Thursday 31 January 2013

Barbican 2013/14 classical season

Sir Michael Tippett credit Jane Bown
The Barbican Centre's 2013/14 classical season is full of some amazing goodies. I have already covered the baroque opera and oratorio, the Britten 100 season and the Academy of Ancient Music's residency in previous posts. Other highlights include celebrations of Harrison Birtwistle's 80th birthday with concerts including Gawain and Yan Tan Tethera. Valery Gergiev is doing a Berlioz cycle with the LSO including La Damnation de Faust and Romeo et Juliette. The new BBC Symphony Orchestra chief conductor Sakari Oromi has his first season in charge with some giants of the symphonic repertoire, and the BBC SO are also celebrating Michael Tippett's symphonies and concertos.

Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier Volume 1 - Complete - Live

Kimiko Ishizaka
The pianist Kimiko Ishizaka made her appearance at the 1901 Arts Club in London, last night (30 January 2013) playing Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, Volume 1 complete. Around two hours of music, played from memory, enabling us to hear Bach's genius complete. Ishizaka, born in Germany of Japanese heritage, is perhaps best known for her Open Goldberg project where a her high-quality recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations is available for free download, along with the score. This is part and parcel of her fervent advocacy of the idea of making the music of Bach accessible to everyone. Her performance at the 1901 Arts Club is one of a number that Ishizaka has been making of the complete Well-Tempered Clavier, Volume 1 and this will also lead to a recording.

New track for the Choir

Aled Jones
Aled Jones moved to ITV's Daybreak sofa last year and has now vacated his position in charge of Radio 3's much loved Sunday evening programme The Choir. From Sunday 3 February, Jones's position will be taken, in six special programmes, by what the BBC's press release calls 'Stars from the choral community'. Suzi Digby, Paul Mealor, Ken Burton, Harry Christophers, Mary King and Eric Whitacre will each present a single programme concentrating on subject close to their hearts. There is no word, so far, about what will happen after six weeks, or who is being considered for permanent replacement.

Wednesday 30 January 2013

Cool fusion - sounds from Japan and the west

As part of the BBC Symphony Orchestra's Total Immersion event, Sounds from Japan, this Saturday 2 February at the Barbican Centre there is the opportunity to hear a variety of music written not just for symphony orchestra. Most of the music is written by Japanese composers for western instruments, though Takemitsu's November Steps, which receives its UK premiere at the evening concert, is written for shakuhachi, biwa and orchestra. But the combination of western and Japanese instruments is developed most fully in the concert at 5pm by Okeanos. Okeanos are an ensemble of musicians trained in the Western classical tradition who play a combination of western and Japanese instruments.

Academy of Ancient Music

Picture credit Marco Borggreve
The Academy of Ancient Music's 2013/14 London season all takes place entirely at the Barbican with them taking advantage of the new Milton Court Concert Hall for many of the concerts. It is an entirely luscious season, starting with Monteverdi's L'Orfeo and moving through Bach, Vivaldi and Handel to Mozart and Beethoven taking in music by JS Bach's sons and grandson, and finishing with Beethoven's Choral Symphony. Artists appearing include Alina Ibragimova, Andreas Scholl, Angelika Kirschlager and Richard Tognetti.

Londinium - Britten in America

St Sepulchre without Newgate, interior
The choice of venue and acoustic can make a very big difference in the performance of a piece of music. Having recently heard Britten's Hymn to St Cecilia sung by the choir of Clare College Cambridge at Kings Place, it was fascinating to hear the piece sung by a larger group of singers in the more generous acoustic of St. Sepulchre without Newgate. On 29 January Londinium, director Andrew Griffiths, sang Britten's dazzling setting of Auden as part of their programme Britten in America exploring Britten's years in America. They sang music by Britten's friends and contemporaries, Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber and finished with a performance of Britten's A.M.D.G. A setting of words by Gerard Manley Hopkins which the composer suppressed during his lifetime.

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Wagner - Kaufmann - Anticipation!

Kauffmann Wagner, credit Decca/Universal Music
Jonas Kaufmann's much anticipated Wagner disc is being released by Decca on 12 February. Accompanied by Donald Runnicles and the orchestra of the Deutsche Oper, Berlin, German tenor sings music from Die Walkure, Siegfried, Rienzi, Tannhauser, Meistersinger and Lohengrin. Rather curiously he is also singing the Wesendonck-Lieder, in Felix Mottl's orchestration.

Barbican 2013/14 season - Britten

Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten
Like many other people and organisations, the Barbican is celebrating Britten centenary. Sensibly, they have packed all their events into November 2013, centred around the composer's birthday. There are some very tempting events with some major performers including Ian Bostridge, Christine Brewer and the Richard Alston Dance Company, plus a three day conference led by John Bridcut. The Britten Sinfonia and the BBC Symphony Orchestra are providing the main orchestral support.

Silent Opera - L'Orfeo

Silent Opera - L'Orfeo credit Oliver Hyde-Tetley
Silent Opera - L'Orfeocredit Oliver Hyde-Tetley
Opera has a fundamental problem with intimacy. Whether it be the need to coordinate singers and orchestra, or the fact that big voices are distinctly uncomfortable heard close up, the difficulties of bringing audiences closer to the drama seem insurmountable. Despite a huge number of successful immersive theatre performances, and several great productions from a cappella vocal groups such as I Fagiolini with their shows The Full Monteverdi and Tallis in Wonderland, there have been very few opera companies that have attempted a move away from an ‘audience there - stage here - never the twain shall meet’ kind of approach.

Step forward Silent Opera, a new company formed in 2011. The idea came to founder Daisy Evans when she was listening to music on the train and found herself transported away from the environment around her. So audiences to their productions are given wireless headphones to wear as they arrive which relay a mixture of live and recorded sound. It’s not a new idea – there was even a trend for silent discos where people danced around to music that only they could hear – but Silent Opera have cornered the market in applying it to this art form.

Monday 28 January 2013

Felicien David's Lallah Roukh receives modern revival

Emma Calve as Lallah Roukh in 1885
Felicien David (1810 - 1876) is a French composer whose name has almost disappeared from contemporary view. But his symphonic ode Le Desert was hailed as a masterpiece by Berlioz after its premiere in 1844 and the work would have great influence on Bizet. (you can hear the piece on YouTube). David also wrote operas, and in 1862 his opera Lallah Roukh was premiered at the Opera Comique with a libretto based on Thomas Moore's  1817 oriental romance dealing with the tale of the daughter of the Mughal Emperor. Between 1862 and 1898 the opera received 376 performances at the Opera Comique, during the same period the work was performed at a significant number of other opera houses. But then it entirely dropped from view, its orientalism woefully out of fashion.

New season at the Barbican - Baroque Opera and Oratorios

The Barbican's classical music season for 2013/14 is openening for booking and is full of goodies. I will be covering the Britten, Berlioz and Birtwistle in further posts. I start with looking at their season of Baroque Opera and Oratorio, with music by Bach, Handel, Rameau and Monteverdi. No rarities this year, just some of the finest music that each composer wrote. Booking is already open for some Barbican members, for others it opens on Wednesday 30 January and for the general public on 4 February.

Un Jour Infini: a Samson Marzbani premiere

An infinite day.

Performed last night at the RoyalCollege of Music Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall by three quarters of the Brodsky Quartet Daniel Rowland (violin), Paul Cassidy (viola) and Jacqueline Thomas (cello) and flautist Wissam Boustany,  Un Jour Infini was a breath of fresh air. Samson Marzbani is a self-taught composer interested in improvisation. In a short talk he described how, at age seven after hearing a pianist, he passionately believed that one day he too would be able to play piano. It was several years before he had the opportunity to learn, and several more before he worked out the skills necessary to improvise at the keys. But since then he has become more and more interested in improvisation and live composition, and both of tonight’s pieces were rooted in informality and freedom of expression.

Sunday 27 January 2013

Dream of Gerontius with Mark Elder and LPO

Manuscript score of The Dream of Gerontius
signed by Elgar and the performers at the premiere.
I missed John Barbirolli's reign in Manchester by 3 years, but as a student there in the 1970's there was still a strong Elgar tradition; they were amongst the few ensembles of the period who played the Elgar violin concerto with any regularity. So it is pleasing that Mark Elder, at the helm of the Halle since 2000, is continuing this tradition. I had heard Elder's account of Dream of Gerontius on disc (on the Halle Orchestra's own label) and on the radio but was much anticipating the performance of the work 26 January 2013 at London's South Bank Centre with the London Philharmonic Orchestra as part of the opening group of concerts in the Rest is Noise festival. Paul Groves sang the title role, with Sarah Connolly and James Rutherford (standing in for an indisposed Brindley Sherratt) the other soloists. The London Philharmonic Choir was joined by the choir of Clare College, Cambridge, singing the semi chorus.

Saturday 26 January 2013

Handel opera revival, the early days in England

Unicorn Theatre, Abingdon
When I first came to London in 1981, a highlight of the year was the annual Handel Opera Society performances at Sadlers' Wells Theatre, providing a rare opportunity to see Handel's opera seria on stage. But things were changing, English National Opera's productions of Julius Caesar and Xerxes, Kent Opera's Agrippina,  and then the 1985 Handel centenary meant that Handel opera started to go mainstream. But it was the pioneering work of smaller groups such as the Handel Opera Society, Alan Kitching at the Unicorn Theatre in Abingdon and the Barber Institute in Birmingham which laid the ground work for this revival.

SMITF Chamber Music Competition

Applications close on 1 February for the 2013 St Martins in the Field Chamber Music Competition. Founded in 2010, the competition focuses on nurturing the fledgling careers of the UK’s most talented and hard-working young musicians through practical means. The competition’s prize is a series of professional engagements around Britain, offering the invaluable opportunity of paid performance experience and professional exposure to the winners. The competition is open to acoustic classical ensembles based in the UK with between 3 and 8 members aged between 18 and 30 years on the date of entry. Entries for the 2013 Competition close on 1 February 2013.

Friday 25 January 2013

Composer insights with Samson Marzbani

Samson Marzbani, a composer based in France but of Iranian/Indian parentage, is having an event tomorrow (Saturday 26 January) at the Royal College of Music, which will give the audience an insight into his compositional techniques and current project, Un jour infini. The event will include a performance of the composer's new work for flute quartet Un jour infini, a substantial piece lasting over 50 minutes which is due to be recorded and issued on disc. The performers will be Wissam Boustany (flute) and Daniel Rowland (violin), Paul Cassidy (viola) and Jacqueline Thomas (cello) - members of the world renowned Brodsky Quartet. The flute quartet, Un Jour Infini, is the transcription from piano improvisations where no notes were either added or changed from the original impulse of the work. During the recording of Un Jour Infini  Marzbani will be also recording piano compositions for an upcoming new solo piano CD. The event takes place at 7pm in the Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall at the Royal College of Music on 26 January.

Choir of Clare College, Cambridge at the London A Cappella Festival

Choir of Clare College Cambridge, director Graham Ross
The choir of Clare College Cambridge, directed by Graham Ross, opened this year's London A Cappella Festival at Kings Place. The choir sang a programme of 20th century choral works, including major works by Britten, Arvo Part, John Rutter and Arnold Schoenberg, plus motets by Poulenc and Durufle. The 27-strong mixed-voice choir was founded in 1971 and sing three college services per week plus concerts and recordings. Their programme was based around music for the octave of Epiphany (a period which finishes on 3 February).

Instructions for audience - some Dos and Don'ts of concert attendance

Screaming audience at Columbia Halle, Berlin (Germany) April 4, 2007. Flikr Photo Credit svenwerk
I recently attended one or two concerts where the audience did not seem to understand the subtle rules which apply to concert goers. Concert and theatre going is a communal activity which works best when everyone understands the implicit compact for civility between audience members, and between audience and performers. Hence my suggested list of dos and don'ts.

Thursday 24 January 2013

Happy Birthday to the Royal Philharmonic Society

Royal Philharmonic Society 1813 - 1913, RPS 200
Today, the Royal Philharmonic Society is 200, and along with a celebratory concert there is a whole year of events (see my blog post). One of the major events, already announced, is the commission of a new work to accompany Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, perhaps the society's most high profile commission. This new companion work will be called Frieze and is being written by Mark-Anthony Turnage. It will be performed at the Proms by the National Youth Orchestra and National Youth Choir of Great Britain under Vasily Petrenko. The US premiere (and four further performances) by the New York Philharmonic under Alan Gilbert feature in the orchestra’s 2013-14 season at the Lincoln Center.

Honouring back-office and back-stage staff

The second ABO/Rhinegold Awards were presented last night at the Association of British Orchestra's conference in Leeds. The awards aim to honour backstage talent in the UK’s classical music industry. Presented by violinist Nicola Benedetti, the awards went to Kevin Appleby, Turner Sims Concert Hall, Southampton (Concert Hall Manager of the Year),  James Brown, Hazard Chase (Artist Manager of the Year) and David Butcher, Chief Executive, Britten Sinfonia (Orchestra Manager of the Year), with the Royal Philharmonic Society receiving the ABO Award.

Laika the Spacedog

Laika the Space Dog
There are not many science based-operas, and certainly not ones which include equations and expect the audience to answer questions. Laika the Spacedog is a new opera for children with music by Russell Hepplewhite and words by Tim Yealland, which is being performed by English Touring Opera as part of their Spring tour. Directed by Tim Yealland and designed by Jude Munden, it uses a cast of four singers and four instrumentalists, plus a puppeteer manipulating the opera's title role, Laika herself. The opera's opening performances are at the Science Museum (all sold out, I gather) and I went along to the lunchtime performance yesterday (24 January) to join in the fun.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Flicker - new opera on Locked-In Syndrome

Music can sometimes illuminate areas that text on its own cannot. There is an opportunity to find out how this might work when dealing with difficult human problems at a single performance tomorrow, 24 January, of a challenging new opera at Sadlers Wells Theatre. Flicker deals with Locked-In Syndrome, with a woman locked inside her body, unable to communicate in any way. With words by Poppy Burton-Morgan and music by Jon Nicholls, this new contemporary chamber opera is being presented by Metta Theatre, a company founded in 2005 by Burton-Morgan and William Reynolds, that presents imaginative, visual theatre combining words, music, projection, puppetry and circus to create meta-theatrical work. They join forces with the Aurora Orchestra for the 24 January performance.

CD review - Keyboard3

Sergio Cervetti Keyboard3 works for piano, harpsichord and organ
Uruguayan-American composer Sergio Cervetti's new disc Keyboard3 presents six works written in the last 25 years for three different keyboards, piano, harpsichord and organ. Covering a wide variety of subjects, from the dead of the Falklands war, the Antarctic and Gustave Dore's illustrations for Milton's Paradise Lost. Each different movement is in effect a character piece, each evokes a single mood, all challenge the performer in a variety of ways.

Tugan Sokhiev conducts RPS 200th Birthday concert

Artwork for Rite of Spring by Sophie Chaussade
Artwork for Rite of Spring
by Sophie Chaussade
The Royal Philharmonic Society is 200 this year (see my blog post about their bicentenary year), and Thursday 24 January sees their 200th birthday concert at the Royal Festival Hall with the young Russian conductor Tugan Sokhiev conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra in programme of music by three composers closely associated with the society, Dvorak, Mendelssohn and Brahms; with Akiko Suwanai the violin soloist in Dvorak's Violin Concerto

Not only is Sokhiev a regular visitor with the Philharmonia and has just started his term as Music Director of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and is Music Director of Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse. With his Toulouse orchestra he has just released a recording of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (which is celebrating its centenary this year), on the Naive label, with striking artwork by Sophie Chaussade. A second image after the break.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Mozart's castrati

Venanzio Rauzzini for whom
Mozart wrote Exsultate, Jubilate
The castrato voice is not a voice type that we particularly associated with Mozart, partly because his trio of mature operas with Da Ponte do not feature the voice. By the later 18th century the voice type was less popular in opera and mainly used in more old-fashioned opera seria. Mozart and Da Ponte's comedies developed a style of opera popularised by Galuppi and Goldoni, which mixed serious aristocrats with popular servants. There was less room here for the castrato voice, but also the use of tenor and bass voices in heroic roles was becoming more common. But still, Mozart wrote for quite a few castratos, and tonight (January 22 2013), the Classical Opera Company are giving you the opportunity to find out more at the concert at Wigmore Hall.

Opera Rara's 2013 plans

Opera Rara has announced its plans for 2013, which include some old favourites and some new collaborations. 2013 is in fact the 35th anniversary of their first release, Donizetti's Ugo conte di Parigi, and the company continue to mine Donizetti's neglected repertoire with Caterina Cornaro and Belisario scheduled for release this year. Both operas are the result of a new collaboration with the BBC, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra playing and the BBC recording the works for broadcast and for issuing on disc. Casts are strong, with Carmen Giannattasio, Colin Lee, Nicola Alaimo and Joyce El-Khoury. David Parry conducts Caterina Cornaro and Mark Elder Belisario.

Intriguing and varied - OAE new season

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE) has announced its 2013/14 season at the South Bank Centre, with an intriguing mixture of music, ranging from the baroque, through Beethoven and Ravel to contemporary, via Offenbach. Offenbach's operetta Fantasio gets a rare outing. There are a number of distinguished conductors working with the group, Mark Elder conducts Fantasio, William Christie will be conducting Handel and Rameau, Semyon Bychkov conducts Beethoven and Schubert,  Simon Rattle conducts Haydn's The Creation and Sigiswald Kuijken investigates a rare type of cello.

Release Roxanna Panufnik's Love Abide

 Love Abide recording session Photo Camilla Jessel Panufnik
Love Abide recording session
Photo Camilla Jessel Panufnik
Yesterday, (22 January), I attended to launch of Roxanna Panufnik's new CD on Warner Classics, Love Abide. The CD contains music which explores the commonality of faith between different religions. Roxanna Panufnik explained that her interest in World Music developed into a desire to build musical bridges, in the belief that we all share a same God. Panufnik herself has both Jewish and Roman Catholic heritage, and on the disc her sources of text range from the Bible to Sufi, Zen and Sephardic Jewish.

Baroque preview

Baroque treasures at the Barbican, London

The Barbican is going have a bit of a baroque moment next month. Joyce DiDonato will be bringing her Drama Queens programme, then there will be complete performances of Handel's Radamisto and Lully's Phaeton. Read the full article at

Monday 21 January 2013

London Philharmonic Orchestra new season

The London Philharmonic Orchestra's 2013/14 season at the Royal Festival Hall is remarkably strong and shows and admirable intention to develop programming outside the routine. With chief conductor Vladimir Jurowski conducting a wide variety of repertoire, including contemporary pieces, and principal guest conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin doing four concerts, there is plenty of interest on the podium.

Tutti Verdi

Decca has issued a 75 boxed set containing the complete works of Verdi. 30 complete operas, plus arias, songs, sacred works, chamber & piano pieces, orchestral, ballet & choral works. The set mines quite heavily  Lamberto Gardelli's sequence of early Verdi operas from the 70's, and of course includes Giulini's classic recordings, plus those of Abbado and Solti. Both versions of La Forza del Destino are here, as is Abbado's  French language Don Carlos as well as the Italian language Modena version from Solti, there is also Jerusalem as well as I Lombardi. But I Vespri Siciliani is only present in Muti's Italian language version rather than the original French, and Macbeth is present only in the revised version, as is Simon Boccanegra.

Sunday 20 January 2013

Aurora Orchestra's amazing new season

Under principal conductor and artistic director Nicholas Collon, the Aurora Orchestra's 2013 season is their most ambitious to date, with a wide variety of events including performances at the South Bank Centre, being Associate Orchestra at LSO St. Lukes, Resident Orchestra at Kings Place, touring Britten's Church Parables and much more. In all there is a concern to mix contemporary and established repertoire, alongside a rather innovative, sideways view of programming which is rather refreshing. And yes, they are contributing to Britten 100, but in a rather distinctive way.

The season opens with the orchestra's Zeitgeist series at the South Bank Centre. 20 January sees them playing Schoenberg's first Chamber Symphony, a work which caused a riot in Vienna at its first performance. Ceramicist Edmund de Waal, whose family comes from Vienna, will be introducing the music, with works by Schoenberg, Strauss and Kreissler, and placing it in context. Then on 9 February, Dance of the Machines is a programme centred around Georges Antheil's Ballet mecanique (originally the soundtrack of a Dada-ist film!), with Josephine Baker cabaret songs and an excerpt from the pianola version of Rite of Spring!

Pink Singers 30th Birthday

Pink Singers 30 Years 1983 - 2013
The Pink Singers started 2013 with a 30th birthday concert at Cadogan Hall on Saturday 19 January. The concert took the form of a retrospective, a greatest hits concert, with samples of repertoire from the three decades of the choir's existence. Each decade was prefixed with a short video which highlighted the events and the music of that decade, and during the songs old photographs of the group were projected, including some of me conducting them in the '80s which were truly scary!.

Saturday 19 January 2013

Viols and violent emotion - Fretwork and Alamire at Kings Place

Thea Musgrave’s Wild Winter performed last night by Fretwork and Alamire at Kings Place was a triumph despite injury.

Thea was commissioned by Lichfield festival in 1993 to write a piece to commemorate the 1643 Siege of Lichfield. The Royalist Earl of Chesterfield had occupied Lichfield against the Puritans, but in March 1643 Parliamentary forces led by Lord Brooke attempted to take back the city. Although the Puritans won this battle Lord Brooke was shot through the eye and killed, which devout Royalists claimed was divine retribution. The Royalists took back Lichfield, and it remained Royalist until the end of the Civil War, but not without heavy damage to the cathedral and city and an outbreak of plague.

Transatlantic visitors to Houston Grand Opera's new season

The Wortham Theater Center
Houston Grand Opera's home,
the Wortham Theater Center, Houston
Houston Grand Opera has announced its plans for the 2013/14 season. The eight opera season, includes the start of the first Houston Ring Cycle plus American and World Premieres. Of particular note, the Ring Cycle will be seen in the production by Catalan company La Fura dels Baus which was originally seen in Valencia. Houston Grand Opera will present one instalment of the cycle per year starting in 2014. Another transatlantic visitor is David Poutney's production of Miecyslaw Weinberg's The Passenger which was seen at ENO in 2011 (see my review on this blog), the production was originally performed at the 2010 Bregenz Festival. The Houston performances will represent the North American premiere of the work. Other new operas include the premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon's A Coffin in Egypt, a mono-drama starring Frederica von Stade; this will be Houston Grand Opera's 52nd world premiere since 1973

Britten Sinfonia at Lunch

Britten Sinfonia (c) Harry Rankin
Britten Sinfonia (c) Harry Rankin
As part of its 20th anniversary season the Britten Sinfonia is performing a series of lunchtime concerts, at venues in Brighton, Cambridge, Norwich and London. The first in the series was at the end of last year, but their programme At Lunch 2 is being performed tomorrow (Sunday 20 January 2013) at the Corn Exchange in Brighton, being repeated at West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge on 22 January, Wigmore Hall, London on 23 January and Assembly House, Norwich on 25 January. The At Lunch 3 and At Lunch 4 programmes follow in February and April.

Pink Singers - memories of the early years

The Pink Singers in 1986 taken at Burgh House, Hampstead
The Pink Singers in 1986
taken at Burgh House, Hampstead
I was involved with the gay community choir, the Pink Singers as musical director from 1983 to 1988, taking over the choir a few months after it was founded. I got involved almost by accident, as a temporary stop gap, and ended up helping to transform an ad hoc ensemble into a regular performing ensemble and the first gay group to join the National Federation of Music Societies (now Making Music). 30 years on, rather amazingly, the Pink Singers is still going and celebrate their anniversary with a concert at London's Cadogan Hall tonight (19 January 2013)

In 1983 I had been living in London for two years and was a member of the London Philharmonic Choir, which took up a great deal of my time with a minimum of two rehearsals per week. A close friend joined what was billed as London's answer to the New York City Gay Mens chorus, but I just didn't feel I had time or energy. The chorus came about because the gay activist, Brian Kennedy thought it was something London needed and it chimed in with his role in the London Lesbian and Gay Centre which was being planned for Cowcross Street in London (This is another saga, the centre was much anticipated but long delayed)..

Friday 18 January 2013

Millfield at Cadogan

Millfield House, Millfield School
Millfield House, Millfield School
Millfield School, the independent boarding and day school in Somerset, is celebrating its impressive 2012-13 music programme with a concert at London's Cadogan Hall on 23 March. The concert will feature performances from violinist So-Ock Kim and pupils from the school. The school's prizewinning ensemble, The Millfield Camerata, will be performing. Violinist So-Ock Kim will be playing Vivaldi's The Four Seasons. The concert will also feature the world-premiere of Jumping the Rhymes for choir and percussion ensemble, a piece specially written for the school by Stewart Copeland, a past pupil of Millfield and former drummer with The Police.

Shell Classic International 2013/14 season

The details of the Shell Classic International season at the South Bank Centre for 2013/14 have been released. Its not really a vintage season, but there are one or two gems. Claudio Abbado and Diego Matheuz (a graduate of El Sistema) conduct the Bologna based Orchestra Mozart. Marin Alsop conducts Swingle Singers and the Sao Paolo Symphony Orchestra in Berio's Sinfonia. Michael Tilson Thomas performs Ives, Berlioz and Mahler with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. Antonio Pappano conducts the Academia di Santa Cecilia in two concerts. Dallapiccola's Il Prigionero in a combination with excerpts from Beethoven's Fidelio and the final two movements of the Ninth symphony, with soloists including Stuart Skelton; and Verdi's Requiem with soloists including Joseph Calleja. And there is more from El Sistema when Christian Valquez conducts the Teresa Carreno Youth Orchestra of Venezuala, a huge orchestra of 14 to 19 year olds. They will be playing two concerts of orchestral show-pieces by Stravinsky, Berlioz, Strauss, Rimsky Korsakov, De Falla and Tchaikovsky, so expect plenty of fireworks.. Booking opens for members on 21 January and the general public in February. See the Southbank Centre website for further details.

The Minotaur at Covent Garden

John Tomlinson as The Minotaur (c) Bill Cooper/ROH 2008
John Tomlinson as The Minotaur
(c) Bill Cooper/ROH 2008
Harrison Birtwistle's opera The Minotaur, which premiered at Covent Garden in 2008, has returned for a second run again with John Tomlinson in the title role, with both Christine Rice and Johan Reuter repeating their roles as Ariadnes and Theseus, with Ryan Wigglesworth conducting and Stephen Langridge returning to direct. We caught the first night on 17 January 2013 (the seventh performance of the opera at Covent Garden) The performance celebrated John Tomlinson's 35 years performing at the Royal Opera House. Returning to the opera, it retains its enormous power and an ability to shock.

Thursday 17 January 2013

Pappano receiving ISM's Distinguished Musician Award

Incorporated Society of Musicians logo
Sir Antonio Pappano, the musical director of the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, is being presented with the Incorporated Society of Musicians' Distinguished Musician Award this evening (17 January 2013). Suzi Digby OBE, President of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, said: 'In offering Sir Antonio Pappano its Distinguished Musician Award for 2012, the ISM is acknowledging the immense contribution he has made and continues to make to the UK's musical life.' 

WNO residencies at Covent Garden

Michelangelo's Moses
Michelangelo's Moses
From 2014, Welsh National Opera will be taking up residence at Covent Garden, performing a summer season. There are plans for three years, with Schoenberg's Moses und Aron in 2014, Richard Ayre's Peter Pan in 2015 and a new commission in 2016 to mark WNO's 70th anniversary. Moses und Aron will be conducted by Lothar Koenigs and directed by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito, in a production originally seen in Stuttgart. Sir George Solti conducted the first performances of the opera at Covent Garden in 1965 directed by Peter Hall and designed by John Bury with Forbes Robertson as Moses and Richard Lewis as Aron. The work has not been seen on the stage since 1966, so will be a welcome visitor. WNO are themselves no strangers to the Covent Garden stage as they brought their Ring Cycle to Covent Garden in 1986 with Anne Evans as Brunnhilde and Jeffery Lawton as Siegfried, conducted by Richard Armstrong. The first UK regional company to appear there.

Arcangelo at Wigmore Hall - Enchanted Forest

Anna Prohaska  (c) Monika Rittershaus
Anna Prohaska
(c) Monika Rittershaus
Arcangelo, conductor Jonathan Cohen, and soprano Anna Prohaska are half way through their Enchanted Forest tour and arrived at London's Wigmore Hall on Wednesday 15 January after successful concerts in Vienna, Munich and Frankfurt. The tour is linked to their new CD, Enchanted Forest, which appears in March on the Archiv label. The concert featured arias by Handel, Purcell and Vivaldi, alongside instrumental music by Purcell, Handel and Zelenka. The vocal items included a variety of nymphs and other enchanted creatures, with Handel's Poppea making an appearance at the end, linked by short instrumental movements. The result was designed, I suspect, to play without a break but such was the audience's enthusiasm for Prohaska's performances, that applause was inevitable.

Charpentier's Medea - video preview

Sarah Connolly as Medea
in the new ENO production
Medea is Marc-Antoine Charpentier's only opera for the Paris Opera (the Academie Royal de Musique), written  in 1693 to a libretto by the poet Thomas Corneille (brother of the more famous Pierre Corneille). The date of the opera is significant, coming six years after the death of Lully. Lully held a monopoly on operatic entertainments and stuck to it resolutely, so that Charpentier belongs to that group of composers who wrote stage works in the corners, out of Lully's shadow. Charpentier worked in the household of Mlle de Guise, a patroness rich an influential enough (a cousin of Louis XIV) that she could stage chamber operas and employ Charpentier in her establishment. He wrote a number of chamber operas for her in the years 1684-87, but Medea is his only large scale work. The opera is being performed by English National Opera for the first time on February 15, with Sarah Connolly in the title role. Connolly renews her longstanding connection with David McVicar, who is directing the opera with designs (in 1940's style) by Bunny Christie (her first operatic work in the UK). Christian Curnyn will be in the pit. As a taster, after the break, there is a video of Sarah Connolly singing 'Such is the price of love' from the opera.

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Matthew Barley's Around Britten

Matthew Barley, © Ben Phillips
Matthew Barley
© Ben Phillips
Cellist Matthew Barley's Around Britten tour will encompass over 100 events during 2013, Britten's centenary year, in a wide variety venues and historic places. Barley is touring a programme centred on Britten's Third Cello Suite, including a suite by Bach and contemporary pieces all arranged in an arc travelling from birth to death to resurrection. Barley opened the tour at Southampton University's Turner Sims Concert Hall on Tuesday 15 January. Though technically this was not the first event of the tour as Barley has already done a pair of workshops, with the education aspect of the tour being as important to Barley as the performances. His recital at Turner Sims Concert Hall represented the first public outing for the visual which Barley has commissioned from Yeast Culture to accompany Britten's suite.

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Worrying reading - ENO financial results for 2011/12

London Coliseum, Photograph by Mike Peel (
English National Opera's financial results for 2011/12 (year ending 31 March 2012) have been published on the charity commission website. The result does not make entirely comfortable reading, and ENO's management must be planning their 2013/14 season with some care. The year covered by the report was a challenging one, it included 11 new productions (The Return of Ulysses, The Damnation of Faust, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Simon Boccanegra, Two Boys, The Passenger, The Marriage of Figaro, Castor and Pollux, Eugene Onegin, The Tales of Hoffmann and The Death of Klinghoffer) plus 3 revivals (Elixir of love, Tosca and Der Rosenkavalier), all presented in an extremely difficult climate. The result, as might be expected, is a significant loss.

Antonino Siragusa at Rosenblatt Recitals

Antonino Siragusa (tenor)
With tenor Fabio Armiliato cancelling his Rosenblatt recital due to illness, the organisers were very fortunate to be able to offer another Italian tenor, Antonino Siragusa as replacement. Siragusa's recital at the Wigmore Hall on Monday 14 January 2013 (his third for Rosenblatt Recials) took place in a very narrow window in the tenor's diary, between engagements in Vienna and in Japan, so we were lucky indeed. His poised recital, with pianist Marco Boemi, showed no signs of the last minute nature of the arrangements. For the first half he offered a selection of lighter Italian songs from the early 20th century, starting with Tosti and including one from one of Beniamino Gigli's films. Then in the second we were treated to a selection of arias from Siragusa's significant roles.

Monday 14 January 2013

Country house stories in music

Powis Castle (National Trust), photo taken by Alexander Forst-Rakoczy
Powis Castle from the South
As part of its Baroque Spring, BBC Radio 3 is broadcasting a series of concerts from National Trust houses, with music from the 17th and 18th centuries linked to the stories in the houses. The concerts will be presented by Katie Dereham and during the intervals she will be joined by Lars Tharp from the Antiques Roadshow to 'offer a fascinating insight into the Baroque connections at each house'. Whilst it is a shame that the concerts are not on BBC 4, so that we could get visuals, it is an interesting attempt to extend the reach of the music in different ways. The series might seem to be rather straining the links, if it wasn't for the fact that the live concerts all feature some rather interesting performers and music.

Booking opens for the London Handel Festival

Public booking opens on-line today for this year's London Handel Festival, which runs from 11 March to 16 April 2013 with events mainly at St George's Hanover Square. Handel's penultimate opera Imeneo is staged at the Royal College of Music and there are also concert performances of operas by Telemann and Hasse, the annual Handel Singing Festival and a lunch time recital series. The festival closes with Handel's L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed ill Moderato with soprano Rosemary Joshua. See my preview of the festival. Booking details from the festival website.

Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music

Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music 2013
The Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music runs from 10 to 17 May 2013, with concerts principally at St. Johns Smith Square, with excursions to Westminster Abbey and St Peter's Eaton Square. This year's festival gives us the opportunity to hear a variety of European ensembles, including the Gabrieli Consort, the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra and the European Union Baroque Orchestra in a fine selection of music centred on England and France in the 17th and 18th centuries, with a very loose theme of the seasons running through the event.

Sunday 13 January 2013

Woven Words - Lutoslawski Centenary

The Philharmonia Orchestra and the Royal College of Music are presenting Woven Words a series of concerts and events celebrating Witold Lutoslawski's 100th birthday. The series opens on 30 January at the Royal Festival Hall with Krystian Zimerman performing Lutoslawki's Piano Concerto with the Philharmonia Orchestra, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen. Also in the concert is Lutoslawki's Musique Funebre and Ravel's complete Daphnis and Chloe.

Spring 2013 at Kings Place

Kings Place
Though the classical emphasis at Kings Place in the next three months is Bach, with the start of their year long Bach Unwrapped series, there is plenty of other good stuff going on. Viol consort Fretwork have a residency (see my blog post) as does the Royal Academy and the Schubert Ensemble, plus there is the a cappella festival.

Saturday 12 January 2013

The Bride and the Bachelors - Spring at the Barbican

Barbican Arts Centre
The big event this Spring at the Barbican is the exhibition The Bride and the Bachelors: Duchamp with Cage, Cunningham, Rauschenberg and Johns which looks at the influence of Marcel Duchamp on the group of younger American artists who integrated art and life, mixing visual and aural arts with much else besides. The exhibition opens on 14 February and runs until 9 June at the Barbican Art Gallery. It will feature around 90 works by Rauschenberg and Johns, along with dance by Cunningham. There are live dance events on Thursday evenings and weekends by students and graduates of from the London Contemporary Dance School and dancers from Richard Alston Dance Company.

CLS Poulenc festival

The City of London Sinfonia is having a mini-festival devoted to Poulenc in April with four themed events, Poulenc the Poet, Poulenc and Paris, Poulenc: Religion and Sexuality and Poulenc: Paradise and Purgatory. The events run from 4 to 11 April and take in venues as diverse as St Giles Cripplegate, Village Underground in Shoreditch and Southwark Cathedral with concerts and a pre-concert debate.

Friday 11 January 2013

Huw Watkins Day at Wigmore Hall

Huw Watkins
The Wigmore Hall is having a Huw Watkins day on 9 Feburary with three concerts plus a conversation between the composer and Tom Service. All three concerts feature Huw Watkins himself on piano, with performers including the Elias Quartet, Carolyn Sampson, Guy Johnson and Mark Padmore

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