Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Urban Perfume - Helbig's Pocket Symphonies live

The Faure Quartett in action at Saatchi and Saatchi
The Faure Quartett in action at
Saatchi and Saatchi
A car-park is not the most obvious place to hear a concert, but this was no ordinary car park but the one behind the office of Saatchi and Saatchi and we were sitting outside their private pub 'The Pregnant Man'. The event was the first of two on 31 July 2013 to celebrate the release in the UK of Svein Helbig's Pocket Symphonies (see my review of the CD) with a pair of performances by the Faure Quartett, the first at Saatchi and Saatchi and the second at the Apple Store. I attended the first, and was treated to performances of Helbig's new versions of four of his Pocket Symphonies arranged specially for the Faure Quartett (on the CD they are played by the quartet along with the MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra).

New company, new triple bill

Helios Chamber Opera - Joel Ruse: Red as Blood / Philip Ashworth: Bare / William Walton: The Bear
A new opera company, Helios Chamber Opera, opens its first production tonight at the Rose Theatre, Kingston. Conducted by Oliver Zeffmann and directed by Ella Marchment they are performing William Walton's one-act comic opera The Bear along with two other specially commissioned to go with it, Joel Rust's Red as Blood and Philip Ashworth's Bare. Helios are a young company, and the troupe features some of the UK's exciting young operatic talent with a cast including Helen Stanley, Henry Neill, David Fearn, Urszula Bock, Angus McPhee and Sam Carl. The orchestra of 26 players is the Melos Sinfonia.

Symphonies for the iPhone generation

Sven Helbig is a German composer whose work has crossed a variety of boundaries, working as a producer of popular music with the likes of the Pet Shop Boys and Rammstein, writing a song cycle for opera singer Rene Pape, creating the Dresden Symphony Orchestra and creating large scale multi-media projects. He was recently appointed composer in residence at the National Theatre in Weimar. His latest disc, Pocket Symphonies, is essentially contemporary music for the iPhone generation, a disc of short symphonic songs each lasting no more than five minutes. The album was released in the UK on 22 July, but Helbig is taking his music to his audience. There is a live concert at the Apple Store on 31 July 2013, and Helbig has created a bespoke oyster card holder which allows the music to be downloaded to portable music players and these are being distributed this week.

The disc Pocket Symphonies, was recorded by the Faure Quartet and MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kristjan Jarvi and is released on the Deutsche Gramophon label.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Gramophone Awards 2013 shortlist announced

Gramophone Classical Music Awards 2013
The shortlist for this year's Gramophone Classical Music Awards has been announced. For the first time, recording category winners will be pre-announced at gramophone.co.uk on 27 August, then the Recording of the Year, Lifetime Achievement, Young Artist of the Year and Label of the Year will be unveiled at the awards ceremony on 17 September at LSO St. Lukes.

In the Vocal Category, Magdalena Kožená, Jonas Kaufmann, Cecilia Bartoli, Joyce DiDonato and Christopher Purves are all competing (hard to make decisions there), whilst Best Instrumental includes Maria João Pires, Marc-André Hamelin, Steven Osborne, András Schiff, Stephen Hough and Paul Lewis. The Baroque Vocal Award nominees are The Sixteen, the Monteverdi Choir, the Dunedin Consort & Players, and last year’s Recording of the Year winners, Vox Luminis. The Early Music Category shortlist is entirely British, The Tallis Scholars, Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, The Sixteen, I Fagiolini and Gabrieli Consort & Players. In the Orchestral Category there is Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle, the Orchestra of the 18th Century and Frans Brüggen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen, plus last year's Orchestral winners the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Jiří Bělohlávek. The full list of nominees can be seen at the Gramophone website.

Elsewhere on this blog:

Glyndebourne on Tour and into 2014

Colin Judson (Witch) in the 2010 production of Hansel und Gretel, (c) Bill Cooper
Colin Judson  as the Witch in the 2010 production of Hansel und Gretel
(c) Bill Cooper
Glyndebourne on Tour for 2013 celebrates Britten's centenary with a new production of The Rape of Lucretia directed by Fiona Shaw, alongside a revival of Laurent Pelly's 2008 production of Humperdinck's Hansel und Gretel and Annabel Arden's 2007 production of Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore. Also the planned new productions for the 2014 festival have been revealed.

On tour, the new production of Britten's The Rape of Lucretia will be directed by Fiona Shaw and designed by Michael Levine and Nicky Gillibrand, with Kate Valentine and Allan Clayton as the Female and Male Chorus and Claudia Huckle as Lucretia with a cast  including David Soar, Duncan Rock and Catherine Wyn-Rogers, conducted by Nicholas Collon. The production opens at Glyndebourne on 19 October 2013.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Win tickets to Live by the Lake at Kenwood

Kenwood House
To celebrate Live by the Live, the return of outdoor concerts to Kenwood we are pleased to announce that Planet Hugill has two tickets for the Opera Alfresco event on 31 August to give away in a fabulous competition. 

Live by the Lake runs from 23 - 25 August, and 30 August to 1 September with six varied events ranging from Suede and British Sea Power (23/8), Keane and Laura Mvula (25/8), to Michael Ball singing Gershwin (1/9). There will be the film Singing in the rain with live score performed by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra (30/8), the orchestra will also be joined by the Royal Choral Society for an evening of choral favourites (24/8).

 And American opera singing Ana Maria Martinez will be joined by Paul Daniel and the ENO Orchestra, with Wynne Evans, David Kempster and Fiona Murphy for Opera Alfresco with opera favourites by Bizet, Rossini, Dvorak, Puccini and Verdi (31/8).

Concerts take place on the lawn in front of Kenwood House. Concerts start at 7.30pm and ticket holders are encouraged to picnic by the lake before hand. Further information from the Live by the Lake website.

Ana Maria Martinez
Ana Maria Martinez
The competition is now closed

Thank you very much to all those who entered and congratulations to the 50 people who got the right answer. 

Libera Nos - The Cry of the Oppressed

Libera nos - The Cry of the Oppressed: Contrapunctus/Owen Rees - Signum Sigcd338
We are learning a lot more about William Byrd's Latin church music and the inspiration behind it. Many of the texts for his Latin motets were chosen not for their liturgical usage but for the relevance that the words had to the recusant Roman Catholics in England. So that Byrd's entire Latin output, the motets in the collections Cantiones Sacrae, the Gradualia (setting all the propers necessary for the mass) and the Masses (setting the ordinary), can be seen as responding to the plight of Roman Catholics in England.

On this new disc, Owen Rees and his vocal ensemble Contrapunctus take Byrd's music and perform it alongside that of English contemporaries Tallis and Martin Peerson, both of whom may have had Roman Catholic sympathies, plus the Flemish Philippe de Monte with whom Byrd had contacts. Rather imaginatively Rees also contrasts these with the music of Manuel Cardoso and Pedro de Criso, written to express the suffering of the Portugese people under Spanish rule.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

 Alice in Wonderland at Opera Holland Park
Alice in Wonderland
at Opera Holland Park
The family opera at Opera Holland Park has become something of a welcome fixture. For the last few years they have performed Tobias Picker's The Fabulous Mister Fox on the lawns in front of Holland Park House. Now this year Opera Holland Park has ventured into creating its own family friendly opera with their commission of Will Todd's Alice's Adventres in Wonderland.. Performed by a cast of 15 and a band of 11, this was no small undertaking. Designer Leslie Travers created four different settings dotted about the woods and Martin Duncan's lively production kept everyone's interest, including even the smaller children. The hard working cast included Fflur Wyn as Alice, James Cleverton as the White Rabbit, Robert Burt as Dad and the Red Queen, Hanna Hipp as Mum and the Mad Hatter, James Laing as the Cheshire Cat, Keel Watson as the Caterpillar, John Lofthouse as the March Hare and the White Knight, Patricia Orr as Humpty Dumpty and the Duchess, Clara Hendrick and Elaine Tate as the Brats and Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, Stephanie Bodsworth as the Dormouse and Maud Millar, Rosie Middleton, Edward Hughes and Henry Grant Kerswell as Victorians. The instrumental ensemble was conducted by Natalie Murray.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Three Choirs Festival

The Three Choirs Festival opens in Gloucester today with two weeks of events. This year's centenarians feature with music by Britten, Wagner and Verdi featuring in the events. There is a lot of contemporary music, with festival commissions plus music by Arvo Part and others. Coleridge-Taylor also features, including a rare performance of his best known work, The Song of Hiawatha. English classics are not neglected and the festival concludes with Toby Spence singing the title role in Elgar's Dream of Gerontius.


National Trust opens Leith Hill Place - RVW's family home

Leith Hill Place, photo National Trust
Ralph Vaughan Williams was born in Gloucestershire, where his father (Arthur Vaughan Williams) was a Vicar, but RVW's father's early death meant that RVW and his mother (Margaret Wedgwood)  returned to her family home, Leith Hill Place, where RVW was brought up. Leith Hill Place is an elegant 17th-century house, which was added to and improved in the 18th century. The estate grew to become a landscape of natural splendour and includes a ha-ha, lime avenue and extensive tree planting. The estate was bough by Josiah Wedgwood (grandson of the potter) in 1847. Josiah was married to his cousin, Caroline Darwin and the Wedgwood and Darwin families where heavily intermingled, so that Charles Darwin the naturalist used to stay at the house.  The house was inherited by RVW's elder brother Hervey, and RVW inherited it from his brother and donated it to the National Trust in 1944.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Hippolyte et Aricie - Cinema broadcast from Glyndebourne

Hippolyte et Aricie (Act II, Hades) at Glyndebourne, (c) Bill Cooper
Hippolyte et Aricie (Act II, Hades) at Glyndebourne,
(c) Bill Cooper
I missed Jonathan Kent's new production of Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie live at the Glyndebourne Festival, but was rather keen to experience Kent and designer Paul Brown's extravagant production so seeing it in the cinema seemed a good alternative, especially as my last experience of opera in the cinema was Zefirelli's film of Verdi's La Traviata, and things have moved on a bit since then. I went along to the live screening on 25 July at the Ritzy in Brixton. It wasn't strictly live, the film started at 6.15pm whereas the live event had started over an hour earlier, and we had just a 30 minute interval rather than a full 90 minutes.

The evening started with a short film about Glyndebourne and in the interval there was a film about the making of the opera. This latter, though short, was most illuminating as it included interviews with both Kent and Brown and helped put into focus their concept behind the production. Apart from that it was a high quality film of a live opera performance. Ed Lyon and Christiane Karg sang the title roles, with Sarah Connolly as Phedre (Hippolyte's step mother) and Stephane Degout as Thesee (Hippolyte's father and Phedre's husband), plus Julie Pasturaud as Oenone (Phedre's confidant). Katherine Watson (replacing the indisposed Stephanie d'Oustrac) was the goddess Diane, and Ana Quintas was l'Amour (Cupid). Francois Lis was Pluton, with Lic Felix as the fury Tisiphone, Samuel Boden was Mercure and Lis also played Neptune (Theseus's father). William Christie conducted the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenement.

Woodwose – a community introspection

Andrew Kennedy, Credit: Benjamin Ealovega
Andrew Kennedy
Credit: Benjamin Ealovega
Woodwose was the culmination of a yearlong collaborative effort from the Wigmore Hall Learning Programme involving a new opera written for tenor Andrew Kennedy, the Wigmore Hall’s own chamber group Ignite, Harrow Road Community Choir, St Marylebone School, Queen’s Park Primary School and Burdett-Coutts and Townshend Foundation C of E Primary School, performed on Friday 19 July 2013 at the Wigmore Hall.

Kerry Andrew
Kerry Andrew
Composer KerryAndrew was commissioned to write an opera for 150 people local to Westminster to honour the centenary of Benjamin Britten. By basing the opera in a folk tradition Kerry was able to join together the multiple ethnic heritages of the performers. During the initial stages of investigating what stories frightened the performers during their childhood Kerry developed a central character of ‘Woodwose’ a wild man of the forest. It is this mythical being that becomes the central focus for misguided village fears as Kerry explores the narrow mindedness and mass hysteria which lies behind hate crimes. In the tradition of Britten Kerry was also able to join together the musical folk heritage of lullabies and folk songs and weave them throughout the score.

Bearing in mind that this was largely an amateur performance there was a lot of good here. Working together the performers led the audience on a journey which veered close to the edge of anarchy and lawlessness before reaching a Hollywood feel-good ending. 

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Richard Strauss - Deutsche Mottete

Deutsche Motette - DCD34124
Richard Strauss isn't known for his choral music, and listening to the Deutsche Motette on this new recording you can understand why. The piece's demand are outrageous. On this new disc the choir of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, and the choir of King's College, London come together under their conductors Geoffrey Webber and David Trendall to perform Strauss's Deutsche Motette along with earlier German Romantic choral music by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Rheinberger and Peter Cornelius.

They open with Strauss Deutsche Motette conducted by David Trendell. Strauss's setting of Rückert was completed in June 1913, after Der Rosenkavalier and Ariadne auf Naxos and before the Alpine Symphony. So it is Strauss at the height of his powers. It is written for 16-part choir plus four main soloists (and an extra three at one point). The range extends from a bottom B flat in the fourth bass to a top D flat in the soprano part. The four main solo parts are very taxing, with the soprano and tenor placed ina very high tessitura. The piece was dedicated to Professor Hugo Riedel and his choir, the Hoftheater Chor. Riedel later went on to be chorus master at Bayreuth.

The opening section is one long dense and complex polyphonic exercise in extended rapture. This is group orgasm on the grand scale, with extended solo sections. The choir and soloists (Helen Massey, Kate Symonds-Joy, William Kendall, Tim Mirfin) manage magnificently. But, frankly it is not a work I could listen to on a regular basis, think Strauss at his most overwrought. Rückert's text is a pantheistic hymn to a deity keeping watch. Quite why it raise Strauss to such over the top feats, I am not sure.

Grimeborn Festival

Arcola Theatre
The Grimeborn Festival starts at the Arcola Theatre on 30 July 2013 and provides four weeks of opera in what might be termed an alternative setting. The programme is eclectic, mixing well known classics with newer pieces. There are period instrument performances of Handel and Purcell, Silent Opera performing Monteverdi, Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande and two Mozart operas, but also an admirable selection of contemporary work ranging from the highly challenging to the Puccini-inspired lyrical. The aim of the festival is to both celebrate the world of opera whilst making it accessible. And there are multi-buy discounts, so you can go a little bit mad.

The festival was first staged in 2007 and its name is a humorous play on the name of the famous opera festival in Sussex and the fact that Grimeborn takes place at the Arcola Theatre in Dalston, E8 in a converted paint factory. Performances take place in a pair of studio theatres, one seating 200 and the other seating 100.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

I gioielli della Madonna - Opera Holland Park

Opera Holland Park - I gioielli della Madonna
If you have heard the name Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari at all it is probably because of his comic opera Susanna's Secret or his comic operas based on Goldoni plays. The intermezzo from the third act of his opera I gioielli della Madonna (The Jewels of the Madonna) was once a popular concert piece and listening to it, you might think that this opera was also a comedy, until you read the plot that is. The story of I gioielli della Madonna owes a lot to Italian verismo, but Wolf-Ferrari's opera doesn't really fit into that category either. Now, in what must be their biggest production to date, Opera Holland Park have given the work its UK premiere and given us all a chance to hear for ourselves. Martin Lloyd-Evans production opened on 23 July 2013 with a cast including Natalya Romaniw, Joel Montero, Olafur Sigudarson and Diana Montague, with the City of London Sinfonia, conducted by Peter Robinson and designed by Jamie Vartan.

The plot has a lot in common with the grim slices of 'real life' beloved of the verismo school, though Tim Ashley's article in the Opera Holland Park programme book points out that many other influences went into the story.


National Children's Orchestras 35th anniversary

National Children's Orchestras
The National Children's Orchestras of Great Britain offers talented children aged 7 to 14 training from first-rate tutors and professional musicians alongside multiple performance activities. The organisation was founded in 1978 by Vivienne Price specifically to give younger children the opportunity to perform at the highest level. The organisation is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. 

The NCO has five national age-banded orchestras, the Main Orchestra, Under 13 Orchestra, Under 13 Orchestra, Under 11 Orchestra and the Training Orchestra, there are also five regional orchestras. As part of the anniversary celebration, on 27 July, the Main Orchestra will be performing at the Barbican on Saturday 27 July 2013, and all the orchestra perform at Symphony Hall, Birmingham on Saturday 31 August.

At the Barbican on 27 July, Julian Clayton will be the guest conductor and the Main Orchestra will be performing Wagner Prelude to Act 1 from Die Meistersingers, Kodaly Peacock Variations, Enescu Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 and Strauss Der Rosenkavalier Suite.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Rights and wrongs - copyright frustration

Joan Didion - The White Album
Words can be an endless source of delight and frustration to a composer. You need a supply of them, if you are to write songs and choral music, but the text needs to match your ideas for the musical piece. This is particularly true, for me, of songs (for choral music I tend to raid the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer) as I find that it is contemporary writers that appeal the most and here the vexed question of copyright raises its head. My most recent set of songs involve the text of a living writer, Joan Didion, and my attempts to get permission have led to frustration.

Not every writer appreciates having their text mauled about in a musical setting, especially as the composer can entirely alter the meaning of the song simply by surrounding the text with extra musical ideas - a prelude or a postlude in the accompaniment can be devastating. A.E. Housman was notoriously grumpy at his songs being set, especially when composers like Vaughan Williams

Hitting the high notes - Arias for Caffarelli

In 1733 Handel's leading man, the castrato Senesino, left his company having created 17 leading roles. Operatic convention of the time demanded a castrato, so Handel replaced Senesino, with a succession of other castratos, first with Carestini (for whom he wrote Ariodante) and subsequently Conti, Andreoni and Caffarelli. Caffarelli would sing for Handel in the 1737/38 season creating roles in Handel's Faramondo and the title role in Serse. Whereas Senesino had an alto voice, Andreoni was soprano and the others were mezzo-sopranos. But there is one castrato missing, Farinelli the greatest of the age; though he worked in London he never sang for Handel. His closest rival was perhaps Caffarelli, and in fact Caffarelli's period in London was not greatly successful.

Caffarelli was a student of the composer Nicola Porpora (as was Farinelli) and much associated with the music of Hasse and the Naples school. These composers wrote brilliantly, almost instrumentally, for the voice giving the castratos the sort of coloratura showpieces at which they excelled. So quite what Caffarelli made of the rather satirical title role in Handel's Serse I don't know!.

Present day counter-tenors find that the roles written for the alto castratos like Senesino fall comfortably into their tessitura. But the mezzo-soprano castrato roles have traditionally been taken by women in modern revivals, but this is something which is changing, as a generation of counter-tenors develops for whom the higher tessitura holds fewer terrors. Now counter-tenor Franco Fagioli is joining the ranks, releasing a disc on naive of arias written for Caffarelli.


Monday, 22 July 2013

Recording ups and downs

There have been a few ups and downs in the record industry. In a move which seems to be the way most ensembles are going, the Academy of Ancient Music has announced that it is developing its own record label, with four double albums promised for this year ranging from the birth of the symphony to Bach passions. But a number of distributors across the globe have been going into administration, reflecting the down turn in the sales of CD's.

Genesis Sixteen in concert

Genesis Sixteen, the Sixteen's young artists programme, is in it second year and the second cohort gave a lunchtime concert at St Martin's in the Fields on Saturday 20 July 2013. To a packed church the 22 young singers, conducted by Harry Christophers and by Eamonn Dougan, performed a programme which mixed Britten Five Flower Songs and Tippett's Five Spirituals from A Child of Our Time with motets by Victoria and Anerio, plus music by Weelkes, Ramsey and Tomkins sung by smaller consort groups.

The young singers must be aged between 18 and 23 when they apply for the scheme and a new group of singers is taken each year. The scheme is sponsored by the Genesis Foundation so that not only is tuition free but the singers receive a bursary to cover costs.

The programme split up the Britten and the Tippett interleaving the movements with other works through the programme in groups, starting and finishing with the Britten.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

London Philharmonic Orchestra's 2013/14 season

London Philharmonic Orchestra
The first half of the London Philharmonic Orchestra's 2013/14 season at the Royal Festival Hall on London's South Bank, sees the orchestra completing their contribution to the South Bank Centre's The Rest is Noise festival with concerts celebrating Britten's centenary as well as performing music by his friends and contemporaries such as Poulenc, Shostakovich, Ligeti Schnittke and Dutilleux. Moving further ahead in time they explore Messian, Gubadulina and Part before giving us some key British works from the 1990's by MacMillan and Ades.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Temple Music new season

Temple Church, picture Temple Music Foundation
The Temple Music Foundation runs a concert season each year with concerts two historic venues, Middle Temple Hall and Temple Church. The Foundation was established to support and promote music in the Temple and to contribute resources when possible towards the education of the Temple Church’s choristers. They are known for their Temple Song series, directed by Julius Drake, but in fact the present quite a wide range of concerts. They have just released their Autumn/Winter programme which includes recitals from Annette Dasch and Roderick Williams with Julius Drake, plus visits from the Sixteen, Endymion, the Sacconi String Quartet, the Wallfisch/York Duo, Nicholas Daniel and the Aurora Orchestra. The music of this years centenarians, Britten, Wagner and Verdi makes a significant contribution to the series. But there is also the chance to see a silent film with improvised accompaniment from organist David Briggs, and to hear the Sixteen in music written for the Tudors.

Schumann and Dvorak piano concertos

Schumann/Dvorak Piano Concertos - Francesco Piemontesi, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Jiri Belohlavek - Naive V5327
The young Swiss-Italian pianist Francesco Piemontesi has teamed up with Jiri Belohlavek and the BBC Symphony Orchestra for a disc of piano concertos, pairing a live recording of Schumann's Piano Concerto with a studio recording of the rather rarer Dvorak Piano Concerto in its original published version from 1883. 

Schumann's Piano Concerto was written for his wife Clara to play and the work is strongly associated with her style of playing. As a teacher, Clara's emphasis was on legato line and singing tone, on touch. According to her pupil Franklin Taylor ‘the peculiarly beautiful quality of tone she produced ... was obtained by pressure with the fingers rather than by percussion ... The fingers were kept close to the keys and squeezed instead of striking them’.

Many years ago there was a boxed set of vinyl discs issued devoted to the recordings of pupil's of Clara Schumann, including a recording of the Schumann Piano Concerto by Clara Schumann's pupil Fanny Davies. I'm not sure whether this recording is currently available but you can download extracts from YouTube. I bring this up, because Fanny Davies' performance is notable for its lack of bravura, its evenness of tone and sense of legato. I bring this up because listening to Piemontesi playing the Schumann Piano Concerto on this new disc brought back memories of Fanny Davies, though I'd hesitate to compare them directly.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Dai Fujikura & more - Piano 4 Hands

Piano 4 Hands: Joseph Tong & Waka Hasegawa; (c) Oded Schein
On Monday 22 July 2013, the piano duo of Joseph Tong and Waka Hasegawa are giving the London premiere of Dai Fujikura's Three Miniatures for Two Pianos. Also in the programme will be Poulenc's early Sonata for Two Pianos (written in 1918), Britten's Introduction and Rondo All Burlesca (no, I don't know it either), Percy Grainger's amazing Fantasy on 'Porgy and Bess' (yes, I do know it and have even played it in private) and Stravinsky's initial four-stave version of The Rite of Spring. Quite a concert. Further information from the Wigmore Hall website.

Sinfonia Tamesa

Sinfonia Tamesa, Tom Hammond, Johnny Roberts - Wagner, Strauss, Brahms, 20 july 2013
Sinfonia Tamesa is  going all late Romantic at its  concert tomorrow (20 July 2013). Conducted by their founder Tom Hammond, the orchestra will be joined by Johnny Roberts as the soloist in Richard Strauss's late masterpiece, the Oboe Concerto. The work was written in 1945 (when the composer was over 80) and arose after conversations between Strauss and John de Lancie, who was serving in the US Army but in civilian life had been the oboist of the Pittsburgh Orchestra. Sinfonia Tamesa are teaming the work up with the overture to Wagner's Die Meistersinger and Brahms's Second Symphony. The concert takes place at St John's Waterloo, further information from the Sinfonia Tamesa website.

Don Pasquale at Glyndebourne

Alessandro Corbelli as Don Pasquale, Glyndebourne Festival 2013, (c) Clive Barda
Alessandro Corbelli as Don Pasquale
(c) Clive Parda
Mariame Clement's production of Donizetti's Don Pasquale was first produced by Glyndebourne on Tour in 2011 and has now reached the main house at Glyndebourne Opera, the first time the piece has been performed at the Glyndebourne Festival since 1938.. Refreshingly the production, designed by Julia Hansen, was set in the 18th century albeit with quirky modern detailing, rather than following the trend to update the work. On  a very warm summer evening, we caught the opening performance (18 July 2013) with Alessandro Corbelli in the title role, Danielle de Niese as Norina and Nikolay Borchev making his Glyndebourne debut as Dr Malatesta. Alek Shrader, who was due to sing Ernesto, was ill and the role was sung by Enea Scala who had sung the role with Glyndebourne on Tour. Enrique Mazzola conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

The whole production was based around a revolve, displaying three different rooms and during the overture we saw Nikolay Borchev's Malatesta walking through each. Don Pasquale (Alessandro Corbelli) was asleep on the settee in his drawing room, his housekeeper keeping watch, Ernesto (Enea Scala) was asleep in his bedroom and Norina (Danielle de Niese) asleep at her dressing table. In each of the rooms Borchev examined everything, establishing his character's highly manipulative quality. Hansen's sets had a plain elegance about them, with the interiors very spare, but each was full of quirky detailing and as Borchev moved from room to room he did not always exit via the door.

There were other quirky details to the production. Don Pasquale's rejoicing at the idea of children in the first scene was indicated by his acquiring a toy rocking horse which he carried about with him. He had a single servant/housekeeper (Anna-Marie Sullivan) and when Malatesta appeared with 'Sofronia' the housekeeper clearly thought she recognised 'Sofronia' and Malatesta shut the housekeeper in the cupboard.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Rachmaninov and Shostakovich sonatas

Rachmaninov - Cello Sonata, Shostakovich - Viola Sonata, Leonard Elschenbroich, Alexei Grynyuk, ONYX 4116
This new disc on Onyx Classics from the young London-based German cellist Leonard Elschenbroich, accompanied by Alexei Grynyuk on piano, gives us a pair of sonatas by Russian composers. Sergei Rachmaninov's Cello Sonata, the last of his chamber music, was written in 1901 and Dmitri Shostakovich's Viola Sonata (in an arrangement for violoncello and piano by Daniil Shafran), the composer's last completed work. The two could not be more different, the sonata by the young Rachmaninov (aged 28) is imbued with the singing romance we know from the piano concertos, whereas Shostakovich's late work is bleak and enigmatic, full of quotations from his own work and other composers.

Hans Gal and Schumann recordings

Hans Gal / Robert Schumann - Symphonies - Kenneth Woods - Orchestra of the Swan
Many years ago (in 1978 to be exact) I played viola in the Edinburgh Chamber Orchestra. The orchestra had links with the emigre Austrian composer Hans Gál (1890 - 1987) and in 1978 we played his Serenade for String Orchestra and I believe he was present. Since then Gál's name has cropped up periodically, but his music still does not receive the recognition it deserves. Like a number of other Jewish musicians Gál and his family fled to England in the 1930's but his music never recovered, though he went on to have a career as a distinguished academic at Edinburgh University, his works were not played very much. Now the Stratford-upon-Avon based Orchestra of the Swan are recording all of Gál's four symphonies conducted by Kenneth Woods. Gal's symphonies are paired with the symphonies of Robert Schumann, a composer that Gal admired and wrote about. The orchestra has already recorded three and are now appealing for help funding the final disc.

In December 2013, the orchestra plans to complete this historic project with Schumann and Gál’s First Symphonies. Gál’s first was composed in 1927, and in spite of huge early success, it has only been performed twice since the end of World War II, in Germany in 1952 and most recently by the BBC Scottish Symphony in 1970, forty-three years ago.

The orchestra is offering a variety of inducements and rewards in return for support, ranging from signed discs and downloads to a private quartet recital, further information from the Orchestra of the Swan website.

When a Man Knows - now on Vimeo

Dario Duganzic as the man in When a Man Knows by Robert Hugill based on the play by Alan Richardson
My opera, When A Man Knows, which was staged by FifteenB at the Bridewell Theatre in 2011, directed by Ian Caddy and conducted by David Roblou, is now on Vimeo. The one-act opera is based on the play by Alan Richardson, described as a modern day Jacobean revenge tragedy. Starring soprano Zoe South and baritone Dario Dugandzic, the opera was described by Opera Magazine as 'chilling' and 'disturbing'.

'I liked it too. Hugill is clearly a composer of discernment, imagination, and drive, and his score encompassed many a gem, including an arioso, fearsome duet with the Man, as the Woman spells out her plan of revenge, with torrid passages for violin, cello and piano, and a cliff-hanger at the end. At the sound of a banging door the woman departs. All we hear is the dripping tap. Silence. Then chorus: ‘Will she be back ?’ - Jill Barlow: First Performances (2011). Tempo, Volume 65, Issue 258, October 2011 pp 45-58 http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?aid=8406640

The video was recorded live on 1 April 2011; to see the opera, simply go to Vimeo

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Woodwose

Woodwose
This Friday, 19 July 2013, at the Wigmore Hall,  Kerry Andrew's new community chamber opera Woodwose premieres. Inspired by Britten's folksong settings and using tales collected from Westminster's own diverse community, Andrew's new piece is based around the Woodwose, the wild man of the woods. The work was commissioned by Wigmore Hall Learning and will be performed by a community cast of over 150 from across Westminster alongside tenor Andrew Kennedy, directed by Hazel Gould, designed by Ruth Paton, with musical direction by Isabelle Adams. We are promised that the Wigmore Hall will be miraculously transformed into a stunning forest setting.

There is a schools performance at 2pm with a public performance at 6.30pm. Further information from the Wigmore Hall website.

L'elisir d'amore

Sarah Tynan (credit: Chris Gloag)
Sarah Tynan (credit: Chris Gloag)
Opera Holland Park continued its season with a new production of Donizetti's comedy L'elisir d'amore with Sarah Tynan making her Opera Holland Park debut and Geoffrey Dolton bravely standing in at the last minute as Dulcamara. Pia Furtado and Leslie Travers gave us a production set in the recent 20th century and full of sun flowers. 

Opera Holland Park's new production of Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore opened on 16 July 2013 with Sarah Tynan, Aldo di Tor, George von Bergen, Geoffrey Dolton and Rosalind Coad, directed by Pia Furtado, designed by Leslie Travers and conducted by Stephen Higgins with the City of London Sinfonia.

With most productions of L'elisir d'amore, whatever the period setting, the most interesting question is the mode of transport being used by Dulcamara, whether it be a cart, a Fiat Topolino or even a balloon. But in Pia Furtado's production Dulcamara doesn't arrive at all, he's on stage at the beginning, and the transport is too in the form of a pair of lorries.


Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Union Chapel Organ Project

Henry (Father) Willis Organ at the Union Chapel (c) Daniela Sbinsy
The Union Chapel in Islington is celebrating the completion of restoration of their remarkable 1877 Henry Willis organ with an week of events in which the organ takes centre stage. The events started on 14 July and continue until 20 July. Tonight, 16 July, the Norwegian film-score composer Rebekka Karijord will be joined by the Icelandic record label/collective Bedroom community, Swedish fantasy-pop cellist Linnea Olsen and Small Feet. Wednesday 17 July sees the organ used as accompaniment to a screening of Carl Dreyer's 1928 silent film, the Passion of Joan of Arc,  with new music by Irene Buckley plus soprano Emma Nash and James McVinnie at the organ. Then on 18 July there are the London premieres of new organ works by John McLeod, Paul Mealor and Bill Thompson plus music by Judith Weir, James MacMillan and Ligeti, played by the Aberdeen based organist Roger  B Williams. Finally on 20 July the Paradisal Players, comprising members of top London orchestras alongside brilliant amateurs conducted by Samuel Burstin, play music for organ and strings including a new work by Claire M Singer, the music director of the Union Chapel organ project.

This is a highly eclectic programme which takes the organ way beyond what I imagine that Henry Willis envisioned for it. The organ was designed integrally with the architecture and installed behind the screen so that the source of the sound is not visible but is diffused into the chapel. It has an important surviving mechanism which include a rare hydraulic blowing system, which had not been used since the 1930's

 Further information from the Union Chapel website.

Jung Soo Yun - Richard Tauber Prize recital

Jung Soo Yun, Joseph Middleton - Wigmore Hall concert flyer
The Korean tenor Jung Soo Yun won the 2010 Richard Tauber Prize which is awarded by the Anglo-Austrian Music Society, and his recital at the Wigmore Hall on Monday 15 July 2013 was part of the prize. Accompanied by Joseph Middleton, himself the recipient of the 2010 Ferdinant Rauter Memorial Prize for accompanists awarded by the society, Jung Soo Yun sang three songs from Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin, Richard Strauss' Acht Gedichte Opus 10, three songs by Paolo Tosti, arias by Gounod and Tchaikovsky and two songs from his native Korea.

Jung Soo Yun trained in Korea, and at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and the International Academy of Voice at Cardiff University. He is currently singing Nadir in Les pecheurs de perles at Opera Holland Park and recently understudied Faust at Opera North and Werther at Scottish Opera.

Jung Soo Yun has a richly vibrant, well produced voice with quite an Italianate timbre. It is evenly produced throughout the range, but he has a relatively low centre of gravity. He used full voiced high notes relatively sparingly throughout the concert. He also has a lovely mezza-voce and a great willingness to use it. What was also impressive was, given the style of his voice with its burnished tones and very full climaxes at the top, he did not try and grand stand, everything was carefully and intelligently thought out.

Stravinsky's Soldier's Tale

Stravinsky's Soldier's Tale is a compact piece, deliberately so. The work was written when Stravinsky was marooned in Switzerland during World War One and uses just seven instrumentalists and three actors, plus dancers to tell the story. It was conceived by Stravinsky and the Swiss writer CF Ramuz, based on a Russian folk-tale and was premiered in Lausanne in 1918 with Ernest Ansermet conducting. As part of the International Youth Arts Festival in Kingston-upon-Thames, the Constella Ballet and Orchestra mounted a production of the Soldier's Tale at the Rose Theatre on 15 July 2013 with choreography by Jaered Glavin.

The Constella Orchestra was founded by conductor/composer Leo Geyer and clarinettist Henry Clay as a student run ensemble featuring players from many of the UK universities and conservatoires. Since their founding in 2011 their impressive programme has encompassed Beethoven's Violin Concerto with Simon Standage, Stravinsky's Pulcinella and Clay's own opera The Mermaid of Zennor.

This new venture, a fully staged version of the Soldier's Tale was choreographed by Jaered Glavin who studied with the Royal Ballet School and danced with the Royal New Zealand Ballet from 2008 to 2012. Glavin's production used a black stage with just a table and chair stage left and the instrumental ensemble stage right. The narrator was Saul Boyer, a young actor, writer and director who is currently studying at Cambridge. He was placed standing next to the ensemble and was the only one of the actors to be amplified.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Rosenblatt on TV

Lawrence Brownlee at Rosenblatt Recitals at Wigmore Hall (c) Will White
Lawrence Brownlee at
Rosenblatt Recitals at Wigmore Hall
(c) Will White
Today (15 July 2013) the first of the Rosenblatt Recitals is being broadcast on TV. Lawrence Brownlee's Wigmore Hall recital was recorded live last year (see my review of his original concert) and is being broadcast tonight on Sky Arts. a rare opportunity to watch song recital on television. Brownlee, accompanied by Iain Burnside, sings songs by Verdi, Poulenc and Ben Moore plus arias by Rossini and Mozart. Further recitals from the series are being broadcast on subsequent Mondays, Spanish tenor Joel Prieto (22 July), Greek soprano Dimitra Theodossiou (29 July) and Sicilian tenor Antonino Siragusa (5 August). Each programme is introduced by Suzy Klein and includes interviews with the singers. 

Further information from Sky Arts website.

Les Siecles at the Proms - revelations and panache

Les Siecles
The French period-instrument ensemble Les Siecles made their Proms debut last night, 14 July 2013, under their director Francois-Xavier Roth with a wide ranging programme of dance music from France, starting with Lully and Rameau, taking in Delibes and Massenet and finishing with Stravinsky. Having done an historically informed account of Stravinsky's Firebird Francois-Xavier Roth has now turned his attention to The Rite of Spring and the second half of the concert re-created version of the piece which was premiered in 1913 with Roth going back to Stravinsky's original autograph, as well as using the instruments of the era. It was a daring and challenging programme, requiring the players to use multiple instruments during the course of the concert, but the group brought it off with great panache.

At the beginning of the concert, the majority of players came on to the stage with two instruments, one for Lully and Rameau, and another for Delibes and Massenet. For the Lully and Rameau the wind stood, and Roth used a strong woodwind contingent (four each of oboes, bassoons and recorders). Roth himself directed using a large staff, just as Lully had done, indicating the tempos by tapping the staff on the podium. This was intrusive at first, but you soon got used to it!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Fortunio at Grange Park Opera

End of Act 1, Messager's Fortunio at Grange Park Opera, 2013, © Robert Workman www.robertworkman.demon.co.uk
End of Act 1, Messager's Fortunio at
Grange Park Opera, 2013,
© Robert Workman www.robertworkman.demon.co.uk
Sentimental French comedy is doing rather well at the opera this year. Following on from the Buxton Festival's double bill of Saint-Saens' La Princesse Jaune and Gounod's La Colombe comes Grange Park Opera's production of Messager's Fortunio. Messager was from the next generation, he was a pupil of Saint-Saens and of Faure, and conducted the premiere of Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande in 1902. Messager's Fortunio premiered in 1907, it is a through composed opera rather than using spoken dialogue, but in subject matter it is far closer to the sentimental operas comiques of Saint-Saens and Gounod than Debussy. Having heard La Princesse Jaune last week, and admired both Saint-Saens melodic felicity and the way he pushed the opera comique genre including a long through-composed section, then his pupil's work in Fortunio seems a logical conclusion.  I caught the second of Grange Park Opera's performances of Fortunio on 13 July 2013 given by their Rising Stars with a cast including Alex Vearey-Roberts, Ilona Domnich, Timothy Dawkins, Quirijn de Lang, Tristan Stocks, Mark Cunningham, Bragi Jonsson, Joe Morgan, Johnny Herford, Sylvie Beouelle and Caia Moreso, directed by Daniel Slater, designed by Francis O'Connor and conducted by Toby Purser. 

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Debussy's La Mer from Les Siecles

Period instrument ensembles are continuing the discovery of late 19th and 20th century music, showing what revelations the changes in timbres and performing styles can bring. The French group Les Siecles, conductor Francois-Xavier Roth, who will be appearing at the Proms on Sunday 14 July 2013 playing Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, have a new disc out exploring the music of Debussy. Recorded live, the disc pairs Debussy's early Premiere Suite in its first ever recording, with his orchestral masterpiece La Mer.

Debussy's Premiere Suite was written whilst the composer was studying at the Paris Conservatoire in Ernest Guiraud's composition class. (Guiraud, incidentally, was the friend of Bizet who was responsible for writing the recitative in Carmen after Bizet's death). Debussy's Premiere Suite was writte in 1882-84 but only came to light in the 1970's. The work exists in a piano duet form and in a fully orchestrated form.

The piano duet version was premiered in 2008 and the orchestral version in 2012. The work is in four movements, Fete, Ballet, Reves, Cortege et Bacchanale. The orchestration to the third movement, Reves, has been lost and on this disc the movement has been orchestrated by Philippe Manoury.

Young voices performing Britten

The Merbecke Choir, Southwark Cathedral
Tonight (13 July 2013), the Merbecke Choir, director Huw Morgan, is performing at Southwark Cathedral. The concert includes Britten's lovely Hymn to the Virgin written when the composer was still at school, plus the less well known Hymn to St. Peter and Hymn of St. Columba. Morgan's own Four Elements will receive its first complete performance, plus music by Howells, Lassus, Handl and Guerroro. Tickets for the concert are only £7, which seems amazingly good value. 

The Merbecke Choir is Southwark Cathedral's choir for young singers. The choir was formed by the cathedral in 2004 and is intended for boys and girls who leave the Cathedral Choirs, and other young people, who wish to maintain their sight-reading skills and explore a wide range of repertoire. The upper age for membership is 25. They sing Compline on the fourth Sunday of the month at 6.30pm, plus a concert each term. And the name, it comes from the Tudor composer John Merbecke, best known today for his settings for the Book of Common Prayer. Further information from the Merbecke Choir's website.

Friday, 12 July 2013

BBC Philharmonic Orchestra's 2013/14 season

BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra's 2013/14 season at Manchester's Bridgewater Hall includes two world premieres, by Emily Howard and Gary Carpenter, along with an impressive series of concerts based on Richard Strauss's song, plus a series celebrating Manchester's musical heritage.

Emily Howard's Axon (commissioned by Radio 3) is premiered on 1 November 2013 at a concert conducted by the BBC Philharmonic's chief conductor, Juanjo Mena. The concert is part of a series of concerts celebrating Manchester's musical heritage.

Okeanos Ensemble travels the Tokaido Road

Okeanos is a rather distinctive instrumental ensemble which mixes traditional Japanese instruments with western ones, so that they mix koto and sho with clarinet, viola and oboe (The full ensemble is mezzo-soprano, koto, sho, shakuhachi, harp, clarinets, oboe/oboe d'amore, viola). But in fact, the group's primary focus is as a new music ensemble. They were founded around 10 years ago by Jinny Shaw (who plays oboe and oboe d'amore) and I caught up with another founder member, clarinettist Kate Romano, to talk about the group's plans.

The group came about because Shaw and Romano decided to collaborate on a new music group. At the initial stage the group was simply a new music group, but a visit to a Japanese textile exhibition gave the idea of commissioning a group of Japanese composer. Those who wrote for the group included Dai Fujikura who has gone on to write a number of pieces for Okeanos.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Autumn at the Royal Academy of Music

Royal Academy of Music logo
Autumn at the Royal Academy of Music sees their Haydn symphony and Bach cantata series continue, there are opportunities to hear the new organ (installed thanks to the generosity of Sir Elton John who was a junior exhibitioner at the Academy), distinguished soprano Dame Gwyneth Jones will be talking about her life, distinguished conductors include Christoph von Dohnnay, Masaaki Suzuki and Trevor Pinnock. Stockhausen's Gruppen makes an appearance as does a Massenet opera.

Missa Charles Darwin

Gregory W Brown - Missa Charles Darwin, Navona Records
As a contemporary composer who also sings a lot of Renaissance polyphony I find the intersection between polyphony and the modern composing idiom very fascinating. Composer Gregory W. Brown has created a modern mass, Missa Charles Darwin, in the unaccompanied polyphonic idiom for four voices, which has been recorded by the men of New York Polyphony (the four-man vocal ensemble with a counter-tenor on the top line). But Brown has gone one better and created a modern version of the texts. Here the Latin of the ordinary of the mass has been largely replaced by the words of Charles Darwin. Brown is a composer of acoustic and electro-acoustic music, who studied with amongst others the 2000 Pulitzer Prize winner Lewis Spratlan.

The idea and the initial draft of the libretto came from Craig Phillips, bass in Neew York Polyphony. The mass is laid out with the traditional movements, Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei with the addition of a couple of extras.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Celebrating Carnegie UK Trust's Tudor Church Music series

If you have ever sung any English Renaissance sacred music, then have you ever wondered how the music came into the public domain? In the early years of the 20th century, much of the repertoire remained in the collections of cathedrals and libraries and it was due to a pioneering collection produced under the auspices of the Carnegie UK Trust that this repertoire was made more generally available. 

The Carnegie UK Trust is 100 this year and as part of the celebrations the vocal ensemble Stile Antico is releasing a CD, Phoenix Rising, which celebrates the trust's inauguration of the Tudor Church Music edition in 1922.  The music of the CD is drawn from the ten volumes of the Tudor Church Music edition and includes music by Taverner, Tallis and Gibbons as well as Byrd's Five part mass.

The trust was set up for 'the improvement of the well-being of the masses of the people of Great Britain and Ireland' and music was one of its interests and included not only the Tudor Church Music edition but the publication of contemporary British music in the 1920's. R.R. Terry, Organist of Westminster Cathedral, was appointed the first editor and the first volume came out in 1923 devoted to the music of William Byrd.

Stile Antico are not only releasing a Cd but will be taking the music on tour to St Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh (21/8), Lammermuir Festival, Musselburgh (15/9), Cadogan Hall, London (19/11), Cardiff University (20/11), Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin (29/11). The same repertoire will also be the subject of a summer school which Stile Antico are running at Dartington (4-9/8/2013).

Further information from the Stile Antico website and the Carnegie UK Trust website.

Transports of Delight at Temple Church

In many cathedral style choirs (boys or girls on the top line, adult men on the lower three lines), the men come together on their own to form an ensemble performing generally light music. The Kings Singers has its origins in just such a group and the men of the Temple Church choir are no different. They form an ensemble called the Templars who provide entertainment for dinners at the two Inns of Inner and Middle Temple. For the final concert of the Temple Music Foundations 2012/13 season the Templars, directed by Tom Williams, performed their programme Transports of Delight on Tuesday 9 July 2013 at Temple Church, with contributions on the organ from Greg Morris, associate organists of the Temple Church. 

Transports of Delight was originally devised in 2006 for the vocal ensemble SIX8 by Keith Roberts and Tom Williams, then both Temple Church choirmen. Roberts provided the arrangements for many of the items. The programme mixed madrigals, part-songs and a cappella vocal jazz with music from the 16th century to the present day. The music was themed on journeys, modes of transport, desirable destinations and places of special significance and the title came from the Flanders and Swann song.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

In the beginning

I'm getting the other side of the footlights again on Thursday. I will be performing with London Concord Singers, conductor Malcolm Cottle, in their concert at 7.30pm on 11 July 2013 at St. Stephen's Walbrook, London EC4 8BN in a programme which includes Aaron Copland's In the beginning, William Byrd's Mass for Five Voices, motets by Poulenc, Victoria, Lassus and Giovanni Gabrieli plus Bernard Hughes Two Choral Fanfares. Further information from London Concord Singers website.

St. Alban's International Organ Festival

St Albans International Organ Festival
The St. Albans International Organ Festival starts on Thursday 11 July 2013 and this year is its 50th anniversary. They have commissioned a new work by the Norwegian organist-composer Jon Laukvik, Aria, Fugue & Final which will be played by all the quarter finalists in the Interpretation competition. In the semi-final rounds of both the Interpretation and the Improvisations competitions, the competitors will perform in ensemble with trumpet. The quarter finals run from Thursday 11 July, the semi-final from Tuesday 16 July and the finals on Friday 19 July with the presentation of awards and prizewinners' concert in the Cathedral on Saturday 20 July 2013. In addition to the competition there are a whole host of other events and concerts, including a piano recital, chamber music, Britten's War Requiem, a host of other choral music and a visit from Brecon Baroque. Plus of course, organ recitals from the distinguished judges.

The Passion of Reason - five centuries of 'Scientific' music

The Passion of Reason - 5 centuries of Scientific Music: Sour Cream: GLOSSA GCD P31102
This is a fascinating if slightly frustrating pair of discs. Recorded 20 years ago by the trio Sour Cream, consisting of Frans Burggen, Kees Boeke and Walter van Hauwe, the set's title is The Passion of Reason and it explores five centuries of 'scientific' music. The three players essentially form a recorder trio (with other instruments occasionally mixed in) and using these instruments they explore music stretching from Guillaume de Machaut to Johann Sebastian Bach, taking in on the way names as various as Antoine Brumel, Robert Fayrfax, John Bedyngham, Heinrich Isaac and Clement Jannequin

The CD booklet includes an extensive article by Kees Boeke, who also conceived the programme. The article explains some of the background to the music on the disc. In the medieval period, certain types of music were regarded as belonging to the branch of the liberal arts known as the quadrivium, consisting of arithmetics, music, geometry and astronomy, the sciences ruled by number. (Music which involved words could also be regarded as a branch of rhetoric). In scientific music (as opposed to music as entertainment) the four branches of the quadrivium were viewed as coming together in the conception of music. This can be tricky for us to appreciate, but Kees Boeke quotes serialism as a modern example.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Gala Concert at Buxton

Buxton Opera House
For the third night of the Buxton Festival, 7 July 2013, the main event was a gala concert at the Buxton Opera House, with the Northern Chamber Orchestra on stage conducted by Stephen Barlow, with soloists soprano Claire Rutter and baritone Stephen Gadd. The repertoire took in music from operas by Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, Bizet, Bellini, Massenet and Lehar, all performed in the presence of HRH the Duke of Gloucester.

Stephen Barlow and the orchestra opened proceedings with a crisply brisk account of the overture to Le Nozze di Figaro, which did however take a bit of time to settle down. This was the first in a group of items from that opera and was followed by Stephen Gadd's brilliantly vivid account of the Count's aria Vedro ment'io sospiro, then Claire Rutter gave a beautifully shaped account of the Countess's aria Dove sono.


Sunday, 7 July 2013

La Finta Giardiniera at Buxton

Mozart - La Finta Giardiniera at Buxton Festival 2013, directed by Harry Fehr
Buxton Festival's second offering this year was Mozart's early comedy La Finta Giardiniera in a production directed by the young English director Harry Fehr, designed by Yannis Thavoris. Nicholas Kramer conducted with a young cast including Ellie Laugharne, Andrew Kennedy, Christopher Lemmings, Stephanie Corley, Catherine Carby, Anna Patalong and Matthew Hargreaves. I caught the first night on Saturday 6 July 2013.

Mozart wrote the opera when he was 18, it was commissioned for the carnival season at Munich and the libretto wasn't Mozart's choice, but was selected for him and had been originally written by Giuseppe Petrosellini for Pasquale Anfossi and performed in the 1774 carnival season in Rome. Mozart's version, premiered in 1775 was highly popular. Mozart re-worked the piece with a German libretto as a singspiel, Die Gartnerin aus Liebe which was performed in 1779/80 and it is in this form it became known to modern audiences as the manuscript score of the first act of the Italian opera buffa had disappeared. It reappeared in the 1980's and has been winning friends ever since.

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