Tuesday 31 October 2023

Engaging & involving: Christophe Rousset & Les Talens Lyriques release Thésée as their 12th Lully opera album

Lully: Thésée; Mathias Vidal, Karine Deshayes, Deborah Cachet, Philippe Estephe, Benedicte Tauran, Les Talens Lyriques, Christophe Rousset; Aparté
Lully: Thésée; Mathias Vidal, Karine Deshayes, Deborah Cachet, Philippe Estephe, Benedicte Tauran, Les Talens Lyriques, Christophe Rousset; Aparté 

One of Quinault's finest librettos and some of Lully's most varied and imaginative music in a performance that is wonderfully responsive and stylish, with a natural flow and elegance to the drama

Lully and Quinault's Thésée was the third of their tragédie en musique, and it has particular significance in that it was the first such to be supported by King Louis XIV. Thésée was presented as part of the Carnival celebrations at court in 1675, its premiere delayed so that it could also be a celebration of the French victory at Turckheim in the war with the Dutch Republic. Following the premiere, at the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, it went on to have 18 more performances before being given in Paris in April 1675 and there were regular performances during the later 1670s with revivals continuing throughout the 18th century, though for the later revivals the score and libretto were adjusted for modern taste. Quinault's libretto, one of his finest, was used as the basis for Handel's Italian opera, Teseo premiered in London in 1713.

As part of their continuing exploration of Lully's operas, Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques have recorded Lully's Thésée (their 12th Lully opera album)on the Aparté label with Mathias Vidal as Thésée, Karine Deshayes as Médée, Deborah Cachet as Églé, Philippe Estephe as Égée and Benedicte Tauran as Minerve.

Masque of Vengeance: a sleazy new opera in London & Manchester

Masque of Vengeance:  a sleazy new opera in London & Manchester
The Music Troupe is giving the first performances of Edward Lambert's opera Masque of Vengeance, adapted from The Revenger's Tragedy (Thomas Middleton 1606) which depicts the violent lust for sex and power in a dystopian, criminal regime but does so with a witty and sardonic irony. The 80-minute chamber opera for nine singers accompanied by piano duet was specially written to give the impression of a 'grand' opera in a small theatre.

Masque of Vengeance is an attempt to emulate Italian opera in which the voices are pre-eminent. In a throwback to an old tradition, Vindicio, the revenger, is a young man played by a female mezzo-soprano. There are set pieces of arias and ensembles and the work has the feel of a fast-moving noir as the plots and sub-plots play out. 

Political manoeuvres in Jacobean times were tumultuous (e.g. the Gunpowder Plot of 1605) and Thomas Middleton's play casts a cynical eye over the amorality of powerful dynasties coupled with the politics of gender. David Edwards, directing, has updated the setting to the modern-day. 

This is The Music Troupe's latest offering to bring the art of ‘beautiful singing’ to new musical dramas which are tailored, rather than trimmed, to an intimate experience. Large institutions take an enormous risk in producing new operas, so they're as rare as hen's teeth. The standard repertory has shrunk to the dozen or two works that can attract an audience. How can this state of affairs be sustained? What other art form comprises such a small number of 'classic' favourites? Opera is clearly capable of infinite variation and renewal so surely new opera should be 'out there'? At the very least, small-scale works can be accessible, economical and suited to all kinds of venues.

Masque of Vengeance is at The Cockpit in London from 7 to 9 November 2023 [further details] and at The Stoller Hall, Manchester on 12 November 2023 [further details]

Quartet: How Four Women Changed the Musical World - violinist Fenella Humphreys introduces her programme of important but neglected figures of 20th century music

Leah Broad & Fenella Humphreys (Photo: Alejandro Tamagno)
Leah Broad & Fenella Humphreys (Photo: Alejandro Tamagno)

On Sunday 5 November 2023, violinist Fenella Humphreys joins forces with author Leah Broad and pianist Nicola Eimer at Milton Court Concert Hall to explore some of the most important but neglected figures of 20th century music. Quartet: How Four Women Changed the Musical World features music by Doreen Carwithen, one of Britain’s first women film composers, Rebecca Clarke, acclaimed for her musical experimentation, Dorothy Howell, a prodigy who shot to fame at the Proms, and Ethel Smyth, a highly versatile composer of exceptional quality.

Here, Fenella Humphreys explores her introduction to the composers and their music.

When I was about eight or nine years old I was given Lili Boulanger’s Nocturne to learn. It was a genuine life-changer - I hadn’t realised until then just how music could make you feel, and it definitely made me want to become a musician.

It was only years later that it occurred to me how unusual it was that it was written by a woman. I look back at the music I played and sang as a child, and I barely remember any that wasn’t written by a fairly narrow group of men.

Once I started playing more new music I often played works by living women. With older repertoire though, led by my teachers on choices women simply weren’t included and it was so ingrained I didn’t even question it. 

After college, I started exploring music that wasn’t often played and gradually started finding more and more musically underrepresented groups (women, people of other ethnicities, people with the ‘wrong’ political ideologies etc.) who had simply disappeared or been written out of history. There was an attitude that if their music hadn’t survived it meant it simply wasn’t as ‘good’ as works that had, but the more of this music I played, the more really good music I was finding. The argument just didn’t hold water. But often getting hold of the sheet music was a real problem where works had fallen out of print and there was no estate fighting for the music.

I carry on searching out scores and composers - sometimes you’ll find things in charity shops, trawling through early proms programmes, finding old LPs - you never know what will pop up. And because I’ve recorded a few works that aren’t so well known, I now get sent music by families of composers which I always do my best to perform. Finding the funding to record can be more problematic but it feels so important where music is good, to make sure it doesn’t just disappear into the mists of time.

One place I knew I was always sure to find out about composers I didn’t know was Leah Broad’s social media. Eventually last year we met in real life at a festival celebrating the 100th anniversary of composer Doreen Carwithen. We decided it would be a great idea to collaborate. Looking through the lists of composers and repertoire that she’d researched I just couldn’t believe how much music and composers there still were out there I’d never come across.

We had a few ideas for programming and other ways we could collaborate outside the concert hall, but decided to start off with a words and music performance based around the four composers in Leah’s new book, Quartet - Ethel Smyth (1858-1940, Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979), Dorothy Howell (1898-1982) and Doreen Carwithen (1922-2003). Each of them had written a sonata for violin and piano, and some had written more.

I already knew Doreen Carwithen’s Sonata through the good luck of having been asked by the William Alwyn Foundation (Alwyn was Doreen Carwithen’s husband) to perform and record it a few years ago. It’s an extraordinary work: bold, imaginative, well crafted and full of colour.

I was properly shocked when I found Ethel Smyth had written a sonata - I felt sure I’d have heard of a major work by someone that well known. But I hadn’t and it was a revelation when I started to get to know it. It was written in 1887, fairly early in her career when she was in her late 20s. The music is definitely influenced by Brahms and the the music she was hearing around her in Leipzig but again full of personality and passion. Fortunately it was still in print so at least it was easy enough to get hold of.

With Rebecca Clarke I had learnt her viola sonata which absolutely is core repertoire but hadn’t been aware of the violin music until fairly recently. I’d been asked to include her Midsummer Moon in a programme, and kept programming it elsewhere because it’s such special music. It’s one of those pieces that people always single out in a programme when they come to talk to you after a concert. With the two sonatas though, written much earlier, when I first started looking for the music I was worried we were going to have some proper work to do to find them. But by incredible good luck, just then Sleepy Puppy Press announced publication of new editions of both works. 

Dorothy Howell was the one composer of the four I didn’t know at all as we started - and she’s now possibly the one I love most. As a very young woman, her career started illustriously with Proms commissions and premieres - she was the talk of the town. But as writing styles around her changed and hers didn’t, she became less and less performed. We’re indebted to her niece and nephew who saved all her scores when, late in her life she felt nobody was interested in her music and was intent on burning it all. One of her works is available on IMSLP, and Schott are about to republish a couple of others that were out of print. However The Moorings and her Sonata which we wanted to include in the programme were both very much out of print. Leah asked around and eventually we found that alongside the copy of the sonata in the British Library there was one in another library. But it had been out on loan for a very long time. After some increasingly desperate messages back and forth it was returned and our programme was nearly complete. Just The Moorings was missing. After a good amount of detective work, Leah managed to get her hands on a slightly wobbly photo of the score off the black market somewhere. I re-typeset it and we were good to go. 

It’s been a wonderful time getting to know these composers and their music - and their stories through Leah’s brilliant narration. The plan is to extend these programmes to bring more composers’ lives and stories to light. In the meantime we can’t wait to perform the current programme of extraordinary music and stories at Barbican on 5th November at 4pm.

Violinist Fenella Humphreys is joined by pianist Nicola Eimer and narrator Leah Broad for Quartet: How Four Women Changed the Musical World at Milton Court Concert Hall on Sunday 5 November 2023, featuring music by Ethel Smyth, Doreen Carwithen, Rebecca Clarke, Dorothy Howell.

full details from the Barbican website.

Monday 30 October 2023

Bridging the gap: built with the largest single private donation to a state school & receiving no public funding, Saffron Hall celebrates ten years of artistic achievement & community engagement

Saffron Hall's Weekend of celebratory events, 1 – 3 December 2023

Saffron Hall is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a weekend of celebratory events. The hall opened on 30 November 2013 with a season of just 12 concerts and from 1-3 December 2023 there is a whole range of celebratory events from jazz and soul, to Harry Bickett conducting the English Concert in Handel's Rodelinda, to Jess Gillam and the Britten Sinfonia, to sessions and workshops for children and families.

Located within the grounds of Saffron Walden County High School, the hall was built with the largest single private donation to a state school. Whilst the East of England region receives less arts funding compared to other parts of the UK, and Saffron Hall Trust receives no public funding, it has bridged the gap, offering performing arts and music to the local community and the entire region. Through broadening its programme, empowering and supporting amateur groups, establishing the region’s largest Saturday music school, reaching primary and secondary schools throughout the area and delivering flagship work for people living with dementia and their carers, Saffron Hall ensures that everyone has a chance to take part, engage, and experience arts and music that move, inspire, and connect.

From those initial 12 events, the hall now boasts a world-class music programme that includes two Resident Orchestras – London Philharmonic Orchestra and Britten Sinfonia – and presents around 125 events a year, spanning classical, fully staged opera, folk, big band, brass band, swing, jazz. As the only concert hall in Essex, it has seen exceptional audience growth and last year welcomed over 45,000 audience members, whilst over the past decade the hall has reached nearly 50,000 people through its education programmes.

Full details from the hall's website.

Celebrating their roots: Academy of St Martin in the Fields anniversary events for Sir Neville Marriner's centenary

Sir Neville Marriner in rehearsal with Academy of St Martin in the Fields & Los Romeros guitar quartet (Photo: Mike Evans)
Sir Neville Marriner in rehearsal with Academy of St Martin in the Fields & Los Romeros guitar quartet (Photo: Mike Evans)

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields (ASMF) will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of its founder Sir Neville Marriner (15 April 1924 – 2 October 2016) with a series of events during April 2024 as part of its 2023/24 season with new music by Errollyn Wallen and Vince Mendoza, contributions from ASMF music director, violinist Joshua Bell, conductor and former ASMF flautist Jaime Martin and jazz drummer Douglas Marriner, plus an exhibition commemorating and celebrating Sir Neville’s life and career in the St Martin-in-the-Fields crypt.

The orchestra returns to its spiritual home, St Martin-in-the-Fields, for a celebratory concert on 15 April 2024 when Joshua Bell, Jaime Martin and ASMF leader Tomo Keller share directing the orchestra in a programme that includes an Errollyn Wallen premiere plus music by Handel, Hadyn, Mozart, and Vaughan Williams. The following day, 16 April 2024, Joshua Bell joins the ASMF Chamber Ensemble for Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-Flat Major, Op.20 and Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night), Op.4.

On 18 April 2024, there is a gala concert at the Royal Festival Hall featuring excerpts from the soundtrack to Academy Award winning film Amadeus, which celebrates 40 years since its release in September 2024. Alongside this there will be the European premiere of a work by Grammy Award-winning composer Vince Mendoza, for orchestra, violin and jazz drum kit, performed by ASMF, Joshua Bell and Douglas Marriner, Sir Neville’s grandson. The orchestra also travels to Lincoln for a concert on 24 April, celebrating that fact that Sir Neville was born in the city. 

Full details from the ASMF website.

Music of Innocence: Arvo Pärt, Mozart & Mahler from the Northern Chamber Orchestra

Music of Innocence: Arvo Pärt, Mozart & Mahler from the Northern Chamber Orchestra
The Northern Chamber Orchestra's (NCO)Autumn season continues at The King's School, Macclesfield on Saturday 4 November 2023 with a concert that celebrates exceptional female musicianship. as the orchestra is joined by conductor Delyana Lazarova, violinist Chloë Hanslip and soprano Nadine Benjamin for a programme of Arvo Pärt, Mozart and Mahler.

Delyana Lazarova returns to NCO following her performance of Beethoven's Eroica Symphony with them last year. She is joined by soloist Chloë Hanslip, NCO's artist in association, for Mozart's Violin Concerto in D major, K 218, and the evening ends with a performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 4 with soloist Nadine Benjamin. Mahler's symphony is being performed in the chamber orchestration by Iain Farrington. The programme begins with Arvo Pärt's Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten.

Established in 1967, the Northern Chamber Orchestra comprising approximately twenty-five musicians, an ensemble of distinguished chamber players, many of whom frequently step into the limelight as soloists.  It currently presents an annual series of eight concerts at The King’s School and St Michael’s Church in Macclesfield, as well as  contributing to the Buxton Festival both in the main opera productions, and in orchestral performances at St John’s Church in Buxton. 

Full details from the orchestra's website.

Two Cities: Ned Rorem in Paris & New York - centenary celebrations at London Song Festival

Ned Rorem in 1953, photographed by Man Ray (image from http://www.nedrorem.net/)
Ned Rorem in 1953, photographed by Man Ray (image from http://www.nedrorem.net/)

Two Cities: Ned Rorem in Paris and New York; Jonathan Eyers, Christopher Killersby, Nigel Foster, James Crutcher; London Song Festival at the Hinde Street Methodist Church
Reviewed 27 October 2023

During Ned Rorem's centenary year, an imaginative overview of his songs alongside vivid extracts from his diaries

The American composer Ned Rorem would have been 100 last month, on 23 October 2023. He nearly made it to his 100th birthday, dying last year just after his 99th, and remained active as a composer until 2013. Rorem was such a vivid and vital character during his long life, publishing five volumes of diaries covering the years 1951 to 2005, that it is slightly surprising that for his centenary, his music has not been more widely performed. Perhaps there is something of what might be called 'The Ethel Smyth Effect', the lively character revealed in the printed diaries (notably in Rorem's case, his espousal of the bad boy in post-war Paris) seems somewhat at odds with the music. 

As well as operas and symphonies, Rorem wrote over 500 songs, many of them grouped in cycles. Rorem wrote 30 or so song cycles of which the culmination was perhaps Rorem's 1997 work Evidence of Things Not Seen, an evening-length sequence of thirty-six songs for soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, and piano.

As part of the Autumn, City and Country season at the London Song Festival, artistic director and pianist Nigel Foster chose to focus on Ned Rorem on Friday 27 October 2023. At Hinde Street Methodist Church, Foster was joined by baritone Jonathan Eyers, tenor Christopher Killerby and actor James Crutcher for an evening of Rorem's songs, Two Cities: Ned Rorem in Paris and New York, giving us the chance to hear 23 of Rorem's songs interspersed with readings from his diaries. Tenor Christopher Killerby stood in at remarkably short notice (around a week) and we must be grateful to him for managing to learn around a dozen unfamiliar songs, a remarkable achievement.

Saturday 28 October 2023

Exploring his musical roots: conductor Duncan Ward chats about his jazz-inspired, Eastern European & French music coming up with the London Symphony Orchestra

Duncan Ward and Philharmonie Zuidnederland
Duncan Ward and Philharmonie Zuidnederland 

The conductor Duncan Ward has two concerts with the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) coming up, one featuring music by Gary Carpenter, Barber and Abel Selaocoe as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival [16 November 2023, further details], and the other featuring music by Bartok, Janacek, Chausson and Debussy with soloist Isabelle Faust [23 November 2023, further details]. Duncan is chief conductor of Philharmonie Zuidnederland (South Netherlands Philharmonic) and music director of the Mediterranean Youth Orchestra, a new position created by the Festival d'Aix

Duncan Ward (Photo: Hugo Thomassen)
 Duncan Ward (Photo: Hugo Thomassen)
Both of Duncan's programmes with the LSO are typically eclectic. The works in his first concert seem, at first sight, to only have a tangential relationship to jazz, but he assures me that this is not the case. He describes Gary Carpenter's music as funky, with a distinct jazz influence and his piece Dadaville includes raucous saxophone and trombone solos, uses an expanded drum kit and builds into what Duncan describes as quite a riot. Barber's Medea's Dance of Vengeance is a work that Duncan describes as building up into a groovy frenzy. It is a work that he heard as a teenager and was hooked from the opening, the mysterious strings, the build-up into a frenzy. He heard it in the car, his mother was running him to a rehearsal and he insisted they could not get out of the car until the end was reached. Strangely, it is a piece that is rarely programmed. He has tried to persuade orchestras to perform it, but often the answer is no. 

The third work in the programme is Abel Selaocoe's Cello Concerto: Four Spirits with Selaocoe as soloist. Duncan describes Selaocoe as a man of many influences, his music is eclectic, with jazz, folk and other influences making it tricky to label. In his solo performances, Selaocoe often plays and sings, he does that in the concerto and will be expecting the orchestra musicians to do the same. Selaocoe will be joined by a percussionist playing a world music drum kit. The concerto has reflective and hypnotic moments alongside the more rhythmic sections. 

Friday 27 October 2023

Piatti Quartet launches its Rush Hour Lates at Kings Place with Dvorak and Schubert

Piatti Quartet at Kings Place
Piatti Quartet at Kings Place (Photo: Piatti Quartet)

The Piatti Quartet (Michael Trainor, Emily Holland, Miguel Sobrinho, Jessie Ann Richardson) is the new quartet in residence at Kings Place and they launched their series of Rush House Late concerts on Wednesday 25 October 2023 with a programme of Schubert's Quartetsatz and Dvorak's String Quartet in F, Op. 96 'American' and future concerts in the series will explore further late Dvorak quartets.

Schubert wrote his Quartetsatz in 1820, it is effectively the sole example of his quartet writing between his early works, written before 1817, and his late masterpieces in the genre written a few years later. The quartet exists as a single movement, plus a few bars of an Andante. Like the Unfinished Symphony of 1822, and quite a lot of other works, Schubert seems to have simply broken off writing it. The single movement is a powerful, confident piece of writing though you notice that Schubert was still influenced by earlier quartet writing with its solo violin plus accompaniment style.

A bold statement of cultural synthesis: Vache Baroque's Jonathan Darbourne on celebrating the art of Salmone Rossi

Vache Baroque (Photo: The Photography Shed)
Vache Baroque (Photo: The Photography Shed)

This Autumn, Vache Baroque is presenting a multi-event project to commemorate 400 years since the Jewish-Italian composer Salomone Rossi (ca. 1570 – 1630) published his ground-breaking collection The Songs of Solomon in 1623. Here, Vache Baroque's artistic director Jonathan Darbourne introduces their Rossi 400 project.

Joanthan Darbourne (Photo: Vache Baroque)
Joanthan Darbourne (Photo: Vache Baroque)
I’ll admit something from the outset: before this project, I can’t remember ever having sung a piece by Salomone Rossi. This has made discovering his music all the more exciting, as everything I played through or heard on recordings when planning the programmes was brand new. Parallel to this was researching those who have performed his music or have an interest in his life, which has led to connections being made with all sorts of wonderful people - novelists, academics, rabbis, cantors, instrumentalists, organ builders, broadcasters. Over the course of about eight months, we will have celebrated Rossi through film, dance, instruments, voices, interviews, and even a Jewish-Italian dining experience. And next year we will take one of the programmes to Italy, his homeland.

So why Rossi? 2023 marks 400 years since the publication of his ground-breaking vocal collection The Songs of Solomon. This highly novel work contains over thirty pieces with Hebrew texts - mostly psalms - set to music of a contemporary polyphonic style. Of course, composers across Reformation Europe had for quite some time set vernacular texts to a style of sacred music originally used for Latin, the lingua franca of the Church. Rossi’s task, however, was different: there was no precedent in the remembered or notated Jewish musical tradition for multi-voiced sacred music, and Hebrew, being read from right to left, presented an obvious problem when printing it with left-to-right musical notation. (This last issue was resolved in a rather democratic manner by printing the full word at the start of a phrase and letting the singers decide how to space the syllables.)

The long, multi-authored preface attests to the time and thought Rossi and his close circle had put into such an experimental project. It was absolutely a ‘grand plan,’ with the aim to rediscover (or reinvent) the music that would have been heard in the First Temple in Jerusalem thousand of years before. The Songs of Solomon was a bold statement of cultural synthesis, an attempt to breathe new life into Jewish ceremony and worship by utilising a Gentile art form.

We think this mixing together of seemingly clashing cultures deserves celebration and chimes so strongly with our mission at Vache Baroque and those of so many other arts organisations. Taking inspiration from this, our first offering was to mix old and new by making two music videos with madrigal backing tracks - one by Rossi, the other by a fan of his, Thomas Weelkes. We gave the texts modern storylines which were realised through the movement of two dancers from BirdGang Ltd and choreographed by the dancer-actor Ukweli Roach. [watch FAREWELLS on YouTube]

To place Rossi within his musical and cultural world, we are now in the middle of a series of performances being given in London synagogues [11 November 2023, further details] and in the hall of The Vache house [4 November 2023, further details]. These programmes place the sacred and secular vocal music by Rossi alongside pieces by contemporaries such as Monteverdi, Caccini, Byrd, Weelkes, Campion, and Kapsberger. Madrigals, solo songs, motets, metrical psalm settings, and a handful of settings from ‘The Songs of Solomon’ attest to a highly diverse and experimental musical climate - what we like to view now as a shift from Renaissance rules to Baroque rule breaking.

To finish the year, the acclaimed ensemble La Vaghezza will join eight singers and two instrumentalists from Vache Baroque at St John's Smith Square [13 December 2023, further details]. Here we will plot the story of Hanukkah through Rossi’s psalm settings and pieces on the same texts by composers including Schütz, Cavalli, Ravenscroft, and Purcell. It promises to be an evening of surprising contrasts and a chance for us to celebrate not just Rossi’s vocal music but his ravishing compositions in trio texture, in which he was the first composer to make publications. It has been a fantastic journey so far for so many of us and we are looking forward to the final 'gala' feel of this closing concert. 

Thursday 26 October 2023

Stories in music in Oxford: visual inspirations from the Mendelssohn siblings, William Blake in song & image, vivid story-telling from Wolf & Mörike

Oxford International Song Festival
Mendelssohn, Looking at Blake, Hugo Wolf: Mörike Lieder; Harriet Burns, Alessandro Fisher, Eugene Asti, Robin Tritschler, Christopher Glynn, Thomas Oliemans, Hans Eijsackers; Oxford Lieder Festival

Music, visual arts and story-telling in a day at the Oxford International Song Festival, ranging widely over the Mendelssohn siblings' relationship, 20th century settings of Blake, and Hugo Wolf in devilishly good form

Tuesday 24 October 2023 was a day of stories at the Oxford International Song Festival. Things began with soprano Harriet Burns, tenor Alessandro Fisher and pianist Eugene Asti in songs by both Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn, then at rush hour, tenor Robin Tritschler and pianist Christopher Glynn combined 20th-century settings of William Blake with the artist's own images, and in the evening we had the vivid story-telling of baritone Thomas Oliemans and pianist Hans Eijsackers in a selection of Wolf's Mörike-Lieder.

The day had begun with a Show and Tell at The Weston Library, looking at Mendelssohn-related manuscripts in the collection including the stunning Schilflied, a song manuscript intricately illustrated in watercolour by Mendelssohn himself. Confession time, I didn't manage to attend this. But the lunchtime concert followed on from this with The Mendelssohns at the Holywell Music Room with soprano Harriet Burns, tenor Alessandro Fisher and pianist Eugene Asti in a programme of songs by Felix and Fanny, from their very first surviving songs to their last, with seven of the songs having manuscripts housed in the Bodleian. The centre-piece of the programme was Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel's Five Songs, Op. 10 which included her last composition and Felix Mendelssohn's Six Songs, Op. 71, published after his death and including two songs written after Fanny's death.

Wednesday 25 October 2023

Spring/Summer 2024 at the Southbank Centre: Rothko Chapel, DSCH, Winterreise staged, the RFH Organ at 70, Voices from the East and more

DSCH - Pekka Kuusisto, Norwegian Chamber Orchestra (Photo: Magnus Skrede)
DSCH - Pekka Kuusisto, Norwegian Chamber Orchestra (Photo: Magnus Skrede)

The Southbank Centre has announced its classical music plans for next Spring and Summer. Booking opens on Friday 27 October at 10am for Southbank Centre Members and Supporters Circles. General booking begins on Monday 30 October at 10am.

The artists on the Southbank Centre's residency programmes are all busy. Violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja continues her residency with her absurdist Nonsense music-theatre production, works by Cage, Ligeti, Brecht and Kopatchinskaja, whilst Manchester Collective collaborate with Scottish pianist Fergus McCreadie culminating in a late-night cèilidh. And the collective return with Morton Feldman’s sonic meditation Rothko Chapel alongside new pieces by Katherine Balch, Edmund Finnis, Isabella Summers and Isobel Waller-Bridge inspired by Rothko's artworks. And the Manchester Collective will be contributing to the showcase concert for second instalment of the Southbank Centre and Royal Academy of Music’s artist development scheme, Future Artists.

Organist James McVinnie joins as a Resident Artist and his first performance will be part of the Royal Festival Hall Organ at 70 weekend with McVinnie performing a mix of Renaissance dances and works by Sweelinck, Pachelbel and Bach, but he will also return with a collaboration with composer and electronic producer Tristan Perich, and performing Philip Glass, John Adams, Gabriella Smith and Inti Figgis-Vizueta with his James McVinnie Ensemble.

Other current Resident Artists include violinist Randall Goosby, who appears with the Renaissance Quartet, and performs Mozart with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Pianist Alice Sarah Ott joins the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Elim Chan, to perform a new piano concerto by Bryce Dessner, and then she returns with pianist Francesco Tristano, performing a mix of solo and duo works including new pieces by Tristano.

Norwegian Chamber Orchestra with its artistic director Pekka Kuusisto arrives with performances of DSCH, a music-theatre work featuring music by Shostakovich. Paraorchestra will present Trip The Light Fantastic by composer Sinéad McMillan, featuring a mix of acoustic, assistive, electronic and traditional orchestral instruments, alongside a new commission from Asteryth Sloane. Aurora Orchestra will present a new orchestral theatre staging of Hans Zender’s Winterreise, a ‘composed interpretation’ of Schubert’s song cycle, for tenor and chamber orchestra, here with Allan Clayton as soloist and making his debut as stage director alongside Jane Mitchell.

The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kirill Karabits (Photo: Mark Allan)
The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kirill Karabits (Photo: Mark Allan)

The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, with Chief Conductor Kirill Karabits, presents Voices From The East, a day of concerts, talks and free performances celebrating symphonic traditions from Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, Georgia and Armenia, and Ukraine, featuring work by Thomas de Hartmann, Borys Lyatoshinsky and Anna Korsun. The event is the culmination and celebration of Karabits’ ground-breaking work with the BSO over 15 years and the start of a new chapter when he becomes Conductor Laureate, Artistic Director, Voices from the East from Autumn 2024. 

Nicholas McCarthy explores left-hand repertoire with a mix of Wagner, Schubert, Scriabin and Bartók. Discussing this unique practice, McCarthy will be joined by journalist, writer and broadcaster Samira Ahmed in a post-concert conversation. The London Philharmonic Orchestra performances include The Music in You, a festival that celebrates artistic expression of all kinds. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment features Mendelssohn's symphonies and concertos across three concerts with Sir András Schiff on the fortepiano, Alina Ibragimova (violin) and Lucy Crowe (soprano) and Nicky Spence (tenor).

All this and more. Full details from the Southbank Centre's website.

Pianist Piers Lane joins Norwich-based orchestra, the Academy of St Thomas for celebrations of their Golden Jubilee

Academy of St Thomas,  Benjamin Pope (Photo: Peter King)
Academy of St Thomas,  Benjamin Pope (Photo: Peter King)

Beethoven, Vaughan-Williams, Mozart; Academy of St Thomas, Piers Lane, conductor: Benjamin Pope; St Andrew’s Hall, Norwich
Reviewed 21 October 2023 by Tony Cooper

London-based Australian-born pianist, Piers Lane, went to town on Saturday night delivering a brilliant rendering of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto in celebration of the Golden Jubilee of Norwich-based orchestra, the Academy of St Thomas

Ralph Vaughan-Williams frequently visited Norwich attending meetings of the Norfolk & Norwich Triennial Festival at St Andrew’s Hall. The composer’s Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis, performed by Academy of St Thomas (AST) at their first concert held in St Thomas’ Church, Norwich, has been included in every subsequent anniversary concert performed at St Andrew’s Hall. 

It was flag-waving time at St Andrew’s Hall, Norwich, on Saturday 21 October 2023 when Benjamin Pope, greeted by a big round of applause from a packed and excited house, took to the podium to conduct the Academy of St Thomas, led by Benjamin Lowe, in their Golden Jubilee concert generously sponsored by Hilary and Lewis Jarrett. Therefore, founded in 1973 by Ivan Cane, whose son, Andrew, leads the viola section, AST grew out of a handful of players who had roots in the old Norfolk County Youth Orchestra of the 1970s. For their Golden Jubilee programme included RVW's Tallis Fantasia and Mozart's Symphony No.40, and they were joined by pianist Piers Lane for Beethoven's Emperor Concerto.

Fierce & intense: Peter Konwitschny's production of La traviata returns to ENO with a mesmerising account of the title role from Nicole Chevalier

Verdi: La Traviata - Nicole Chevalier, Freddie Tong, ENO Chorus - English National Opera (Photo: Belinda Jiao)
Verdi: La Traviata - Nicole Chevalier, Freddie Tong, ENO Chorus - English National Opera (Photo: Belinda Jiao)

Verdi: La traviata; Nicole Chevalier, Jose Simerilla Romero, Roland Wood, director: Peter Konwitschny/Ruth Knight, conductor: Richard Farnes; English National Opera at London Coliseum
Reviewed 23 October 2023

Dystopic, concentrated and intense, Peter Konwitschny takes a strong view of La Traviata here in a highly theatrical yet musical revival with a superb trio of soloists

My first experience with Verdi's La traviata was the John Copley production at the London Coliseum back in the 1980s. Extremely traditional yet well crafted, the production was eventually replaced by one by David Pountney. Since then English National Opera has had various production of the work, yet none has quite stuck, none has created the sort of long running popular production of this work that any company needs. Daniel Kramer's 2018 production proved unpopular and the company has now reverted to the earlier one directed by Peter Konwitschny which debuted in 2013 and returned in 2015 [see my review]. 

This production takes a very particular view of the work, contemporary and stylised, it uses a cut version of the score (all the party scene entertainment at the beginning of Act Two disappears) without an interval. It isn't a production of La traviata for the ages, but with the right cast and conductor it engages and makes you think, and in ENO's current economic state, creating a new production is clearly out of the question.

Peter Konwitschny's production of Verdi's La Traviata returned to English National Opera at the London Coliseum on Monday 23 October 2023, now in the hands of director Ruth Knight, with designs by Johannes LeiackerNicole Chevalier was Violetta with Jose Simerilla Romero as Alfredo and Roland Wood as Giorgio Germont, Richard Farnes conducted.

The view of the opera is a fierce one, the party guests in Act One are almost vicious, this wasn't a fun event and there is no party in Act Two, scene two gets down to the action with Violetta, Alfredo and the Baron straight away. Musically, this was a very direct performance, very modern in the sense that we got the score with none of the bel canto interpolations like added high notes. Thank goodness.

Verdi: La Traviata - Nicole Chevalier - English National Opera (Photo: Belinda Jiao)
Verdi: La Traviata - Nicole Chevalier - English National Opera (Photo: Belinda Jiao)

The production seemed to be somewhat adjusted from previous revivals, at least some details seemed new and the Morecombe and Wise elements of heads popping out from the red curtains had been minimised, which is a good thing.

Tuesday 24 October 2023

Long may they continue! Kronos Quartet's celebratory 50th anniversary concert at the Barbican

Kronos Quartet - Barbican Centre, 21 October 2023 (Photo: Mark Allan)
Kronos Quartet - Barbican Centre, 21 October 2023 (Photo: Mark Allan)

Severiano Briseño, George Crumb, Gabriella Smith, Peni Candra Rini, Philip Glass, Zachary James Watkins, Antonio Haskell , Dumisani Maraire Mai Nozipo, Jlin, Terry Riley, Alfred Schnittke, Steve Reich; Kronos Quartet, Yahael Camara Onono, Peni Candra Rini; Barbican Centre
Reviewed by Florence Anna Maunders, 21 October 2023

An incredible evening celebrating a half-century of trailblazing music making

Returning to the Barbican on 21 October 2023 as a part of their continent-spanning 50th anniversary tour, the Kronos Quartet (David Harrington, violin, John Sherba, violin, Hank Dutt, viola, Paul Wiancko, cello) brought an extended programme of greatest hits from their extensive back catalogue as well as (of course, this is the Kronos Quartet) brand new music being premiered for the first time.

These four string players are genuine superstars of the contemporary classical scene, recognised as instrumental in the development of the string quartet across the last fifty years, both in their programming and commitment to new music, but also in their dedication to commissioning literally hundreds of new works for the medium. Most of the music in this concert reflects that collaborative approach, composed for, arranged for or commissioned by the quartet, the few exceptions including an excerpt from George Crumb's Black Angels - a piece which Kronos recorded over forty years ago, and which remains a central part of their repertoire.

Monday 23 October 2023

Fragments of Experience: new film exploring William Blake featuring music by Mark Bowler from Dan Norman's Positive Note

Dan Norman's Positive Note has a new film out on 10 November 2023. Dan Norman and Mark Bowler have collaborated on Fragments of Experience.

Dan Norman's Positive Note has a new film out on 10 November 2023. Dan Norman and Mark Bowler have collaborated on Fragments of Experience. The film brings together Blake's own texts and imagery with original music and cutting edge AI animation by Mark Bowler, 2D animation by Harrison Fleming, and live performance footage featuring soprano Marianna Suri, conducted by Olivia Clarke.

The project is centred around Blake’s poems The Fly, The Sick Rose and The Voice of the Ancient Bard with excerpts from Introduction to Songs of Experience and Earth’s Answer, woven together to create a strong ecological metanarrative — Blake’s warning cry to us across the centuries. The Fly challenges us to question our relationship with nature, The Sick Rose presents themes of decay and corruption, and finally we are called to action in The Voice of the Ancient Bard.

Mark Bowler composed original music for Fragments of Experience for a soprano and a five-piece chamber ensemble, later adding digitally manipulated music coupled with a contemporary delivery of Blake’s poetry by British-Nigerian actor Abayomi Oniyide.

Further details of the 10 November release event from EventBrite.

JS Bach superstar, Masaaki Suzuki, takes on a European tour of the Christmas Oratorio with the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment which will be heard in its entirety at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall in early December

JS Bach superstar, Masaaki Suzuki, takes on a European tour of the Christmas Oratorio with the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment which will be heard in its entirety at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall in early December

World renowned authority on the works of JS Bach, Masaaki Suzuki, founder and music director of Bach Collegium Japan, joins forces with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE) for what promises an exhilarating performance of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall where the OAE is one of the resident orchestras.  

Taking place over two evenings, the performance offers a rare opportunity for one to experience the entire work as a seasonal treat. Therefore, Parts I-III will be heard on Saturday 2 December followed by Parts IV-VI on Sunday 3 December. Both concerts start at 7.00pm. 

The performance is part of an international tour therefore the show also takes in the Festspielhaus Bregenz (Thursday 30 November), Kölner Philharmonie (Friday 1 December), Prague Castle (Tuesday 5 December), Hamburg Elbphilharmonie (Wednesday 6 December), Théâtre des Champs-Élysées Paris (Friday 8 December) and BOZAR Brussels (Sunday 10 December). Masaaki Suzuki will lead the OAE alongside a stellar cast of soloists comprising Madison Nonoa (soprano), Hugh Cutting (counter-tenor), Guy Cutting (tenor) and Florian Störtz (bass-baritone). 

‘I am honoured and immensely proud to be part of this performance of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the OAE,’ enthused Masaaki Suzuki. ‘The opportunity to share this timeless masterpiece with audiences across Europe fills me with immense joy and anticipation. Together, we embark on a musical journey that celebrates the spirit of the festive season. I can't wait to share this profound experience with all of you.’ 

The Christmas Oratorio belongs to a group of three oratorios written in 1734/35 for a major feast day - the other two being the Ascension Oratorio (BWV 11) and the Easter Oratorio (BWV 249). All three of these oratorios to some degree parody earlier compositions but the Christmas Oratorio is by far the longest and most complex work of the three and the structure of the story is largely defined by the requirements of the church calendar for Christmas 1734/35. Bach abandoned his usual practice when writing church cantatas of basing the content upon the Gospel reading for that day to achieve a coherent narrative structure. 

The Christmas Oratorio was written for performance on the six feast days of Christmas during the winter of 1734/35. The original score, containing details of when each part was performed, was incorporated within services of the two most important churches in Leipzig: St Thomas and St Nicholas. The work, though, was only performed in its entirety at St Nicholas’ Church. 

Therefore, the first part, Christmas Day, describing the Birth of Jesus, was heard in the morning at St Nicholas and the afternoon at St Thomas; the second, 26 December, the Annunciation to the Shepherds (morning at St Thomas, afternoon at St Nicholas); the third, 27 December, the Adoration of the Shepherds (morning at St Nicholas); the fourth, New Year’s Day, the Circumcision and Naming of Jesus (morning at St Thomas, afternoon at St Nicholas); the fifth, first Sunday after New Year, the Journey of the Magi (morning at St Nicholas); the sixth, Epiphany, the Adoration of the Magi (morning at St Thomas, afternoon at St Nicholas). The Flight into Egypt, though, takes place after the end of the sixth part. 

 As a composer of such extraordinary genius and widespread influence so firmly embedded in Western culture, it is difficult to comprehend that Bach’s music and reputation once languished in obscurity, virtually unknown to all but a few specialists and academics. It was through the determined efforts of Felix Mendelssohn that his works became accessible to a wider public and today are recognised as summits of musical expression. 

Further details from the OAE's website.

A little bit crazy yet done with verve, imagination and style: The Masque of Might, David Pountney's Purcellian masque at Opera North

Purcell & Pountney: The Masque of Might - Andri Björn Róbertsson, Xavier Hetherington, Matthew Brook - Opera North (Photo: James Glossop)
Purcell & Pountney: The Masque of Might - Andri Björn Róbertsson, Xavier Hetherington, Matthew Brook - Opera North (Photo: James Glossop)

Purcell & David Pountney: The Masque of Might; Andri Björn Róbertsson, Anna Dennis, James Laing, James Hall, Callum Thorpe, Xavier Hetherington, Matthew Brook, director: David Pountney, conductor Harry Bicket; Opera North at the Grand Theatre, Leeds
Reviewed 21 October 2023

Told with imagination and verve, David Pountney's recreation of a 17th-century masque with a contemporary twist.

For all Purcell's iconic position, his theatre music remains relatively unexplored and certainly is rarely heard in the theatre, beyond The Fairy Queen and King Arthur, with the notable exceptions such as Peter Sellars' reworking of The Indian Queen.

After David Pountney stage The Fairy Queen without dialogue or replacement connective tissue, he thought of repeating the exercise with Purcell's other theatre music. Lockdown finally gave him the leisure time to do the research and the result is The Masque of Might, which tells a contemporary narrative in the skittish, discursive way of the 17th century masque, using a patchwork of music from Purcell, including Timon of Athens, The Indian Queen, Job's Curse, Odes for the birthday of Queen Mary (1691, 1693, 1694), Welcome song for King James II, The Tempest, The Fairy Queen, Dioclesian, Ode for St Cecilia's Day, Sul and the Witch of Endor, Why are the Muses mute and Yorkshire Feast Song.

The Masque of Might was presented by Opera North at the Grand Theatre, Leeds as part of its Green Season and we caught the Saturday matinee, 21 October 2023. Harry Bicket conducted the orchestra of opera North, with Andri Björn Róbertsson, Anna Dennis, James Laing, James Hall, Callum Thorpe, Xavier Hetherington and Matthew Brook, plus six dancers. Set designs were by Leslie Travers with costumes by Marie-Jeanne Lecca, lighting by Paule Constable and Ben Pickersgill, video by David Haneke and choreography by Denni Sayers.

Purcell & Pountney: The Masque of Might - Andri Björn Róbertsson - Opera North (Photo: James Glossop)
Purcell & Pountney: The Masque of Might - Andri Björn Róbertsson - Opera North (Photo: James Glossop)

Saturday 21 October 2023

What's not to love? Glamour and heart as Puccini's little swallow returns to Opera North

Puccini: La Rondine - Sébastien Guèze, Galina Averina - Opera North (Photo: Tristram Kenton)
Puccini: La Rondine - Sébastien Guèze, Galina Averina - Opera North (Photo: Tristram Kenton)

Puccini: La Rondine; Galina Averina, Sébastien Guèze, Claire Lees, Elgan Llŷr Thomas, Philip Smith, director: James Hurley, conductor: Kerem Hasan; Opera North at Grand Theatre, Leeds
Reviewed 20 October 2023

Glorious melodies sung by a youthful cast, 1930s glamour in a production proud of its green credentials, and a story both touching and engagin

The problem with Puccini's La Rondine, if problem there is, is that no-one dies; it is Puccini's only major opera where a significant death does not occur. La Rondine ends with a love triangle where, very even handedly, no-one really gets what they want. The opera was an experiment, coming at a time when Puccini was trying to move his art in other directions. After Madama Butterfly in 1904 came two operas where Puccini changed tack, La Fanciulla del West in 1910 and La Rondine in 1917. Fanciulla is his most advanced opera, whilst La Rondine is his lightest, flirting with operetta and full of dance rhythms.

Opera North performed the work in 1994, a ground-breaking production in the UK, and Covent Garden followed in 2002, but it remains something of a rarity, more popular with smaller companies. Opera Holland Park performed it in 2017 and we caught it last year at IF Opera in Bradford on Avon.

Puccini's little swallow returned to Opera North on Friday 20 October 2023 as part of the company's Green Season at Leeds Grand Theatre. La Rondine was directed by James Hurley, conducted by Kerem Hasan with set designs by Leslie Travers (who has designed all the operas in the Green Season), costumes by Gabrielle Dalton, lighting by Paule Constable and Ben Pickersgill, and choreography by Lauren Poulton. Galina Averina was Magda with Sébastien Guèze as Ruggero, Claire Lees as Lisette, Elgan Llŷr Thomas as Prunier and Philip Smith as Rambaldo. Claire Lees is a member of Opera North's chorus and the twelve smaller roles were all taken by members of the chorus.

Puccini compulsively tinkered with the work, particularly the third act. In 1994, Opera North performed his final, revised version but this time they reverted to his original thoughts, where Act Three is less fussy.

Puccini: La Rondine - Elgan Llyr Thomas, Claire Lees, Sébastien Guèze, Galina Averina - Opera North (Photo: Tristram Kenton)
Puccini: La Rondine - Elgan Llyr Thomas, Claire Lees, Sébastien Guèze, Galina Averina - Opera North (Photo: Tristram Kenton)

Friday 20 October 2023

Music Night and Day: Handel Hendrix House in the evening, Daylight Music in Leytonstone

Daylight Music at St John's Leytonstone
Daylight Music at St John's Leytonstone
The Handel Hendrix House opens for special night time viewings, presenting both music by Handel and Hendrix in their own contexts, whilst Arctic Circle's Daylight Music is back with a run of daytime concerts presenting an eclectic mix of contemporary music

Arctic Circle's Daylight Music returns for a limited edition run this Autumn at St John’s Leytonstone, E11 1HH with daytime concerts beginning Saturday 21 October. The opening event features composer David Julyan, best known for his work with cinema auteur Christopher Nolan, British-Nigerian composer, music producer and songwriter Tony Njoku, Liverpool born guitarist (and founder of the dream pop outfit Engineers) Mark Peters, and Angèle David-Guillou playing the St John's organ. 

Future events will feature The Sensory Illusions & Vulliamy Murray Duo, and The NJE with Davey Payne, Yova + Rachel Horton-Kitchlew. Full details from Daylight Music website.

For night time fun,  Handel Hendrix House, the Mayfair museum once home to composer G.F. Handel and rock legend Jimi Hendrix, will open its historic rooms on Fridays for atmospheric, music-filled evenings. Handel Hendrix House will open specially from 18.00 - 20.00 every Friday from 27 October to 15 December 2023 and 12 January to 23 February, 2024.

Handel’s Georgian home has recently been meticulously restored and the after-dark openings offer a unique opportunity to absorb the atmosphere of the house lit with candle-effect lighting and hear live performance of his music in his own rooms. Known by his friends as ‘the Bat’, nighttime was when Jimi Hendrix became most alive and when he would party and entertain a roll-call of musicians and icons from the swinging sixties. Visitors will see Jimi Hendrix’s bedroom just as he knew it best, lit with psychedelic colours and brought to life with live music performed by exciting up-and-coming artists.

Details from the Handel Hendrix House website.

A once in a lifetime opportunity for early music ensembles across the world!

The Protean Quartet, winners of the 2022 York International Young Artists Competition
The Protean Quartet, winners of the 2022 York International Young Artists Competition

Applications are now open for the 2024 York International Young Artists Competition; the longstanding competition for young ensembles will take place between 10 - 13 July at the National Centre for Early Music (NCEM) in York, UK as part of York Early Music Festival 2024.

The final takes place on Saturday 13 July, with a day of public performances at the NCEM. The first prize includes a recording contract from Linn Records; a £1,000 prize; opportunities to work with BBC Radio 3; and a concert at the 2025 York Early Music Festival. Other prizes on offer include the Friends of York Early Music Festival Prize, the Cambridge Early Music Prize and a prize for The Most Promising Young Artist/s, endowed by the EUBO Development Trust.
The closing date for applications is 15 January 2024.
The competition is open to:

  • Early Music ensembles with a minimum of three members.
  • Ensembles must have an average age of 32 years or under, with a maximum age of 36 years for individuals.

The ensembles must demonstrate historically informed performance practice and play repertory from the period, spanning the Middle Ages to the 19th century, on period instruments.

The Protean Quartet, winners of the 2022 competition, commented, "We were delighted and honoured to win the main prize in 2022. Taking part in the competition was an amazing experience. It was wonderful performing at the NCEM’s home, the beautiful St Margaret’s Church and meeting the other ensemble who were taking part. The prize provides a real boost to our confidence, profile and careers."

Full details from the competition website.

Thursday 19 October 2023

Pastoral charm with an engaging sense of style: Handel's Clori, Tirsi e Fileno from the English Concert at Wigmore Hall

Handel: Clori, Tirsi e Fileno - Joélle Harvey, Ailish Tynan, Iestyn Davies, the English Concert, Harry Bicket - Wigmore Hall
Handel: Clori, Tirsi e Fileno - Joélle Harvey, Ailish Tynan, Iestyn Davies, the English Concert, Harry Bicket - Wigmore Hall (image taken from the live stream)

Handel: Clori, Tirsi e Fileno; Ailish Tynan, Joélle Harvey, Iestyn Davies, the English Concert, Harry Bicket; Wigmore Hall
Reviewed 18 October 2023

A light-hearted pastoral cantata performed with engaging charm and great sense of style with Handel's imaginative orchestration played with relish

Handel's Italian cantatas remain slightly tantalising. We have a passing familiarity with them, some at least get regular outings, but also Handel used his Italian cantatas as source material for larger, operatic works. His first London opera, Rinaldo is full of such borrowings and Handel wasn't the only one, this sort of practice was common in the Baroque period. We also know quite a lot of technical information about the cantatas, the watermarks of the paper they were written on can be used to estimate when he composed them, and the surviving account books of his patrons give us information about when the music was copied. But still, they remain at one remove.

We know that Clori, Tirsi e Fileno was written in 1707 for Marchese Ruspoli, because the copyists bill survives. But that is it. Until the 1960s, we did not even have a full copy of the score till one turned up in Münster. We can't be completely certain how the Münster version relates to that performed in 1707, but it has a more generous final trio than the original and commentators now think it is linked to the wedding celebrations in Naples that Handel attended (and for which he wrote the dramatic cantata Aci, Galatea e Polifemo). The Münster comes from a collection created by a Roman priest, Fortunato Santini (1777-1861) who, during the early 19th century, had access to private archives held by the Roman nobility, like the Ruspoli family. 

At the time of the cantata's first performance in Rome, opera was banned in Rome, so Roman patrons such as Ruspoli (for whom Handel was almost a house composer for a time) used other means. Clori, Tirsi e Fileno is a pastoral cantata that is almost an opera, and certainly the work has been staged in modern times. But Ruspoli was also a member of the Accademia degli Arcadi, the Arcadian Academy, and such pastoral works as Clori, Tirsi e Fileno were part of the Academy's raison d'etre.

The English Concert, conductor Harry Bicket, returned to Wigmore Hall on 18 October 2023 for a performance of Clori, Tirsi e Fileno  with Ailish Tynan as Clori, Joélle Harvey (replacing Mary Bevan) as Tirsi and Iestyn Davies as Fileno. The work offers a simple pastoral narrative for three characters, the fickle Clori toys with her two lovers, Tirsi and Fileno, who go through all the permutations of desire, hope and despair before they eventually abandon her when they discover her duplicity, and in fact more than one modern staging has had the two male characters going off together at the end. A homo-social view of the work that can arguably be linked to the remarkably homo-social atmosphere created by Handel's patrons in Rome. Handel himself seems to have been remarkably adept at adapting himself to his patron's mores and matching their wishes and desires.

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