Aldeburgh Festival

TONY COOPER Southwold Church and Snape Maltings


Southwold Church and Snape Maltings

This world-renowned festival (happily on our doorstep) entered its second week with two exciting and rewarding concerts.

Conducted with flourish and style by Stephen Layton, Polyphony sang an imposing and uninterrupted programme of Austro-German pieces to an exacting and demanding degree.

Opening with a couple of motets by Schutz, it provided for a bright and cheerful start on a glorious summer's day. It couldn't have been better!

Bach's double-choir masterpiece - Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied - followed. It's a tricky piece of writing by any standards and a strong test for any choir, but Polyphony sung it with firmness and authority and showed why they're one of the finest choirs in the land.

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Six songs by Hugo Wolf provided a nice, simple contrast to it and the rest of the programme included two ethereal pieces by Peter Cornelius as well as Arnold Schoenberg's Friede auf Erden, an early work by this second Viennese school composer that showed the light and the way forward!

The focus of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra's (CBSO) concert was a performance of the cello concerto by John Woolrich, associate artistic director of Aldeburgh and closely involved with the Norwich Festival in the benevolent days of Marcus Davey.

Performed by Jean-Gulhen Queyras it was a compelling, thoughtful and (at times) tranquil piece, with Woolrich's writing allowing

the cello plenty of freedom with some delicate and intricate solo passages superbly played by this former soloist from Ensemble Intercontemporain while the orchestra tested Snape's renowned acoustics to the limit bringing out the work's rich symphonic sounds in an effortless and commanding performance conducted by Oliver Knussen standing in for Sakari Oramo.

The mezzo-soprano, Karen Cargill, charmed the audience with her relaxed and vivid interpretation of Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn heard in contrast to a relatively early piece by Britten entitled What The Wild Flowers Tell Me, arranged from the second movement of Mahler's third symphony. The concert ended with Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem, written a year before his Mahler transcription.

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