Friday, 28 September 2012

Brighton Early Music Festival 2012

The 10th BREMF runs from 26 October to 11 November, and despite losing Arts Council funding this year (boo!), this year's festival promises to be one of the most exciting and innovative yet.  The theme of Celebration (in honour of the festival's 10th birthday) is definitely appropriate - the festival is indeed a celebration of the diversity of early music repertoire, as well as the creativity and ingenuity of the best performers in the field.

So I thought I'd pick out a few of the highlights that I'm looking forward to.  I have to admit to a vested interest here, as I'm singing in four concerts this year - but I promise to point out a few other delights that the festival has in store too!

Credit: Eric Richmond
The Tallis Scholars return to the festival on Friday 26 October at St Bartholomew's Church, with a concert entitled The Field of the Cloth of Gold - Celebrating a Great Treaty.  This refers to the meeting between Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France in 1520.  It followed the treaty of 1514, and the aim was to cement a bond of friendship between the two monarchs, and as a result, the two countries.  The two Chapels Royal were present, and attempted to outdo one another with music composed by Jean Mouton (c.1459-1522) for the French, and William Cornysh (1465-1523) for the English.  The Tallis Scholars, under their director, Peter Phillips, appear fresh from their recent slightly unexpected chart success, thanks to a certain 'grey' novel.  

Borromini String Quartet
On Saturday 27 October, BREMF offers two free concerts (one at 8.30pm, one at 10.30pm), again in St Barts, Autumn Lates: BREMF 10th Birthday Celebration - Journeys through Europe.  No tickets are required, and you can come and go during the performances as you please.  Five young performing ensembles will be showcased.  Musica Poetica London are a period instrument baroque ensemble, specialising in 17th century German repertoire, and will be performing music by Becker, Biber & Buxtehude.  The Borromini String Quartet again perform on period instruments, but moving into Spanish and Spanish-inspired repertoire, with 'Noches de España'.  The Ensemble de Trianon take us on to France, with a programme entitled 'Les Plaisirs de Versailles', with music by Rameau & Leclair.  Flauguissimo, a flute and guitar duo, conjure up an intimate encounter with 'A Nightingale in the Salon', with music by Schubert and Paganini.  Finally, Oxford Baroque explore chaconnes and passacaglias by Monteverdi, Schütz and J. C. Bach, in 'Perpetual Motion'.

Soprano Elin Manahan Thomas joins the BREMF Singers and BREMF players, conducted by John Hancorn, in a Celebration of the Italian High Baroque, on Sunday 28 October at St George's Church, Kemp Town.  Domenico Scarlatti's beautiful Stabat Mater and Antonio Lotti's famous Crucifixus a 8 (here performed within the Credo in F from which it comes) are the choral highlights, whilst the string players will also perform music by Corelli & Vivaldi, including Vivaldi's La Follia trio sonata.  

And now for the spectacular, slightly crazy experience that will be The 1589 Florentine Intermedi.  You can catch this twice, once at 5pm, and again at 9pm, on Saturday 3 November, back at St Barts.  The music is by Luca Marenzio, Cristofano Malvezzi, Giulio Caccini, Emilio Cavalieri and Jacopo Peri - probably new to many.  The six Intermedi originally served as interludes between the acts of the play La Pellegrina (The Pilgrim Woman) by Girolamo Bargagli.  The play was performed on the occasion of Ferdinando Medici's marriage to Christine of Lorraine - by all accounts and incredibly extravagant and lavish affair.  This production, as well as drawing on the forces of two choirs - the BREMF Consort of Voices, together with the Renaissance Singers - will include a whole host of great soloists, including Mark Tucker, Emily Gadd and Katy Hill.  The instrumentalists include members of the English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble, the Monteverdi String Band, and the Chordophony Lute Ensemble.  And last but not least, aerial dancers Zu Aerial will perform in the vast space that is St Barts - with lighting and sound effects - definitely not one to be missed.  All conceived by, and miraculously held together by director Deborah Roberts.  

From the large scale and spectacular to the opposite end of the spectrum - the intimacy that is the Goldberg Variations by J. S. Bach, performed by Steven Devine on the harpsichord.  You can hear this in the Ralli Hall, Denmark Villas, Hove at 3pm.

Later that same evening, BREMF Consort of Voices return for Celebrating Gabrieli, in honour of the 400th anniversary of Giovanni Gabrieli's death, and they are once again joined by the English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble - 7.30pm at St Barts.  More wonderful music, and lots for multi-choirs, exploiting the spacial effects of Barts.

The Orlando Consort's turn to celebrate next, and they're Celebrating Food, Wine and Song in a cabaret-style picnic concert.  The quartet of Matthew Venner, Mark Dobell, Angus Smith and Donald Greig perform medieval and early renaissance music by Guillaume de Machaut, Dufay, Binchois, and others.  You can even download authentic recipes to try - so bring along your picnic!  Friday 9 November, 8pm at St George's Church, Kemp Town.  

Musica Secreta and the Celestial Sirens explore the secrets of what nuns got up to in the middle of the night (!) in Secret Carnivals, Saturday 10 November, 7.30pm at St Michael and All Angels Church, Brighton.  Their performance includes chant and polyphony from the daily Office, with works by Palestrina, Victoria and Rore - but they also celebrate their secret carnival in the dead of night, building to a dance of the Seven Sisters.  So the secrets of the nuns will be revealed!

The final day of the festival, Sunday 11 November, promises two great concerts to end in style.  Firstly, at 3pm in Ralli Hall, The Burning Bush perform their infectious mix of klezmer, Ottoman and Sephardi music in L'Chaim! (To Life!): Music and Dance to Celebrate the Old Jewish World.  The 6-strong band includes Lucie Skeaping (of BBC Radio 3's The Early Music Show) and husband Roderick Skeaping, together with Ben Harlan, Robin Jeffery, Jon Banks and Robert Levy.  Instruments include the oud, the rebec, the laouto, the darabukka and the kanun - if you don't know what any or all of these are, then go along and find out!

And the festival comes to a close with Celebrating Coronations - and a Diamond Jubilee.  The International Baroque Players are joined by the BREMF Singers, directed once again by John Hancorn, in coronation music by Boyce, Purcell and Handel, as well as Zelenka's Concerto a 8.  The International Baroque Players wowed audiences when they performed with Emma Kirkby in the 2010 festival, and their debut CD of Concertos from Dresden by Pisendel and others has won universal acclaim (review here). Sunday 11 November, 7.30pm, St Georges

So here's to the next ten years of the Brighton Early Music Festival - Congratulations to directors Deborah Roberts and Clare Norburn, and Happy 10th Birthday!

You can book tickets online for all the concerts here or at the Brighton Dome Ticket Office, New Rd, Brighton ore by phone: 01273 709709. 

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