Thursday, 18 August 2011

Ten years - Oxford Lieder Festival 2011

Ten years of the Oxford Lieder Festival!  The Oxford Lieder Festival 2011 is the most important song festival in this country, and attracts international interest.  Sholto Kynoch and Oxford Lieder prove that those who believe passionately in what they do can achieve great things. The Oxford Lieder spirit is exciting because it's a mix of enthusiasm, deep knowledge and genuine love for the art of song performance. Support it and be there.
Public booking is now open, so please make plans. Oxford's not that far from London and the two key weekends are unmissable. October is perhaps the best time to be in Oxford, since the crowds are gone and, in the mist, the city takes on melancholy, timeless romance. Wonderfully atmospheric. That's the Holywell Music Room, where most concerts take place. (Photo : Peter Trimming)  It's the oldest public music room in the world. Mozart, Handel and Haydn played here, and many others. It seats only 150 people, ideal for a genre like Lieder where intimate, personal communication is of the essence. No-one makes big money from audiences this size, so that's all the more reason to support the Oxford Lieder ethos.

This year's programme is ambitious. Wolfgang Holzmair, Hakan Vramsmo, James Gilchrist, Miah Persson, Roderick Williams, Felicity Lott, Thomas Allen,  Florian Boesch, Mark Stone, Sarah Connolly, Birgid Steinberger, Graham Johnson, Anna Larsson, and many others. Many big names appear at Oxford Lieder long before they reached the really big time. This year Gary Griffiths and Marcus Farnsworth, for example, who have already made an impact. Indeed, one of the many fine things about Oxford Lieder is the way it nurtures talent, for the young are the lifeblood of the future.

Only three concerts featured in the first festival in 2001, but they were the three Schubert song cycles. cornerstone of the genre. This year the first weeked (14th to 17th October) is an intensive immersion in Schubert, where nearly everything he wrote for voice will be included. All day and evening, plus talks!

The second weekend  (22-23 October) will be worth travelling much longer distances than usual for it's an immersion in Scandinavian song, long a speciality of Oxford Lieder.  Rangstrom, Nystroem, Stenhammer, Petersen-Berger etc, featuring singers like Miah Persson who normally would play much bigger houses like Glyndebourne but sings at Oxford Lieder because they're reaching an audience who knows and cares.  Book for this straight away, even if Swedish song is new to you, because it's a treasure house of fascinating gems.

Thius year's Festival features no fewer than 33 recitals, as well as talks before every evening concert, a 2-day study event looking at Wagner and his influence on Liszt and Wolf, the launch of Volume 2 in Oxford Lieder’s recordings of the complete songs of Hugo Wolf, (please see review of Vol 1 HERE).

Oxford Lieder is committed to commissioning new work. This year's composer is award-winning Charlotte Bray, who has written a song cycle for baritone and piano based on the poetry of Fernando Pessoa, the eccentric Portuguese fantasist. (Lots more about Pessoa on this site, please search on "Pessoa"). Roderick Williams sings, so this should be a highlight. (27th October)

Central to the Oxford Lieder Festival philosophy is the idea of giving back to society something of what Lieder has given us : the joy of song.  Hence the very much acclaimed residential masterclass, which give intensive, specialist development for experienced pairs of singers and pianists. Yet anyone can experience the pleasure of singing - lots of work is done with schools, with amateurs as well as professionals.

I've supported the Oxford Lieder Festival since year two, so naturally I sing its praises, but there's quite a big circle of long-term and new supporters for the simple reason - it's unique and an extremely important contribution to the art of song and performance. For more information, see the website and book soon.

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