Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Spring and Summer in Smith Square

St Johns Smith Square
The April to August programme at St Johns Smith Square sees the anniversaries of Britten and George Lloyd being commemorated, plus there are memorial concerts for soprano Elizabeth Connell and composer John Marlow Rhys. Tenor David Rendall makes a welcome return, along with a wide variety of other song recitals. There are also staged versions of Handel's Messiah and Britten's Curlew River, plus the varied delights of the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music.

For me the biggest highlight is the series of concerts by tenor James Gilchrist with pianist Anna Tilbrook of Britten's songs, each on a particular theme rather imaginatively mixing Britten with other composers. With The Turning Earth: Animals, Food and a Seasonal Delight on 11 April including Purcell arrangements, folksong arrangements and Winter Words alongside music by Ravel, Bernstein and Schubert. Then The Heard at Sea: Lfe and Love Abroad and at Home on 26 June including Britten's folksong arrangements, Seven sonnets of Michelangelo and the Auden cycle On this Island plus music by Faure, Sally Beamish and Schubert. The final concert is on November 26 on the theme A Sacred Life, with Britten's first Canticle and The Holy Sonnets of John Donne.

A song recital on rather a different theme is Enchanted Isle in which soprano Fiona Murphy and tenor Aaron Cowley are joined not only by pianist Ciara Moroney but also Robert White on uillean pipes in an evening which entertains with songs and stories of Ireland, complete with a storyteller and visual scenes.

Following on from the influence of the Songmakers Almanck, various young singers have got together in groups to give recitals. The Songsmiths (soprano Mary Bevan, tenor Nicky Spence and baritone Marcus Farnsworth) with pianist Audrey Hyland present A Secret Garden on 18 April with songs by Schumbert, Schumann, Wolf, Britten, Gurney and Rorem.

A great singer is being commemorated on 27 April with the Elizabeth Connell Memorial Concert, with a cast of international singers performing in aid of the Musicians Benevolent Fund and the Elizabeth Connell Prize. The Marlow Ensemble, conducted by Lionel Friend will be performing at another memorial concert, for composer John Marlow Rhys who died in 2011.

Elin Manahan Thomas (soprano) and David Miller (lute, theorbo, guitar) are giving an afternoon recital on 3 June with music by Dowland, Purcell and Schubert. Then soprano Sarah Jane Brandon and pianist James Baillieu give a lunchtime recital on 6 June with music by Schumann, Strauss and Debussy.

Sopranos Joanne Foote and Rhiannon Llewellyn, with tenor Oliver Mercer and bass baritone Benjamin Cahn perform the American Songbook on 18 June, with music by Copland, Bernstein, Eisler, Rorem and Bolcom.

The tenor David Rendall, who has been absent from the stage for the last few years following a serious accident, makes a welcome return with a recital on 27 June, joined by colleagues and his wife, mezzo-soprano Diana Montague.

The Merry Opera Company, conducted by Stephen Hose are giving a staged version of Handel's Messiah with twelve singers and organ. Nova Music Opera, conductor George Vass, director Richard Williams will be presenting a fully staged version of Britten's Curlew River on 8 August, with a cast including Owen Gilhooly and Lynton Black. There is also a pre-concert talk by David Matthews.

Stowe School Chamber Choir and Stowe Festival Orchestra perform a programme of English music on 3 May with an emphasis on the music of the Hollywood composer Harry Gregson-Williams who is also an old Stoic. And on 1 June, spread over two concerts, the Smith Quartet will be performing the complete quartets of Michael Nyman, including the premiere of his fifth quartet. The English composer George Lloyd's centenary is celebrated on 8 June when Philharmonia Britannica, conductor Peter Fender, perform Lloyd's Symphony no 5 along with RVW's The Lark Ascending with Tamsin Waley Cohen. The City of London Choir with the Holst Orchestra are pairing the Faure Requiem with English music by Dyson, Gardner and Finzi on 12 June.

From 10 May to 18 May, St Johns plays host to many of the events in the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music.

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