Brahms' Die schöne Magelone is problematic for performers because Brahms extracted songs from Ludwig Tieck's narrative and without the supporting structure of Tieck's story the songs do not make a coherent narrative group. Different performers choose different options. Here, Roderick Williams and Joseph Middleton performed nine of the songs whilst Jo Blake-Cave narrated Tieck's story in her own inimitable way. Williams and Middleton gave us a very fine performance, with Williams singing from memory in a performance that was vividly direct and poetic, with a strong emphasis on the words.
The festival runs from 1 to 3 April 2016 in Leeds, but Joseph Middleton explained that they are hoping to expand the audience for lieder so that they are presenting lieder concerts in Leeds every month between October 2015 and the festival. Middleton commented that he had come late to lieder, and initially the genre went straight over his head. You cannot simply listen to it passively but must work, hence the plan to increase exposure. He added that it is hard to hear song recitals outside London and that Music Clubs find it hard to sell them, which is a shame as it is such a rich and vivid art form.
The opening concert is Rory Kinnear with Roderick Williams, Mark Padmore and Julius Drake in Songs of the Sea, other highlights include Katarina Karneus and Joseph Middleton in Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder, the distinguished soprano Elly Ameling in conversation, the Myrten Ensemble (Mary Bevan, Anna Huntley, Nicky Spence, Joseph Middleton) in Brahms, Schumann, Barber and Faure, Claire Booth and Christopher Glynn in a new Edward Rushton piece, Nicky Spence and Iain Burnside in Britten, Finzi and a new Cheryl Frances Hoad piece. The closing recital is Iain Burnside's Shining Armour, his new narration round Brahms' Die schöne Magelone performed by Roderick Williams, Victoria Newlyn and Iain Burnside.
There are also a whole series of concerts leading up to the festival, so do check out the festival's website.