Opera + Classical Music Features

Preview: Leeds Lieder Festival 2023 – Touches of Sweet Harmony

Look North for some of the finest music in the UK.

The 2023 Leeds Lieder Festival extends from its previous long weekend to a full week, highlighting the success of this mini-Wigmore Hall of the North. The wide-ranging events and calibre of soloists are a tribute to the inspiration of Joseph Middleton, the festival’s director and accompanist for many of the recitals. He describes the Festival as “…the most ambitious, colourful, bold and thoughtful exploration of song we have mounted to date”.

Joseph also comments on what he calls “…a visceral need for the best quality live music making here in the UK” and this need is most definitely met with the superb variety of music making to be heard in Leeds in June. The opening recital on 9 June is typical of the style, ethos and standard of this festival: the distinguished tenor Mark Padmore will be accompanied by Ana Manastireanu, a former Leeds Lieder Young Artist from 2019, and the programme moves from established favourites such as Schumann’s Liederkreis Op. 39, through compositions by Finzi and Britten and on to new works by Tansy Davies and Sally Beamish.

“The wide-ranging events and calibre of soloists are a tribute to the inspiration of Joseph Middleton…”

On the 10th, the evening recital will be given by Louise Alder, accompanied by Joseph Middleton, performing music from their recent CD, which was selected as Gramophone magazine Editor’s Choice. The disc features music by Schubert, Mozart, Schumann and Sibelius, and it topped the classical music charts for some time. Another undoubted highlight will be the following Tuesday night’s recital with another distinguished soprano, Véronique Gens, who will be accompanied by Susan Manoff in a programme of French song.

Alongside the programme of recitals which culminates in the closing gala evening of Brahms and Mahler sung by Sarah Connolly, accompanied by Joseph Middleton on Saturday the 17th, there is a whole host of events, from an interview with the great mezzo-soprano Janet Baker, to a new initiative called ‘A Leeds Songbook’ in which twelve composers have been paired with Leeds-based poets to create songs which will tell unique stories about the people of the city. The musical walking trail Song Path returns to the natural setting of Kirkstall Abbey, led by singers Jess Dandy and Joanna Harries, and the inspirational Young Artists Programme offers 24 young artists the opportunity to take part in master classes with specialists like Thomas Allen, Joan Rodgers and Julius Drake.

The final word must go again to Joseph Middleton, who welcomes visitors to “…the joyous atmosphere that marks out the Leeds Lieder Festival as such a special event”.

• Full details of the festival can be found here.

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