Tuesday 19 December 2023

75th Aldeburgh Festival: Judith Weir's Blond Eckbert, Britten's Curlew River, Sumidagawa & more

75th Aldeburgh Festival

The plans for next year's Aldeburgh Festival have been announced, and it turns out that 2024 is one of those years full of celebratory numbers. 2024 will be the 75th Aldeburgh Festival, composer Judith Weir's 70th year, 60 years since the premiere of Britten's Curlew River and Roger Wright's last festival after 10 years of being CEO. So, plenty to celebrate then.

The festival opens with a new production of Judith Weir's 1994 opera Blond Eckbert,  a co-production with English Touring Opera that will be directed by Robin Norton-Hale and conducted by Gerry Cornelius. Judith Weir is one of the festival's featured musicians and there will be performances of her music by BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Ryan Wigglesworth, pianists Rolf Hind and Steven Osborne, the Nash Ensemble, Aldeburgh Voices, and Tenebrae, the BBC Singers perform her oratorio blue hills beyond blue hills, soprano Clare Booth performs the mini grand opera King Harald's Saga, the Leonkoro Quartet premieres of her second string quartet, The Spaniard, and Ryan Wigglesworth and the Knussen Chamber Orchestra premiere Planet, written specially for the orchestra.

Claire van Kampen directs a new production of Britten's Curlew River in Blythburgh Church, conducted by Audrey Hyland with tenor Ian Bostridge, baritone Peter Braithwaite, bass-baritone Sir Willard White and singers and alumni from the Britten Pears Young Artists programme. There will also be a chance to see the Japanese Noh play, Sumidagawa (Sumida River) that inspired Britten and the performance will be preceded by a new English re-telling of the story by Xanthe Gresham Knight.

The festival will feature a total of 23 world premieres (of which 10 are Britten Pears Arts commissions) from composers including Lara Agar, Tom Coult, Graham Fitkin, Robin Haigh, Joanna Ward, Judith Weir and Ryan Wigglesworth, plus three UK premieres of music by Unsuk Chin and Thomas Larcher.  Made in Snape is a strand of new music created on residencies at Snape Maltings by a wide range of contemporary musicians including Xhosa Cole, Mark Sanders and Jason Singh; Emily Levy and Mella Faye; Holy Other; Tom Rogerson, Liam Byrne and Clare O’Connell.

Soprano Gweneth Ann Rand will performing the three major Messiaen song cycles over three concerts with pianists Simon Lepper and Alison Devenis. The festival's other featured musicians are composer Unsuk Chin, violinist Daniel Pioro and cellist Alban Gerhardt. Alban Gerhardt recreates, with pianist Steven Osborne, the recital given by Rostropovich and Britten in 1961 which included the first performance of Britten’s Cello Sonata and Gerhardt also performs both Elgar and Unsuk Chin’s Cello Concertos, the latter written for him. 

The first ever Aldeburgh Festival concert from 5 June 1948 is also recreated in a performance by Britten Sinfonia with music by Purcell and Handel alongside Britten's St Nicholas and a new piece by Robin Haigh. Britten Sinfonia also bring their staging of Holst's Savitri first seen last year [see my review] alongside Imogen Holst's Suite and RVW's Oboe Concerto with Nicholas Daniels.

The 75th Aldeburgh Festival runs from 7 to 23 June 2024, full details from the festival website.

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