Opera + Classical Music Features

Preview – On Wings of Song: Leeds Lieder 20th Anniversary Festival

Leeds Lieder celebrates with a two week festival of outstanding quality.

Leeds Lieder Festival 2024

Nikola Hillebrand, Joseph Middleton & Oliver Casanovas Nuevo (Photos: Leeds Lieder)

Nothing daunted by the Arts Council England’s removal of its relatively tiny grant, Leeds Lieder has taken matters into its own hands, raising funds from its devoted audience and with the enthusiastic support of its artists. This has enabled the festival to go ahead with an ambitious programme for its 20th season, featuring something for everyone young and old. What follows is a personal choice from the huge variety of events which will fill the city with song in April.

It was a great delight for many of us to encounter for the first time at the 2022 festival, the superb German soprano Nikola Hillebrand. She now opens the 2024 festival on Sunday 14 April with a Schubert recital in which she is joined by Joseph Middleton and the clarinettist Oliver Casanovas Nuevo: Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (The Shepherd on the Rock) should be a particular pleasure.

That same evening, there’s another recital which looks like a must for Lieder lovers: a Schubertiade in which the soprano is joined by Roderick Williams, Roger Vignoles, Joseph Middleton and the Leeds Lieder Young Artists. The programme is delectable, featuring both well loved and less familiar songs.

On Wednesday the 17th there’s an innovative evening in which Leeds Lieder collaborates with ‘Through the Noise’, a ground-breaking promoter whose mission it is to bring the best classical artists to popular club locations. Leeds favourite James Newby will be performing a wide repertoire of songs from traditional ballads to Mahler and Schumann. This will be a standing event, and it takes place at the Hyde Park Book Club.

Thursday the 18th at 10.00 brings a Masterclass from Felicity Lott, who needs no introduction, and in the evening a recital from another Leeds favourite, James Gilchrist, who will be joined by his regular accompanist Anna Tilbrook for a performance including songs by Quilter, Fauré, Lili Boulanger and Muriel Herbert.

Two outstanding concerts feature in the final weekend, with the remarkable young mezzo-soprano Ema Nikolovska in recital on Saturday the 20th, and the much-admired baritone Benjamin Appl on Sunday the 21st. The former delighted audiences here in 2021, so it will be a special pleasure to welcome her back – if you haven’t heard her, you are in for a real treat with her recital, which features a new commission from Tansy Davies as well as music by Debussy and many others.

Benjamin Appl’s closing recital, accompanied by Sholto Kynoch, features Schumann’s Liederkreis, Op. 39 and lieder by Schubert, Mendelssohn, Wolf and Strauss. This should be a fitting end to a festival which has embraced both conventional recital forms and innovative new ways of appreciating this intimate art form.

The festival brochure gives details of all these events plus the myriad of masterclasses, talks and showcases too many to mention here. Booking for the Friends of the festival begins on 8 January, and general booking starts on the 15th.

• Further details of Leeds Lieder 20th Anniversary Festival can be found here.

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