Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Intriguing and varied - OAE new season

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE) has announced its 2013/14 season at the South Bank Centre, with an intriguing mixture of music, ranging from the baroque, through Beethoven and Ravel to contemporary, via Offenbach. Offenbach's operetta Fantasio gets a rare outing. There are a number of distinguished conductors working with the group, Mark Elder conducts Fantasio, William Christie will be conducting Handel and Rameau, Semyon Bychkov conducts Beethoven and Schubert,  Simon Rattle conducts Haydn's The Creation and Sigiswald Kuijken investigates a rare type of cello.

The season opens in fine style with William Christie conducting Handel and Rameau; French soprano Sandrine Piau makes a rare London appearance (30 Sep, RFH). There is more baroque when Alison Bury directs concerti grossi by Handel, Geminiani, Muffat and Corelli. But the orchestra will also be giving the first London performance of Clare Connors Corelli Leaves, a new commission by the OAE. Clare Connors is a composer and violinist known for her arrangements of the German techno bank Kraftwerk, so the result should be intriguing.

Mark Elder conducts Offenbach's Fantasio on 15 December in the Royal Festival Hall with Marlis Petersen, Sarah Connolly, Victoria Simmonds and Brindley Sherratt. Offenbach's operetta was premiered in 1872, having had its premiere delayed by the Franco-Prussian war. The opera, based on a play by Alfred de Musset, was not popular and performed only 10 times at the Opera Comique before being taken off. The title role at the premiere was sung by Galli-Marie who went on to sing the title role in Bizet's Carmen. Interestingly, Ethel Smyth's first opera Fantasio was also based on Alfred de Musset's play.

It is only recently that a proper critical edition of Offenbach's opera has been assembled, as only the vocal score was published during Offenbach's lifetime. Music from the piece found its way into Les Contes d'Hoffmann and some commentators see it as an important stepping stone on the way to that opera. The performance is a collaboration with Opera Rara who will be recording the opera.

CPE Bach receives well deserved attention when the orchestra devotes an entire programme to his music. (30 Jan 2014, QEH) CPE Bach was a great influence on composers like Haydn, Beethoven and Mozart and his music is an important stepping stone between the baroque and the classical. CPE Bach was himself influence by contemporary thought with such writers as Klopstock, Lessing and Moses Mendelssohn.

Instrumentalists from OAE join pianists Katia and Marielle Labeque in an programme which includes Schoenberg's arrangement of Debussy's Prelude a l'apres mid d'un faune, Ravel's Mother Goose, Saint-Saens' Carnival of the Animals and music by Ibert. (20 Feb 2014, QEH)

Sigiswald Kujiken directs a pair of programmes which look at the rather curious Violoncello da Spalla, an early form of the instrument which was played under the chin. Kuijken will play Vivaldi's Concerto for Vioncello da Spalla plus Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, numbers 3 and 6. (19 and 25 March 2014, QEH)

Semyon Bychkov conducts Beethoven's Seventh Symphony and Schubert's Ninth Symphony, now that should be fascinating indeed, to see how the conductor responds to the period instruments. (8 April 2014, RFH) Simon Rattle, a conductor who has a long history of conducting the OAE, returns to conduct Haydn's The Creation (6 May 2014, RFH), with a study day on the work on 11 May 2014.

Also on 11 May 2014 the orchestra repeat Sally Beamish's Spinal Chords, originally composed for the PRS for Music Foundation's 20x12. The piece is set to text by Melanie Reid, and documents her journey from an accident which paralysed her through to now, as she strives to regain movement. The programme also includes music by Bach, Vivaldi and Corelli and is directed by violinist Matthew Truscott.

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