Aldeburgh autumn season preview

Tony CooperBeethoven gets the ball rolling for Aldeburgh Productions' autumn season with a weekend devoted to his violin sonatas running at Snape Maltings Concert Hall from October 2.Tony Cooper

Beethoven gets the ball rolling for Aldeburgh Productions' autumn season with a weekend devoted to his violin sonatas running at Snape Maltings Concert Hall from October 2.

All of the sonatas will be played in their entirety over three concerts by the celebrated Russian-born violinist and the youngest-ever winner of the RPS Prize, Alina Ibragimova - seen on several occasions in Norwich with the Britten Sinfonia - together with exciting young French pianist Cedric Tiberghien. Often in the disguise of virtuoso brilliance more typical of a concert piece, the sonatas represent some of the composer's most profound compositions.

Another weekend follows in the same month (Thursday-Sunday, October 22-25, various times) but this time concentrating on chamber works by Britten with The Turn of the Screw taking centre stage (and a new stage) in the comfortable setting of the recently-opened Britten Studio which boasts an acoustic second to none.

The subtle ambiguities and electrifying tension in Britten's adaptation of Henry James' classic ghost story should be ideally suited to the atmospheric intimacy of the new studio while adding further resonance to this tautly-constructed chamber opera. Directed by Neil Bartlett, it will be performed by soloists from the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme and the Britten-Pears Orchestra conducted by Garry Walker.

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And using The Turn of the Screw as a point of departure for an exploration into some of its symbols and themes, German-born artist, Marielle Neudecker, has made a sculptural video and sound installation entitled Stay Forever and Never Come Back for the newly-converted Dovecote Studio. This happens to be the first in a series of Aldeburgh Residencies for visual artists. Britten's opera and James' novel are full of ambiguities, layering and blending of the real and the imagined within thresholds of the conscious and subconscious. This, together with more universal notions of human experience, will feed into her work that incorporates footage shot in some of the derelict Maltings buildings.

Neudecker explained: "I'm interested in boundaries within the experience of the visual and music in terms of the cinematic and conventions in painting - or in this case with both those elements in a more intimate situation. The spirit of Britten saturates Aldeburgh and Snape, so the subject-matter of legacies, ghosts and spirits seems perfectly appropriate to work with."

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Complementing the staged opera is a concert by the Navarra String Quartet (Friday October 23, 8pm) who'll play Britten's second quartet along with Thomas Ad�s' 'Arcadiana' quartet, a work that provokes recollections of 'idylls, vanished, vanishing or imaginary'. A brief, captivating work, it seems haunted by ghosts of the past with fleeting allusions in the music and the evocative movement titles to The Magic Flute, Schubert, Elgar and others. Britten, too, harks back to the past with his tautly-constructed finale at once a homage to his musical hero Henry Purcell and a pre-echo of the endlessly-inventive variations deployed in The Turn of the Screw. Completing the programme is Haydn's 'Joke' quartet.

English Touring Opera make their annual visit to Snape while at the same time honouring George Frideric Handel on the 250th anniversary of his death. They open on Friday November 13 (7.30pm) with Ariodante, an opera that starts and ends with celebration but, in between, characters confront their worst fears and the darkest side of their natures. Some are broken by suffering, others redeemed, but all are transformed in the course of a day. ETO's celebrated production, directed by Robin Norton-Hale and conducted by Benjamin Bayl, keeps the action of this powerful drama on the Scottish coast but translates it to Bront�-like clerical circles.

One of Handel's rarely-performed works, Flavio, follows on Saturday November 14 (7.30pm), directed by James Conway and conducted by Jonathan Peter Kenny. A humorous opera, dating from 1724, it was written for the finest Italian singers of the day. The king's inelegant infatuations (reminiscent of the kings of England at the time!) cause some terrible mischief at court, running to a slap, a garrotting and a fateful duel, but it all leads to a double wedding and general celebration is widely considered one of Handel's most joyous choruses.

Master singer-songwriter Neil Innes (Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, The Rutles, Monty Python) turns up at the Britten Studio (Friday, November 20, 4pm) in Open Session: Ipso Facto (or The Rake's Return), offering a unique opportunity to hear what he's up to in his latest music-theatre piece based upon a book by Graham Baker from the original play by Henry Fielding. The cast includes Vicki Michelle ('Allo! 'Allo!) and this will be the work's first public showing before it transfers to the stage.

The grand master of American contemporary dance, Mark Morris - who adores Snape Maltings as a dance venue - brings his acclaimed company of 18 dancers back to Suffolk for two performances on Friday-Saturday, November 20-21, nightly at 7.30pm. The evening opens with Excursions, danced to a live piano score by Samuel Barber, followed by a rendition of Bach's Italian Concerto, while Bedtime - danced to compositions by Franz Schubert - and 'Grand Duo' - danced to music for violin and piano by Lou Harrison - completes a fine quartet of works.

And for lovers of song, Britten's Canticles will be sung by Mark Padmore (tenor), Christopher Maltman (baritone) and William Towers (counter-tenor) at Snape Maltings on Sunday November 22, 6pm, accompanied by the outstanding pianist, Julius Drake, with Richard Watkins (horn) and Alison Nicholls (harp). The programme also includes works by Schumann and Schubert as well as Britten's harp suite. Britten's Canticles - heard earlier this year in Norwich in a presentation by the Norfolk and Norwich Music Club - are neither purely religious nor a cycle in the conventional sense. They are, in essence, miniature dramas and prove truly fascinating staging posts in Britten's creative life and the trio of singers performing them are at the height of their careers.

The annual Christmas concert by the Britten-Pears Chamber Choir, conducted by Ralph Woodward, comes round on Friday December 11, 7.30pm. As usual the programme will be a familiar blend of Christmas music and readings while the concert also features a massed choir of local schoolchildren. They'll gather under the big tree to sing music old and new, rare and familiar, while leading the audience in a host of well-loved carols.

And the seasonal spirit continues at Snape with the annual Christmas Spectacular mounted by the Co-op Juniors. You can't beat them! They'll be shining brightly twice daily at 4pm and 7.30pm singing and hoofing away through a host of party numbers from Thursday December 17 to Tuesday December 22. It's a truly magical way to get into the Christmas spirit. Tiny Tim would think so!

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