Wednesday 30 April 2014

Sir Harrison at 80 - May at the Barbican Centre

Sir Harrison Birtwistle -  Photographer Credit: Hanya Chlala
Sir Harrison Birtwistle
Photographer Credit: Hanya Chlal
May sees that Barbican celebrating both Sir Harrison Birtwistle and the Kronos Quartet with a whole array of concerts. Two of Birtwistle's operas are being performed, and there is also opera from Poulenc and Richard Strauss on offer. The BBC give the UK premieres of two new violin concertos, whilst there is some new Nico Muhly too.

Sir Harrison Birtwistle is 80 in May and there are various celebrations. On 16 May the BBC Symphony Orchestra presents a concert staging of his opera Gawain directed by John Lloyd Davies, conducted by Martyn Brabbins and the apparently ageless Sir John Tomlinson reprising the role of the Green Knight and a cast including Leigh Melrose, Laura Aiken, Jennifer Johnston, Jeffrey Lloyd Roberts, Brian Galliford, Rachel Nicholls, William Towers, Ivan Ludlow, and Robert Anthony Gardner. Being as this is a concert staging, I doubt that we get to see Leigh Melrose without his clothes (as Francois Le Roux bravely did in the Covent Garden staging), but seriously it is a tremendous work and well worth catching (16/5).

The London Symphony Orchestra celebrate Birtwistle's birthday, with his breathtaking orchestra piece Earth Dances conducted by Daniel Harding (20/5). There is a BBC study day on 25 May. BCMG performs a programme of Birtwistle's chamber music conducted by Oliver Knussen with soprano Katrien Baerts (25/5), then the Britten Sinfonia is conducted by Baldur Bronnimann in Birtwistle's Yan Tan Tethera with Roderick Williams, Omar Ebrahim, Claire Booth and Daniel Norman (29/5). On rather smaller scale, the Britten Sinfonia rather intriguingly perform Birtwistle's The Fields of Sorrow and Melencolia I with Vaughan Williams Flos Camp and Holst part songs in a concert which explores the mystical elements in each of the composers (30/5).

Another birthday in May is that of the Kronos Quartet, which is 40 and they are having a celebratory concert with music by Philip Glass, Mariana Sadovska, Bryce Dessner and more (13/5). Plus there is an Explorations Weekend full of good things with performances from Kronos, Crash Ensemble, Britten Sinfonia, BBC Concert Orchestra and lots lots more (17,18/5)

The BBC Symphony  Orchestra and Sakari Oramo are in violin concerto mode as the give the UK premiere of Pascal Dusapin's Violin Concerto with Renaud Capucon as the soloist, plus Honegger's piece about rugby (the game!), and music by Debussy and Elgar (3/5), then on 9 May they give the UK premiere of Bright Sheng's Violin Concerto with Gil Shaham, in a concert which also includes music by Bartok and Dukas.

More operatic delights from the BBC when Ludovic Morlot conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra in Poulenc's delicious opera Le Mamelles de Tiresias with Faure's Requiem with soloists Helene Guilmette, Jean-Francois Lapointe, Thomas Morris and Werner van Mechelen. Another concert staging, so perhaps we won't see Jean-Francois Lapointe develop breasts and then lose them again! (24/5)

The Aurora Orchestra is at LSO St Lukes with conductor Nicholas Collon and counter tenor Iestyn Davies in an intriguing programme which includes Nico Muhly's Drones on 'O Lord, whose mercies numberless' plus Muhly's orchestration of Herbert Howell's song King David, music from Gluck's Orfeo, a JS Bach cantata, a Schubert symphony and Thomas Ades' Three Studies from Couperin (1/5).

On Friday 2 May, the Guildhall School continues its series of Alumni recitals with Toby Spence and Julian Milford performing Beethoven's An die ferne Geliebte, Schumann's Dichterliebe and songs by Schubert (2/5) Russian soprano Julia Lezhneva makes her Barbican solo debut in a concert of Handel's music written in Italy, with Ial Giardino Armonico directed by Giovanni Antonini (7/5)

The London Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Mark Elder in Mozart's Prague Symphony and extracts from Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier with soloists Anne Schwanewilms, Sarah Connolly and Lucy Crowe (8/5).
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