Saturday, 5 January 2013

Free Winter concert season in the City

From Wednesday 16 January to Wednesday 27 March there are 11 free lunch-time concerts being presented in venues across the City of London in a collaboration between the City of London Festival, the City Music Society and the City of London Sinfonia. There are three concerts from the City of London Sinfonia,  plus chamber music and lighter items. All starting at 1.05pm and completely free, with an interesting mix of repertoire.

The series starts on 16 January with folk-singer Damien O'Kane and his band, followed in 22 January by close-harmony from Cantabile with madrigals by Weelkes, Bennet and Passereau along with lighter items.

All three of the City of London Sinfonia's concerts explore Britten's music along with other 20th century English classics, mixing the usual and the unusual. The first is on 30 January when they play RVW's Oboe Concerto with Dan Bates as soloist, directed by Alexandra Wood. The programme also includes Britten's arrangement of Purcell's Chacony, Elgar's Serenade and a pair of popular Percy Grainger items. For their second concert, on 27 February, the City of London Sinfonia and Alexandra Wood are joined by violist Fiona Bonds for a programme which includes John Woolrich's Ulysses Awakes and Finizi's Romance, plus Purcell, Walton and Britten's Simple Symphony. Their final concert on 27 March sees the orchestra joined by conductor Hugh Brunt, Stephen Stirling (horn) and Ronan Busfield (tenor). The main work is Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, plus music by Finizi, Holst and Elgar.

There is a variety of chamber music on offer, with guitar being something of a theme, along with some unusual repertoire. Guitarist Marius Noble plays a programme ranging from JS Bach and Piazzolla to Yuquijiro Yocoh and Gary  Ryan on 6 February. There is more guitar, this time combined with flute, in Judith Hall and Craig Ogden's recital on 5 March with an interesting mix of music by Poulenc, Rodrigo, Benoit Schlosberg, Philip Houghton and Robert Beaser. The final guitar themed concert involves the jazz vocalist Christine Tobin, Phil Robson (guitar) and Dave Whitford (double bass) on Wednesday 13 March.

Leslie Howard's piano recital on 12 February provides the opportunity to hear Alkan's Symphonie pour piano seul Op 39 Nos 4-7, an amazing 50 minute work in which the pianist is expected to be both soloist and orchestra. Howard performs it with two Beethoven piano sonatas (nos. 13 and 14) . Also on the piano, but this time a piano duet, Joseph Ton and Waka Hasegawa give an interesting mix of Poulenc's Sonata, John McCabe's Two scenes from Edward II and Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.

All in all a fascinating and tempting programme, certainly a reason to try and take a lunch break. Also a nice taster for the City of London Festival proper which will run from 23 June to 26 July, with themes exploring conflict and peace with the 400th anniversary of City's relationship with Derry-Londonderry.

Further details from the City of London Festival website.

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