Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Celebrating 10 years of lieder in Leeds - Leeds Lieder's 2021 festival welcomes audiences back for an action-packed weekend in June

Leeds Lieder Festival 2021

Leeds Lieder, artistic director Joseph Middleton, is 10 this year and having kept the lieder flag flying in Leeds with a series of live-streamed concerts from Leeds Town Hall, Leeds Lieder is plannnint to welcome audiences to Leeds Town Hall for its 2021 festival from 17 to 20 June 2021, though the concerts will be live-streamed as well.

It is an exciting programme and an action packed four days including:

  • Alice Coote (mezzo-soprano) and Christian Blackshaw (piano) in Mahler's Rückert Lieder
  • Iain Burnside's exploration of Richard Wagner and the Wesendoncks,  A View from the Villa
  • Natalya Romaniw (soprano) and Iain Burnside (piano) in Strauss, Rimsky-Korsakov, Grieg and Rachmaninov
  • Britten's five canticles with Mark Padmore (tenor), Joseph Middleton (piano), Iestyn Davies (counter-tenor), Peter Brathwaite (baritone), Olivia Jageurs (harp), Ben Goldscheider (horn)
  • A late-night show from the Hermes Experiment with music by Errollyn Wallen, Raymond Yiu, Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Emily Hall, Hannah Peel, Clara Schumann, Lili Boulanger
  • Ema Nikolovska (mezzo-soprano) and Joseph Middleton in a striking programme exploring the singer's British, Canadian, American and Germanic links
  • Soraya Mafi (soprano), Ema Nikolovska (mezzo-soprano), William Thomas bass and Graham Johnson (piano) in a programme entitled I f Fiordiligi and Dorabella had been Lieder singers which I remember Johnson doing with the Songmakers Almanac in the early 1980s!
  • James Gilchrist (tenor) and Anna Tilbrook (piano) in Jonathan Dove's Under Alter’d Skies, plus some of Barber's Hermit Songs and music by Purcell and Schubert
  • Carolyn Sampson (soprano), Roderick Williams baritone and Joseph Middleton in He Sings, She Sings, They Sing, You Choose, a programme which combines a new commission from Hannah Kendall with an examination of gender politics in song and an invitation to the audience to contribute to the debate

Plus of course, pre-concert talks, lectures, masterclasses and a concert from the young artists being coached during the weekend. 

Full details from the Festival website.

 


A vivid and restless talent: music by Serbian composer Isidora Žebeljan in the first disc issued after her death last year

Isidora Žebeljan
Isidora Žebeljan

Isidora Žebeljan Three Curious Loves, Psalm 78, When God created Dubrovnik; Daniel Rowland, Stift Festival Orchestra, David Cohen, Netherlands Chamber Choir, Peter Dijkstra; The state51 Conspiracy

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 10 May 2021 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
A live performance of the violin concerto by the late Serbian composer is at the centre of this fascinating disc of her vivid, restless and endlessly inventive talent

The Serbian composer Isidora Žebeljan died last year at the age of 53, one of the most internationally acclaimed contemporary-classical Serbian composers [note her website, linked to here, is a valuable source of information but has not been updated since before her death]. Whilst her music is available in the record catalogue, Žebeljan does not seem to be widely known. Last month The state51 Conspiracy in association with Mascom Records released the first disc of Žebeljan's music to be issued after her death, featuring a wide range of her music in a mix of live and studio recordings. Under the title Three Curious Loves the disc features Žebeljan's violin concerto Three Curious Loves, Psalm 78, When God Created Dubrovnik, Dark Velvet, Sarabande, Bačka Melancholy, Hum Away, Strings!, Tears are O. K and Leda: Tango-Foxtrot.

Isidora Žebeljan studied Composition at the Faculty of Music in Belgrade with Vlastimir Trajković (a student of Olivier Messiaen), and she went on to become professor of composition at the same faculty in 2002.  As well as five operas, Zora D, The Marathon, Simon the Chosen, Two Heads and a Girl, and Simon the Foundling she wrote a considerable amount of incidental music for the theatre, including for the National Theatre in Belgrade and Belgrade Dramatic Theatre. 

Her opera Zora D (2002/2003) premiered in Amsterdam in June 2003 (a co-production between Opera studio Nederland and Wiener Kammeroper) directed by David Pountney. It was the first Serbian opera that had a world premiere abroad and the first Serbian opera that has been staged outside Serbia since 1935.

The compilation opens with the violin concerto Three Curious Loves which was written for the violinist Daniel Rowland who performs it here from the Stift Festival in 2017 with the Stift Festival Orchestra conducted by David Cohen. I am not sure what the significance of the title is, but the work itself is vivid and gripping. Lasting a little of 20 minutes, the work starts with an anxious-sounding solo violin over an ominous bass, but from then on we are taken on a roller-coaster of vividly changing textures and emotions.  There are moments of calm, and a fantastic section mid-way for a solo horn with answering orchestra. The final section is notable for its vivid, almost daemonic energy and there are hints of popular dance rhythms. The climax is followed by a short, thoughtful solo violin moment, an orchestral bang, then nothing.

In between light and shade

In between light and shade: Agathe Max, Anne Lovett, Li Chevalier
As part of the Institut Français' Beyond Words French Literature Festival (which runs on-line from 17 to 23 May 2021), pianist Anne Lovett and multi-instrumentalist Agathe Max will be giving a performance, In between light and shade, which mixes classical and contemporary music with electronics along with a visual installation. 

The concert will feature music by Eric Satie, Lili Boulanger, Fritz Kreisler and Henry Purcell along with Anne Lovett's Margate and What We Are and Agathe Max's White Mill Under Sun Ra's Control. Alongside the music will be a multi-media installation Obscure clarté from Li Chevalier. Li Chevalier was a member of the Opera Ensemble of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, before studying Art and Philosophy in Europe including Central Saint Martin's College of Art, and she continues to exploit her musical background in her installations.

The concert is open to a socially distanced audience (subject to government guidelines) as well as being live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube at 8.30pm on 20 May 2021, including the visual installation.

Full details from the Institut Français website

Monday, 10 May 2021

Baritone Tom Mole wins the 2021 Gold Medal at Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Rossini: La cenerentola - Thomas Mole British Youth Opera 2019 (Photo Robert Workman)
Rossini: La cenerentola - Thomas Mole
British Youth Opera 2019 (Photo Robert Workman)
Congratulations to baritone Tom Mole who won the Guildhall School of Music and Drama's 2021 Gold Medal last week. The prize is awarded to singers and instrumentalists in alternate years, and 2021 was the turn of the singers, with the final taking place on Thursday 6 May and being broadcast on Guildhall School’s website on Saturday 8 May (and available on-line for two weeks).

The final featured Tom Mole, tenor Thando Mjandana, soprano Laura Lolita Perešivana and soprano Olivia Boen, and each singer performed a group of songs (accompanied by Inês Costa, Josh Ridley and Toby Hession) and a group of arias (accompanied by the Guildhall Symphony Orchestra, conductor Natalie Murray Beale).

Tom Mole's winning programme consisted of songs by Rachmaninov, Wolf and Finizi plus Moss' The Floral Dance, and then arias from Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, Bizet's Carmen (the Toreador's Song),  and Verdi's Macbeth. The judging panel consisted of Jonathan Vaughan (Guildhall School's Vice Principal and Director of Music), Huw Humphries (Head of Music at the Barbican), Gweneth Ann Rand (soprano and alumna of Guildhall School), Jordan de Souza (conductor) and Natalie Murray Beale (the evening's conductor).

We have caught Mole on a number of occasions. Last year he featured in the Guildhall School's on-line performances including as Aeneas in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas,  and in 2019 we saw him as Alidoro in British Youth Opera's production of Rossini's La Cenerentola [see my review] and as Horn in Opera Holland Park's Young Artist performance of Verdi's Un ballo in maschera [see my review]. And we look forward to seeing him in plenty of future performances.

Mole is a Jerwood Young Artist at Glyndebourne where he will be making his festival debut this Summer as Kuligin in Janacek's Kát’a Kabanová.

"Heard a practice mighty good of Grebus" - Samuel Pepys and the tantalising Louis Grabu

The Old Palace of Whitehall by Hendrick Danckerts, c. 1675
The Old Palace of Whitehall by Hendrick Danckerts, c. 1675

On 20 February 1666 (1667), Samuel Pepys noted in his diary that the leader of King Charles II's band of violins (which the King had created in emulation of his cousin King Louis XIV's violin band), John Bannister, was "mad that the King hath a Frenchman come to be chief of some part of the King’s musique, at which the Duke of York made great mirth." This is the first of four tantalising references in his diary that Pepys makes to Louis Grabu (whom Pepys would call Grebus). 

Grabu was a Catalan, who trained in Paris, but the entirety of his documented career was in London. He seems to first appear in the mid-1660s, Charles II appointed him as a composer for his own private music in 1665, and with the death of the composer Nicholas Lanier (1588-1666) Grabu became the second person to hold the title Master of the King's Musick. Grabu was both a composer and a violinist and seems to have been brought in to improve standards with the violin band and the spat with Bannister (as reported by Pepys) seems to be related to this, Grabu had Bannister replaced with allegations of impropriety.

There are a few more comments about Grabu in Pepys. In October 1667 Pepys hears a piece by Grabu in Whitehall, "an English song upon Peace. But, God forgive me! I never was so little pleased with a concert of musick in my life. The manner of setting of words and repeating them out of order, and that with a number of voices, makes me sick, the whole design of vocall musick being lost by it." Though even Pepys has to admit that in instrumental music, Grabu's regime of practice with the violin band had paid dividends. 

London Mozart Players' Spotlight On:

London Mozart Players - Spotlight On;
London Mozart Players is returning to live concerts with a series, Spotlight On: which focuses on young artists. Over four concerts in June and October, at Fairfield Halls and Cadogan Hall, the orchestra will be joined by cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, saxophonist Jess Gillam, pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason and violinist Leia Zhu.

On 4 June 2021, Sheku Kanneh-Mason joins the orchestra for a concert which opens Fairfield Halls live concert season this year including Dvorak's Cello Concerto alongside music by Mendelssohn conducted by Jaime Martin. Jess Gilliam and the orchestra will be at Fairfield Halls on 24 June, for a concert conducted by Jonathan Bloxham which pairs Michael Nyman's contemporary saxophone concerto, Where the Bee dances, with Glazunov's Saxophone Concerto which was written in 1934 and was the composer's final work.

On 26 June 2021, Isata Kanneh-Mason performs Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 1 with the orchestra at Cadogan Hall in a programme which includes Beethoven's Symphony No. 2. The concert is conducted by Stephanie Childress, making her debut with the orchestra. The final concert in the series is on 9 October 2021 at Fairfield Halls when Leia Zhu performs Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto conducted by Gerard Korsten, alongside Beethoven's Symphony No. 8.

All the concerts will be filmed and will be available on-line. As part of the orchestra's 100k Challenge, aiming to reach at least 100,000 children and young people in 2021 , each concerto performance will be filmed and will be made available free to schools across the country with specially designed 'listening guides', targeted at different age groups from 4-18.

Full details from the orchestra's website.

Sunday, 9 May 2021

A Life On-Line: reinventing Josquin, rare late Richard Strauss, early Handel on TV, Sir John Eliot Gardiner in Elgar, Britten & Tippett

Josquin: Mille Regretz - Ella Taylor,  William Towers, Jorge Navarro Colorado, Richard Dowling, Stefan Loges - English Touring Opera (taken from live-stream)
Josquin: Mille Regretz - Ella Taylor,  William Towers, Jorge Navarro Colorado, Richard Dowling, Stephan Loges - English Touring Opera (taken from live-stream)

This week began and ended with strikingly modern stagings of early music, Josquin from English Touring Opera and Rameau from Mannheim, we also caught early Handel on Sky Arts, rare late Richard Strauss and Nino Rota in symphonic mode from the London Symphony Orchestra, and Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducting the Philharmonia in Elgar. The character of Phaedra was a feature too, cropping up in Rameau's Hippolite et Aricie and in Britten's very different late cantata.

English Touring Opera are releasing a series of videos as part of their ETO at Home digital season. Last week we caught Mille Regretz, a staging of music by Josquin. Conducted by Jonathan Kenny and directed by Liam Steele this brought together a group of Josquin's secular pieces with one sacred work, all performed by Ella Taylor (soprano), William Towers (counter-tenor), Richard Dowling and Jorge Navarro Colorado (tenors), and Stephan Loges (baritone), filmed in Stone Nest (the evocative interior of the former Welsh church in the West End). Whilst a number of the singers in the cast have admirable historically informed performance credentials, this wasn't a period-style performance, anything but. In the pre-concert talks Kenny talked about how he had wanted to bring out the modernism in Josquin's music.

So here were young opera singers performing Josquin accompanied by an intriguing ensemble of violin/viola (Jim O'Toole), violin (Guy Button), theorbo (Toby Carr), accordion (Ilona Suomalainen), vibrophone and percussion (Jonny Raper). Liam Steele's approach was very physical, there was a lot of movement including pieces done almost as choreographed choruses. The costumes were highly stylised with much makeup and the result had something of a look of Mad Max, a group of stylised, stylish transients gathering to sing about personal joys and griefs. And it worked.

Saturday, 8 May 2021

Messe da Pacem: conductor Rupert Gough and the choir of Royal Holloway rediscover a mass by Pierre Villette, unperformed since the 1970s

Rupert Gough and the Choir of Royal Holloway (Photo Christopher Willoughby)
Rupert Gough and the Choir of Royal Holloway in the chapel at Royal Holloway (Photo Christopher Willoughby)

Rupert Gough
and the Choir of Royal Holloway's latest album, on Buckfast Abbey's Ad Fontes label, focuses on French sacred music with works by Pierre Villette from the 20th century, and more recent music by Yves Castagnet alongside the remarkable reinvention of a familiar piece by Maurice Ravel. Whilst the music of Pierre Villette is becoming better known, particularly in the UK, the centrepiece of the album is his Messe da Pacem which has not been performed since the 1970s and is here performed for the first time in Rupert Gough's new version for choir and organ. The album was recorded on the recently restored Cavaillé-Coll organ at the church of Notre-Dame d'Auteuil in Paris. I recently met up with Rupert via Zoom to chat more about Villette, Castagnet and making the album, along with what makes the choir of Royal Holloway such a distinctive collegiate ensemble.

Pierre Villette (1926-1998) was born in Normandie and as a boy sang in the choir of Rouen Cathedral. From the age of 14, he studied with Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986) and attended the Paris Conservatoire where Pierre Boulez (1925-2016) was a fellow student (the two shared the first prize for harmony in 1945). Ill health forced Villette to move to the south of France and he was head of the Conservatoire de Besançon (1957–67) and later as director of the Conservatoire d’Aix-en-Provence (1967–87), with composition as a somewhat part-time activity. It was Donald Hunt (1930-2018) who was Master of Choristers and Organist of Worcester Cathedral (1976–96) who did much to bring Villette’s music to a wider audience in the UK in the 1970s.

Pierre Villette at the Conservatoire d'Aix, 1988 (Estate of Pierre Villette)
Pierre Villette at the Conservatoire d'Aix, 1988 (Estate of Pierre Villette)

Rupert was already interested in recording a disc of French sacred music and had identified the music of Yves Castagnet as something he would like to record when, by chance, he was sent the music of Villette’s Messe en Français which was first performed at the Three Choirs Festival in 1981. Villette only wrote two masses, and his other mass was the Messe da Pacem. Scored for choir, echo choir, soprano soloist, full symphony orchestra, and one or two organs, the Messe da Pacem was premiered in Aix-en-Provence in 1970 with Villette playing the main organ part. Judging from the orchestral parts, Rupert does not think the Messe da Pacem has been performed since the 1970s.

Friday, 7 May 2021

Celebrating Latvia's centenary with music: the State Choir "Latvija" records 16 new works from a project creating a grand total of 77 new pieces by Latvian composers

Aeternum; State Choir "Latvija", Māris Sirmais; SKANI
Aeternum
; State Choir "Latvija", Māris Sirmais; SKANI

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 7 May 2021 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
Fourteen new pieces by contemporary Latvian composers created as part of a larger project for a new body of music for professional and amateur choirs to celebrate Latvia's centenary

Latvia celebrated its centenary on 18 November 2018. To mark the celebrations the State Choir "Latvija" and its artistic director Māris Sirmais brought to conclusion a three-year project where they premiered a repertoire of new songs, with seventy-seven composers in all writing for the choir, with the intention of creating a body of works suitable for both professional and amateur choirs. The choir premiered these songs at a series of concerts which culminated in concert on 4 May 2018 when the choir was joined by other Latvian ensembles, both professional an amateur, to perform 14 of the songs.

This new disc, Aeternum, from SKANI, a division of the Latvian Music Information Centre, presents sixteen of the new songs performed by the State Choir "Latvija" and Māris Sirmais, with works by Ēriks Ešenvalds, Irīna Mihailovska, Valts Pūce, Andris Dzenītis, Pēteris Vasks, Rihards Zaļupe, Uldis Marhilēvičs, Vilnis Šmīdbergs, Maija Einfelde, Andris Kontauts, Anna Ķirse, Jānis Aišpurs, Ansis Sauka, Juris Kulakovs, Raimonds Tiguls and Jēkabs Jančevskis.

The styles of the composers involved is very wide with backgrounds from classical, folk, pop, rock, underground and electronic music. Each composer took as their theme one of five elements, fire, water, earth, sky, love, though some hew closer to their chosen theme than others. The age range of the composers is wide as well, on this disc we have birth dates from 1939 (Maija Einfelde) to 1992 (Jēkabs Jančevskis), and the two best known names for those outside Lativa are probably Ēriks Ešenvalds and Pēteris Vasks.

State Choir "Latvija" and Māris Sirmais
State Choir "Latvija" and Māris Sirmais

When listening to this music, we should perhaps remember the intention of the project.

Northern Ireland Opera launches second series of Northern Songs

Northern Songs - filming Andrew Irwin in Marble Arch Caves - Northern Ireland Opera
Northern Songs - filming Andrew Irwin in Marble Arch Caves - Northern Ireland Opera

Northern Ireland Opera is launching a second series of Northern Songs, films of songs by composers from across the island of Ireland, performed in some of Northern Ireland’s most beautiful and historic locations. For the new series, sopranos Catherine Donnelly and Susie Gibbons, mezzo-soprano Margaret Bridge, tenors John Porter and Andrew Irwin and bass baritone David Howes, all winners or finalists of the company's annual Glenarm Festival of Voice, will perform a mix of art songs and contemporary songs in iconic locations, Enniskillen Castle, Marble Arch Caves, Ballintoy Harbour, the OM Dark Sky Park, Beaghmore Stone Circles, the Ulster American Folk Park, Armagh Robinson Library, the Armagh Cider Company and Belfast’s Maritime Mile.

You can watch series 2 of Northern Songs each Thursday at 8pm from 13 May on the company's YouTube channel; the first film features Catherine Donnelly and Margaret Bridge singing A River Runs Beneath Us by Duke Special and Andrew Doyle, on the Maritime Mile and Titanic Slipways in Belfast. 

Series 1 of Northern Songs is still available on YouTube and on the Northern Ireland Opera website, and was shared as part of the NI Bureau in Washington’s official St Patrick’s Day event, and at the recent NI Expo event for North America.

Further details of series 2 from the Northern Ireland Opera website.

Laura Kaminsky's chamber opera, As One, to make its UK debut at 8th London Festival of American Music

London Festival of American Music

Odaline de la Martinez' London Festival of American Music is returning for its eighth iteration from 13 to 18 September 2021 at The Warehouse in Waterloo. This year, the festival will feature works by Florence Price, Daniel Asia, Margaret Bonds, Augusta Read Thomas, Fred Lehrdal and Odaline de la Martinez herself, plus the UK premiere of Laura Kaminsky's transgender opera As One.

Laura Kaminsky's 2014 chamber opera, As One, features a transgender protagonist who is played by two singers, here baritone Simon Wallfisch as Hannah before and mezzo-soprano Carolyn Dobbin Hannah after. The production is directed by Sarah Chew and Odaline de la Martinez conducts the London String Quartet. The opera was commissioned by American Opera Projects and premiered in 2014 at the Brooklyn Academy, New York, since then it has had more than 30 productions across the USA but this will only the second time that the work has been produced in Europe.

The festival also features Dr Samantha Ege performing the piano music of Florence Price [see my review of Ege's recent Price disc], mezzo-soprano Simone Ibbott-Brown, Lontano and Odaline de la Martinez in music by Augusta Read Thomas, Fred Lehrdal, Margaret Bonds, Florence Price and De la Martinez' Four Afro Cuban Poems by Nicolas Guillén, pianists Fanya Lin and Dan Linder in music by Daniel Asia,

What Power Art Thou: Dingle Yandell and the OAE channel Goyte in their new video of Purcell

The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE) has produced another of their videos of Baroque arias done in the style of visually striking pop videos. This time, Goyte's Somebody that I used to know [see it on YouTube], which was directed by Natasha Pincus, has inspired a video of Purcell's 'What power art thou' (sung by the Cold Genius in King Arthur) performed by OAE's Rising Stars alumnus, bass-baritone Dingle Yandell. In the video the singer is covered in paint and gradually merges with the background; in the original song, a metaphor for the way the man's ex-girlfriend has wiped their relationship out of existence, and perhaps in the Purcell a metaphor for the Cold Genius' desire to return to the cold. 

Or perhaps we should just enjoy a visual and aural feast, and spare a thought for Yandell, spending 10 hours wearing very little and being covered in body paint!

Dingle Yandell and the OAE's What Power Art Thou is available on YouTube

Thursday, 6 May 2021

One of Prokofiev's darkest and most brooding works is at the centrepiece of Yulia Chaplina's Second Prokofiev Festival

2nd Prokofiev Festival
The pianist Yulia Chaplina is returning to the chamber music of Prokofiev with her 2nd London Prokofiev Festival which runs from 25-28 May 2021. The centrepiece of the festival is a concert Chaplina and violinist Thomas Gould are giving at Kings Place. Entitled Beyond the Iron Curtain (26/5/2021), it features music by three interlinked composers, Prokofiev and his great contemporary Shostakovich and Shostakovich's friend and colleague, Weinberg.  The programme places Prokofiev's powerful Violin Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op. 80, one of his darkest and most brooding pieces dating from 1938 to 1946, alongside music by Weinberg plus Chaplina's own arrangements of music by Shostakovich.

The previous day (25/5/2021), Chaplina is joined by cellist Bartholemew LaFollette at Pushkin House in Bloomsbury for a programme which is centred on Prokofiev's Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 119, written in 1949 for Mstislav Rostropovich at a time when Prokofiev's music was banned and there was no prospect of a performance (Rostropovich in fact premiered it in Moscow in 1950), alongside music by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and the Soviet Armenian composer Arno Babadjainan (1921-1983).

The festival also includes a children's concert, a young artists concert and an amateurs concert.

Full details from Yulia Chaplina's website.

Vaughan Williams' folk songs; Albion Records continues its exploration with a second volume including 15 world premiere recordings

Vaughan Williams Folk Song Arrangements, volume 2; Mary Bevan, Nicky Spence,

Vaughan Williams Folk Song Arrangements, volume 2; Mary Bevan, Nicky Spence, Roderick Williams, William Vann; Albion Records

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 5 May 2021 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
The second volume of Albion's exploration of RVW's folk-song arrangements reveals some delightful gems

Albion Records, the recording arm of the Ralph Vaughan Williams Society, is exploring RVW's folk-song arrangements for voice(s) and piano in an ambitious four disc project. This will cover all of RVW's 80 arrangements of which 57 will be world premiere recordings. For this second disc in the set, on Albion Records, Mary Bevan (soprano), Nicky Spence (tenor), Roderick Williams (baritone), Thomas Gould (violin) and William Vann (piano), present us with folk songs collected in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, two songs with violin, and a miscellany of other English folk song.

RVW created these arrangements for performance, so that singers could include the music in recitals. These are arrangements which deliberately move the folk song into the recital hall, yet RVW's artful piano accompaniments draw far less attention to themselves than those of Britten in his folk-song arrangements. And having listened to this beautifully performed recital, I wonder yet again why these arrangements are not better known. RVW's arrangements often had a practical side to them, he would make them as part of publishing projects which aimed to encourage folk-singing in schools, and the songs seem to have had a life not in the professional recital hall but a competitive festivals and other amateur music making. Yet RVW's piano parts are more imaginative than functional. With the release of these recordings, we must hope that the printed music is similarly easily available to encourage singers to explore.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Gothic Opera returns with Bluebeard's Castle

Bartok: Bluebeard's Castle - Gothic Opera

Gothic Opera, co-founders Alice Usher, Charlotte Osborn and Béatrice de Larragoïti, made its debut in 2019 with a production of Marschner's Der Vampyr, a suitably gothic starting point. The company is returning to the stage in July 2021 with a very different type of gothic tale, Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle in a multi-disciplinary production at Porchester Hall. The production will combine sound design, digital animation and dance.

The company will be working with director Julia Mintzer and choreographer Carmine de Amicis, with mezzo-soprano Alexandra Long and bass-baritone Simon Wilding, conducted by Thomas Payne. The performance will use a new chamber orchestration by Leon Haxby.

With Der Vampyr, the company took an irreverent and feminist approach, retelling a nineteenth century opera through the contemporary lens of consent and agency. With Bluebeard's Castle they are taking a similarly active approach. Leon Haxby's orchestration extracts vocal lines for three female singers from the original music, creating roles for Bluebeard's former wives and thus bringing them to the fore.

Julia Mintzer explains: “This Bluebeard is about more than two people and their relationship. It's about tearing open big questions of belief systems: what we're willing to invest in them, what it takes to keep them going, and what it takes to make us abandon them.”

Full details from the Gothic Opera website.

Beethoven 251: celebrating both Beethoven's symphonies and London's talented young musicians

Palais Lobkowitz (on the left) in Vienna; painting by Bernado Bellotto, about 1760
Palais Lobkowitz (on the left) in Vienna, location of the first private performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 3
painting by Bernado Bellotto, about 1760

When I read about this concert series, my first thought was what a brilliant idea. Across a week (28 June to 2 July), James Henshaw and the Outcry Ensemble are presenting Beethoven 251: Festival of Symphonies, performing Beethoven's first eight symphonies, two each evening at St John's Waterloo.

The project is as much about the musicians as it is about Beethoven and his music. The Outcry Ensemble is made up of young professionals who will be returning to work after, for many, a year of no live music, and every pound from ticket sales will go directly towards the musicians’ fees. As all of the musicians who play for the ensemble are self-employed, this project wants to kickstart the return to live music-making and look forward to a recovery of London’s musical ecosystem, which is so reliant on the freelance workforce.

Each concert will be preceded by an informal talk between James Henshaw and an invited guest, discussing the pairings, as well as the overall journey of the symphony cycle. The Outcry Ensemble hopes to finish the cycle with the seminal ninth symphony in a special community event in late summer. 

Full details from the festival website.

Hymns of Kassiani: Cappella Romana explores the music of the earliest known female composer

The Hymns of Kassiani; Cappella Romana, Alexander Lingas; Cappella Records
The Hymns of Kassiani
; Cappella Romana, Alexander Lingas; Cappella Records

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 4 May 2021 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
Rediscovering the voice of one of the earliest female composers, writing for the Byzantine Church in the ninth century

Founded by Alexander Lingas in 1991, the vocal ensemble Cappella Romana specialises in combining scholarship with performance, exploring the musical traditions of the Christian East and West, and they have become well-known for their performances of Byzantine and Orthodox chant. On this new disc, Hymns of Kassiani on Cappella Records, Cappella Romana and Alexander Lingas explore the music of the ninth century composer Kassia (Kassiani), the earliest known female composer, with music for Christmas and for Holy Week (Orthodox Easter this year was 2 May 2021).

Kassia's name is not unknown, the Hymn of Kassiani is included in the Eastern Orthodox Church's rite for morning prayer on Holy Wednesday. This hymn casts the repentance of the sinful woman annointing Jesus' feet from the Gospel of St Luke as a powerful first-person drama. But the aim of this new disc is to go beyond the Hymn of Kassiani and to explore her rarely performed hymns, music which is not part of the regular modern liturgy.

So who was Kassia?

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

through the noise

Underbelly Hoxton, venue for the first two noisenights
Underbelly Hoxton, venue for the first two noisenights

through the noise is a new crowdfunding platform (founder and artistic director Jack Bazalgette) aimed specifically at live classical events. The idea is that members of the public are invited to become ‘backers’ in return for tickets to their chosen event, and priority booking for future events. Each event is confirmed when it achieves sufficient backing, ensuring that only concerts that are popular with audiences go ahead.

The platform is going to be trialled with a new classical performance series, noisenights. Each evening will feature two identical 45-60 minute classical sets; an early evening rush-hour performance and a late show which is followed by live jazz, funk and afrobeat acts, accompanied by a late-licensed bar. Tickets to the late set include access for the rest of the night.

The first two noisenights are at Underbelly Hoxton. On 9 July 2021, cellist Laura van der Heijden and violinist Max Baillie perform Kodaly’s duo alongside Bach, Bartok and their own arrangements of folk music, then on 8 August 2021, the Chineke! Duo (Sarah Daramy-Williams, violin and Natalia Senior-Brown, viola) performs music by Errollyn Wallen, Joseph Bologne, Schubert, Mozart and Martinů.

Full information from their website.

Chausson's Le roi Arthus receives its first American staging as part of Bard Summerscape

Henri Albers in the title role of Chausson's Le Roi Arthus in 1903
Henri Albers in the title role of Chausson's Le roi Arthus in 1903

The spectre of Richard Wagner loomed large over late 19th-century French music, whether loved or hated, he certainly was not ignored. And in the opera house, few composers managed to find a successful way to acknowledge his influence and his revolutionary ideas whilst not slipping into simple imitation. 

Ernest Chausson studied with both Jules Massenet and Cesar Franck, and in the 1880s made the pilgrimage to Bayreuth to hear Wagner's operas. From 1886 to 1896, Chausson worked on his own Wagnerian epic, Le Roi Arthus which manages to combine the influences of Tristan und Isolde and Parsifal with that of Chausson's friend and mentor, Cesar Franck.

The music of the opera is luxuriantly gorgeous, though Chausson would probably have been better served by using an experienced librettist rather than writing the text himself. Unfortunately, the opera got a bad start in the world, it languished after Chausson's sudden death in 1899 and was not premiered until 1903 (at the Théâtre de la Monnaie, Brussels). By this time, Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande had debuted, showing French composers a radically different response to Wagnerisme, and making Chausson's epic seem old-fashioned. Though, ironically Debussy and Chausson were friends and Debussy gave the older composer advice about Le roi Arthus.

Armin Jordan gave us a ground-breaking recording of the work in 1986, and the work has done moderately well on disc. There have been occasional stagings in Nancy, and Bonn and in 2015 the work finally made its way to Paris (though The Guardian's critic was not particularly thrilled with the production). Now the work is finally getting its first fully staged American presentation, when Bard Summerscape perform the work this Summer as part of the 31st Bard Music Festival, Nadia Boulanger and her world.

Chausson's Le roi Arthus will be directed by Louisa Proske with Norman Garrett in the title role, plus Sasha Cooke as Guinevere and conducted by Leon Botstein. Botstein has history with the work, he conducted it with the BBC Symphony Orchestra (and on a 2005 recording) and gave a concert performance at the Lincoln Center in 2001. 

The opera is being staged as part of a festival which will be presenting the music of Nadia and Lili Boulanger alongside that of their friends, colleagues and teachers, as well as looking at Nadia Boulanger's students. Altogether a fascinating mix, but it is the chance to experience Chausson's Le roi Arthus on stage that will attract many people.

Full details from the festival website.

A new festival aims to provide much needed cultural nourishment in High Barnet

High Barnet Chamber Music Festival

A new festival in North London, the High Barnet Chamber Music Festival, wants to provide Barnet with much-needed cultural nourishment after the last year. Conductor Joshua Ballance is the artistic director and the festival's first outing presents three chamber music concerts during July at Church of St John the Baptist, High Barnet (EN5 4BW) all featuring talented early-career musicians in programmes which provide a lively mix of well-known and lesser known works including music by William Grant Still, Florence Price, Johanna Müller-Hermann and Lili Boulanger alongside Schubert, Schumann, Saint-Saëns, Mahler and Schoenberg.

Violinist Charlie Lovell-Jones kicks things off on 17 July 2021 with a programme of music for violin and piano by Schubert, Saint-Saëns, William Grant Still and Florence Price. Then on 22 July, Joshua Ballance's ensemble, Mad Song, are joined by mezzo-soprano Anita Monserrat for a programme of chamber adaptations of larger works; Webern's arrangement of Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony No. 1, Op. 9 is preceded by Ballance's own arrangements of Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and five songs by the Austrian composer and pupil of Alexander von Zemlinsky, Johanna Müller-Hermann (1878-1941). The festival ends on 24 July with the Mithras Trio in piano trios by Schumann, Schubert and Lili Boulanger.

Full details from the festival website.

The Sultan, the Siege of Rhodes, the Secretary to the Navy Board and his lover

Samuel Pepys by John Hayls oil on canvas, 1666 NPG 211 © National Portrait Gallery, London
Samuel Pepys by John Hayls
oil on canvas, 1666 - NPG 211 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Music plays quite a striking role in Samuel Pepys' diary and the work has plenty of Pepys's tantalising comments about contemporary musicians. In this guest posting, Jacky Collis Harvey, author of Walking Pepys's London takes a more detailed look at one of Samuel Pepys's own compositions and its links to his mistress Elizabeth Knepp.

In 1666 the diarist Samuel Pepys and his wife Elizabeth sat to the fashionable artist John Hayls in his studio in Southampton St, Bloomsbury. Elizabeth chose to be depicted en déshabillé as a sexy martyred female saint, which says all one need to know, I think, about her feelings on the chronically parlous state of her marriage; while Pepys had himself depicted in an ‘Indian gown’ which he seems to have hired for the purpose, a loose silk robe (possibly a kimono) the colour of English Breakfast tea. At Hayls’s request he posed turned from right to left and looking back at us over his shoulder. As he complained to his Diary, ‘I…  do almost break my neck looking over my shoulder to make the posture for him to work by.’ All in all, the completion of the portraits to Pepys’s satisfaction (which, this being Pepys, included a good deal of him telling the artist how to do his job) took from February to May of that year. When they were done, Pepys paid Hayls £22 and 10 shillings for the pair, bore them proudly home in his carriage, and hung them that very day in his house behind the Navy Office in Seething Lane. We may assume they were hung with Elizabeth on the left, and Samuel, looking back at us over his shoulder to the right, with the piece of music that had apparently been absorbing his attention before we walked in on him there in his left hand. The piece is Pepys’s own setting for ‘Beauty Retire’, from William Davenant’s The Siege of Rhodes – Part II, Act 4.

Elizabeth Pepys by James Thomson (Thompson), after John Hayls stipple engraving, published January 1828 - NPG D5507 © National Portrait Gallery, London
Elizabeth Pepys by James Thomson , after John Hayls
stipple engraving, published January 1828 - NPG D5507
© National Portrait Gallery, London
Music was one of the great passions of Pepys’s life. ‘The thing of the world that I do love most,’ he called it, in July of that same year - in an argument with Elizabeth, in fact, which must have pleased her, not. This song from The Siege of Rhodes was certainly not his only composition, but it might have been one of his first, and its presence in his portrait in this, his 33rd year, with his personal fortune steadily increasing and his reputation likewise, attests to his pride in it; and the compliments he received upon it from his friends and fellow music-lovers are recorded in the Diary with unfeigned pleasure. Even better, from our point of view, we have the whole of Pepys’s setting for the song, preserved in the Pepys Library at Magdalene College, Cambridge. You can find it today on Spotify. How that would have amazed him!

The song is not a major piece, by any means. A little under a minute long, it records Solyman’s (Suleiman the Magnificent’s) thoughts after a disagreement with his wife Roxolana. ‘I break the hearts/of half the world, and she breaks mine,’ he muses, sadly.  It’s much more recitative than song, but then so is most of The Siege of Rhodes – plays being banned under the Protectorate, setting the entire drama to music, which it seems it took the efforts of five different composers to do [the vocal music by Henry Lawes, Matthew Locke, and Captain Henry Cooke, and the instrumental music by Charles Coleman and George Hudson], was the only way to get its performance past the authorities when it was first staged at Davenant’s home in 1656. The ‘first English opera’, as it has been called, is a wreath that has dropped onto The Siege’s head entirely by accident. Part II followed the year after; Pepys was at a performance of it in July 1661, at the Duke of York’s playhouse in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

There is a deal of musical mopping and mowing in Pepys’s setting of the Sultan’s words, strong emphases, swoops and falls, a man shaking his head over his romantic fate: ‘At first I thought her by our prophet sent… and now, she is become my punishment,’ Solyman tells us, reminding us that Samuel and Elizabeth were also a love-match. And we know music and love were twined one about the other in Pepys’s psyche, another reason why The Siege of Rhodes so spoke to him (along, perhaps, with an appealing identification with the hard-pressed Sultan). Pepys was a man for whom music was limbic. For example, his only means of describing the effect a melody from Decker and Massinger’s The Virgin Martyr had on him was to compare it to the intoxication of his feelings for Elizabeth: ‘it ravished me,’ he famously declared, it ‘...did wrap up my soul so that it made me really sick, just as I have formerly been when in love with my wife.’ Music for Samuel was indeed the food of love. Yet for all his passion for Elizabeth, which waxed and waned but never died, and despite her dutiful attendance at singing and music lessons, carrying a tune did not come easily to her - certainly not as easily it did to one of her main rivals for her husband’s affections at this point, the actress Elizabeth Knepp.

A view of Rhodes, designed by Inigo Jones' pupil John Webb, to be painted on a backshutter for the first performance of Davenant's opera The Siege of Rhodes "in recitative music" in May 1656, at Rutland House
A view of Rhodes, designed by Inigo Jones' pupil John Webb, to be painted on a backshutter
for the first performance of Davenant's The Siege of Rhodes in May 1656, at Rutland House


It is a great shame we don’t have a portrait of Mrs Knepp. Pepys’s earliest mention of her in December 1665 characterises her as ‘pretty enough’, but also as ‘the most excellent, mad-humoured thing, and sings the noblest that ever I heard in my life.’ Curiously enough, the first mention of Knepp, on 6 December 1665, is on the same day as first mention of ‘a song of Solyman’s words to Roxalana,’ upon which Pepys had spent his afternoon. On his 33rd birthday, 23rd February 1666, he and Knepp (‘this baggage’ he calls her, fondly) make an evening of it, with him teaching her his song ‘which she makes go most rarely’. Even better, by November of that year, Knepp has become an advocate for it, perhaps even performing it herself, which leads me to suspect that voice of hers was a contralto. But what of Elizabeth? Is she to be found in the song as Samuel’s Roxolana? Did he see Knepp and the many other women in his life as a sort of harem, and fantasise (and indeed rationalise) himself in that exotic gown of Indian silk, as their sultan? Impossible to know – but then no one person hears the same thing in a piece of music as another, any more than two people view the same portrait, take the same walk, even together, or, for that matter, are partners in the same marriage. It’s why we keep listening still.

Jacky Colliss Harvey’s Walking Pepys’s London is published by Haus Publishing Ltd.

Notes: 

  • Samuel Pepys's Diary is available on-line and is searchable with a valuable Encyclopedia, https://www.pepysdiary.com/ 
  • For Pepys's comments on contemporary musicians, try this one about a new work by the Master of the King's Music, Louis Grabu [Grebus]: 'to White Hall, and there in the Boarded-gallery did hear the musick with which the King is presented this night by Monsieur Grebus, the master of his musick; both instrumentall — I think twenty-four violins — and vocall; an English song upon Peace. But, God forgive me! I never was so little pleased with a concert of musick in my life. The manner of setting of words and repeating them out of order, and that with a number of voices, makes me sick, the whole design of vocall musick being lost by it.', Tuesday 1 October 1667, Samuel Pepys's Diary
  • John Hayls' portrait of Elizabeth Pepys does not seem to surivive, it was apparently destroyed during the 19th century and is known only from engravings
  • Part 1 of The Siege of Rhodes was first performed in a small private theatre constructed at William Davenant's home, Rutland House, in 1656. Special permission had to be obtained from the Puritan government of Oliver Cromwell, as dramatic performances were outlawed and all public theatres closed. Davenant managed to obtain this by calling the production "recitative music", music being still permissible within the law. When published in 1656, it was under the equivocating title The siege of Rhodes made a representation by the art of prospective in scenes, and the story sung in recitative musick, at the back part of Rutland-House in the upper end of Aldersgate-Street, London. The 1659 reprinting of the text gives the location at the Cock-pit in Drury Lane, a well-known theatre frequented by Samuel Pepys after the Restoration. Pepys himself later read the text and commented in his Diary that it was "certainly (the more I read it the more I think so) the best poem that ever was wrote."


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Elsewhere on this blog
  • Songs for a Broken World: American composer David Chesky discusses the way contemporary and historical issues intersect in his new album  - guest posting
  • The perfect lockdown piano concerto: pianist Mark Bebbington on recording Poulenc's Aubade and Le Bal masqué for Resonus Classics - interview
  • Bach's Goldberg Variations in a winning new arrangement for violin, guitar and cello - record review
  • Science Fiction, AI, music and collaborative creation: the Lim Fantasy of Companionship for piano and orchestra  - record review
  • Wild Blue Yonder: new disc of chamber music by Eleanor Alberga - record review
  • Spring song continues: Leeds Lieder with Fleur Barron, Gerald Finley, Benson Wilson, Sarah Connolly and many more - concert review
  • A new film inspired by George Orwell's 1984 has Mihkel Kerem's powerful new orchestral score at its heart  - film review
  • The balance between a perfect art form & giving people what they want: conductor George Jackson chats about Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro with which he opens Opera Holland Park's 2021 season - interview
  • Thoughtful and imaginative: The Children's Hour sees baritone Gareth Brymor John and pianist William Vann taking a very adult view of childhood  - record review
  • Rediscovered: British Clarinet Concertos by Susan Spain-Dunk, Elizabeth Maconchy, Rudolph Dolmetsch, Peter Wishart from Peter Cigleris, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Ben Palmer - record review
  • A disc to enjoy: William Towers and Armonico Consort in Handelian Pyrotechnics  - record review
  • Flight at the museum: Seattle Opera's new film imaginatively re-locates Jonathan Dove's opera - opera review
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Monday, 3 May 2021

Songs for a Broken World: American composer David Chesky discusses the way contemporary and historical issues intersect in his new album

David Chesky: Songs for a Broken World

The American composer David Chesky has releasing a new album Songs for a Broken World on his own label, Chesky Records. The album is a sincere statement of worries the composer feels necessary to share with the world, in which all of us live and die. It features performances from Ute Lemper, J'Nai Bridges, Pedro R Diaz, Milan Milasavljevic and the Orchestra & Choir of the 21st Century in four of Chesky's works, Remembrance for the Victims of the Vietnam War, For Our Own, Sacred Child of Aleppo and The White Rose Trilogy. This last is named for the non-violent, intellectual resistance group in Nazi Germany led by a group of students from the University of Munich, including Sophie Scholl whose centenary is this year.

In this guest posting David Chesky shares some of his thoughs on why he has written the music:

Songs for a Broken World, why ? Because we are witness to the breakdown of this world in my humble opinion. And I do hope it is temporary, and I hope we can learn from this and correct our course.

With the threat that emerged with the re-election of Donald Trump—whose administration poisoned American political culture, trampled over democratic norms, and miserably failed the test posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the face of the increasing violence of Trump’s followers, I looked to the resistance group The White Rose, whose humanism led its members to risk their lives fighting the National Socialist regime. We need a White Rose today. We need someone with the strength of Sophie Scholl.

1984, Easter Passions, Leeds & Manchester Lieder, Flight in Seattle

April on Planet Hugill: 1984, Easter Passions, Leeds & Manchester Lieder, Flight in Seattle

We've just sent out our monthly newsletter, April on Planet Hugill: 1984, Easter Passions, Leeds & Manchester Lieder, Flight in Seattle. If you don't already receive it, this monthly newsletter is a great way to catch up with reviews, articles, interviews and features that you might have missed on Planet Hugill in the last month. 

April's record reviews included neglected 20th century music from rare Richard Strauss and the piano music of Florence Price to English clarinet concertos and The Turkish Five, and we also celebrate contemporary composers from Jamaica, Australia and the Faroe Islands. And we interviewed tenor Ilker Arcayürek on the art of the song recital, pianist Elan Sicroff on the music of Thomas de Hartmann, Toms Ostrovskis on the challenges of creating the Riga Jurmala Academy during lockdown, and conductor George Jackson on Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro with which he opens this year's Opera Holland Park season.

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Sunday, 2 May 2021

A Life On-Line: Stile Antico in Robert Ramsay, Alexandra Dariescu & London Philharmonic in Ravel, Opera North in Gluck

Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice - Paula Murrihy, Opera North (Photo Justin Slee)
Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice - Paula Murrihy, Opera North (Photo Justin Slee)

This week we caught Stile Antico exploring the music associated with the short life of Henry, Prince of Wales (eldest son of King James 1 & VI), a sparkling programme of French orchestral music from the London Philharmonic Orchestra including pianist Alexandra Dariescu on terrific form, and a powerful account of Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice in Leeds. We also caught the on-line press launch of Opera Rara's 2021/22 season with Donizetti, Mercadante and more to look forward to (there'll be an article on the blog in due course).

Saturday, 1 May 2021

The perfect lockdown piano concerto: pianist Mark Bebbington on recording Poulenc's 'Aubade' and 'Le Bal masqué' for Resonus Classics

Mark Bebbington at 2019 recording session for Resonus Classics (Photo Nick Rutter)
Mark Bebbington at 2019 recording session for Resonus Classics' first Poulenc disc (Photo Nick Rutter)

One of the most imaginative concerts that I came across last Autumn, with ensembles allowed to perform yet restricted as to numbers, was one at St John's Smith Square where Jan Latham Koenig conducted members of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) with pianist Mark Bebbington and baritone Roderick Williams in Poulenc's Aubade and Le Bal masqué, two works which are woefully under-represented both on the concert platform and on disc [see my review]. Mark Bebbington, Jan Latham Koenig and the RPO have already given us a fascinating disc of Poulenc's music on Resonus Classics which combined the piano version of the Concert champêtre with the Piano Concerto and chamber music [see my review], and now a second Poulenc disc has just been issued by the same team. The new disc combines Poulenc's Aubade and Le Bal masqué with the Sextet and the late Flute Sonata. These two Poulenc discs are the first fruits of a planned French music series from Mark Bebbington and Resonus Classics. I spoke to Mark via Zoom to chat more about the music of Poulenc and other plans.

Mark Bebbington
Mark Bebbington
When Mark and Adam Binks, of Resonus Classics, were planning a new French music series they decided that they did not want it to begin by covering well-trodden ground with music by Ravel and Debussy. So the spotlight first falls on Francis Poulenc whom Mark sees as a great but still rather neglected composer, whose piano music is wonderful. There is a third Poulenc disc in the planning, but the series will come to the music of Ravel and Debussy.

Mark sees the repertoire for the first two Poulenc discs with the combination of piano concertante works and chamber music as being a good starting point, and with the new disc, neither ensemble work is strictly orchestral. He laughingly describes Aubade as the perfect lockdown piano concerto, requiring as it does just 16 instrumentalists which plus soloist and conductor made perfect numbers for a socially distanced concert at St John's Smith Square. Having come up with Aubade, adding Le Bal masqué and the Sextet made a good programme, but more importantly one that it was possible to record in a socially distanced manner. This meant that Autumn 2020 for Mark is indelibly associated with these works when the rest of the musical world was not able to do much.

One of the reasons why Aubade is not well known is that its combination of instruments (a mix of strings and wind but no violins) makes the work difficult for promoters to programme. It was commissioned in 1929, as a ballet score to be performed out of doors in Paris with the dance choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska (1891-1972). This unusual instrumental layout leads to something of a vicious circle, promoters and orchestras are unwilling to take a box office risk on an unknown work, so the work remains unknown to the public, and so on. Mark also points out that Poulenc's concertante piano works often do not end with the sort of pianistic razzle-dazzle that can be popular in big concertos. On his previous disc, Mark played the Piano Concerto which dates from 1949 but which wasn't the virtuoso showcase at its Boston, USA premiere that was expected. And for all their exuberance works like Aubade are almost private works. The immediacy of Aubade is not always felt in the concert hall, it lacks any musical display for its own sake and the ending is positively downbeat as the final movement is almost mystical. Mark feels that Aubade is a work that really needs getting to know.  

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