John Mark Ainsley and Brigid Steinberger (with Julius Drake) open this year's series of recitals in the Holywell Music Room on 11/10 with a concert built round Schumann's complete Myrthen. The first Festival weekend focuses on Goethe. A Goethe Study Day at the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building examines Goethe's poetry and Schubert's interpretations. Two concerts, two talks/discussions. On Monday, Christine Rice, Roderick Willaims, Adrian Thompson, Louise Alder and Sholto Kynoch sing Goethe settings by Wolf, Schubert, Zelter and Loewe. "Lesser-known gems" the programme promises. That's why Oxford Lieder is so impoortant. There's always something stimulating.Sir Willard White sings Brahms Vier ernste Lieder at St John the Evangelist on Tuesday 13th. Go early for the pre concert talk by Natasha Loges who is always interesting.
Roderick Willliams pairs Schumann Dichterliebe with a world premiere : Robert Saxton's Time and the Seasons. Oxford Lieder actively champions new work, and this is its most substantial commission.
The second Oxford Lieder Festival weekend is themed around Benjamin Britten. James Bowman will be giving a masterclass on Saturday afternoon, and is singing the keynote concert on Sunday 20th. Britten was one of the first modern composers to appreciate the counter tenor voice. This is an aspect of Britten's work that';s rarely given the recognition it deserves : Bowman is in an ideal position since he knew Britten and sang the first Voice of Apollo in Death in Venice. This will be unique, from a historic and scholarly point of view. Lots more very unusual Britten this weekend, including Britten's work for two pianos, the Colin McPhee arrangements of Balinese gamelan. There'll also be a mid week screening of Tony Palmer's Nocturne, a new film on Benjamin Britten (reviewed here).
Wolfgang Holzmair has been a patron of Oxford Lieder for many years. He's much loved and appreciated in return. Holzmair is unusually erudite, even for a Lieder specialist. As a young man he said he could never sing Lieder with a non-native-speaking pianist. Then he met Imogen Cooper, and a legendary team was born. Cooper's Schubert is exceptional : she understands the spirit and the words as if by instinct. Moreover, they're doing Schubert's Mayrhofer settings, some of which are so beautiful that they make Mayrhofer sound (almost) as wonderful as Goethe.
Toby Spence, Kate Royal and Christoph Prégardien are giving important recitals. I'll be at Prégardien, for sure! But fundamental to the Oxford Lieder ethos is the idea of practical perfomance. Singing is an interactive experience.. Hence the numerous masterclasses and opportunities to sing and develop. Oxford Lieder has helped launch many careers, and enhanced appreciation of the art of song. Fifteen years ago, Lieder had a relatively low profile in this country, except for top level, high profile events in the Wigmore Hall. Oxford Lieder changed things, dramatically. Young British and European singers and pianists now have greater opportunities to learn and to share. Audiences, too, have grown to cherish Lieder and art song as a genre with unique delights and values. I am honoured and privileged to have supported Oxford Lieder almost from the start.
For more information see the Oxford Lieder site
photo of Holytwell Music Room : By Ny Björn