It seems only yesterday that we were celebrating the Wigmore’s Centenary Season, and it’s heartening to realize that this is one small part of our cultural life which has actually gone from strength to strength during those ten years, defying all the nonsensical threats made to it under the guise of so many dubious notions that it is tedious to repeat them here embracing world music’ may perhaps stand for all the rest. At a recent Reception to introduce the new season, John Gilhooly, the Hall’s Director, provoked gasps of shock from the assembled Press when he announced that the percentage of the national budget taken up by the Arts is just 0.07%. When one remembers the contribution made to the economy by theatre, music and visual arts in this country this is indeed shocking, as is the obvious discrepancy which has to exist between the huge sums handed out to the major venues, and the relatively tiny amount of support given to the smaller ones.
This is Gilhooly’s fifth year as Artistic Director, and his tenth as part of the Hall’s staff, and he can both look back on his tenure with pride, and forward to an outstanding 2010-11 season which provides ample proof that his philosophy of protecting the highest artistic standards whilst exploring new directions, is paying off handsomely. He is that rare creature, a Director who recognizes the vital importance of taking the audience with him, and the enticing programme ahead is a testimony to that.
The season begins with a fabulous six-concert Festival over five days, featuring Karita Mattila, Ian Bostridge, Angelika Kirchschlager, and the Artemis, Elias and Tokyo String quartets. Highlights over the whole season and of course this is a very personal choice include Cecilia Bartoli, Susan Graham, Matthias Goerne, Andreas Scholl and the Takcs and Hagen quartets. I’ll also be first in line to request the Schumann series, commemorating the bicentenary of the composer’s birth in 1810, featuring all the major song cycles, piano works and quartets, performed by Imogen Cooper, Julius Drake, Wolfgang Holzmair, Mark Padmore, Soile Isokoski and others.
As usual, the Wigmore season brings some quirky’ events such as a Messiah on December 19th by the Early Opera Company these quart in a pint pot’ evenings are surely amongst the most treasurable and several mini-festivals,’ of which the Risr Chamber Music Festival and the Thomas Zehetmair residency are amongst the most alluring. The Hall continues its admirably unfussy, un-patronising Learning series, with imaginative Family Days, Study Courses and Lecture Recitals, the autumn season featuring no less than Alfred Brendel.