Like many other people and organisations, the Barbican is celebrating Britten centenary. Sensibly, they have packed all their events into November 2013, centred around the composer's birthday. There are some very tempting events with some major performers including Ian Bostridge, Christine Brewer and the Richard Alston Dance Company, plus a three day conference led by John Bridcut. The Britten Sinfonia and the BBC Symphony Orchestra are providing the main orchestral support.
The Richard Alston Dance Company is performing a programme of works danced to Britten's music. The pieces are Lachrymae, Phaedra, Sechs Holderlin Fragmente and Les Illuminations, with performers Robin Tritschler (tenor), Alison Cook (soprano), Huw Watkins (piano) and Pekka Kussisto (violin and viola) with the Britten Sinfonia. There is no word which version of Les Illuminations they are using (soprano or tenor) but as anyone who saw Frederick Ashton's version of the piece dance by the Royal Ballet will know, it makes a terrific dance piece. (6-9 November in the Barbican Theatre)
Still on stage, but in the concert hall this time, there is a concert staging of Britten's comedy Albert Herring. Steuart Bedford conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra with a stupendous cast which includes Christine Brewer as Lady Billows (a part she has performed on stage in Santa Fe), Gaynor Keeble as Florence Pike, Gillian Keith as Miss Wordsworth, Roderick Williams as Mr Gedge, Adrian Thompson as Mr Upfold, Matthew Rose as Superintendent Budd, Marcus Farnsworth as Sid, Andrew Staples as Albert Herring, Kitty Whately as Nancy and Catherine Wyn-Rogers as Mrs Herring, directed by Paul Curran. (23 Nov 2013)
And over in St Giles Cripplegate Netia Jones is directing Britten's Noh-inspired church parable Curlew River with Ian Bostridge as the Madwoman, the part created by Peter Pears, plus Neal Davies and Peter Coleman Wright, again with the Britten Sinfonia. (14-16 November 2013). This gives us a compare and contrast opportunity as in July 2013, Mahoganny Opera are bringing their staging of all three church parables to Southwark Cathedral. as part of the City of London Festival, in productions directed by Frederic Wake-Walker.
Ian Bostridge also appears in concert, singing Britten's Our Hunting Fathers, the early song cycle with texts by W.H.Auden, plus Britten's A Time there Was, Young Apollo and his arrangement of Purcell's Chacony as well as Tippett's Fantasia Concertante on a theme of Corelli. Paul Daniel conducts the Britten Sinfonia. (8 November 2013)
Britten's actual Birthday (22 November 2013) sees the Sixteen, conductor Harry Christophers, in a programme of Britten's choral music: Hymn to the Virgin, Shepherd’s Carol, New Year Carol, Hymn to Saint Cecilia, Five Flower Songs, Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard and Sacred and Profane. The programme ranges across the full length of Britten's career from the Hymn to the Virgin written when he was 17, through the Hymn to Saint Cecilia which was written to a text by Auden when Britten was returning to the UK in 1942, to Sacred and Profane which he wrote in 1974 for the Wilbye Consort directed by Peter Pears.
One concert is not in the Barbican Hall, but in the new Milton Court Concert Hall which is being built as part of the new Milton Court development for the Guildhall School. A more intimate venue than the Barbican Hall, on 24 November Mark Padmore and Stephen Bell will be performing Britten's Serenade for Tenor Horn and Strings alongside a new commission from Judith Weir. The Britten Sinfonia is directed by Pekka Kuusisto.(8 November 2013)
And on Remembrance Sunday (10 November 2013), Semyon Bychkov will conduct the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Chorus, Crouch End Festival Chorus, Marina Poplavskaya, Andrew Kennedy and Roderick Williams in Britten's War Requiem.
To complement all this there is a three day conference, Illuminating Britten, taking place from 8-10 November, curated by John Bridcut.
Further information from the Barbican Centre website.
Elsewhere on this blog:
- Review: Dream of Gerontius with Mark Elder
- Review: choir of Clare College, Cambridge
- Instructions for the Audience
- Review: Laika the Spacedog
- Release of Roxanna Panufnik's Love Abide
- Fretwork and Alamire at Kings Place
- Arcangelo - Enchanted Forest at Wigmore Hall
- Review of Matthew Barley's Around Britten
- Review of Antonino Siragusa at Rosenblatt Recitals