Bury St Edmunds, St Edmundsbury Cathedral, 2021 New Year greetings – Johann Sebastian Bach, IOCO Aktuell,

Januar 4, 2021 by  
Filed under Bury St Edmunds, Hervorheben, IOCO Aktuell, Konzert

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St Edmundsbury Cathedral in Bury St Edmund © St Edmundsbury Cathedral / Ph Banks

St Edmundsbury Cathedral in Bury St Edmund © St Edmundsbury Cathedral / Ph Banks

2021 New Year greetings –  from St. Edmundsbury Cathedral, England

for IOCO – for the Marienbasilika of Kevelaer – for all Mankind

von Janet Banks (IOCO correspondent UK)

St Edmundsbury Cathedral, in the town of Bury St Edmunds (one of 42 Cathedrals in England) is in the heart of the East of England, and serves the English County of Suffolk, home to one of England’s major container ports (Felixstowe), not far from Cambridge. Our Cathedral in Bury St. Edmunds is proud to be linked as Partnerstadt / Twin Town with the German Marienbasilika of Our Lady in Kevelaer, and despite the current distress of Brexit we remain determined to maintain our good relationships with our European friends and families. The Cathedral h at Bury St Edmunds was built in 1539, and completed with the construction of the tower in 2000 as a millennium project, partly funded by the EU. Situated next to the Abbey of Saint Edmund (closed and destroyed during the English Protestant Reformation, which took place early in the 16th century under King Henry VIII) music is central to our life, and we have kept alive this strong musical heritage even during the pandemic: Choral Evensong (similar to Vespers in Germany) is sung on most days of the week, maintaining a prayerful link with the monastic Benedictine tradition of former years. This daily rhythm of prayer is the heartbeat of the Cathedral community here, as we welcome visitors and pilgrims from all over the world. During the Covid pandemic we have provided on-line a short musical reflection each day and the organ piece. In the following you will hear one of these reflections, a composition of Johann Sebastian Bach.

J S Bach : BWV 615 – Das alte Jahr vergangen ist, BWV 614 & In dir ist Freude
youtube Kanal – St Edmundsbury Cathedral
[ Mit erweitertem Datenschutz eingebettet ]

Ben Banks and the Tower of London © Ben Banks

Ben Banks and the Tower of London © Ben Banks

Ben Banks, Organ Scholar in the University of Oxford and member of the Royal College of Organists, is playing for  IOCO Kultur Community and  the Marienbasilika of Kevelaer  the hymns  Das alte Jahr vergangen ist, BWV 614 & In dir ist Freude, BWV 615 at St. Edmunsbury Cathedral. Ben Banks performs on the organ of the Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds, in the grounds of the ancient Benedictine Abbey and Pilgrimage place of St Edmund. A flagship organ built in 2010 by Harrisons of Durham (one of England’s premier organ builders), it has four manuals, 59 speaking stops and over 3,500 pipes.

The New Year hymn, “Das alte Jahr vergangen ist,” (The old year now hath passed away) and „In dir ist Freude“ (In thee is gladness) are the texts for the two JS Bach Chorales for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Johann Sebastian Bach in Leipzig © IOCO - H Gallée

Johann Sebastian Bach in Leipzig © IOCO – H Gallée

Bachs New Year hymn, Das alte Jahr vergangen ist” (The old year now hath passed away) and „In dir ist Freude“ (In thee is gladness) are the texts for the two JS Bach Chorales for New Year’s Eve and New ,Year’s Day. The hymns are  taken from Johann Sebastian Bach´s Orgelbüchlein.

The Orgelbüchlein comprises a collection of forty-five chorales, BWV 599-644,  which Bach composed in the years 1712 to 1717.  During his second, almost ten year long employment from 1708 until 1717 in the service of the Weimar dukes, he worked as the court organist at the castle church, the so-called Himmelsburg, then castle of the count Wilhelm Ernst von Sachsen-Weimar (1662 – 1728).

In this second Weimar period Bach composed a large part of his organ oeuvre. With his promotion to Concert Master (Konzertmeister) in 1714, his very rich oeuvre of cantatas began to evolve, which later became an important foundation for his work in Leipzig as the Thomas Cantor. In Weimar over 30 cantatas were composed, along with many works for harpsichord solo (including the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue for example), but also early versions of the Brandenburg Concertos and parts of the epoch-making partitas for violin solo (e.g. the famous “Chaconne” from the Partita in D minor).

St Edmundsbury Cathedral –  more YouTube videos –  click HERE!

As we reflect on the challenges and blessings of 2020, the strangest of covid-pandemic years, may we find strength, joy and peace in the year ahead. 
Performed on the organ of the Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds, the Cathedral of Suffolk in East Anglia, in the grounds of the ancient Benedictine Abbey and Pilgrimage place of St Edmund. A flagship organ built in 2010 by Harrisons of Durham (one of England’s premier organ builders), it has four manuals, 59 speaking stops and over 3,500 pipes.

Organ at St Edmundsbury Cathedral in Bury St Edmund © St Edmundsbury Cathedral / Ph Banks

Organ at St Edmundsbury Cathedral in Bury St Edmund © St Edmundsbury Cathedral / Ph Banks

—| IOCO Kritik St Edmundsbury Cathedral |—


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Aldeburgh, Snape Maltings, Macbeth – English Touring Opera, IOCO Kritik, 18.04.2019

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Aldeburgh Festival / Snape Maltings Concert Hall © Philip Vile

Aldeburgh Festival / Snape Maltings Concert Hall © Philip Vile

Snape Maltings Aldeburgh Festival

 Benjamin Britten Gedenkmuschel am Meeresufer von Snape © IOCO

Benjamin Britten Gedenkmuschel am Meeresufer von Snape © IOCO

Snape Maltings ist eine bedeutende Kulturstätte in Suffolk, England, in der Nähe der kleinen Orte Snape und Aldeburgh gelegen. Bereits vor 2000 errichteten die Römer erste Siedlungen in Snape und bauten Salzfertigungen. Snape und Aldeburgh erreichten durch auffällige kulturelle Aktivitäten überregionale Bedeutung. Benjamin Britten (*1913 – 1976) gründete dort 1948 das jährlich stattfindende international geschätzte Aldeburgh Festival und errichtete in der Folge Konzerthaus (Foto).  Eine übergroße ins Meeresufer vor Snape errichtete Muschel erinnert auffällig an Benjamin Britten, den großen Sohn der Region Snape und Aldeburgh. Hier eine weitere IOCO Rezeption aus Snape Maltings, link:  Dardanus von Jean-Philippe Rameau

IOCO – Korrespondentin Janet Banks besuchte die Macbeth Produktion der English Touring Opera (see video) in der Concert Hall von Snape Maltings: Privat betriebene Touring Opera Companies sind erneut eine britische Besonderheit: im deutschen Sprachraum nahezu unbekannt, in England jedoch häufig anzutreffen.


Macbeth – Giuseppe Verdi

 Produziert von – English Touring Opera

by Janet Banks

English Touring Opera was about halfway through touring the UK with three early works by great operatic composers, Mozart’s Idomeneo, Rossini’s Elizabeth I and Verdi’s Macbeth, when I witnessed this gripping production at Snape Maltings, home of the Aldeburgh Festival.

Tristan und Verdi’s Macbeth | Production Trailer
Youtube Trailer  English Touring Opera
[ Mit erweitertem Datenschutz eingebettet ]

James Dacre’s production was dramatically engrossing, hitting home time and again, largely thanks to excellent performances by the two lead singers, Madeleine Pierard as Lady Macbeth and Grant Doyle as Macbeth. Pierard had a strong stage presence and powerful body language – everything seemed more intense when she was on stage – and her full-throated soprano was more than a match for Giuseppe Verdi’s vocal acrobatics in Act I Scene 2. Her restless writhings before her suicide in the final act made a powerful contrast to her aggressive confidence in the party which closes Act 2.

The scenes between Pierard and Doyle as Macbeth were particularly intense. Doyle brought a lurking sense of foreboding into his voice from early in the opera and his Act 4 Scene 3 final aria showed impressive dramatic range. Sung in English in a good translation by Andrew Porter, any words which were not audible (and they were very few) were still not lost, thanks to TV screens either side of the stage which relayed the libretto, plus the setting for each act.

English Touring Opera / Machbeth © Richard Hubert Smith

English Touring Opera / Machbeth © Richard Hubert Smith

Designer Frankie Bradshaw’s constumes set the production in the present day: Macbeth politician-like in suit and tie, Lady Macbeth either in silky night attire or a short, smart party dress, the rest of the male characters in military uniform or fatigues. Staging was bare but effective – a chaise longue doubling as a throne, concrete bunker-type walls for the castle, and a nice modern touch when Banquo’s assassins climb up to unplug a security camera before his murder. It’s always a challenge to know what to do with the witches, especially with their far from haunting music. However the green-clad nursing nuns (see foto above) with their Florence Nightingale-like lamps and choreographed movements failed to spook me.

Andrew Slater was a deep-toned and noble Banquo and Amar Muchhala a moving Macduff in his beautiful lyric tenor aria lamenting his failure to protect his wife and children. There was much well-disciplined singing from the chorus, particularly in their a cappella chorale after Duncan’s murder.

—| IOCO Kritik Snape Maltings Aldeburgh Festival |—


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Saffron Walden, New Sussex Opera, The Travelling Companion – Charles V. Stanford, IOCO Review, 08.12.2018

Dezember 8, 2018 by  
Filed under Handel Opera Company, Hervorheben, Kritiken, Oper

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Saffron Hall in Saffron Walden, Essex © Saffron Hall

Saffron Hall in Saffron Walden, Essex © Saffron Hall

New Sussex Opera

The Travelling Companion  – by –  Charles Villiers Stanford

– Based on a tale by Hans Christian Andersen –

By Janet Banks

Irish-born Charles Villiers Stanford, *1852-1924, successful as a choral and orchestral composer and influential in British musical life, nevertheless struggled to make an impact in the genre he most cared about, opera.

The Travelling Companion, Stanford’s last opera, sets a tale by Hans Christian Andersen. It was written in 1916, and first performed in 1925 in Liverpool. Although it met with a better reception than most of his nine other operas, it has not been performed since the 1930s. This performance by New Sussex Opera (NSO) at Saffron Hall, Essex’s newest concert hall, was recorded live for a CD on the SOMM label, in what will be the first ever recording of one of Stanford’s opera.

 New Sussex Opera / The Travelling Companion and John © Robert Knights

New Sussex Opera / The Travelling Companion and John © Robert Knights

Andersen’s tale tells of a lonely traveller, John, who protects a corpse from defilement and is then protected by the spirit of the dead man in the form of a companion, his first friend. John aspires to the hand of a princess and is enabled to solve the riddle required to win it with the help of his mysterious friend. The fairtytale-like nature of the plot means the characters at first seem more archetypal than human. However as the story moves on, by Act 3 the princess is showing a much more complex character, reflected in the music.

This production, directed by Paul Higgins, boasted a sizeable chorus and an excellent 34-strong orchestra under the baton of Toby Purser. It set the action in 1916, the year of the opera’s composition, rather than in 15th century of Andersen’s story. The set was bare, the main props being large coffins, but with no hint of the First World War.

The three main roles, John, his companion and the princess were taken by David Horton, Julien Van Mallaerts and Kate Valentine. Horton’s lyrical tenor was well suited to the simple but aspiring character of John, and he rose well to the demands of the role, though perhaps spreading his arms wide on high notes a few times too often. Baritone Van Mallaerts’ beautiful and mysterious music reflected his supernatural origins and his voice blended well with Horton’s. The extremes of human emotion were not really felt until Act 4, when the Princess shows the torture of her Turandot-like predicament, pleading with John not to risk his life by attempting to solve the riddle. Valentine really showed off the power of her full soprano here, with a voice full of passion.

New Sussex Opera / The Travelling Companion and the Princess © Robert Knights

New Sussex Opera / The Travelling Companion and the Princess © Robert Knights

Supporting roles were taken by Paul Putnins as the King and Ian Beadle and Felix Kemp as the two ruffians and later the herald and the wizard. The chorus also play an important part in the opera, commenting on the action and sometimes very effectively interacting with the main characters.

But for me the biggest among The Travelling Companion’s many delights was in fact the orchestral music – the prelude and postlude, the atmospheric interludes between scenes, and the ballet music in Act 3. It was sobering to think there must be a lot of similarly strikingly orchestrated and beautifully written music by Stanford that has not been heard for nearly a century. Let us hope that as a result of New Sussex Opera’s initiative, other companies will be inspired to resurrect more of Stanford’s forgotten operas.


  NEW SUSSEX OPERA – NSO Ltd.

The NEW SUSSEX OPERA company (NSO Ltd) is a privately operated, Community based, nationally acclaimed English opera company aiming

– to stage brilliant performances of hidden gems
– to bring the delight and excitement of opera to new audiences
– to create opportunities for performers and back-stage specialists
– to hone their talents and advance their careers,
– to nurture new creative talent of any age.

Despite its name, the NSO reputation extends way beyond its home territory: national newspapers and IOCO review the innovative productions and comment favourably on them. While chorus-led productions play to capacity houses around Sussex and Essex, London’s prestigious Cadogan Hall regularly hosts its major productions. and you can get an idea of their musical and theatrical quality and impact by looking at our past productions and reviews. The list of NSO past productions stretches back decades and includes 5 UK premieres. The Travelling Companion performed at Saffron Hall, Essex and reviewed by IOCO had not been produced anywhere since 1930.

—| IOCO Kritik New Sussex Opera |—


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Cambridge Handel Opera Company, Rodelinda by George Frederick Handel, IOCO Kritik, 12.04.2018

April 13, 2018 by  
Filed under Handel Opera Company, Hervorheben, Kritiken, Oper

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Great Hall, The Leys School, Cambridge © The Leys School

Great Hall, The Leys School, Cambridge © The Leys School

Cambridge Handel Opera Company

Rodelinda  by George Frederick Handel

Cambridge, Great Hall, The Leys

 George Frederick Handel tomb at Westminster Abbey © IOCO

George Frederick Handel tomb at Westminster Abbey © IOCO

Cambridge Handel Opera Company puts on Baroque operas that celebrate the fusion of music and the stage with performances that are not just ‘historically informed’, but ‘historically inspired’. There is meaningful integrity between what happens in the music and what happens on stage. Baroque stagecraft is incorporated into our productions in a manner that speaks directly to audiences. Cambridge Handel Opera Company staged Handel’s Rodelinda, HWV 19 in Cambridge at a new theatre, the ‘Great Hall’, at The Leys. The dress rehearsal and performances took place in the week of 3 – 7 April 2018.

—————————

Rodelinda – Review by Janet Banks

Hats off to talented artistic director Julian Perkins for resurrecting the Cambridge Handel Opera Company, which had staged annual Handel productions from 1985 to 2013 in the historic university city. He plans to alternate operas by Handel with those of his contemporaries, and if this production of Rodelinda is anything to go by, audiences can look forward to historically informed and artistically rewarding productions in the coming years.

Cambridge Handel Opera Company / Rodelinda © Jean-Luc Benazet

Cambridge Handel Opera Company / Rodelinda © Jean-Luc Benazet

Simon Bejer has designed the production simply but effectively, entirely in blood red, black and white. Costumes are loosely early 17th-century – ruffs, doublet and hose, the staging minimal, but hung with red draperies. Sung in English, it is expertly accompanied from the pit by period instruments laid out as an 18th-century opera orchestra, with a harpsichord and bass instrument on each side of the pit, and conducted by Julian Perkins.

Alice Privett never disappoints as the faithful wife Rodelinda. Her opening lament for her, supposedly, dead husband Bertarido, is impressive in its rich, deep colours, and she excels both in the passionate anger required when resisting the advances of the usurper Grimoaldo  and in the more calm set-piece arias.

Her unwelcome suitor, Grimoaldo (tenor William Wallace), white-faced and weak minded, comes into his own in Act 2 when his anger at finding Rodelinda and Bertarido together brings forth vehement coloratura – the only time spontaneous applause was drawn from an otherwise rather reserved audience. His adviser Garibaldo is sung by baritone Nicholas Morris, who from the first has the ability to hold the stage with both his effective acting and his characterful voice. Ida Ränzlöv who sings ‘bad girl’ Eduige, dressed for the part in black vinyl skin-tight trousers and a slashed farthingale, enters into the role with almost comic effect, rolling the „R“ of Rodelinda scornfully and cheekily unlacing Unolfo’s doublet.

Cambridge Handel Opera Company / Rodelinda © Jean-Luc Benazet

Cambridge Handel Opera Company / Rodelinda © Jean-Luc Benazet

It is left till Act 1 Scene 2 before we hear a counter-tenor voice – that of Bertarido, in hiding, walking among the tombs. Although initially his voice is not striking, William Towers soon captivates the audience with his beautifully controlled long notes, and his Act 2 aria ‘Nature’s voice replying’, each line echoed from the circle by recorders and flute, is beautifully accomplished. Tom Scott-Cowell, as Unolfo, has the other countertenor role and delights the audience with Act 2 aria ‘Daylight is dawning’ just before the interval.

For me, however, the musical high point of the opera was Rodelinda and Bertarido’s duet at the end of Act 2 ‘I embrace you’, movingly sung in their separate dungeons, with flawless ensemble and both voices blending seamlessly.


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