Friday, June 21, 2013

Music at the Festival of Britain

NE HUNDRED YEARS AGO, in May, 1851, Queen Victoria and her Prince Consort drove to Hyde Park to open the “Great Exhibition.”  It offered scientific and industrial displays, and concerts in a great hall of glass, the “Crystal Palace” which, nervous experts predicted, would collapse at the first salvo of the Royal Salute.  (As a matter of fact, the Crystal Palace stood until leveled by Nazi bombers in World War II.)
            This month, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth will open another mammoth event, the “Festival of Britain,” which is to continue throughout the summer.  It will be a music festival of international importance, with celebrated artists from all over the world taking part.  Music-lovers, too, will gather from America and Europe to attend Festival concerts.  Except for England’s music magazine, The Strad, which sourly described it as “an ill-timed festival which nobody wants,” there appears to be general enthusiasm for the forthcoming Festival of Britain.

            According to advance plans, the Festival will open on May 3 with a concert by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Sir Malcolm Sargent.  Other orchestras scheduled to perform during the London season are the London Philharmonic, Sir Adrian Boult and Eduard van Beinum conducting; the London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Malcom Sargent conducting; the Philharmonia Orchestra, Rafael Kubelik conducting; and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Thomas Beecham conducting.
             Orchestras outside London are preparing special programs for the London season.  They include the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Hallé Orchestra, the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra.
            Chamber orchestras and string orchestras appearing at the Festival include the Boyd Neel Orchestra, the Jacques String Orchestra, the London Chamber Orchestra, the London Mozart Players, the New London Orchestra, and the Riddick String Orchestra.
            Opera, too, will be represented at the Festival.  Covent Garden will offer Wagner’s “Parsifal” and his “Ring” cycle, with Kirsten Flagstad and Set Svanholm in leading roles; Gluck’s “Alceste”; and the world premiere of Vaughan Williams’ “Pilgrim’s Progress.”

Enjoy Kirsten Flagstad and the Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera (Wilfred Pelletier conducting) in a performance of  “Ho jo To ho” from Richard Wagner’s Die Walkure:
            The Sadler’s Wells Theatre offers “Don Carlos” and “Simon Boccanegra,” by Verdi; Vaughan Williams’ “Hugh the Drover”; Wolf-Ferrari’s “School for Fathers” and “Dido and Aeneas” by Purcell.
            The Lyric Theatre of Hammersmith will present four operas by Benjamin Britten:  Albert Herring”; “The Rape of Lucretia”; “Let’s Make an Opera”: and “The Beggar’s Opera.”
            The Savoy Theatre will present its world-famous performances of Gilbert and Sullivan operas, and at nearby Glyndebourne, Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” “Marriage of Figaro,” “Cosi fan tutte” and “Idomeneo.”   
            The British tradition of choral singing will be upheld by four performances a week throughout the Festival season.  Choirs from London, Huddersfield, Glasgow, Wales and Yorkshire will participate.  Choral works to be heard include Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion,” “St. John Passion” and B Minor Mass; Beethoven’s “Missa Solemnis” in D Minor; the BrahmsRequiem”; “The Apostles,” “The Kingdom” and “The Dream of Gerontius” by Elgar; Handel’s “Messiah” and “Acis and Galatea”; Haydn’s “Creation”; Mendelssohn’s “Hymn of Praise”; Verdi’s “Manzone Requiem”; “Belshazzar’s Feast,” by Walton; and “Sancta Civitas” and “A Sea Symphony” by Vaughan Williams.

Enjoy William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast, performed here by the BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales, London Brass, the BBC Symphony Chorus and baritone Jonathan Lemalu (Tadaaki Otaka, conducting):
Ballet will be staged by the Sadler’s Wells Company, headed by Margot Fonteyn, Robert Helpmann and Moira Shearer.

            During and after the London season, other Festival of Britain activities will be taking place in Aberdeen, Aldeburgh, Bath, Bournemouth, Cambridge, Canterbury, Cheltenham, Liverpool, Norwich, Swansea, Worcester and Edinburgh.
            The Edinburgh Festival, one of Europe’s leading summer music events, this year will present the leading English orchestras and a guest appearance by the New York Philharmonic-Symphony, conducted by Bruno Walter and Dimitri Mitropoulos, and with Robert Casadesus, Zino Francescatti, Dame Myra Hess, Rudolf Serkin and Solomon as soloists.  Other artists to be heard at Edinburgh are Kathleen Ferrier, contralto (with Bruno Walter at the piano); Pierre Bernac, baritone with composer-pianist Francis Poulenc at the piano; and Mack Harrell, American baritone.

Enjoy Zino Francescatti performing Pablo de Sarasate’s Gypsy Airs (Zigernerweisen):


No comments:

Post a Comment