Aldeburgh Festival 2011 : A preview from Roger Jones

23/04/2011

Aldeburgh Festival 2011 : A preview from Roger Jones (RJ)

If you fancy a seaside holiday with plenty of good music, bear in mind that the Aldeburgh Festival in Benjamin Britten’s own stamping ground is creeping up on us again. This year’s Festival, which runs from June 10th to 26th) is challenging and ,imaginative and has a strong Gallic flavour thanks to the enterprise and tastes of its Artistic Director, Pierre-Laurent Aimard.

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra opens and closes the Festival with two very different programmes. In the first its former conductor Sir Simon Rattle performs Messiaen’s Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum together with Mahler’s swansong, Das Lied von der Erde. (Birmingham residents can hear the same monumental programme in Symphony Hall.) The final concert is conducted by Oliver Knussen and juxtaposes music by Charlotte Bray, Helen Grime and the premiere of a new work by Elliott Carter with three Stravinsky pieces, ending with Petrushka premiered 100 years ago by the Ballets Russes..

No Aldburgh Festival would be complete without music by its famous former resident Benjamin Britten. Fifty years ago Mstislav Rostropovich premiered Britten’s Cello Sonata and to celebrate this anniversary the relationship between these two great musicians will be discussed and a new film about the Russian cellist, directed by John Bridcut, will be shown This is also a good excuse to explore in greater depth Britten’s compositions for the cello, so Jean-Guihan Queyras will be performing his cello suites.

Britten was also a prominent opera composer and this Festival will mount two performances of The Rape of Lucretia with a starry cast including Ian Bostridge, Susan Gritton and the Austrian soprano Angelika Kirchschlager as Lucretia. The BPO Strings and the Arcanto Quartet will perform more of his work, and James Gilchrist will sing his Holy Sonnets of John Donne and some of his folk song settings. In addition there will be an exhibition entitled Britten at Work in the Red House.

Schubert is another fpillar of the Festival. The baritone Matthias Goerne will be performing all three of his song cycles partnered by Pierre-Laurent Aimard, and will also be giving a masterclass. The celebrated pianist Elisabeth Leonskaya will be playing three of his sonatas and the orchestra Spira Mirabilis will play his Fourth Symphony. This ensemble which performs without a conductor (a recipe for chaos, one would think, but apparently it works!) will also play Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony.

There is a strong early music strand. La Nuova Musica perform a concert of Bach cantatas and motets, and there will be a chance to hear the earliest extant requiem mass – by Ockeghem – which will be introduced by Stephen Johnson as part of the BBC’s Discovering Music series and then perfomed by the Ensemble Organum. Music in a lighter vein will be provided by the French ensemble Les Talens Lyriques perfoming Leҫons de Ténèbres by Francois Couperin conducted by Christophe Rousset. M. Rousset will also play a recital of Couperin’s harpsichord music.

There is plenty of contemporary music at Aldeburgh as usual. Homage will be paid to Ligeti who died five years ago, and another of the featured composers is Marco Stroppo (an electronic music specialist), whose work From Needle’s Eye receives its premiere from London Sinfonietta. The percussionist Daniel Crampolini will play works by Elliott Carter, Xenakis and himself in his recital. The talented Barbirolli Quartet will perform a new work by Francisco Coll Gardia, and works by Erkki-Sven Tüür, Iiro Pentala, Peter Etvös together with Finnish tango music will add to the tantalising cosmopolitan mix.

Other events worth looking in on are a film of Leonard Bernstein conducting Mahler, and a sound installation at the Peter Pears Gallery devoted to the tenor Philip Langridge, who died last year, curated by his son. An open air event – a meditation on the nearby village of Sizewell (which boasts a nuclear power station) devised by Netia Jones and perfomed by the vocal ensemble Exaudi (conductor: James Weeks) could turn out to have more than just local interest.

While the legacy of Benjamin Britten will always have a part to play in this long running Festival, is current director is clearly intent not to merely mark time but to refresh this well established event with new ideas, new music and a galaxy of interesting musicians from all over Europe.

For further information consult: www.aldeburgh.co.uk.

Roger Jones

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