The Sea and Ships: the London Song Festival celebrates the first Shipping Forecast to be broadcast on British radio

The Sea and Ships: a celebration of the first Shipping Forecast to be broadcast on British radio; Jess Dandy, Gareth Brynmor John, Nigel Foster, Simon Butteriss; London Song Festival at Hinde Street Methodist Church

The Sea and Ships: a celebration of the first Shipping Forecast to be broadcast on British radio; Jess Dandy, Gareth Brynmor John, Nigel Foster, Simon Butteriss; London Song Festival at Hinde Street Methodist Church
Reviewed 21 June 2024

A delightfully diverse celebration both of the sea and of English and Irish composers’ fascination with it with everything from Elgar to Noel Coward and Frederick Delius to contemporary composers Julian Philips and Martin Bussey.

Having celebrated bicentenary of the invention of the Mackintosh last year [see my review], Nigel Foster and the London Song Festival celebrated the centenary of the first Shipping Forecast to be broadcast on British radio with The Sea and Ships, a programme of English song performed by contralto Jess Dandy and baritone Gareth Brynmor John, with pianist Nigel Foster and speaker Simon Butteriss. The programme began with Ronald Binge’s Sailing By and ended with Noel Coward’s Sail Away and in between songs and arrangements by René Atkinson, Ivor Gurney, Michael Flanders and Donald Swann, Michael Head, Peter Warlock, John Ireland, Frederick Delius, Edward Elgar, Martin Bussey, Rebecca Clarke, John Glover-Kind, Julian Philips, Steven Mark Kohn, Gerald Moore, Charles Villiers Stanford, and Michael Tippett.

We began with a tribute to the Shipping Forecast with both singers in Ronald Binge’s Sailing By, an instrumental version of which is played on the radio before the forecast itself; charming and very redolent of the parlour. Simon Butteriss reading of the forecast itself was punctuated by three songs, each referring to one of the areas mentioned. Jess Dandy really invested in The Waters of Tyne, a traditional song in a very art-song arrangement by René Atkinson, then Gareth Brynmor John swaggered nicely in Ivor Gurney’s Thomas Hardy setting, The Night of Trafalgar, an early song rather redolent of Peter Warlock. Finally the two soloists joined together for Flanders and Swann’s Rockall, their deadpan delivery and terrific diction making the most of the work’s delightful double entendre.

Ships and Sailors began with Michael Head’s The Ships of Arcady with Dandy giving us a lovely line allied to rich, focused tone, then John was swaggering again in Head’s A Dog’s Life, but investing in the touching moments too. Noel Coward’s Has anybody seen our ship (first sung by Coward himself with Gertrude Lawrence in the review Tonight at 8:30) featured the two singers in quite a serious take on the song which was funny because so deadpan. John returned to the sea chanty style with some genuine Warlock, the terrific ode to rum that is Captain Stratton’s Fancy, then Dandy gave us John Ireland’s Sea Fever, her rich tone combined with a feel for Masefield’s poetry to bring out the work’s lyric melancholy.

Nights by the Sea featured John in Delius’ Summer Nights, rich romanticism and an element of mystic rhapsody that, at times, didn’t quite sound like Delius at all. Then Dandy in Sea Slumber Song from Elgar’s Sea Pictures, Dandy’s impressive contralto voice returning us to a sound world in this song that Elgar would have recognised, and the version with piano giving a touch more intimacy.

There was further Elgar, as Dandy continued with Where Corals lie from Sea Pictures, for the section on The Magic and Mystery of the Sea. Here Foster drew out the engaging dance-like element to the accompaniment, complementing Dandy’s lyrical vocals. Then John gave us another Hardy setting, this time The Phantom Horesewoman by contemporary composer Martin Bussey. A complex yet tonal work that was a wonderfully effective free arioso. The first half ended with Jess Dandy in Rebecca Clarke’s The Seal Man (setting more John Masefield). Dandy gave us really intent storytelling, moving from spine-tingling intimacy to the quasi-operatic.

The second half began with The Lure of the Sea, pairing John Glover-Kind’s delightfully suggestive Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside with Julian Philips’ Emily Dickinson setting, Ah Ev’rywhere of Silver from Philips’ Swift Partitions (a song cycle that Foster premiered in 1998). This gave us an evocative, mysterious piano complementing John’s sensuous, intense vocal line.

Divided by the Sea paired Steven Mark Kohn’s traditional song arrangement, Ten Thousand Miles Away, with John bringing out the art song elements in Kohn’s arrangement, with another traditional song, this time arranged by pianist Gerald Moore, Blow the Wind Southerly. This was memorably associated with Kathleen Ferrier, here Jess Dandy was serious and very much herself.

Homeward Bound began with Stanford’s Homeward Bound from Songs of the Sea. John and Foster brought out the poetry of the song and the surprising complexity. Then Dandy sang Michael Head’s The Estuary, leaving the tweeness of Head’s The Ships of Arcady behind to give us something where time seemed suspended, moving slowly towards dignified rapture. 

The final section was The Embrace of the Sea which featured two more Emily Dickinson settings from Julian Philips’ Swift Partitions sung by John. The waters chased him was intense and rather disturbing whilst My river runs to thee was impulsive with almost jazz-like rhythms as it moved to an intense climax. Between these, Dandy gave a strong, strange and mysterious account of Full Fathom Five from Tippett’s Songs for Ariel (written for an Old Vic production of The Tempest starring Alastair Sim and Eileen Atkins)

We ended with more Noel Coward, the rather disturbing, yet delightful Sail Away where Coward proclaims that the solution to any of life’s problems is to ‘sail away’!

Throughout, speaker Simon Butteriss provided the connective tissue between the songs with a series of apt and sometimes devastating pieces of poetry and prose, sometimes quite tiny and very eclectic in the choice of writing including Jacques Cousteau, Arthur Ransome, Walt Whitman, Samuel Johnson, John Masefield, Virginia Woolf, Rabindranath Tagore, Shakespeare, Robert Frost, Longfellow, Sylvia Plath, Swinburne, Sara Teasdale, Langston Hughes, and Mark Twain, plus Dickens’ Dombey and Son, Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle, and Camus’ The Plague. 

All in all a thoughtful and imaginative evening, that kept the focus where it was needed, on the songs.

Never miss out on future posts by following us

The blog is free, but I’d be delighted if you were to show your appreciation by buying me a coffee.

Elsewhere on this blog

  • Much more than a piece of history: Roderick Cox conducts Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10 at the Royal Academy of Musicconcert review
  • Music like no other: Icelandic composer Gudmundur Steinn Gunnarsson’s Stífluhringurinn – record review
  • New colours in old sound worlds: the Portuguese duo, Bruno Monteiro & João Paulo Santos in Elgar, Debussy, Ravel & more – record review
  • Time remembered: the 75th edition of the Aldeburgh Festival lovingly recreates the opening night of 1948 Festival – concert review
  • A disc that makes you think, but also satisfies as a recital in its own right: Songs for Peter Pears from Robin Tritschler & friends – record review
  • Second view: Anna Patalong makes her role debut as Puccini’s Tosca at Opera Holland Park – opera review
  • An undeniable gift for melody: Charles Mauleverer’s Overture – record review
  • The 75th edition of the Aldeburgh Festival gets off to a good, spirited and proud start – concert review
  • The Devil’s DenI chat to composer Isabella Gellis & conductor Finnegan Downie Dear about the new opera Shadwell Opera is presenting at the Nevill Holt Festival – interview
  • Engaging, with an imaginative twist: Rossini’s The Barber of Seville at Opera Holland Park – opera review
  • Home

Go to Source article

Much more than a piece of history: Roderick Cox conducts Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10 at the Royal Academy of Music

Academy Symphony Orchestra in the Duke's Hall, Royal Academy of Music just before performing Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10
Academy Symphony Orchestra in the Duke’s Hall, Royal Academy of Music just before performing Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 10; Academy Symphony Orchestra, Roderick Cox; Duke’s Hall, Royal Academy of Music
Reviewed 21 June 2024

A performance of Shostakovich’s first post-Stalin symphony, full of energy, vitality, power and surprising warmth, and also very loud

Stalin died in 1953 and by the end of the year Dmitri Shostakovich was releasing new works including his Symphony No. 10. A long work, without any explicit programme, yet the music surely arises from the political climate in some way. 

I am of the generation (born mid-1950s) for whom the 1950s was a living memory, the era that our parents talked about and whose events defined them. Also, I have been lucky enough to hear Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10 conducted by men who had lived through the era.

At the Royal Academy of Music on Friday 21 June, the young American conductor Roderick Cox directed the Academy Symphony Orchestra in Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10. A work that for all concerned must now be an historical artefact, a work to be investigated, discovered and revealed. Perhaps what was most notable about the performance was the fact that the interpretation did not feel weighted down by its history. There seemed to be fresh ears investigating this music of genius. I have to admit that it is also a work that I have not heard recently, perhaps in decades, so the concert was one of exploration and revelation for all of us.

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 10 - Roderick Cox in rehearsal with Academy Symphony Orchestra in Duke's Hall, Royal Academy of Music (Photo: Charlotte Levy)
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 10 – Roderick Cox in rehearsal with Academy Symphony Orchestra in Duke’s Hall, Royal Academy of Music (Photo: Charlotte Levy)

The platform was very full indeed, with an orchestra of triple woodwind, five horns, four trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, four percussion and a substantial body of strings. In the relatively compact Duke’s Hall, there seemed hardly room for the audience at all and even the orchestra’s warm-up was loud.

We began with a sense of restraint, a deliberate holding back. Mysterious strings, lyrical yet carefully phrased, and long-breathed clarinet phrases. But then Cox unleashed the orchestra’s power in the first climax, there was a fierce intensity to the playing, but clarity too, the underlying structure of those powerful passages was clear. Restraint returned with the solo clarinet, but the solo flute seemed to make things more skittish and suddenly we had Shostakovich in full ironic mode. Yet this was pointed, but not too sharp, a continuing mellowness to the string tone. 

The second climax was all clarity, focused intensity and clean lines, something riveting and compelling, and yet still musical. When things died away, those two lone clarinets brought a real frisson, there was never any sense of the music winding town as Shostakovich pared his forces down, and the flutes this time were definitely not skittish. And throughout the movement, I kept returning to Cox’s sense of restraint, allowing the music space and time, yet speeds were not slow, bringing out a sense of quiet intent from the players. 

The second movement scherzo was played with surprising violence and focus, with Cox taking it at a good speed and the players responding with something very in your face. It full blooded and hard, but not nasty, exhilarating too with Cox keeping the impetus, moving ever onwards. Not as angry as some performances I have heard, the noise and energy here were tempered by another quality, a youthful energy.

The third movement Allegretto was graceful, yet pointed, a focused intensity but not as savage as some. With the solo horn, things became suddenly mysterious and rather nocturnal, the quiet intensity balance by more skittish elements. The triple time ‘waltz’ was done in all seriousness and very intent, leading to something violent and powerful, driving on. No irony here. The ending paired quiet menace from the strings with a magical solo horn and poised solo violin.

The opening of the last movement returned us to the dark, threatening cellos of the opening, with an eerie solo oboe. Yet there was a warmth to the playing too as the music slowly unfolded, with some fine wind solos including a plangent bassoon.  When the fast section came, things were suddenly tight and characterful, with no let up, driving on and on until things napped. But even the subsequent quiet passages had a sense of menace, whilst a disturbing little march developed into something really violent and there was constant impetus, focus and violence to the end.

This was a performance full of fantastic moments, with strong individual solos from all over the orchestra, yet a focus in the ensemble and a unanimity of purpose in the strings that would be the envy of a professional orchestra. Controlling it all, Cox made each movement seemed one long-breathed, coherent architectonic argument. A performance to remember and treasure.

Never miss out on future posts by following us

The blog is free, but I’d be delighted if you were to show your appreciation by buying me a coffee.

Elsewhere on this blog

  • Music like no other: Icelandic composer Gudmundur Steinn Gunnarsson’s Stífluhringurinnrecord review
  • New colours in old sound worlds: the Portuguese duo, Bruno Monteiro & João Paulo Santos in Elgar, Debussy, Ravel & more – record review
  • Time remembered: the 75th edition of the Aldeburgh Festival lovingly recreates the opening night of 1948 Festival – concert review
  • A disc that makes you think, but also satisfies as a recital in its own right: Songs for Peter Pears from Robin Tritschler & friends – record review
  • Second view: Anna Patalong makes her role debut as Puccini’s Tosca at Opera Holland Park – opera review
  • An undeniable gift for melody: Charles Mauleverer’s Overture – record review
  • The 75th edition of the Aldeburgh Festival gets off to a good, spirited and proud start – concert review
  • The Devil’s DenI chat to composer Isabella Gellis & conductor Finnegan Downie Dear about the new opera Shadwell Opera is presenting at the Nevill Holt Festival – interview
  • Engaging, with an imaginative twist: Rossini’s The Barber of Seville at Opera Holland Park – opera review
  • A very modern sort of magic: Handel’s Alcina at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama – opera review
  • Home


Go to Source article

Chopin 2? So good …

Splendid performance this month by Alexandre Kantorow with conductor Cristian Macelaru and French Radio orchestra.

The post Chopin 2? So good … appeared first on Slippedisc.

Ruth Leon recommends…. Till the Stars Come Down – National Theatre

Till the Stars Come Down – National Theatre

Click here to watch – subscription

Everyone loves a wedding…
It’s Sylvia and Marek’s wedding and we are all invited.

Over the course of a hot summer’s day, a family gathers to welcome a newcomer into their midst. But as the vodka flows and dances are shared, passions boil over and the limits of love are tested.

What happens when the happiest day of your life opens the door to a new, frightening and uncertain future?

This is a passionate, heart breaking and hilarious portrayal of a larger-than-life family struggling to come to terms with a changing world. English audiences will recognise this family – its ambiance, its context, its place in British society –  instantly but it might be a stretch for an international audience.

Directed by Bijan Sheibani who directed A Taste of Honey last season, this Olivier-nominated play by former National Theatre writer-in-residence Beth Steel was nominated for two Olivier Awards – for Best Play and Best Actress.

Read more

The post Ruth Leon recommends…. Till the Stars Come Down – National Theatre appeared first on Slippedisc.

Canada chief quits over ‘irreconcilable artistic differences’

The general director of the Orchestre philharmonique du Québec, Jean-Marc Léveillé, left the organisation this month, citing ‘irreconcilable divergences between the general management and the artistic director, Alexandre Da Costa’.

One of Léveillé’s supporters speaks of a ‘major toxic climate at the Orchestra, 100% created by Alexandre Da Costa… It’s toxic celebrity behavior, blackmail, intimidation.’

The orchestra has 52 musicians and five staff.

Read here.

The post Canada chief quits over ‘irreconcilable artistic differences’ appeared first on Slippedisc.

New stick in Geneva

The University of Geneva orchestra has, as of September 2024, its first female conductor.

Judith Baubérot is an assistant lecturer at the Haute Ecole de Musique de Genève.

Photo: Unige/Balint Hrotko

The post New stick in Geneva appeared first on Slippedisc.

1919: CODA. Works for Violin and Piano by Janáček, Boulanger, Debussy & Elgar

1919: CODA. Works for Violin and  Piano by Janáček, Boulanger, Debussy & Elgar

Three violin sonatas, all from their respective composers’ late periods, form the focus of this fascinating disc. 1919 is of course just post-World War I, and it is true that, rather like the extrapolation of “CODA” from the letters of the composers’ names, the disc title has to do a touch of hard work: Debussy, after all, died in 1918, as did the Boulanger du jour, Lili.

Still, there is no doubt this is a tremendous programme of music per se. And it is good that Benjamin Baker and Daniel Lebhardt begin with Janáček’s magnificent Sonata (completed 1922!). This is a major piece but not easy: not easy to play, and not easy to listen to, either. Janáček’s world is markedly gestural, and the players embrace that aspect of his art wholeheartedly. Here’s a video of the first movement:

e

There is a real passion to Baker’s playing, and his intonation, even up high, is spot-on. The twitchy, nervous aspect of the piano par is brilliantly conveyed by Lebhardt, The slow movement is a “Ballada,” its theme based on the folk music of Janáček’s youth, the municipality of Hukvaldy and it is simply lovely. Baker’s violin sings wonderfully. You can supplement the iDagio/Spotify links t the disc below with this, a live performance by these performers from Wigmore Hall in September, 2017:

Nowhere in this Sonata is Janáčk more Janáček than in the arresting gestures of the Allegretto (such an innocent direction for such powerful music!). Nigel Simeone, in his excellent notes, suggests that there are hints of Kabanová here. Again, here’s the Wigmore performance:

The finale is marked as “Adagio,” but as so often with Janáčk, that’s only half of the story. Tenderness is contrasted with the marking “feroce” (ferociously) in a remarkable formal construction. Baker and Lebhardt’s is one of the finest available versions.

Interestingly, the fragrant “Nocturne,” the first of Two Pieces by short-lived Lili Boulager (1893-1918), There are even hints of Debussy’s faun here. Lili (as opposed to Nadia) was the first woman to win the Prix de Rome. The brief “Cortège” follows, by no means as serious as its title implies.


So to Debussy’s late Violin Sonata, a masterpiece unlike any other. It has inspired a raft of excellent performances. There is a host of great performances of this piece (Zino Francescatti with Roert Casadesus, Szigeti – with Bartók! – Kynug-Wha Chung and Radu Lupu on Decca) but with such fine, virtuoso playing so well attuned to Debussy, it is hard to resist this one. Lebhardt’s touch is finely calibrated, and Baer’s attack and phrasing is beyond criticism. The central “Intermède” is properly fantastical; the finale, as Debussy directs, properly animated (“Très animé”). As the booklet notes remind us, Debussy himself was the pianist in the first performance of this epoch-making piece, with violinist Gaston Poulet: that was Debussy’s last public appearance.

For those that don’t yet know Debussy’s Violin Sonata, and like to follow along with a score, click here for just that, a performance by Sclomo Mintz and Yefim Bronfman.


1919: CODA. Works for Violin and  Piano by Janáček, Boulanger, Debussy & Elgar
Benjamin Baker, phot © Kaupo Kikkas

Another trip to the Boulangerie finishes another interlude: Lili’s s D’un matin de Printemps, one of her more famous pieces. It is truly lovely, and here’s another score video (thee performers here are Yehudi Menuhin and Clifford Cirzon).

Bu it is teh Elgar Violin Sonata, Op. 82 that might be a revelation to some. Elgar’s chamber music, like his partings, is unjustly neglected. His Violin Sonata dates from 1918. The first movement is described by the composer himself as “bold and vigorous” and it is; both players properly dig in.

Th slow movement was written for Elgar’s friend “Windflower” (Alice Stuart-Wortley). he long melody was apparently a reaction to “Windflower“’s accident while working around Tintagel (a broken leg). The melody of this central movement is indeed magical. Here’s a live performance of the first and second movements by the present artists to complement the links below:

Elgar called the finale “very broad” and “Something like the finale of the Second Symphony”. The marking is “Allegro non troppo” and it is certainly “non troppo” here; and it works beautifully. Again, the finale of that live performance in the Young Concet Artists series (the recorded movements are a touch longer in all three cases, incidentally):

Let’s allow Baker and Lebhard an encore: Elgar’s Salut d’amour:

A fascinating disc, featuring well contrasted repertoire in excellent performances. The disc is available from Amazon here.. Streaming links below.

1919: Boulanger, Janáček, Elgar & Debussy | Stream on IDAGIO
Listen to 1919: Boulanger, Janáček, Elgar & Debussy by Benjamin Baker, Daniel Lebhardt, Leoš Janáček, Lili Boulanger, Claude Debussy, Edward Elgar. Stream now on IDAGIO
1919: CODA. Works for Violin and  Piano by Janáček, Boulanger, Debussy & Elgar

The Amazon listing is here; Spotify and iDagio below.


Go to Source article

Glenn Gould: The Tim Page interview released

This is journalism in the raw, Tim Page telephoning Glenn Gould in October 1980. Tim kept the tapes, which have now been uploaded online by the Gould Foundation.

‘I want this to be a different interview,m,’ begins Tim.

Gould’s voice is seductive as ever.


 

 

The post Glenn Gould: The Tim Page interview released appeared first on Slippedisc.

French opera picks an outsider

The opera of Angers Nantes has appointed a successor to the retiring Alain Surans.

She is Alexandra Lacroix, founder of la Cie mpda, an independent music theatre company.

Not the normal Paris École nationale d’administration suit.

The post French opera picks an outsider appeared first on Slippedisc.

San Fran Conservatory student gets agency job

The Conservatory owns the Askonas Holt and Opus 3 agencies. Here’s what can happen:

Selected from a pool of SFCM students and recent graduates, Lindsey Ha will work with Askonas Holt for the summer of 2024. In addition to her work with the artist management company, Ha will work on a collaboration with the Carnegie Hall Youth Orchestra Festival 2024.
In this paid position, Ha will have the opportunity to assist in the touring, production, and artist relations aspect of youth orchestral engagements. Ha will initially work remotely in San Francisco, and will then join the National Children’s Orchestra of Venezuela tour during the residences at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and Carnegie Hall in New York City, housing and a stipend will also be provided.

The post San Fran Conservatory student gets agency job appeared first on Slippedisc.