Sunday 31 March 2024

To boldly go: Daniel Pioro and the Marian Consort in music for violin and voices by Tom Coult, Nick Martin and Bach

Daniel Pioro
Daniel Pioro

Tom Coult, Daniel Pioro, Nick Martin, Bach; Daniel Pioro, the Marian Consort; Wigmore Hall
Reviewed 28 March 2024 (Maundy Thursday)

A wonderfully thought-provoking evening of music for violin and voices from three contemporary works to a speculative version of Bach's great Chaconne

Under the title, Divine Revolutions: Revolving around God: Circular music and the Divine, violinist Daniel Pioro's recital at Wigmore Hall on Thursday 28 March 2024 was something a little bit different. Daniel Pioro's violin was a joined by the voices of The Marian Consort (artistic director Rory McCleery) for a programme exploring music for violin and vocal ensemble. The climax of the programme was Bach's Partita no. 2 in D minor for solo violin, BWV1004 with the 'Chaconne' including accompanying chorales based on the work of musicologist Helga Thoene. The first half featured three contemporary works, the premieres of Tom Coult's O ecclesia oculi tui (after Hildegard of Bingen) and Daniel Pioro's O virtus Sapientie (after Hildegard of Bingen), plus the UK premiere of Nick Martin's Growth Rings.

Tom Coult's piece took Hildegard of Bingen's vocal line and placed it on the violin, accompanying this with contemporary drones on the choir. Pioro's solo violin was very haunting and his phrasing of Hildegard's supple lines came over as remarkably Celtic in feel, as if the sibyl of the Rhine had been holidaying on Lewis. 

Saturday 30 March 2024

Song belongs to us all and should be available to all: artistic director, Joseph Middleton on Leeds Lieder's boldest and most colourful festival yet

Discovering Lieder - Leeds Lieder 2023 (Photo: Ed Robinson)
Discovering Lieder - Leeds Lieder 2023 (Photo: Ed Robinson)

Leeds Lieder is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year whilst co-incidentally, artistic director Joseph Middleton also celebrates 10 years in post. This year's Leeds Lieder Festival, On Wings of Song, runs from 13 to 21 April 2024 with around 30 events at venues as diverse as the Howard Assembly Room, Leeds Conservatoire, Leeds Minster, Pudsey Town Hall, the Hyde Park Book Club and the Sikh Centre.

Joseph Middleton, artistic director of Leeds Lieder
Joseph Middleton, artistic director of Leeds Lieder

Joseph explains that quite a lot has changed over the years. The festival began as a biennial event, with a guest artistic director, and lasted two or three days. Early on, the festival moved to being annual and now is a nine-day event, but Leeds Lieder also now presents a year-round programme in collaboration with partners like Opera North and the Leeds Conservatoire. They have also grown their Young Artists Programme and for the 2024 festival, 20 young artists will be coming for a week to study with artists such as Sir Thomas Allen, Dame Felicity Lott, Graham Johnson, James Gilchrist, Anna Tilbrook and Benjamin Appl, as well as having new works written for them as part of their participation in the Composers & Poets Forum, performing brand new songs which will be the culmination of festival's creative song-writing project, 'A Leeds Songbook'. The festival's school work has expanded too, and this year they will be teaching around 1000 children about the joys of song, and the culmination of this is a concert in Pudsey Town Hall. And everything this year will be live-streamed; last year they reached a streaming audience of 200,000.

What is being performed has changed too, as the importance of the text has led to some interesting cultural exchanges. The festival commissions widely and they think about who to ask, to present diverse voices. This year, Tansy Davies has written a new song cycle, The Ice Core Sample Says, with poems by Nick Drake (from his collection, The Farewell Glacier), to be premiered by mezzo-soprano Ema Nikolovska and pianist Joseph Middleton at the Howard Assembly Room. The festival's second commission is being premiered in a rather more intriguing venue, the Sikh Centre. Soprano Nina Kanter, baritone Oscar Castellino and pianist Keval Shah will be premiering Cheryl Frances-Hoad's Punjabi Proverbs, in an evening that celebrates the cross-cultural art of British and Indian composers and poets, with Indian composers heard setting English poems, alongside English song settings of Indian poetry. The event is a collaboration with South Asian Arts UK.

Friday 29 March 2024

An imaginative and seductive mix of musics: The 48th St Magnus International Festival with Alasdair Nicolson, Lisa Robertson, Erland Cooper, Huw Watkins, George Crumb and more

St Magnus Cathedral
St Magnus Cathedral

Under the directorship of Scottish composer Alasdair Nicolson, the 48th St Magnus International Festival from 21 to 29 June 2024, brings a mix of film, literature, theatre, community participation and world-class musicians to the Orkney Islands. The result is an imaginative and seductive mix of musics from contemporary to folk to community performance. Local composers feature strongly, both contemporary classical and the more folk influenced.

Swedish chamber orchestra Musica Vitae with guest cellist and director Robin Michael perform an eclectic programme including music by Bach, Highland composer Lisa Robertson, the UK premiere of cello concerto Storm Runes by Alasdair Nicolson and a programme based on Swedish folk music. Michael will also be performing a solo event at Stromness Town Hall, with Welsh composer Huw WatkinsSonata for Solo Cello and two of Bach’s Cello Suites. [Musica Vitae will also be at Kings Place in London on 27 June with their Storm Runes programme]

In addition to their own concert, the Edinburg Quartet performs alongside Alon Sariel (mandolin), Kathryn Stott (piano), and in a very special concert with composer and multi-instrumentalist, Erland Cooper. Cooper, who is from Stromness, buried the only existing tape of his work Carve The Runes Then Be Content With Silence alongside other artefacts, leaving clues as to its whereabouts. The musical time capsule has recently been unearthed, and the piece will be played with the Edinburgh Quartet with Cooper on piano as the buried trinkets dry out around St Magnus Cathedral.

An ongoing collaboration with Live Music Now Scotland, features performances by guitar and soprano Morris Begg Duo and the fiddle and accordion of Roo and Neil, including a multi-media promenade concert at St Magnus Cathedral with musicians from the Nicolson-founded Assembly Project and video mapping from Illuminos. Roo and Neil also perform in one of two late-night Sound of Local Folk concerts, with young Orcadians pianist Jennifer Austin and fiddler Eric Linklater performing in the other. Austin also plays a concert in-the-round at St Magnus Cathedral, bringing her new compositions to Kirkwall by candlelight.

Percussion ensemble O Duo and soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn give the long-awaited UK premiere of George Crumb’s American Songbook III: Unto The Hills. Subtitled"Songs of Sadness, Yearning, and Innocence: A Cycle of Appalachian Songs", the work dates from 2002 and sets traditional and folk songs for singer, amplified piano, and percussion quartet. O Duo and Llewellyn will be by the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire percussion department. Ensemble Hesperi will perform Baroque music with a Scottish flavour, acclaimed mandolin player Alon Sariel performs Plucked Bach and Kathryn Stott gives a recital as part of her farewell to the piano tour.

The community is involved too. The world premiere of new commission The Rhythm Of The Stones from Stephen Deazley and Orkney Voices will be performed by hundreds of local school children and the Assembly Project. Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana will be performed by the Festival Chorus of many local volunteer singers alongside acclaimed choir Sonoro, O Duo and Royal Birmingham Conservatoire percussion.

Gerda Stevenson, has her film The Storm Watchers shown in installation daily at the Festival, alongside outdoor performances from all-women’s theatre company Circo Rum Ba Ba who bring a 50ft life-size sperm whale to Kirkwall within which they perform a show exploring plastic in our oceans. There is more theatre from Aotearoa / New Zealand company Trick of the Light.

Full detail from the festival website.

Thursday 28 March 2024

Marriner 100: the Academy of St Martin in the Fields celebrates the centenary of its founder

Sir Neville Marriner
Sir Neville Marriner

Next month, the Academy of St Martin in the Fields is celebrating the centenary of its founder Sir Neville Marriner (1924-2016) with a programme events beginning on what would have been Sir Neville's 100th birthday (15 April 2024), with concerts celebrating both Marriner and the orchestra's long-standing relationships with other musicians.

Things begin with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields at its spiritual home, St Martin in the Fields, with direction shared between Joshua Bell, Tomo Keller and Jaime Martin in a programme of Handel, Mozart, Haydn, Vaughan Williams and Errollyn Wallen. Then on 16 April, the ASMF Chamber Ensemble is joined by Joshua Bell and pianist Murray Perrahia, in what will be his first performance in six years, at Wigmore Hall for Mendelssohn, Schumann and Sally Beamish [see my 2019 interview where Sally Beamish talks about her personal links with the orchestra]. 

There is a centenary gala concert at the Royal Festival Hall on 18 April, when the orchestra is joined directed by Joshua Bell and Tomo Keller, with soloists Douglas Marriner (Sir Neville’s grandson), jazz drum kit, and Sarah Jane Brandon, soprano, for a programme of Mozart, Saint-Saens and Brahms, plus the European premiere of Vince Mendoza's Flight of Moving Days. Things move to Lincoln, Sir Neville's birthplace, on 24 April when Tomo Keller directs a programme of Handel, Haydn, Mozart and Vaughan Williams.

There is also an exhibition in the crypt of St Martin in the Fields, celebrating Sir Neville’s career and the continuing association of the orchestra with the venue. This will feature record sleeves and boxes, photographs, awards, tributes from friends and colleagues, and memorabilia from a life of great achievement and personal enjoyment.

A digital SoundWalk, A City Full of Stories, celebrating the trailblazing musical efforts of Sir Neville, ASMF will also mark 25 years of working with people who have experienced homelessness. The SoundWalk is created and recorded by musicians from ASMF and the Royal Academy of Music with people at The Connection at St. Martin’s.

Sir Neville's birthday will also be marked on BBC Radio 3 so that on his birthday, 15 April, every piece of music from 7am to 7pm will feature Sir Neville on the podium. 

Full details from the Academy of St Martin in the Fields' website.

Bach + Music@Malling's Spring series featuring Bach alongside contemporary works

Steven Devine
Steven Devine
Music@Malling's Bach + series presents five concerts on 26 and 27 April 2024 in historic venues in and around West Malling, Kent, including St.Mary’s Church, West Malling, Pilsdon Barn (part of the historic Malling Abbey) and All Saints’ Church, Tudeley with its unique set of Marc Chagall windows. The concerts all feature Bach's music with contemporary pieces alongside, some works specifically created as companion works.

Chamber Domaine, conductor Thomas Kemp (artistic director of Music@Malling) perform Bach's Brandenburg Concertos III and VI alongside companion works by Deborah Pritchard and Stevie Wishart originally commissioned by Music@Malling in 2022 as part of Six Brandenburgs: Six Commissions. Richard Harwood, principal cello of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, performs Bach’s Cello Suites I-III alongside contemporary works by Deborah Pritchard, Stevie Wishart, John Woolrich and Judith Weir. Harpsichordist Steven Devine performs Bach's Goldberg Variations in All Saints’ Church, Tudeley.

Running alongside the concerts are a series of workshops in local primary and secondary schools, introducing Bach to young people and creating new works inspired by his music. These new pieces will be performed in a special concert featuring Karen Jones, flute, Thomas Kemp, violin, Richard Harwood, cello and Steven Devine, cello, performing Bach’s chamber music alongside these new works.

This year’s Music@Malling Festival which will run from 20-28 September, include The Seven Deadly Sins, an installation of art by Ana Maria Pacheco and music by John Woolrich, The Marian Consort performing Purcell and new works by Deborah Pritchard and Gavin Bryars, Fretwork performing consorts by Byrd and Tallis with contemporary works by John Woolrich and George Benjamin, Chamber Domaine performing with tenor, Mark Padmore and BCMG performing Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire.

Full details from Music@Malling's website.

Without a shadow of doubt, a brilliant programme all round: Sibelius, Prokofiev & Saariaho in Berlin with Jan Lisiecki, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin & Tarmo Peltokoski

Jan Lisiecki (Photo: Christoph Köstlin/Deutsche Grammophon)
Jan Lisiecki (Photo: Christoph Köstlin/Deutsche Grammophon)

Kaija Saariaho: Ciel d’hiver (Winter sky), Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor, Sibelius: Lemminkäinen Suite; Jan Lisiecki, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, cond. Tarmo Peltokoski; Philharmonie, Berlin
Reviewed by Tony Cooper, 23 March 2024

Helsinki-born composer, Kaija Anneli Saariaho’s Ciel d’hiver made a great contribution to Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester’s concert at the Philharmonie, Berlin

Whilst taking a break from Dmitri Tcherniakov’s Ring cycle at Staatsoper Berlin [see Tony's review], I took in a concert by Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, conductor Tarmo Peltokoski, at the Philharmonie in a well-planned programme comprising Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor with soloist Jan Lisiecki, Sibelius’ Lemminkäinen Suite and a piece by the Helsinki-born composer, Kaija Saariaho, entitled Ciel d’hiver (Winter sky).

In fact, the concert opened with Ciel d’hiver. And being not too familiar with Saariaho’s music, I soon discovered that she was a prolific and futuristic writer who penned a trio of compositions employing ‘live’ electronics: Ververdungen, an interplay between orchestra and tape, came in 1984 followed by Du Cristal 1989 and …à la Fumée a year later, thereby proudly stamping her credentials on the Finnish contemporary music scene.

Wednesday 27 March 2024

Perth Festival of the Arts: from Wallace and Gromit for brass band and The Magic Flute in Scots to the Czech National Symphony Orchestra and Tenebrae

Wallace and Gromit, The Wrong Trousers film with Live Brass Band

In its 52nd year, Perth Festival of the Arts returns on 22 May to 1 June and on 8 June 2024 with a diverse programme of arts and culture. As ever, there is a strong classical music strand. Steven Mercurio conducts the Czech National Symphony Orchestra at Perth Concert Hall in a programme of Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 and Bruch's Violin Concerto with soloist Chloe Hanslip. European ensemble II Giardino d'Amore present their programme, The New 4 Seasons, a musical theatre experience with music by Vivaldi, Piazzola and Richter.

The Scots Opera Project return to the festival with an innovative reinterpretation of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. This ground-breaking production reimagines the classic within the confines of an asylum, performed in a Scots language translation. Whilst Scottish Opera will be presenting opera on a miniature scale with their Pop-Up performances. Principal Percussionist of English National Opera, Mick Doran, brings an irreverent, humorous, and moving show – An A-Z of Orchestral Triangle Playing - as he invites you into the real world of the orchestral musician

Scottish chamber music collective Hebrides Ensemble present Auld Alliance, a new programme celebrating the bonds between ‘Auld’ friends, Scotland and France, whilst the choir Tenebrae presents A Prayer for Deliverance with music by Holst, Cecilia McDowall, Joel Thompson, and Herbert Howells.  

On the Festival’s final evening, one of the world’s finest brass bands, The Fairey Band, presents a combination of music and animation, performing a brass band arrangement of Mussorgsky's I to accompany animated interpretations. This will be its first screening in Europe. And at the other end of the spectrum, there is a screening of Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers with John Notts' original music played by The Fairey Band.

Perth Festival’s Artists of the Year Concert returns with pianist Eleanor Pugley, multi-disciplinary artist Tallulah Rose, and singer-songwriter Alisa Black. One of Scotland’s largest exhibitions of contemporary Scottish Art – arTay returns in a new partnership with Perth legal firm Lindsays. Family events include Singing and Rainbows Under the Sea with opera singers Colleen and Katie in a magical underwater adventure with little ones

There are free concerts and events on the two Saturdays of the Festival – 25 May and 1 June, in venues throughout the city as the Festival launches their new Community Stages. The line-up includes Perthshire Brass, Perth Amateur Operatic Society, Perth UHI Popular Music Degree Showcase, Perth and District Pipe Band and singer-songwriter Debra Salem performing with Craigie Choir. 

Full details from the festival website.

Revisiting Staatsoper Berlin’s Ring cycle proved a thrilling experience: Dmitri Tcherniakov's production returns to Unter den Linden with conductor Philippe Jordan

Wagner: Das Rheingold - Staatsoper Berlin, 2022 (Photo: Monika Rittershaus)
Wagner: Das Rheingold - Staatsoper Berlin, 2022 (Photo: Monika Rittershaus)

Wagner: The Ring of the Nibelungen; Tomasz Konieczny, Rolando Villazón, Johannes Martin Kränzle, Robert Watson, Vida Miknevičiūtė, René Pape, Claudia Mahnke, Anja Kampe, Andreas Schager, Stephan Rügamer, dir: Dmitri Tcherniakov; Staatskapelle Berlin, cond: Phillipe Jordan; Staatsopernchor, dir: Dani Juris, Staatsoper Berlin, Germany
Reviewed by Tony Cooper, 26 March 2024

True to form, Dmitri Tcherniakov drifts miles away from Wagner’s original intentions but, nonetheless, comes up with an interesting and extremely rewarding production

The current Ring at Staatsoper Berlin came into being in October 2022 directed by Russian director Dmitri Tcherniakov due to be conducted by Daniel Barenboim. Sadly, though, Maestro Barenboim, had to pull out of the production because of severe health issues, a great blow to all but so disappointing for Barenboim in his 80th year.

All change, please! Therefore, it’s musical chairs at Staatsoper with Maestro Barenboim, who has held the post of General Music Director since 1992 relinquishing it in September of this year giving way to Chrisitan Thielemann, who comes from the post of chief conductor of the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden while at the same time Elisabeth Sobotka takes up the post of artistic director succeeding Matthias Schulz who moves over to Zürich.

However, I was tremendously pleased to attend the première of Tcherniakov’s Ring and I’m pleased as punch to be back at Staatsoper’s inviting and beautiful Palladian-style theatre on Unter den Linden inhaling once more Tcherniakov’s outstanding and thought-provoking Ring cycle.

This time round, though, the baton falls to Swiss-born conductor, Philippe Jordan. No stranger to the Ring, he worked as assistant to Jeffrey Tate on his cycle at the Châtelet, Paris and conducted the complete cycle in his home city of Zürich in 2008.

Interestingly, Maestro Jordan also acted as an assistant to Daniel Barenboim at Deutsche Oper Berlin in 1998 whom he described as 'the greatest musician alive. I learned a lot from him probably most of the things I know today'. Praise, indeed!

And no stranger to Staatsoper Berlin either, Tcherniakov worked with Barenboim on Tristan und Isolde in 2018 and, a year later, on Prokofiev's Betrothal in a Monastery. But this is his first Ring which follows hard on the heels of Deutsche Oper Berlin's new cycle, first seen in 2022, too, directed by Norwegian director, Stefan Herheim. He's another newcomer to Wagner's epic tetralogy who, incidentally, was a disciple of Götz Friedrich, a formidable and well-respected director and, indeed, a Ring superstar!

Ring cycles, it seems, are pasted all over the European cultural landscape outside of Deutschland and one that grabs my attention has been unfolding at La Monnaie/De Munt in Brussels, one of my favourite European houses. They're well into their new cycle conducted by Alain Altinoglu and directed by Romeo Castellucci. Das Rheingold arrived last year, Die Walküre was seen earlier this year and Siegfried comes to the stage in September followed by Götterdämmerung in January 2025.

The end of the Gods and, indeed, the end of Intendant, Peter de Caluwe, who quietly fades into a well-earned retirement after batting a superb innings knocking up 18 years. His replacement, 58-year-old Christina Scheppelmann, arrives from Seattle Opera early in 2026. Time flies!

Tuesday 26 March 2024

Young Lovers: Louise Alder and Joseph Middleton in an entrancing evening at Wigmore Hall

Joseph Middleton & Louise Alder at Wigmore Hall in 2022
Joseph Middleton & Louise Alder at Wigmore Hall in 2022

Young Lovers: Fauré, Nadia Boulanger & Raoul Pugno, Mahler, Copland, Ned Rorem, Rogers & Hammerstein; Louise Alder, Joseph Middleton; Wigmore Hall
Reviewed 25 March 2024

Young love in all its forms in an entrancing recital from this duo partnership which took is from France to settings of a Belgian symbolist to intimate Mahler, then evocations of a New England poet and an American composer in Paris, before ending with a damned good song from musical theatre

Soprano Louise Alder and pianist Joseph Middleton returned to Wigmore Hall on Monday 25 March 2024 with Young Lovers, a programme that moved from French song to German, to American, beginning with Fauré and Nadia Boulanger, then Mahler's Rückert Lieder followed by Copland's 12 poems of Emily Dickinson, two songs by Ned Rorem and ending with Hello, Young Lovers from Rogers & Hammerstein's The King and I.

We began with a group of songs by Gabriel Fauré, beginning with 16-year-old Fauré setting Victor Hugo, another setting of Hugo from his student days followed by two later songs. Le papillon e la fleur is Fauré's Opus 1, No. 1, his first song in a long career that would take him from 1861 through to the 1920s. We began with light amusement, yet full of engaging character and signalling that in addition to lovely tone, care about words and a luxurious sense of line, Alder is a delightful story-teller. Chanson d'amour (from 1882, later in the composer's career) was somewhat impulse with an urgency of tone and restlessness that belied the sentiment. Returning to Victor Hugo, Reve d'amour from Fauré's student days was serious, yet with a light, fluid texture, flowing beautifully. Finally, another later song, from 1879, Notre amour, impulsive, urgent and delightful. More Fauré please.

Worcester 2024: Three Choirs Festival releases full festival line-up along with announcing a new composer development scheme

Three Choirs Festival 2023 (Photo: James O'Driscoll)
Three Choirs Festival 2023 (Photo: James O'Driscoll)

The Three Choirs Festival has launched a new composer development scheme. New Voices Academy will be devoted to choral music, led by composer Daniel Kidane and hosted by the Three Choirs Festival in partnership with Carice Singers and Spitalfields Music.

Applications are now open, for the Academy will run from Friday 26 July to Tuesday 30 July, embedded within the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester, and will offer four ‘springboard’ and further ‘sandbox’ places for composers at the start of their professional careers. It will provide workshop, showcase, recording and networking opportunities alongside panel discussions and sessions on the practicalities and business of composition, concert and rehearsal access, and discussion time in which participants will co-design future iterations of the Academy so that it best serves today’s early-career composers.

Applications are encouraged from any composer in the early stages of their career who feels they would benefit from the project, and applicants do not need to have written for choral forces previously. Full details, including a contact for further information, can be found at the festival's website.

The full line-up of the Summer festival was recently announced, so that alongside  Elgar's The Kingdom, music commemorating 100 years since Stanford's death, Holst's early rarity The Cloud Messenger, premieres of two new festival commissions from Nathan James Dearden and Paul Mealor, and music inspired by the natural world including Bob Chilcott's The Angry Planet, and Sarah Kirkland Snyder's Mass for the Endangered, there is a packed daytime programme, including the Armonico Consort in The Forgotten Scarlatti, tributes to Steve Martland from the Heath Quartet and GBSR Duo, the Elias Quartet and Robert Plane, and a visit from The Symphonic Brass of London.

The festival features a total of 26 premieres, including performances of the New Voices Academy's Springboard composer works, which will be repeated at next year's Spitalfields Music Festival.    

Full details from the festival website.

A radical new look: full line-up for Nevill Holt's 2024 festival

Nevill Holt Festival 2024

The full line-up for the radical new 2024 Nevill Holt Festival has now been announced. Running from 1 to 26 June 2024, guest festival director James Dacre's programme features opera, classical music, jazz and contemporary, alongside visual arts, talks and literature.

This is a very different style of festival to previously, instead of two main operas there is a wide mix of events intended to tempt people into repeat visits. Also, the wider estate is more involved with an outdoor art exhibition, come for a concert and stay for Anthony Caro's sculpture.

The musical events place quite a reliance on established artists and I miss a young artists strand, though casting for the opera has not yet been announced.

Opera remains a strong strand in the festival, there will be six performances of Melly Still's new production of Mozart's The Magic Flute, with Finnegan Downie Dear conducting Britten Sinfonia. And Finnegan Downie Dear returns with Shadwell Opera, of which he is music director, for the premiere performance of The Devil's Den by British-Canadian composer Isabella Gellis. The opera is Shadwell Opera's first full-length commission and we are promised a tale of superstition and sacrifice rooted in English folklore, concerning a child, a rabbit, a devil, a druid and their mysterious connection to a celebrated dolmen.

Britten Sinfonia will also be giving a concert featuring music by Benjamin Kwasi-Burrell and Sergey Akhunov, plus Max Richter's version of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, accompanied by David Yarrow photography. There are recitals from pianist Benjamin Grosvenor, tenor Nicky Spence, soprano Mary Bevan & pianist Joseph Middleton, mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly & pianist Imogen Cooper, and pianists Pavel Kolesnikov & Samson Tsoy (including Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring).

Alexis Ffrench will be performing music from his latest album, Michael Morpurgo will be reading passages from his novel War Horse with musical accompaniment from Ben Murray, Anton Lesser will read excerpts from Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall with music by Debbie Wiseman played by Katherine Rockhill. Cécile McLorin Salvant and pianist Dan Tepfer will be performing French chanson and there is more French chanson from Jessica Walker and Joseph Atkins

Jazz performers include Jalen Ngonda, and Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra, music director Pete Long, with Liane Carroll. 

Throughout the festival there will be a display of sculpture by Anthony Caro across the Nevill Holt estate alongside an outdoor sculpture collection including work by Antony Gormley, Rachel Whiteread, Allen Jones, Conrad Shawcross, Marc Quinn and Sean Henry. There will be a screening of Vinny Rawding and Lee Cogswell's BOTY, and there will be conversations with sculptor Andy Goldsworthy, photographer David Yarrow, artist Chila Kumari Singh Burman, sculptor Nic Fiddian-Green and artist Allen Jones. Talks include Simon Martin on British Pop Art, and Daniel Hermann on the work of Eduardo Paolozzi.

On 14 and 15 June there is an extensive programme of conversations and talks, along with a free, hands-on archaeological exhibition for families based on objects found in the local area with University of Leicester Archaeological Services. For families there is also Madame Chandelier’s Opera Party for Kids which celebrates opera’s greatest hits in an interactive format. 

Over 1,500 primary schoolchildren will create 50-minute versions of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel which will be performed across the region in partnership with the Royal Opera House. One of these productions will play during the festival, accompanied by sopranos Fiona Finsbury and Eleanor Sanderson-Nash, directed by Jonathan Ainscough and conducted by Simon Toyne.

Full details from the festival website.

Monday 25 March 2024

Listening to the past: Manchester Camerata's Hearing Voices programme with Karen Cargill, Simone Menezes and Kantos Chamber Choir

Manchester Camerata at Stoller Hall (Photo: Robin Clewley)
Manchester Camerata at Stoller Hall (Photo: Robin Clewley)

Manchester Camerata's Hearing Voices at Stoller Hall on 5 April 2024 features the ensemble, conducted by Simone Menezes, joined by mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill and Kantos Chamber Choir for a programme that explores voices from the past and present, the work and memory of those before us. 

So, there is Britten's re-creating Phaedra's fatal obsession, Arvo Pärt remembering Britten, Michael Tippett evoking Corelli, Sally Beamish in Showings using Julian of Norwich's revelations of divine love, and Nick Martin's Falling. Book-ending the evening are works by Purcell, Hear my Prayer and Dido's Lament.

A slightly different version of the programme, without Kantos chamber choir, features in Lancaster on 4 April 2024.

Full details from the Manchester Camerata website - Stoller Hall and Lancaster.

Aldeburgh Festival at 75: Blond Eckbert and Curlew River, plus Unsuk Chin, Judith Weir, Alban Gerhardt and Daniel Pioro as featured artists

Aldeburgh Festival at 75: Blond Eckbert and Curlew River, plus Unsuk Chin, Judith Weir, Alban Gerhardt and Daniel Piero as featured artists

The 75th Aldeburgh Festival opens on 7 June and runs until 23 June 2024. The festival features stagings of Judith Weir's Blond Eckbert and Britten's Curlew River, and the festival's featured musicians are composers Judith Weir and Unsuk Chin, violinist Daniel Pioro and cellist Alban Gerhardt.

Judith Weir's Blond Eckbert is being staged as a co-production between Britten Pears Arts and English Touring Opera, and the work is directed by Robin Norton-Hale, conducted by Gerry Cornelius with a cast that includes Simon Wallfisch and Aoife Miskelly. Ryan Wigglesworth will conduct the Knussen Chamber Orchestra in the premiere of Weir's The Planet and Wigglesworth also conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra in Weir's Forest. Soprano Claire Booth performs Weir's solo opera, King Harald's Saga whilst the BBC Singers perform Blue Remembered Hill. The Leonkoro Quartet premiere Weir's second string quartet, The Spaniard, and there are performances of more of Weir's music from pianists Stephen Osborne and Rolf Hind, Trio Boheme, the Nash Ensemble, Aldeburgh Voices and Tenebrae.

Pianists Joseph Havlat and Rolf Hind will be sharing performance of Unsuk Chin's complete Preludes, whilst Tenebrae premiere Chin's new 40-part motet to go with Tallis' Spem in Alium for performance in Ely Cathedral. The Royal Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra, conductor Roderick Cox, premiere Chin's Alaraph

Cellist Alban Gerhardt will be performing Unsuk Chin's Cello Concerto, a work written for him, with Ryan Wigglesworth and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Gerhardt is also the soloist in Elgar's Cello Concerto with Edward Gardner and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He joins forces with soprano Claire Booth and pianist Joseph Havlat for Thomas Larcher's My illness is the medicine I need, based on extracts from interviews with patients of mental-health facilities, and Splinters. Then Gerhardt and pianist Steven Osborne recreate the June 1961 recital by Britten and Rostropovich which saw the world premiere of Britten’s Cello Sonata, along with classic works by Schubert, Schumann and Debussy. Gerhardt will be pairing Bach and Britten with their solo cello suites.

Violinist Daniel Pioro joins pianist Simon Smith for Brahms' three Violin Sonatas, and he joins with the Marian Consort for a programme of music for dusk including Tom Coult, Arvo Pärt and John Tavener. Pioro will also bring a deep-listening element, inspired by Pauline Oliveros, to a festival walk, and the violinist is also inviting people to drop in to his practice session at the Red House. And Pioro is the soloist in Britten Violin Concerto with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Ryan Wigglesworth.

There will be a new staging of Britten’s church parable Curlew River, 60 years after its first performance, directed by Claire van Kampen with music director Audrey Hyland and tenor Ian Bostridge, baritone Peter Braithwaite, bass-baritone Sir Willard White and singers and alumni from the Britten Pears Young Artists programme. Alongside this will be a rare chance to experience Sumidagawa (“Sumida River”), one of the most renowned Noh plays, which inspired Britten’s church parable Curlew River.  Other Britten at the festival includes suites from The Prince of the Pagodas and Death in Venice, St Nicholas (as part of a concert recreating the festival's opening concert from 1948).

The full festival brochure is available here [PDF]. Full details from the festival website.

Lush romanticism was a long way away: an immersive contemporary interpretation of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater from Figure

Our Mother - Rowan Pierce, Emma Kirkby, Alexandra Achillea Pouta - Figure at Stone Nest (Photo: Kristina Allen)
Our Mother - Rowan Pierce, Emma Kirkby, Alexandra Achillea Pouta - Figure at Stone Nest (Photo: Kristina Allen)

Our Mother: Pergolesi: Stabat Mater with interludes by Alex Mills; Emma Kirkby, Catherine Carby, Rowan Pierce, Alexandra Achillea Pouta, Nadya Pickup, Figure, Frederick Waxman, Sophie Daneman; Stone Nest
Reviewed 23 March 2024

An abstract, immersive staging, concentrating on dramatising the emotional arc of Pergolesi's work interleaved with impressive new interludes from young composer Alex Mills

Historical performance group, Figure, music director Frederick Waxman, has become known for its fascinatingly staged interpretation of classics and recent work has included Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream at Opera Holland Park and This is my Body, an immersive staging of Buxtehude's Membra Jesu Nostri [see my review]. For their latest project, Our Mother at Stone Nest (seen 23 March 2024), Figure performed Pergolesi's Stabat Mater with new interludes by composer Alex Mills. The soloists were Dame Emma Kirkby, Catherine Carby, Rowan Pierce, Alexandra Achillea Pouta and Nadya Pickup, with a five-piece instrumental ensemble directed from the organ by Frederick Waxman. The staging was directed by Sophie Daneman with lighting by Chris Burr.

The action took place on a cruciform stage at the centre of Stone Nest's auditorium with audience on three sides, mainly standing with some sitting and looking down from the gallery. Alex Mills' music wrapped around that of Pergolesi, beginning and ending the evening as well as forming interludes between the movement's of the Stabat Mater. Mills' writing was in no way pastiche, this was tonal yet modern and often dramatic, taking threads of Pergolesi and weaving them into radically different material.

Our Mother - Catherine Carby - Figure at Stone Nest (Photo: Kristina Allen)
Our Mother - Catherine Carby - Figure at Stone Nest (Photo: Kristina Allen)

Saturday 23 March 2024

Writing Italian-influenced music in the depths of Northamptonshire: organist William Whitehead on the music of English Baroque composer George Jeffreys

Solomon's Knot at Kirby Hall
Solomon's Knot at Kirby Hall

The Baroque collective, Solomon's Knot's recent disc on Prospero Classical [see my review] showcased the music of the almost forgotten 17th-century English composer George Jeffreys, revealing him as a remarkable talent, writing Italian-influenced music in the depths of darkest Northamptonshire during the Civil War. Born around 1610 and living until 1683, his lifetime coincided with a complex piece of English history; for most of his life he worked for Lord Hatton, much of the time at Hatton's seat of Kirby Hall in Northamptonshire. For the recent recording, featuring 16 pieces by Jeffreys, Solomon's Knot included organist William Whitehead for recording sessions at Kirby Hall (now in the care of English Heritage). I recently chatted to William about Jeffreys' and his music, and how the recording came about, as well as touching on William's passion project, the Orgelbuchlein project, a modern-day completion of Bach's youthful collection of chorale preludes.

William Whitehead
William Whitehead

William describes George Jeffreys (c1610-1685) as the first English Baroque composer, writing music in a radical new style. So why have we not heard much about him?

William points out that it is fatally easy to write a history of English music where, during the Civil War music gets killed off. But as with other such political situations, when you put pressure on an art form, out pop interesting and fascinating things, and William cites the Soviet era and the example of Shostakovich.

William first heard some of Jeffreys's music 20 years ago. Composer and conductor Peter Aston did seminal work on Jeffreys at the University of East Anglia and recorded some of the music with his students. When William came across the recordings he found it vibrant, deep and colourful music, so for the last 15 years or so he has been rattling cages about performing Jeffreys' music. Unfortunately, with an unknown name, it proved difficult to get any interest, until finally Jonathan Sells of Solomon's Knot came on board. William plays the keyboard regularly with the ensemble and so helped to put the recording together.

Friday 22 March 2024

Organ Reborn! Norwich Cathedral Organ Festival: A new music festival for Norwich

Norwich Cathedral Organ (Photo: Bill Smith/Norwich Cathedral)
Norwich Cathedral Organ (Photo: Bill Smith/Norwich Cathedral)

From an epic concert featuring three Cathedral Choirs to the ‘Battle of the Organs’, audiences will be able to enjoy a whole week of musical festivities at Norwich Cathedral in July marking the return of the Cathedral’s historic pipe organ as part of the first Norwich Cathedral Organ Festival.   

Norwich Cathedral Organinsts (Photo: Bill Smith/Norwich Cathedral)
Norwich Cathedral Organists (Photo: Bill Smith/Norwich Cathedral)

In fact, this special summer festival (generously underwritten by the Statham Society which supports the musical life of Norwich Cathedral) has been carefully planned to coincide with the first anniversary of the organ’s return following its ambitious rebuild by Harrison & Harrison. Therefore, Organ Reborn! Norwich Cathedral Organ Festival, runs from Saturday 6th to Sunday 14th July featuring three headline concerts, six organ recitals, a couple of talks and so much more!  

‘We are really excited to be celebrating the return of Norwich Cathedral’s historic pipe organ,’ said Ashley Grote, the Cathedral’s Master of Music. ‘And with this special festival it will showcase the organ in all its consummate glory with nine days of wonderful events.  

‘From big concerts and services to talks and school workshops, there’s surely something for everyone wrapped up in this festival. We sincerely hope people from all walks of life will come along to hear some incredible music being played on Norwich Cathedral’s magnificent instrument.’  

Mr Grote further added: ‘The festival week will also bring internationally-renowned organists to Norwich as well as world-class ensembles such as the BBC Singers and the Britten Sinfonia.  

‘The opening concert, therefore, sees Norwich Cathedral Choir join forces with the neighbouring choirs of Ely and Peterborough cathedrals to deliver a Three Choirs Special in what promises a thrilling and telling programme of choral favourites. There’ll also be a school’s programme running throughout the week, a family-friendly ‘Battle of the Organs’ concert and a silent movie complete with ‘live’ organ accompaniment. All these events will run alongside our daily schedule of choral services, one of which will be broadcast ‘live’ on BBC Radio 3 during festival week.’  

Thursday 21 March 2024

Young artists in a Georgian country house setting, what's not to love

Dabton House
Dabton House

Dabton House is a Georgian country house on the Queensberry Estate in Dumfriesshire, built in the 1820s and very much a classical villa. From 17 to 19 May 2024, the house is hosting a Classical Music Retreat, giving guests the chance to hear emerging Scottish artists in the intimate confines of Dabton House's drawing room. The weekend is being presented by Absolute Classics, artistic director Alex McQuiston, an organisation that presents classical music across Dumfries & Galloway, showcasing finest classical musicians to audiences while also nurturing and supporting emerging talents.

The Classical Music Retreat at Dabton House features Scottish violinist Iona McDonald and pianist Yuki Negishi in Clara Schumann, Franck, Lili Boulanger and Saint-Saens, 16-year-old cellist Will Archibald (runner up in the final of the Scottish Young SoloMusician of the Year in May 2023) with Negishi in Schumann, Ligeti and Rachmaninov, Scottish soprano Catriona McArthur with Negishi in an eclectic programme that moves from Handel and Mozart, to Schumann, Debussy, Madeleine Dring, Rebecca Clark and James MacMillan, and percussionist Callum Walton (who is evidently from Gretna Green).

Absolute Classics presents a whole variety of events across the region, and the Summer Festival this year features pianist Peter Donohoe, the Rossetti Ensemble in a programme of piano quartets, brass ensemble Septura, and Opera Bohemia in Puccini's Tosca, all in Dumfries.

Full details from the Absolute Classics website.

Wednesday 20 March 2024

Elegant. Vivid. Bring Tissues: Schumann's Das Paradies und die Peri at the Glasshouse

Dinis Sousa conducting the Royal Northern Sinfonia
Dinis Sousa conducting the Royal Northern Sinfonia
Schumann's Das Paradies und die Peri (Paradise and the Peri) is one of those works that you might have heard of, but never heard live. Sir Simon Rattle, who clearly has a fondness for the piece, conducted it at the 2023 BBC Proms, but it remains rather a rarity. Partly because it is difficult to pin down; part oratorio and part opera, a choral and orchestral cycle that seems to unfold in continuous song. 

Now there is a chance to catch the work live in Gateshead, when Dinis Sousa conducts the Royal Northern Sinfonia in Schumann's Das Paradies und die Peri at The Glasshouse on 14 April 2024 with the Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia and a cast of soloists including Louise Alder.

So what is it about?

Dinis Sousa explains, the story "follows a Persian mythological creature called Peri, who is sent away from Paradise. If she wants to be allowed to come back she has to find a present for the gods. So she travels across the world – Egypt, Syria, India – and the music paints some of these places really evocatively.  It’s a journey of redemption so it has many reflective and tender moments, as well as some incredibly dramatic ones (there are even battle scenes). The music flows so gracefully with some beautiful harmonies and melodies taking unexpected turns. I absolutely love it."

Or as the Glasshouse website describes it 'Elegant. Vivid. Bring Tissues'

Schumann wrote it in 1843 and based the story on a tale from Thomas Moore's Lallah Rookh. The work was premiered in Leipzig in 1843 with the composer conducting and went on to have well-received performances in Dresden and Berlin, even Richard Wagner praised it!

Full details from the Glasshouse's website.

Norwegian tango: Håkon Skogstad's Astor Piazzolla-inspired album, 8 Concepts of Tango

Now this is rather fun, a disc of music inspired by the Argentine tango nuevo but created by a Norwegian pianist composer. 8 Concepts of Tango is this third of Håkon Skogstad's trilogy of tango-inspired discs, following on from Visions of Tango with the Trondheim Soloists which was awarded a Norwegian Grammy for best classical album 2021.

Skogstad created 8 Concepts of Tango with seven hand-picked musicians, all experts in the intersection of Argentine tango with classical music: Håkon Skogstad – pianist, Andreas Rokseth – bandoneón, Åsbjørg Ryeng - bandoneón, Sveinung Lillebjerka - violin, Anders Larsen - violin, Bergmund Waal Skaslien - viola, Marit Aspaas - cello, Ole Schøyen Sjölin - double bass. The music takes inspiration from Astor Piazzolla’s Octeto Buenos Aires, so we have eight musicians and eight compositions.

The video is of the first track on the disc, Caserón Porteño which is Skogstad says is "dedicated to the hotel in Buenos Aires where we grew as young musicians through musical experiences, practice, lessons and dancing". Rather than simply producing yet another rewrite/rearrangement of Piazzolla classics, Skogstad's music takes the ideas of Piazzolla and runs with them, sometimes down and dirty, sometimes jazz-inspired but always vividly engaging and definitely a unique voice. Norwegian tango, you definitely need to hear it.

The disc is out on the Norwegian label Øra Fonogram, and can be streamed [linktree].

Soundscapes, an immersive audio-visual installation that invites audiences on a sensory journey through the Yorkshire Dales

Ben Crick & Michaela French: Soundscapes - Skipton Town Hall (Photo: Jonny Walton)
Ben Crick & Michaela French: Soundscapes - Skipton Town Hall (Photo: Jonny Walton)

Soundscapes, an immersive audio-visual installation that invites audiences on a sensory journey through the Yorkshire Dales, is now open to the public at Skipton Town Hall until 1 June 2024. The brainchild of Yorkshire’s composer and conductor of Skipton Camerata, Ben Crick, the installation was created by Crick and media artist Michaela French. 

Projected inside a purpose-built hemispherical dome, Soundscapes combines 360° videography of the Yorkshire Dales with a symphonic soundtrack, inspired by the landscape.

Audiences sit, or lie, under the cinematic dome to undertake an extraordinary experience of sight, sound, and space, with the original orchestral composition performed by Skipton Camerata, North Yorkshire's only professional orchestra. A dynamic team of creatives from across the north has collaborated to design the installation. 

Ben Crick & Michaela French: Soundscapes - Skipton Town Hall (Photo: Jonny Walton)
Ben Crick & Michaela French: Soundscapes - Skipton Town Hall (Photo: Jonny Walton)

Full details from Skipton Town Hall's website.

Ben Crick & Michaela French: Soundscapes - Skipton Town Hall (Photo: Jonny Walton)
Ben Crick & Michaela French: Soundscapes - Skipton Town Hall (Photo: Jonny Walton)

Tuesday 19 March 2024

Venice's Golden Lion: composer Rebecca Saunders receives Lifetime Achievement award from the Biennale Musica

Rebecca Saunders (Photo: Johannes List)
Rebecca Saunders (Photo: Johannes List)
Berlin-based British composer Rebecca Saunders has been awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement of the Biennale Musica 2024 (the musical arm of the Biennale di Venezia). 

The award ceremony will be on 27 September 2024 in the Sala delle Colonne at Ca’ Giustinian, the headquarters of La Biennale, during the 68th International Festival of Contemporary Music (26 September - 11 October 2024).

Saunders received the award for "the refined sophistication of her research and her compositional intentions, for the attention she dedicates to the sonic microcosm, for her capacity to create a private listening area within the listener, an intimate inner acoustic space that evolves and amplifies the sonic imaginary. The composer conceives a specific temporality for each work which becomes an investigation into and experimentation with the experience of listening. Her elaboration of the sonic material is profoundly speculative and at the same time powerfully empirical and material, tied to the performance and the playing strategies" [from citation]

Rebecca Saunders studied composition with Nigel Osborne in Edinburgh and Wolfgang Rihm in Karlsruhe, and in 2019, she became the first woman to receive the Ernst-von-Siemens award. Saunders' piano concerto, To An Utterance was premiered in 2021 by the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra, at the Lucerne Festival with pianist Nicholas Hodges [see my 2020 interview with Nicholas], and she was composer in residence with the Dresdner Philharmonie for 2021/2022.

Full details from the Biennale website.

Two hundred years of music for the horn: Ben Goldscheider in Beethoven, Bowen, Widmann and Watkins

Ben Goldscheider
Ben Goldscheider

Jörg Widmann, Beethoven, Schumann, Huw Watkins, York Bowen; Ben Goldscheider, Richard Uttley; Wigmore Hall
Reviewed 17 March 2024

200 years of music for the horn as Ben Goldscheider showcases devastating technique, lovely tone and superb musicality in a programme that engaged, intrigued and challenged

Horn player Ben Goldscheider's Sunday morning recital with pianist Richard Uttley at Wigmore Hall on Sunday 17 March 2024 featured a programme that stretched from Beethoven's Horn Sonata in F right through to contemporary pieces by Jörg Widmann and Huw Watkins, with Schumann's Fantasiestücke, Op. 73 and York Bowen's Sonata in E flat for horn and piano, Op. 101 representing more romantic approaches to the instrument.

Writing for the horn in the 18th and 19th centuries often depended on composers developing a relationship with particular players, yet we also have to remember that the technology of the horn was developing during the 19th century, though was not always adopted early. So that Robert Schumann's explorations of the horn were linked to the development of valves, which gave composers more scope, though there are surprisingly few major romantic horn works until the 20th century.

Evgeny Kissin to give Wigmore Hall recital in aid of the Jeremy Singer Charitable Trust established in memory of his cousin

Evgeny Kissin (Photo: Mascia Sergievskaia)
Evgeny Kissin (Photo: Mascia Sergievskaia)

The Singer family established the charity, the Jeremy Singer Charitable Trust, in memory of their son Jeremy Singer, who sadly passed away in 2012 at the age of 37. The Trust promotes educational opportunities for underprivileged young people at university level. It aims to help disadvantaged students succeed in life by providing them with the resources to make the most of their time at university.

A fundraising concert, in collaboration with Brasenose College, Oxford, is being presented at Wigmore Hall on Saturday 29 June 2024 with a recital from pianist Evgeny Kissin. Kissin is in fact, Jeremy Singer's cousin and has fond memories of Jeremy.

Jeremy Singer read History at Brasenose College and the Trust intends to fund bursaries at the college, the recipients will be known as ‘Jeremy Singer Scholars’ and an annual dinner will be given by the College for the present and past scholars. 

Evgeny Kissin's recital on 29 June at Wigmore Hall will feature Beethoven's Piano Sonata No 27, Chopin's Nocturne, Op 48 No 2 and Fantaisie, Op 49, Brahms' Four Ballades, Op 10 and Prokofiev Piano Sonata No 2. Evgeny Kissin is generously donating his performance and afterwards he will be joining everyone for a post-performance champagne reception and light supper.

Further information from the Trust's website.

Monday 18 March 2024

Breezes of Spain: discovering the music of Óscar de la Cinna

Óscar de la Cinna in 1875
Óscar de la Cinna in 1875

Pianist and composer Óscar de la Cinna (1836–1906) is not a household name. Born in Hungary, he was musically educated Prague, Warsaw and Vienna, studied with Czerny and was a classmate of Liszt. A virtuoso pianist, he moved to Spain as piano tutor to the Spanish Royal family, before finally settling in Andalucia. There he was influenced by Spanish folk songs and Moorish dance music.

On Friday 29 March 2024, there is a chance to get to know Óscar de la Cinna's music when a piano and dance performance, Breezes of Spain (Brisas de España) is being presented at The Horton, the renovated Grade II-listed former Horton Chapel in Epsom that is now an arts venue.

The performers are Yoel Vargas (dance and choreography) and José-Vicente Riquelme (piano), both of whom took part in the Horton's Spanish season last year. There is also a preconcert talk about the composer and his music by artistic director, Antonio Hernandez Moreno.

Full details from the Horton's website.

600 young musicians aged 7-11 join the RLPO to celebrate 15 years of In Harmony Liverpool

Celebrating 15 years of In Harmony Liverpool

Today (18 March 2024), the Liverpool Philharmonic together with 600 young musicians aged 7-11 from Anfield and Everton, will celebrate 15 years of In Harmony Liverpool with a birthday concert at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. The performers from Faith Primary, The Beacon CE Primary and All Saints Catholic Primary will present a concert with Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra musicians to an audience of friends and family culminating in a joyous finale of massed choir and orchestra.

Launched in 2009 and benefiting over 4,000 children and young people, In Harmony uses orchestral music making to improve the life chances of children by increasing confidence, wellbeing, skills and resilience, enhanced by opportunities to travel, learn, perform and collaborate with professional musicians, international artists and other young people.

Children and young people make music every week free of charge, learn an instrument, compose, sing, rehearse and perform wide ranging music in orchestras and ensembles in schools, throughout the community and in concert venues. 

1,700 children and young people currently take part within and beyond the school day through partners, and many young people have gone on to perform in Resonate Youth Philharmonic, Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Company and the National Youth Orchestra’s Inspire programme.  

In Harmony Liverpool is part of the Liverpool Phiharmonic's wider learning and community engagement programmes and in 2022/23, over 100,000 participants of all ages took part in these, whilst over 18,000 people living with mental and physical ill-health have benefitted from our music and health NHS programme over the last 15 years.

Full details from the Liverpool Philharmonic website.

Quite an achievement: the North London Chorus' ambition rewarded in a performance of Ethel Smyth's The Prison that intrigued and engaged

Henry Brewster (HB) in 1897
Henry Brewster (HB) in 1897

Beethoven: Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt, Smyth: The Prison, Brahms: Nänie: Rebecca Bottone, Alex Otterburn, North London Chorus, Meridian Sinfonia, Murray Hipkin, Lucy Stevens; St James Church, Muswell Hill
Reviewed 16 March 2023

A welcome opportunity to hear Ethel Smyth's late work live, in a fine performance which rewarded the choir for its daring in programming The Prison

Ethel Smyth's late work, The Prison, which she described as a 'Symphony for soprano, bass-baritone soli, chorus and orchestra' does not get many concert outings, despite being rediscovered on disc [see my review]. The enterprising North London Chorus under their conductor Murray Hipkin gave a rare performance of Ethel Smyth's The Prison at St James Church, Muswell Hill on 16 March 2024 with the Meridian Sinfonia and soloists Rebecca Bottone and Alex Otterburn. Also in the programme was Beethoven's Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt and Brahms' Nänie. Lucy Stevens, who has developed a show about Ethel Smyth, Grasp the Nettle, provided lively spoken introductions to Smyth and The Prison, including Smyth's observations on meeting Brahms.

Popular Posts this month