Britten Festival Weekend
TONY COOPER Aldeburgh
Marking 30 years since Britten's death, this weekend festival dedicated to his memory (conceived by Colin Matthews, who worked closely with him) was a great success all round.
It began where the Aldeburgh Festival began, at Jubilee Hall, with Schubert's haunting Winterreise (Winter's Journey). This version saw the character of the lovesick poet taken by a puppet controlled by Thomas Guthrie.
Accompanied by David Owen Norris on fortepiano and Alexander MacDonald on guitar, it provided a perfect balance for his rich baritone voice.
Britten and Pears considered the nurturing of young musical talent of great importance, so it was fitting that three of the world's most talented young musicians appeared.
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Christian Poltera (cello), Robert Murray (tenor) and Sally Pryce (harp) gave good accounts of themselves in a thrilling concert in the parish church.
Poltera's reading of Britten's third cello suite was full of confidence and his playing of three cello pieces by Henri Dutilleux charmed an appreciative audience. Britten's A Birthday Hansel, a collection of seven songs originally written for Peter Pears and Osian Ellis, were sung with great passion by Murray, accompanied by harpist Sally Pryce.
Choirs from London, Cambridge and Suffolk were brought together by cherished choral conductor Stephen Layton for Britten's 1948 cantata St Nicolas at Snape Maltings with the Britten Sinfonia, who were playing on top form. Allan Clayton, in the role of Nicolas, showed himself to be another fine young singer on the verge of a great career.
The weekend concluded with the Brodsky String Quartet performing Britten's third quartet (his final composition from 1975) as well as Shostakovich's 15th composed a year earlier. A perfect ending to a perfect weekend.