Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Music for the Queen of Heaven: Marian Consort in 20th & 21st century music

Music for the Queen of Heaven - Marian Consort - Delphian
Gabriel Jackson, Judith Weir, Herbert Howells, Andrzej Panufnik, Cecilia McDowall, Matthew Martin, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Hilary Campbell, Stephen Dodgson, Roxanna Panufnik, Lennox Berkeley, James McMillan; The Marian Consort; Delphian
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jan 24 2018 Star rating: 4.0
Contemporary Marian anthems in fine performances from this vocal ensemble

The Marian Consort, director Rory McCleery, is best known for its work in Early Music but like many such groups it also performs and commissions new music. On this lovely disc from Delphian, Music for the Queen of Heaven, the consort performs a selection of contemporary (and near contemporary) music themed on the Virgin Mary with works by Gabriel Jackson, Judith Weir, Herbert Howells, Andrzej Panufnik, Cecilia McDowall, Matthew Martin, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Hilary Campbell, Stephen Dodgson, Roxanna Panufnik, Lennox Berkeley and James McMillan.

The disc uses a pool of nine singers performing one to a part, with the maximum (in the first and last pieces) being eight and the majority of works being with six singers. Some of the earlier music on the disc was originally written for choral forces and this reduction re-focuses in fascinating way.

We start with Gabriel Jackson's Salve Regina, a mainly homophonic setting of the Marian antiphon which showcases Jackson's gorgeous harmony. The performance from the eight singers is clear, with the rich chords finely placed. This is followed by Judith Weir's setting of another of the Marian antiphons, Ave Regina Coelorum. Here Weir's mobile textures contrast fast and slow phrases, with an interestingly angular feel to both the melodic lines and harmony, and the group brings out the polyphony with great clarity.

We return to the Salve Regina with Herbert Howells' lovely early setting.

Fatal Passions in Leeds, Salford, Nottingham and Newcastle

Verdi and the Naples censor when preparing "Ballo", 1857–58, caricature by Delfico
Verdi and the Naples censor when preparing
Un ballo in maschera, 1857–58, caricature by Delfico
Opera North's first ever production of Verdi's Un ballo in maschera opens at the Grand Theatre, Leeds on Saturday 3 February 2018. The production is directed by Tim Albery and conducted by Richard Farnes and features Rafael Rojas (whose recent appearances with Opera North have included Giordano's Andrea Chenier and Puccini's Turandot), Phillip Rhodes (recently seen in Cav & Pag in Opera North's Six Little Greats), Adrienn Miksch (the Hungarian soprano who won 1st prize at the 6th annual Renata Tebaldi International Voice Competition), and Patricia Bardon.

Verdi's opera treats the assassination of King Gustav III of Sweden, a subject which caused immense problems with the censors in Naples where the opera was due to be premiered. In the end, the premiere was moved to Rome, and the location of the opera from Sweden to Boston, Massachussets with the Duke of Boston being assassinated. Whilst some companies still present the piece in its American setting, most choose to use the Swedish original. The opera represents Verdi's synthesis of his own style with the French Grand Opera, creating something which includes both an historical setting and grand set pieces, but making the whole essential to the drama and creating characters who are just as vivid and direct as his earlier operas.

Opera North is performing Un ballo in maschera with revivals of Tim Albery's production of Puccini's Madame Butterfly and Alessandro Talevi's production of Mozart's Don Giovanni.
After opening in Leeds, the three productions will tour to The Lowry in Salford Quays, Nottingham Theatre Royal and Newcastle Theatre Royal.

Full information from the Opera North website.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Handel in London - exploring the pleasures of the London Handel Festival

Nick Pritchard and Lucy Page in Handel's Acis and Galatea (Photo Robert Workman)
Nick Pritchard and Lucy Page in Handel's Acis and Galatea (Photo Robert Workman)
This year's London Handel Festival, which runs from 17 March to 16 April 2018 has a slightly different feel than usual, a welcome change to the selection and the way works are presented. There are four Handel operas being presented this year, a chance to hear Acis and Galatea, Teseo, Amadigi di Gaula and Giulio Cesare. The range of festival venues continues to expand, with Wigmore Hall, Foundling Museum, Handel & Hendrix in London, the Charterhouse, St Lawrence's Church, Little Stanmore, St John's Smith Square, and Fitzrovia Hospital Chapel as well as the festival's regular home of St George's Hanover Square.

The Handel Singing Competition returns for its 16th year, with a showcase concert for 2017 winners Marcjanna Myrlak and Jungkwon Jang,in addition to the competition itself. And Mr Handel's Scholars will again present alumni of the Handel Singing Competition, including 2017 finalists Maria and Nathan Vale, joining Anna Devin and Derek Welton,and the London Handel Orchestra.

Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens
Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens
The festival's theme this year is Handel and London, so we have Bridget Cunningham directing My Handel's Pleasures, a concert exploring the music of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. And Ruby Hughes (winner of the 2009 competition) takes on the mantle of Giulia Frasi, one of Handel's favourite sopranos and his last prima donna. There is a pair of concerts in Handel's own house, Handel at Home presents harpsichordists Julian Perkins and Gilbert Rowland playing in Handel's drawing room.

Congreve's libretto for The Judgement of Paris is best known for its use in the 1701 competition to pit London's finest composers against each other, but it was also set in 1742 by Thomas Arne and it is this version that John Andrews directs the Brook Street Band in, with Ed Lyon, Soraya MAfi, and Anthony Gregory. And there will be excerpts from Handel's Semele too (another Congreve libretto).

The opera performances are all highly tempting. Acis and Galatea is being presented in a pair of staged performances celebrating the 300th anniversary of the first performance, with Lucy Page, Nick Pritchard, Edward Grint and Jorge Navarro Colorado. Lawrence Cummings conductis and Martin Parr directs.  Leo Duarte conducts Opera Settecento in a concert performances of Amadigi di Gaula with Michal Czerniawski, Erica Eloff, Ilona Revolskaya and Maria Ostroukhova. Christian Curnyn directs his Early Opera Company in a concert performance of Giulio Cesare with Tim Mead and Anna Devin as Cesare and Cleopatra, plus Rachel Kelly, Hilary Summers, and Rupert Enticknap. David Bates directs his ensemble, La Nuova Musica in a pair of performances Handel's Teseo with two casts drawn from the Royal Academy Opera programme at the Royal Academy of Music.

Oratorio is not missing, of course, the festival concludes with the Occasional Oratorio, with Lawrence Cummings conducting and soloists Fflur Wyn, Galina Verina, Alexander Sprague and Lisandro Abadie. Adrian Butterfield is continuing his cycle of Handel's Chandos Anthems, performing nos. 1, 2 and 4,  and there is also a chance to hear Handel's Foundling Hospital Anthem in the Foundling Hospital Museum

There is a programme of Musical Walks include Bloomsbury philanthropists, inventors and eccentrics, Clerkenwell’s coffee houses, coal and the Clerk’s well, 1,000 years of destruction, conservation and restoration in 1 hour (!) and Churches, squares, artists, doctors and musicians in Georgian society. Plus there are talks by experts on Handel's investments at the Bank of England Museum and Handel's health at the Royal Society of Medicine.

Full details from the London Handel Festival website.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Debut Treehouse - intimate, alternative, engaging

Natalie Burch, Felicity Turner, James Way, James Newby, Eirian Lewis, Lizzie Holmes, Caroline Daggett, David Fearn, Paul McKenzie at Shoreditch Treehouse
Natalie Burch, Felicity Turner, James Way, James Newby, Eirian Lewis, Lizzie Holmes, Caroline Daggett, David Fearn, Paul McKenzie at Shoreditch Treehouse
Purcell, Liza Lehmann, Ned Rorem, Stephen Hough; Songspiel, Lizzie Holmes, Paul McKenzie, Eirian Lewis; Shoreditch Treehouse
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jan 28 2018
An intimate private recital, marketed through AirBnB, with an imaginative programme and a lively young audience

Private dining clubs have become something of a phenomenon on the last few years, presenting fine cuisine on an intimate scale, and now the idea has spread to the classical music world. London has always had people who host concerts in their own houses, generally limited to those in grand mansions with quite a restricted guest list. But Debut Treehouse is an entirely different concept. Hosted by Ross and curated by Lizzie Holmes (of Debut Opera), the concert series takes place in Shoreditch Treehouse, a Shoreditch loft apartment and is marketed via AirBnB Experiences. You only get the precise location when you have signed up.

We went along on Sunday 28 January 2018, to hear members of the song collective Songspiel (Natalie Burch - piano, Felicity Turner - mezzo-soprano, James Way - tenor, James Newby - baritone), plus Eirian Lewis (guitar), Lizzie Holmes (soprano), Caroline Daggett (mezzo-soprano), David Fearn (tenor), Paul McKenzie (piano) in a varied programme which included arias, songs and duets by Purcell (arranged Benjamin Britten), Liza Lehmann, Ned Rorem, Stephen Hough, William Marsey, Mozart, Bizet and Bernstein, plus guitar music by Carlo Domeniconi, Isaac Albeniz and John Duarte.

The venue is a top floor loft apartment, a large wooden clad space complete with a concert grand piano, South African fizz and locally brewed beer are available and whilst there are chairs and sofas, many people sit on the floor. There was an audience of well over 70 when we were there, and the majority were young and whilst the performers had brought some guests with them, many in the audience were not regular concert goers. It was a very different atmosphere to a regular concert, and remarkably intimate, the performers were very close. The format was casual too, with Lizzie Holmes acting as compere, introducing and talking to the performers. During the intervals, audience members were encouraged to chat to the performers, rather then them hiding away.

It was hardly a programme which was designed to be easily crowd pleasing. There were bonne bouches, Lizzie Holmes and Caroline Daggett sang a duet from Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, and Holmes and David Fearn sang 'Tonight' from Bernstein's West Side Story, and to finish James Newby gave a thrilling account of the Toreador's song from Bizet's Carmen.

But in between we had some rather meatier fare.

Pearl of Freedom

Emily Davison
Emily Davison
2018 is the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, in which women first gained the right to vote. In celebration of this, Royal Holloway, University of London has commissioned a new work from Joanna Marsh, Pearl of Freedom, to be premiered by the choir and orchestra of Royal Holloway and the London Mozart Players at St John's Smith Square on Wednesday 31 January 2018. Conducted by Rebecca Miller, the members of the orchestra of Royal Holloway will be playing side by side with members of the London Mozart Players.

Pearl of Freedom is a choral re-telling of the story of Emily Davison who died as a result of being trampled by the King's horse at the Derby in 1913 (a recent re-examination of the newsreel footage of the event suggests that Davison did not intend to kill herself but was trying to attach a scarf to the horse), protesting at the treatment of Suffragettes. David Pountney's libretto combines extracts of diaries, news reports and anecdotes to recount the events leading up to the Epsom Derby on 1913, the collision itself, and the aftermath.

The concert is completed with RVW's Serenade to Music and Beethoven's Symphony No. 5. Full details from the St John's Smith Square website.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Barbican Classical Music season 2018-17

Dame Ethel Smyth whose Mass in D is performed at the Barbican in November 2018
Ethel Smyth
The Barbican's classical music programme for the 2018-19 season has just been announced. The season is a partnership between the Barbican, its resident and associate ensembles - the London Symphony Orchestra, the Britten Sinfonia, the Academy of Ancient Music and the BBC Symphony Orchestra - and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. For me, one of the big highlights must be the performance of Ethel Smyth's Mass in D with the BBC Symphony Chorus, BBC Symphony Orchestra, conductor Sakari Oramo in a concert which celebrates both the chorus's 90th birthday and the 100 years since the successful Parliamentary appeal for universal suffrage, with soloists Lucy Crowe, Catriona Morison, Ben Johnson and Duncan Rock. And the concert is completed by the original version of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 with Pavel Kolesnikov.

Another commemoration during the season is the end of World War One. The London Symphony Orchestra will premiere James MacMillan's All the Hills and Vales along which sets poetry by Charles Sorley who was killed in action in 1915. The Britten Sinfonia will be giving the premiere of Nico Muhly's The Last Letter which sets last letters sent by soldiers on both sides of the conflict. And there will be a BBC Total Immersion Day on music arising out of the First World War including a performance of Mark-Anthony Turnage's opera The Silver Tassie with Ryan Wigglesworth conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Ashley Riches as Harry, and the BBC Singers under their new chief conductor Sofi Jeanin will be performing two new works inspired by the event, from Roderick Williams and from Bob Chilcott.

Other operas in the season include Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen in a semi-staged performance directed by Peter Sellars with Simon Rattle conducting the London Symphony Orchestra and soloists Lucy Crowe, Gerard Finley, Willard White, Sophie Burgos and Peter Hoare. Purcell's Dido and Aeneas forms the conclusion of the Academy of Ancient Music's trilogy of Purcell stagings, and Christine Rice will be taking the title role, and Richard Egarr will also be including Purcell's music for Dioclesian in the concert. At the end of the season the Academy of Ancient Music returns to opera, in collaboration with the Grange Festival when they present Mozart' The Marriage of Figaro

As part of the continuing Bernstein Centenary celebrations, Marin Alsop conducts the London Symphony Orchestra in a concert performance of Candide with Leonardo Capalbo, Jane Archibald, Anne Sofie von Otter and Thomas Allen. Contemporary Irish opera also makes an appearance with the UK premiere of Enda Walsh and Donnacha Dennehy's The Second Violinist produced by Landmark Productions and National Irish Opera. The Britten Sinfonia is conducted by Mark Elder in Donizetti's Il Paria with Albina Shagimuratova, the latest in Opera Rara's projects.

Joyce DiDonato takes the title role in Handel's Agrippina with Il Pomo d'Oro, and the group will present Handel's Serse with Franco Fagioli and Vivica Genaux, Handel's Semele from Harry Bicket and the English Concert, Handel's Brockes Passion from the Academy of Ancient Music, the BBC Singers will join the Academy of Ancient Music for Handel's Israel in Egypt, Thomas Ades completes his Beethoven cycle with the Britten Sinfonia with Beethoven's Symphony No. 9,

Other new music includes the world premiere of Harrison Birtwistle's Fanfare as part of the London Symphony Orchestra's opening concert of the season, and another new work from Birtwistle to be premiered by the LSO in May 2019, the LSO will also be premiering pieces by two composers from the orchestra's new music development programme, Liam Mattison and Donghoon Shin. The BBC Symphony Orchestra will be premiering new pieces by Richard Causton, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Gavin Higgins and Pawel Szymanski, plus giving the UK premieres of a number of pieces by Thomas Larcher. Harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani will be giving the premiere of Sunleif Rasmussen's Quadroforone, and the UK premiere of a new piece by Anahita Abbasi. Olga Neuwirth's new score for the 1924 film Die Stadt ohne Juden, directed by H K Breslauer, will receive its UK premiere at a screening of the restored silent film. Roderick Williams is the Milton Court Artist-in-Residence and he will be giving the premiere of a new song cycle by Ryan Wigglesworth, and there will the UK premiere of a work by Williams.

Another mini-residency is that of Diana Damrau who will be singing Richard Strauss in three concerts, including a recital with Helmut Deutsch, the Four Last Songs and the final scene from Capriccio. Other gleanings include Nigel Kennedy joining the Academy of Ancient Music to play Bach, an intriguing pairing indeed, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Bach's Mass in B minor conducted by John Butt, Bernard Haitink celebrating his 90th birthday with Dvorak and Mahler with the LSO,

Visiting ensembles to the Barbican include Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, who are Barbican International Associate Ensemble at Milton Court, Adam Fischer and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Mariss Jansons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Antonio Pappano and the Orchestra dell'Accademie Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (in Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe and Stravinsky's Rite of Spring in the same concert), Maxim Emelyanychev and Il Pomo d'Oro (in Handel's Serse and Agrippina), Philippe Herreweghe and Collegium Vocale Ghent, William Christie and Les Arts Florissants (in Bach's St John Passion), and Herve Nique and Le Concert Spirituel.

Full details from the Barbican website.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Classical with a popular feel: I chat to Lithuanian composer & performer Gediminas Gelgotas

Gedminas Gelgotas and New Ideas Chamber Orchestra - New Year's concert Jan 2016
Gedminas Gelgotas and New Ideas Chamber Orchestra - New Year's concert Jan 2016
The Lithuanian minimalist composer Gediminas Gelgotas has made a name for himself with his ensemble New Ideas Chamber Orchestra (NICO). Their classical music with a popular feel, combining multiple stylistic influences, has captured the attention of a younger audience for classical music. Gediminas and NICO were in the UK for a few days to do some recording, so I was able to take advantage of this too meet up with him to chat about his work and plans. Gediminas has featured a few times on this blog, mainly with postings of videos of his work [ on Sanctification and on Kristjan Järvi's Nebula] so it was a good chance to find out more about his compositions.

Gediminas Gelgotas
Gediminas Gelgotas
NICO was going to be busy in the studio at the recording sessions, recording around 3 and a half hours of music, including a chamber version of Gediminas' Symphony No. 1 'Extracultural'  and Max Richter's version of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, a movement from Philip Glass' Violin Concerto No. 1 and his string quartet Company, plus Gediminas' arrangements of Lithuanian folk songs and a piece by Hildegard of Bingen. The folk-songs were included partly because during 2018 Lithuania is celebrating 100 years since independence. In Gediminas arrangements, the players improvise and end by singing together, unaccompanied. In all they will be laying down 36 tracks.

They plan to issue a vinyl disc of Gediminas' symphony, and will also be releasing the Max Richter on disc. As a rule Gediminas tends to avoid works where one composer has re-composed another, feeling that the original frequently works best. But he finds Richter's re-composition of Vivaldi beautiful with real depth, and he feels it sounds fresh.

The movement comes out of the music

Gediminas founded NICO in 2006, it is an ensemble based on three violins, two cellos, and double bass with Gediminas providing piano and singing as needed. He also does what he calls 'minimal choreography' for the ensemble's stage shows. This is part of the ensemble's ethos, with careful thought given to the staging of the music. This came about because ten years ago Gediminas wrote an instrumental piece which required each player to begin each phrase with a physical gesture (raising the arm slowly) and once the musical phrase was finished then reverse this.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Gold Medal Showcase

Trinity Laban Gold Medal Showcase - Iyad Alsughair, Georgina Bowden, Emily Gray, Ana Rodriguez Moran, Jordi Morrell, Ben Vize (Photo Juno Snowden)
Trinity Laban Gold Medal Showcase
Iyad Alsughair, Georgina Bowden, Emily Gray, Ana Rodriguez Moran, Jordi Morrell, Ben Vize (Photo Juno Snowden)
Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance's annual Gold Medal Showcase is at Kings Place on Monday 29 January 2018. The event brings together outstanding graduates from 2016/17 to compete for the most prestigious award offered by the conservatoire.

Recent winners of the Gold Medal have gone on to further notable successes, two appeared at Glyndebourne in 2017: Nardus Williams was in Belongings with Glyndebourne Youth Opera, while last year’s winner James Newby joined Glyndebourne Festival Chorus and received the John Christie Award, and we recently heard him in recital in Schumann at the London English Song Festival [see my review], whilst pianist Elliot Galvin won Album of the Year at the 2017 Parliamentary Jazz Awards as a member of jazz quartet Dinosaur and was nominated for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize.

This years competitors are Iyad Alsughair – Piano, Georgina Bowden – Composer, Emily Gray – Mezzo-soprano, Ana Rodriguez Moran – Flute, Jordi Morrell – Viola, Ben Vize – Jazz Saxophone. Each will present a 15 minute set, providing a varied mix from Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea to Britten's Lachyrmae, plus Berio, Sibelius, Colin Matthews, Liszt, Frank Martin and Khachaturian.

Full details from the Kings Place website.

Seeing the genre develop: Lully & Quinault's second tragédie en musique, Alceste

Lully - Alceste - Aparte
Lully Alceste; Judith Van Wanroij, Edwin Crossley-Mercer, Emiliano Gonzalez Toro, Les Talens Lyriques, Choeur de Chambre de Namur, Christophe Rousset; Aparte
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jan 19 2018
Star rating: 4.0

A rarity on disc, Lully's second tragédie en musique in highly recommendable performance

Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques have reached Lully's Alceste which premiered in 1673. The 2 disc set, on Aparte, features Judith Van Wanroij as Alceste, Edwin Crossley-Mercer as Alcide and Emiliano Gonzalez Toro as Admete, with Christophe Rousset directing Les Talens Lyriques and Choeur de Chambre de Namur.

Alceste was Lully and Quinault's second of their thirteen tragédies en musique. It came at a time when Lully and Quinault were effectively inventing the genre, and it is fascinating listening to the opera and hearing how they are still feeling their way, including elements which would be later droped. Their first tragédie en musique, Cadmus & Hermione was effectively the first time that French opera had invested in tragedy, prior to Lully and Quinault's innovation French composers had written mainly comedy and pastoral works. The venture into tragedy was not popular in all areas, but the operas were very much to the taste of King Louis XIV.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Celebrating Estonian style - the stylishly distinctive Estonian Voices

Estonian Voices (Photo Sohvi Viik)
Estonian Voices (Photo Sohvi Viik)
Estonian Voices at the London A Cappella Festival; Kings Place
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jan 25 2018 Jazz, pop, and folk merge in the distinctive personality of this talented Estonian group

The London A Cappella Festival opened at Kings Place on Wednesday 24 January 2018 with something of a double celebration, as the performance from Estonian Voices was not only the group's UK debut but marked one of the UK celebrations for the centenary of Estonia's independence, Estonia 100.

Estonian Voices is a six person (Mirjam Dede, Maria Väli, Kadri Voorand, Mikk Dede, Rasmus Erismaa, Aare Külama) a cappella group whose performances mix jazz, folk and pop to create a very distinctive style. Singing is at the core of the Estonian character so it comes as no surprise to find a group like Estonian Voices creating jazz-inspired arrangements of traditional Estonian songs. Their opening set had a number of these, the distinctive tang of the Estonia traditional melodies giving a piquant flavour to the mix, as if Manhattan Transfer had started channelling Appalachian folk music (an unlikely, but potent mix).

There were quite a number of Estonians in the audience, including the Estonian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Tiina Intelmann, who spoke before the concert started, and all found the lyrics of the songs amusing but such was the communicability of the music that we didn't really need words.

We did not just get folk music, there was a medley of children's songs at the end of the second set and, rather amazingly, a children's song written by the young Arvo Pärt, about a little motor scooter! And whilst there were songs by other writers, such as Herbie Hancock and Horace Silver, the majority of the music was the group's own with many songs penned by its alto Kadri Voorand.

Looking ahead: Festival Printemps des Arts Montecarlo

Panorama of Monaco from the top of the  Hôtel de Paris (Photo Marc Monnet)
Panorama of Monaco from the top of the  Hôtel de Paris (Photo Marc Monnet)
The 34th Festival Printemps des Arts Montecarlo runs from 16 March to 29 April 2018, when over 30 concerts and events will be presented in venues in and around Monaco. One of the focuses this year is on the music of Charles Ives, when his music will be featured in nine concerts, ranging from the Symphony No. 2 performed by the Orchestre National de France, conductor Yutaka Sado, at the opening concert on 16 March to The Unanswered Question, Central Park in the Dark, Three Places in New England and Symphony No. 3 'The Camp Meeting' from the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo conductor Christian Arming on 8 April, with the chance to hear Ives' chamber music and song along the way. One of the most intriguing Ives works to be performed is The Celestial Country for tenor, baritone, two vocal quartets, choir and instrumental ensemble which will be performed by the Lativan Radio Choir, conductor Sigvards Klava and the Klava String Quartet.

But it isn't all Ives, Edison Denisov's 1986 opera Four Girls, after Pablo Picasso's Les quatre petite filles, receives a concert performance from Studio de l'Opéra de Lyon and Ensemble Orchestral Contemporain conducted by Daniel Kawaka. And the festival ends with a special ballet weekend when Les Ballest de Monte-Carlo present a programme combining Balanchine's choreography for Stravinsky's Violin Concerto with Jean-Christophe Maillot's new ballet to a new work commissioned by the festival from Bruno Mantovani.

All fourteen of Luciano Berio's Sequenzas will be presented, in performances spread across the festival, and a series of Young Talents concerts will feature students from conservatoires of the region who have been working with the composer in residence, Yan Maresz, to present programmes including music by Maresz, Edison Denisov, Messiaen, George Crumb, Shostakovich, Berio and more.

Full details from the Festival website.

Brandenburgs complete

Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt
Christian Ludwig,
Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt
Florilegium, director Ashley Solomons, is currently touring Bach's Brandenburg Concertos (all six of them). They perform at St David's Hall in Cardiff tonight (25 January 2018), and at St George's Church, Hanover Square, London W1S 1FX on Friday 26 January 2018. Florilegium will be performing them in reverse order, starting with No. 6 with its two viole da braccio, two viole da gamba, cello, violone, and harpsichord and ending with No. 1 with its two corni da caccia (natural horns), three oboes, bassoon, violino piccolo, two violins, viola, cello, basso continuo.

Chances to hear all six Brandenburg Concertos together are rather rare, partly because each concerto calls for a different combination of instruments. Though Bach was working for Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen at Köthen when he sent the concertos to the Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt, they probably date from earlier. After all, he could hardly send one prince a set of concertos which had originally been written for another one!

The concertos were presented to Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt, one of the younger sons of the "Great Elector" Frederick William (1620–1688), ruler of Brandenburg-Prussia. Judging by the dedication, Bach had hopes of the Margrave. It seems that he had been able to play for the Margrave. Bach had visited Berlin (where the Margrave kept an establishment complete with a musical entourage) to organise a new harpsichord for Köthen, and the Margrave's response to Bach's playing had given him some hope.  So the presentation copy was a sort of job application, and it failed. Nothing happened, though thankfully Bach's presentation score survived in the Margravial library in Berlin.

Further details from the Florilegium website.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Music and Mathematics in Oxford

Marcus du Sautoy
Marcus du Sautoy
On Saturday 27 January 2018, Marios Papadopoulos and the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra are joined by Oxford University Professor of Mathematics, Marcus du Sautoy, at the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, for an exploration of the role of mathematics in celebrated scores of Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn. 

The orchestra will be playing Mozart's Overture to Die Zauberflöte, K. 620, Haydn's Symphony No. 47 in G major, Hob. I:47, 'Palindrome' and Beethoven's Symphony No.7 in A major, Op. 92. Whilst Marcus du Sautoy will be giving a multi-media lecture highlighting the hidden patterns and numerical blueprints which underlie the music.

Full details from the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra's website, though the website informs us that the concert has sold out.

1768 - a retrospective

Claudia Skerath, Ian Page and The Mozartists at the Wigmore Hall
Claudia Skerath, Ian Page and The Mozartists at the Wigmore Hall
Haydn, Jomelli, Mozart, JC Bach, Vanhal; Chiara Skerath, Katy Bircher, The Mozartists, Ian Page; Wigmore Hall
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jan 13 2018 Star rating: 4.0
Ian Page explores the music of 1768 in the latest instalment of the Mozart 250 project

Ian Page and The Mozartists' Mozart 250 celebration has reached the year 1768, and the 12 year-old Mozart is in Vienna with his father trying, unsuccessfully, to get Wolfgang's opera La finta semplice produced. Page will be conducting staged performances of La finta semplice later this year, but in the mean time he present the ensemble's annual round-up of the music that was around Mozart at the time. So, on Tuesday 23 January 2018 at the Wigmore Hall, Page conducted the Mozartists, with soprano Chiara Skerath and flautist Katy Bircher in Haydn's Symphony No 26 in D minor 'Lamentatione', an aria from Jomelli's Fetonte, JC Bach's Flute Concerto in D minor, two arias from Haydn's Lo speziale, the overture and an aria from Mozart's La finta semplice, an aria from Hasse's Piramo e Tisbe and Vanhal's Symphony in D minor (d1).

With three symphonies and a concerto (the Mozart overture was in fact a re-working of one of his symphonies) the programme was a little too sturm-und-drang classical symphony heavy, and it was the varied arias superbly sung by Chiara Skerath which were the highlights. Skerath's lively personality shone out in all her singing, and a sense of her delight at being there.

We opened with Haydn's Symphony No. 26. In 1768 Haydn was 36 and working for Prince Esterhazy, he would have a long career and many more symphonies ahead of him.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Serenade, Songfest and more - Total Immersion in Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein
The Israeli violinist Vadim Gluzman is making a welcome appearance in London on Saturday 27 January 2018 when he is the soloist in Leonard Bernstein's Serenade with the BBC Symphony Orchestra conductor David Charles Abell, as part of an all-Bernstein programme which includes the overture to Candide and Songfest.

Serenade, a violin concerto in all but name, is Bernstein's musical philosophical reflection on Plato, in complete contrast to the vibrancy of the Candide overture which reflects the very different work of Voltaire. Rounding off the evening is Songfest, an orchestral song-cycle which uses and extravagant five soloists ( Sophia Burgos soprano, J’Nai Bridges mezzo-soprano, Fleur Barron mezzo-soprano, Nicky Spence tenor, Nmon Ford baritone) and sets poems ranging from Walt Whitman and Edgar Allen Poe to Gertrude Stein and EE Cummings. A highly eclectic work, Songfest was commissioned for the American bicentennial, Bernstein tried to encapsulate 300 years of American history in one work.

Violinist Vadim Guzman has been playing the Serenade for over 20 years (he debuted the piece playing for Hamburg Ballet)  and thinks of it as one of the greatest works of the 20th century. It is based on Plato's Symposium and in each of the movements one of the philosophers (Phaedrus, Aristophanes, Eryximachus, Agathon and Socrates) speaks on love. It is an approachable work, written for soloists, strings, harp and percussion, yet tricky too, Guzman calls the third movement one of the most demanding things he has ever played. (There is an interesting interview with Guzman talking about the Serenade on The Strad website)

The event is part of the BBC's Total Immersion Day on Bernstein, and during the day you can catch the BBC Singers in the Missa Brevis and Chichester Psalms, and musicians from the Guildhall School of Music in smaller scale pieces

Full details from the Barbican website.

The Schumanns at Home - songs by Clara & Robert, plus Felix & Fanny Mendelssohn, Franz Liszt, Frederic Chopin & Hector Berlioz

Robert & Clara Schumann
Robert & Clara Schumann
The Schumanns at Home - Clara Schumann, Fanny Mendelssohn, Felix Mendelssohn, Frederick Chopin, Franz Liszt, Hector Berlioz, Robert Schumann; Sophie Bevan, Julius Drake; Temple Song at Middle Temple Hall
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jan 23 2018 Star rating: 4.0
An imaginative programme wonderfully performed, showcasing songs by the Schumanns and their circle

A visit to the Schumann's apartment in Leipzig inspired the latest of pianist Julius Drake's Temple Song recitals at Middle Temple Hall on Monday 22 January 2018. For The Schumann's At Home Julius Drake was joined by soprano Sophie Bevan to present a programme of songs by Clara and Robert Schumann and their distinguished composer visitors, imagining Felix Mendelssohn, Fanny Mendelssohn, Frederick Chopin, Franz Liszt and Hector Berlioz all visiting at the same time. The resulting soiree presented songs by each of the seven composers as well as taking in distinguished poet visitors too, Hans Christian Anderson, Joseph von Eichendorff and Heinrich Heine.

The beauty of the programme was its democratic nature, four songs from each of the composers with Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn showcased as much as their more famous husband and brother. Of the 28 songs in the recital, the majority were new to me, and illuminating experience in its own right.

We opened with Clara Schumann; quotations in Richard Stokes' programme note made it clear that Clara did not find composing songs easy. But a very clear personality seemed to emerge from the four songs we heard - Liebst du um Schönheit, Sie liebten sich beide, Der Mond kommt still gegangen, Am Strande - warm and thoughtful, calmy considered rather than impulsive. Each received a beautifully engaged performance from Sophie Bevan. I was particularly struck by  Der Mond kommt still gegangen with its magical vocal line unfolding over a shimmering piano, but the vividly passionate account of Am Strande showed Clara Schumann did not just write slow music!

The score remains - David Pountney rehearses Verdi's La forza del destino

Mary Elizabeth Williams, Gwyn Hughes Jones and Luis Cansino. La forza del destino rehearsal in Cardiff. (Photo credit - Betina Skovbro)
David Pountney, Mary Elizabeth Williams, Gwyn Hughes Jones and Luis Cansino.
WNO La forza del destino rehearsal in Cardiff. (Photo credit - Betina Skovbro)
On Saturday 20 January 2018, as part of the Victoria and Albert Museum's Opera Weekender, Welsh Nationa Opera presented an open rehearsal for its forthcoming production of Verdi's La forza del destino. David Pountney directed Mary Elizabeth Williams (soprano, Leonora), Gwyn Hughes Jones (tenor, Don Alvaro), Luis Cansino (baritone, Don Carlo), Miklos Sebestyen (bass-baritone, Padre Guardiano) in three scenes from the opera. Kerem Hasan conducted, with Stephen Wood at the piano and WNO staff director Christopher Moon-Little. The opera is rarely done, partly because it is rather tricky to stage and needs large forces. The Royal Opera House last presented it in 2004, and prior to that in 1962 with revivals in 1973 and 1975. English National Opera presented it in 2015 (with Gwyn Hughes Jones as Don Alvaro), and prior to that in the 1980s (with Josephine Barstow as Leonora).

Luis Cansino. WNO La forza del destino rehearsal in Cardiff. (Photo credit - Betina Skovbro)
Luis Cansino. WNO La forza del destino rehearsal in Cardiff.
(Photo credit - Betina Skovbro)
We heard three scenes, the first from Act Two where Leonora is first int,erviewed in the monastery by Padre Guardiano, then the scene from Act Four where Don Carlo taunts Don Alvaro until the two rush off to fight a duel, and then final scene.

One of the fascinating things about the event was being able to hear this music, sung by fine voices in such close proximity allowing a greater sense of detail and intimacy than would be otherwise possible in the opera house. It was also fascinating to see how scenes were shaped and re-shaped, with Pountney and the cast discussing all of the sort of detail which helps fill out the characters and their actions, some of it obvious from the opera but much of it not, which led to some enthralling discussions about apparently small but telling details.

I have to confess that I have always had a problem with the opera with its series of extreme co-incidences but Pountney's enthusiasm for it and lucid commentary, on the opera and on the scenes were were hearing, made it seem far more approachable.

He called it an epic piece and compared it to Tolstoy's novel War and Peace, saying that it had the same epic quality with characters being thrown together by accident and the vagaries of war. He also commented on the marvellous way the piece drives on with energy and compulsion.

Monday, 22 January 2018

RPS Young Musicians in action

The Pelleas Ensemble
The Pelleas Ensemble
The Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) supports a number of young musicians each year, in 2017, the RPS made awards to young musicians and composers to the tune of £91,000 and it supports over 100 young musicians annually through its RPS Young Musicians Programme.

On Wednesday 24 January 2018 there is the annual RPS Young Musicians recital, in aid of the RPS Young Musicians programme, at 22 Mansfield Street, London W1G 9NR. This gives the chance to hear some of the RPS Young Musicians, and the recital presents the Pelléas Ensemble, which won the inaugural RPS Henderson Chamber Ensemble Award in 2017, and 26-year-old Dutch violinist Amarins Wierdsma, winner of the RPS Emily Anderson Award for string players. The evening also includes a conversation with the musicians, and with the composers Dani Howard and Jack Pepper, both of whome wrote RPS/Classic FM 25th birthday commissions. [Further details from the RPS website]

On Sunday 4 February 2018, conductor Alice Farnham leads the first RPS Women Conductors workshop of 2018, held at Blackheath Halls as part of a weekend marking the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote. The RPS Women Conductors workshops are designed specifically to encourage more women to conduct, and since the RPS joined forces with Women Conductors (formerly known as Women Conductors at Morley) in 2016, over 100 women have had their first experience of conducting through the programme. [Further details from the RPS website]

Chants d'amour: Louise Alder & James Baillieu at the Wigmore Hall

Louise Alder (photo Gerard Collett)
Louise Alder (photo Gerard Collett)
Chants d'amour - Mozart, Bizet, Strauss, Mendelssohn, Faure, Liszt; Louise Alder, James Baillieu; Wigmore Hall
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jan 20 2018 Star rating: 4.0
An imaginative programme, finely performed with great lyrical beauty and imaginative engagement

Richard Strauss's songs formed soprano Louise Alder's recent debut disc [see my review], so it is not surprising that the composer's song should feature on her programme  with pianist James Baillieu (piano) at the Wigmore Hall on Saturday 20 January 2018. Under the title Chants d'amour we had songs by Mozart, Bizet, Richard Strauss and Mendelssohn, plus Faure's Cinq melodies de Venise and Liszt's Three Petrarch Sonnets S270/1.

Alder and Baillieu's performance made the most of Mozart's deceptively simple songs, An Chloe, Abendempfindung and Der Zauberer; the first full of charm, the second quietly concentrated and the third a characterful narrative. There was a nice vibrancy to Alder's lyric soprano and she phrased the songs beautifully, supported by Baillieu's poised playing.

Bizet's songs are not as well known as they should be, and the best of them show the French chanson's development towards something richly complex. Chant d'amour had a vibrant yet fluid line, with both performers giving sense of impulsive flow in the piece. For some reason, despite a conventional French text, Ouvre ton coeur was very Spanish, but both Alder and Baillieu brought out the delightful character of the piece. Adieux de l'hotesse arabe is perhaps one of the best known of Bizet's songs, and Alder was all haunting, seductive charm here, shaping the line gorgeously and Baillieu brought a similar lightness to his piano playing. The result was very affecting. The French language seemed to suit Alder's voice, and I hope that opera managements were taking note.

The first half concluded with a group of Richard Strauss songs, rather than give us a random selection Alder and Baillieu very sensible opted for Strauss's Opus 27 group, which starts with Ruhe, meine Seele! and ends with Morgen!... The fascination of this group is partly that it was a wedding present for his wife, and partly the fact that Strauss chose to set two poems by John Henry Mackay, a writer whose work would later become explicitly homosexual, though this theme is already implicit in the poems [see my article, Richard Strauss and the gay sensibility].

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Looking Ahead: Ludlow English Song Weekend

 outdoor market, in Castle Square, photographed from St Laurence's Church. By en:User:Merlincooper - [1], Public Domain,
 Ludlow outdoor market, in Castle Square,
photographed from St Laurence's Church.
By en:User:Merlincooper - [1],
Public Domain, Link
The 2018 Ludlow English Song Weekend, artistic director Iain Burnside, takes Ireland as its theme for 2018. From 6 - 8 April 2018, the historic market town of Ludlow will be full of 20th and 21st century English (and Irish) song, with recitals, choral music, masterclasses, poetry, talks and discussions. Artists performing include four Irish singers, soprano Ailish Tynan, tenor Robin Tritschler, mezzo-soprano Carolyn Dobbin and baritone Gavan Ring, plus English baritone Gareth Brynmor John, and there is a masterclass with Irish mezzo-soprano Ann Murray and the Irish actress Fiona Shaw performs in an evening of words and music.

Things start with Ailish Tynan, Iain Burnside and Christopher Jones (violin) performing works by Frank Bridge, Samuel Barber, Rebecca Clarke, Seóirse Bodley and Herbert Hughes. On the Saturday, Robin Tritschler, Adam Walker (flute), Nicholas Daniel (oboe), The Gildas Quartet and Iain Burnside perform Bax’s Oboe Quintet, George Benjamin’s Flight, Peter Warlock’s The Curlew and the world premiere of The Blackbird’s Poet by Philip Hammond. The Carice Singers directed by George Parris perform music by Bax, Delius, Grainger and Parry, whose centenary is in 2018, and on Saturday evening Fiona Shaw joins Robin Tritschler, Gareth Brynmor John, Nicholas Daniel and Iain Burnside for a sequence of words and music, by Britten, Ireland, Bliss, Thea Musgrave, Ina Boyle and Jennifer Walshe.

For the closing recital on Sunday, Carolyn Dobbin, Gavan Ring and Iain Burnside perform songs by Irish composers Ina Boyle, her cousin Charles Wood, Joan Trimble, Howard Ferguson, Hamilton Harty and a new commission by Martin Bussey.

Full details from the Ludlow Assembly Rooms website

Saturday, 20 January 2018

The Phantom of the Opera - going strong after 30 years

Andrew Lloyd Webber - The Phantom of the Opera - Her Majesty's Theatre
Andrew Lloyd Webber - The Phantom of the Opera - Her Majesty's Theatre
Andrew Lloyd Webber The Phantom of the Opera; Amy Manford, Ben Lewis, Jeremy Taylor; Her Majesty's Theatre
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jan 20 2018 Star rating: 3.5
The long running musical is still in fine fettle, with a fine young cast

Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera has been running in the West End at Her Majesty's Theatre for over 30 years (the production debuted in 1986), something of a record, and the musical continues to be immensely popular. Despite knowing much of the music from the piece, I have to confess that I had never seen it and so was pleased to take the opportunity to catch a performance on Friday 19 January 2018. We saw Ben Lewis as the Phantom, Amy Manford as Christine (Manford shares the role with Kelly Mathieson, with Manford usually singing two performances per week), Jeremy Taylor as Raoul, Lara Martins as Carlotta, Siôn Lloyd as Monsieur Firmin, Philip Griffiths as Monsieur André, Jacinta Mulcahy as Madame Giry, Paul Ettore Tabone as Ubaldo and Lily Howes as Meg Giry.

Andrew Lloyd Webber: The Phantom of the Opera - Amy Manford - Her Majesty's Theatre
Andrew Lloyd Webber: The Phantom of the Opera
Amy Manford - Her Majesty's Theatre
The production was originally directed by Harold Prince with Gillian Lynne as choreographer, Mark Hedges is the resident director and Lynn Jezzard the resident choreographer, Björn Dobbelaere the musical director and Callum McLeod the assistant musical director. The designs are by the late Maria Björnson.

Considering it is over 30 years old, the production itself is in very good condition. The designs continue to look spectacular, with Björnson's evocation of the Palais Garnier imposed over the theatre's original proscenium arch, and key moments such as the grand staircase in the masquerade scene. The production is equally crisp with details still sharp, a testament to the continuing work of the production staff. The production itself is somewhat iconic, and whilst we were there we started listing the famous names who have done their stint performing in it.

That said The Phantom of the Opera is somewhat of a period piece, the synthesizer heavy orchestrations by David Cullen and Andrew Lloyd Webber give it a very particular feel and the whole idea of writing a very rock-inspired score for such an operatic subject is intriguingly non-obvious. Lloyd Webber includes three parodies of 19th century opera in the music (it is after all set in an opera company), but the musical style here is often closer to his own than to the music being parodied and the main fun comes from the productions re-creations of period performing styles. The opening scene from some cod 19th century grand opera is priceless.

Ben Lewis played the Phantom in the original Australian production of Lloyd Webber's Love Never Dies and has the measure of the iconic Phantom part. Lewis has an attractive Broadway-belt sort of voice, just right for the role bringing a thrill to the top notes and really eliciting our sympathy. Frankly, the Phantom is the most interesting role in the opera and we cannot help but understand why Christine falls in love with him and Lewis helped to create this atmosphere.

The role of Christine requires a considerable degree of agility, it is probably no coincidence that both Amy Manford and Kelly Mathieson are conservatoire trained.

Friday, 19 January 2018

BBC NOW celebrates its 90th birthday

BBC National Orchestra of Wales
The BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBC NOW) is 90 this year and the orchestra has a range of celebratory activities from now until its birthday week in April. Next week, 24-26 January 2018 the orchestra is co-hosting the Association of British Orchestras (ABO) Conference in Cardiff with the orchestra of Welsh National Opera (WNO) and Sinfonia Cymru, and BBC NOW will be giving a joint concert with the WNO Orchestra.

BBC NOW's current composer in association is Huw Watkins, and during January the orchestra premieres Watkins' Spring written in celebration of the orchestra's brithday, and a number of Watkins' other works are featured in the season.

The orchestra has premiered over 100 new pieces in its 90 year history and in February the start of a new Digital Archive is launched, which will explore music written for and performed by BBC NOW. In a pair of concerts, BBC NOW will look back at music it has commissioned with music by former Composers-in-Association, Michael Berkeley, Simon Holt and B Tommy Andersson, and former Composers-in-Residence, Guto Puw and Mark Bowden.

As part of Composition: Wales seven composers have been selected, Gareth Churchill, Iestyn Harding, Ian Lawson, Lucy McPhee, Claire Victoria Roberts, John Senter, and Luciano Williamson, and they will have the opportunity to workshop their pieces with the Orchestra in open rehearsals supported by conductor/composer B Tommy Andersson and mentored by Huw Watkins and Tansy Davies.

During March, BBC NOW will be celebrating Wales with a series of concerts starting on St David's Day (1 March 2018) with a concert which includes world premiere of Gareth Glyn’s Harp Concerto (a Ty Cerdd commission) portraying scenes from the life of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales with harpist Catrin Finch, conducted by Grant Llewellyn.

On Thursday 12 April BBC NOW turns 90. Throughout its birthday week from 9 – 15 April the Orchestra celebrates with the nation on air, online and in concert with a host of music, memories and festivities.

Further information from the BBC NOW website.

Launch of Voces8's new disc, with Jonathan Dove

Voces8 Equinox
Last night (18 January 2018) the Gresham Centre played host to the launch of the new album, Equinox, from Voces8. The album has at its centre a performance of Jonathan Dove's The Passing of the Year and the themes of the album reflect both the passing of the seasons and the cycle of life of the Christian soul. Jonathan Dove is composer in residence with the group, and not only are they featuring is music on recordings, performance and in their educational work, but Dove is writing a new piece for them to be premiered in 2019 in celebration of his 60th birthday.

At the Gresham Centre we heard a selection of music from the disc, including the premiere of Graham Lack's This Ember Night, as well as movements from Dove's The Passing of the Year with Dove on piano. Dove explained that the work had been written for the larger scale forces of the London Symphony Chorus and he paid tribute to the skill of the eight singers from Voces8 on their remarkable performance. The group also performed another of Dove's pieces, In Beuaty may I walk, which was originally written for the Glyndebourne Chorus as a leaving present for Anthony Whitworth-Jones.

Equinox is released on Voces8's own label, VCM Records.

London A Cappella Festival

Estonian Voices
Estonian Voices
This year's London A Cappella Festival has a wide variety of styles of a cappella singing on offer, ranging from Tuvan throat-singing and beatbox, to the Tallis Scholars and Estonian Voices. The festival opens on 24 January 2018 at Kings Place, with Estonian Voices a vocal sextet who mix jazz, folk and pop.

The festival runs to 27 January, when the Swingles close things again at Kings Place, along the way there are The Tallis Scholars, the Beatbox Collective, Huun-Huur-Tu (a Tuvan throat-singing group) and more at Kings Place and LSO St Lukes. On Saturday 27 January there is also a range of workshops at Kings Place.

Full details from the London A Cappella Festival website.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Hortus Musicus - Jerusalem

Jerusalem - Hortus Musicus - ERP
Jerusalem; Hortus Musicus; ERP
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jan 16 2018 Star rating: 3.5
Early music and traditional melodies woven together by this Estonian Early Music group

This new disc from the Estonian group Hortus Musicus on ERP (Estonian Record Production) presents a sequence of Early Music, traditional Arab melodies and traditional Jewish melodies under the title Jerusalem, exploring what the idea of the Holy City has meant to the different peoples.

The sequence begins with Walther von der Vogelweide's Palästinalied and then we weave together 14th century Spanish and French music, one of the Cantigas de Santa Maria, music by Neidhart von Reuenthal and then the traditional melodies. These latter are treated in the same way as the Early Music, and Robert Staak's booklet note emphasises the interweaving commonality between traditional music and Early Music.

The group's treatment of the music is quite free.

Five Loops for the Bathyscaphe

Britten Sinfonia - At Lunch
The Britten Sinfonia starts its 2018 At Lunch series with the premiere of a new work for piano trio and recorded voices which will be performed at West Road Concert Hall (23 January 2018), Wigmore Hall (24 January 2018) and St Andrew's Hall, Norwich (26 January 2018). Five Loops for the Bathyscaphe is Leo Chadburn's evocation of a journey to the deepest part of the ocean, the Mariana Trench, made by oceanographers Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh on 23rd January 1960, with a five-hour descent in the Bathyscaphe Trieste. Chadburn combines his own music, 'intended to give the impression of near stasis, analogous to the emptiness of the deep, dark ocean' whilst 'the recorded voices act as timekeepers, speaking numbers, fragments of scientific text and lines derived from Piccard’s poetic recollection of the experience'.

The work will be performed by Jacqueline Shave (violin); Caroline Dearnley (cello) and Huw Watkins (piano), with the recorded voices of Chadburn and Gemma Saunders, in a programme alongside Biber’s Anunciation Sonata, Mozart’s Piano Trio in B flat, Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel and Philip Glass’s Orbit.

Further information from the Britten Sinfonia website.

Sébastien Daucé introduces his programme for the London Festival of Baroque Music

London Festival of Baroque Music
The 2018 London Festival of Baroque Music was launched on Tuesday 16 January 2018 with an event in the grand spaces of the former Conservative Club in St James's Street. This year's festival has Sébastien Daucé as Guest Artistic Director and he introduced highlights of the festival (which runs from 11 to 19 May 2018) and was joined by members of his Ensemble Correspondance, Mathilde Vialle (viola da gamba) and Thibaut Roussel (theorbo), to perform Francois Couperin's Suite No 1 in E minor for viola da gamba, harpsichord and theorbo. 

Sébastien Daucé
Sébastien Daucé
There is very much a French theme to this year's festival, under the title of Treasures of the Grand Siecle, and performers include Le Poème Harmonique (director Vincent Dumestre), Fuoco E Cenere (director Jay Bernfield), Le Concert de l'Hostel-Dieu (director Franck Emmanuel Comte), Duo Coloquintes, Arnaud de Pasquale, Les Kapsbergirls, Doulce Memoire (director Denis Raisin Dadre) and Sébastien Daucé's own group Ensemble Correspondances.

The music at the festival is focused on the court of Louis XIV. At the launch Sébastien Daucé talked about Marc-Antoine Charpentier's Histoires sacrées, oratorios written after his sojourn in Rome. Charpentier's manuscripts for the works contain stage directions and other indications that some sort of staging might have been done (as was done for oratorio in Rome). So Sébastien Daucé and director Vincent Huguet have put together a staging of three to answer the question, could these works be staged?

Sébastien Daucé and Ensemble Correspondances will also be performing at the festival's final concert, when Daucé's edition of Le Ballet Royal de la Nuit will be performed. Le Ballet Royal de la Nuit was a hugely influential ballet du court performed in 1653 at the court of the young Louis XIV to mark the end of the Fronde. It was huge in scale and marked the appearance of the 15 year old Louis as the Sun, cementing the idea of him as The Sun King. The music for the ballet was thought to have disappeared but the violin part was discovered six years ago and from this Daucé has re-constructed the ballet. The full ballet lasted all night, so only an extract will be performed. Daucé calls the music striking and strange.

The late night sequence of concerts will be based around the idea of Tombeaux, the memorial pieces which one composer would write for another. And as a step out from Le Grand Siecle, Iestyn Davies will be taking the title role in Gluck's Orfeo ed Eurydice with David Bates and La Nuova Musica. The choir of Westminster Abbey, conducted by James O'Donnell will be giving a programme of Te Deums, pairing Marc-Antoine Charpentier's Te Deum in D H146 with Purcell's Te Deum in D Z232.

Full details from the London Festival of Baroque Music website.

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