EIF choral programme favours tried-and-tested
13 March 2013
Gergiev will conduct the Edinburgh Festival Chorus in an all-Prokofiev eveningChris Christodoulou/BBC
Christoph Rousset will showcase instruments preserved in Edinburgh’s St Cecilia’s Hall Museum
The Edinburgh International Festival has announced its programme for 2013. The roster of concerts for the 'official' festival takes a conservative approach to choral music. For opening night (9 Aug), the all-conquering Russian maestro Valery Gergiev conducts the Edinburgh Festival Chorus and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in an all-Prokofiev evening including the dramatic cantata Alexander Nevsky with the mezzo-soprano Yulia Matochkina.
The following evening (10 Aug) vocal group Synergy Voices will take part in a performance of Luciano Berio's Sinfonia for orchestra and eight amplified voices, with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ilan Volkov.
The National Youth Choir of Scotland performs Fauré’s Requiem (17 Aug) with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and soloist Sir Thomas Allen.
The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir pays a visit (29 Aug) with their conductor Daniel Reuss, performing Rachmaninov's All-Night Vigil, Arvo Pärt's Two Slavonic Psalms, Alfred Schnittke's Three Sacred Hymns, and three lush, Romantic works by Estonian composer Cyrillus Kreek. The festival concludes with a performance of Verdi's Requiem (31 Aug): Donald Runnicles conducts the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Festival Chorus, with soloists Erin Wall (soprano), Luciana D’Intino (mezzo), Aleksandrs Antonenko (tenor) and the Metropolitan Opera's formidable Alberich, Eric Owens (bass).
Of interest to keyboard fans will be two recitals in which Christoph Rousset showcases instruments preserved in Edinburgh’s St Cecilia’s Hall Museum. On Thursday 22 August, he plays music by Frescobaldi, Scarlatti and CPE Bach on three contrasting instruments: a superbly decorated polygonal virginal made by Alessandro Bertolotti in Verona in 1586; a single-keyboard harpsichord built around 1620 in Naples; and a beautifully painted double-keyboard harpsichord made in France by Luigi Baillon in 1755. The following afternoon, Rousset selects two instruments for a recital of Purcell, Louis Couperin, Rameau, Balbastre and Royer: as well as a single-keyboard harpsichord made in London by Thomas Barton in 1709, he performs on Pascal Taskin’s Parisian double-keyboard harpsichord from 1769, an instrument that has spawned countless copies and is widely admired as probably the world’s most famous harpsichord.
12 March 2013
Tabernacle Church, in Cardiff’s city centre, is launching a Pipeathon on Saturday 16 March (9am-9pm) to help raise the remaining £15,000 of the total £100,000 cost of restoring its organ. Three organists, dressed in Wales rugby shires, will each play 3-hour sets in the run up to the Wales v England Six Nations rugby match.
The organ’s total piping is ‘divided’ into sections which can be sponsored for £1 per foot.
The organ was built in 1907 by the Bath firm of Griffen & Stroud and benefited from a substantial donation from Sir Alfred Thomas MP (later Lord Pontypridd), a faithful deacon at Tabernacle from 1883 until his death in 1927. By 1972 the organ was in a poor state of repair, and J.W. Walker & Sons of London were employed to change the original tracker action to electro-pneumatic, along with other essential repair work. While celebrating the organ’s centenary in 2007, it was obvious that many parts of the instrument – some of them original – were showing their age. Henry Willis & Sons, Liverpool were chosen to carry out the restoration.
The event on 16 March is open to the public.
RSCM appoints new Council members
8 March 2013
The Royal School of Church Music has welcomed two new members to its governing body.
Michael Berkeley appointed life peer
27 February 2013
Michael Berkeley, new life peer
The composer and broadcaster Michael Berkeley has been appointed a lifetime crossbench peer in the House of Lords, Oxford University Press announced today. Berkeley commented, ‘Naturally I feel very honoured to be appointed to the House of Lords and I am particularly pleased that the Appointments Commission was keen to increase representation in the field of Music and the Arts.’
Berkeley’s substantial output includes three operas, an Organ Concerto, and the oratorio Or Shall We Die?, to a text by Ian McEwan. He was associate composer to the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, as well as artistic director of the Cheltenham International Music Festival for ten years. He is currently chairman of the Governors of the Royal Ballet and presents the popular BBC Radio 3 Private Passions programme.
Berkeley is the son of Sir Lennox Berkeley, and godson of Benjamin Britten.
Marie-Claire Alain (10 August 1926–26 February 2013)
27 February 2013
The entire organ world is united in mourning the death of
the renowned French organist and teacher, Marie-Claire Alain, at the age of 86.
She was the last surviving child of organist and composer Albert Alain (1880-1971) - her two brothers, Jehan (born in 1911 and tragically killed on active service in 1940), and Olivier (1919-1994), joined her in pursuing careers in music: she studied organ with Marcel Dupré at the Paris Conservatoire, taking four prizes, and harmony with Maurice Duruflé.
Alain became world famous as a result of recording the complete organ works of J S Bach - she did so three times - and throughout her career was a champion, and acutely sensitive performer of, her brother Jehan's music. In a published interview which revealed the development of her artistic thinking and educative approach, she explained why she kept returning to Bach: 'It's because of the instruments, the instruments above everything else, and the fine state to which they have been restored - and the fact that they are now accessible. These recordings use instruments from Bach's time, and we know that Bach even played some of them - it's an extraordinary feeling, to put your hands on the keyboard, knowing that he was there 250 years before you!
'And I studied these instruments very thoroughly before choosing the ones I wanted to record on. Some of the organs I visited were good but still not quite what I wanted, and with others it was a coup de foudre. My style, too, is much purer; and these organs have to be treated with much respect: you can't force them to play too fast.
'We know much more now about performance practice in Bach's day and of other composers of his time: different position of the hands on the keyboard, different fingering, accentuation... Our entire approach has to be rethought in terms of what we have since discovered. I have discussed it with colleagues, obviously, I have listened to harpsichordist friends, violinists, singers. We all share our research. We now know that the way this music was played at the beginning of the century was according to the standards of the Romantic period. We couldn't go on like that; we had to rediscover the criteria of Bach's day. Well, now we have found them.'
Marie-Claire Alain's career was crowned only recently with her promotion to the rank of Grand Officier in the order of the Légion d’Honneur. She received her decoration from Admiral Lacoste, representing the President of the French Republic, on 23 November 2012.
A full obituary will appear in the May/June issue of Choir & Organ.