Saturday 2 June 2012

Brighton Early Music Festival Launch

The Brighton Early Music Festival (BREMF) had a launch event on Thursday, in the studio of harpsichord maker Malcolm Rose. We were treated to music from some of the festival's young artists and the joint artistic directors, Clare Norburn and Deborah Roberts, described some of the delights to come at this year's festival, which runs from 26 October to 11 November.

For some years now, the festival has run Early Music Live! where they select young ensembles and provide them with a platform at the festival and beyond. Since 2007 they have supported over 100 indivituals. This support extends to BBC broadcasts, introductions to promoters and is intended to act as a bridge between college and real life. This year the panel, which consisted of Deborah Roberts, Clare Norburn and Alison Bury, auditioned 20 groups. One selected was the flute/guitar duo Duo Flauguissimo (Yu-Wei Hu and Johan Lofving). They entertained us on Thursday with music by Schubert and Mauro Guiliani. The latter being a guitar virtuoso in early 19th century Vienna who wrote a body of attractive music for flute and guitar, and being a virtuoso himself the guitar parts tended to be interesting.

Claire Williams was part of BREMF's Early Music Live! scheme in 2008 and has since participated in every festival. Her contribution on Thursday, played on a lusciously toned Malcolm Rose copy of a 17th century French harpsichord, consisted of Purcell's Suite No. 7 in D minor, Froberger's Tombeau sur la mort de M. Bancrocher and Handel's The Harmonious Blacksmith.

The festival is perhaps unusual in being run by musicians and they take a very creative view of programming. Though the festival will be featuring well known groups such as the Sixteen and the Tallis Scholars, there are also events of their own devising.

The theme of this year's festival, in fact the 10th festival, is Celebration. The life and work of the influential Early Music pioneer David Munrow will be celebrated in an event (on 10 November) which will include a talk with members of his original group and performances by the BREMF Renaissance Band - what, Deborah Roberts described as a tribute band, brought together specially for the performances. Since Munrow's time, many Early Music performers have moved closer to the mainstream repertoire and perhaps this celebration of what would have been Munrow's 70th birthday will encourage a revival of his style of music making in this colourful period. I never saw Munrow perform live, but have strong memories of listening to his radio programme when a student.

The festival's major theatrical event is a performance of the 1589 Florentine Intermedi. These were originally mounted as interludes between the acts of a play, La Pelegrina, put on to celebrate a Medici wedding. The musicians and designers involved were some of the leading ones in Italy and the Intermedi are an important staging point on the way to opera. Involved were such composers as Marenzio and Peri; Peri was the composers of Euridice, the first opera, and he was also a virtuoso singer and wrote a spectacular aria for himself to sing in the Intermedi.

To help recreate some of the spectacular effects of the original stagings, without the benefit of a Renaissance Prince's budget, BREMF are collaborating with Zu Aerial Dance, utilising circus performance, aerial dance and cutting edge technology. A substantial renaissance orchestra will include performers from the Monteverdi String Band, the English Cornett and Sackbutt Ensemble and other players. The soloists will be led by tenor Mark Tucker, with the BREMF Consort of Voices and the Renaissance Singers.

It promises to be a spectacular and memorable event, both musically and theatrically. Put 3 November in your diaries now.

Other performances in the festival include a celebration of Gabrieli, music from Musica Secreate, the Orlando Consort and the Tallis Scholars.

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