Garsington Opera World Premiere


On 5 July 2018 Garsington Opera stages its first festival world premiere. Based on award-winning novel The Skating Rink by Chilean author Roberto Bolaño, the opera tells a thrilling tale of jealousy, political corruption and passion.

Set in a seaside town on the Costa Brava, the production will feature live figure-skating and an exceptional cast. The story of The Skating Rink is told by three narrators, revolving around Nuria, a beautiful young figure-skating champion. When she is dropped from the Olympic team, Enric, a besotted civil servant, pilfers public funds and builds her a secret practice rink in a deserted mansion. Nuria has affairs and the plot soon spins into blackmail, bad faith and treachery; the skating rink becomes a crime scene.

Leading British composer David Sawer, whose previous operatic work includes From Morning to Midnight (ENO 2001), has composed a score which is full of character, drama and beauty, drawing on Spanish and Latin American styles, set to a libretto by award-winning playwright Rory Mullarkey.  David Sawer said: “Immediately what grabbed me about the book was its structure. The fact that it is a story told from multiple viewpoints; that there isn’t just one linear narrative, that there are interlocking stories and that the events are told from different perspectives…that was very interesting for me, musically. There are lots of different themes in the narrative. What I think I’ve written is almost like a filmstrip, which will come to life when it is staged.”

Performances: 5, 8, 10, 14, 16 July 2018 (Start time 6.50pm)

Tickets:  01865 361636  or


The Skating Rink            David Sawer (composer)
Sung in English              Rory Mullarkey (librettist)           
Based on the novel by   Roberto Bolaño
Conductor                       Garry Walker
Director/Designer           Stewart Laing
Costume Designer          Hyemi Shin
Lighting Designer           Malcolm Rippeth
Movement Director         Sarah Fahie
Enric                              Neal Davies
Gaspar                          Sam Furness
Remo                            Ben Edquist
Carmen                         Susan Bickley
Caridad                         Claire Wild
Nuria                             Lauren Zolezzi
Rookie                          Alan Oke
Pilar                              Louise Winter

Hastings Philharmonic

St Mary in the Castle, Saturday 14 April 2018

Was this the largest audience for a Hastings Philharmonic event, even allowing for the Christmas concerts? It certainly felt like it and the ovation which greeted the end of the Tchaikovsky was whole-hearted and certainly deserved.

The first half was given over to Elgar’s Cello Concerto with Richard Lester an intense and moving soloist. Without excessive rubato or dwelling on the potential melancholy of some of the writing he created a narrative which was holistically pleasing. Yes there is a melancholy which comes close to depression in the opening movement, and the work often returns to the potential bleakness of life, but at the same time there is much that reflects the opposite mood. The final movement had a jaunty air to it, reflecting on Falstaff rather than Gerontius, so that the whole was uplifting and life-affirming rather than the sentimental wallow which can too easily slip into place.

As is often the case at St Mary’s, the soloist was almost uncomfortably close to the front row and there was a sense of intimacy throughout which larger venues simply cannot reproduce.

If the Elgar had eschewed the overtly emotional, Tchaikovskly’s Fifth Symphony had it in bucketfuls. After a slow sombre opening – and tempi throughout tended to be on the slow side – the brass let rip and it was obvious we were in for a thrilling ride. The long horn solo at the start of the reflective second movement was beautifully crafted by Anna Drysdale, and Marcio da Silva’s control of the opening dynamics made the brass intervention all the more dangerous. The third movement seemed almost out of place within this world of romantic sentiment and brash aggression, but gave way to a finely paced finale, which opened with near-Sibelius like mystery before we tumbled helter-skelter into the closing onslaught.

The young players who make up Hastings Philharmonic Orchestra are proving to be among the most exciting ensembles to be heard anywhere. For how long Marcio da Silva can keep them together before they are snapped up by other national and inter-national orchestras is anybody’s guess. For the moment let us be grateful we have them here and look forward to the Verdi Requiem at the White Rock on 5th May – which deserves to sell out, so get your tickets quickly!


Nicholas McCarthy at Opus Theatre

Opus Theatre, Hastings, 13 April 2018

When Polo Piatti launched Opus Theatre not many could have imagined that we would have a series of concerts by some of the finest young pianists in the world today. Thanks to the acquisition of the Opus Phoenix grand piano and sterling support both from Phoenix and other philanthropists, to say nothing of the willingness of professional pianists to perform in smaller venues to smaller audiences, Nicholas McCarthy gave the first recital of the new season – setting an exemplary standard for the series as well as instant rapport with his audience.

This would normally be more than enough to excite an audience but when one realises that he has no right arm and that all the works we heard were given with left hand only, the outcome is extraordinary.

In very relaxed fashion he led us through the world of piano compositions for left hand – ranging from Brahms’ amazing arrangement for Clara Schumann of Bach’s Chaconne in D to the lovely anecdote of Fumagalli’s left hand only arrangements as he preferred to use his right to hold his cigar!

The range of works tended towards the romantic, with richly effective compositions by Richard Strauss, Felix Blumenfeld and Scriabin, but included Bach. The suites for solo cello are easily adapted for left hand, and the Prelude from the first cello suite was particularly effective and beautifully phrased. There was also a new commission from Nigel Hess – a delightful and deeply atmospheric Nocture.

Nicholas McCarthy had opened the concert with an arrangement of Rachmaninoff’s Springwaters and ended with his own adaptation of the same composer’s familiar Prelude in G minor. Looking at the original score it should not be possible to reproduce the composer’s torrent of notes with one hand but this is exactly what Nicholas McCarthy does,  and what’s more makes it seem so easy. Such is the professionalism of the finest artists.

Anton Lyakhovsky will perform tonight, Saturday 14 April, and next week end brings Sunny Li and Oliver Poole. All details on the Opus Theatre website

Visual Sonorities

Visual Sonorities is a dual-art experience brought to London after their debut success last month at venues across  Sao Paulo, Brazil. In everyday film and TV, music accompanies pictures: now the roles are reversed, rewardingly for the audience.

Two Russian solo piano masterpieces, inextricably linked with paintings, are performed in concert, with simultaneously projected interpretative images, preceded by an illuminating narration.

Italian, Francesco Comito, will play Mussorgsky’s original solo suite ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’, then Russian, Anna Bulkina, will play the less often-heard Opus 39 set of Rachmaninov’s ‘Études-Tableaux’, which are landscape impressions and sketches.

These two performing artistes connect strongly at multi-level with the intensity, not to mention the technical terrain, of these big compositions which are among the pillars of the Russian piano repertoire.

London performance on April 21 2018 at St Sepulchre Church at Holborn Viaduct EC1, right across the street from St.Paul Cathedral. The concert starts at 6 pm. There are two internet websites where the public can get tickets:



Garsington Opera is delighted that Annette Campbell-White was awarded the prestigious 2018 Philanthropist Prize at the International Opera Awards last night.

A major beneficiary of Annette’s generosity, energy and advice over many years, the whole team at Garsington Opera offers huge congratulations to her for this award.

Annette Campbell-White has provided transformational support to Garsington Opera, most recently as Lead Production Supporter for John Cox’s 2017 Le nozze di Figaro.  A key member of the Advisory Council, Garsington Opera benefits deeply through her broad experience, knowledge of young singers and positive force in the international opera world.

Douglas Boyd, Artistic Director of Garsington Opera said: “I am over the moon that Annette Campbell-White’s extraordinary impact and contribution to the world of opera has been recognised by the International Opera Awards. Annette embodies an inspiring combination of supporter, adviser, confidante and friend that any company would be so proud to have in their family.  I want to thank and congratulate her on behalf of all at Garsington Opera for such a wonderful achievement – BRAVA!”

CDs/DVDs April 2018

Mozart: Cosi fan tutte
Royal Opera, Semyon Bychkov

This 2016 production by Jan Philipp Gloger works very well on the small screen, where the updating is smoothly effective as well as often genuinely amusing. It also has the great benefit of young singers who come over well in close-up. There is a fine conceit at the start where the protagonists come up out of the audience as if the opera has just ended and they come on stage discussing what they have just seen, only to find themselves drawn in to the realities of the emotional world of the original. This approach, added to fine singing and some exceptional playing from the orchestra under Semyon Bychkov make this a valuable addition to the many already available.


Percy Grainger: Complete Music for Wind Band – 2
Royal Norwegian Navy Band, Bjarte Engeset
NAXOS 8.573680

Having greatly enjoyed the first cd in the series I am delighted to say that this is certainly its equal. A few better known arrangements – Children’s March, Danny Boy, The Merry King – sit alongside rarer items. The final, unexpected, piece is a lengthy arrangement of Liszt’s Hungarian Fantasy for piano and wind band with Joachim Carr at the piano. This was apparently a favourite of Grainger himself, often performing it in public, and it works surprisingly well with wind band.


The Inner Child
Antonio Oyarzabal, piano
ORPHEUS OR 7351-0685

Given the popularity of many of these pieces individually, it is surprising that they are not brought together more often. Antonio Oyarzabal’s deft approach maintains the innocence within the individual movements while clearly defining their emotional content as well as the very different approaches of the four composers. If the Schumann and Debussy seem the most disarming, the Mompou pieces, by their more obvious unfamiliarity convince with their immediacy before a return to the comfort of Ravel’s Ma mere l’oye.  This may be a corner of the market which has been neglected previously.


Guitar Music of Mexico
Cecilio Perera, guitar
NAXOS 8.573674

The cd notes that contemporary guitar music in Mexico is very vibrant with a number of familiar professional guitarists composing on a regular basis. Drawing on a rich heritage of guitar music, most of it unfamiliar to European listeners, the cd is composed almost entirely of new or recent music with only one traditional piece La Ilorona arranged by Julio Cesar Oliva to connect us to this heritage.

Cecilio Perera includes a recording of his own Marina which is certainly in keeping with the high quality and enjoyable nature of the whole.


Schubert: Works for solo piano Vol 3
Barry Douglas, piano

This third volume, on a par with the first two fine volumes, opens with the posthumous Piano Sonata D958, followed immediately by the delightful Moments musicaux Op94. These two take up a major part of the disc but at the end we have two Liszt transcriptions of Schubert, Sei mir gegrust D741 and Auf der Wasser zu singen Op72 D774. Barry Douglas playing is as mellifluous as ever and the rest of the series is eagerly awaited.


Sibelius: Chamber works
Chamber Domaine Thomas Kemp

There is always a good case for introducing the listener to unfamiliar works by placing them alongside the well-known. The only potential problem is that the collector may already have a number of recording of the Andante Festivo and not welcome another – which would be a pity as it is not only the gentle nature of the playing here but the range of smaller works which rarely get into the concert hall. These include the suite Rakastava (The Lover), and arrangements of The Oak-tree, Nocture and a flute solo from Scaramouche.  None are world-shattering but that is not the point here. What we have is a finely balanced programme of engaging and finely played pieces.


CPE Bach: Solo Keyboard Music Vol 35
Miklos Spanyi, tangent piano
BIS 2260
I have to admit I did not know what a tangent piano was and am grateful for the photo on the back cover of the notes. The immediate response is that it must be a harpsichord, for it is certainly that shape and size, with reversed colour keyboard; however this is not so. The instrument recorded here was built in 1998 by Ghislain Potvlieghe in Belgium based on a 1799 instrument by Baldassare Pastore. The notes give a detailed description of the specific benefits of the tangent piano which fits somewhere between a clavichord and a forte-piano, enabling the works CPE Bach wrote for both to be recorded with both the intimacy of the earlier instruments and the vigour of the later.

There is a reference back to Vol19 for reference where a parallel set of variations was recorded. With a composer so prolific one wonders how many more there will be in this series – though given the enjoyment it is giving we are not looking for an end!


Mozart: Piano Duets Vol2
Julian Perkins and Emma Abbate

This recording follows the earlier volume of piano works for four hands and uses instruments from the Richard Burnett Heritage Collection – a fortepiano of 1800 by Michael Rosenberger and a square piano c 1820. In addition to two Mozart sonatas and an unfinished Allegro & Andante they also sneak in a sonata by Clementi.


Directed by Handel: Music from Handel’s London Theatre Orchestra
Olwen Foulkes, recorder
BCR 019

Though Handel was adept at turning out scores in great rapidity he was surrounded in London by many other contemporary composers, and what we have here is a collection of delightful items which were written and played during the height of Handel’s operatic fame. Olwen Foulkes investigated these while taking part in a residency at Handel House in 2015 and much of this recording is the result of that research. It includes pieces by Corelli, Sammartini and JC Smith as well as Handel himself. It is good to see such a valuable undertaking coming to such enjoyable fruition.

WNO: Rabble Rousers

Milton Keynes Theatre, 6-7 April 2018

Tosca always has been something of a rabble rouser and if Michael Blakemore’s production is almost two decades old it still works with remarkable clarity. Bringing the soloists close to the front of the stage for much of the time helps with the musical excitement as well as ensuring that nuances of acting make their point – where there are any. On this occasion Claire Rutter was an exciting and vibrant Tosca, her voice flooding the theatre easily but showing real sensitivity for Vissi d’arte. Mark S Doss was a creepily malevolent Scarpia, aware of his power to the point where he seemed continually relaxed until the final moment which came to him totally unexpectedly. Claire Rutter’s vicious attack – I can’t recall a Tosca stabbing so often – was dramatically justified and highly effective.

Unfortunately, though Hector Sandoval sings Cavaradossi with some sense of heroism, his acting is stilted and he clearly prefers to sing directly to the audience (to say nothing of the conductor) rather than to his partner.

It was a pleasure to find Donald Maxwell as the Sacristan and he turned up again the following evening in clerical garb as Fra Melitone in David Poutney’s new production of La Forza del Destino. Some slight tinkering with the score made it flow with ease though there is no getting away from the fact that the work – for all its magnificent music – is a flawed masterpiece. Happily the two principal singers, Mary Elizabeth Williams as Leonora and Gwyn Hughes Jones as Don Alvaro, were magnificent, with thrilling tone throughout the evening; a wonderful combination of musicality and dramatic impact. Both made much of the wide emotional range of the score, Mary Elizabeth Williams as convincing in her tortured moments as in the deeply reflective sections when she finds peace.

Justina Gringyte is given more to do than usual as Preziosilla as she turns up regularly throughout the evening in the guise of Fate, banging her staff in time to the music. He voice and acting are fine even if it is not always clear what she is trying to do. Miklos Sebestyen doubles up as Calatrava and Padre Guardiano, though surprisingly David Poutney does not draw on the obvious psychological impact of this casting. His singing brings a gravity to the monastic scenes which the staging often lacks.

Luis Cansino sings well as Don Carlo but his presence is as unconvincing as his acting.

While much of David Poutney’s production works smoothly, allowing the story line to unfold with ease and credibility, his approach to the chorus is a different matter. Where soloists appear naturalistic even if the narrative strains the imagination, the chorus are difficult to take seriously if only because of the poor costuming. Uniforms with masks are the order of the day and not until the final scene in the monastery are they allowed any sense of humanity. Verdi’s sublime writing for the central communion scene is overridden with the monks in heavily blood-stained robes and Leonora is forced into a walk of shame which is entirely out of keeping with the score.

That Verdi’s score can overcome the unevenness of the production is a tribute to its quality no matter how difficult it continues to be to stage effectively.

On both nights Carlo Rizzi was in the pit, producing seemingly effortless quality from the WNO orchestra. The Milton Keynes theatre is blessed with a large pit and a fine acoustic, able to work with the bombast of both scores as well as their reflective, intimate moments. This was the first of three new Verdi productions planned over three years. Let us hope Carlo Rizzi will be returning for all of them.


St Mary in the Castle, Thursday 5 April 2018

A very large audience was present at St Mary in the Castle for a short but nonetheless most unusual evening. Divertimento for Rope and Strings brought together violinist, cellist and two corde lisse specialists. While the musicians played, Carol Dawson and Joe Keeley climbed, swung and deftly wrapped themselves in the ropes suspended from a large frame which had been erected within the central space of the building. So unusual was the enterprise that it was often difficult to know quite what to focus on or how to take it.

The music chosen for the two soloists was equally demanding. Brief works by Kodaly, Bartok and Ravel would have been unfamiliar to most and not the easiest of works to take in on a first hearing. This is in no way to denigrate the quality of the musicianship from violinist Phillip Granell or cellist Midori Jeager, just that it was often disconcerting to pin-point the focus of attention.

Odd moments of humour also seemed to upset the balance – was this a light-hearted event or was the humour a deliberate choice to prick the potential to take the event more seriously than was intended?

There were moments of great beauty when suddenly movement in the air above reflected the music below, but these were rare compared with longer stretches which seemed baffling – the creation of a living musical stave at the rear of the area never quite made any real connection with the music being played.

The event had been staged free of charge by MSL Projects and Gisele Edwards in collaboration with Whirligig Arts, with a discussion session at the end to consider not only audience response to the piece but to the potential future of similar events. Where cultural events locally are expanding so rapidly, this was an exciting and positive venture, even if it did not necessarily prove to be more than a step in the right direction.

Host turns into guitarist

Tim Chick transmogrified from hosting interviewer to musical performer during the latest of Worthing’s International Interview Concerts. He pulled on a jersey, picked up an electric guitar and walked on stage to plug in and play with the two guest classical maestros in front of a full-house audience at St Paul’s on Easter Sunday.

Together they played a short piece he devised himself with violinist Kamila Bydlowska and pianist Varvara Tarasova, improvising along with him.

Chick is taking guitar lessons and was playing in public for the first time. After his and the audience’s final questions, Bydlowska, from Poland, and Tarasova, from Russia, played a Brahms scherzo encore but then came this stunt – the last of several unnamed surprises promised to the audience in the billing.

His purpose, said Chick, was to impress that whatever the instruments used or the material made up on the spot, it is all music, free of outside-imposed categorisation.

The exuberant Bydlowska’s irrepressibly energetic personality and almost carefree versatility fuelled an extraordinary concert that filled almost every seat. Tarasova, celebrated in Sussex after she won its own International Piano Competition in 2015, played an unexpectedly full role in what was a new partnership intuitively brokered by Chick.

Entitled ‘The violin will take you’, the International Interview Concert astonished and entertained with its holiday-escape flavour of music from three continents and its disregard for conventional classical music concert formatting and seating layout.

After a Spanish serenade from de Falla, a full-blooded German romantic sonata from Schumann, a Polish nocturne and tarantella dance from Szymanovski, and a Russian love song from Rachmaninov – another surprise added to the programme on the day – Bydlowska’s penchant for tango leapt into its own.

As well as being a fully-fledged orchestral concerto soloist, and a key member the contemporary London Electronic Orchestra, and a separate classical string trio, the effervescent Bydlowska is in a working tango quartet, La Tango Terra.

Instead of the intended Fantasy on Porgy & Bess Themes by Igor Frolov, she played solo an authentic Argentine Tango piece by the legendary Piazzolla while walking around the enthralled audience. She then pulled up a bar stool to play three semi-improvised tangos with Tarasova, plus an off-the-cuff version of the evergreen Gershwin blues-jazz song, Summertime.

The audience, which included young children listening with their parents, some colouring and drawing, stumbled on a high-spot that dramatically brightened an almost perpetually dull Easter weekend.

Report by Richard Amey, co-devisor of The Interview Concerts


The Grand Tour – A European Journey in Song

The seventeenth Oxford Lieder Festival (12-27 October 2018) will celebrate a rich tapestry of music, words and performance in European song and will showcase the pinnacles of the repertoire while exploring wider cultural influences.

International stars including Louise AlderSarah ConnollyVéronique GensJames GilchristThomas OliemansChristoph PrégardienKai RüütelCarolyn SampsonToby Spence and Camilla Tilling, together with prize-winning young artists, take part in a wide range of concerts and related events.

Sholto Kynoch, founder and Artistic Director of the Festival, has just been been elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music in the Academy’s 2018 Honours.


In a new collaboration with the Bodleian Library, Oxford Lieder is co-hosting the Albi Rosenthal Fellowship: a three-month residency at the Bodleian, this year specifically for a composer. American composer Ross S. Griffey has been appointed and, as well as his residency at the Bodleian Library, in October he will lead a composition workshop at the Oxford Lieder Festival and give a talk on his research, with some of his existing work being heard. Following the residency, Oxford Lieder will commission a major new cycle – based on his research in the Bodleian – to be premiered at the 2019 Festival.


Oxford Lieder presents other events throughout the year, including a Spring Weekend of Song, as well as recitals across the country through the Oxford LiederYoung Artist Platform. Exceptional young professional duos apply for the Young Artist Platform, and this year’s winners – selected through 45-minute audition recitals at the Spring Weekend – are: Harriet Burns (soprano) and Michael Pandya (piano) and Jessica Dandy (contralto) and Dylan Perez (piano). They give a series of recitals in music clubs, societies and festivals nationally, as well as showcase recitals at the Festival in October.

Festival passes are already on sale from  / 01865 591276 General booking opens on 1 June 2018
3 April 2018