Tuesday 15 November 2022

'Followed by Reynaldo Hahn singing on his barque with a piano, as it floated down the canal' - St John's Smith Square evokes the Belle Époque with its new festival

Reynaldo Hahn in 1906
Reynaldo Hahn in 1906
St John's Smith Square is planning a festival exploring the rich diet of late-19th and early-20th century music. Its Belle Époque Festival from 24 to 27 November 2022 will feature performances from Véronique Gens and Southbank Sinfonia.

Soprano Véronique Gens and pianist Susan Manoff will be presenting An evening with Reynaldo Hahn, showcasing the songs and piano music of the Peruvian-born French composer whose music embodies the Belle Époque. Gens will also be giving a masterclass, working with students from the Royal College of Music.

The festival is opened by Southbank Sinfonia, conducted by Anna Sułkowska-Migoń, an exciting young Polish conductor who won first prize at La Maestra Conducting Competition in March 2022, in a programme that mixes music by Hahn with Louise Farrenc’s Symphony No. 3.

Former St John’s Smith Square Young Artist Mathilde Milwidsky (violin) returns to explore the influence of Pauline Viardot and her salon in The Viardot Connection with William Howard (piano), Marie-Laure Garnier (soprano) and Célia Oneto Bensaid (piano) in a programme that pairs Viardot's own music with that of musicians who came to her salon including Hahn and Faure.

Quatuor Mona, a string quartet founded in 2018 at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris, will play rarely performed chamber works by Hahn with pianist William Howard, whilst the festival concludes with Garnier, Howard and Celia Oneto Bensaid performing a programme of songs by Faure and Hahn on the twinned themes of Venice & Versailles inspired by an event at Versailles in 1908 to celebrate Faure's appointment as director of the Paris Conservatoire. The gardens were the setting for a performance of Faure's music, including the Pavane, then there was al fresco fine dining before the guests embarked upon a fleet of Venetian-style gondolas, when a hidden orchestra played music including excerpts from Fauré’s Shylock, followed by Reynaldo Hahn singing on his barque with a piano, as it floated down the canal!

Festival Curator, Beverley Vong comments, "When putting together the Belle Époque Festival, I was aware of how today's audiences will be familiar with Reynaldo Hahn's songs, 'A Chloris' in particular is a favourite in the recital hall. In reality, Hahn's output spans a huge variety of genres and this festival at St John's Smith Square gives an exciting insight into the significance of his output. Other composers feature as well, taking inspiration from Hahn's career and relations throughout his life: from Bach to Mozart, Faure to Pauline Viardot, the concerts offer an eclectic mix of song, piano music, and chamber music."

Full details from the St John's Smith Square website.

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