Opera + Classical Music Features

Classical Autumn Preview 2008

John Armitage Memorial Trust autumn concert, a tribute at the Coliseum to Reginald Goodall, this year’s production from the enterprising young company Independent Opera and the next two concerts from Orion Symphony Orchestra.

One of the most interesting new companies to have emerged in recent years is Independent Opera, who showcase some of the brightest young talent around. They present a major production each November and since 2005 have produced an impressive range of work, from Rossini (La Scala di Seta) and Handel (Orlando) to Elizabeth Maconchy (The Sofa/The Departure).

Last year’s Maconchy double-bill was a patchy affair but full-marks to the company for reviving these largely forgotten works. Since then, Independent Opera have revived their Orlando production in concert form for an evening at Wigmore Hall, with the likes of William Towers and Martine Grimson in the cast, proof of the quality of artists they can attract.

This year may be their most ambitious project to date, with a newly-commisioned chamber version of Debussy’s Pellas et Mlisande. It plays for three performances (18, 20 & 22 November) at the intimate Lilian Baylis studio, upstairs at Sadler’s Wells. The conductor will be Dominic Wheeler and director Alessandro Talevi. Pellas is played by Thorbjrn Gulbrandsy with Ingrid Perruche as Mlisande and the excellent Andrew Foster-Williams as Golaud.

Highly recommended.

Tickets are available on 0844 412 4300 or www.sadlerswells.com


You don’t have to be old enough to have experienced Reginald Goodall’s Wagner conducting to want to attend the ENO’s free tribute to him; a later generation of operagoers have had the opportunity to hear his legendary performances of The Ring, Parsifal and, most recently Mastersingers on CD. I don’t personally go back as far as his inaugural Mastersingers at Sadler’s Wells in 1968 but can vouch that, for those who were at any of his live performances, his conducting of Wagner was unforgettable.

This Coliseum event takes place during the afternoon of Sunday 23 November (starting 2.30pm) and will consist of a panel discussion led by the distinguished broadcaster Humphrey Burton, including Norman Bailey, Margaret Curphey, Dame Anne Evans, Gwynne Howell, John Lucas, Sir John Tomlinson, Sir Brian McMaster and many other key figures who worked closely with Goodall. It will be followed by the BBC Omnibus programme ‘The Quest for Reginald Goodall’, introduced by its director, Humphrey Burton.

The afternoon should shed light on the conductor’s genius and celebrate his legacy. What’s more it’s FREE. Tickets are available from the Box Office (not online) on 0871 911 0200.


JAM may not be the most obvious name for a classical music organisation but behind the acronym there’s an excellent programme promoting new compositions from young composers. John Armitage was a music-lover and trumpet player who died 10 years ago and his memorial trust was set up two years later with a brief to commission choral, brass and organ works.

Their last concert was held in April at St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street when the BBC Singers and Onyx Brass, under conductor Nicholas Cleobury, performed works by Gabriel Jackson, Adam Gorb and Gyorgi Ligeti (not so young and unknown!). It was an excellent evening, giving further opportunities to less-established composers Elizabeth Winters, John McLeod and Hannah Kendall.

The autumn concert takes place at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey on Wednesday 3 December, when Gabriel Jackson will fulfill his two part commission. The first part, performed at the April concert, was a memorable setting of Joseph Addison’s ode The Spacious Firmament of 1712. The second part, receiving its premiere in the forthcoming concert, is a contemporary reflection of the Ode, with words by the poet Colin Tan.

The composer says “The Spacious Firmament is full of vivid imagery which invites the kind of kaleidoscope of textures and colours a choir, brass quintet and organ affords. Fanfaring trumpets…a hushed choral chant over deep organ pedals…dancing chorales for the brass… brazen, clanging tuttis… glistening, corruscating organ figuration…all seeking to give vibrant voice to Addison’s celestial, ecstatic vision. Tan’s words offer a very different sound space; it’s empty and broad, whilst very beautiful just right for spacious choral writing and an obbligato trumpet.”

The concert takes place on the 10th anniversary of Armitage’s death and this opportunity to celebrate this visionary and great inspirer of people will also include works by Judith Bingham, Paul Patterson and Richard Peat. Hannah Kendall’s delightful unaccompanied piece Nativity, premiered in the earlier concert, will receive a timely seasonal repeat performance.

Onyx Brass will this time be joined by The Chapel Choir of Selwyn College, Cambridge, with Daniel Cook on organ, and countertenor Andrew Radley and bass Giles Underwood conducted by Nicholas Cleobury. Tickets are available on 020 8764 6147 or by email at info@jamconcert.org and further details are online at www.jamconcert.org


Orion Symphony Orchestra, whose concert at St John’s, Smith Square in September earned a five-star review from us, have two further dates this autumn. The first is on 10 November at SJSS again. Titled Spirit of Russia, it is an attractive programme of Glinka (Ruslan and Lyudmila), Rachmaninov (Piano Concerto No. 3) and Tchaikovsky’s magnificent Fourth Symphony.

The next concert is on 2 December at the Festival Hall, a charity Gala called A Night Under The Stars. Roger Moore is presenting the evening (so should go smoothly), and it features rising stars of the classical music world – Valery Solokov violin, Martin Grubinger percussion, Theo Georghiu piano, and the Orion Symphony Orchestra.

Tickets bookable on 020 7222 1061 (SJSS) and 020 7592 1856 (South Bank) and further information at www.orionorchestra.org.uk

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