Wednesday 20 March 2013

City of London Festival 2013 - programme details

City workers entertained at Devonshire Square  Credit: © City of London Festival / Robert Piwko
City workers entertained at Devonshire Square
Credit: © City of London Festival / Robert Piwko
This year's City of London Festival is director Ian Ritche's eighth (and final) one, and builds on last year's 50th anniversary season. Running from 23 June to 26 July 2013, there is a fine mixture of classical music events, talks, walks and exhibitions with the emphasis on articulating and enlivening many of the historic spaces within the City of London. As ever, besides the great events there are many smaller ones, with lots of lunchtime concerts and organ recitals, including a series being given by students from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. There is also a strong vein of new music running throughout the festival. Other themes within the festival are conflict and resolution, trees and city walls. This latter with special emphasis on the connection with Derry-Londonderry, whose 400 year relationship with the City of London is celebrated. Other anniversaries are the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht and Britten's centenary.

The first big event, just after the start of the festival, is Edward Gardner conducting the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, plus the choristers of St. Paul's, in a performance of Britten's War Requiem in St. Paul's Cathedral, with soloists Albin Shaigmuratova, Toby Spence and Russell Braun (24 June). The London Symphony Orchestra will also be performing in St. Paul's Cathedral with the choir Tenebrae in a concert which includes both Barber's Adagio for Strings and its vocal incarnation Agnus Dei, plus Strauss's Metamorphosen, Arvo Part's Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten plus Britten's Metamorphoses after Ovid and music by Josquin.

The other big event in St. Paul's Cathedral is a celebration of Handel's Utrecht Te Deum and Jubilate, which were premiered at St. Paul's in July 1713 as part of the celebrations for the Peace of Utrecht. This concert will also include the premiere of Adrian Williams' The Idea of Peace. The performers include a choir from Utrecht, the Toonkunstkoor Utrecht, with the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Jos Vermunt.

Clare Hammond's piano recital at St Mary-le-Bow (24 June) includes the premiere of Robert Saxton's Horus Musicae along with other music by Saxton, Bach and Sibelius. Mezzo-soprano Lore Lixenberg and the Brodsky Quartet will premiere Trees, Walls, Cities by Nigel Osborne and eight other composers at the Drapers Hall (24 June). This is a newly commissioned song-cycle which links the ‘walled’ cities of Derry, London, Utrecht, Berlin, Vienna, Dubrovnik, Nicosia and Jerusalem, with each song created by a local composer. The concert also includes music by Philip Hammond and Elgar.

The premiere of David Matthew's new arrangement of The Flaying of Marsyas will be given by the Britten Sinfonia in a concert at the Mansion House (27 June) with Nicholas Daniel (oboe) and Huw Watkins (piano) which also includes music by Stravinsky, Britten and Vivaldi.  Still in the Mansion House, on 29 June there is an intriguing concert in the Worlds in Collision strand with the Royal Artillery Band and Adrian Thompson (tenor) which includes Nigel Osbornes arrangements of songs by soldier composers, plus music by Butterworth, Gurney, Vaughan Williams and Karl Jenkins

At the Haberdashers' Hall the Duo Amal will be performing music by the young Israeli composer Avner Dorman and by the Palestinian-Israeli composer Sameer Odeh Tamimi alongside Beethoven's Seventh Symphony and Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. The duo is made up of two young pianists, one of whom is Israeli and the other Palestinian.

Mark Anthony Turnage's new piece At Sixes and Sevens is being premiered simultaneously in the Guildhalls of London and Derry-Londonderry. The work was commissioned by the City of London and the Honourable Irish Society to mark the two city's 400 year relationship. In London it's the companion to Mendelssohn's Incidental Music to a Midsummer Nights Dream in a concert being given by members of the London Symphony Orchestra and senior students of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Ailish Tynan (soprano) and Ben McAteer (baritone). And compositions by students from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama form the programme by the Guildhall Singers at St Olave, Hart Street (5 July).

Merchant Taylors Hall is the venue for the Nash Ensemble's concert on 1 July which includes music by Britten, Bridge, Stravinsky and Mozart.  Mezzo-soprano Katie Bray is giving a recital at St. Andrew by the Wardrobe on 9 July with a programme centred on Mignon, with music by Beethoven, both Robert and Clara Schumann, Liszt, Brahms and Wagner.

The festival makes the journey south of the river for Britten's Church Parables which Mahogany Opera will be performing in Southwark Cathedral (3-6 July) in a production by Frederic Wake-Walker, musical director Roger Vignoles with cast which includes James Gilchrist.

The Aurora Orchestra, who are accompany Britten's Church Parables, has a concert of its own on 7 July under conductor Nicholas Collon. The programme of music by Debussy, Boulez, Ives and Beethoven has film maker Jon Frank credited as well, so it is bound to be intriguing.

I Fagiolini are bringing their programme How Like and Angel which they will be performing a number of times at St. Bartholomew the Great. The programme is I Fagiolini's collaboration with the Australian contemporary circus company Circa, it combines Renaissance motets, a medieval monody, South African church music and a commission from Adrian Williams with contemporary circus in sacred spaces. (You can watch a film about the programme on The Space).

The closing concert is being given at the Masonic Temple in Liverpool Street and represents a final look at metamorphoses. Saxophonist Simon Haram will be performing the saxophone version of Britten's Metamorphoses after Ovid, whilst Di Sherlock and Ian Ritchie will be reading from Ovid's Metamorphoses.

There are around 50 different classical music events, so these are only a selection. And rather impressively over a dozen of the concerts are free, many are at lunchtime or early evening (6.00pm) in addition to the more traditional 7.30pm

Tony Palmer's new film on Britten Nocturne will be shown at the Barbican Cinema on 2 July. The film deals with Britten's uneasy relationship to the wider world. There is an interesting programme of walks. And the talks include a conference on Music and the Trauma of War, as well as Professor Jonathon Cross on Metamorphoses in Music and the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, on Hope of a Tree.

There will be a pop-up mobile orchestra with real and imagined trees, installations which will take root at a number of city venues to be used both as performance platforms and to learn more about British orchards and the City's trees. Exhibitions include a new work by Stephen Raw Was It For This The Clay Grew Tall at the Order of St John's Priory Church. Raw's work explores Britten's juxtaposing of Owen's 20th century poems with the Latin text from the Requiem. And at St Paul's Cathedral there will be composer Samuel Bordoli's Live Music Sculpture.

On Wednesdays from 26 June to 24 July there is an extended programme of music, dance and street arts every lunchtime at the base of the Gherkin, celebrating the iconic building's 10th anniversary.

And of course it is the way that the festival invites us into these buildings and intrigues us with site specific programmes and intelligently programmed concerts which is the main appeal. Who could resist a concert in the Masonic Temple, one of the Livery Halls or  in the Mansion House, taking your lunch whilst listening to an outdoor performance, or discovering young talented performers at a free recital in an historic City church.

Further information from the City of London Festival website.

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