Tuesday 31 May 2022

A little video to celebrate the completion of Dario Salvi and my new operetta, Ademdai - or The Necessary and the Superfluous

Dario Salvi and I have finished the first draft of our new operetta, Ademdai - or the Necessary and the Superfluous, and to celebrate Dario has produced this fun little video [on YouTube], pairing music from the beginning of the opera (in a computer synthesisation) with a charming old cartoon. Our story is based on one from The Thousand and One Nights, based on a story by the Austrian dramatist Ignaz Castelli (1781-1862).

Our operetta is in two acts with five solo roles (Scheherazade - spoken, Ademdai - tenor, Caliph - baritone, Jaffar - bass-baritone, Naima - soprano), chorus and orchestra and follows the adventures of our hero Ademdai, a poor young man from  Baghdad who wishes nothing more than what is essential for his simple life!

The score includes pantomime, melodrama, narration and dance episodes alongside songs and ensembles, with plenty of good tunes. Find out more on my website.

Premiered in Norwich in 1936, the Norfolk & Norwich Festival give a celebratory performance of Vaughan Williams' Five Tudor Portraits

Vaughan Williams
Vaughan Williams in the 1930s
Mozart: Divertimento in D major, K.136; Vaughan Williams: Norfolk Rhapsody No.1; Five Tudor Portraits; Rebecca Afonwy-Jones, Dominic Sedgwick, Britten Sinfonia, Clio Gould, Norwich Philharmonic Chorus, William Vann; Norfolk & Norwich Festival at St Andrew's Hall
Reviewed 29 May 2022 by Tony Cooper

The Norfolk & Norwich Festival not only celebrated its 250th anniversary this year but also marked the 150th anniversary of Ralph Vaughan Williams, so closely involved with the festival in the 1930s, with a rare performance of his Five Tudor Portraits

It was celebration time throughout this year’s Norfolk & Norwich Festival on its 250th anniversary but the final concert marking Ralph Vaughan Williams’ 150th anniversary featuring a performance of the composer’s Five Tudor Portraits by the Norwich Philharmonic Chorus and Britten Sinfonia, conducted by William Vann with soloists Rebecca Afonwy-Jones and Dominic Sedgwick, put the icing on the cake. The performance was truly favoured by the packed house in St Andrew’s Hall, ‘home’ to the festival since its founding as a Triennial event in 1824. 

However, the festival’s roots can be traced back to the late 18th century when in 1772 (listed as such in the Oxford Dictionary of Music) a series of concerts were held on an ad hoc basis in St Andrew’s Hall while an annual performance of an oratorio took place in Norwich Cathedral. 

Pairing the Britten Sinfonia with the Norwich Philharmonic Chorus, so well drilled by David Dunnett, Norwich Cathedral’s organist, proved a good call as they delivered a masterful reading of Five Tudor Portraits set to a text by Tudor poet, John Skelton, known as a ‘Skeltonic line’, embodying a short erratic rhyming verse probably descending from medieval Latin rhyming prose. 

By the way, Skelton, tutor to Prince Henry, afterwards King Henry VIII, was a ‘local’ born around 1460 probably in Diss in the last decade of the 15th century. He was appointed Rector of St Mary the Virgin in this important south Norfolk town in 1504 preaching the gospel here until his death in 1529. Highly regarded by Caxton he found great favour with Erasmus, too, but critical reception places him firmly in the ‘rougher foothills’ of English poetry. But I’m not so sure about that. His text for Five Tudor Portraits certainly found favour with me. 

A forgotten voice from an earlier era: Mr Onion's Serenade - Mandolin Music of the Edwardian Era

Mr Onion's Serenade - Mandolin Music of the Edwardian era: Matt Norman
Mr Onion's Serenade - Mandolin Music of the Edwardian era: Matt Norman
Reviewed 23 May 2022

A delightful disc where mandolin-player Matt Norman recreates the forgotten sound of the Edwardian era with music for the mandolin ensemble

The mandolin was created in Naples in the early eighteenth century and had a large surge in popularity, particularly amongst the French aristocracy, but by the end of the century it had a rapid decline matching that of the aristocracy. But the instrument had a second wind, from the 1880s to the First World War, when there were mandolin orchestras all over Europe, the USA and Japan. A huge amount of music was written for these ensembles, and most was subsequently lost and forgotten.

This charming new disc from mandolin player Matt Norman, Mr Onion's Serenade, revisits much of the forgotten late 19th and early 20th century repertoire for mandolin ensemble with composers such as Angelo Ciglia, Mario Maciocchi, Alfonso Cipollone, Will D Moyer, Raffaele Calace, Giuseppe Sgallari, Emile Grimshaw, Luigi Canora, Samuel Siegel and Ant H Claassens. Many are Italian but there are two Americans and one Englishman, which indicates something of the spread of enthusiasm for the instrument in the Edwardian period.

Monday 30 May 2022

Roland Barthes, Monteverdi and a new score by Pippa Murphy: the Dunedin Consort's first cross-arts project, A Lover's Discourse

A Lover's Discourse - The Dunedin Consort (Photo Arms & Legs)
A Lover's Discourse - The Dunedin Consort (Photo Arms & Legs)

Like many ensembles, the Dunedin Consort released several filmed, on-line events during the last two years when public concerts were more problematic. Now, for their latest project the ensemble is looking to fully integrate film within the performance itself. A Lover's Discourse, the Dunedin Consort's first cross-artform collaboration, pairs modern translations of Roland Barthes' A Lover’s Discourse with madrigals by Monteverdi, Gesualdo and Marenzio, a new score by composer & sound designer Pippa Murphy and a specially commissioned film shot in locations across Edinburgh by the Leith based production studio Arms & Legs.

Directed by tenor Nicholas Mulroy, the Dunedin Consort will present A Lover's Discourse in live performances at Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh (31 May 2022) and Platform, Glasgow (1 June), and a free to view screening online.

Full details from the Dunedin Consort website.

Two weeks of fine music in historic venues: Cambridge Summer Music 2022

Cambridge Summer Music 2022
Cambridge Summer Music, artistic director David Hill, runs from 15 to 31 July 2022, presenting 23 concerts in and around Cambridge, including  college chapels, city churches, concert halls and the Cambridge University Botanic Garden.

The festival opens on 15 July when Orlando Jopling's Wild Arts Ensemble presents their new production of Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte in the gardens of Childerley Hall in West Drayton. Other large-scale events include Mendelssohn's Elijah in Ely Cathedral with 200 young singers from Gabrieli Roar plus Gabrieli Consort & Players, conductor Paul McCreesh with soloists Francesca Chienjina, Helen Charlston, Andrew Staples, and Morgan Pearse. The festival concludes on 31 July with Aurora Orchestra performing Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 from memory.

Tenor Robert Murray joins violinist Benjamin Baker and the Echea Quartet for RVW's On Wenlock Edge and The Lark Ascending, plus songs by Gurney and Elgar's Violin Sonata. Baritone Marcus Farnsworth and pianist James Cheung takes us to Vienna with songs by Gustav and Alma Mahler, Schoenberg and Beethoven.

Visitors to the festival include pianist Imogen Cooper in Schubert and Ravel, pianist Artur Pizarro in Albeniz's Iberia, accordionist Ryan Corbett, cellist Guy Johnston and pianist Tom Poster in Beethoven, Poulenc and Brahms, violinist Tai Murray and pianist Martin Roscoe in Clara & Robert Schumann, trumpeter Crispian Steele-Perkins and organist David Hill, the Mithras Trio in Beethoven, Faure and Lili Boulanger, horn player Alec Frank Gemmill and the Perks Ensemble in music for horn and quartet including Gemmill's arrangement of Dvorak's String Quintet in E flat, Connaught Brass, and the Wigmore Soloists in Beethoven's Septet and Schubert's Octet.

The festival's outdoor concerts at the Botanic Gardens, Sounds Green, return every Wednesday evening throughout July with a wide variety of performers.

Full details from the festival website

What a lovely night: an evening inspired by Jenny Lind's charity concerts in Norwich

Daguerrotype of Jenny Lind from 1850
Daguerrotype of Jenny Lind from 1850
around the time she sang in Norwich
Fairytales and Nightingales - Robert Schumann, Felix Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann, Fanny Mendelssohn, Adolf Fredrik Lindblad, Brahms, Grieg, Gounod, Haydn Wood; Carolyn Sampson, Simon Crawford-Philips, Lawrence Power; Norfolk & Norwich Festival at St Andrew's Hall
Reviewed 23 May 2022 by Tony Cooper

The well-loved Swedish opera singer, Jenny Lind gave a series of concerts in St Andrew’s Hall, Norwich, to raise money for an infirmary for sick children that opened in the city in April 1854. For the 2022 Norfolk & Norwich Festival, soprano Carolyn Sampson, pianist Simon Crawford-Philips and violinist Lawrence Power performed a programme inspired by Jenny Lind.

An artist and humanitarian of distinction Jenny Lind (affectionally known as the ‘Swedish Nightingale’) enjoyed a special relationship with the citizens of Norwich which resonates to this very day thanks to her generosity and goodwill through the concerts she willingly gave at St Andrew’s Hall, Norwich, to raise funds for an infirmary for sick children in the city. Norwich, incidentally, was only the second city in the realm to have such a hospital. London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children opened two years earlier.  

Enjoyment and discovery: Paul McCreesh and Gabrieli Consort & Players in Bach's Ascension Oratorio

Feast of the Ascension
Bach: Mass in A, Ascension Oratorio; Mary Bevan, Tim Mead, Thomas Walker, Malachy Frame, Gabrieli Consort & Players, Paul McCreesh; Wigmore Hall
Reviewed 27 May 2022 (★★★★★)

A wonderful evening of rarer Bach for the Feast of the Ascension, brimming with imagination and in terrific performances

For their last Wigmore Hall concert this season (27 May 2022), Paul McCreesh and Gabrieli Consort & Players performed a programme of Bach suitable for the season, the Feast of the Ascension (which was on 26 May 2022). With soprano Mary Bevan, counter-tenor Tim Mead, tenor Thomas Walker, and baritone Malachy Frame with an instrumental ensemble of 18 led by violinist Catherine Martin, they performed Bach's Sinfonia from Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir BWV 29, Mass in A BWV 234, Sinfonia in D BWV 1045 and Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen BWV 11 'Ascension Oratorio'.

Whilst the music technically dates from the 1730s and 1740s, one of the fascinating things about the pieces was the way Bach had recycled music from earlier (often occasional) works, and in the case of the counter-tenor aria from the Ascension Oratorio would reuse them again as he based the Agnus Dei from the Mass in B minor on the aria.

Sunday 29 May 2022

Adventurous and exciting: Sō Percussion and Caroline Shaw at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival

So Percussion, Caroline Shaw (Photo Shervin Lainez)
So Percussion, Caroline Shaw (Photo Shervin Lainez)
Angelica Negron: Gone, Go Back, Bryce Dessner: Music for Wood and Strings Caroline Shaw: Let the Soil Play its Simple Part; Sō Percussion, Caroline Shaw; St Andrew’s Hall, Norfolk & Norwich Festival.
Reviewed, 18 May 2022 by Tony Cooper

Sō Percussion, a percussion-based music group from Brooklyn, New York, deployed a deep kit of rhythmic tools for a trio of new and exciting works teaming up with fellow American, Pulitzer Prize composer, Caroline Shaw

Deploying a vast kit of rhythmic tools and joined in the second half by Caroline Shaw, Sō Percussion - a virtuoso four-man percussion chamber group from Brooklyn, New York - presented a trio of new works by Angelica Negron, Bryce Dessner and Caroline Shaw to an adventurous and appreciative but, nonetheless, curious audience at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival on 18 May 2022.

A winner all the way, it seems, North Carolina-born composer/violinist/singer, Caroline Shaw, was the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2013 for her a-cappella piece Partita for 8 Voices and was duly awarded the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition in 2017 for Narrow Sea. A calming and tranquil-sounding piece, it drew inspiration from shifting tides and centuries-old hymns underlying the pain and unease of feeling adrift in the universe.

Saturday 28 May 2022

Time corkscrews inwards: Tom Coult on clocks, time & humanity in Alice Birch & his opera Violet

Tom Coult: Violet in rehearsal with Frances Gregory, Anna Dennis, Richard Burkhard (Photo Patrick Young / Britten Pears Arts)
Tom Coult: Violet in rehearsal with Frances Gregory, Anna Dennis, Richard Burkhard (Photo Patrick Young / Britten Pears Arts) 

To have the premiere cancelled is not the best way to launch your first opera, but that happened to Tom Coult and Alice Birch's opera Violet thanks to the recent pandemic. Thankfully, things were rescheduled and Violet, with music by Tom Coult and text by Alice Birch, is being premiered at the Aldeburgh Festival on 3 June 2022, with further performances in Aldeburgh and elsewhere [see Tom's website]. Tom is currently resident composer with the BBC Philharmonic, whilst Alice is an acclaimed playwright known for her powerful female-centred writing (her screenwriting has included the recent film adaptation of the Graham Swift novel Mothering Sunday and her play [Blank] premiered at the Donmar Warehouse in 2019). Violet has an intriguing premise; the heroine, Violet, is stuck in a stultifying marriage when time starts to quicken and each day is an hour shorter. I recently met up with Tom, during a break in rehearsals, to find out more.

Having decided 'let's make an opera' there was a question of now what?

Writing an opera has always been an aspiration for Tom. He is from a family of theatre people and has always enjoyed reading plays, and he always wanted to find something where he could get really excited by the words and then set them to music. He first met Alice in 2014 and she sent him some of her plays, then he saw her play Revolt. She said. Revolt again (which premiered at the Royal Shakespeare Company as a part of the Midsummer Mischief Festival in June 2014) and was blown away. They both became excited by the idea of creating an opera, but having decided 'let's make an opera' there was a question of now what?

Tom Coult (Photo Tim Lutton)
Tom Coult (Photo Tim Lutton)

Friday 27 May 2022

Min-Jung Kym's Concert for Ukraine

Min-Jung Kym's Concert for Ukraine
Today (27 May 2022), pianist Min-Jung Kym is releasing a new digital-only charity album on Signum Classics to raise money for the Foundation of France’s Ukraine fund. The album features a live recording of Kym’s Concert for Ukraine which took place in Paris last month, which also raised money for the fund. All revenues from the recording will be donated directly to the Foundation

The programme constitutes a journey across Europe through Germany, Poland and France with music by Bach, Chopin, Schumann and Brahms, before arriving in Ukraine with Mussorgsky’s Great Gate of Kiev from Pictures at an Exhibition.
Streaming details - Link Tree

Young Composers and Young Concert Artists

Adam Possener winner of 19 to 25 years category NCEM Young Composers Award for 2022
Adam Possener winner of 19 to 25 years category NCEM Young Composers Award for 2022

The final of the 15th National Centre for Early Music Young Composers Award took place last week at the National Centre for Early Music (NCEM) in York, whilst the Young Classical Artists Trust (YCAT) held its first public auditions for two years.

The NCEM Young Composers Award for 2022, presented in partnership with BBC Radio 3, was live-streamed on 19 May 2022. The winner in the 19 to 25 years category was Adam Possener with 52°N 20.5° E and the 18 years and under category winner was Christopher Churcher with Arborescent.

Compositions by the young eight finalists at the Awards were played by former BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists Consone Quartet – who specialise in performances with period instruments using gut strings. The programme for the concert also included String Quartet in D, op 71 no.2 by Franz Josef Haydn. 

Christopher Churcher’s Arborescent and Adam Possener’s 52°N 20.5° E will be premiered by the Consone Quartet at Stour Music festival on Friday 24 June 2022 and recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3's Early Music Show.

Full details from the Young Composers Award website

The Young Classical Artists Trust (YCAT) held its first live public auditions finals for two years at Wigmore Hall on 19 May 2022. Eight finalists had been chosen from over 150 applicants and the winner was Israeli clarinet player Jonathan Leibovitz, who is currently completing his studies at the Music Academy in Basel with François Benda, and who will now join the YCAT roster.

Jonathan Leibovitz
Jonathan Leibovitz

Full details from the YCAT website.

Cruel Ecstasy: Exaudi in Gesualdo at Norfolk & Norwich Festival

Carlo Gesualdo
Carlo Gesualdo

Carlo Gesualdo: Madrigals from Books V and VI, Sylvia Lim, Joanna Ward; Exaudi, James Weeks; Norfolk & Norwich Festival at St Andrew's Hall
Reviewed 22 May 2022 by Tony Cooper

Gesualdo madrigals, punctuated by the two fulfilling contemporary works by Sylvia Lim and Joanna Ward, made a perfect programme for Exaudi's Norwich début

Exaudi Vocal Ensemble has been exploring the enigmatic and challenging madrigals of Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa, Count of Conza, for over a decade and, not surprisingly, their 2019 album Gesualdo: Madrigali received rave reviews and awards from around the world for the ‘emotional wisdom and beauty’ of their performance. 

The emotional wisdom and beauty of their performance for this Norfolk & Norwich Festival concert shone through, too, featuring as it did a host of well-loved madrigals from Gesualdo’s Fifth and Sixth Books published in 1611. Basically, they can be seen as musical ‘twins’ concluding with a collection of madrigals by a composer whose boundless invention and creativity was unrestrained by his employer’s demands or to the constraints of courtly convention. In these respective Books, Gesualdo returns to such topical themes as love and rejection, joy and sorrow, life and death, thus creating music which has the power to surprise and enthral the listener.

Musical treats: Richard Jones' production of Saint-Saens' Samson et Dalila fails to convince, but there is much to listen to

Saint-Saens: Samson et Dalila - Royal Opera House (Photo ROH / Clive Barda)
Saint-Saens: Samson et Dalila - Royal Opera House (Photo ROH / Clive Barda)

Saint-Saens: Samson et Dalila: Elīna Garanča, SeokJong Baek, Łukasz Goliński, director Richard Jones, conductor Antonio Pappano; Royal Opera House
Reviewed 26 May 2022, (★★★)

Well worth experiencing for fine performances from the principals, Covent Garden's new production ultimately fails to convince dramatically

The Royal Opera House's decision to replace its 1981 production of Saint-Saens' Samson et Dalila seems somewhat strange given that production's iconic designs by Sir Sidney Nolan. But offering the new production to Richard Jones might seem an interesting way of providing a new slant on Saint-Saens' problematic work. Full of good tunes and moments of drama, the work is extremely static at times and if you don't take the plot at face value then it seems to offer directors few opportunities for imaginative subtext, at least modern productions of the work seem to struggle. Add to this, the fact that Nicky Spence had to withdraw from the production following his accident earlier this year, and you have a number of factors that lent interest to the new production's debut.

Saint-Saens: Samson et Dalila - Elīna Garanča, SeokJong Baek - Royal Opera House (Photo ROH / Clive Barda)
Saint-Saens: Samson et Dalila
Elīna Garanča, SeokJong Baek
Royal Opera House (Photo ROH / Clive Barda)
Saint-Saens' Samson et Dalila opened at the Royal Opera House last night (26 May 2022) directed by Richard Jones and conducted by Antonio Pappano, with Elīna Garanča as Dalila, SeokJong Baek as Samson, and Łukasz Goliński as the High Priest. Sets were by Hyemi Shin and costumes were by Nicky Gillibrand, lighting by Andreas Fuchs and choreography by Lucy Burge.

Designs were clean, spare and abstract so that Hyemi Shin's sets created some intriguing shapes. We were in some sort of totalitarian regime. Nothing was specific, though the Hebrews were clearly a Jewish community in the 20th century and during the prelude, we saw orange clad soldiers terrorising the Hebrew people. This modernisation apart, Jones has kept to the opera's plot but with a couple of extra twists to the dramaturgy. In Act One, Dalila's appearance was alone, not with a chorus of girls (this music is sung by the Hebrew women making offerings of thanks to Samson) and she did a seductive solo, and the production rather worked at setting Dalila apart from the Philistines. Her behaviour in Act Two was partly explained by having the High Priest (here a rather sinister General), show her Abimelech's body whilst at the end of that act, Samson's final cry was not in response to having his hair cut but to seeing the body of his beloved Rabbi (the Old Hebrew in the original).

This all worked and by the interval (after Act Two), thanks to some fine performances, we were hooked and intrigued. Jones' Big Idea for Act Three was to re-run the staging of Act One but with roles reversed and gaudier costumes; the opening scene with Samson mirrored the High Priest's scene, then the lead in to the Bacchanal was the same as Dalila's scene in Act One except this time Dalila was having offerings made to her, and the 'seductive' dance was done by the male dancers and then the whole chorus. At this point, the production lost me. 

Thursday 26 May 2022

Intensely evocative: Arun Ghosh's spiritual jazz re-imagining of St Francis of Assisi's The Canticle of the Sun premieres in Norwich

Arun Ghosh: The Canticle of the Sun; Arun Ghosh, Irini Arabatzi, Seaming To, Camilla George, Ruth Goller, Sarathy Korwar, Huw Bennett, Mieko Shimizu; St Peter Mancroft Church, Norfolk & Norwich Festival
Reviewed, 21 May 2022 by Tony Cooper

The audience didn't want the show to end: Arun Ghosh's eclectic re-imagining of St Francis' sublime and mystical prayer

The splendid 15th-century church of St Peter Mancroft nestling by the side of Norwich’s centuries-old marketplace, proved a perfect setting for Arun Ghosh’s new work, The Canticle of the Sun, a spiritual jazz re-imagining of St Francis of Assisi’s devout and mystical prayer, at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival on 21 May 2022.

Award-winning British-Asian clarinettist, composer, music educator, Arun Ghosh (who grew up in Bolton to first-generation Indian parents) is all over the show when it comes to musical styles as he incorporates in his work a wide range of musical genres from jazz, Indian and western classical to hip-hop, rock and experimental sounds.

His latest work, The Canticle of the Sun (co-commissioned by Sound UK and Norfolk & Norwich Festival) proved an eclectic and electric-driven jazz setting of St Francis of Assisi’s sublime and mystical prayer dating from the 13th century telling of the heavens filled with the glory of God and all creation is shouting for joy!

Wednesday 25 May 2022

Striking music, terrific performances: the modern day premiere of Handel's pasticcio Caio Fabbricio based on music by Hasse

Handel/Hasse: Caio Fabbricio - London Early Opera - Bridget Cunningham
Handel/Hasse: Caio Fabbricio; Anna Harvey, Ildiko Allen, Kieran Rayner, Anna Gorbachyova-Ogilvie, Thalie Knights, Hannah Poulsom, Phoebe Haines, London Early Opera, Bridget Cunningham; St George's Hanover Square
Reviewed 24 May 2022 (★★★★)

One of Handel's pasticcios revived for the first time since the 18th century, giving us a chance to hear some striking music in terrific performances from a young cast.

The 18th century's fondness for operatic pasticcio seems rather strange to us nowadays. We happily accept musical theatre created out of pre-existing songs, but still have too much of the Wagnerian idea of an opera as a sacrosanct work of art. In the 18th century opera was a far more malleable thing. For a start, an impresario in London wishing to put on Hasse's Cajo Fabricio would need access to the score, which generally meant access to the composer. This was Handel's problem in 1733, and his solution was a typically pragmatic 18th century one. Thanks to the traveller Edward Holdsworth (who knew Handel's friend and librettist Charles Jennens), Handel possessed a songbook from Hasse's opera along with the libretto. From these Handel planned to create a new opera, with Hasse's arias, Handel's new recitatives and orchestration.

Thanks to considerable scholarship, the resulting opera Caio Fabbricio received its first performance in modern times on 24 May 2022 at St George's Hanover Square, when Bridget Cunningham directed London Early Opera with soloists Anna Harvey, Ildiko Allen, Kieran Rayner, Anna Gorbachyova-Ogilvie, Thalie Knights, Hannah Poulsom and Phoebe Haines.

Handel premiered Caio Fabbricio in December 1733, the first season of his opera company following the split with the Opera of the Nobility. This split is why Handel was worrying about pasticcios, he had a complete season to present and, unlike previously, there was only him to write the operas (the original Royal Academy of Music had had a team of composers). The London audience liked novelty, and instead of a raft of revivals, Handel chose to create new works from old music; it was quicker and it enabled him to include the soloists' favourite arias as well.

18th century operas were always adjusted to suit the cast, rather than the present method of selecting the cast to suit the opera. Handel did this with his own operas; with Caio Fabbricio he had rather a different line-up of singers to the original, and the resulting work uses 13 of Hasse's 21 arias along with others. What all the composers have in common is that they were from the younger generation of Italian composers of the Neapolitan school, writing arias that were melodic and often simpler than Handel's large-scale structures. This was music the audience could come out humming.

Tuesday 24 May 2022

Three birthday celebrations & more: Anna Tilbrook curates this year's JAM on the Marsh

Paul Patterson
Paul Patterson whose 75th birthday is celebrated at this year's JAM on the Marsh

JAM on the Marsh is back with a full festival of live events in the historic churches of Romney Marsh from 7 to 17 July 2022. Pianist Anna Tilbrook has curated her second JAM on the Marsh festival and performers include Lucy Crowe, James Gilchrist, leaders from the Oslo Philharmonic, VOCES8, Michael Collins with London Mozart Players and the London Tango Quintet.

The festival is celebrating composer Paul Patterson's 75th birthday by performing his The Fifth Continent, a JAM commission from 2005 that evokes the dramatic 20-mile coastal stretch of Romney Marsh. The work is being performed by the Holst Singers, Rebecca Afonwy-Jones (mezzo), Onyx Brass and Simon Hogan (organ).

Other birthdays celebrated include a double celebration for composer Judith Bingham's 70th and clarinettist Michael Collins' 60th, when Collins performs Bingham's Concerto for Clarinet with the London Mozart Players in a concert including Copland's Clarinet Concerto (written in 1950 for Benny Goodman) and music by Debussy and Grieg.

The Fibonacci Quartet is returning to the festival following a sell-out concert at last year's festival and the quartet will be performing in several concerts, working with an array of distinguished artists. Anna Tilbrook will be joining them for an all-Czech concert including music by Mahler, Janacek, Suk, Martinu and a rare performance of the Piano Quartet by London-based Czech composer Karel Janovický.

Full details from the festival website.

Chantez, dansez jeunes bergères

The Vache Baroque Festival, which takes place this year from 2 to 4 September 2022, has launched a new video series celebrating the work of women composers of the Baroque era. The videos will feature performances of music by the English composer (and wife of a baronet) Lady Mary Dering (1629-1704) who studied with Henry Lawes, the Italian composer Lucia Quinciani (c1566, fl 1611) the earliest known published female composer of monody, the Italian composer Francesca Caccini (1587-1641), daughter of a composer, she worked at the Florentine court and wrote the oldest surviving opera by a woman, French composer Julie Pinel (1710-1737), born into a family of composers and who published a collection of songs, English composere Elisabetta de Gambarini (1730-1765), born in England to Italian aristocratic parents, she may have studied with Geminiani, and Chiara Margarita Cozzolani (1602-1676/78), a cloistered nun who wrote music for her convent.

The first video appeared [on YouTube] on Sunday 22 May 2022, soprano Hilary Cronin (winner of the 2021 International Handel Singing Competition) accompanied by Asako Ogawa on harpsichord and Jenny Bullock on viol in Julie Pinel's Chantez, dansez jeunes bergères, and there will be a new video every fortnight until 31 July.

See the festival's YouTube channel for future videos.

Rewarding collaboration, Daniel Pioro and Erland Cooper perform live together for the first time at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival

Daniel Pioro and Erland Cooper
Daniel Pioro and Erland Cooper 

Daniel Pioro, Erland Cooper, Clare O'Connell, Studio Collective - students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow; St Andrew's Hall, Norfolk & Norwich Festival
Reviewed, 17 May 2022 by Tony Cooper

Virtuosic violinist/composer, Daniel Pioro, collaborated with Scottish-born composer Erland Cooper for the first time achieving great success. With Cooper’s sensitive writing and Pioro’s exceptional and gifted playing, the partnership worked extremely well and delivered a striking contemporary work to mark the N&N Festival’s 250th anniversary

A major attraction for the Norfolk & Norwich Festival, virtuosic violinist, Daniel Pioro (artist-in-residence at London’s Southbank Centre) was joined by composer/pianist Erland Cooper, cellist Clare O'Connell and Studio Collective, a group of students and former students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow for an evening of Cooper's music. 

Daniel Pioro happens to be more than just a soloist. He’s a collaborative artist, too, and engages in finding new ways of performing and creating sound in a multitude of different ways. And to help in this respect and to achieve the right balance and ambience for his concert at the N&N Festival, he abandoned the traditional stage of St Andrew’s Hall for a circular-shaped performance area in the stalls with members of the audience seated tightly round it. This new configuration worked well bringing performers close to the audience and vice versa thereby adding an extra dimension and, indeed, pleasure to the overall performance.

Such an accomplished musician, Daniel Pioro, made his Norwich début in August 2021 at an Assembly House lunchtime concert curated by Roger Rowe accompanied by cellist, Clare O’Connell. Two years previous, he made a stunning début at the BBC Proms premièring Jonny Greenwood violin concerto Horror vacui (a fear or dislike of leaving empty spaces) with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Hugh Brunt. His performance was highly praised by the BBC as ‘the ultimate display of musical virtuosity’ and the composer commented that ‘Daniel Pioro’s playing is the sound in my head when I write for the violin’. Praise, indeed!

Monday 23 May 2022

Presteigne Festival 2022


This year's Presteigne Festival, artistic director George Vass, celebrates not only RVW's 150th anniversary but the festival's own 40th birthday. Running from 25 to 30 August 2022, the festival  is based in the Welsh Marches in the town of Presteigne / Llanandras. This year it features a selection of RVW's works including the Violin Concerto in D minor performed at the festival closing concert by violinist Benjamin Nabarro and the Festival Orchestra, conducted by George Vass.

This year's composer in residence is Julian Philips and alongside a retrospective of Philips' works there is the Welsh premiere of Looking West, a major new concert-theatre work performed by Rebecca Bottone soprano, Rebecca Afonwy-Jones mezzo, Alexander Knox actor, Nova Music Opera Ensemble, George Vass conductor.

Alongside this there is a fine selection new works by Cheryl Frances-Hoad, David Matthews, Tarik O’Regan, Aileen Sweeney, Huw Watkins and 2022 Royal Philharmonic Society Young Composer, Rylan Gleave, plus commissions from Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade and Sarah Frances Jenkins, artists currently supported by the Presteigne Festival’s ‘Evolve’ and ‘Emerge’ composer mentoring schemes.

Alongside this new music, there are works by Bach, Beethoven, Elgar, Fauré, Hindemith, Ireland, Ravel, Schoenberg, Schubert, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, and Walton, plus cabaret, spoken word, exhibitions and more.

Full details from the festival website.

High Barnet Chamber Music Festival

Mad Song performing at last year’s High Barnet Chamber Music Festival, Anita Monserrat singing (photo Ruari Paterson-Achenbach)
Mad Song performing at last year’s High Barnet Chamber Music Festival, Anita Monserrat singing (photo Ruari Paterson-Achenbach)

After last year's inaugural festival, High Barnet Chamber Music Festival returns in July 2022 for its second edition under artistic director Joshua Ballance. The concert series was set up to provide a platform for young professional musicians and to stimulate arts and music education in North London and Hertfordshire, while embracing diverse and adventurous programming. The organisation also offers music education opportunities, including masterclasses and a work experience scheme for local students.

The festival opens on 2 July 2022 with the New London Orchestra performing music by Ailsa Dixon and Schoenberg, plus Benjamin Britten's Serenade for tenor, horn and strings with Annemarie Federle (horn) and Brenton Spiteri (tenor). Other concerts include the Echéa Quartet in Elisabeth Lutyens' String Quartet No. 6 plus quartets by Bartok and Mendelssohn, the ensemble Mad Song in music by Mazzoli, Saariaho, Tower, Causton, Monk Feldman, and Reich, and the festival ends on 17 July with cellist Ben Tarlton and pianist Robin Green in sonatas by Beethoven and Rachmaninov, plus Nadia Boulanger's Three Pieces for Cello and Piano.

Full details from the festival website.

The Wreckers returns: Glyndebourne's vividly dramatic new production of Ethel Smyth's opera

Smyth: The Wreckers - Karis Tucker - Glyndebourne Opera (Photo Richard Hubert Smith)
Smyth: The Wreckers - Karis Tucker - Glyndebourne (Photo Richard Hubert Smith)

Ethel Smyth: The Wreckers; Karis Tucker, Rodrigo Porras Garrulo, Philip Horst, Lauren Fagan, dir: Melly Still, cond: Robin Ticciati, London Philharmonic Orchestra; Glyndebourne
Reviewed 21 May 2022 (★★★★★)

A wonderfully vivid production of Smyth's rarely performed opera reveals it to be a remarkably taut and powerful drama

First, a little background. Ethel Smyth wrote The Wreckers in 1906 and it premiered in Leipzig in German, the year after Strauss' Salome premiered and two years after Puccini's Madam Butterfly. It would be another 40 years before Britten's first major success, Peter Grimes was premiered. The only other major English opera composer of the time, Stanford, had had his Much Ado About Nothing performed at Covent Garden in 1901 when it received just two performances; Stanford regarded his operas as an important part of his output but despite his standing, he struggled to get English performances.

So, The Wreckers would be an achievement by a long chalk, but unfortunately the work has had a spattered history. Smyth was very much a European, trained in Leipzig her friends were all Europeans and her early career was all in Continental Europe. When the Great War started in 1914, she had three major productions of her operas in progress or planned. At a stroke her European career was over, and she never wrote another large scale opera. The Wreckers, marooned in England with an inferior English libretto rather struggled. Warwick University's performance in 1983, directed by Graham Vick, remains a vivid memory for me but subsequent encounters with the opera have been more mixed. Duchy Opera very sensibly commissioned a revised English libretto from Amanda Holden, yet still the opera languished.

Glyndebourne announced Smyth's The Wreckers for 2020, and thankfully the company has kept faith and Melly Still's production of the opera opened Glyndebourne's 2022 season on Saturday 21 May 2022. The work was performed in a new edition which returned it to Smyth's original manuscript, and used Henry Brewster's original French libretto. Karis Tucker was Thurza (Thirza), Rodrigo Porras Garulo was Marc, Philip Horst was Pasko, Lauren Fagan was Avis with Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts, Marta Fontanals-Simmons, Donovan Singletary, and James Rutherford. Designs were by Ana Ines Jabares-Pita, choreography by Mike Ashcroft, lighting by Malcolm Rippeth, and video by Akhila Krishnan. Robin Ticciati conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Smyth: The Wreckers - Glyndebourne Opera (Photo Richard Hubert Smith)
Smyth: The Wreckers - Glyndebourne (Photo Richard Hubert Smith)

Rather than performing the work from the published full score which is based on the cuts Smyth made for the first English performance, the edition used returned to Smyth's original score. This was published as a vocal score in Germany in 1906/07, but the sole full score that seems to survive has been marked up with the cuts for the English premiere including some pages removed, so Tom Poster has recreated Smyth's orchestrations for these.

Sunday 22 May 2022

Blow's Venus & Adonis and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas from HGO

Purcell: Dido & Aeneas - Katey Rylands, Sonny Fielding - HGO (Photo  Laurent Compagnon)
Purcell: Dido & Aeneas - Katey Rylands, Sonny Fielding - HGO (Photo  Laurent Compagnon)

Blow: Venus & Adonis, Purcell: Dido & Aeneas; Elizabeth Green, Conall O'Neill, Ralph Thomas Williams, Katey Rylands, Sonny Fielding, Julia Surette, Helen Cooke, dir: Jessica Dalton, cond: Seb Gillot; HGO at the Cockpit

An imaginative updating of the two 17th century English classics with a very fine young cast.

Henry Purcell was John Blow's pupil and the two were friends as well as colleagues. It has long been accepted that Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas was influenced by Blow's Venus and Adonis. The two works being the earliest surviving English language operas, as well as some of the greatest. Recent scholarship has shown other intriguing links between them. Venus and Adonis was written for performance at the court of King Charles II, whilst the only known performance of Dido and Aeneas was at Josiah Priest's school for young ladies in Chelsea. It has long been postulated that there was an earlier grander performance of Dido and Aeneas, and we now know that Venus and Adonis was also performed at Josiah Priest's school, suggesting clear links between court performance and the school. 

These experiments in English opera seem not to have been a great success, we have to wait until the early 18th century for further major English works. Blow wrote no more opera, and Purcell's other large-scale stage work are in the awkward semi-opera vein. Whilst the two works might seem an obvious double bill, they are rarely played together.

Blow: Venus & Adonis - Elizabeth Green, Conall O'Neill - HGO (Photo  Laurent Compagnon)

It was a delight to find HGO performing Blow's Venus and Adonis and Purcell's Dido and Aeneas as a double bill at the Cockpit and we caught the opening night on 20 May 2022. Both operas were directed and designed by Jessica Dalton and directed from the harpsichord by Seb Gillot. Elizabeth Green and Conall O'Neill were Venus and Adonis with Ralph Thomas Williams as Cupid. Katey Rylands and Sonny Fielding were Dido and Aeneas with Julia Surette as Belinda and Helena Cooke as the Sorceress.

Saturday 21 May 2022

Rediscovering the joys of playing together: Noemi Gyori & Gergely Madaras their disc of flute duets

Noemi Gyori and Gergely Madaras (Photo Benjamin Ealovega)
Noemi Gyori and Gergely Madaras (Photo Benjamin Ealovega)

Gergely Madaras is best known as a conductor (he is music director of Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège, and was the inaugural Sir Charles Mackerras Fellow at English National Opera), but he originally studied the flute and for many years had a duo partnership with the flautist Noemi Gyori, who happens to be his wife.  Noemi is an international recitalist, the first flautist to hold a PhD from the Royal Academy of Music; she teaches at the Royal Northern College of Music and the University of Manchester, while being principal flute of the Jewish Chamber Orchestra in Munich. 

The two have returned to playing the flute together and with pianist Alexander Ullman have recently issued a disc of music for two flutes by the Doppler brothers (Karl and Franz) and Friedrich Kuhlau on the Rubicon label. I recently met up with Gergely and Noemi by Zoom to discuss the importance of the Dopplers to flautists, rediscovering the joy of playing together again during lockdown, and how they balance their musical life with married life.

Franz Doppler by Ágost Elek Canzi (1853)
Franz Doppler by Ágost Elek Canzi (1853)
Whilst their names were barely known to me, flautists everywhere will know the Dopplers' names. Franz Doppler (1821-1883) and Karl Doppler (1825-1900) were multi-talented Hungarian brothers, flautists, conductors and arrangers. Their importance in the flute repertoire is that as composers they were able to showcase the brilliance of the instrument in the same way that Liszt did for the piano and Paganini did for the violin. The Dopplers showed that the flute could be as scene-stealing as the violin and was capable of being an equal partner to the piano. Gergely and Noemi have enjoyed playing this repertoire together for over 20 years. They find it uplifting and rewarding, and it helps that the Dopplers' use of traditional Hungarian melodies meant that they find a strong connection with the music and wanted to share it, and the sound of two flutes playing brilliantly together can be exciting. 

The idea of two flutes playing together was common during the Baroque era (where they would be joined by continuo instruments), but the prominence of the Dopplers' music for flute comes partly from the way the instrument seemed to drift out of fashion. There is plenty of flute repertoire from Quantz, WF Bach and CPE Bach right through to Mozart and his contemporaries, and there are even arrangements of music from Mozart's operas for two flutes! But then there is a chunk of repertoire missing. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the flute did not develop as quickly as other instruments and seemed to fall out of favour as a Romantic instrument. Theobald Boehm developed his flute in 1847, a design that radically altered the technical capability of the instrument and increased its volume too but which changed the fingerings and a lot of players were initially reluctant to switch. So, though the Baroque flute was a leading instrument of the day, Noemi feels that this lack of classical and early Romantic repertoire means that flautists today are constantly trying to prove that the instrument is as creative, meaningful and profound as solo instruments such as the violin or the clarinet (for her doctoral research, Noemi looked at the idea of redefining her instrument through newly created transcriptions of keyboard masterworks from the classical era).

Friday 20 May 2022

Afghan music, Stravinsky on the pianola, live-stream collaborations: Spitalfields Music's 2022 festival features over 20 London and world premieres

Spitalfields Music's 2022 festival (30 June to 13 July 2022)

Spitalfields Music's 2022 festival (30 June to 13 July 2022), curated by chief executive Sarah Gee, celebrates the power of music to transcend culture, communities, languages and borders at a time when global unity is urgently needed, with performances combining different styles, artforms and genres to demonstrate the extensive range and resilience of classical music.

Co-curated with conductor Cayenna Ponchione-Bailey and Afghan pianist and composer Arson Fahim, Spitalfields Music has commissioned Afghan musicians in exile or hiding to write new compositions and create arrangements of Afghan traditional songs which will be performed by a chamber orchestra of instruments from Afghanistan and the Western classical music tradition. The UK's first women and non-binary orchestra Her Ensemble performs music from Barbara Strozzi to Dobrinka Tabakova. 

Voice trio celebrate the legacy of Hildegard of Bingen, juxtaposing her music with new works by Stevie Wishart, Marcus Davison, Emily Levy, Tim Young and Laura Moody. There is a rare chance to hear Biber’s virtuosic Mystery Sonatas played on baroque violin by Kazakh violinist Aisha Orazbayeva, whilst a talk from Professor James Sparks on Bach's mathematical genius, illustrated by a performance of the Goldberg Variations by City of London Sinfonia, pays homage to The Spitalfields Mathematical Society - a working men’s club founded in 1717. There will also be a chance to hear Stravinsky's Rite of Spring on pianola, performed by Rex Lawson

George Parris and The Carice Singer celebrate RVW's 150th anniversary with a performance of the Mass in G minor alongside the London premieres of works by James Batty, Michele Deiana, Will Harmer, Electra Perivolaris, Claire Victoria Roberts and Aileen Sweeney, as part of Spitalfields Music and Cheltenham Music Festival’s ongoing partnership. Composer and clarinettist Arun Ghosh presents the London premiere of his St Francis of Assisi-inspired Canticle of the Sun, Inner City Brass give the premiere of a new work by composer, trombonist and big band arranger Callum Au, and composer Neil Luck and filmmaker Hydar Dewachi are collaborating on the premiere of The Melting Ceremony. Soprano Juliet Fraser will collaborate with the Talea Ensemble live streamed directly from New York City to premiere Laura Bowler's Distance. George Barton, Siwan Rhys and Mira Benjamin will perform a concert celebrating composer Barbara Monk Feldman’s minimalist masterpieces.

The festival ends with a concert from Voces8 alongside the TUKS Camerata, a student choir from the University of Pretoria.

Full details from the festival website.

Magical places: Sam Cave's Refracted Resonance explores contemporary music for classical guitar

Refracted Resonance: Tristan Murail, George Holloway, Christopher Fox, Horaţiu Rădulescu, Sam Cave; Sam Cave; Metier

Refracted Resonance:
Tristan Murail, George Holloway, Christopher Fox, Horaţiu Rădulescu, Sam Cave; Sam Cave; Metier
(★★★★½) Reviewed 18 May 2022

A rather magical disc in which classical guitarist and composer Sam Cave presents music by five contemporary composers that takes the guitar to some evocative and aetherial places

This disc from guitarist Sam Cave, Refracted Resonance on metier, features six contemporary works for classical guitar, each of which explores, in a different way, the possibilities of sound and texture that the instrument can offer. So we have Tristan Murail's Tellur, George Holloway's Guitar Sonata and Second Guitar Sonata, Christopher Fox's Chile, Horaţiu Rădulescu's Subconscious Wave and Sam Cave's own Refracted Meditations III.

Cave begins his introductory note in the CD booklet with a quotation from Julian Bream, made in a 1976 BBC documentary, "…plucked sound has a remarkable quality because the actual pluck is the apex of the sound, and thereafter it dies, and if you are playing a phrase of six or seven notes you are actually dealing with six or seven births and six or seven deaths….the excitement is also in the space between the notes and therein lies the poetry of plucked sound…". And it is this concept, these concepts that are embodied in much of the music here.

Thursday 19 May 2022

Lewes Chamber Music Festival

Lewes Chamber Music Festival 2022
Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, the Lewes Chamber Music Festival brings together a group of musicians to perform chamber music at a variety of venues in Lewes over a weekend, this year from 9 to 11 June 2022. 

For its artists, the festival brings together a mixture of professional musicians, those at the start of their career, and several who may still be studying, and this year's line up is Beatrice Philips - violin and Artistic Director, Bengt Forsberg - piano, Adam Newman - viola, Alasdair Beatson - piano, Bogdan Božović - violin, Amy Norrington - cello, Lilli Maijala - viola, Vashti Hunter - cello, Tim Crawford - violin, Hannah Sloane - cello, Matt Hunt - clarinet, Mary Bevan - soprano, Hannah Shaw - viola, Venetia Jollands - violin, and the Eusebius Quartet. 

And the programme mixes the well-known and the lesser known so that alongside Elgar's Quartet and Piano Quintet there is Enescu's Octet and his Toccata from his Suite, plus Beethoven, Schubert including the Notturno, Quintet in C major, Brahms' Clarinet Quintet, and Fauré alongside music by Chausson, Lili Boulanger, Zemlinsky, Berg, Bliss, Kate Whitley and Jorg Widmann. And lots else besides.

Full details from the festival website.

Shining Shore: The Music of Early America

Shining Shore: The Music of Early America; Three Notch'd Road: The Virginia Baroque Ensemble
Shining Shore: The Music of Early America; Three Notch'd Road: The Virginia Baroque Ensemble
Reviewed 17 May 2022 (★★★★)

A delightful disc that explores the music of early America with its mixed and varied influences from songs from Vauxhall to shape-note singing

This lovely disc takes you to a world that is at once strange yet familiar. Three Notch'd Road: The Virginia Baroque Ensemble, performs the music of early America on Shining Shore. The disc features Steuart Pincombe (baroque cello), Michelle Pincombe (soprano), Peter Walker (vocalist, English guitar, cittern, Appalachian dulcimer, harp), Dominic Giardino (historical clarinet) and Fiona Hughes (artistic director, baroque violin, alto, harp) in music by Purcell, Handel, Jeremiah Ingalls, Thomas Baltzar, T. Ravenscroft, A Davisson, Oliver Shaw, Charles Thomas Carter, William Walker, and George Frederic Root. Some will be familiar names, but many will not.

Named for a colonial route through central Virginia, Three Notch’d Road: The Virginia Baroque Ensemble specializes in the performance of historical repertoires from both sides of the Atlantic. Shining Shore explores the group's own Virginia heritage, presenting music from the 17th to the 19th centuries that might have been heard in Virginia. In the booklet note they say that their purpose in making this recording was "to open to the listener beauties of a time and place far from our own, both strange and strangely familiar. " And of course, making the disc in 2020 meant that "these songs’ texts about mortality and hope held a deep significance for us."

Three Notch'd Road: The Virginia Baroque Ensemble
Three Notch'd Road: The Virginia Baroque Ensemble

Classical music meets video art

Micro-concerts - Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg, conducted by Kent Nagano

Micro concerts - an initiative of Kent Nagano in cooperation with the Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg and Staatsoper Hamburg. Tony Cooper reports

A series of micro concerts by the Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg, conducted by Kent Nagano, explored new ways and methods of listening to music at the time of the world pandemic through video technology. Therefore, in cooperation with a team of international video artists, a cycle of five audio-visual concerts responded to the times of the crisis. Originally streamed by Radio France, the videos have now become available for on-line viewing on the channels of the Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg and Staatsoper Hamburg.

Classical concert music and video art usually have few points of contact as visual broadcasts of orchestral concerts usually opt for a documentary format, the camera following the flow of the music showing performers, instruments and so forth in stark contrast to video technology in pop music which has enjoyed decades of evolution producing its own aesthetic forms. Therefore, in five compact micro concerts, each one lasting about 30 minutes, Kent Nagano, in association with Georges Delnon and the Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg, have fused classical music and contemporary video art corresponding to the phases of the world pandemic over the past couple of years.

A formidable team of international video artists, chosen by Georges Delnon (artistic director of the Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg and Staatsoper Hamburg) undertook the detailed task of visualising the programmes. The artists comprised Luis August Krawen, Jonas Englert, Zbig Rybczyński & Dorota Zglobicka, Kamila B. Richter & Michael Bielicky and Virgil Widrich. ‘We didn’t want to produce the nth streamed concerts,’ said Kent Nagano, ‘but offer viewers new images, leaving space for associative imagination’ while Georges Delnon, describing the project’s visual concept, had this to say: ‘Elements include avatars such as an animated Kent Nagano, distorted footage of the orchestra, webcam recordings and ‘‘found footage’’ thereby lending some of the music a completely new horizon for listeners and viewers alike.’

For Kent Nagano, the project was (and remains) close to his heart and it offered a chance to emphasise how important, relevant and necessary music can be in times of crisis: ‘The micro concerts are a kind of musical UFO,’ explained Maestro Nagano, ‘not resembling any known project. Each concert transports a message and tells a story showing how deeply music is rooted in society today, a special project, modern in structure and form, that could only have happened during the pandemic. In fact, the visualisation makes each micro concert a real creation.’

Overall, there was a total of 25 works recorded including music by Widmann, Schumann, Beethoven, Bach, Villa-Lobos, Dutilleux and Xenakis. Kent Nagano and the Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg were joined by such international performers as Klaus Florian Vogt who sang Mahler’s ‘Von der Jugend’ while Katharina Konradi, Jana Kurucová and Georg Nigl interpreted Ligeti’s avant-garde work ‘Nouvelles aventures’. Members of Staatsoper Hamburg comprised Hellen Kwon, Gabriele Rossmanith, Kristina Stanek, Kady Evanyshyn and Bernhard Hansky sang works by Bartók and Schoenberg while invited ensembles - Harvestehuder Kammerchor Hamburg and Rundfunkchor Berlin - were heard in pieces by Brahms and Schoenberg.

The micro concerts are available on-line (on demand) to 22 October 2022 via the orchestra's website, their YouTube channel, and the France Musique website.

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