A NEW ORCHESTRA FOR THE SOUTH EAST

Led by South Coast native William Kunhardt, the Arensky Chamber Orchestra (ACO), Britain’s orchestra of revolutionaries, make their South Coast debut in March 2017.

Sea Fever 1

Their first project, Sea Fever, is a classical experience inspired by the ocean. Sea Fever will tour the Cultural Coastal Trail Galleries, with performances at Eastbourne’s Towner Gallery on March 4th, Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion on March 8th, and Hastings’ Jerwood Gallery on March 10th. See seafevertour.com for more. It will be followed by Aulanko, an exploration of Sibelius’s 5th Symphony, at Eastbourne’s new Birley Centre in June. Classical Music. But not as you know it.

The ACO specialises in gripping performance and mind-opening presentation. Its mantra is to make classical music more social, meaningful and dramatic, without losing any of its depth or sincerity. They work with mixologists to invent cocktails inspired by the music, served during concerts. They host pre-concert ‘warm up acts’ and post-concert ‘chamber jams’. They also give ‘live programme notes’ where the orchestra tells the story of the music from the stage. They shun concert halls, preferring clubs, galleries, and urban spaces. The orchestra’s main performances are of Masterpieces in Miniature – large orchestral works reduced for chamber ensembles of 16-20. ‘They allow us to take music out of large, impersonal concert halls and into more intimate, modern settings’ says ACO Director of Collaboration Eddy Hackett. ‘They also reveal fascinating details in the music that get missed in the full versions’. In Sea Fever, the orchestra will perform world premieres of Britten’s Sea Interludes and Debussy’s La Mer ‘in miniature’.

The ACO has recorded for Classic FM, worked with leading soloists like Benjamin Grosvenor and Jennifer Pike, and collaborated with artists ranging from video DJs to dancers. The group’s players are the most indemand young artists in the country. They come from major orchestras, like the Royal Philharmonic and London Symphony, and leading chamber music groups. In 2016, the orchestra enjoyed its second 100% sell-out season in a row, won praise from the critics of the Telegraph, Guardian and Independent, and saw the average age of its listeners fall 10 years below leading statistics. For more, visit www.theaco.co.uk. Building a permanent home in the South East Sea Fever is funded by the Arts Council and aims to build the foundations for a permanent, year-round ACO series in the region. This series will give local artists in many genres opportunities to collaborate with the orchestra, creating a new culture of innovation and cross-arts collaboration throughout the region. In time, it will redefine iconic local landmarks as surprising live music venues.

The orchestra will also bring its education programme to the area. As part of Aulanko, the ACO will run a two-day composition workshop for 150 children – from Grade 8 students to untrained first-timers. They will come from schools in Eastbourne Schools Partnership and the Jerwood Gallery’s Learning Programme. Artistic Director, William Kunhardt – a homegrown talent. The tour is the brainchild of Artistic Director William Kunhardt. Kunhardt grew up and went to school in Eastbourne, winning a music scholarship to Eastbourne College. At 18, he left for London to study violin at the Royal College of Music, quickly transitioning into conducting. In 2014, Kunhardt won the James Conlon Prize at Aspen Festival, Colorado, launching his career internationally. Since then, he has gone on to work with orchestras in Asia, America, and Europe and with soloists like Benjamin Grosvenor and Sarah Chang. However, his passion remains the Arensky Chamber Orchestra, the group he founded as a student in 2009.

Tales & Traditions

Noteworthy Voices at St Simon & St Jude, East Dean, Saturday 21 January 2017

St Simon East Dean

A bitterly cold night but the warmth of the welcome at St Simon and St Jude more than made up for any concerns, and Noteworthy Voices provided us with another superbly balanced programme of a cappella music.

The first half was given over to sacred texts, many from the 16th and 17th centuries, starting with three reflective works. Thomas Mudd’s Let Thy Merciful Ears, O Lord has a quiet dignity before the richer textures of Tallis’ If Ye Love Me, and the wonderfully floated lines of Byrd’s Ave verum. The next section brought us to praise of God with Victoria’s O Quam Gloriosum which seems to pile the musical lines onto each other in a dizzying attempt to raise us to heaven. The same composer’s Jesu Dolcis was more reflective before the high tessitura of Palestrina’s Jesu Rex Admirabilis and the bouncy rhythms of Exultate Deo.  Lotti’s Crucifixus is a miracle of condensed emotion, its harmonic palette so challenging it could have been written within the last century. By contrast the recent works by Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo seemed almost easy on the ear, particularly the slow unfolding of Northern Lights.

The second half brought us to secular settings, opening with three choral songs by Brahms. The six part settings gave the choir a chance to demonstrate different tonal colours, particularly in the final melancholic Darthulas Grabegesang. Saint-Saens’ charming settings of Calme des Nuits and Les Fleurs et les Arbres led us gently towards the lighter end of the evening with folk and popular numbers.

Vaughan Williams’ arrangements of Linden Lea and Just as the tide was turning are none the less welcome for being familiar, and it was a delight to hear James Tomlinson as the bass soloist in The Turtle Dove. He will be missed when he leaves to take us a choral scholarship and we wish him well.

A lovely gentle arrangement of O Waly, Waly led us into Over the rainbow and Tea For Two – and all too soon we were at the end.

Ansy Boothroyd introduced the programme and conducted with subtlety and skill throughout. The different approaches she takes to the end of a piece is particularly noteworthy, with some dying away to silence while other are softly rounded. It is all beautifully crafted and the choir react with exceptional musicality to her shaping of the sound.

We look forward to hearing them again soon.

 

GARSINGTON OPERA ANNOUNCES EXTENDED SEASON

GARSINGTON OPERA SEASON 
1 June to 30 July 2017

For the first time in its history, this summer Garsington Opera will present four productions as well as a large community opera.  2017 also sees the arrival of the Philharmonia Orchestra for one opera production each season for the next five years. This year the festival offers Handel’s seductive masterpiece Semele, Debussy’s enigmatic Pelléas et Mélisande, Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, Rossini’s Il turco in Italia and will conclude with Silver Birch, a large-scale work for a professional cast with local community participants of all ages, commissioned by Garsington Opera, from leading British composer Roxanna Panufnik and librettist Jessica Duchen. The JLT Group is the season’s sponsor for the fourth consecutive year.   As part of the Garsington Opera for All programme, funded by Arts Council England and run in partnership with Magna Vitae, Semele will also be screened free of charge in Skegness, Ramsgate, Burnham-on-Sea and Grimsby

Semele is a love story in which the god Jupiter is captivated by the beauty of the all-too-human Semele; these dramatic and colourful mythological characters inspired Handel’s most memorably beautiful arias. The title role will mark the British debut of American sopranoHeidi Stober, an established favourite at some of the world’s most important opera houses, including San Francisco Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Vienna Staatsoper  and the Metropolitan Opera, New York.  Singing the pivotal role of Jupiter is Robert Murray with Christine Rice singing his spurned wife Juno. They are joined by Jurgita Adamonyt? (Ino), David Soar (Cadmus & Somnus), South African countertenor Christopher Ainslie (Athamas) and Leonard Ingrams Foundation Award winner Llio Evans (Iris).  Leading early music specialist Jonathan Cohen will conduct the Garsington Opera Orchestra and Chorus and Annilese Miskimmon, Artistic Director of Norwegian National Opera will direct, in collaboration with designer Nicky Shaw.

 

Pelléas et Mélisande, Debussy’s only opera, and often considered to be one of the most original in the history of music,  is full of shimmering beauty creating a work of intense hypnotic allure. It will feature established French bass-baritone Paul Gay (Golaud) and two rising stars taking the title roles - Jonathan McGovern (Pelléas) and American soprano Andrea Carroll (Mélisande) making her British debut, with Brian Bannatyne-Scott (Arkel) and Susan Bickley (Geneviève). Jac van Steen returns (Strauss Intermezzo 2015) to conduct the Philharmonia Orchestra in its first year of partnership with Garsington Opera. Michael Boyd (director) together with Tom Piper(designer) return following their acclaimed production of Eugene Onegin last season.

 

Il turco in Italia will be a revival of Garsington Opera’s joyous 2011 production directed by Martin Duncan with designs by Francis O’Connor. Three members of the original cast return - Mark Stone as the poet Prosdocimo,  Quirijn de Lang as the dashing Turk Selim, and Geoffrey Dolton as the devoted but dull husband Geronio. They are joined by renowned British soprano Sarah Tynan as the dazzling and flirtatious Fiorilla and rising star Katie Bray as Zaida.  Italian tenor Luciano Botelho returns as the love-lorn Narciso. Rossini doyen  David Parry will conduct the Garsington Opera Orchestra and Chorus in this glittering musical score.

 

John Cox’s legendary production of Le nozze di Figarofirst seen at Garsington Manor in 2005will be recreated for the opera pavilion at Wormsley.  Written at the height of his genius, this is one of Mozart’s finest works. Australian born Joshua Bloom (Leporello, Don Giovanni, 2012) returns to sing the title role with the exciting soprano Jennifer France (Leonard Ingrams Award winner) as Susanna. The Canadian singer Kirsten MacKinnon will make her UK debut as the Countess with Duncan Rock as the Count and Marta Fontanals-Simmons as Cherubino. Stephen Richardson (Bartolo), Janis Kelly (Marcellina), and Timothy Robinson (Basilio) join the vibrant young cast.  Douglas Boyd will again conduct this highly acclaimed production with the Garsington Opera Orchestra and Chorus.  In June the principals and chorus of Garsington Opera will travel to  the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris to give a semi-staged concert performance of Figaro with the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris conducted by its Music Director Douglas Boyd.

 

Roxanna Panufnik’s Silver Birch is a commission for Garsington Opera’s Learning & Participation programme with Jessica Duchen as librettist. The production will see over 180 community participants aged 8-80, including recruits from the local military community, performing as dancers, singers, actors, instrumentalists, as well as student Foley artists from Cressex Community School under the guidance of Pinewood Studios Sound Designer Glen Gathard.  They will perform alongside favourite Garsington professionals in the cast and orchestra. The story explores the extraordinary power of love within the devastating context of war and makes use of Siegfried Sassoon’s poetry from WW1 (some of which was written while staying at Garsington Manor). The creative team is Karen Gillingham director, Rhiannon Newman Brown designer, and Garsington Opera’s Artistic Director Douglas Boyd joins them to conduct.  The professional roles will be performed bySam Furness (Jack), Victoria Simmonds (Anna), Darren Jeffery (Simon), Bradley Travis (Sassoon), Sarah Redgwick (Mrs Morrell) andJames Way (Davey) and the Garsington Opera Orchestra will be playing.

CDs/DVDs January 2017

Bruckner: Symphony No 4
UNITEL 732508
Bruckner: Symphony No 6
UNITEL 738208
Staatskapelle Dresden, Christian Thielemann

This is proving to be an excellent series, and if, as promised, it goes on to include the even rarer early symphonies it will prove to be invaluable. If the Fourth is more conventional in approach, its tonal qualities and masterly construction of long paragraphs is continually rewarding. The Sixth is another matter. Very rarely heard live, its starkly different tonal palette compared with his other symphonies is all the more compelling. It is surely more than the fact that the composer had been on an extended holiday before he composed the work. There is an openness of texture and a lightness of touch we find nowhere else. Perhaps it is time some of our own orchestras explored its very eal riches.

 

Joseph Beer: Polnische Hochzeit
Gartnerplatz Chorus and Munich Radio Symphony Orchestra, Ulf Schirmer
CPO 555 059-2

Anyone who enjoys Lehar will be immediately attracted to this operetta from a composer who spanned virtually the whole of the twentieth century. The Polish Wedding was first seen in 1937, shortly after Lehar’s final work Giuditta. The story line may be conventional but the music has an unexpected freshness and vitality, aided I am sure by the recently reworked orchestral parts. Worth investigating.

 

Music from a Higher Sphere
Mahler: Symphony No 8
Arranged for organ and chorus by David Briggs
PRO ORGANO CD 7276

I have enjoyed David Briggs earlier forays into Mahler, and felt the arrangement of the Fifth Symphony was particularly impressive. Here I am not so sure. The Eighth relies heavily on its choral setting, where the orchestra supports and enhances the vocal line. On this occasion the organ does not seem to adequately fill out Mahler’s intentions. The acoustic in the Cathedral of St John the Divine, New York, does not help, and for much of the recording both the voices and organ seem distant. This may be a good souvenir of the live performance but it does little to enthuse this listener.

 

J P Sousa: Music for Wind Band – 16
Marine Band of the Royal Netherlands Navy, Keith Brion
NAXOS 8.559746

This is a joy to listen to throughout.  The longest section is a selection from the operetta The Charlatan alongside which are ten other pieces, all equally endearing. How Sousa was constantly able to turn out so much wonderful music is a mystery, and the longer this series continues the more pleased I shall be.

 

J S Bach; Cantatas
Iestyn Davies, Arcangelo, Jonathan Cohen
HYPERION CDA 68111

Three Cantatas – BWV 170; BWV 54; BWV82 – together with the Sinfonias from BWV 52 and 174, make this a fine collection and one which shows off Iestyn Davies continuing strengths as a counter-tenor of rare quality. These cantatas were written for boy altos rather than counter-tenor, which only goes to show the quality of voices Bach had at his disposal. The final cantata, Ich habe genug is also the most familiar, but listeners may be surprised by the sinfonia from BWV 174 which is arranged from the Third Brandenburg Concerto.

 

Rostropovich Encores
Alban Gerhardt, cello, Markus Becker, piano
HYPERION CDA 68136

A collection of encores may not seem the most obvious to issue as a single cd but given that these were pieces used by Mstislav Rostropovich puts them into an altogether different class. Alongside familiar pieces by Debussy and Rachmaninov are a number of pieces by Prokofiev as well as some by Rostropovich himself. All of which makes for an unexpectedly pleasing recording.

 

Hymnus: Music for Organ by Carson Cooman
Erik Simmons, 1787 Holzhey organ, St Peter & St Paul, Weissenau, Germany
DIVINE ART DDA 25147  66:00

Carson Cooman is a prolific composer and an organist in his own right, though here his works are performed by Erik Simmons on the fine late baroque organ in St Peter & St Paul, Weissenau. The cd is made up of a large number of short pieces, many of which were written in memory of friends or to commemorate specific individuals. As such the whole has a highly reflective character which is none the worse for that. The opening Haec Aeterna is typical of the cd as a whole, being a meditative postlude built around the Old Hundreth. Many of the pieces are in a similar vein, using familiar hymn tunes as the basis for more elaborate, though normally brief, compositions.

There are a few exceptions. Three Enigmas are just that – short pieces which explore harmonics rather than procure any narrative structure. As if to prove that he can provide more exhilarating scores, the cd concludes with a rousing Rondo Festivo.

Many of these pieces would sit comfortably within either a liturgical or concert format, and details of compositions and scores can be found on www.carsoncooman.com

Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra

The Dome, Brighton, 15 January 2017

A crowd pleasing programme meant that the Dome was as full as I’ve ever seen it for a BPO concert. And despite the chilly wet January weather outside there was a very upbeat sense of “Now sits expectation in the air”. The concert which followed met that expectation with aplomb.

First came the operatic colour of the Overture to the Barber of Seville played with lush full tone and plenty of breathless excitement, especially in the syncopated passages, and in all those wonderful woodwind solos with a particularly noteworthy bassoon contribution.

Joseph Moog

I suppose Grieg’s piano concerto is second only to Tchaikovsky 1 and Rachmaninov 2 in popularity – and deservedly so. Joseph Moog is an engaging player to watch despite his sitting so far forward on his stool that he appeared to be in serious danger of sliding off the front and disappearing under the piano. The performance really came into its own during the adagio in which the orchestra achieved a gloriously sweet, immaculately fluid sound, before the magical moment when the piano creeps in. It was played with the sort of imaginative restraint that even some of the world’s top orchestras fail to bring off. Moog and Ben Gernon interpreted the movement as much more of a musical dialogue than as a showpiece for accompanied piano. There was thoughtful, wistful work in the allegro too before the dive into the showy, virtuosic conclusion.

Dvorak 8 is possibly my favourite symphony. I’ve played the second violin part several times in amateur performances and I’ve heard it done professionally dozens (and dozens) of times. The secret of making this delightful music shine lies in managing the contrasts – the soft lyrical passages, the irrepressible dance motifs, the brass fanfares and all the rest of it. Ben Gernon, baton-less and quietly charismatic, was on top of the symphony’s every mood. He found the work’s warmth, passion,fun and made it satisfyingly coherent – even down to resisting the temptation to exaggerate the rall just before the end as so many self-indulgent conductors do. Particular high spots included the tripping, trickling joyfulness in the second movement at the introduction of the second subject, the waltzing vibrancy of the adagio and the beautifully nuanced – so Bohemian! – rhythms of the minor key section in the last movement – and congratulations to principal flute, Margaret Campbell. There’s a great deal of exposed flute solo in this symphony and Ms Campbell ensured that we heard and enjoyed every note of it.

Susan Elkin

 

 

A Nossa Bossa

Hastings Philharmonic, The Tabernacle, Saturday 13 January 2017

Bossa

Who would have thought that four musicians could so easily transform the lower hall at Hastings Tabernacle into a South American nightclub? The large, closely packed audience, the low lighting, and the magnificent music at such close quarters, was all it took to provide one of the finest musical experiences we have had for many years.

This was the most recent in the new series of events launched last year to embrace within Hastings Philharmonic an impressively wide range of music. Following the Christmas Concert – and before the baroque concert in St Clements on 4th February – we had an evening given over to Bossa Nova.

Marcio da Silva, who both sang and played guitar, was joined by Ariel Gragnani on guitar, Elena Marigomez on Bass and Emmanuel McDonald on percussion.

Ariel Gragnani

The first half was rather more traditional in terms of recital music but focused entirely on Latin America for its source. Aril Gragnani gave us three solo guitar pieces by Villa-Lobos which included the Scottish Choro. All three were in rondo form, returning us each time to the evocative melody which tends to linger long after the piece has finished. Marcio then sang Manuel de Falla’s Siete canciones populares. Though the songs come from many different parts of Spain they have a linking sense of angst or lament, even when the accompaniment is lighter in texture. Throughout Ariel Gragnani’s playing had been absolutely perfect for the acoustic of the venue.

After the interval they were joined by Elena Marigomez on Bass and Emmanuel McDonald on percussion for a selection of Bossa Nova and Samba numbers. These included well done songs by Tom Jobin – Desafinado, Meditação & Wave – and Zequinha de Abreu’s Tico tico no fubá.

The evening ended with Garota de Ipanema by Tom Jobim, more familiar to us as The Girl from Ipanema. We were encouraged to pick up the rhythm and sing along gently with Marcio. A splendid end to a wonderful evening. If all the other concerts in the series are as musically secure and well attended as this, the venture cannot, surely, fail.

ENO: The Winter’s Tale

Rory Kinnear makes directorial debut with the world premiere of The Winter’s Tale, the first opera by composer Ryan Wigglesworth

Opens Monday 27 February at 7.30pm at London Coliseum (5 performances)

ENO will present the world premiere of Composer-in-Residence Ryan Wigglesworth’s first opera The Winter’s Tale this spring, directed by acclaimed Shakespearean actor Rory Kinnear in his directorial debut. One of the most anticipated arts events of 2017, this will be a major operatic adaptation of Shakespeare’s late masterpiece.

The world premiere is the latest in a series of ENO commissions by British composers of operas in English, which includes Tansy Davies’s Between Worlds and Julian Anderson’s Thebans. Both won British Composer Awards for their work. With a top-flight cast of British singers including returning ENO favourites Iain Paterson as Leontes and Sophie Bevan as Hermione, it is sure to be a significant event for British opera.

Rory Kinnear has a long history of performing Shakespeare on the stage, having recently played Iago (for which he won the 2014 Olivier award for Best Actor) and Hamlet at the National Theatre. He now  takes the director’s seat for the very first time. An opera enthusiast and an accomplished singer himself, he played Macheath in last year’s National Theatre production of The Threepenny Opera. He is best known to wider audiences for his role as M’s chief of staff, Bill Tanner, in the three most recent James Bond films and for television roles in Black Mirror, Penny Dreadful and more.

Commenting on his directorial debut with ENO he said ‘Opera has become a big passion of mine over the last seven or eight years. ENO is the right place to do a commission from a great, young English composer and also an opera of a Shakespeare play. This feels the right kind of piece ENO should be doing’.

Ryan Wigglesworth has established himself as one of the foremost conductor-composers of his generation. Augenlieder, an orchestral song cycle for soprano Claire Booth, received the vocal prize at the 2010 British Composer Awards.

Ryan has written the roles specifically for the voices of the singers, making this line-up particularly significant – he says he ‘couldn’t imagine a greater British cast’. Many of these are figures who have been nurtured at ENO: Iain Paterson as Leontes has been a stalwart of Wagner productions here, with his role debut Hans Sachs in Richard Jones’s Olivier Award-winning The Mastersingers of Nurembergdescribed as ‘towering’ (Bachtrack) and ‘quite beautiful’ (The Telegraph). He is a graduate of the ENO Young Singers Programme.

Soprano Sophie Bevan, who is appearing as Hermione, is among the finest young singers of her generation, receiving the Young Singer award at the 2013 International Opera Awards, the 2010 Critics’ Circle award for Exceptional Young Talent and The TimesBreakthrough Award at the 2012 South Bank Sky Arts Awards. An alumna of the ENO Harewood Artist programme, she makes a welcome return.

The Winter’s Tale opens on Monday 72 February 2017 at 7.30pm for 5 performances – 27 February, 3, 8, 10, 14 March at 7.30pm.

500 tickets for £20 or less are available for each performance. Tickets start from £12. www.eno.org

Pre-performance talk:  Wednesday 8 March 2017  5.15-6pm, £5/£2.50 concs.

 

BBC Symphony Orchestra

Barbican Hall, Saturday 7 January 2017

A late romantic programme, starting and ending with Janacek, brought a healthily full audience to the Barbican Hall last night. Edward Gardner proved to be both enthusiastic and precise in his conducting, allowing the lush orchestrations to charm the listeners.

The evening opened with Janacek’s overture Jealousy. Originally planned as an overture to Jenufa but eventually abandoned, it was later revised as a concert piece in its own right. Here we heard it in Charles Mackerras’s reconstruction of the original which, if short, is full of impressive changes of mood and texture.

Smetana’s Ma Vlast is more familiar and we relaxed into a lyrically effuse reading of Vltava and a more strident Sarka. There was little sense of danger here, more a mythical, if not quite mystical piece of story-telling.

t-little

Szymanowski’s second violin concert is something of a rarity but Tasmin Little found all the nostalgic warmth inherent in the work as well as making the significant technical problems seem almost too easy. The extensive double stopping in the cadenza was most impressive but equally supported the sense of delight she brought to the whole piece. The final dance movement exploded into life, and if there was a darker heart lurking it was always at the mercy of the joy which flows throughout.

The new work was the UK premiere of Peter Eotvos’ The Gliding of the Eagle in the Skies.  The work is both loud and aggressive for much of its twelve minutes and it is only towards the end that there is any obvious sense of space or silence surrounding the bird in flight. While there is some interesting use of percussion, the structure is difficult to follow on a first hearing and it did not seem to endear itself to the audience.

The final item brought us back to Janacek with Taras Bulba. If the original narrative line is less than attractive to a modern audience, with its death and torture throughout, the score is thankfully more than open to a range of potential story-lines. As such it made sense to simply enjoy Janacek’s glorious orchestration, particularly the final rolling pages, rather than worry too much over what is supposed to be happening. That way we were able to enjoy not only the BBCSO’s fine playing but the panache Edward Gardner brings to every live performance he gives.