Aldeburgh Looks Forward to its 68th Festival  (June 12 -28)

Aldeburgh Looks Forward to its 68th Festival  (June 12 -28)

 A double bill of Harrison Birtwistle’s The Corridor and The Cure marks the opening of the 2015 Aldeburgh Festival which also features a retrospective in celebration of Pierre Boulez’s 90th birthday and a focus on George Benjamin, this year’s Artist in Residence.  The Cure is receiving its world première next to its companion piece The Corridor, which was premièred at the 2009 Aldeburgh Festival.  Marking his seventh year as Artistic Director, Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s fingerprint can be seen throughout the Festival: in the choice of repertoire and artists, as soloist in a recital and symphonic concerts, and in chamber concerts alongside colleagues and friends.

Composed to a libretto by David Harsent – with whom Birtwistle also collaborated on The CorridorThe Cure reunites the original interpreters of The Corridor, singers Mark Padmore and Elizabeth Atherton, with Birtwistle’s long-time designer, Alison Chitty (Fri 12, Sun 14 & Mon 15 Jun).  The Cure is co-commissioned and co-produced by the Aldeburgh Festival and The Royal Opera, with additional support from the London Sinfonietta.  This new double bill is directed by Martin Duncan, whose last work at Aldeburgh was the acclaimed Britten centenary production of Noye’s Fludde. 

To mark Pierre Boulez’s 90th birthday, Pierre-Laurent Aimard has devised a 3-day retrospective aimed at enabling audiences to familiarise themselves with his complex music.  Coming to the UK for the first time is Gerard McBurney’s acclaimed A Pierre Dream: A Portrait of Pierre Boulez – an acoustic and theatrical journey with set designs by Frank Gehry – devised for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s ‘Beyond the Score’ (Wed 17 Jun).  The concept mixes live performance from over six decades of Boulez’s creative career with rare on-screen archival footage and new interviews.  The previous day, Barrie Gavin introduces his film, Pierre Boulez – Living in the Present at the Aldeburgh Cinema (Tue 16 Jun), and the following day the Boulez Exploration continues when Julian Anderson, who first encountered Boulez’s music when he was 10, introduces two illustrated performances of Boulez’s works: extracts from Livre pour quatuor by Quatuor Diotima and the Piano Sonata No. 3 given by Florent Boffard, long-time soloist in Boulez’s Ensemble Intercontemporain (Thu 18 Jun).

Also in the spotlight is this year’s Artist in Residence, George Benjamin, whose operatic double bill, The Portrait/Into the Little Hill, opened the 2010 Festival. Reflecting his multifaceted career, Benjamin’s Festival residency this year focuses not only on his music but also on his other roles – as conductor, pianist and advocate of a younger generation of composers: Luke Bedford, Tom Coult, Helen Grime, Saed Haddad, Edward Nesbitt and Martin Suckling. He will conduct the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (Sat 13 Jun) and the London Sinfonietta (Thu 25 Jun) with premières by Tom Coult and Saed Haddad respectively, alongside two works of his own A Mind of Winter and At First Light.  For both concerts he is joined by Pierre-Laurent Aimard, first in a performance of Ravel’s Piano Concerto and later in Ligeti’s Piano Concerto.  The Mahler Chamber Orchestra’s second performance is conducted by François-Xavier Roth, and places Benjamin’s Three Inventions in the context of Mozart, Ravel, Schubert and Luke Bedford’s Wonderful Two Headed Nightingale (Sun 14 Jun)The following weekend, Benjamin the pianist joins Aimard and friends for a chamber recital that includes a performance of Benjamin’s Three Miniatures, a new piece by Martin Suckling, and music by Debussy and Ravel (Sat 20 Jun).  Louis Lortie performs Benjamin’s Shadowlines in his solo recital (Mon 22 Jun).

In addition to his performances of the piano concertos by Ravel and Ligeti, Pierre-Laurent Aimard takes part in three chamber music concerts: first performing Schubert’s Piano Quintet ‘The Trout’ with Quatuor Mosaïques (Mon 15 Jun); later joining George Benjamin in a performance of Ravel’s Ma Mère l’Oye in a concert with fellow musicians Florence Boffard, Isabelle Faust, Mark Simpson and Jean-Guihen Queyras (Sat 20 Jun); and finally with the same players for a performance of Messiaen’s Quatuor pour le fin du temps (Sun 21 Jun).   For his solo recital on the closing weekend, Aimard has chosen to pair extracts from Bach’s The Art of Fugue and The Well-Tempered Clavier Book I with a selection of György Kurtág’s Játékok (Sat 27 Jun).

Aldeburgh continues to explore different approaches to concert presentation, not only with Gerard MacBurney’s A Pierre Dream, but also with the world première of Tal Rosner’s new video accompaniment for Benjamin Britten’s Four Sea Interludes and Passacaglia (Wed 24 Jun), live orchestral music brought to a central (and as of yet secret) Ipswich location by the celebrated Multi-Story Orchestra (Sun 14 Jun), and for the first time a beach stage that will provide an Aldeburgh lunchtime hub throughout the 17 days. Building on the success of Peter Grimes on Aldeburgh Beach and last year’s inclusive Musicircus, the beach stage will host daily free hour-long performances with a mix of Festival performers, non-classical artists appearing at The Pumphouse and local Suffolk acts.

Woven throughout the Festival are works by its founder Benjamin Britten, besides the Four Sea Interludes and Passacaglia performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Sakari Oramo (Wed 24 Jun); the Festival includes performances of String Quartet No. 2 with the Doric Quartet (Sat 27 Jun); Phaedre with Christine Rice and Arcangelo; and a selection of songs performed by Alice Coote accompanied by Christian Blackshaw (Thu 18 Jun).  There is a special focus on The Prince of the Pagodas – Britten’s only full-length ballet score which was inspired by his trip to Bali – concert excerpts of which will receive a rare performance from the Britten–Pears Orchestra under Oliver Knussen at the final event of the Festival (Sun 28 Jun).  To add context to the performance, Aldeburgh has scheduled a screening of the 1990 film of Kenneth MacMillan’s version with the Royal Ballet (Tue 23 Jun); Gamelan workshops (Wed 24 – Fri 26 Jun); and a study day in collaboration with the Britten–Pears Foundation which includes both the opportunity to hear the Britten–Pears Orchestra rehearse the score, and the chance to have an introductory session on a Javanese gamelan (Thu 25 Jun).  At the end of the Festival, audiences can hear the results of an education project that brought together young people from across Suffolk to create a new piece that combines music and dance and draws on the unique sound world of the gamelan (Sun 28 Jun).

Further highlights of the Festival include an extended Bach-focused residency from the Monteverdi Choir under John Eliot Gardiner (Fri 19 and Sat 20 Jun); Andreas Scholl giving masterclasses and a song recital with Tamar Halperin (Sat 13 Jun); Tamara Stevanovich performing Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and Winds with the Mahler Chamber Soloists; and Gabriela Montero who returns to Aldeburgh to perform her own improvised soundtracks to two 1920s silent classics: Battleship Potemkin and Faust (Fri 26 & Sat 27 Jun).

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