Saturday, 24 July 2021

The piece conveys the idea that women should be listened to: composer Gráinne Mulvey & soprano Elizabeth Hilliard chat about their latest collaboration Great Women

Elizabeth Hilliard performing Gráinne Mulvey's Great Women in St Patrick's Hall, Dublin Castle for the Dublin International Chamber Music Festival
Elizabeth Hilliard performing Gráinne Mulvey's Great Women in St Patrick's Hall, Dublin Castle for the Dublin International Chamber Music Festival

Great Women
for voice and electronics is a new work by Irish composer Gráinne Mulvey recently released on Divine Art's metier label performed by soprano Elizabeth Hilliard. The work was commissioned by the Dublin International Chamber Music Festival (formerly Great Music in Irish Houses) to mark its 50th anniversary and the work's first performance was given in June this year at Dublin Castle (filmed without an audience). Great Women is the ninth of Gráinne Mulvey's works that Elizabeth Hilliard has performed (five of which are for voice and electronics). Its subject is a celebration of strong, remarkable Irish women who helped shape the political landscape in the 20th century, and I recently caught up with both Gráinne and Elizabeth to find out more.

Gráinne Mulvey
Gráinne Mulvey
The commission came just after the centenary of women's suffrage and Gráinne wanted to both celebrate women activists and to celebrate Ireland's two female presidents (Mary Robinson, inaugurated in 1990 and Mary McAleese, inaugurated in 1997). She started by looking at texts by two leading activists Countess Markievicz (1868-1927) and Rosie Hackett (1893-1976), intending to bookend the piece with extracts from the two presidential inauguration speeches as well, the idea being that the earlier activists and the two female presidents would be calling to one another.

Countess Markievicz made many speeches, but one quote of hers has become well known 'We have got to get rid of the last vestige of the harem.' For the first part of the piece, Gráinne uses a lot of sibilants and phonetics to break up the text, suggesting Markievicz's struggle and bubbling of ideas until things finally come together, and then she introduces other texts. Gráinne has tried to reflect the different aspects of Markievicz's life, the bleak dreariness of her time in prison after the 1916 Easter Rising when she questioned the political meaning of it all or the more angry moments. Rosie Hackett is represented by her simple witness statement, 'I was alone in the shop the day it was raided', as she was minding the shop just before the Easter Rising.

Friday, 23 July 2021

La Bohème in Belfast: Northern Ireland Opera makes return to live performance with Cameron Menzies' first production as artistic director

Carlisle Memorial Church, Belfast (Photo Belfast Buildings Trust)
Carlisle Memorial Church, Belfast (Photo Belfast Buildings Trust)

Northern Ireland Opera is making a return to performances with live audiences with a new production of Puccini's La Bohème which also marks marks Cameron Menzies’ first production in front of live audiences since he joined the company as artistic director midway through the pandemic in February this year.

Performed in front of a socially distanced audience for four evening, 18-25 September 2021, the production take place at the Carlisle Memorial Church, a high Victorian neo-Gothic church in Belfast which is now a community arts centre. The building, situated at the heart of the troubles in an area of high political tension, holds a long history of community and a psychological neutrality, a symbolic importance as a “home” marker for people from many backgrounds.

With a background in opera, theatre, music theatre, cabaret and film-making, it will be intriguing to see what Menzies' new production makes of Puccini's operatic classic. 

Further details, including casting, to be released shortly see the Northern Ireland Opera website for details.

Seven Ages: Mark Padmore, Roderick Williams, Julius Drake, Victoria Newlyn at Temple Music

Titian: Three Ages of Man (image from
Titian: Three Ages of Man (image from

Seven Ages
- Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Fauré, Poulenc, RVW, Bridge, Clarke, Butterworth, Gurney, Ives, Barber, Copland, Purcell; Mark Padmore, Roderick Williams, Victoria Newlyn, Julius Drake; Temple Music at Middle Temple Hall

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 21 July 2021 Star rating: 5.0 (★★★★★)
The seven ages of man bring Temple Music's season to a magical close with a wide-ranging recital

The final concert in Temple Music's season on Wednesday 21 July 2021 represented at return to Middle Temple Hall with a live audience for a recital themed on the Seven Ages of Man by tenor Mark Padmore, baritone Roderick Williams and pianist Julius Drake with reader Victoria Newlyn. The programme made no explicit reference to our current situation, yet the way the music and readings reflected on the human experience from Shakespeare's mewling and puking infant right through that haunting image of 'Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything', made you reflect. The programme played without breaks for applause, allowing the sequence of words and music to unfold with some intriguing inclusions and thoughtful juxtapositions, with composers ranging from Schubert, Schumann and Brahms, to Fauré and Poulenc, to RVW, Bridge, Butterworth, and Britten, to Ives, Barber and Copland, ending with Purcell's Evening Hymn.

Thursday, 22 July 2021

Chamber-sized version of Mahler's epic Das Lied von der Erde launches a new ensemble supporting freelance performers

Gustav Mahler photographed in 1907 by Moritz Nähr the year before he began Das Lied von der Erde
Gustav Mahler photographed in 1907 by Moritz Nähr
the year before he began Das Lied von der Erde
Arnold Schoenberg's  Society for Private Musical Performances (Verein für musikalische Privataufführungen in German), which he founded in Vienna in 1918, sought to provide a forum in which modern musical compositions could be carefully prepared and rehearsed, and properly performed under conditions protected from the dictates of fashion and pressures of commerce. Over three years the society presented a diverse range of music and Schoenberg had plans for Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde. Mahler was a composer that he revered and he started a version of the work for soloists, string and wind quintets, keyboards and percussion but never finished it. The German composer Rainer Riehn (1941-2015) completed this version in 1980. 

Later this month, there is a chance to hear this more intimate version of Mahler's epic masterpiece at the debut concert of The Fifth Door Ensemble, at Opera Holland Park on 17 August 2021. The soloists are mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson and tenor Charne Rochford with an instrumental ensemble of 14 players conducted by Thomas Blunt.

The performers are all freelance, and this points to one of the ensemble's raisons d'etre, to provide opportunities for freelance performers at this difficult time. Named for the moment in Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle when on opening the Fifth Door, there is a glorious, elementary C major chord, in contrast to what has come before, like a shaft of light illuminating the darkness, the ensemble was founded by tenor Charne Rochford, who said "The Fifth Door Ensemble is an organisation that will stimulate live performances of major works on a small scale, offering the public opportunities to watch outstanding freelancers at work, whilst giving performance opportunities to freelancers, hardest hit by the pandemic."

Also dating from the same period is  Hans Eisler, Karl Rankl and Erwin Stein chamber arrangement of Bruckner's Symphony No 7 which was unperformed owing to the Society's closure in 1921, perhaps The Fifth Door Ensemble should think about this for their next concert!

Full details from the Opera Holland Park website.

The Call: six young artists showcased in the first recital disc from Momentum

The Call - Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Faure, Debussy, Hahn, Poulenc, Meirion WIlliams, Howells, RVW, Britten, Gurney and Rachmaninov; Martha Jones, Laurence Kilsby, Angharad Lyddon, Madison Nonoa, Alex Otterburn, Dominic Sedgwick, Malcolm Martineau; Stone Records

The Call
- Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Fauré, Debussy, Hahn, Poulenc, Meirion WIlliams, Howells, RVW, Britten, Gurney and Rachmaninov; Martha Jones, Laurence Kilsby, Angharad Lyddon, Madison Nonoa, Alex Otterburn, Dominic Sedgwick, Malcolm Martineau; Stone Records

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 21 July 2021 Star rating: 4.5 (★★★★½)
The first disc from the initiative supporting younger artists showcases the song talents of six singers in lieder, French chanson, and English song with excursions to Wales and Russia

Barbara Hannigan's Momentum: Our Future, Now has been very active in the last 18 months encouraging support for young artists via the active creation of performances opportunities. Now the first recording arising from the initiative has come out.

The Call on Stone Records features six Momentum artists, Madison Nonoa (soprano), Martha Jones (mezzo-soprano), Angharad Lyddon (mezzo-soprano), Laurence Kilsby (tenor), Alex Otterburn (baritone) and Dominic Sedgwick (baritone) along with Malcolm Martineau (piano) in songs by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Fauré, Debussy, Hahn, Poulenc, Meirion Williams, Howells, RVW, Britten, Gurney and Rachmaninov, recorded at Snape Maltings with the support of Britten Pears Arts.

It should be emphasised that the term Young Artists is to some extent unfair. All early-career performers, between them they have considerable experience yet in the present climate, with limited opportunities available, are in danger of being squeezed out. And this is just what Momentum seeks to remedy. 

A number of them have popped up on our radar recently, Angharad Lyddon and Alex Otterburn were in The Grange Festival's production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream [see my review], Laurence Kilsby was in the Opera North/Leeds Playhouse production of Sondheim's A Little Night Music [see my review]. We saw Dominic Sedgwick performing Bach with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment last year [see my review], as well as catching him both as a Jette Parker Young Artist at Covent Garden and right back to his impressive account of the title role in Britten's Owen Wingrave for British Youth Opera in 2016. And Martha Jones was in English Touring Opera's production of Bach's St John Passion last year [see my review].

The disc begins with Schubert, Schumann and Brahms, before moving on to French song and then, with a brief but striking excursion to Wales we end up in England with Russia as a sort of coda. It makes for a satisfying programme and the singers are sufficiently varied, so that we have an engaging variety of approaches.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Autumn season at Temple Music: intimate Mahler, Alehouse Sessions, Historical Fiction and more

Temple Music
Temple Music concert in Middle Temple Hall
Temple Music Foundation has announced its Autumn 2021 season of concerts in Temple Church and Middle Temple Hall, with 'fingers tightly crossed' that 'full capacity concerts, interval socialising and musicians congratulating each other with an embrace at the end of another stunning performance' will be possible.

From September to December there are eight, highly varied concerts. Soprano Grace Davidson and saxophonist Christian Forshaw start things off with Historical Fiction from their album of Baroque arrangements. American pianist Jeffery Siegel brings one of his Keyboard Conversations concerts, events which mix performance with Siegel's introductions and a lively Q&A, whilst Harry Christophers and The Sixteen return with Tudor sacred music. Pianist Julius Drake is joined by mezzo-soprano Alice Coote and tenor Stuart Jackson for Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde, a rare chance to hear the symphonic song-cycle in more intimate form. 

Temple Youth choir performs Romantic choral music, then Tom Guthrie joins Barokksolistene for one of their amazing Alehouse Sessions [see my interview with Tom where we chat about these events]. Temple Singers (the adult choir at Temple Church) are joined by alumni from Genesis Sixteen for a programme of large-scale unaccompanied choral music including Tallis' Spem in alium. Thomas Allery, director of the Temple Singers, brings his Ensemble Hesperi for a programme of 18th century music by composers who lived within sight of Temple! [see my 2019 interview with members of Ensemble Hesperi]. And the season ends with the annual performance of Handel's Messiah.

Full details from the Temple Music website.

Bromley & Beckenham International Music Festival returns for its second edition

Benjamin Grosvenor at the 2020 Bromley & Beckenham International Music Festival (Photo Ting-Ru Lai/BBIMF)
Benjamin Grosvenor at the 2020 Bromley & Beckenham International Music Festival
(Photo Ting-Ru Lai/BBIMF)

Created during lockdown last year by Benjamin Grosvenor, Hyeyoon Park and Raja Halder, the Bromley & Beckenham International Music Festival returns this year from 17 to 19 September 2021 for its second edition. The iaugural festival in September 2020 provided four, highly successful, socially distanced concerts which created something positive and long-lasting for the local community as well as raising money for a local hospice. 

For 2021, there are four concerts at Bromley Parish Church featuring artistic directors Benjamin Grosvenor (piano), Hyeyoon Park (violin), and festival director Raja Halder (violin) plus guests Timothy Ridout (viola), Bartholemew LaFollette (cello), Laura van der Heijden (cello) in an intriguing range of music from Dvorak for two violins and viola, Rachmaninov's piano trio written in memory of Tchaikovsky, and Britten reflecting on a Dowland song, plus a Schubert trio, the Schumann Piano Quartet and Brahms' Piano Quintet. Oud virtuoso Joseph Tawadros will be joining festival artists for a programme of his own music.

The festival is offering free tickets for the under-12s and £5 tickets for under-21s. Full details from the festival website.

Encounters: York Early Music Festival with Tudor motets, Elizabethan viol music, baroque cantatas and the madrigal re-imagined

Encounters, this year's York Early Music Festival at the National Centre for Early Music

, this year's York Early Music Festival at the National Centre for Early Music (NCEM) took place both live and online. The festival's ten online events are available on NCEM's website until 13 August 2021, and I have been dipping into some of the delights on offer with The Gesualdo Six in English Motets, the Rose Consort of Viols in Elizabethan Encounters, Matthew Brook (bass-baritone) and Peter Seymour (harpsichord) in Amore traditore: Cantatas for bass and harpsichord, and The Monteverdi String Band and Hannah Ely (soprano) in The Madrigal Reimagined.

The Gesualdo Six have been spending lockdown learning new repertoire and for their programme English Motets they returned to the English repertoire from Tudor composers, music that they all grew up singing. The 200 years covered by the programme was a turbulent time, with composers such as Tallis and Byrd writing for both Catholic and Protestant monarchs with Tallis' works for the Edwardian Church virtually coming to define the new musico-religious style. 

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Des Jours Meilleurs

French accordionist and composer Jacques Pellarin wrote Des Jours Meilleurs as an accordion solo during lockdown in 2020. He subsequently approached pianist Helen Walker about her arranging the work for cello and piano. The result is charming and engaging, and has been released as a single by Nicola Farnon (cello) and Helen Walker (piano).

Music in the Round announces new concert series in Sheffield with Ensemble 360 and guests

Music in the Round's Ensemble 360 at the Crucible, Sheffield
Music in the Round's Ensemble 360 at the Crucible, Sheffield

Before the world changed in 2020, I had plans to combine a visit to Opera North with my first trip to hear Music in the Round's Ensemble 360 at its home in Sheffield's Crucible Theatre as part of the Sheffield Chamber Music Festival. It wasn't to be.

But, after over a year away from live audiences, Music in the Round has announced a new concert series in Sheffield. Violist Ruth Gibson and pianist Tim Horton, of Ensemble 360, launch the new series on Friday 6 August, with performances at 1pm and 7pm in the city’s Upper Chapel, where concerts will remain socially-distanced. 

Then on 13 August, there is a chance to hear pianist Libby Burgess in Bach's '48' the Well-Tempered Clavier. Burgess is performing the 48 movements in each of the 48 ceremonial counties of England during 2021, so her performances in Sheffield represent the South Yorkshire stage of her marathon run of concerts. 

The 48 concerts are part of a fundraising initiative by Libby Burgess, raising money for four musical charities, inspired by Bach’s comment that the Well-Tempered Clavier was written “for the benefit and use of the musical youth eager to learn, as well as for the special pastime of those already skilful in this study”. The four charities are: Help Musicians, Youth Music, Future Talent and Live Music Now. More details at the Bach 48 Project website.

Further ahead, Music in the Round's concert series includes Beethoven’s string quartets performed by Ensemble 360, and the Leonore Piano Trio starting their new cycle of concerts focusing on Romantic piano trios. In November, baritone Roderick Williams performs songs based on Thomas Hardy poems, and guitarist Craig Ogden teams up with classical accordionist Miloš Milivojević. Other performers include pianist Tim Horton in preludes by Chopin and Debussy, jazz pianist Julian Joseph, and Ensemble 360 returns with Bartók’s First Violin Sonata and Ligeti’s Horn Trio.

Full details from Music in the Round's website.

Young contemporary composers to late Haydn: London Oriana Choir at Opera Holland Park

London  Oriana Choir & City of London Sinfonia at Opera Holland Park
London  Oriana Choir & City of London Sinfonia at Opera Holland Park

Redford, Daley, Curry, Mack, Disley-Simpson, David, Haydn; Sian Dicker, Hannah Bennett, Guy Withers, Alex Jones, London Oriana Choir, City of London Sinfonia, Dominic Ellis-Peckham; Opera Holland Park

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 19 July 2021
A welcome chance to hear large-scale choral music again in an imaginative programme which mixed works from the choir's five15 commissioning programme with Haydn's great mass in the time of distress

This year, a sort of fringe festival has grown up around the main festival at Opera Holland Park. James Clutton, the company's director, has been taking advantage of the nights when the theatre is dark to offer the space to other performers, providing performance opportunities at a time when badly needed. So, British Youth Opera will be performing its season there, there is a song recital series next week, Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde coming up, Waterperry Opera's family friendly Peter and the Wolf, Knowing Britten: A celebration of the life of Steuart Bedford, and last night (19 July 2021) London Oriana Choir.

On Monday 19 July 2021, London Oriana Choir, musical director Dominic Ellis-Peckham (who is also chorus master at Opera Holland Park) were joined at Opera Holland Park by the City of London Sinfonia and four of Opera Holland Park's Young Artists, Sian Dicker, Hannah Bennett, Guy Withers, Alex Jones for a programme of music by Stanford, Vittoria Aleotti, Heinrich Schütz, JAC Redford, Eleanor Daley, Jessica Curry, Tara Mack, Anna Disley Simpson, and John David ending with a performance of Haydn's Mass in D minor.

The first half was an eclectic mix of unaccompanied music with a focus very much on the choir's five15 project whereby for five years they appoint a female composer in residence who writes three works for them, alongside a commitment to increase the amount of music by women composers in the choir's programmes. 

Monday, 19 July 2021

Antony Hermus, principal guest conductor at Opera North, named as new chief conductor of the Belgian National Orchestra

Antony Hermus
Antony Hermus
The Dutch conductor Antony Hermus, who is Opera North's new(ish) principal guest conductor, has been named as the new chief conductor of the Belgian National Orchestra. Hermus takes over the baton for the 2022/23 season and will be in place for at least four seasons, conducting 8 concerts in 2022-23 rising to 18 in 2023-24.

But in September 2021 he joins the orchestra for Ibert's Concertino da camera with the Belgian saxophonist Simon Diricq and Wagner’s Die Meistersinger, in a symphonic compilation by Henk de Vlieger.

And in October 2021 he returns to Leeds where he conducts Opera North in a double bill of Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti and West Side Story Symphonic Dances.

Full details from the Belgian National Orchestra's website.

We can dream: Bayreuth Baroque Festival 2021

Bayreuth Baroque Festival
One of the reasons that Richard Wagner built his festival theatre in Bayreuth was because he had been recommended the town because it was the home of Germany's largest theatre, the Margravial Opera House built by Frederick the Great's sister Wilhelmine in 1748, with an interior designed by the Italian theatre-design family of Bibiena, father and son. Performances had effectively ceased after Wilhelmine's death in 1758, which is why the theatre is so well preserved. Wagner barely used the theatre, it was not suited to his purposes, but restored in 2018 the theatre forms a superb backdrop for Baroque opera. 

The Bayreuth Baroque Opera Festival was founded in 2020, under artistic director Max Emanuel Cencic, and the festival is returning this year for a second edition from 1-12 September 2021. There will be another chance to see Cencic's production of Nicola Porpora's opera Carlo il Calvo with Franco Fagioli, Max Emanuel Cencic and Julia Lezhneva, conducted by George Petrou in a production directed by Cencic which debuted last year. The opera debuted in 1738 in Rome, which meant that as women were not allowed on stage by order of the Pope, all the female roles were originally taken by castrati.

There will also be a concert performance of Porpora's Polifemo, written in 1735 for London for Handel's rivals, the Opera of the Nobility with star castrato Farinelli playing Aci. The Bayreuth performance features as Yuriy Mynenko as Aci, Max Emanual Cencic as Ulisse, Pavel Kudinov as Polifemo and Julia Lezhneva as Galatea, conducted by George Petrou.

Other events include Handel's oratorio Judas Maccabeus with Benjamin Hulett, Pavel Kudinov and Lucy Crowe and B'Rock conducted by Bart Nessens, plus recitals from Simone Kermes, Jakub Jozef Orlinski, Franco Fagioli, Dorothee Oberlinger and Magdalena del Gobbo.

Full details from the festival website.

Real intimacy: Lerner & Loewe's My Fair Lady in a concert staging at The Grange Festival

The Grange Festival : My Fair Lady

Lerner and Loewe My Fair Lady; Ellie Laugharne, Steven Pacey, Peter Polycarpou, dir: Guy Unsworth, cond: Alfronso Casado Trigo, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra; The Grange Festival

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 19 July 2021 Star rating: 4.5 (★★★★½)
A concert staging of Lerner and Loewe's 'perfect musical' which combined high musical values with engaging imagination in presentation

Lerner and Lowe's My Fair Lady is a strange musical, there are few proper dance numbers, the big song and dance pieces being quite limited, and for all the American creators desires to open Bernard Shaw's play up somewhat, the ghost of Pygmalion (written in 1912 and receiving its UK premiere in 1914 with Mrs Patrick Campbell and Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree) hangs over the entire enterprise. The result gives the piece a slightly more acerbic quality than many American musicals, to its great benefit. The sense that for all that it is a Broadway Musical, there is still something of the chamber piece with its series of intimate dialogues in drawing rooms, means that presenting My Fair Lady as a concert staging works rather better than many other 1950s American musicals, and has the big advantage that we do not have to suffer the amazing dancing Cockneys.

The Grange Festival presented Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady in a concert staging directed by Guy Unsworth with Alfonso Casado Trigo conducting the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra gloriously live on stage and playing the orchestrations by Robert Russell Bennett and Philip J Lang (if any musical needs to have a full orchestra it is surely this one). Ellie Laugharne played Eliza with Steven Pacey as Henry Higgins, Peter Polycarpou as Doolittle, Susie Blake as Mrs Higgins / Mrs Pearce / Cockney Woman, Richard Suart as Colonel Pickering and Nadim Naaman as Freddy Eynsford-Hill.

The orchestra spread out at the rear of the stage, with cast and chorus sitting in front. Cast members were in concert dress but were off the book, and there was an acting area at the front over the pit. The book was slightly edited (no ball scene, some characters missing) but we got a very full version musically. The cast was a mixture of the operatic (Laugharne and Suart) and those from spoken and musical theatre. 

Saturday, 17 July 2021

She loves writing whatever she is writing at the time: I chat to composer Cheryl Frances-Hoad about being associate-composer of the Oxford Lieder Festival

Cheryl Frances Hoad rehearsing at St Johns Waterloo 2018 (Photo Maxie Gedge)
Cheryl Frances-Hoad rehearsing at St Johns Waterloo 2018 (Photo Maxie Gedge)

When I spoke to composer Cheryl Frances-Hoad last month she had been visiting Fellow at Merton College, Oxford since January but was about to make her first visit to the college having been working remotely thanks to the current restrictions. The events of 2020 placed a similar damper on Cheryl's period as associate composer with the Oxford Lieder Festival as last year's festival (which included the premiere of Cheryl's song-cycle Six Songs of Melmoth performed by Carolyn Sampson and Joseph Middleton, see my review) took place online. But this year's Oxford Lieder Festival, Cheryl's final one as associate composer, will feature the premiere of a new song cycle along with performances of several existing works.

Cheryl was Oxford Lieder Festival's first associate composer (the first of many, she comments). It was artistic director Sholto Kynoch's idea to embed Cheryl in the festival for three years, commissioning her for a short work the first year, a fifteen-minute one the second year and a more substantial piece for this, final year. Whilst plans to perform a lot of her vocal music were reduced owing to last year's lockdown, her music is still a constant thread running through the three festivals.

Her 2021 festival commission is a song cycle celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Oxford Botanic Garden, on which she is working with poet Kate Wakeling and Cheryl comments that working on the cycle 'stops me going mad over the Summer'.

Friday, 16 July 2021

Celebrating Dante

Yoot is a London-based composer who was commissioned to write a new piece as part of Turin's celebrations of Dante's 700th anniversary. The music was part of a visual installation, and now Yoot has released a single from it on YouTube, music which has hints of minimalism and ambient and more. You can hear more on Yoot's YouTube channel.

Landscapes, Song Cycles and Folk Songs: the songs of Alun Hoddinott

Alun Hoddinott Landscapes, The Silver Hound, Towy Landscape, folk-songs; Claire Booth, Nicky Spence, Jeremy Huw Williams, Andrew Matthews-Owen, Michael Pollock; Naxos

Alun Hoddinott Landscapes, The Silver Hound, Towy Landscape, folk-songs; Claire Booth, Nicky Spence, Jeremy Huw Williams, Andrew Matthews-Owen, Michael Pollock; Naxos

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 16 July 2021 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
The complete songs for high voice and piano by the great 20th century Welsh composer Alun Hoddinott, an enterprising and stimulating survey

Alun Hoddinott was a major part of Welsh musical life during the second half of the 20th century, writing 10 symphonies, six operas plus chamber music, large-scale choral works, 20 major concertante works and more. Song-writing does not seem to have played quite such a major role in his compositional career, and a disc from Claire Booth (soprano), Nicky Spence (tenor), Jeremy Huw Williams (baritone), Andrew Matthews-Owen (piano) and Michael Pollock (piano) on Naxos brings together all of Hoddinott's songs for high voice and piano as well as his last vocal work of all.

Hoddinott withdrew virtually all of his early songs, so the programme begins with Landscapes (Ynys Môn), Op. 87 from 1975 which was written shortly after Hoddinott's first opera, The Beach of Falesa (which was premiered at Welsh National Opera in 1974). The cycle was written for the tenor Stuart Burrows and sets poetry by Emyr Humphreys (born 1919) with whom Hoddinott had worked on a number of dramatic projects, writing incidental music for Humphreys plays.

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Manchester Collective's new season of goodies from thrusting new composers to elder statesmen

Manchester Collective collaborators Abel Selaocoe, Hannah Peel and Ben Nobuto Photography: Phil Sharp

Manchester Collective collaborators Abel Selaocoe, Hannah Peel and Ben Nobuto
Photography: Phil Sharp

The Manchester Collective's recently announced 2021/22 season is full of exciting goodies, from Julius Eastman, Britten and Mahler to Abel Selaocoe, Hannah Peel, Alex Groves, Edmund Finnis and more, including two distinguished elder statesmen George Crumb (born 1929) and Joseph Horovitz (born 1926).

They start with Voice of the Whale which combines George Crumb's Vox Balaenae with a new piece by Alex Groves. The keen eyed amongst you will have realised that this was a show which was due to be toured earlier this year, but is now in Bristol, Stockport, Leeds, Birkenhead and London in September and October. All the ensemble's programmes for 2021/22 have been announced with tour dates to major venues with more tba. 

Automata will continue the ensemble's collaboration with harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani which is being showcased at the BBC Proms this Summer. November will see them performing Górecki, Bach, Laurence Osborn and Joseph Horovitz (best known for Captain Noah and his Floating Zoo but with an output far wider than that) in Bristol and Cardiff.

Heavy Metal (which debuts at the Southbank in December) features new music for amplified strings, big percussion and live electronics with new pieces from Vessel (Sebastian Gainsborough) and Japanese-British composer Ben Nobuto, plus music by Bryce Dessner, Dobrinka Tabakova and Michael Gordon

Combining Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring with Ferruccio Busoni's Berceuse élégiaque and Henryk Górecki's Kleines Requiem für eine Polka is an intriguing idea, contrasting the promise of life from the one with the examining of our end in the other two. The programme A Little Requiem debuts in Manchester in February 2022 and we hope for more dates.

The Manchester Collective has a long history of collaborations with cellist, composer and singer Abel Selaocoe, and The Oracle (March/April 2022) will feature their exploration of music from South Africa, the Ivory Coast and Mali together with 20th-century classical repertoire in an explosive celebration of musical traditions from across the globe which will include some of Selaocoe's own work.

May 2022 sees the ensemble moving to America with Neon, music for strings, percussion and live electronics which interrogates the darker side of the American dream, including music by Julius Eastman, David Lang and Steve Reich, alongside new pieces by Lyra Pramuk and Hannah Peel (who is also known from her moonlighting as a presenter on BBC Radio 3).

The final tour of the season, The Savage Parade in June 2022 sees soprano Ruby Hughes joining the Manchester Collective for Britten's Les Illuminations, plus music by Mahler and a new song cycle set to the words of British poet Alice Oswald with music by Edmund Finnis.

Full details from the Manchester Collective's website.

Books are Flying

Music producer Jacob Olofsson, known as Olovson has released a new single, Books are Flying which comes from his new album, due for release in late October. The hand-drawn and animated video is created and directed by London based Gabriel Böhmer. Originally from Zurich, Gabriel Böhmer has collaborated with Olovson on his upcoming releases. Olovson is from Stockholm, Sweden and currently counts both Stockholm and Los Angeles as his home.

Enjoyable, rare and marvellous: Lully's 'Ballet royal de la Naissance de Vénus' from Les Talens Lyriques

Lully Ballet royal de la Naissance de Venus; Les Talens Lyriques, Christophe Rousset; Aparte

Lully Ballet royal de la Naissance de Venus; Les Talens Lyriques, Christophe Rousset; Aparte

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 13 July 2021 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
A chance to hear some marvellous music from Lully's prime, showing that his court ballets aren't just dummy runs for his later operas

Whilst Jean-Baptiste Lully's name is forever associated with the development of French opera as tragédie lyrique from the 1670s, prior to this the composer cut his teeth writing ballets. He wrote around 25 such ballets for the French royal court, from 1654 to 1685, as well as developing the comédie-ballet with the playwright Molière. This is music which we often hear in extracted form, and there don't seem to be many of Lully's complete ballets on disc. But a new recording from Christophe Rousset and Les talens lyriques on the Aparté label enables us to hear Lully's complete Ballet royal de la Naissance de Vénus, which premiered at the Palais Royal (the Louvre) in 1665.

French court ballet is a curious form. First developed in the mid-16th century, the works combined poetry, sung and acted music and dance, along with visual arts, sophisticated sets and costumes. Plots were intended as the glue which held these disparate elements together, but also were designed to showcase the glories of the court or the particular monarch's reign. There was a participatory element, many of the dancers were aristocrats at court of great technical ability, whilst there would also be larger-scale ensemble moments.

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Music to be heard at close quarters in a private chamber: Concerts à deux violes esgales from Sainte-Colombe and Marais

A deux violes esgales - Sainte-Colombe, Marais; Myriam Rignol, Mathilde Vialle; Chateau de Versailles Spectacles

A deux violes esgales
- Sainte-Colombe, Marais; Myriam Rignol, Mathilde Vialle; Chateau de Versailles Spectacles

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 13 July 2021 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
A recital of music by two of the great 17th century viola da gamba virtuosos which highlights the way duos for two equal viols developed into solos with basso continuo

Jean de Sainte-Colombe produced at least 67 Concerts à deux violes esgales, works for two equal violas da gamba without any basso continuo. This new recital from gambists Myriam Rignol and Mathilde Vialle on the Chateau de Versailles Spectacles label's Collection la chambre de Rois series takes us from Sainte-Colombe's duos, through those of his pupil Marin Marais to demonstrate how the writing for two equal viols developed into something closer to the trio sonata with one viol taking the bass line and a supporting continuo instrument, Thibaut Roussel (theorbo and baroque guitar) and Julien Wolfs (harpsichord).

Music apart, Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe remains something of a mystery. Musicologists have finally agreed on his Christian name (Jean) and have garnered a few other facts about him, but his presence in the written record is fascinatingly sparse.

To encourage more female artists to see opera and orchestral music as a viable career path: new conductor traineeship at Opera North aimed at female conductors

Dalia Stasevska makes her UK debut with the Orchestra of Opera North (Photo Justin Slee)
Dalia Stasevska makes her UK debut with the Orchestra of Opera North (Photo Justin Slee)

Opera North has announced that it is looking for applications for a conductor traineeship aimed specifically at female conductors. The intensive ten-week course, which takes place during Opera North's Winter season, between November 2021 and February 2022, aims to improve career development opportunities for women within conducting. 

During the ten weeks (which will require residency in Leeds) there will be two dedicated conducting workshops under the guidance of Opera North’s music director Garry Walker, one-on-one discussions and lessons with visiting conductors including principal guest conductor Antony Hermus, Sian Edwards, head of conducting at the Royal Academy of Music and a regular on the Opera North podium, and the company’s music staff.

The trainee will be able to observe Opera North’s forthcoming productions of Rigoletto, Alcina and Carmen in Leeds, from first musical sessions through to stage and final rehearsals, there will be a chance to get hands-on with the work of Opera North’s education and outreach departments as assistant conductor for Youth Opera Project performances of Hans Krása’s Brundibár.

Garry Walker comments:

"We think that the Female Conductor Traineeship is unique in terms of the breadth of experience that a successful applicant stands to gain, from Opera North’s mainstage opera and orchestral programmes to our work in education and the community.

"By offering invaluable one-on-one mentorship from seasoned music staff and guest artists, as well as the support of the wider Opera North family, we hope to encourage more female artists to see opera and orchestral music as a viable career path, and to ensure that our Company and the industry at large is drawing on the widest range of professional conducting talent, now and in the future.

"We are looking for someone with outstanding musical and communication skills, who may or may not yet have had much conducting experience, but wishes to explore a pathway into conducting by means of this immersive programme.”

Closing date is Monday 9 August, full details from the Opera North website.

Unearthing the future - Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival for 2021

Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival

Last Summer, Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival was one of the few organisations who managed to put together a season of live, indoor events with audiences with their 2020 festival at The Cockpit. For 2021, the festival is returning to The Cockpit as well as having events at the Cubitt Sessions in Kings Cross, with an excursion to the Round Chapel in Hackney, with many of the shows having an online version as well.

The live events at this year's Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival run from 27 July to 17 August, and the festival takes as its theme Unearthing the future. Some works such as Darren Berry's comic operetta The Crocodile King of Old Kang Pow, and Edwin Roxburgh's Her War, represent complete visions for works partially revealed last year, whilst Alastair White's RUNE represents the culmination in a fashion-opera trilogy which has been unfolding over the last few years with ROBE [see my review] and WEAR. Following on from last year's We Sing/I Sang [see my review], Leo Doulton returns with another improvised work, Come Bargain With Uncanny Things.

Inspirations behind this year's operas include the love poems of Roman poet Sextus Propertius, one of the great classical novels of Chinese literature, and a novel by Italo Calvino. Marco Galvani's Helena [see my review of Invisible Cities, Sansara's recent disc of Galvani's choral music] takes Karel Čapek's 1920 science-fiction play RUR as its starting point. Our attitudes to our bodies and our sexualities form a number of key themes, so strong LGBTQ+ representation features in Warboy & Stewart's Shut Down The Club, an operatic techno rave looking at clubbing after covid, whilst Alice d'Lumiere's Until the Trans Lady Sings, is a piece about an aspiring singer wrestling with gender and vocal identities, and Her Body from Seawolf (Susannah Self) is a feminist, body positive piece exploring our relationship to mind, body and spirit.

Full details from the festival website.

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Summer in the Square: Southbank Sinfonia brings a bit of Italian sunshine to its new home at St John's Smith Square

Southbank Sinfonia's Summer in the Square
Southbank Sinfonia is having a three-day festival to celebrate its new home at St John's Smith Square; Summer in the Square will feature four concerts from 23 -25 July 2021. Normally in July, the orchestra travels to Italy for a week-long festival in the glorious Italian sunshine, but this year they hope to bring the Italian sunshine to London.

The weekend opens with an all-Beethoven programme, the Violin Concerto with violinist Ruth Rogers and Symphony No. 5 conducted by the orchestra's founder, Simon Over. On Saturday afternoon there is a string concert featuring music by Tchaikovsky, Piazzolla and Haydn, with David Corkhill conducting a programme of Mendelssohn, Mozart, and Nielsen in the evening, including a chance to hear Nielsen's Clarinet Concerto. On Sunday, Simon Over conducts Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony alongside Ravel's Piano Concerto in G with pianist Tom Poster as the soloist.

In August, the orchestra will be moving to Opera Holland Park where it joins forces with British Youth Opera for a production of Rossini's L’occasione fa il ladro conducted by Peter Robinson.

Full details from Southbank Sinfonia's website.

Sistema Europe Youth Orchestra’s SummerFest 2021

Sistema Europe Youth Orchestra’s SummerFest 2021

After a year's enforced break, Sistema Europe Youth Orchestra’s annual music gathering, SummerFest, is returning with an online edition taking place 21-24 and 28-30 July 2021. The event will feature live-streamed performances from across Europe and lectures and workshops focused on innovative approaches in music education, the festival offers an eclectic programme including topics such as diversity in music, techniques for ensemble teaching, sustainable development goals, and child safety, all open to Sistema projects as well as the wider public from all over the world.

There will be headline events with Dame Evelyn Glennie and with YouTube-star Roberts Balanas, along with plenty of other participatory events as well as a chance to catch up on the work of European Sistema groups.

Founded in 2021, Sistema Europe is a network for all European Sistema and Sistema-inspired
organisations and individuals aspiring to carry out activities true to the principles of Venezuela’s El

All sessions are free of charge, full information from the Sistema Europe website.

Seeking new grounds at Waterperry Opera Festival with their production Hansel and Gretel

Waterperry Opera Festival runs from 12 to 21 August 2021 at Waterperry Gardens in Oxfordshire. In this Guest Posting from the team at the festival, they explain how this year the festival team is working to welcome families and members of the deaf and hard of hearing community. 

Peter Rabbit's Musical Adventures at the 2019 Waterperry Opera Festival (Photo Robert Workman)
Peter Rabbit's Musical Adventures at the 2019 Waterperry Opera Festival (Photo Robert Workman)

As an organisation, Waterperry Opera Festival is constantly seeking to explore new, innovative ways to engage with, produce, and perform opera, with the goal of making it relevant and accessible to diverse and varied audiences. Showcasing this is their family-friendly production of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel.

Their aim with this production is to produce high-quality opera in a bilingual format for Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Hearing audiences of all ages and backgrounds; by combining the visual storytelling of  British Sign Language (BSL) with the musical and dramatic world of Humperdinck's classic opera.

Monday, 12 July 2021

Sunshine, sand and Harmoniemusik: the Hanover Band's bandstand tour

Hanover Band's Summer Concerts 2021

Period instrument ensemble, the Hanover Band, has come up with an innovative solution to performing to large audience. From 11 July 2021, the ensemble is touring a programme of Harmoniemusik, 18th century Viennese wind music, to bandstands around the South coast.

Starting at Margate yesterday (11 July), the ensemble is performing Beethoven’s Wind Octet Opus13 and Mozart's Serenade No 10 K361, 'Gran Partita' at bandstands in Brighton, East Sussex, and Crawley, West Sussex, in July, and in Hastings, East Sussex, in August.

This is music that was often designed to be performed out of doors and so will form an ideal backdrop to the sunshine (we hope!) and sand of the English seaside.

Full details from the Hanover Band's website.

Dark Matter and Bach: The Undiscovered Universe from the OAE and Dr Harry Cliff

The Undiscovered Universe - Bach, Byrd, Telemann and 'Dark Matter'; Bethany Horak-Hallett, Guy Cutting, William Gaunt, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Dr Harry Cliff, Steven Devine; Kings Place

The Undiscovered Universe
- Bach, Byrd, Telemann and 'Dark Matter'; Bethany Horak-Hallett, Guy Cutting, William Gaunt, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Dr Harry Cliff, Steven Devine; Kings Place

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 11 July 2021 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
Particle physics, Dark Matter and the Large Hadron Collider alongside wonderfully engaging Bach and more

The Undiscovered Universe, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment's latest edition of Bach, The Universe and Everything was due to premiere at Kings Place in December 2020, first postponed to May 2021, the concert finally happened on Sunday 11 July 2021. Steven Devine directed the OAE in Bach's cantata Ich steh mit einem Fuss im Grabe, BWV 156 with soloist Bethany Horak-Hallett, Guy Cutting and William Gaunt plus music by Byrd and Telemann and a talk by Dr Harry Cliff, a particle physicist from the University of Cambridge

We began with Steven Devine's delightful account of Bach's chorale prelude, Machs mit mir, Gott nach deiner Gut, followed by an unconducted performance of William Byrd's anthem Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles, a setting of text from Psalm 117 first published in his 1611 Psalms, Songs and Sonnets, which opened things up with vivid brightness, yet there was delicacy too and a sense of the eight voices forming a real vocal ensemble with a sense of individual lines and voices.

Next, Dominika Feher (one of the OAE's violinists) read an intriguing extract from David Whyte's 2014 book Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words, a lovely poetic discussion about the meaning(s) of the word 'shadow'.

Bach's cantata Ich steh mit einem Fuss im Grabe was his fourth and last cantata for the Third Sunday after Epiphany, written in Leipzig in 1729.

Manchester Collective premiere the new string quartet from Edmund Finnis, one of the curators of this year's Spitalfields Music Festival

Edmund Finnis
Edmund Finnis

Edmund Finnis, Mica Levi, Philip Glass, Stravinsky; Manchester Collective; Spitalfields Music Festival at Christ Church, Spitalfields

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 10 July 2021
Last-minute changes to the line-up fail to disrupt a terrific evening of fine music making including the premiere of a new quartet by one of the curators of this year's festival

The Manchester Collective's concert at Christ Church, Spitalfields on Saturday 10 July 2021 at part of the Spitalfieds Music Festival centred on the premiere of Edmund Finnis' String quartet no. 2. Finnis is a composer with whom the ensemble has a strong association (he is one of this year's curators at the festival and a close artistic collaborator of the ensemble, which commisioned The Centre is Everywhere from him), yet the concert had a number of intriguing elements, some planned and some unplanned. The ensemble's appearance at the church represented a change from its usual exploration of non-traditional spaces, so that many of their London appearances have been at the CLF Art Cafe in Peckham. They were playing a programme curated by composer Edmund Finnis, whereas they usually play programmes they have created/curated themselves. So much for the planned elements.

A week before the concert, many of the leading performers in the Manchester Collective had to self-isolate (they are all OK, but have just been exposed to someone with COVID), hence the line-up of players in the quartet had to change radically. We lost the Ligeti Cello Sonata from the programme, but apart from that, this challenging programme went ahead and frankly, if we hadn't been told the details I am not sure we would have noticed, such was the strength of the performance.

The focus of the Manchester Collective's concert at the Spitalfields Music Festival was the premiere of Edmund Finnis' String Quartet No. 2, and around this Finnis had selected a group of works that he loves, by composers who all have distinctive musical personalities. So there was Philip Glass' String Quartet No. 2 (Company), Stravinsky's Three Pieces for String Quartet, Mica Levi's You Belong to Me, Finnis' Sister (the first piece of his performed by the Manchester Collective) and ending with the premiere of his String Quartet No. 2.

Sunday, 11 July 2021

Dr Bluebeard will see you now: Gothic Opera remakes Bartok's opera and sets it in an Edwardian sanatorium

Bartok: Bluebeard's Castle - Gothic Opera (photo Nick Rutter)
Bartok: Bluebeard's Castle - Gothic Opera (photo Nick Rutter)

Bartok Bluebeard's Castle; Simon Wilding, Alexandra Long, Carmine de Amicis, dir: Julia Mintzer, cond: Thomas Payne; Gothic Opera at Porchester Hall

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 9 July 2021 Star rating: 3.0 (★★★)
A radical reinterpretation of Bartok's opera with a striking contemporary dance element and imaginative animations

Bartok: Bluebeard's Castle - Carmine de Amicis, Simon Wilding - Gothic Opera (photo Nick Rutter)
Bartok: Bluebeard's Castle
Carmine de Amicis, Simon Wilding
Gothic Opera (photo Nick Rutter)
In many ways, Bartok's opera A kékszakállú herceg vára (Duke Bluebeard's Castle) is impossible to stage. Bartok put so much of the action (whether literal or metaphorical) in the wonderful music that a semi-staged, concert performance often works best, allowing the direction to concentrate on the relationship between the Duke and his new wife, Judith. So I was very intrigued when, as a follow-up to their radical staging of Marschner's Der Vampyr, Gothic Opera turned its attention to Bartok's opera.

Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle was staged by Gothic Opera at Porchester Hall, directed by Julia Mintzer, conducted by Thomas Payne using an orchestration by Leon Haxby, with Simon Wilding as Bluebeard, Alexandra Long as Judith, with Carmine de Amicis, Alice Usher, Katherine MacRae, and Charlotte Osborn. Designs were by Charles Ogilvie, lighting and sound by Will Alder with animations created by students at Ravensbourne University.

We caught the second of three performnces on 9 July 2021. When we were arrived we were ushered into the faded Edwardian grandeur of the Porchester Hall, swathed in gloom and with mist swirling. The orchestra of organ (Thomas Ang) and string quartet (the Halcyon Quartet - Millie Ashton, Leidy Sinclair, Nathalie Green-Buckley, HeeYeon Cho) was placed on the stage and we were in the body of the hall with a stage-like structure to one side, surrounded by platforms. 

The opera was performed in Hungarian, with the surtitles projected on a screen to one side, and the action started with librettist Béla Balázs' spoken prologue given by unseen speakers. The main action took place in and around the stage structure and when each of the doors opened an animation was displayed on the main screen behind. These were created with students from Ravensbourne University, The Torture Chamber - Virginia Anyalee, The Armoury - Klaudia Graczak, The Treasury - Dev Bye-A-Jee, The Garden - Vincent Sautter and Tony Tyler, The Kingdoms -Oliver O'Keefe.

So far, so intriguing.

But director Julia Mintzer had chosen not to stage Bartok and Balázs' opera, instead giving us a new music-theatre piece which took Bartok's music as its sound-track.

Saturday, 10 July 2021

Rhythm pitch and tension: composer Graham Fitkin chats about his 1990 album of multi-piano music 'Flak' which has just been digitally remastered

The original album cover for Graham Fitkin's Flak
Composer Graham Fitkin pictured on the original album cover his 1990 album, Flak

Graham Fitkin
's album Flak was originally released in 1990, his debut disc as composer and performer alongside pianists Eleanor Alberga, Errollyn Wallen and Shelagh Sutherland in what have become some of his classic works for multiple pianos. Popular at the time, the album has continued to be played and now Graham has released a new digitally re-mastered version created by Real World Studios' Tim Oliver. I recently caught up with Graham, from his studio in Cornwall, to talk about Flak, how the music and the album came about and how, 30 years on, he feels about the music.

The impetus for the new, digital release, was partly that the album has never been available online, if you wanted to listen to it you had to buy a CD (or a cassette), and this rather bothered Graham who is still fond of the album. The second reason for the project was to improve the sound quality of the original, to remove some aspects of the sound which he doesn't like (and has never liked). The original recording was made at Southfield Park with two grand pianos on a stage where the backdrop was breeze-block with no curtains. The result was a very live sound, with a distinct ping to the sound of the pianos coming off the concrete blocks. This was improved for the completed recording, but to Graham's ears there was still too much ping to the sound, and now he is pleased that Tim Oliver has been able to do something about it.

Graham Fitkin
Graham Fitkin today

The disc is all music for piano, four pieces for four pianists at two pianos (Sciosophy, Flak, Untitled 11, There Is A Great Weight On My Head Tonight) and six pieces for solo piano (The Cone Gatherers, Piano Piece 90, From Yellow To Yellow, Piano Piece Early 89, Piano Piece Mid 89, Piano Piece Late 89), a reflection of Graham's fascination with the piano at the time. He loves the piano, he plays it and he likes the fact that you can get all the polyphony you want from one mono-timbral instrument; putting two or three pianos together seemed a good idea. The first time he came across multiple pianos was in Steve Reich's 1967 piece Piano Phase, a work that Graham still plays. And after exploring music for multiple pianos, Graham then looked at other instruments such as multiple saxophones and two harpsichords.

Friday, 9 July 2021

2020 Guildhall Wigmore Recital Prize winner finally able to take up her prize

Élisabeth Pion
Élisabeth Pion
Each year the Guildhall Wigmore Recital Prize awards a talented musician from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with a recital at Wigmore Hall. In 2020 it was the turn of Canadian pianist Élisabeth Pion. Inevitably, her 2020 recital was postponed and is now finally taking place on Monday 19 July 2021, when Pion will be performing a programme which mixes sonatas by Mozart and Beethoven, with Ravel, Messiaen and Lili Boulanger.

Having previously studied in Canada, Élisabeth is currently finishing the Artist Diploma - Performance degree with Ronan O’Hora at the Guildhall School, where she is a full scholarship holder since 2018. Amongst her other notable awards, she received the Silver Medal of the Musician’s Company of London.

Full details from the Wigmore Hall website.

Rebecca Saunders to be composer-in-residence with Dresden Philharmonie for 2021/22

Rebecca Saunders (Photo Astrid Ackermann)
Rebecca Saunders (Photo Astrid Ackermann)
The British-born Berlin-based composer Rebecca Saunders has been announced as the Dresden Philharmonie's composer-in-residence for the 2021/22 season which also includes premieres from Salvatore Sciarrino, Brett Dean and Christfried Schmidt, alongside performances of RVW, Elgar, and Ethel Smyth.

Saunders, who was awarded the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize in 2019, will see performances of two of her larger works as part of the orchestra's season at Dresden's Kulturpalast, To an Utterance for piano and orchestra and Still for violin and orchestra. The soloist in To an Utterance will be pianist Nicolas Hodges who gives the work's delayed premiere at the Lucerne Festival this year [see my interview with Nicolas], whilst the title Still comes from the eponymous short story by Samuel Beckett.

The orchestra's recently announced 2021/22 season will also include the premiere of Piogge diverse (Types of Rain), written in 2020 by Salvatore Sciarrino for the orchestra's 150th anniversay. And another delayed work will be Brett Dean’s Gneixendorfer Music - A Winter Journey for which the orchestra will give the work's German premiere, and the season also includes a programme of Dean's chamber music.

A programme commemorating the unification of Germany will include the premiere of  Symphony No.2 by the East German Christfried Schmidt, 50 years after the work was written. Schmidt dedicated the work to Martin Luther King Jr. The programme will also include the final work by Bernd Alois Zimmermann (1918-1970), Ecclesiastic Action, which is based on passages of the Old Testament and The Grand Inquisitor episode of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.

The season also includes the Symphony No. 4 by Franz Schmidt (1874-1939) as well as music by Karl Amadeus Hartmann (1905-1963) including his Symphony No. 6. Intriguingly a programme focusing on Women Composers conducted by Marie Jacquot will include Ethel Smyth's Mass in D alongside music by Lili Boulanger. Whilst Andrew Manze conducts a music from around the time of World War I, pairing RVW's Pastoral Symphony and Elgar's Cello Concerto with music by Rudi Stephan (1887-1915) who died in the war.

Full details from the Dresden Philharmonie's website.

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