NEW! The Three Choirs Festival 2018: A Preview


The Three Choirs Festival, which was first held in 1715, is probably the oldest music festival in the world. The Festival is held in turn in one of the three cathedral cities of Gloucester, Hereford and Worcester. This year the Festival takes place between 28 July and 4 August and, by rotation, it will be hosted by the cathedral and city of Hereford. All the performances mentioned in this preview will take place in Hereford Cathedral unless otherwise stated.

Hereford Cathedral’s Director of Music, Geraint Bowen, will be the Artistic Director of the Festival and he’s devised an enterprising and wide-ranging programme of events.

Speaking at the official launch of the full Festival programme on 20 April, Mr Bowen outlined the principal ideas that have shaped his programming. Since 1918 was the year in which the United Kingdom extended the vote to women, it’s appropriate that Celebrating Women should be a prominent theme. 1918 was also the year in which Sir Hubert Parry died and there’s no better place to celebrate this fine composer and enlightened enabler of other, younger composers, than the Three Choirs Festival, with which he had such a strong association during his lifetime. The centenary of the tragically premature death of Lili Boulanger will be marked and the Festival will also conclude its five-year-long commemoration of the First World War.

Choral music inevitably underpins the Festival each year and 2018 will be no exception. The opening night will pick up the Celebrating Women theme with a very rare performance of the Mass in D by Dame Ethel Smyth. Dame Ethel herself conducted two movements from the Mass at the 1925 Festival and in 1928 she returned to conduct the entire work but it’s not been heard at Three Choirs since then. Geraint Bowen will be on the rostrum this time (28 July). Though the Smyth piece has been given at Three Choirs before, one of Elgar’s large-scale choral works, King Olaf, has never received a Festival performance. That omission will be rectified this year when Sir Andrew Davis leads a performance. Davis has a fine recording of the work to his credit (review) so his performance is eagerly awaited (30 July)

Sir Andrew also leads the Festival’s principal tribute to Parry: a major concert devoted to his music. The programme includes the Fifth Symphony, the cantata Invocation to Music and one of Parry’s finest choral achievements, Blest Pair of Sirens (2 August). Another Parry masterpiece, the Songs of Farewell, features in an afternoon concert by Nigel Short and Tenebrae. They’ll perform music by several other composers including Elgar, Howells, Vaughan Williams and Schoenberg (30 July). Parry will feature in the closing concert when Geraint Bowen will conduct his fine orchestral Elegy for Brahms and, appropriately, Brahms’ own Ein Deutsches Requiem (4 August).

Geraint Bowen will be supported by his colleagues from Gloucester and Worcester cathedrals. Adrian Partington is in charge of a mouth-watering programme which includes Lili Boulanger’s Psalm 120 (Du fond de l’abime), Walton’s Viola Concerto and Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms (3 August). Incidentally, among the soloists in the Boulanger will be tenor Magnus Walker, who enjoyed a great personal success when he stood in at minimal notice for an indisposed soloist at a major concert of the 2016 Festival (review). Worcester’s Peter Nardone will conduct Mendelssohn’s Lobegesang (1 August).

Once again, the Philharmonia Orchestra will be in residence and they’ll not only participate in most of the evening choral concerts in the cathedral but will also give a purely orchestral concert. They’ll be working with the young Hong-Kong born conductor, Elim Chan, who has already made quite a name for herself internationally. She’ll lead them in an all-English programme that includes Holst’s The Planets and the premiere of Hannah Kendall’s Baptistry (29 July). The Philharmonia get a well-deserved evening off when Brecon Baroque accompany the Three Cathedral Choirs and a strong team of soloists in Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers (31 July). As usual, the cathedral choirs will combine to sing Choral Evensong on most days during the Festival.

On a smaller scale, but no less enticing, tenor James Gilchrist and pianist Anna Tilbrook will give a morning recital under the title The Solitary Pilgrim. The programme includes music by Clara Schumann, Schubert and Jonathan Dove. The final offering will be Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel of which this partnership has just made a magnificent recording. (Holy Trinity Church. 30 July). In the same venue the Gould Piano trio will be joined by clarinettist Robert Plane for a programme that culminates in Messiaen’s visionary Quatuor pour le Fin du Temps (31 July). The renowned harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani will give a late-night performance of Bach’s ‘Goldberg’ Variations (St Francis Xavier Church, 3 August). The festival has secured the services of another virtuoso: the organist Olivier Latry. He’ll put the cathedral organ through its paces with a recital that includes music by Bach, Franck and Dupré as well as an Improvisation to conclude (31 July).

There are some 50 events during the Festival, taking place both in Hereford itself and in several of the highly attractive towns in the vicinity, so this preview has only scratched the surface. The full programme can be accessed through the Festival website

Postal and online booking opens to the public on 23 April. From the same date telephone bookings can be made on 01452 768928.

John Quinn

NEW! Trinity Laban Moves to Abolish All-Male Composer Concerts



Leading international music college moves to abolish all-male composer concerts

Harriet Harman launches Venus Blazing at Trinity Laban (c) Juno Snowdon

Harriet Harman launches ‘Venus Blazing’, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance’s campaign to celebrate music by ‘missing’ women composers Read more



Interview with Arabella Steinbacher

Arabella Steinbacher (c) Sammy Hart

When I spoke with Arabella Steinbacher, she was half way through a tour with the Orchestre National de Lille in Southern France playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto and conductor Mark Shanahan. The bitterly cold weather allowed the German violinist some extra time in her hotel to speak with me about her early career and her inspirations for what has been a busy calling embracing the standard classical repertoire and explorations of less known 20th century repertoire. Her impressive repertoire includes concertos by Barber, Berg, Glazunov, Hindemith, Khachaturian, Milhaud, Britten, Szymanowski, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Hartmann, Stravinsky, and Schnittke. Arabella came to attain celebrity status when she stepped at late notice for an ill musician to perform the Beethoven Concerto in Paris with Sir Neville Marriner in 2004. Previously, she had already attained success on the violin competition circuit winning the Joseph-Joachim-Violinwettbewerbes Hannover when she was 19 and the Förderpreis des Freistaates Bayern. In 2008, The Strad wrote that ‘she seems to straddle the two most influential playing styles of the second half of the twentieth century. On the one hand, she possesses the outsize bravado flair, staccato resonance and ringing, tonal-centred opulence […] and the other, she plays with enhanced lower dynamic range, exquisitely floated bow strokes, and micro-fine interpretative detailing from such maverick individualists as Gideon Kremer and Thomas Zehetmair.’

GT: Arabella, you studied with a German teacher who had studied the Suzuki technique in Japan, then later when you were studying with Anna Chumachenco at the Munich Institute. Did this blend of styles have an effect on the way you play?

AS: I learned very early from the old style of my teacher, and that the most important thing was to study without the music in front of me, my study was better to learn it by heart from an early age. When I met Anna Chumachenco at the age of eight, it was a completely new stage in my learning, she had so much expectation of me, and she began by giving me the Mendelssohn concerto, and then the Mozart concertos, these are always the most difficult for every musician.

GT: You met with Ivry Gitlis, with Yehudi Menuhin and later with Anne-Sophie Mutter, which of these great violinists influenced you most of all?

AS: They didn’t teach me, but they inspired me, I went to Paris at the age of 19 to see Ivry Gitlis, and he listened to me play and I listened to his extraordinary way of playing, unlike anyone else, and I heard all his stories which were so interesting, he is so different from anybody else, his style was so completely different. I met Menuhin who inspired me too, as did Mutter who took me into her foundation and helped with the most important thing in my career by getting an agent and acquainting me with conductors.

GT: Do you ever listen to recordings of other violinists when you start studying a new piece?

AS: I don’t listen to other musicians’ recordings, I prefer to go to a concert or recital to hear other violinists if I am in a town and there is a concert. Only old recordings of a violinist or pianist or conductor, when I learn a new piece it was my father who was a répétiteur and he helped me learn a new piece, but since he died ten years ago I have been lucky to find a very good pianist and conductor with whom I now work on a new piece. Of course, I sometimes listen to old recordings, but the style of playing has changed so much since they were made, and we play so differently now!

GT: You have recorded some of the greatest concertos together with some 20th century concertos which are not so often heard today, which of these did you find of greatest interest?

AS: Concertos I adore, they are my passion, I learned Mozart and Schubert at an early age, but suddenly at the age of eleven at a summer music camp I found the Khachaturian Concerto when I heard somebody playing it, and I just fell in love with its fire and passion and I told my teacher Anna Chumachenco that I wanted to play this concerto and she introduced me to other music from this period, especially to Shostakovich, and Prokofiev. When I got a record company I told them wanted to record it when played with the CBSO under Sakari Oramo in Birmingham live in concert., later I discovered the Britten, Shostakovich, and Prokofiev concertos. Fabio Luisi heard me playing in Munich and suggested the Hindemith Violin Concerto to me, so I looked at it and I really fell in love with it, as I did later with the Britten concerto, all of these pieces were my idea to make recordings and the idea to record the Mendelssohn, Mozart and Tchaikovsky concertos actually came from the record company. I said to them who needs another Tchaikovsky concerto, but they said they are so popular, so we did them!

GT: Arabella, both of your parents were singers, your father was a concertmaster at the Munich opera, was this feeling for the human voice significant in your career?

AS: Music was a big part in our life at home, we were all having a nice time in my family playing and listening to music at home with people visiting over dinner, we had the wonderful feeling for music, at first it was so easy for me, but of course it is a very disciplined artform, but I have always loved the sense for the breathing and phrasing in music. I went to opera and to recitals, my mom wasn’t a singer, but she loved singing, and my dad had a great love for the music of Richard Strauss, so that is why I was called Arabella, I am glad because it is much better than being called Salome!

GT: In your concerts, you almost always play with your eyes closed as if you don’t want to see your audience. Why is this?

AS: For me, it is important to feel the energy around me and I find the eyes of people distracting, I can see that people taking their seats late, and I prefer to close my eyes and feel the energy of the players around me.

GT: You have worked with many distinguished conductors; do you have any favourites among them?

AS: Oh, that’s a dangerous question! I must be careful whom I mention and don’t mention. I am frightened to miss someone out! Certainly, I am indebted to Marek Janowski, Christoph von Dohnányi, Charles Dutoit, Herbert Blomstedt, Lawrence Foster, the old school of conductors, and especially to Neville Marriner who gave me so much support and help at an important Paris concert early in my career.

GT: What new pieces are you working on in the next year?

AS: I am constantly looking for new works, but sometimes it is so difficult to get conductors or promoters to take on new music. For instance, I am trying to play the Hindemith concerto more often, but it’s very difficult to get concerts performed of an unfamiliar concerto today. I am always trying my best to get new music played in my concerts.

In May 2018, Arabella Steinbacher tours with the Dresden Philharmonic and Michael Sanderling throughout the United Kingdom. For more information click here and for details of her concert at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall click here.

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Running time 150 mins (including Live Q&A) / Film BBFC PG  Read more



Laurence Equilbey on La Seine Musicale, Insula Orchestra and Female Composers


La Seine Musicale (c) CD92/Olivier Ravoire.

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NEW! Newly Discovered Song by Alma Mahler to be Performed in Oxford and Newbury


Kokoschka’s Doll and The Art of Love, incorporating Einsamer Gang will be performed in Oxford and Newbury

Alma Mahler

It is well known that in addition to the fourteen songs by Alma Mahler published in her lifetime, several dozen more – perhaps as many as one hundred – were written and have been lost or destroyed. One of those ‘lost’ songs, Einsamer Gang (Lonely Walk), has recently been discovered and will be given its UK premiere performances by Rozanna Madylus and Counterpoise at the Wagner 1900 conference in Oxford (April) and at the Newbury Spring Festival (May). Read more



Lisette Oropesa (c) Steven Harris

A highlight of this season for soprano Lisette Oropesa was her Royal Opera debut as Lucia (Lucia di Lammermoor) at Covent Garden. She will soon be making a role debut as Euridice in the French version of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice with Los Angeles Opera, in a new production opening on the 10 March, directed and choreographed by John Neumeier, and conducted by James Conlon. In advance of these performances in Los Angeles, Lisette Oropesa answers Seen and Heard International’s questions about this current role, as well as, looking back on her life and his career. Read more



Andrea Carè © Juan Carranza

The Italian tenor Andrea Carè has recently appeared at the Teatro Real in Madrid – in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly (Puccini) and Bizet’s Carmen – and at the Palau de Les Arts in Valencia – in Verdi’s Don Carlo alongside Plácido Domingo – and he returns to Covent Garden’s Royal Opera House (February 16, 27 and March 8, 12, 16) in the role of Don José in Carmen, a role he first performed there in 2015. He has previously said: ‘In spite of the brutality and intolerance of what Don José does, I still believe that in reality he is a pure man who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is a passionate man, as many of us are, but he does not have the luck or intelligence to realise that Carmen represents a danger to his own life, his heart and his mental stability. I believe that, however mistakenly and violently he behaves, there is a Don José in every one of us, constantly struggling not to fall into the abyss of insanity’.

In advance of these performances at Covent Garden Andrea Carè answers Seen and Heard International’s questions about this current role, as well as, looking back on his life and his career. Read more

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