Autumn Music West of London
Although Simon Rattle is now conducting at the Barbican and the Royal Opera season is in full swing, some of the best music in England this autumn can be found west of London. The theme of the very successful Oxford Lieder Festival this year (October 13-28) is “The Last of the Romantics: Mahler and fin de siècle Vienna.”
The festival gets off to a dramatic start at the Sheldonian Theatre with Thomas Kemp conducting the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in “Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen” with the baritone Dietrich Henschel. This is followed by a rarity, Kate Royal singing songs by Richard Strauss in recently discovered arrangements originally intended to accompany silent movies. Then “Das Lied von der Erde” will be played in Schoenberg’s rarely heard orchestration small-scale performance.
If there was a star at this year’s Glyndebourne Opera Festival it was Anna Stéphany as Sesto in La Clemenza di Tito, whom the Guardian called “simply breathtaking.” At the Holywell Music Rooms on October 14 she gives a recital of songs by the young Mahler as well as Grieg’s contemporaneous settings of German poetry. Two admired young German baritones can also be heard at the Music Room: Roman Trekel, making his festival debut with Schubert’s “Winterreise,” and Benjamin Appl singing settings of poems by Rückert, Heine, Goethe, and Byron, including Schumann’s settings of Rückert, which strongly influenced Mahler.
This year’s Bath Mozartfest (November 10-18) has a particularly strong program, from the opening recital by the Takács Quartet—Mozart, Beethoven, and the less often heard Mendelssohn B-flat Quintet—to performances by two great pianists. In the single most extraordinary event at this year’s BBC Proms, Sir András Schiff held huge audience at the Albert Hall in rapt silence from 9:30 to 11:30pm as he played the first book of Bach’s “48.” Bath will be no less absorbed when Schiff plays Beethoven, Bach and Brahms. Imogen Cooper, meanwhile, will play Beethoven, Haydn, and Schubert.
Still further west, the latest season of the always stimulating Wexford Opera Festival in southeast Ireland (October 19-November 5) has its usual trio of rarities. Luigi Cherubini’s Medea was rediscovered sixty years ago as a star vehicle for Maria Callas, but few of us have had the opportunity to hear two other Italian operas. Margherita is by the mid-nineteenth-century Jacopo Foroni, who spent most of his short life in Sweden and whose Cristina, regina di Svezia was the surprise hit of Wexford three years ago. It was Franco Alfano’s misfortune to be less remembered for his own work than for having completed Turandot after Puccini’s death, but Wexford affords a rare opportunity to hear his 1904 Risurrezione.