Tuesday 24 November 2015

Leeds Lieder Festival launch

Leeds Lieder Festival
Last night (23 November 2015) we had a taster of the treats to come at the 2016 Leeds Lieder Festival, as the festival's director Joseph Middleton and the 2016 artistic director Roderick Williams were joined by storyteller Jo Blake-Cave to perform songs from Brahms's Die schöne Magelone, then Williams and Middleton in conversation with Sara Mohr-Pietsch explained a bit more about the festival.

Brahms' Die schöne Magelone is problematic for performers because Brahms extracted songs from Ludwig Tieck's narrative and without the supporting structure of Tieck's story the songs do not make a coherent narrative group. Different performers choose different options. Here, Roderick Williams and Joseph Middleton performed nine of the songs whilst Jo Blake-Cave narrated Tieck's story in her own inimitable way. Williams and Middleton gave us a very fine performance, with Williams singing from memory in a performance that was vividly direct and poetic, with a strong emphasis on the words.

Roderick Williams
Roderick Williams
The Leeds Lieder Festival was founded in 2004 by Jane Anthony, giving a lieder festival every other year in Leeds. With Anthony as the festival's overall director, each individual festival is curated by a different artistic director. So far, artistic directors have included Graham Johnson, Roger Vignoles, Malcolm Martineau, Julius Drake and Iain Burnside. On Jane Anthony's untimely death in 2014, Joseph Middleton was appointed director and the artistic director for 2016 is Roderick Williams.

The festival runs from 1 to 3 April 2016 in Leeds, but Joseph Middleton explained that they are hoping to expand the audience for lieder so that they are presenting lieder concerts in Leeds every month between October 2015 and the festival. Middleton commented that he had come late to lieder, and initially the genre went straight over his head. You cannot simply listen to it passively but must work, hence the plan to increase exposure. He added that it is hard to hear song recitals outside London and that Music Clubs find it hard to sell them, which is a shame as it is such a rich and vivid art form.

Joseph Middleton
Joseph Middleton
When asked about the programme for the 2016 festival, Roderick Williams laughed and explained that the first thing the artistic director does is get out their address book and contact their friends. His artistic plans for the festival are very much involved with the idea of telling stories, and the storyteller Jo Blake-Cave is participating in the festival, and the opening concert includes the actor Rory Kinnear.

The opening concert is Rory Kinnear with Roderick Williams, Mark Padmore and Julius Drake in Songs of the Sea, other highlights include Katarina Karneus and Joseph Middleton in Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder, the distinguished soprano Elly Ameling in conversation, the Myrten Ensemble (Mary Bevan, Anna Huntley, Nicky Spence, Joseph Middleton) in Brahms, Schumann, Barber and Faure, Claire Booth and Christopher Glynn in a new Edward Rushton piece, Nicky Spence and Iain Burnside in Britten, Finzi and a new Cheryl Frances Hoad piece. The closing recital is Iain Burnside's Shining Armour, his new narration round Brahms' Die schöne Magelone performed by Roderick Williams, Victoria Newlyn and Iain Burnside.

There are also a whole series of concerts leading up to the festival, so do check out the festival's website.

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