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Tagged with 'Britten Sinfonia'

Work of the Week – Huw Watkins: Horn Concerto

The horn is rarely heard alone in the orchestra and usually in the background: It sits in pairs or in the quartet at the back left. But in a solo concerto such as the new Horn Concerto by Huw Watkins, it makes its grand entrance. At the world premiere on 7 April 2024 in Saffron Walden, England, Ben Goldscheider will be the soloist in front of the orchestra. He will be accompanied by the Britten Sinfonia under the direction of Michael Papadopoulos.

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Work of the Week - Ryan Wigglesworth: Piano Concerto

Ryan Wigglesworth will make no fewer than three appearances as a conductor at this year’s BBC Proms, including on 28 August 2019 when he will direct the world premiere of his Piano Concerto with Marc-André Hamelin and Britten Sinfonia. The new work is the result of a joint commission between BBC Radio 3 and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

From the chorale figures of its opening arioso, to the contrapuntal scherzo and trio and the fugal finale, Wigglesworth’s Piano Concerto is characterised by its incorporation of Classical form and stylistic elements into his own contemporary idiom.
The solo piano part, neither bravura nor particularly virtuosic, often displays a poetic, intimate character. The work’s four movements are studies in character. The first, songlike; the second, a fast scherzo with a gentler central trio; the third, a nocturne based on a folk melody; and finally, a lively contrapuntal Gigue. - Ryan Wigglesworth

The lightly scored Notturno is one of the work’s more intimate moments. The orchestra is reduced to just strings and harp, accompanying the soloist in a small set of variations based on a Polish folk song Wigglesworth first heard around a campfire. His personal association of the melody with night is rendered in the dream-like and occasionally nightmarish quality of this movement.

Ryan Wigglesworth: Piano Concerto – Incorporation of classical form in a contemporary idiom

Audiences will be able to hear Wiggleworth’s Piano Concerto in performances around the world in coming seasons, including on 27, 28 and 29 February 2020 with Seattle Symphony Orchestra.



Photo: Benjamin Ealovega

Work of the Week: Gerald Barry – Alice’s Adventures Under Ground

On 28 November, the European premiere of Gerald Barry’s new opera Alice’s Adventures Under Ground will be given in a concert performance with Britten Sinfonia conducted by Thomas Adès. The performance at London's Barbican Centre closely follows the world premiere in Los Angeles on 22 November with Adès conducting members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Both performances are sung by a distinguished cast led by Barbara Hannigan in the title role, with Allison Cook, Hilary Summers, Allan Clayton, Peter Tantsits, Mark Stone, and Joshua Bloom.

Barry’s previous opera The Importance of Being Earnest (2009-10) has been widely performed to sold-out audiences and is heralded as a masterpiece of modern opera. The similarly subversive Victorian classics of Lewis Carroll’s two beloved novels “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Alice Through the Looking Glass” were, to Barry, an obvious choice for the subject of his next opera.

Alice's Adventures Under Ground by Gerald Barry - Down the rabbit hole

In the same manner as the books, Alice’s Adventures Under Ground begins with Alice falling down the rabbit hole. In the opera, this becomes an occasion for a masterclass in singing: as she falls, Alice competes with the orchestra for who can perform the best scales and arpeggios. Such vocal acrobatics have been written primarily for the deftly agile voice of Barbara Hannigan, with whom Barry has a longstanding collaboration. A second virtuosic masterclass occurs at the Red Queen’s croquet lawn. Barry explains his emphasis on virtuosic technique:
The book is very dramatic, and is an ideal vehicle for divas, male or female. It’s tremendous material for showing off – it takes these unbelievable things for granted, viewing them as normal. – Gerald Barry

In his vocal compositions Barry has often played with language, and Alice’s Adventures Under Ground is no exception. The composer wrote the libretto himself, cutting down to the very core of Carroll’s stories and making them even more surreal and funny. One of the best-known passages from Carroll’s Alice, the Jabberwocky, appears in no fewer than five languages. For Barry, the feverish linguistic whirlwind of Alice’s libretto reflects the original madness of Carroll’s texts. Barry also chose to use the book’s original title, rather than “Alice in Wonderland”, to mirror the slightly darker madness of the opera.
I love the original title as it combines light and dark and more truly reflects the white and black energy at the heart of the work. It is this careering between ecstatic nonsense and violence which has made the text timeless and grips generation after generation. – Gerald Barry

Alice’s Adventures Under Ground will receive its Irish premiere with Adès conducting the RTÉ Concert Orchestra in the New Music Dublin Festival on 4 March 2017. Further upcoming premieres for Barry include a new work for chorus and orchestra, Humiliated and Insulted, on 10 February 2017 with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and Philharmonic Choir, and 5-6 May 2017 with Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Chorus.

Work of the Week: Karl Amadeus Hartmann – Simplicius Simplicissimus

On 11 November, Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s 1930s opera Simplicius Simplicissimus will be given its UK premiere at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London. The Independent Opera production, directed by Polly Graham with Timothy Redmond conducting the Britten Sinfonia, will use a new English translation by David Poutney.

In three acts, the opera tells the story of a naïve shepherd boy, Simplicius Simplicissimus, during the horrific Thirty Years' War which devastated Germany in the seventeenth century. Simplicius doesn’t understand his father who tries to warn him of the evils of the world, nor his mysterious dreams of a ‘tree of life’. After a series of unfortunate events, such as the destruction of his family farm and his kidnapping, Simplicius retrospectively understands his dream as a metaphor for social injustice.

Hartmann's Simplicius Simpliccissimus - History repeats itself

Hartmann’s work, based on the 1668 novel “Der Abentheurliche Simpliccimus Teutsch” by Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen, was also shaped by the political circumstances of his present time. Though it was composed in 1934-1935, Simplicius Simplicissimus was not premiered until 1949 since Hartmann’s music was classified as “degenerate Art” by the Nazi regime. A parallel is drawn between the two historically distinct events, and the opera becomes an allegorical outcry against war and tyranny.
I became acquainted with the book and the descriptions of the Thirty Year’s War captured my attention. How current the line seemed to me: “The times are so strange, that nobody knows whether they will get out of it all without losing their life.” Then, as now, the individual was helplessly at the mercy of the devastating brutality of the age, where people were close to losing their souls. There was no hope for salvation, except in the most simple-minded human brought forth against it. – Karl Amadeus Hartmann

Hartmann realises this historic parallel musically by incorporating among others passages of Jewish melodies, creating a complex network of compositional meaning. Also prominent is the use of a German folk melody from the 13th century, put to the words “oh world I must leave you” (“Oh Welt ich muss dich lassen”). Withdrawal from the world is a very important theme in Hartmann’s work, but at the same time, the opera shows its impossibility: reality can be found reflected in Hartmann’s engagement with an older history, and even in Simplicius innocent fantasies.

The Independent Opera’s production of Simplicius Simplissimus will have repeat performances on the 15, 17 and 19 November. Next year the work will be performed in Bremen, Germany from 28 January.



Photo: Monika Rit­ters­haus, Oper Frank­furt 2009