Wednesday 10 July 2013

Oxford Lieder Festival 2013

The 2013 Oxford Lieder Festival starts in October, but make your bookings now - some things sell out fast. Each year, the Festival grows and this year's no exception.

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.

"Frozen Landscapes and Winter Journeys" on Friday 18th should prove fascinating. In 1897, Swedish explorer Solomon Andrée tried to fly to the North Pole in a balloon. Thirty years later, his photographs and diaries were discovered in the remains of his final camp in the frozen wastes. Like Amundsen and Scott in the Antarctic, it's a story of courage against the adversities of nature. American composer Dominick Argento set words from Andrée's diaries to music. Mark Stone and Sholto Kynoch will perform the piece in an atmospheric late night concert in the New College Ante Chapel. This is one of the "lost" photos showing a photo of the site where Andrée's balloon crashed. All the men were doomed. It's amazing that the photos and diaries survived. Oxford Lieder has organized an afternoon at The Pitt Rivers Museum so we can learn more about the expedition and the region in which it took place..

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

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