Grimeborne's lopsided production of Miss Haversham's Wedding Night and 12 Poems of Emily Dickinson is both trick and treat
Last week I was lucky enough to meet Errollyn Wallen, the Belize-born composer whose BBC Proms commission, This Frame is Part of the Painting, will be premiered next month at the Royal Albert Hall. We chatted about her career and the influence of artists like Howard Hodgkin on her work, before moving on to a more general discussion on the state of classical music today…
In a week in which Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor opens at Zurich’s Opernhaus, Verdi’s Aida at the Met and Adams’ Girls of the Golden West at the Dutch National Opera – all of which feature a female protagonist, and yet have been produced by teams almost exclusively made up of men – how refreshing it was to open last night’s programme and discover that (almost) the entire creative team for Dani Howard’s brand-new opera Robin Hood are women. A further irony – that the opera documents the shenanigans of an all-male, masonic brotherhood – was not lost on me either.
The 9th Symphony at Brexit’s 11th hour
Beethoven is not part of Simon Wallfisch’s typical repertoire. The revered baritone and cellist, who will be performing Schubert’s Winterreise on the 15th in Oxford, could have spent his Wednesday afternoon rehearsing, but has instead chosen to brave the ‘poisonous’ Westminster atmosphere in order to sing ‘Ode to Joy’ in protest against Brexit…
A quick skim through Bachtrack’s 2018 statistics will reveal a more than sedentary attitude towards programming. The most performed living composer, Arvo Pärt, only entered the fray at number 46, whilst his female counterpart, Kaija Saariaho, was ranked a staggering 190th. It was, then, with some relief that I joined a packed audience at the Royal Festival Hall for the first in multiple offerings from SoundState – the Southbank Centre’s brand-new festival, committed exclusively to performing new music.
Read the full review on Bachtrack.
I can’t claim to have much prior experience of Mark Bowden – save for a few whispers amongst the au courant of my university’s music department, and a vague sense of some well received discs which, as is so often the case, I never got round to listening to. But as the final movement of his Sapiens sputtered into nothingness, leaving an enraptured audience grappling with the speculative message of Yuval Noah Harari’s second book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, I felt both foolish to have overlooked Bowden’s music, and deeply fortunate to be present for the world première of this, his latest work.
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“Did you get your hearing aid to work, Ian?” “I didn’t need it in the end!” Just one scrap of conversation overheard in the lobby of Cadogan Hall after last night’s Hungarian bonanza, which – and I’m inclined to agree with Ian – was not lacking in oomph.
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To describe this afternoon’s programme without raising eyebrows is rather like how I imagine the pioneer of the peanut butter and jam sandwich felt when justifying their discovery.
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We all knew that one student at school who seemed to miraculously excel at everything: they played in the football team, sang in the choir and starred in the school play, effortlessly straddling the full spectrum of achievement much to the envy of the rest of us.
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