Saturday 30 April 2022

A fresh coat of paint: conductor Bart Van Reyn talks about his new recording of CPE Bach's oratorio Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu

Bart Van Reyn (photo Agnete Schlichtkrull)
Bart Van Reyn (photo Agnete Schlichtkrull)

The Belgian conductor Bart Van Reyn has just recorded CPE Bach's major oratorio Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu, H. 777 (Resurrection and Ascension), with Il Gardellino, Vlaams Radiokoor and soloists Lore Binon soprano, Kieran Carrel tenor and Andreas Wolf baritone (released on Passacaille this month). This is the work's first major recording in around two decades and it is a piece about which Bart feels passionate. I recently met up with him via Zoom (from Copenhagen where he was assisting at a performance of Wagner's Parsifal conducted by Adám Fischer; Bart is chief conductor of the Danish Radio Choir which was singing in the opera) to chat about CPE Bach, period performance and more.

CPE Bach: Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu, H. 777 - Bart Van Reyn, Il Gardellino - Passacaille
As it was quite a while since CPE Bach's Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu had a good recording, Bart felt that it was time for the next generation to explore it and give it 'a fresh coat of paint'. It is rarely performed; the average music lover has probably just about heard of it and the work deserves to be brought to a wider audience. Bart describes CPE Bach's music as a dark spot for music lovers. It is transitional, between two clear spots; CPE Bach was always searching for things and not every listener is willing to go on his journey.

The quality of the arias is superb. Bart adds that the music in CPE Bach's other oratorio, Die Israeliten in der Wüste is not nearly as good, whilst the music in his 21 surviving Passions is uneven. Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu is one of the best things he ever wrote, and it is worth recording. Bart points out that it is worthwhile remembering what CPE Bach went through as a boy. He went to the Thomasschule, studied with his father, sang in all of JS Bach's passions and played in the Collegium Musicum under his father. He was educated by the greatest musician ever. 

Friday 29 April 2022

Hollow in the Tree: the first of the Baltic Sea Philharmonic's videos showcasing the talents of individual musicians as composers, producers & videographers

With its young musicians spread out across the ten Baltic nations, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic launched its Musical Chain series of videos in July 2020 as a way of bringing the musicians of the orchestra together virtually during lockdown. Last year, the series was extended to create the Producers Edition, inviting the musicians to create their own music and videos, giving them the opportunity to showcase their talents as composers, producers, scriptwriters, sound engineers and videographers. After submitting their ideas for music and video projects, selected musicians collaborated in small teams to compose, produce their tracks and videos. At a dedicated recording session in Usedom, the composers worked with Kristjan Järvi and professional sound engineers to record their creations, and thus also leaning new skills.

The first of these to be released is Hollow in the Tree. Lithuanian violist Mintautas Kriščiūnas and Polish harpist Zuzanna Wąsiewicz have worked with electronic music, acoustic harp and the sound of the Baltic Sea Philharmonic. Whilst German tuba player Ludwig Angerhöfer responded to the flow and forward motion of the Hollow in the tree music with a video that captures the power of nature, and especially the energy of water, but also showcases the musicians of the orchestra.

Of course, the orchestra has not stopped live performances. In March this year, Kristjan Järvi directed them in their Nordic Swans tour of Belgium, Germany and Poland with Freedom and Solidarity Concert in Gdańsk to raise funds for Polish Red Cross to support Ukrainian refugees in Poland. In the Autumn, they will be performing Kristjan Järvi's reworking of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker on tour in September, including at the Usedom Music Festival, and also on a December tour of Switzerland. Further information from the orchestra's website.

Further information about Hollow in the Tree [link tree]

Hertfordshire Festival of Music

Hertfordshire Festival of Music

The seventh edition of the Hertfordshire Festival of Music, taking place in and around Hertford, runs from 2 to 11 June 2022, This year’s principal artist is horn player Ben Goldscheider who will be performing with his Goldscheider Quintet in narrated pieces by Ruth Gipps and Ravel, giving a recital with pianist Richard Uttley, and giving a masterclass to selected aspiring horn performers. Cellist Guy Johnston, pianist Melvyn Tan, violinist Mathilde Milwidsky and pianist Huw Watkins will be visiting the festival for the first time, whilst the Maggini Quartet and ZRI will be making return visits.

The featured living composer this year is David Matthews and his music, along with that of Malcolm Arnold runs through the festival. Two local artists will feature in performances of Arnold's music, flautist Emma Halnan and organist William Whitehead perform concertos by Malcolm Arnold with the Festival Orchestra conducted by Matthew Taylor. David Matthews' music at the festival will include Dance for Emma, written  for flautist Emma Halnan who will perform it in her concert with guitarist Jake Hancher. Matthews will also be in conversation about in his life in music with fellow composer and festival artistic director James Frances Brown.

The Platinum Jubilee is celebrated with two special events. The Festival Concert Band will bring local community musicians together to perform arrangements of music associated with royalty in a relaxed performance in the grounds of Hertford Castle. Three local choirs from St Andrews, All Saints’ and the Hertford Chamber Choir join forces in concert with organist William Whitehead.

The festival was founded in 2016 by the conductor Tom Hammond (1974-2021) and composer James Francis Brown, and has presented a wide range of major artists. The Festival also celebrates a Featured Living Composer each year, which has led to audiences discovering the music of Matthew Taylor, Alan Mills, Peter Fribbins and Stephen Hough.

Full details from the festival website.

Strong musical performances as Anthony Roth Costanzo makes his debut as Handel's Amadigi di Gaula with Boston Baroque

Handel: Amadigi di Gaula - Anthony Roth Costanzo, Boston Baroque (Photo GBH Production Group)
Handel: Amadigi di Gaula - Anthony Roth Costanzo, Boston Baroque (Photo GBH Production Group)

Handel: Amadigi di Gaula; Anthony Roth Costanzo, Daniela Mack, Amanda Forsythe, Camille Ortiz, Boston Baroque, dir: Louisa Muller, cond: Martin Pearlman; Boston Baroque at Calderwood Studio, WGBH streamed on IDAGIO
Performance on 22 April 2022, reviewed on 27 April 2022

One of Handel's early successes in a made for video live performance from Boston with strong musical performances

For its 2021/22 season Boston Baroque, music director Martin Pearlman, took the bold decision to build on the live streaming it had done during the previous turbulent season and the period instrument ensemble has been presenting its concerts in made for live streaming events where a live audience is able to watch a performance which works for filming too. The performances have been taking place in the the 5,000 square foot Calderwood Studio at WGBH in Boston, USA and all have been available for a month on IDAGIO. 

To close the 2021/22 season, Martin Pearlman conducted Boston Baroque in a staging of Handel's Amadigi di Gaula at the Calderwood Studio at WGBH on 22 April 2022, and streaming on IDAGIO. Directed by Louisa Muller, the staging featured production design by Ian Winters, production design by Christelle Matou, lighting by Elaine Buckholtz and the livestream was directed by Matthew Principe. Counter-tenor Anthony Roth Costanzo was making his role debut as Amadigi, with Daniela Mack as Dardano, Amanda Forsythe as Melissa, and Camille Ortiz as Oriana.

Thursday 28 April 2022

Streetwise Opera's Re:sound, an operatic journey to rediscover our cities

Composers, choreographers and musicians involved in Streetwise Opera's Re:sound project
Composers, choreographers and musicians involved in Streetwise Opera's Re:sound project

Streetwise Opera's Re:sound is a year-long festival that will encourage artists and audiences to rediscover the cities they live in, through the eyes – and voices – of people who’ve been homeless. The festival brings together nine composers (Elizabeth Kelly, Michael Betteridge, Kemal Yusuf, Alison Willis, Tim Lole, Nicholas Lewis, Emily Levy, Electra Perivolaris, Ben See), three choreographers (including Sophie Thorpe: Tom Dale Company and Kate Cox), three designers, one filmmaker, musical director Jonathan Ainscough and over 200 participants in Streetwise Opera’s workshops in London, Nottingham and Manchester. Over the next year, these artists and the people who have been homeless will collaborate to co-create nine micro-operas that will be performed alongside each other – resounding together - in March 2023.

Audiences will be able to follow Re:sound through a year-long Digital Festival, providing a window into the process of creating the nine micro-operas.

Further information from the Re:sound website.

Hooray for summer and all that it has to offer! Tony Cooper reports on this year’s BBC Proms, the world’s largest classical-music festival

BBC Proms 2022

And summer has a lot to offer for classical-musical aficionados wherever they are with the BBC Proms running this year at full strength. Glory be! And from the opening concert on Friday 15 July 2022 to the famous Last Night on Saturday 10 September there’s a feast of music over a wonderfully packed eight-week season offering more than 80 concerts featuring 3000 musicians thus making the BBC Proms the largest festival of its kind in the world. There’re also a host of free events designed to extend and further enrich one’s Proms experience aiming to offer a summer of music that allows for the most diverse and exciting musical journeys. 

Remember, the Proms reaches far and beyond the Royal Albert Hall and every Prom will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and available on BBC Sound while 22 Proms will be broadcast on BBC television and BBC iPlayer including, of course, the First Night and Last Night concerts. And for the second year running the entire festival will be presented as a binaural audio stream enabling radio listeners to experience the concerts as if they were present in the Royal Albert Hall.

The Proms - so closely associated with Sir Henry Wood (Old Timber) who, by the way, was no stranger to my home city of Norwich as he was artistic director/conductor of the Norfolk & Norwich Triennial Festival from 1908 to 1930 - bring to London some of the world’s greatest classical orchestras and musicians while this year 17 new commissions will showcase the extraordinary range of today’s orchestral composers ranging from virtuoso jazz saxophonist Marius Neset’s 65-minute piece, Geyser to a 15-minute work by Icelandic-born, Oscar-winning Joker composer, Hildur Guðnadóttir. 

Approaching 1000 performances, Constella OperaBallet's Connecting Stars provides live performances for residents in care homes

Constella OperaBallet's Connecting Stars
Constella OperaBallet's Connecting Stars

During the first weeks of the pandemic, in 2020, Leo Geyer (artistic director of Constella OperaBallet) was chatting to his grandmother via Zoom and decided to play his bassoon for her to cheer her up. From this small seed grew Constella's Connecting Stars project where they provide live, virtual, interactive performances for residents in over 100 care homes, bringing high-quality performances to elderly and disabled care home residents, many of whom are still isolated. And the project has brought nearly nearly a thousand music and dance performances to people in care homes across the UK, and is set to continue in the future.

Leo said: 

"Virtual technology makes it possible to bring brilliant musicians and dancers to people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to benefit from such top-quality performances. Although it was our response to the exceptional situation at the time, it has become apparent that this is a successful model for the future."

"As well as watching a performance which has been specially tailored for the audience, the care home residents have the opportunity to chat to our artists and make requests, as well as join performances with clapping, singing and even dancing"

The scheme has been expanded from care homes for the elderly to include to include disabled people and others who are isolated due to health conditions.  Care home residents have watched performances from artists who work with the Royal Opera House, the National Theatre and Glyndebourne, including mezzo-soprano Rachel Maby, clarinettist Antanas Makštutis, violinists Henry Rankin and Philippa Mo, accordionist Ilona Suomalainen, and dancer Alice Oakley-Jones.

The use of Zoom means that the artists can perform from their own home or other convenient venue, thus making the performances more economically viable. Connecting Stars performances are currently free, thanks to funding from Arts Council England, and can be booked via Constella’s website.  To continue providing free performances,  the company has launched a donations campaign


Stranraer Brass Ensemble wins the first Scottish Young Musicians Brass Ensemble of the Year competition

Stranraer Brass Ensemble (consisting of Sophie Hall, Lewis Miller, Keir Halliday, Aidan Miller and Pippa Stirling)
Stranraer Brass Ensemble (consisting of Sophie Hall, Lewis Miller, Keir Halliday, Aidan Miller and Pippa Stirling)

Scotland has two new competitions for young performers, Scottish Young Musicians Brass Ensemble of the Year and Scottish Young Musicians Solo Performer of the Year, both of which are taking place for the first time this year, and each competition seeks to find the very best young musicians in each Local Authority and from independent schools in Scotland.

The Scottish Young Musicians Brass Ensemble competition has just taken place on-line. Open to ensembles of up to 10 players aged 18 and under who play together regularly in school or in their local youth brass band, one entry was allowed from each Local Authority, Independent School Group and Youth Brass Band, and each of these groups were encouraged to have their own competition to select their final entry. 

The winners this year were Stranraer Brass Ensemble (consisting of Sophie Hall, Lewis Miller, Keir Halliday, Aidan Miller and Pippa Stirling) from Stranraer Brass. As well as getting the winning trophy, the ensemble now has an expenses paid trip to perform at the final of the Scottish Young Musicians Solo Performer of the Year, which takes place on 29 May 2022 at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and there is also £750 to be spent on ensemble music related activities. The runners up were East Lothian Schools Brass Ensemble and Perth High School Brass Ensemble.

The Scottish Young Musicians Solo Performer of the Year competition is offering a fine range of prizes with many organisations supporting it. The Royal Conservatoire Of Scotland (host for the final) is offering the winner of the solo competition a coaching session with the relevant head of department, participation in a masterclass, and a studio recording session with an accompanist provided, plus prizes for runners up. There are also prizes being offered by The Cumnock Tryst, Trinity Laban, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Dunedin Consort, Haydock Music, Stringers of Edinburgh, and The Corner Shop PR.

Full details from the Scottish Young Musicians website.

Wednesday 27 April 2022

Unustusse vajunud päev - A forgotten day

Unustusse vajunud päev - A forgotten day: Russian author's song (bard song); Aleksandr Ivashkevich, Kristo Käo; ERP Music

Unustusse vajunud päev - A forgotten day: 
Russian author's song (bard song); Aleksandr Ivashkevich, Kristo Käo; ERP Music 
Reviewed 27 April 2022, (★★★★)

A completely charming disc where two Estonian performers provide an entrancing window into a Soviet Russian art-form that took place entirely outside the Soviet establishment

This delightful disc introduced my to a performance style of which I was hitherto entirely unaware, the Russian bard song or author song, a singer-songwriter style influenced by the American folk-music revival, which took place outside of the Soviet establishment. On this disc from ERP music, Unustusse vajunud päev - A forgotten day, Georgian-born Estonian actor Aleksandr Ivashkevich and guitarist Kristo Käo perform a programme of bard song/author song stretching from the 1960s through to the present day.

The disc does require some work, everything on the disc is printed in Russian and Estonian, whilst the ERP website has only a tracklisting and texts in English, but thanks to Google translate we can find out a little more. Author's song (бардовская песня) became one of the most important examples of self-expression in the Soviet Union. In the midst of a totalitarian regime it became a breath of fresh air.

This is very much poetry accompanied by guitar and on the disc, Ivashkevich moves easily between singing and speech. He has an attractive, expressive voice and is able to focus on the text whilst giving us these lovely melodies. Many of the songs are delightful or seductive, and make gentle listening and you have to think strongly to put them back into context and realise quite how distinctive they were. 

Ethel Smyth, Doreen Carwithen, George Walker, RVW & more: BBC Proms 2022 launches

BBC Proms launch 2022 at Printworks
BBC Proms launch 2022 at Printworks

Last night (26 April 2022), the BBC Proms launch took place at Printworks in Surrey Quays, a vast venue best known for more contemporary types of music, and a former industrial building. Approaching the building from Canada Water station, I suddenly realised that I had been there before, when it was Harmsworth Quays printworks, where the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and the Evening Standard were printed. But the industrial machinery is now gone, yet the striking spaces remain and were filled with music and talk, as the classical music industry celebrated the return of the BBC Proms to full form. We heard music from Nardus Williams (soprano) and David Bates (harpsichord), and from Tredegar Band.

This year is relatively light on anniversaries. There is RVW's 150th birthday, of course, with a fine selection of works including A Sea Symphony and Symphony No. 4, plus the Oboe Concerto and the Tuba Concerto, and these latter two have generated a thread of unusual concertos running through the season including Kalevi Aho's Theremin Concerto 'Eight Seasons' and Schnittke's Viola Concerto.

Other important anniversaries include Doreen Carwithen (1922-2003) - her overture Bishop Rock, Overture 'ODTAA (One Damn Thing After Another)' and String Quartet No. 2 are featured - and George Walker (1922-1983) - his Lilacs, Trombone Concerto and Variations for Orchestra are featured.

This year, Glyndebourne Opera's prom features their new production of Ethel Smyth's The Wreckers in what is probably the work's first professional London performance since it featured at the Proms in the 1990s. Around this, the season has something of a celebration of Smyth's music. Sakari Oramo conducts the BBC Symphony Chorus and Orchestra in Smyth's Mass in D, Ben Goldscheider and Elena Urioste are the soloists in Smyth's Concerto for Violin and Horn with Kazuki Yamada and the CBSO, and Smyth's songs and early Piano Trio also feature. Other 20th century composers worth noting include Michael Tippett's Symphony No 4, Florence Price's Symphony No. 1, Joseph Horovitz' Lady Macbeth  a scena, Martinu's Concerto for Two Pianos and Grace Williams' Sea Sketches.

Large scale works are back this year, so as well as the RVW and Smyth, the season opens with Verdi's Requiem with Sakari Oramo conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Chorus and Crouch End Festival Chorus, and there are performances of Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius (with Edward Gardner conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir), four Mahler symphonies (1, 2, 4 & 7),  Brahms' A German Requiem (with Ilan Volkov conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the National Youth Choir of Great Britain) and Beethoven's Missa Solemnis (John Eliot Gardiner conducting the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique).

As well as Glyndebourne's contribution, there are other operas in the season. Mark Elder conducts the Halle in Puccini's Il Tabarro, whilst David Bates conducts La Nuova Musica in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas. No strictly an opera, but Handel's Solomon also features with Sofi Jeanin conducting the English Concert and the BBC Singers.

And, of course, visiting orchestras are back with contributions from the Australian World Orchestra, Berliner Philharmoniker, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Metropole Orkest, Oslo Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra and WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne.

Premieres this year include works by Thomas Ades, Kalevia Aho, Julian Anderson, Sally Beamish, Hannah Eisendle, Danny Elfman, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Philip Glass, Hildur Gdnadottir, Gavin Higgins, Betsy Jolas, Matthew Kaner, Nicole Lizee, Missy Mazzoli, Cassandra Miller, Marius Neset, Kaija Saariaho, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Errollyn Wallen, Jennifer Walshe, and James B Wilson, and other contemporary composers featured include Harrison Birtwistle, Valerie Coleman, Jessica Curry, Ligeti, James MacMIllan, Wynton Marsalis, Kow Otani, Jim Root, Caroline Shaw, Yoko Simomura, Huw Watkins, Jimmy Webb, Judith Weir, Philip Wilby, and Iannis Xenakis.

Besides the regular schedule of performances at the Royal Albert Hall, there are proms in Battersea, Belfast, Truro, Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow and Sage Gateshead as well as at Printworks

There is much more besides, and Tony will be giving his own personal selection tomorrow. Full details from the BBC Proms website.

Celebrating ten years of the Opera Holland Park Young Artists

Opera Holland Park Young Artists past and present at Wilton's Music Hall
Opera Holland Park Young Artists past and present at Wilton's Music Hall

On Monday (25 April 2022), Opera Holland Park (OHP) had an event at Wilton's Music Hall to celebrate ten years of their Young Artist Scheme, and we heard from a fine array of current and past Young Artists. The scheme arose because the philanthropist, the late Christine Collins, wanted to support OHP and wanted to provide opportunity for young artists, and the scheme debuted in 2012 with the Young Artists performance of Puccini's Gianni Schicchi

Christine was also a client at our shop (Alec Drew Picture Frames) in Chelsea and would chat to David about opera and about the Young Artists Scheme. We attended that first performance and have, I think, attended (virtually) every Young Artists performance since and are pleased to help support the scheme.

On Monday, we heard a mixture of opera arias and interviews. So we heard:

  • Jack Roberts in 'Dein is mein ganzes Herz' from Lehar's The Land of Smiles
    • Lensky in the 2022 Young Artists production of Eugene Onegin
  • Anna Elizabeth Cooper in 'What a movie' from Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti
    • Olga in the 2022 Young Artists production of Eugene Onegin
  • Elizabeth Karani in Musetta's waltz from La Boheme
    • Musetta in the 2016 Young Artists production of La Boheme, and she was Susanna in last year's main stage Le nozze di Figaro and sings in Mark Adamo's Little Women this year
  • Blaise Malaba in Claudius' 'Je t'implore, o mon frere' from Ambroise Thomas' Hamlet
    • Ribbing in the 2019 Young Artists production of In ballo in maschera
  • Elizabeth Karani and Sian Dicker in Susanna and the Countess' duet from Le nozze di Figaro 
    • Sian Dicker was the Countess in the 2021 Young Artists production of Le nozze di Figaro 
  • Julien van Mellaerts in 'Mein Sehnen mein Wahnen' from Korngold's Die tote Stadt
    • Schaunard in the 2016 Young Artists production of La Boheme, the Count in the 2021 main stage Le nozze di Figaro, and co-curator of OHP's Opera in Song series
  • Lucy Anderson, Tatiana in this years Young Artists production of Eugene Onegin, sang the closing part of Tatiana's Letter Scene
  • The pianist was Thomas Ang, who was the Young Artists repetiteur in 2021 with Lucy Anderson being accompanied by Alina Sorokina, this year's Young Artists repetiteur
We also heard interviews with several members and alumni of the scheme including Cecilia Stinton, who was the Young Artists director for the 2018 production of La traviata and who is directing this year's main stage production of Carmen, Elizabeth Karani, Sian Dicker, Blaise Malaba, Thomas Ang and Julien van Mellaerts.

The importance of the scheme to the Opera Holland Park season in general is indicated by the fact the 17 artists in this year's season are alumni of the scheme, and three Young Artists directors have gone on to create main stage productions.

This year's Young Artists production is Eugene Onegin, with performances on 13 and 23 June, further details from the OHP website.

Tuesday 26 April 2022

As we look forward to the 15th edition of Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival the company widens its remit with events at Royal College of Music, in Cornwall & North Shields

the 15th edition of Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival

This Summer sees the 15th edition of Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival, running from 15 August to 11 September 2022 across London and online. Recent festivals have featured operas involving trampolines, libido-saving crocodiles, queer feminist gardening societies and much more besides and we can't wait for this new edition.

But the company is also widening its remit, creating events and supporting artists throughout the year and across the country. In May, the company is joining forces again with the Royal College of Music (RCM) to present Odysseys, six mini-operas created by RCM composers and performed by RCM students. Each opera features an unexpected protagonist embarking on a journey of self-acceptance - from the metamorphosis of a butterfly to a zombie. The performances take place in the RCM's Britten Theatre, 14 & 15 May 2022, further details from the RCM website.

Then in June, Bill Bankes-Jones is directing a production of The Firework-Maker's Daughter, David Bruce's 2013 opera based on the book by Philip Pullmann. The opera was premiered by the Opera Group and this new production debuts outdoors at the Minack Theatre in Cornwall on 21 June 2022 before travelling to Prideaux Place in July.

Then, in July, the company will stage HOME, a new community opera led by the company's music Director Timothy Burke, which explores what 'home' means to the people of North Shields. Performances take place at The Parks Sports Centre, North Shields in North Tyneside on 16 July 2022.

Further details from the company's website.

A Kind Man: Susan Hill's 2011 novel to become an opera

A Kind Man, Jonathan Finney
Susan Hill's novel, A Kind Man, was published in 2011;  it tells of a couple who are grieving the loss of their daughter, when they experience both a new blow and a miracle: a further loss and renewal of hope. When Jonathan Finney first came across the novel he thought it would make a fine opera, and now ten years or so later he has bitten the bullet and Finney's opera, A Kind Man will debut at Hoxton Hall on 7 June 2022 performed by New Palace Opera, the company of which Finney is co-founder and artistic director.

Finney has a long track record in opera, though not necessarily as a composer. He has sung a wide range of roles including some notable Wagnerian performances including Beckmesser in Fulham Opera's 2019 production of Wagner's Die Meistersinger [see my review]. These performances also showcased Finney's orchestral arranging as he created the reduced orchestration used. 

You can find out more about A Kind Man at the opera's website, where you can also hear a couple of scenes from the opera.

New Palace Opera’s cast for A Kind Man includes Gerrit Paul Groen as Tommy Carr, Rebecca Afonwy-Jones as his wife Eve, with Lizzie Holmes, Nicholas Morris, Zoe South and Kieran White. The orchestra is the London Concertante, conducted by the composer. The production is directed by Paul Higgins, with costumes, designs and lighting by Harry Pizzey and Ali Hunter. Performances are at Hoxton Hall 7, 8, 10 & 12 June 2022, further details from the Hoxton Hall website.

The intriguing tale of what came next: Steven Devine explores the music of Bach's talented pupil, Johann Ludwig Krebs

Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713-1780) - Keyboard work, volumes 1 & 2; Steven Devine; Resonus Classics

Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713-1780) - Keyboard works, volumes 1 & 2; Steven Devine; Resonus Classics
Reviewed 25 April 2022, (★★★★)

The music of one of Johann Sebastian Bach's finest pupils reveals itself to be stylistically diverse and intriguing, and receives powerful advocacy from Steven Devine

If you have heard the name Johann Ludwig Krebs before it is probably as a footnote; he was one of Johann Sebastian Bach's pupils. Born into a musical family (his father also studied with Bach), Krebs was sent to Leipzig to study, including with Bach. As regards organ playing, Krebs was unrivalled next to Bach, yet he never managed to achieve a significant post, having to content himself with engagements at smaller courts. For the final 14 years of his life he was court organist at Altenburg (home of the Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, one of the rather confusing group of Saxon duchies that kept being subdivided and combined).

Stylistically, Krebs spans the Baroque and post-Baroque era and his music is fascinating to listen to and compare to that of Bach's sons. All had the rigorous training from Bach, but each went a different way. Krebs seems to have trodden the middle way, as compared to the more extreme reactions of CPE Bach, JC Bach and WF Bach. Perhaps, because Krebs was always working at smaller, conservative courts, his style had to reflect what his employers wanted. And yet, despite never quite achieving the perfect posting in terms of satisfaction and financial rewards, he wrote a remarkable amount of music.

Harpsichordist Steven Devine is currently recording Krebs' harpsichord works for Resonus Classics and the first two volumes have been issued (with four more planned). Volume One contains the Partita in A minor, six fugues and the Concerto in G major 'in the Italian style', whilst Volume two contains the Overture in the French style, the Partita in B flat major and the Sonata in A minor

Monday 25 April 2022

Introducing Caio Fabriccio, Handel's pasticcio based on Hasse's opera

Handel & Hasse: Caio Fabriccio - London Early Opera - Signum Classics
With our ideas of composer as artist and an opera as a perfect work of art, the 18th century's interest in the art of pasticcio (the creation of a new opera from a selection of existing music) seems to be somewhat puzzling, especially when composers as significant as Handel created pasticcios rather than writing new work. But for a composer like Handel, who was responsible for the company for which he wrote the operas, pasticcio solved a number of problems. It enabled him to vary the diet, introducing the work of newer, younger composers, whilst keeping the final product firmly under his control. And in the curious circumstances of opera in London in the 1730s, it took pressure off him.

When the Royal Academy of Music was founded in 1719, it had been the creation of a group of aristocrats who engaged a selection of distinguished composers to write work for the company. This meant that Handel shared his workload with other composers. But by the 1730s, things had got more acrimonious and Handel ended up with his own company with a rival company taking the majority of singers. So when he opened his Season at the King's Theatre in December 1733, he had an almost entirely new company and was solely responsible for the repertoire. He also had another company to compete with, so had to give the audience novelties. The 1733/34 season would include the premiere of his opera Arianna in Creta, but the season began with Caio Fabriccio, a pasticcio based on Hasse's opera of the same name which had premiered in Rome in January 1732. 

Handel had acquired a songbook of the arias in it from his friend and favoured librettist Charles Jennens, who had earlier received it from the traveller Edward Holdsworth. This Handel used as the framework for his new pasticcio opera, into which he introduced several substitute arias besides adding shorter, more dramatic recitatives. The changes arose from a variety of reasons. The cast available to Handel was different to that which premiered Hasse's opera, and some late changes meant that arias from other sources were flown in, added to which Handel allowed singers to include their suitcase arias, the arias that they carried around with them and which they considered showed off their voices to the best. Also, in an age when singers had to learn vast quantities of new music, having a few familiar arias at the ready must have been most helpful. And London audiences did not like vast quantities of recitative so the new ones (it is unlikely Handel had access to Hasse's originals) were shorter and more incisive.

But using Hasse's arias from the opera and arias from other operas by Hasse plus music by Leonardo Vinci, Antonio Pollarolo, Francesco Corselli, Tomaso Albinoni, Giuseppe Sellito, Leonardo Leo and Francesco Ciampi, Handel created a new, composite work. Significantly, there are no arias by Handel, he gave the floor to the younger generation and kept his contribution to the recitatives and to the editorial. And before we dismiss such an assemblage out of hand, it should be remembered that composers like Vivaldi produced pasticcio operas of their own work. It was an accepted form. 

We are only just beginning to appreciate Handel's pasticcios, and the latest project to bring them to light is Bridget Cunningham and London Early Opera's performance and recording of Caio Fabriccio. London Early Opera raised funds to have the conducting score of Caio Fabriccio (in Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, Hamburg) digitised and edited into a modern edition. Additionally, scholarship has resulted in a full knowledge of the diverse provenance of its arias.

Bridget Cunningham and London Early Opera recorded Caio Fabriccio last September (2021) with Fleur Barron, Morgan Pearse, Miriam Allen, Anna Gorbachyova-Ogilvie, Hannah Poulsom, Helen Charlston and Jess Dandy and the recording is being issued by Signum Classics on 3 June 2022. 

The company will be giving the work's modern premiered at St George's Hanover Square on 24 May 2022, tickets from EventBrite.

'Dança Alagoana' from 'Four Dances' by Gregory John Madge

Gregory John Madge is a young British classical guitarist whose recent visit to Brazil led him to write a suite of dances for guitar, Four Dances. He has recorded the suite and it is released today, and above you can see his video [on YouTube] for the first dance, 'Dança Alagoana', and Four Dances is available on Spotify, and other streaming platforms.

High energy: Manchester Collective and Abel Selaocoe in The Oracle at Queen Elizabeth Hall

The Oracle - Manchester Collective & Abel Selaocoe in rehearsal at Queen Elizabeth Hall (Photo Manchester Collective)
The Oracle - Manchester Collective & Abel Selaocoe in rehearsal at Queen Elizabeth Hall (Photo Manchester Collective)

The Oracle -
Vivaldi, Picforth, Leith, Selaocoe, Stravinsky, Levy; Abel Selaocoe, Manchester Collective; Queen Elizabeth Hall
Sunday 24 April 2022 (★★★★) 

The force of nature that is Abel Selaocoe animated an evening with the Manchester Collective into a bewildering and intoxicating experience

The Manchester Collective (leader Rakhi Singh) made their Queen Elizabeth Hall debut on Sunday 24 April 2022 with The Oracle, the final date of their current tour with cellist/composer Abel Selaocoe who was joined by Mohamed Gueye (African percussion) and Alan Keary (bass guitar) for a programme that moved from Picforth's In Nomine and Vivaldi's Concerto for Strings in G Minor, RV 156 to Stravinsky's Concerto in D for Strings to music by Micah Levy, Oliver Leith and three of Selacoe's own pieces with the whole programme linked by a series of improvisations.

To describe Selacoe as a cellist/composer is something of a misnomer, he was more a force of nature, animating the whole evening, moving between playing the cello with startling virtuosity to singing to addressing the audience to simply playing the bass line in the ensemble to getting the audience singing along. Yet it wasn't the Abel Selacoe show (though the response of the audience suggested that they would have been delighted if it was). This was about making music together, as part of a vibrant ensemble. Selacoe's style moves easily and quickly between his classical training, his South African roots and a variety of other African influences, and the Manchester Collective with their poly-stylistic approach to programming, proved ideal partners, responding to his direction and providing improvised backing, but well able to take to the stage in their own right with a strong sense of personality.

Saturday 23 April 2022

Korros: I chat to the trio about rediscovering Elizabeth Poston's trio for flute, clarinet and harp

Korros (Nicholas Ellis, Camilla Pay, Eliza Marshall)
Korros (Nicholas Ellis, Camilla Pay, Eliza Marshall)

The trio Korros consists of the intriguing combination of clarinet (Nicholas Ellis), flute (Eliza Marshall) and harp (Camilla Pay), a line up of instruments that is relatively rarely encountered. For the group's debut disc, on Convivium Records, they have recorded Elizabeth Poston's Trio for flute, clarinet and harp, a work that like much of Poston's music seems to have rather fallen under the radar. Also on the disc are other rare Poston works alongside music by Howard Blake, Catrin Finch, Cheryl Frances-Hoad and Nicholas Ellis. I recently joined up with all three members of the trio by Zoom to chat about the Elizabeth Poston and more.

Whilst the line-up of flute, viola and harp is relatively common for trios, that of flute, clarinet and harp is quite rare and the players in Korros are not familiar with any other groups, making it something of a unique selling point. All three studied at the Royal Academy of Music with Nicholas and Eliza being in the same year. Whilst students they played Villa Lobos' Chôros 2 (for flute and clarinet) which is how it all started, as they were invited to give a series of concerts abroad and needed repertoire without piano. The harp seemed to fit well, and they not only got good feedback but loved the sound-world and textures, and enjoyed each other's playing. Now, some 20 years later, they are still together.

A typical concert programme might contain a mix of original music and pieces that they have reworked. But as there is little original repertoire for the line-up (and certainly nothing approaching the stature of Debussy's Sonata for flute, viola and harp), they do not feel so bound by the canon. They can choose whatever they feel they want to play. One of the lockdown projects was Tchaikovsky's complete Nutcracker Suite.

Friday 22 April 2022

Songs of Loneliness: Noah Max's haunting & disturbing chamber music from Toccata Classics

Noah Max Songs of Loneliness: Solos, Duos and Trios; Raymond Brien, Philip Haworth, Zoe Solomon, Brompton Quartet, Barbican Piano Trio; Toccata Classics

Noah Max Songs of Loneliness: Solos, Duos and Trios; Raymond Brien, Philip Haworth, Zoe Solomon, Brompton Quartet, Barbican Piano Trio; Toccata Classics
Reviewed 22 April 2022, (★★★½) 

For his first solo album, composer Noah Max presents seven pieces of chamber music that take the listener on a journey through constantly changing landscapes

This new disc from Toccata Classics features chamber music by the young composer Noah Max. Under the title Songs of Loneliness: solos, duos and trios we have a Sonatine for Cello, Sunset Sketches: Three Sonnets for Solo Piano, Sojourn for string trio, It Comes in Waves for solo piano, Cornucopia: Three Bagatelles for Solo Oboe and Vignette for piano trio, performed by Raymond Brien (clarinet), Philip Haworth (oboe), Zoe Solomon (piano), members of the Brompton Quartet (Maja Horvat, Kinga Wojdalska, Wallis Power) and the Barbican Piano Trio (Sophie Lockett, Robert Max, James Kirby).

The music is all relatively recent, dating between 2018 and 2020, and in his booklet note, Martin Anderson talks about "the sense of loss pervading almost everything recorded here; where the music does not seem to be grieving, it is angry". But for me it wasn't so much the sense of loss as the nebulous quality to this music. There is great stylistic variety here, but in each piece the music seems to elude our grasp somewhat.

Noah Max's opera The Child in the Striped Pyjamas to go ahead thanks to film company's change of heart regarding the rights

Noah Max
Noah Max
In 2017, Northern Ballet in Leeds premiered The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas with choreography by Daniel de Andrade and music by Gary Yerson. The ballet was based on the 2006 book by John Boyne, but more importantly for financial issues, the rights to the book were owned by Miramax which has produced a film based on the book in 2008. However, Miramax granted Northern Ballet limited rights to the story for a fee of around £5,000. 

Which meant that when composer Noah Max decided to turn the book into an opera, he was under the mistaken impression that it would be possible to negotiate a similar deal. Max's opera, The Child in the Striped Pyjamas (the boy in question is sung by a female mezzo-soprano) was finished in September last year, following successful workshops, and is a 75 minute piece in two acts. 

The opera's subject is a personal one for Max, his grandparents fled the Nazi's and he sees setting the story to music as a way of addressing antisemitism, and he is hoping that the piece can be used as a springboard for discussions in schools about the issues surrounding antisemitism. The story is not unproblematic, and the original book has been criticised for its historical inaccuracies, but Max used the lockdown to sit down and finally address the idea of the opera, he comments "It was immensely difficult work which forced me to challenge the roots of my belief system. It also brought me closer to Judaism and my family history."

Unfortunately, Miramax thought otherwise and demanded a fee of $1 million for the rights. Max is certainly not the first composer to fall foul of the arcane world of copyright and performing rights, and many of us have our own stories. 

Despite positive endorsements from John Boyne as well as the Jewish Music Institute and World Jewish Relief, it took the intervention of the press in the form of The Jewish Chronicle to made Miramax see sense and allow Noah Max to receive a similar deal to the one offered to Northern Ballet.

Max is currently revising the opera and editing the vocal score in the hope that, now he has the rights, a performance can follow.

nonclassical X The African Concert Series // African Classical

nonclassical X The African Concert Series

Rebeca Omordia's African Concert Series has not only been showcasing the music composers from the African diaspora, but it has been demonstrating quite how focused on Europe the classical music scene still is. Now Omordia is collaborating with another figure who has been challenging perceptions of what contemporary classical music is, composer, producer and DJ Gabriel Prokofiev. Omordia's African Concert Series and Prokofiev's nonclassical are collaborating on a two-day festival, nonclassical X The African Concert Series which celebrates the diversity of African music and encourages to question what classical music is and how it can be experiences.

There are two events, on 4 May at the Iklectik Art Centre, Old Paradise Yard, SE1 7LG and 8 May at the Africa Centre, SE1 0BL. The event at Ilkectik features solo, collaborative and electronic sets. Piano works intertwined with field recordings performed by Rebeca Omordia and Gabriel Prokofiev, kora player and cellist Tunde Jegede give a solo set and then join Nigerian sound artist and violist, Ibukun Sunday for a new collaboration. The night will end with a live electronics sets.

On 8 May at the Africa Centre, there will be a panel discussion with festival artists and ethnomusicologists coming together for (Re)defining African Classical Music. Then Bex Burch and Afla Sackey, performing original compositions and presenting Ghanian music from contrasting regions using voice, djembe and the Gyil (Ghanaian Balafon). Finally the rising stars of the world music community, the Krar Collective, showcase the traditional Ethiopian krar lyre, with the group’s unique take on Ethiopian music; with DJ sets from Blasio Kavuma.

Full details from the event website.

Thursday 21 April 2022

Rivales: Veronique Gens and Sandrine Piau celebrate two eminent personalities of 18th century French opera

Rivales - Monsigny, Edelmann, JC Bach, Gluck, Loiseau de Persuis, Gretry, Cherubini, Sacchini, Dalayrac; Veronique Gens, Sandrine Piau, Le Concert de la Loge, Julien Chauvin; Alpha

- Monsigny, Edelmann, JC Bach, Gluck, Loiseau de Persuis, Gretry, Cherubini, Sacchini, Dalayrac; Veronique Gens, Sandrine Piau, Le Concert de la Loge, Julien Chauvin; Alpha Classics
Reviewed 20 April 2022, (★★★★½)
The idea of the rivalry between two late 18th century French sopranos is a lovely excuse for this thrilling examination of French opera superbly sung by two modern day contemporaries

This disc celebrates two eminent personalities of French opera from the late 18th century. Born within a year of each other, each forged an important career, Madame Dugazon (1755-1821) as a member of the Comedie Italienne, and Madame Saint-Huberty (1756-1812) as a member of the Academy Royale de Musique (the Paris Opera). And whilst it is not known that they ever appeared on stage together, that they were probably rivals is likely.

So, on Rivales, on Alpha Classics, we hear arias and duets by Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny, Jean-Frederic Edelmann, Johann Christian Bach, Christoph Willibald Gluck, Louis-Luc Loiseau de Persuis, Andre-Ernest-Modeste Gretry, Luigi Cherubini, Antonio Sacchini, and Nicola Dalayrac, with Veronique Gens (soprano) and Sandrine Piau (soprano) and Le Concert de la Loge, director Julien Chauvin.

But the rivalry is simply an excuse to explore some wonderful repertoire that the two did or might have sung, and to re-unite two French sopranos who have proved pre-eminent in this genre and who, co-incidentally, were born the same year.

Pärt and White from SANSARA and Fretwork

Fretwork & SANSARA at St John's Smith Square's Easter Festival (Photo Nick Rutter)
Fretwork & SANSARA at St John's Smith Square's Easter Festival (Photo Nick Rutter)

Pärt: Fratres, Solfeggio, Summa, Stabat Mater, Da pacem Domine, White: Lamentations à 5; SANSARA, Fretwork, dir. Tom Herring; St John’s Smith Square
Reviewed 14 April 2022, by John Hutchings 

The viols of Fretwork and voices of SANSARA make an unforgettable pairing in music by Arvo Pärt and Robert White

Fretwork, arguably the world’s leading viol consort, opened this Maundy Thursday concert (14 April 2022) at St John's Smith Square's Easter Festival with one of three arrangements by viol player Richard Boothby of Pärt’s works, Fratres (1977), which created a intimate, resonant sonority within the performance space, and displayed a synergy between performers which other ensembles can only envy. This was echoed by the five voices of SANSARA in the rear gallery with Pärt’s Solfeggio (1963), performed with clarity and fullness of tone without individual voices breaking through the carefully crafted ensemble.

Wednesday 20 April 2022

The Saxophone Craze: saxophonist Jonathan Radford and pianist Ashley Fripp launch

Jonathan Radford and Ashley Fripp at Champs Hill Music Room (Photo Patrick Allen)
Jonathan Radford and Ashley Fripp at Champs Hill Music Room (Photo Patrick Allen)

The Saxophone Craze: Homage to Rudy Wiedoeft
 - Wiedoeft, Schulhoff, Weill; Jonathan Radford, Ashley Fripp; Royal Over-Seas League, London
19 April 2022, (★★★★)
An homage to a seminal, yet near-forgotten figure and a celebration of how the saxophone went mainstream in the 1920s

Saxophonist Jonathan Radford and pianist Ashley Fripp's disc, The Saxophone Craze was issued on Champs Hill Records earlier this month. Radford's debut recording, the disc is a sort of homage to a near forgotten figure, 1920s saxophonist Rudy Wiedoeft whose combination of technical virtuosity, salesmanship and sheer joie de vivre (along with his 300 recordings) helped to fuel the saxophone craze that swept America during the 1920s. The decade might have roared but it did so to the sound of the saxophone, thanks to Wiedoeft who effectively transformed it from a novelty instrument to something to be taken seriously.

Jonathan Radford won the Gold Medal at the 2018 Royal Over-Seas League Competition and last night, Tuesday 19 April 2022, Radford and Ashley Fripp launched the disc with a concert at the Royal Over-Seas League in London, performing Erwin Schulhoff's Hot-Sonate, their own arrangement of music from Kurt Weill's Die Dreigroschenoper, plus music by Wiedoeft.

Jake Heggie, Jeanine Tesori, Philip Glass: ENO's new season places a focus on contemporary American opera

Jake Heggie: It’s A Wonderful Life - World Premiere at Houston Grand Opera, 2016. (l-r) D’Ana Lombard, Yongzhau Yu, William Burden, Talise Trevigne, Zoie Reems & Ben Edquist  Photo Karen Almond, Houston Grand Opera
Jake Heggie: It’s A Wonderful Life - World Premiere at Houston Grand Opera (Photo Karen Almond, Houston Grand Opera)

Apart from works by Philip Glass and John Adams, contemporary American opera has been rather slow to reach performances in the UK. Opera Holland Park is giving the UK premiere of Mark Adamo's Little Women this Summer, 25 years after the work made its debut, whilst Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking had to wait a similarly long time (it debuted in 2000 but waited until 2018 for its UK premiere). There have been occasional bright spots, such as Opera North performing Kevin Puts' Silent Night in 2018 [see my article], but anyone hoping to get something of an overview of what has become quite a distinctive genre will be disappointed.

So, it is heartening to see that as part of its 2022/23 season, English National Opera will be giving the UK premieres of both Jake Heggie's It's a wonderful life and Jeanine Tesori's Blue. It's a wonderful life will be directed by Aletta Collins, conducted by Nicole Paiement with Danielle de Niese making her ENO debut. Blue will be directed by Tinuke Craig and conducted by Matthew Kofi Waldren with Nadine Benjamin as the Mother. And in a striking element of compare and contrast, ENO is also reviving Phelim McDermott's production of Philip Glass' Akhnaten.

Another thread in the season is German romanticism, headed of course by Richard Wagner. Richard Jones continues his traversal of the Ring, with a new production of The Rhinegold, conducted by Martyn Brabbins with John Relyea as Wotan and Leigh Melrose as Alberich. Then moving forward somewhat in time, Annilese Miskimmon directs the company's new production of Korngold's Die Tote Stadt (The Dead City), conducted by Kirill Karabits with the leading roles taken by Rolf Romei and Alison Oakes.

On a lighter note, the company continues its G&S theme with the most serious of the Savoy operas, The Yeomen of the Guard, directed by Jo Davies and conducted by Chris Hopkins with Anthony Gregory as Colonel Fairfax. The final new production is a staging of Gorecki's Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, directed by Isabella Bywater.

Full details from the ENO website.

Tuesday 19 April 2022

Handel's Theodora, John Casken's Lear & more: ambitious plans at Northern Aldborough Festival

Fflur Wyn outside St Andrew's Church, Aldborough
Fflur Wyn outside St Andrew's Church, Aldborough
The Northern Aldborough Festival takes place annually in and around the 14th century St Andrew's Church in Aldborough in North Yorkshire. Under the artistic direction of Robert Ogden, this year's festival runs from 16 to 25 June 2022 and is one of the most ambitious yet.

There is a semi-staged production of Handel's Theodora with soprano Fflur Wyn in the title role, Helen Charlston (mezzo-soprano) as Irene, Lawrence Zazzo (counter-tenor) as Didymus, conducted by Julian Perkins and directed by Joe Austin. Still in operatic vein, Sir John Tomlinson (bass) and Rozanna Madylus (mezzo-soprano) perform John Casken's The Shackled King based on Shakespeare's King Lear (a role that Tomlinson played in an innovative production of the play last year at the Grange Festival). 

Other acts include an evening of jazz from Claire Martin, clarinettist Julian Bliss with pianist James Baillieu, pianist Clare Hammond, in Schubert, Stravinsky and Schumann, and guitarist Sean Shibe with Quator Van Kuijk.  As well as established names, the festival hosts a Young Artists Showcase, this year including harp and saxophone duo, The Polaris Duo, and Chinese American musician, Reylon Yount, who has introduced the unfamiliar instrument, the Chinese yangqin, to the world stage. 

Full details from the festival website

BBC Young Composer: a 2022 young composer Prom, new resources and a new network

BBC Young Composer

This year, for the first time, there will be a BBC Young Composer Prom as part of the 2022 BBC Proms. Alice Farnham will conduct the BBC Concert Orchestra in a concert at Battersea Arts Centre which will feature six new works by winners of the 2021 BBC Young Composer Competition. The 2021 competition winners, who are being supported and mentored by Dobrinka Tabakova and Gavin Higgins, have been commissioned on the theme of BBC 100, celebrating 100 years of the BBC for this special concert which takes place on Saturday 30 July.

Since 2020, there have been a significant increase in applications to the BBC Young Composer competition. To allow for a new, more comprehensive development and mentoring programme for more of the many young musicians applying for the scheme, the competition will now be biennial, moving in line with other BBC Competitions such as BBC Young Musician. The next BBC Young Composer competition takes place in 2023. 

In the mean time, the BBC is launching a new programme of live and online activity for teachers, schools and young people (available from July) offering a variety of opportunities to learn and create with BBC Young Composer, including a full day of workshops in the summer open to all young musicians interested in creating their own music aged 12 – 18. Further schools workshops will be on offer later in the year, with a focus on increasing skills and confidence in music composition.

BBC Young Composer alumni include Shiva Feshareki, Kate Whitley, Alissa Firsova, Mark Simpson, Tom Harrold, and Duncan Ward; recent alumni, including Grace-Evangeline Mason,  Xia Leon Sloane, and Sarah Jenkins have been commissioned by BBC Radio 3, BBC Concert Orchestra and BBC Proms. 

The BBC Young Composer Network will also launch, which is a new database for teachers, schools, and partners to sign-up for access to Continuing Professional Development (teacher training) activities and resources. Sign up to the BBC Young Composer mailing list for further information on these resources and opportunities.

Bach's Brandenburg Concertos recorded in a room that Bach would have known and played in

Collegium 1704 in Hall of Mirrors at Köthen Castle, photo Emilian Tsubaki
Collegium 1704 in Hall of Mirrors at Köthen Castle, photo Emilian Tsubaki

2021 was the 300th anniversary of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, works that he wrote/arranged whilst working for Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen, in Köthen, and which Bach sent to the Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt in the hope of getting a further rung up the musical ladder (reader, the ploy failed and Bach's presentation manuscript of the concertos simply sat in a library). 

Most of the concertos in the set are based on ones that Bach had already written, so it is highly appropriate that for their new recording of the concertos, Prague-based period instrument ensemble Collegium 1704 and conductor Václav Luks recorded them in the Hall of Mirrors at Köthen Castle, a room that Bach would have known and undoubtedly played in.

The concertos are being released next month on DVD by Accentus.

Going Global: the Benedetti Foundation's Virtual Sessions are taking violinists on a trip round the world

Going Global: the Benedetti Foundation's Virtual Sessions are taking violinists on a trip round the world

The Benedetti Foundation's Virtual Sessions are back, with Global Violin Sessions: A Cultural Exchange Part 2 which is running from 18 April to 8 May 2022, taking the participants on a trip round the world through the eyes of the violin. Over three weekends, guest artists will help participants to visit other traditions, looking at what is similar and what is different. The three groups of guest artists are Aly Bain (fiddle), Phil Cunningham (according) and Jenna Reid (fiddle) - Scotland, The Ayoub Sisters - (violin and cello) - Egypt, Timothy Chooi (violin) and Laure Chan (violin) - East Meets West.

There will be a tune by Phil Cunningham which will be debuted by Nicola Benedetti and then passed around the musicians over the three weeks; each violinist along with musical friends will make it their own. They will change rhythms, twist notes, rewrite corners, add instrumentation and colours and effects – and along the way, teach and explain how they do it. Participants will then choose as many versions of the tune as they wish to record and send in their performance. These videos will then be weaved together to create a final performance which will be premiered on Sunday 22 May.  

Full details from the Benedetti Foundation website.

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