Thursday, 24 September 2020

The English Chamber Orchestra launches its 60th season with a celebration of its fruitful relationship with Raymond Leppard

Raymond Leppard rehearsing the English Chamber Orchestra in 1980
Raymond Leppard rehearsing the English Chamber Orchestra in 1980

The English Chamber Orchestra (ECO) is 60 this year, and the orchestra is launching its 60th season on 7 October 2020 with a concert at Cadogan Hall (with a live, socially distanced audience) celebrating the orchestra's long and fruitful relationship with conductor Raymond Leppard. Leppard is still best remembered for his championship of the Baroque repertoire at a time when the music was often not well regarded, and he created influential editions of Monteverdi and Cavalli. 

The concert will feature music by Rameau, Monteverdi, Purcell and Mozart, with soprano Lauren Lodge-Campbell and mezzo Bethany Horak-Hallett, J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.2, with soloists from the ECO, and  RVW’s The Lark Ascending, with the orchestra’s leader Stephanie Gonley as soloist. The conductor will be James Sherlock, and it will be presented by Dame Janet Baker who collaborated with Leppard on a number of projects including the iconic production of Cavalli's La Calisto at Glyndebourne in 1970 (Leppard's realisations of Cavalli's score are now not seen as scholarly, but they provided an important stepping stone in the re-evaluation of the music), and she recorded the title role in Handel's Ariodante with Leppard and the ECO in a still highly regarded recording.

Raymond Leppard (1927-2019) was a more rounded and complex figure than his reputation as a Baroque specialist implies, and he composed the music for Peter Brook's film The Lord of the Flies (based on William Golding's novel) and was music director of the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra (now the BBC Philharmonic). And in the 1970s in Manchester, I remember Leppard's interesting programming with the orchestra (it is well worth catching Leppard's live recording of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde with Janet Baker, John Mitchinson and the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra, available on Amazon). 

The English Chamber Orchestra was formed in 1960, arising out of The Goldsborough Orchestra which had been founded in 1946 by Lawrence Leonard and Arnold Goldsborough for the performance of Baroque repertoire. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s the orchestra's performances were the byword in stylishness in this repertoire and it is the 'most recorded chamber orchestra in the world'.

Full details of the concert from the Cadogan Hall website.

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