in the UK premiere of Slow Pixel. French visual artist Elizabeth Saint-Jalmes and lighting designer Cyril Leclerc conduct an immersive sensorial experiment as they harness each snail with a small diode and speaker. Slow Pixel highlights Kings Place’s year-long theme of ‘time’ and invites the audience to slow down to a snail’s pace as the creatures draw their unique individual trajectories.

The festival, which first appeared at Kings Place in 2016, is an offshoot of the biennial festival in Glasgow celebrating sonic art for the visually minded. Sonica is the brainchild of Cryptic, the Glasgow-based producing arts house, and the 2018 festival marks Cryptic becoming an Artistic Associate of Kings Place.

Full details from Kings Place website.

Songs of Vain Glory: Sophie Bevan & Sebastian Wybrew

Sophie Bevan - Songs of Vain Glory - Wigmore Hall
Songs of Vain Glory; Sophie Bevan, Sebastian Wybrew; Wigmore Hall Live
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 16 April 2018 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
A sidelong glance at the First World War through songs written in the first half of the 20th century

The dictionary defines 'Vain glory' as excessive vanity or unwarranted pride in one's accomplishments. Soprano Sophie Bevan and pianist Sebastian Wybrew have used the title Songs of Vain glory for their thoughtful programme of songs exploring the First World War on the Wigmore Hal Live label. Whilst some of the songs on the disc were written during the war, and many were written by composers who experienced it, the programme uses other composers from the 20th century, notably Benjamin Britten to create a programme which has a sense of narrative. Whilst there is a song by Haydn, this is very much a selection of 20th century songs with music by Gerald Finzi, Benjamin Britten, Arthur Somervell, Frank Bridge, Charles Ives, Charles Villiers Stanford, Haydn Wood, Robert Weston & Bert Lee, Nat D. Ayer, Ivor Novello, Edward Elgar, Ivor Gurney, John Ireland, Liza Lehman, Peter Warlock and Gustav Holst.

It is an imaginative idea, we start with a gloomy and thoughtful prelude, Gerald Finzi's Thomas Hardy setting, At a lunar eclipse. Then comes a section called A call to arms with songs by Somervell, Bridge, Ives and a Britten arrangement. The Home Front provides a thoughtful glance at life back home, with Gurney, Haydn Wood and another Britten arrangements. A Popular Medley is just that, with two First World War songs and Novello's We'll gather lilacs. A Sea includes Haydn, a later Elgar song (from 1917), Gurney and Britten's arrangement of Dibdin's Tom Bowling.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

William Billings to contemporary Icelandic & Finnish music: Skylark's Seven Words on the Cross

Skylark - Seven words from the cross - Sono Luminus
William Billings, Frederick Buckley, Hildegard of Bingen, John Sheppard, Francis Poulenc, Hugo Distler, Jaakko Mäntyjärvi, Anna Thorvaldsdottir
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 16 April 2018 Star rating: 3.0 (★★★)
An unusual thematic programme bringing together an eclectic programme, finely sung

Skylark, artistic director Matthew Guard, is an American vocal ensemble and on this new disc from Sono Luminus, Seven words from the Cross, they present an eclectic programme themed around Christ's seven words from the cross. The music on the disc ranges widely, from African-American spirituals, William Billings, Frederick Buckley and traditional hymns, to Hildegard of Bingen, John Sheppard, Hugo Distler, Francis Poulenc, Anna Thorvaldsdottir (Anna Sigríður Þorvaldsdóttir) and Jaakko Mäntyjärvi.

The programme is in nine sections, arranged around the seven words (in fact phrases) with a prologue and epilogue, with each section having a selection of pieces around the theme. The selection is quite eclectic so that for Behold your son: behold your mother we have Charity abounds toward all by Hildegard of Bingen, Break it Gently to my Mother by Frederick Buckley (1833-1864) and David's Lamentation by William Billings (1746-1800).

The 18th century American composer William Billings is a notable presence on the disc with four pieces, When Jesus Wept, There is land of pure delight (Jordan), David's Lamentation and In deep distress I oft have cried (Plympton) along with Jaakko Mäntyjärvi's Death may dissolve (fantasia on a hymn by William Billings), and Billings' wonderfully idiosyncratic and robustly characterful music colours the programme, particularly when combined with the use of two traditional hymns Amazing Grace (New Britain) and Wondrous Love, and Frederick Buckley's 19th century ballad give the programme a very particular and rather distinctively American feel.

Freshly written works & radical takes on music-making: Occupy the Pianos

Occupy the Pianos returns to St John's Smith Square from 20 to 22 April 2018, when pianist/composer Rolf Hind's festival will be presenting freshly-written works and radical takes on music and concert-giving, with new and radical piano music at its core. There will be more than a dozen new works over the weekend, placing the focus on future directions for the piano; as well as having a Call for Scores, the weekend begins with a workshop on writing for the piano, with further pieces dropped into the weekend as surprises.

Reflecting both the proximity of the Houses of Parliament, site of protest and agitation, and the sense of spirituality arising from St John's itself (still a consecrated church), two themes run through the weekend, Protest and The Journey Within.

Protest takes many forms, from the feminist angle in Maxwell Davies to the words of prisoners in Rzewski, from a plea for compassion to animals to a radical rethinking of music making from a queer angle.

Whilst The Journey Within affects not only the pieces played but the manner of performance so that Sunday's concerts will gradually dissolve into audience participation with everyone ending up downstairs in the cafe together, by way of a concert conducted as a led meditation with Eliza McCarthy.

Full details from the St John's Smith Square website.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Missa Tulerunt Dominum Meum

Siglo De Oro - Praetorius: Missa Tulerunt Dominum Meum - Delphian
Hieronymous Praetorius Missa Tulerunt Dominum meum, Lassus, Handl, Hassler, Gabrieli; Siglo De Oro, Patrick Allies; Delphian
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 11 April 2018 Star rating: 5.0 (★★★)
The richly textured music by Hieronymous Praetorius at the centre of an imaginative programme from this young vocal group

In 1729 Bach bought a new set of music books for the choir of his church in Leipzig, Erhard Bodenschatz's Florilegium Portense of 1618 probably to replace the church's existing, and presumably dilapidated, copies. This practical and popular volume was the choir's main supply of music. And it is the diverse group of composers from this publication which forms the basis for Patrick Allies and Siglo De Oro's latest disc on Delphian. So we have motets by Orlandus Lassus, Jacob Handl, Andrea Gabrieli, and Hans Leo Hassler, plus a mass and motet by Hieronymus Praetorius.

Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen at Oper Leipzig

Wagner: The Ring - Opera Leipzig (photo Tom_Schulze)
Wagner: The Ring - Siegfried - Oper Leipzig (photo Tom_Schulze)
Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen; Rúni Brattaberg, Robert Dean Smith, Christian Franz, Kathrin Göring, Claudia Huckle, Gal James, Dan Karlström, Danae Kontor, Christine Liber, Jürgen Linn, Karin Lovelius, Monica Mascus, Meagan Miller, Thomas Mohr, Iain Paterson, Tuomas Pursio, dir: Rosamund Gilmore, cond: Ulf Schirmer; Oper Leipzig, Leipzig
Reviewed by Tony Cooper on April 2018 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
The Ring returns to Wagner’s birthplace

Our correspondent Tony Cooper experiences Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen in Wagner's birthplace at Oper Leipzig in April 2018, directed by Rosamund Gilmore, conducted by Ulf Schirmer with Iain Paterson, Christiane Libor, Christian Franz, Thomas Mohr, Robert Dean Smith, Meagan Miller and Jürgen Linn.

Wagner: The Ring - Gotterdammerung - Thomas Mohr, Christiane Libor - Oper Leipzig (photo Tom_Schulze)
Gotterdammerung - Thomas Mohr, Christiane Libor
Oper Leipzig (photo Tom_Schulze)   
Leipzig is rich in musical history inasmuch as Richard Wagner was born here, Felix Bartholdy Mendelssohn died here and Johann Sebastian Bach lived and worked here - from 1723 until his death in 1750 he was Kapellmeister at the Thomaskirche. Robert Schumann also resided in Leipzig and Georg Philipp Telemann worked here, too, while George Frideric Handel was born just up the road in Halle. And that’s just for starters!

History has pointed out, too, that Wagner had a difficult start in his home town but, likewise, history has also shown that Leipzig and Wagner are bound together in a common union. For one thing, the first complete performance of The Ring outside of Bayreuth took place here in 1878.

So the return of The Ring to Leipzig for the first time in over forty years - one of the prime initiatives of Ulf Schirmer on his appointment as musical director of Oper Leipzig in the 2009/10 season - has to be wildly applauded.

Like Frank Castorf’s Bayreuth Ring [see Tony's review], Oper Leipzig’s production, conceived by the English-born director/choreographer, Rosamund Gilmore, was mounted in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Wagner’s birth in 2013 starting, of course, with the première of Das Rheingold and building up to the first complete cycle in June 2016. No plans were on hand to revive it but the production is, gladly, still in the repertoire.

Not surprisingly, Ms Gilmore - who worked at Stuttgart with the former (and well-respected) Royal Ballet choreographer, John Cranko - incorporated an element of dance in her production and to this end a troupe of 14 dancers complemented the overall stage action. And symbolism was an important factor too, in the production. For instance, a pair of rams represented Fricka and for Wotan, ravens, the latter, of course, a significant feature in Germanic-Norse mythology upon which the Ring is loosely based upon. And on the death of Siegfried in Götterdämmerung, a pair of ravens hovered directly above him.

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire's opening festival

Julian Lloyd Webber at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
Julian Lloyd Webber at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
In celebration of the opening of its new buildings, the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire is presenting an opening festival, fifteen months of concerts and events.

Peter Donohoe is giving a series of all-Mozart concerts featuring the piano sonatas. Lenny Henry, Chancellor of Birmingham City University, narrates Prokofiev’Peter and the Woolf with the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Pops Orchestra, in a programm including music by Bernstein, Copland, and music from Spiderman and Star Wars. A shorter performance for an audience of schoolchildren takes place at lunchtime.

The Dutch ensemble, Orkest de Ereprijs performs composers with whom they have a close association: Willem Breuker, Raphaël Languillat, Mary Finsterer and Martijn Padding, and will be joining with the Conservatoire’s own Thallein Ensemble to create The Orchestra of the 21st Century, a radical re-imagining of the orchestra.

There is the Birmingham Philharmonic Concerto Competition when the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s rising stars play concertos accompanied by the Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra, Daniel Plant performs Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto while pianists Stefanos Politsakis and Orestis Magou play concertos by Arensky and Rachmaninov

Conservatoire Principal, Julian Lloyd Webber, conducts Orchestra of the Swan for a Bank Holiday Monday concert with the cellists Jian Wang and Jiaxin Lloyd Webber, including Haydn’s First Cello Concerto and Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Cellos in G minor.

Full details of all the events from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire website.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Gregory Rose at 70

Gregory Rose
Gregory Rose
The conductor and composer Gregory Rose is 70 this year, and in celebration he is bringing his Jupiter Orchestra to St John's Smith Square on Wednesday 18 April 2018, for a programme of his own music including a number of world premieres. The orchestra will be joined by the Jupiter Singers, mezzo soprano Loré Lixenberg and violinist Peter Sheppard Skærved to perform Gregory Rose's 7 Dances from Danse Macabre, and Birthday Ode for Aaron Copland, plus the world premieres of 5 Schwitters Songs and Violin Concerto.

Gregory Rose studied with Hanns Jelinek (Vienna Music Academy) and Egon Wellesz (Oxford University), both former students of Arnold Schoenberg, as well as with his father Bernard Rose, the distinguished organist and composer who was Informator Choristarum at Magdalen College, Oxford.

Full details from the St John's Smith Square website.

Sacred and Profane: The Sixteen's 2018 Choral Pilgrimage

Hieronymous Bosch - The Garden of Earthly Delights (detail)
Sacred and Profane - music by William Cornysh & Benjamin Britten; The Sixteen, Harry Christophers; St Albans Cathedral
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 14 April 2018 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
The opening of The Sixteen's 2018 pilgrimage, pairing sacred and profane music by two English composers spanning over 400 years, William Cornysh and Benjamin Britten

The Sixteen, conductor Harry Christophers, launched their 2018 Choral Pilgrimage with a concert at St Albans Cathedral. Sacred and Profane pairs sacred and secular pieces by Benjamin Britten with music by 15th / 16th-century composer William Cornysh (there were two, both their relationship and the musical attributions are uncertain). Britten's music stretched across his career from Hymn to the Virgin written when he was a teenager to Sacred and Profane, written in 1974/75, and taking in A Hymn to St Cecilia and Advance Democracy. The music by Cornysh included two major sacred pieces, Salve Regina and Ave Maria, and three secular pieces, My Love she mourneth, Woefully Array'd and  Ah Robin, gentle Robin.

We opened with Britten's Hymn to the Virgin written when he was 17, an enormously confident and stylish work. Using a macaronic text, the main choir sang the English and the solo quartet (from the rear of the nave) sang the Latin, all giving a profoundly beautiful rendering of the music with finely shaped phrases and a lovely clarity of texture; a considered performance.

This was followed by William Cornysh's My love she mourn'th. The elder William Cornysh (who died in 1502 and who was a singer at Westminster Abbey) probably wrote the sacred pieces, notably the works like the Salve Regina from the Eton Choir Book. The younger William Cornysh (who died in 1523) was a singer with the Chapel Royal but also devised pageants, plays and other staged events. In the Fairfax Manuscript (copied in 1501) he is referred to as William Cornysh Junior, but we have little information beyond that. This is probably one of those occasions when it was so obvious to contemporaries which was which that they rarely if ever needed to write it down

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Light Divine: a final glimpse of treble Aksel Rykkvin

Light Divine -Aksel Rykkvin - Signum Classics
Handel, Albinoni, Ritter, Rameau; Mark Bennett, Aksel Rykkvin, The MIN Ensemble; Signum Classics
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 13 Mar 2018 Star rating: 3.5 (★★★½)
The Norwegian treble returns for a final disc of baroque arias for voice and trumpet

The Norwegian treble Aksel Rykkvin released a disc of baroque arias on Signum Classics in 2016 [see my review], now this latest disc (recorded in July 2017) captures Rykkvin's voice just before it changed (since Autumn 2017 he has sung as a baritone). The repertoire is music by Handel and Rameau, with an emphasis on both the voice and the trumpet, with Rykkvin performing with Mark Bennett (trumpet) and the MIN Ensemble (ensemble director Lazar Miletic).

The MIN Ensemble is a modern instrument chamber orchestra from Norway, and on this disc, it combines its modern instruments with baroque trumpet, flute, lute and harpsichord to give a very engaging account of this music, most of which fairly dances off the page.

The music is arranged effectively in two continuous sequences, first Handel and then Rameau, separated by an Albinoni aria and a Ciaccona by Czech composer Philipp Jakob Rittler. Some of the music has been arranged for the forces so that the disc opens with music originally in Handel's  Water Music, now adjusted to feature a pair of trumpets.

For the Handel sequence we move from the fanfares of the Water Music, through the opening voice and trumpet duet Eternal Source of Light Divine from the Birthday Ode to Queen Anne, the Passacaille from the Trio Sonata in G major, the aria What passion cannot music aise and quell from The Ode for St Cecilia's Day, and finally Alla caccia from the cantata Diana Cacciatrice.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

David Hare's The Moderate Soprano at the Duke of York's Theatre

David Hare: The Moderate Soprano - Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, Nancy Carroll, Roger Allam, Paul Jesson, Anthony Calf - Duke of Yorks Theatre (Photo Johan-Perrson)
David Hare: The Moderate Soprano - Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, Nancy Carroll, Roger Allam, Paul Jesson, Anthony Calf - Duke of Yorks Theatre (Photo Johan-Perrson)
David Hare: The Moderate Soprano - Paul Jesson - Duke of Yorks Theatre (Photo Johan-Perrson)
Paul Jesson - (Photo Johan-Perrson)
David Hare The Moderate Soprano; Roger Allam, Nancy Carroll, Anthony Calf, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, Paul Jesson, Jade Williams, dir: Jeremy Herrin
Reviewed by Anthony Evans on 12 April 2018 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
"I want to make the world a better place" – John Christie

Born in St. Leonards-on-Sea, David Hare returns to East Sussex to focus his theatrical chops on that most English of institutions the Glyndebourne Festival, with his play The Moderate Soprano which opened at the Duke of York's Theatre, directed by Jeremy Herrin, on 12 April 2018. Nancy Carroll plays the eponymous soprano with Roger Allam as the romantic late starter John Christie. Anthony Calf, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd and Paul Jesson are the three political exiles Ebert, Bing and "waving the baguette" Busch. Whilst Jade Williams holds the fort as the uncomplaining Jane Smith.

On the face of it, Glyndebourne should be easy pickings for David Hare a connoisseur of the minute dissections of our public institutions. There’s a public inclination to hate people who go to the opera and Glyndebourne with its rich patrons, manicured lawns and champagne fuels the suspicion that anyway opera is really just a side-show for dilettante toffs. Why should we care? Hare has an answer.

Friday, 13 April 2018

Into the musical melting pot again - Ensemble Tempus Fugit at Tara Arts

In 1690 the East India Company was granted a trading licence by the Nawab of Bengal for three villages on the East bank of the Hooghly river. By 1780, the company had transformed the villages into Calcutta, a small English city. Musicians travelled from London to India, bringing the music of Handel, Corelli and others, whilst others played their harpsichords with Indian classical musicians and transcribed Indian music into European notation.

It is this musical melting pot which Ensemble Tempus Fugit, director Katie de la Matter, explored in their programme Calcutta at the 2017 Brighton Early Music Festival in a sold-out St. Bartholomew’s Church — and will bring to London's Tara Arts Theatre on 21-22 April (just 10mins from Waterloo by train). The material is completely fascinating, including Western transcriptions of Hindu and Bengali music (done often at the behest of the wives of English residents), as well as local Indian versions songs. The video above is of Paradevate - a setting of Ap shenkin, a Welsh folksong, by Muthuswami Dikshitar c.1800 (performed by Ensemble Tempus Fugit, Debipriya Sircar (vocals), Jamie Akers (theorbo) & Katie De La Matter (harpsichord)).

Indian music and dancing groups were invited into some British-Indian homes, and mainly female colonials would transcribe the songs (or have the songs transcribed) using a harpsichord or pianoforte, this all being part of the greater European 18th-century trend to collect ‘national airs’ — in the same vein as collections of Scots tunes, for example. One of these women, Margaret Fowkes, described the process:

‘I have often made the Musicians tune their instruments to the harpsichord that I might join their little band. They always seemed delighted with the accompaniment of the harpsichord and sung with uncommon animation, and a pleasure to themselves, which was expressed in their faces.'

Another woman, Sophie Plowden hired the musician John Braganza to transcribe songs and had the results put into a beautifully illuminated manuscript with illustrations of Indian musicians by local artists (which contain some of the earliest depictions of some Indian instruments). This survives in the Fitzwilliam Museum as MS380 and forms the basis for Ensemble Tempus Fugit's project.

The performers include James Hall (counter-tenor), Debipriya Sircar (Indian classical vocalist), Jonathan Mayer (sitar), Jamie Akers (lutes), Emily Baines (early wind), Lucia Capellaro (viola da gamba) George Clifford (violin) Katie De La Matter (harpsichord & creative direction), and Peyvand Sadeghian (puppets). And the ensemble will meld this unusual combination of instruments and traditions, with period music, Indian song, puppetry and drama to tell the story of music melting pot on the streets and at the soirées of Calcutta

The ensemble has just received Arts Council support to tour to SAMA Arts in London, Brighton’s Refugee Week, and the Left Bank Opera Festival in Leeds.

Further information from the Tara Arts website, or from the Ensemble Tempus Fugit website.

Handel's Teseo at the London Handel Festival

Hippolyte Flandrin (1806-1864): Theseus Recognized by his Father (1832), École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris. Wikimedia Commons.
Hippolyte Flandrin (1806-1864): Theseus Recognized by his Father (1832),
École Nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris. Wikimedia Commons.
Handel Teseo; Leila Zanetta, Meinir Wyn Roberts, Patrick Terry, La Nuova Musica, David Bates; London Handel Festival at St George's Church, Hanover Square
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 12 April 2018 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
Handel's third London opera, in a finely dramatic concert performance with students from the Royal Academy of Music

Handel's Teseo is a fascinating experiment, the only time the composer moved significantly away from the conventions of Italian opera (until he abandoned it entirely for English oratorio). Based on Quinault's French libretto for Lully, Teseo is in five acts (rather than the usual three) and the convention of the exit aria is entirely avoided, with characters remaining on stage for significant amounts of time. Handel would base other operas, such as Amadigi di Gaula, on French librettos, but never again would he depart so consistently from Italian operatic convention, and in fact, the joy of some of his later operas is the way he plays with the audience's expectations of the form.

Maria Callas as Medea in Pier Paolo Pasolini's film Medea
Maria Callas as Medea in Pier Paolo Pasolini's film Medea
For the final Handel opera at this year's London Handel Festival at St George's Church, Hanover Square on Thursday 12 April 2018, David Bates conducted La Nuova Musica with a cast drawn from the Royal Academy of Music (there were, in fact, two casts, with a second performing on 13 April). We saw Patrick Terry as Teseo, Leila Zanette as Medea, Meinir Wyn Roberts as Agilea, Frances Gregory as Egeo, Alexander Simpson as Arcane, Emilie Cavallo as Clizia and Darwin Prakash as Sacerdote, many of whom had taken part on the recent performances of Jonathan Dove's Flight in the new theatre at the Royal Academy of Music [see my review].

When it was first performed in 1713, Teseo was presented with all sorts of scenic transformations and magical effects. Winton Dean in his book on Handel's Italian operas suggests that the opera may have originally been intended to be even closer to the French model with dancing as well, and it still has the descent of the goddess Minerva at the end for the lieito fine. In concert, we are left to imagine all these, though it was a shame that La Nuova Musica's excellent printed libretto omitted the stage directions.

Whilst the leading role is technically Teseo (who gets most arias) and the heroine is Agilea, it is very much Medea who dominates the action. She is a wonderfully complex creation, the second of Handel's quartet of fascinating sorceresses (Armida in Rinaldo, Medea in Teseo, Melissa in Amadigi di Gaula and Alcina), and it is into this character that Handel breathes life. Medea is unusual in that, unlike most Handel villains, she neither dies nor gets her comeuppance (Armida repents and converts to Christianity, both Melissa and Alcina die). Instead, unrepentant and a bad girl still, Medea has a final dramatic accompagnato, torches everything and then leaves gloriously in a chariot pulled by dragons.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Handel's Giulio Cesare from Early Opera Company at London Handel Festival

Handel: Giulio Cesare, first edition of July 1724 printed by Cluer and Creake
Handel: Giulio Cesare, first edition of July 1724
printed by Cluer and Creake
Handel Giulio Cesare; Tim Mead, Anna Devin, Hilary Summers, Rachel Kelley, Rupert Enticknap, Early Opera Company, Christian Curnyn; London Handel Festival at St John's Smith Square
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 12 April 2018
Star rating: 5.0 
Handel's great opera in a concert performance full of character and virtuosity

Whilst it is a truism that every performance of an opera is different, with an opera as long as George Frideric Handel's Giulio Cesare this is particularly the case as each production makes its own decisions about what to keep and what to omit. Christian Curnyn and Early Opera Company's performance of Giulio Cesare at St John's Smith Square on Wednesday 11 April 2018 as part of the London Handel Festival was the third outing of this opera in 12 months, each one very different. English Touring Opera included every aria and spread the performance over two nights [see my review], Bury Court Opera included as many arias as possible and trimmed the piece by removing B sections and Da Capo repeats [see my review], whereas Christian Curnyn followed the Charles Mackerras route [you can hear Mackerras's account on Chandos] and kept the integrity of the arias but removed 'lesser' ones to keep the running time to 3 hours 30 minutes (including one interval after the opening scene of Act Two).

Curnyn and Early Opera Company fielded a very strong cast, with Tim Mead as Giulio Cesare, Anna Devin as Cleopatra, Hilary Summers as Cornelia, Rachel Kelly as Sesto, Rupert Enticknap as Tolomeo, Callum Thorpe as Achilla and James Hall as Nireno. Interestingly, the last time I saw Curnyn and Early Opera Company performing Giulio Cesare (probably 20 years ago) was at St John's Smith Square, but that time Hilary Summers played the title role!

This was very much a concert performance, the orchestra was centre stage and we were greeted by a forest of music stands. But the cast members, whilst using scores, were not welded to them and each gave a distinctive performance, creating a sense of real character. Whilst there was no space for physical interactions, there were plenty of small details in individual performances to bring out character so this account of the opera was not just about fine singing (of which there was plenty), but text and narrative too. The opera was sung in Italian and we were provided with a printed text, Brian Trowell's translation was used (which features on the Mackerras recording), a fine singing version but perhaps not ideal for a printed translation when a more accurate rendering of the Italian might be preferable.

Pirates ahoy: Moonfleet at Salisbury Playhouse

Moonfleet - Salisbury Playhouse
The composer Russell Hepplewhite has popped up on this blog quite a few times, he was responsible for the music for English Touring Opera's Laika the Spacedog [see my review], Borka the Goose with no feathers [see my review], Shackleton's Cat [see my review] and Silver Electra [see my review] and The Price for W11 Opera [see my review]. Now the Salisbury Playhouse is premiering his musical Moonfleet with book and lyrics by Gareth Machin, artistic director of the theatre, on 19 April 2018.

Moonfleet is based on the novel by J Meade Falkner first published in 1898; set in 18th century Dorset, the piece deals with a young man's search for adventure, set in the village of Moonfleet which is a village of intrigue and drama where shadowy smugglers lurk. Gareth Machin also directs with a cast which includes Simon Butteriss, Dom Hartley-Harris, Rhona McGregor, Dan Smith, Ruth Betteridge, Rebecca Lock, Susannah Van Den Berg and Ashley Mercer

Moonfleet runs at Salisbury Playhouse from Thursday 19 April to Saturday 5 May. The production is supported by Salisbury Playhouse’s Commissioning Circle. Full details from the Salisbury Playhouse website.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Concrete Dreams

Southbank Centre: Concrete Dreams
Southbank Centre: Concrete Dreams
Concrete Dreams; Southbank Centre
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 10 Apr 2018 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
An immersive experience and unusual journey celebrating the history of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Heywood Gallery

Southbank Centre: Concrete Dreams
Southbank Centre: Concrete Dreams
The Southbank Centre's Queen Elizabeth Hall (QEH), Purcell Room and Haywardd Gallery complex has been refurbished and renewed following a two year closure, very much devoted to rediscovering landmarks original Brutalist beauty. Both the Heywood and the QEH recently re-opened and as part of the festivities, there is an immersive exhibition, Concrete Dreams designed by the artists and performer collective KlangHaus and design practice LYN Atelier. This immersive journey explores the history of the hall, and it also allows the visitors a remarkably different view of the venues, taking them back-stage.

The tour starts in the gleaming QEH foyer, the marble floor glowing white and the light streaming in from the new windows, down the marble access staircase, one of the most striking parts of the old building and out past the concrete exterior - Brutalist perhaps but surprisingly subtle and detailed, 'a timber building cast in stone'.

Through the artists' entrance and up into the scenery dock life, the journey enlivened with stencilled quotations, copies of early documents and drawings, videos, projections and recordings, capturing the essence of the remarkable project. All this is the result of the mining of the extensive archives by KlangHaus. One corridor is papered with copies of the early architects' drawings and the sketches made by the builders (the architects' plans being too valuable to take on site).

Streetwise Opera's Tell me the truth about Love

Tell me the Truth about love - Streetwise Opera
Streetwise Opera is presenting its latest opera, Tell me the truth about love, at the Sage Gateshead on 14 & 15 April 2018. 

The opera takes its title from one of Benjamin Britten's cabaret songs, alongside new compositions by Will Todd and Anna Appleby, and arrangements by Iain Farrington of classical, pop and folk tunes mixed into the opera. The performance will bring together participants from Streetwise Opera workshops in Newcastle and Gateshead who have experienced homelessness, professional singers including mezzo soprano Anna Huntley, and musicians from Royal Northern Sinfonia conducted by Timothy Burke. The production is directed by Bijan Sheibani, designed by Samal Blak with choreography Polly Bennett.

Further details from the Sage Gateshead website.

Britten, Bernstein, Moore, Sutherland, Chagall, Piper - Walter Hussey & his commissions

Peter Webster Church and patronage in 20th century Britain: William Hussey and the Arts
Peter Webster Church and patronage in 20th century Britain: Walter Hussey and the Arts; Palgrave Macmillan
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 10 April 2018 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
A look at how Walter Hussey came to commission such a remarkable range of major 20th artists for the church

Walter Hussey, sometime Rector of St Matthew's Church Northampton and then Dean of Chichester, is an important figure in 20th-century art and music. Hussey was responsible for commissioning such figures as Benjamin Britten, Edmund Rubbra, Leonard Bernstein, Lennox Berkeley, Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland, John Piper, Marc Chagall and many more. Peter Webster's book Church and patronage in 20th century Britain: Walter Hussey and the Arts in Palgrave Macmillan's Histories of the Sacred and Secular series provides some remarkable illumination as to how this striking body of work came about.

The book is not a biography, it is, in fact, an academic study of both Hussey and the role of the arts in the mid-20th-century church of England. But anyone who is interested in learning more about the creation of Britten's Rejoice in the Lamb and Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms will find this a fascinating and illuminating read. Webster writes easily and engagingly so that the book has a far from academic tone about it.

Webster explains early on on the book that Hussey's surviving papers, whilst extensive, do not always provide the ability to look into Hussey's motives, partly because he rarely kept copies of his own letters. Importantly for a book which endeavours to put Hussey's artistic endeavours within the context of the 20th-century church, Hussey has effectively left little information about his devotional beliefs, or given a detailed theological basis for his commissioning activity.

Webster does a great job in following the history of Hussey's activity and putting it in the right context. Hussey's commissioning was not simply as a patron, but as church patron and the art was intended to sit within the liturgical atmosphere of the church. Apart from Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms, all the music that Hussey commissioned was intended for performance during a church service, it had to fit in. Similarly, works of art, like the two Graham Sutherland pictures, the Henry Moore sculpture, the John Piper tapestry and the Marc Chagall window, had to fit into a church environment elicit the right response from the churchgoers.

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