CDs January 2018

Percy Grainger: Complete Music for Wind Band 1
Royal Norwegian Navy Band, Bjarte Engeset
NAXOS 8.573679

A most unusual collection with more promised to follow. Grainger’s arrangements are often idiosyncratic with hand bells and Hammond organs to the fore – but always used to fine effect. Alongside many of his own compositions come arrangements of other composers’ works. Most interesting is the orchestration of Franck’s Second Chorale – normally an organ piece but here given a far wider range of texture and tone. This is a fascinating dive into unfamiliar territory and I look forward to further volumes.

Debussy: Piano Music Vo.V
Michael Korstick
SWR 19044CD

While this new cd includes some familiar pieces – L’isle joyeuse, Masque- it is most noteworthy for the two sets of Etudes. Late works, Debussy deliberately leaves much to the performer with little indication of fingering or pedalling. Michael Korstick brings a clarity and often a severity to the pieces which seems very forward-looking and is immensely pleasing in impact.

The notes with this cd include information on the piano version of Jeux which is available for download.

From Baroque to Fado
Os Musicos do Tejo, Marcos Magalhaes
NAXOS 8.573875

This proved to be an unexpected pleasure as much for the high quality of performance throughout as well as the wide range of music included. Few of us will be aware of the range of Portuguese music and so the twenty tracks on the cd offer a valuable insight into the range of music which came out of the country over the last three hundred years. The Fado items are a delight, sitting comfortably alongside composed works by eighteenth century composers Palomino and da Silva Leite, and living composers Carlos Goncalves and Pedro Ayres Magalhaes. Most of the tracks may be short but the balance between them means that the programme flows without any uncomfortable jumps.

Beethoven, Hiller & Schubert
Mozart Piano Trios
Rautio Piano Trio

The Rautio Piano Trio have a growing reputation which is amply demonstrated by these two cds even if the cellist is not consistent. The Mozart cd uses original instruments and a fortepiano to create a warm ambience throughout though there is no lack of intensity of attack where needed, and real sense of enthusiasm for the scores.

The more recent cd includes the premiere recording of Ferdinand Hiller’s Piano Trio No 6 in C minor Op186, which unusually has five movements including a central notturno which links it to Beethoven’s Ghost Trio and Schubert’s Notturno D897. This is intelligent programming as it brings a fine, if unknown, work to our attention alongside familiar works which stand strong comparision with other recordings. We can look forward to further recordings from the Rautio Piano Trio given the large range of music available to them and the relatively small number of current recordings.

Elgar: Falstaff; orchestral songs
Roderick Williams, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Andrew Davis

It is the song recordings – with the ever reliable Roderick Williams – which make this a valuable new cd. While The King’s Way and the brief Kindly do not smoke may only be of passing interest, the Op59 & 60 cycles are far more important and could sit comfortably alongside the more familiar Sea Songs. Added to this are two movements from the incidental music to Grania and Diarmid and a complete performance of Falstaff. Andrew Davis draws the best from these scores, even where they are not necessarily first rank, and the whole makes for a fine programme.

Fieri Consort
Fieri Records

This is a debut release produced by John Rutter on its own Fieri Records label. It includes recent settings by Ben Rowarth alongside those by Monteverdi and Luca Marenzio. The Fieri Consort use the complex harmonies of both the sixteenth and twenty-first centuries to challenge the ear as well as draw comparisons between the emotional impact of the two approaches despite the large disparity in time.

J G Janitsch; Rediscoveries from the Sara Levy Collection
Tempesta di Mare Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra, Gwyn Roberts

Johann Gottlieb Janitsch (1708-62) was little more than a name in the record of composers whose works had been lost until the remarkable reappearance in 2001 of the Sara Levy collection in Kiev in 1999, which was subsequently returned to Germany. Sara Levy was a fine musician in her own right and great-aunt to the Mendelssohns. The collection includes about 90 works by Janitsch, about thiry of which were previously unknown. All of this would be an excellent reason to welcome the new recording which proves to be a delight if conventional in both style and approach. The cd has four sonatas for chamber forces and an overture grosso written for two orchestras.

Copland: Orchestral works 3
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, John Wilson

This recording brings together a range of works which illustrate Copland’s adaptability. An Outdoor Overture was written for the High School of Music and Art, New York, in 1938 as a result of a commission to work with students. The lack of concert halls with organs (to say nothing of the difficulties organists had dealing with the time lag between the conductor’s beat and the note sounding) meant that the First Symphony had to be rescored to leave out the organ itself – the latter version being recorded here. The Dance Symphony is a much darker work than the title may imply, being an arrangement of music intended for a Gothic ballet. The BBC Philharmonic under John Wilson give spirited interpretations of these less familiar scores.

JS Bach; Musikalisches Opfer
Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki
BIS 2151

This is an enjoyable new recording based around the various sections of the Musical Offering and a set of Canons taken from the ground bass of the Goldberg Variations. The Canons are all very brief and could seem like little more than academic exercises to test just how far Bach could go with this experimentation. Needless to say they are far more musically alive than this, and might benefit from being played by a single instrument or ensemble rather than the regular change of instrumentation.


Bath Camerata: Bach St John Passion

Bath Camerata to perform JS Bach’s ‘St John Passion’ with world-class Evangelist, James Gilchrist

On Saturday 3rd February 2018 Bath Camerata will be joined by leading soloists and instrumentalists to perform JS Bach’s dramatic masterpiece, the St John Passion, in St Mary Redcliffe Church, Bristol.

James Gilchrist, a frequent soloist at the BBC Proms and one of the world’s greatest Evangelists, will sing the central role in this performance, alongside soloists Elizabeth Cragg (soprano), Robin Blaze (countertenor), Joshua Ellicott (tenor) and Giles Underwood (bass), all widely regarded as the finest interpreters of this music.

Accompanying the performance will be some of the best baroque players in Europe , led by Kati Debretzeni, Leader of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. The St John Passion tells the story of Jesus’ last days; His betrayal, the denial, His burial and resurrection. It captures the drama, sadness and anger of the crowds, setting movements of vivid excitement against moments of startling beauty and compassion.

St Mary Redcliffe is a masterpiece of Gothic Architecture. Sited on the ‘red’ cliffs above the floating harbour for over 800 years, the church’s ancestry at at the heart of the local shipping industry is reflected in the carved bosses, elegant 18th century ironwork, beautiful stained glass windows, and in more contemporary pieces such as the chapel altar dedicated to St John.

Tickets are priced at £28, £22, £15, £10 with under 25s half price. A £45 VIP ticket includes reserved seating at the front of the nave, a pre-concert drinks and canapés reception in the church vaults and a concert programme. Tickets are available from Bath Camerata’s website site or from St George’s Bristol Box Office on 0845 402 4001.

ENO: Satyagraha

Philip Glass’s operatic masterpiece returns to English National Opera, with Toby Spence leading the cast in his role debut

Opens Thursday 1 February at 7pm at the London Coliseum (7 performances)

ENO revives an iconic piece of contemporary opera, Philip Glass’s Satyagraha, in February. This critically acclaimed production from visionary director Phelim McDermott and Associate Director / Set Designer Julian Crouch (co-founders of Improbable) broke box office records for 20th century opera on its UK premiere in 2007, making it the most popular contemporary work to be performed by ENO.

Satyagraha, a Sanskrit word meaning ‘truth force’, looks at Mahatma Gandhi’s early years in South Africa and his development of non-violent protests as a political tool. The story moves back and forth through Gandhi’s life, with the flow of time, words and music creating a hypnotic, almost ritualistic experience. Each of the three acts depicts a spiritual guardian who is linked to the Satyagraha philosophy. Act 1 features Tolstoy, Act 2 the Indian mystic and poet Tagore and Act 3 Martin Luther King Junior, representing the past, present and future of Satyagraha.

Performed in Sanskrit, Satyagraha is the second of Philip Glass’s trilogy of operas about individuals who changed the world. The first was Einstein on the Beach (1976) and the third Akhnaten (1984) which had its UK premiere at ENO in 1985, sparking a special artistic relationship between Glass and the company. Contemporary opera and ongoing work with living composers are central to ENO’s mission, with four world or UK premieres staged by the company in the last twelve months.

Director Phelim McDermott is famed for his success in bringing Philip Glass’s works to ENO. For Satyagraha, he is reunited with conductor Karen Kamensek following their hugely successful production of Akhnaten in 2016, which won the 2017 Olivier Award for Best New Opera Production. Phelim is a founder member of Improbable. He has won various awards, including an Olivier Award for Best Entertainment, TMA Awards for Best Touring Production and Best Director and a Critics Circle Best Designer Award. He was awarded a National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts fellowship and an Honorary Doctorate from the Middlesex University.

Associate Director / Set Designer Julian Crouch – a founder member of Improbable –collaborated with innovate design studio 59 Productions to create the stunning visuals. 59 Productions, who make a welcome return to the Coliseum after their work on numerous ENO productions including Two Boys as well as 2009’s Doctor Atomic and 2017’s Marnie,are famed for the video projection in the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Distinguished London-born tenor Toby Spence sings the principal role of M.K. Gandhi for the first time, taking over from Alan Oke who has performed the role since the 2007 premiere. An ENO regular, Spence returns to the Coliseum having recently performed Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni) at the Liceu Barcelona; Captain Vere in the Teatro Real’s new production of Billy Budd; and Eisenstein (Die Fledermaus) and Antonio (The Tempest) for the Metropolitan Opera, New York.

Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra

The Dome, Brighton, Sunday 31 December 2017

New Year’s Eve Viennese Gala Concert

A very happy new year to all and what better way to celebrate than with Brighton Philharmonic at their annual Viennese Gala. Out of a finely balanced programme of familiar favourites and welcome additions, the highlight was without any doubt the mellifluous coloratura of Rebecca Bottone. Opening with the audition song from Die Fledermaus she moved effortlessly into Schenkt man sich Rosen in Tyrol from Zeller’s Der Vogelhandler, later adding the waltz song from Edward German’s Tom Jones.

If this latter piece seemed somewhat out of place it was very much part of Barry Wordsworth’s approach to these New Year’s Eve concerts, aiming to include a range of British pieces which sit comfortably alongside the Viennese. As such Gershwin’s By Strauss could hardly fail even if Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Greensleeves was a more unusual addition.

The second half opened with Malcolm Arnold’s English Dance No8 – a raucous item guaranteed to blow the cobwebs away and Richard Rodney Bennett’s waltz for the film score of Murder on the Orient Express.

Rebecca Bottone returned to bring us a vocal setting of Strauss’ waltz Wo die Citronen blüh’n and, the vocal highlight of the afternoon, Vilja from The Merry Widow. The Brighton audience is so knowledgeable and well trained that we had no difficulty providing the hushed choral support needed for this lovely piece!

If this implies there was a dearth of actual Viennese music – far from it. We heard twelve works from the Strauss family running from the overture to Die Fledermaus to The Blue Danube, taking in along the way Voices of Spring, Auf der Jagd and my particular favourite Die Libelle – the Dragonfly Polka.

From Lehar, in addition to Vilja¸ we heard the Gold and Silver Waltz.

The Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra were on fine form with some excellent solo work from John Bardbury, providing exquisite violin solos, harpist Helen Sharp and piccolo Deborah Davis.

There was just time for the inevitable encore – Strauss’ Radetsky March­ – with audience and orchestra in perfect accord.

Barry Wordsworth announced that the orchestra, which relies on its audience for the bulk of its income, is secure for the next twelve months and dates have already been issued for the new 2018-19 season. Be there!



A new Carol for Battle

We are used to new carols each Christmas but it is always good to find one which is not only locally sources but locally set.

In the early sixteenth century a monk in Battle Abbey wrote a Christmas carol on a leaf in his service book. It was recently rediscovered in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge, and, through the chairman of the Battle Historical Society, Stephen Page was commissioned to create a new setting for the text. It was given its premiere performance by Battle Community Singers at the society’s December meeting, where their MD Ailsa Vinson welcomed their accompanist Stephen Page to conduct the premiere.

The text had been tactfully transcribed into modern English by Charlotte Moore. Where the monk wrote sorrow increaseth, and envye is bold?/ When chereti is skantye and waxethe colde she changed the second line to When charity is scanty and does grow cold. She thought that if she had written waxes, people would not have understood as too often today waxing is something people do in beauty parlours.

Otherwise, the carol flows as its author intended. The monk’s topics seem surprisingly relevant. All fancy talk is not worth a straw?/ Where there’s no love which fulfills the law?/ Therefore in meeting where ye resort?/ Belie no man with false report. The chorus shows that the Christmas message itself hasn’t altered much in 500 years, Be merry all with one accord?/ And be ye followers of Christ’s word.

New Year’s Eve Viennese Gala concert at Brighton Dome

New Year’s Eve Viennese Gala concert at Brighton Dome

Soprano Rebecca Bottone is one of the most versatile performers on the operatic stage today. It has been said that she gets her charisma from her father, the tenor Bonaventura Bottone, but her chameleon ability is entirely her own. Her character roles have been highly acclaimed in performances at the Royal Opera House and with the Welsh National Opera. On New Year’s Eve she appears as herself when she joins the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra at Brighton Dome for the second year running, to add glamour and sparkle to a very Viennese celebration. Her contributions will include “By Strauss” from An American in Paris,The Waltz Song” from Tom Jones and the bewitching “Vilja” from The Merry Widow. When she sang here last New Year’s Eve The Argus reviewer wrote: “the charming Rebecca Bottone, a soprano who loves to show off in the nicest possible sense, seduced and dazzled with a display that showed not just vocal agility but a fine control of tone and soaring power. Her supreme talents were best shown in the melodious Vilja by Lehar, enhanced by shimmering strings.”

The orchestra will welcome in 2018 with a feast of popular orchestral favourites from that golden age of Viennese light music just before the First World War – a programme of lively and nostalgic music from the repertoire of the Strauss family and its contemporaries. Johann Strauss II captured the light-hearted approach to life favoured by the Viennese of his day more than anyone else. With gems such as the Emperor Waltz he established himself as “The Waltz King” and surely no such celebration of Viennese music is complete without that perennial favourite The Blue Danube Waltz.

Alongside the traditional foot-tapping Strauss waltzes, polkas and marches, conductor Barry Wordsworth has included favourite light music scores from some of our finest English composers: Ralph Vaughan Williams’ fabulous English folk tune Fantasia on Greensleeves, Malcolm Arnold’s gorgeous folk tune influenced English Country Dance No.8 and Richard Rodney Bennett’s “Waltz” from Murder on the Orient Express – a brilliant musical depiction of a train moving away from the station platform.

With such a varied and entertaining programme on offer, why not join the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra on Sunday afternoon to welcome in the New Year with style and panache.

This concert, firmly established as part of the city’s festivities and generously sponsored by the John Carewe Brighton Orchestra Trust, nearly sold out last year, so do book early to avoid disappointment.



Hastings Philharmonic: Christmas Concert

St Mary in the Castle, Hastings, Saturday 16 December 2017

Marcio da Silva is singing O Holy Night. It must be Christmas once again. Since that time he first turned to face us and sing, the carol has become not only a fixed point in the Christmas calendar but a quintessential emblem of all that is best in Hastings at this time of year.

Hastings Philharmonic Choir goes from strength to strength, the top sopranos excelling themselves in a number of unfamiliar but very rewarding carols. Alongside the carols for audience participation we heard William Mathias’ A Babe is Born,with its tight rhythms and accuracy of diction, and the ladies only singing with great tenderness There is no Rose from Britten’s Ceremony of Carols.

There was strong dynamic range in Bob Chilcott’s The Shepherd’s Carol which segued easily into the taught harmonies of Tavener’s The Lamb.

Inspiritus Brass, who gave sterling support to the audience carols, including florid fanfares, provided the choir with a break with lively arrangements of Little Drummer Boy and Mr Sandman, returning during the second half with Jungle Bells  and Deck the Halls.

It was good to see Tom McLelland-Young in the audience to hear the choir sing his moving setting of Jesu, Son most sweet and dear, before we all indulged ourselves in the Sussex Carol.

Following our rendition of Unto us is born a Son, we arrived at O Holy Night  and the climax of the evening. Not only has Marcio not sung this better, the choir was superbly in tune with him, not just musically but emotionally. Can it get any better? Perhaps we will find out next year!

If the rhythms in Hurford’s On a sunny bank seemed a little bumpy after this the choir quickly came back into shape for Rutter’s Donkey Carol.

It was then time for the regular slot for local children, this year drawn from the choir of Christ Church Primary school, who sang two settings by John Rutter and Johnson’s Midnight.  If Marcio da Silva achieves his dream of a children’s and young people’s choir, maybe in future years we will hear Hastings Philharmonics own young singers? The children led us in Away in a Manger before we came to the final choral item, Mathias’ Sir Christemus – a lovely setting but somewhat upstaged by the return of the children to the gallery.

We went on our way with the triumphant sounds of O Come All Ye Faithful ringing in our ears.

There was a time when we would have had to wait another three months for the next event. Now we have only a month until Hastings Philharmonic present another Tango evening at St Mary’s on Saturday 13th January. Last year was a revelation. Be there!


Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre have announced the casting The Turn of the Screw, a co-production with English National Opera, which plays 22 – 30 June as part of their 2018 season. Two casts will play on alternate performances.

The Prologue and role of Peter Quint will be shared by Elgan Ll?r Thomas and William MorganElgan Ll?r Thomas makes his English National Opera debut as a new ENO Harewood Artist having also covered the role of Count Almaviva in The Barber of Seville. A 2016/17 Scottish Opera Emerging Artist, credits include The Elixir of Love, and The Trial with other credits including Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Mananan International Festival), Paul Bunyan (Welsh National Youth Opera) and Eugene Onegin (Garsington Opera). He is currently singing in The Barber of Seville with the Theatre des Champs-Elysees.

Previously for English National Opera, William Morgan has appeared in The Day After and Between Worlds (ENO at the Barbican) and Le Comte Ory (ENO’s Opera Works programme at Sadler’s Wells. Other notable credits include L’Orfeo (Bayerische Staatsoper), Hippolyte et Aricie (Glyndebourne), The Rake’s Progress (European Tour) and as Anthony in Sweeney Todd(Longborough Festival).

Miss Jessel will be played by Nadine Livingston and Rachael Lloyd. Nadine Livingston, Scottish Opera Emerging Artist 2009-2011 has appeared as Mimi and Musetta in La bohème, Micaela in Carmen, Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, and appears as Nedda in their 2018 production of Pagliacci. Other notable credits include Eugene Onegin (Ryedale Festival) The MinotaurGloriana and The Ring Cycle (Royal Opera House), as well as extensive Oratorio and Concert appearances.

For English National Opera, Rachael Lloyd has appeared in The Day AfterThe Magic Flute, and as Pitti-Sing in The Mikado. Other notable credits include Carmen (Raymond Gubbay), Lucia di Lammermoor and Madama Butterfly (Royal Opera House), Giulio Cesare (Glyndebourne) and A Little Night Music (Théâtre du Châtelet).

Mrs Grose will be played by Janis Kelly and Sarah Pring.  Janis Kelly has performed with English National Opera for over 30 years, and takes the role of Marcellina in The Marriage of Figaro in Spring 2018. She received worldwide acclaim for her portrayal of the title role in Rufus Wainwright’s Prima Donna, which she performed at the Manchester International Festival (World Premiere), Sadler’s Wells, Toronto, Portland, in concert at the Royal Opera House and Teatro Real, Madrid, and is now available on CD. Other recent appearances include Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd (Welsh National Opera), Mrs Nixon in Nixon in China (Metropolitan Opera, New York/Omroep Muziek/English National Opera), Lady Billows in Albert Herring (Los Angeles Opera) and Hazel George in the World Premiere of Philip Glass’ The Perfect American (Teatro Real, Madrid/English National Opera).

Sarah Pring has previously appeared with English National Opera in Lucia di LammermoorJenufa, and reprises her performance as Mrs Alexander in Satyagraha in February 2018.  Other recent credits include Lady Bertram in Mansfield Park (The Grange Festival), Mother in Hansel and Gretel (Opera North), Marcellina in Le nozze di Figaro (Welsh National Opera) and, at the Royal Opera House, as Berta in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Giovanna in Rigoletto, and Annina in La traviata.

The role of the Governess will be played by Anita Watson and Rhian LoisAnita Watson has previously appeared as the Governess in The Turn of the Screw (La Fenice, Venice), Die Zauberflöte and as Gretel in Hänsel und Gretel (Royal Opera House), Don Giovanni (Australian Opera/Nederlandse Reisopera/ Landestheater Salzburg/Scottish Opera/Teatro La Fenice, Venice), as Mimi in La bohème  and as Anne Trulove in The Rake’s Progress (Teatro Municipal de Santiago).

Rhian Lois is an ENO Harewood Artist, taking the role of Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro in Spring 2018. Previous English National Opera credits include Atalanta in Xerxes, Musetta in La bohème, Frasquita in Carmen, Papagena in The Magic FlutePeter GrimesBetween Worlds and The Passenger. Other notable credits include Figaro Gets a Divorce (Grand Théâtre de Genève), Die Fladermaus (Welsh National Opera), Don Giovanni (Santa Fe) and The Magic Flute (Royal Opera House).

The roles of Flora and Miles will be announced in due course.

Artistic Director of Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, Timothy Sheader, directs The Turn of the Screw, which plays 10 performances from 22 June – 30 June 2018. ENO Mackerras FellowToby Purser conducts members of the ENO orchestra, and the production is designed by Soutra Gilmour. Completing the creative team, lighting design is by Jon Clark, sound design byNick Lidster for Autograph, and casting by ENO Head of Casting, Michelle WilliamsBarbara Houseman is the Season Associate Director (Voice and Text) for the 2018 season.