Wednesday 22 January 2020

Launching the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra's Beethoven Festival with Alfred Brendel, Benjamin Appl and Manon Fischer-Dieskau

Beethoven in 1803, painted by Christian Horneman
Beethoven in 1803, painted by Christian Horneman
Last night (21 January 2020) the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra launched its Beethoven Festival with a reception at the German Ambassador's residence in London hosted by the German Ambassador to St James's, Dr Peter Wittig (who is honorary patron of the orchestra) with guest of honour Alfred Brendel (who is patron of the orchestra). 

We were given a taster of the music to come, baritone Benjamin Appl and pianist Manon Fischer-Dieskau performed Beethoven's song cycle An die ferne Geliebte (a work which they will perform as part of the Beethoven Festival), and violinist Natalia Lomeiko (one of the orchestra's concert masters) and pianist Marios Papadopoulos (music director of the orchestra) performed the first movement of Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata.

Before that Alfred Brendel said a few words, though he pointed out that to talk about Beethoven was the most unnecessary thing in the world as his works hardly needed promotion. There was also a discussion between Marios Papadopoulos, Malte Boecker (director of the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn) and John Suchet (who in fact curated the orchestra's first Beethoven festival 20 years ago) introducing the Beethoven celebrations both in Oxford and in Bonn. The two cities have been twinned for nearly 70 years and Marios Papadopoulos commented that the twinning was ample reason to indulge in some of the world's greatest music. Malte Boecker also talked about the recent discovery of a letter by Beethoven, written in 1795 to a friend then living in Russia, where he re-iterates many of the concepts which would resonate in his art particularly in the setting of the worlds from Schiller's Ode to Joy.

The Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra's Beethoven Festival is remarkably comprehensive, it starts tomorrow, 23 January 2020 and runs until 13 December 2020. During this time Marios Papadopoulos and the orchestra will be performing all the symphonies and all the piano concertos, with Marios Papadopoulos directing from the piano for the concertos, along with the Triple Concerto with Maxim Vengerov, Mischa Maisky and Sergei Babayan, and the Violin Concerto with Anne-Sophie Mutter, plus Ah! perfido, the Mass in C Major, Christ on the Mount of Olives and the Choral Fantasy.  Perhaps the only thing missing, as far as I am concerned, is Beethoven's piano version of the Violin Concerto!

There will also be a concert performance of Beethoven's Fidelio with Emma Bell as Leonore and Andrew Staples as Florestan, plus David Shipley, Haegee Lee, Yuriy Yurchuk, Robin Tritschler and the Garsington Opera Chorus.

A piano recital series features Jonathan Biss, John Lill, Kristian Bezuidenhout, Andras Schiff, Paul Lewis, Kit Armstrong, Evgeni Koroliov, Louis Schwizgebel and Oxford Piano Festival alumni in the piano sonatas and Diabelli Variations, with Martha Argerich and Stephen Kovacevich performing Beethoven's four-handed piano version of the Grosse Fuge.

The chamber music series showcases principals from the orchestra in Beethoven's violin and cello sonatas, with quartets from the Takacs Quartet and the Juillard Quartet. Benjamin Appl and Manon Fischer-Dieskau's performance of Beethoven's An die ferne Geliebte takes place within the context of Jessica Duchen's narrated concert Immortal Beloved, based on her book.

There is also a study weekend and a symposium.

Full details from the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra's website.

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