Sheffield Bach Choir 2016-2017 Season

Sheffield Bach Choir gets its 2016-2017 season underway a little earlier than usual with Bach’s B minor Mass at Sheffield Cathedral on the 1st of October – but then, there is an ‘extra’ in it!

Messiah, actually! A second performance a Handel’s oratorio in the season!

The normal, annual outing still takes place on the first Monday of December, this year the 5th, and next April there is another performance, which will certainly not sound the same.

Taking place on the 8th of April, it virtually coincides with 275th anniversary of the first-ever performance of Messiah in Dublin on the 13th of April 1742.

Not that an attempt is being made at a ‘historically informed’ performance. On the contrary, it is a Come and Sing Messiah using Denis Wright’s astute 1946 transcription of the orchestral parts for brass band.

It is a celebration of the work’s 275th birthday!

Phillip McCann, no less, is assembling the brass forces and the Bach Choir’s illustrious music director, Simon Lindley is reported to be “terribly excited” over the performance.

Professional soloists, as always, will be on duty and tickets to sing or listen are priced at £10 – children £5.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the season there is another Handel oratorio between Bach and the ‘first’ Messiah, Israel in Egypt, on the 12th of November and a further work the choir also performs periodically, Mendelssohn’s Elijah on the 4th of March.

All the concerts are at Sheffield Cathedral, except the last one on the 10th of June, Music for a Summer Evening, which is again given as part of the Broomhill Festival at St Mark’s Church.

Further information at www.sheffieldbachchoir.org.uk

 

Music in the Round Autumn Season 2016

Music in the Round’s autumn series of concerts in Sheffield begins with solo Bach on the 4th of October and ends with solo Bach on the 10th of December from two outstanding musicians.

In October it is exclusively Bach when the Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt adds the Crucible Studio to the roster of prestigious venues she has performed in around the world with a captivating programme of seven works.

Added up by BWV numbers, it is actually 35 and a visit to www.musicintheround.co.uk will reveal all.

Just a couple of Bach works, the respective solo Sonata and Partita No 3, when the super Russian-born violinist Alina Ibragimova gives what promises to be a mesmerising recital in St Marie’s Cathedral at the December concert.

Completing it are the last three of the six unaccompanied opus 27 sonatas penned in 1923 by the Belgian violin virtuoso Eugène Ysaÿe and place enormous technical demands on the performer.

Another exceptional musician of international standing, baritone Roderick Williams, offers Schubert’s song cycle Die Winterreise with pianist Christopher Glynn (11th November), although as MitR’s singer-in-residence he cannot really be called a visiting guest artist these days.

On the other hand, the Van Kuijk Quartet, a young French string quartet rapidly making international waves, fits the bill and play quartets by Haydn: Op 76 No 4, Ravel, and Beethoven: Op 127 (12th October).

The Marmen Quartet also programme Haydn: Op 50 No 1, and Beethoven: Op 132 (8th November), separating them with the Third String Quartet by Philip Glass, its subtitle Mishima being the title of a film with a Japanese subject for which it formed the soundtrack.

The Leonore Piano Trio continues its journey through the complete Beethoven violin sonatas with Op 47, the Kreutzer; cello and piano works with See the Conquering Hero Comes Variations; and piano trios with Op 1 No 3 (30th November).

Ensemble 360, meanwhile, begins its contributions to the autumn series rather enterprisingly with Elgar’s Violin Sonata, Coleridge-Taylor’s Piano Quintet in G minor – yes, he of Hiawatha-fame! – and Dvořák’s Second Piano Quartet Op 87 (6th October).

The latter crops up again (26th October) with his Dumky piano trio, plus Schubert’s B flat piano trio and the Brahms Horn Trio.

Trios and Brahms are still on the agenda at Upper Chapel (17th November) with the composer’s Op 87 piano trio and the first performance of a commissioned work, Ostara for clarinet, cello and piano by Dani Howard who is in the midst of premieres at present!

Book-ending the two works are Schumann’s Fantasiestücke Op 73 for clarinet and piano and Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet.

Two further works by Brahms are scheduled, the Op 11 Serenade for chamber ensemble and Op 34 piano quintet, along with Schubert’s Quartettsatz (3rd December).

There are also two lunchtime concerts of more than passing interest at Upper Chapel involving pianist Tim Horton.

At the first (24th November), viola player Ruth Gibson offers a transcription of Franck’s Violin Sonata, Britten’s Lachrymae and arrangements of four movements from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet ballet.

The second (8th December) features double bass player Laurène Durantel playing two Beethoven cello works, the Bei Männerin Variations and Sonata No 2 (neither transposed), the Passacaglia from Biber’s Rosary Sonatas and as the second pair of hands in a four-hand piano arrangement of Wagner’s Mastersingers Overture!

All concerts are at the Crucible Studio, except where noted.

 

2016-2017 Sheffield International Concert Season

A number of nuggets are sprinkled across the 2016-2017 Sheffield International Concert Season, which gets underway at the City Hall on the 30th of September.

You could say that a Hallé concert conducted by James Burton (4th November) contains four in one evening: Bax’s Tintagel, Elgar’s The Spirit of England, Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, and Vaughan Williams’s Toward the Unknown Region.

The outstandingly versatile Elizabeth Atherton is the soprano soloist in the Barber and Elgar pieces with the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus joining her for the latter before getting its collective thorax round the Vaughan Williams.

Preceded by Haydn’s Drum Roll Symphony, the Phil is again on duty (6th May) for Tippett’s oratorio A Child of Our Time, directed by the Hallé’s principal guest conductor, Sheffield-born and brought-up Ryan Wigglesworth who is on the podium at two concerts in the season.

The other (17th March) sees the return of Elizabeth Watts to the city where she cut her singing teeth before going on to international stardom as the soprano soloist in Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, as well as offering some unspecified orchestral songs by Richard Strauss after The Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauss.

Sir Mark Elder, the Hallé’s music director, also conducts two concerts, including the opening one (30th September) taking in Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, Liszt’s Second Piano Concerto with highly noted young British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor and Dvořák’s smashing symphonic tone poem The Golden Spinning Wheel.

The second (21st April) features Elgar’s First Symphony, the second performance of a symphony by Huw Watkins and a dramatised account of Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.

A sixth Hallé concert in the season (4th February) is conducted by a Spaniard, Pablo González and appropriately includes Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole with the young Spanish violin virtuoso Leticia Moreno, plus the Second Brahms Symphony and Ravel’s Pavane pour une infanta défuncte.

Two Moscow orchestras pay a visit. The Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra (formerly Radio Symphony Orchestra) performs the composer’s Pathetique Symphony and Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances (21st October) with the Sibelius Violin Concerto from Jennifer Pike separating them.

The Moscow Philharmonic and its eminent music director Yuri Simonov end the season (26th May) with Shostakovich’s Sixth Symphony after partnering Freddy Kempf in Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto and performing two orchestral pieces from Mussorgsky’s opera Khovanshchina.

The Bergen Philharmonic play a mainly English programme of Wagner’s Rienzi Overture, Elgar’s Cello Concerto and Walton’s First Symphony (19th January) under the direction of its English principal conductor Edward Gardner. The soloist in the Elgar is Norwegian, though – Truls Mørk, no less!

The English Chamber Orchestra and violinist Stephanie Gonley offer an audience-friendly affair (26th November) of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola, Barber’s Adagio for strings, Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for strings and, less familiar, Haydn’s 49th Symphony, La Passione.

With Howard Shelley conductor and soloist, the London Mozart Players (24th February) are in similarly undemanding realms with Elgar’s Serenade for strings, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 17 and Symphony No 40, plus Britten’s Simple Symphony.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra return (8th April) with Sibelius: Karelia, Rachmaninov: First Piano Concerto played by Natasha Paremski, and Tchaikovsky: a Swan Lake Concert Suite, which should be straight up the street of Barry Wordsworth as the one-time music director, now principal guest conductor of the Royal Ballet.

Further information at www.sheffieldcityhall.co.uk

 

Farewell, Albion!

After four-and-a-half years, what Fraser Wilson describes as a “tremendous adventure” will come to an end at Holy Trinity Church, Millhouses on Saturday, the 13th of August.

Music lovers across Sheffield and, doubtless, beyond were taken aback when a round-robin email appeared in their inboxes in early July announcing that the exceptional chamber choir Albion was calling it day.

“We’re really proud of all the things we’ve achieved – from Caves to Ales and touring to festivals – and I think we have done something truly unique,” says Fraser, Albion’s founding director

“The challenge with setting the bar high, though, is that you then have to keep going higher, pushing yourselves to come up with ever more ambitious ideas, but over the last six months or so it’s been increasingly difficult to make time and space for that.

“We’re all busy people with other ‘proper’ jobs and many of the singers have completely different careers.  We found ourselves caught between the love and passion we’ve always had for what we do (singing), and the realism of having to acknowledge where we are at.”

What Albion had was unique – or has and is (the final curtain hasn’t quite descended yet)! Around ten voices drawn from a slightly larger pool of singers performing, largely without accompaniment or a conductor, the rich musical and literary heritage of the British Isles.

If a choice text was without music, Fraser Wilson set it and made astute arrangements of texts that had music. Everything was vibrantly performed with expert artistry and sounded newly minted. Little wonder a large, enthusiastic following was quickly established.

He cites wanting to build on the success of Albion’s second subterranean exploits at the Devil’s Arse (Peak Cavern) last year by doing ‘Caves Tour’ of the UK and, perhaps, writing a special piece for performance in the famous Castleton cavern.

“Having established a reputation for pushing the envelope, we didn’t want to slip back into a less ambitious way of working,” admits Fraser, “but both of those are such a step up.

“We spent a long time looking at options but concluded that, because we’ve only ever done this for the love of it, it was better to go out on a high and celebrate where the adventure has taken us.”

Going professional – and Albion is certainly good enough! – was an alternative considered; the suggestion is, though, not for very long!

“It would have compromised the very essence of the group, that this is something to which people bring themselves voluntarily, they give themselves without expectation, they bond and thrive because everyone is there for the love of it.”

Albion bonded and was loved by its audience in an extraordinary way, which lead to a deluge of reaction when the farewell was announced.

“We have been humbled by, and so grateful for, the response to Albion’s musical exploits from our friends and supporters in Sheffield and around the country,” says Fraser

“It has been a privilege and a pleasure to share music with them and a reminder that music truly is a universal form of communication, a way of reaching the parts that nothing else can.”

In England, Merrie England

You know the one about waiting an eternity for a bus to arrive, and then two turn up…!

Well, we have another performance of Edward German’s Merrie England looming towards the end of August after the Sheffield Bach Choir’s concert outing for the work in June.

It is a staging, by Present Company at Buxton Opera House, so German’s music will be heard in all its orchestral glory and Basil Hood’s dialogue is restored, so no need for a narrator.

Once extremely popular, the work is rarely encountered now. Not even its once inescapable arias, such as The English Rose, which every British tenor worth his salt sang at one time.

Almost equal in fame are the baritone’s rousing Yeomen of England, the mezzo-soprano’s O Peaceful England with, closely following, She Had a Letter From Her Love and Who Shall Say That Love is Cruel? – two for the soprano!

The piece is choc-o-bloc with superb tunes among its two dozen-plus music numbers and there is an array of historical characters on stage: Elizabeth I; Sir Walter Raleigh; Earl of Essex; and Bess Throckmorton.

While they don’t actually appear, the work’s witty librettist Basil Hood – who has one character summarising the plot of Romeo and Juliet using only the A-Z of the alphabet – also writes Shakespeare, Robin Hood and Maid Marian into the scenario, although the latter two can be said to put in an appearance.

Raleigh and Bessie play them in a masque at the work’s conclusion, St George and the Dragon, ending a tale of love, intrigue and rivalry at the court of Elizabeth I around Windsor when a love letter from Raleigh to one of her ladies-in-waiting, Bessie Throckmorton, ends up in the Queen’s hands.