Brighton Festival’s contemporary and classical music programme is once again of the highest standard, here is a selection of some of this year’s highlights
The Philharmonia’s Conductor Laureate Vladimir Ashkenazy takes the helm for this powerful all-Russian programme featuring Prokofiev’s piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, Op. 26 and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13, ‘Babi Yar’ “One should not be deprived of conscience. To lose conscience is to lose everything.” So said Shostakovich in defence of dissident poet Yvgeny Yevtushenko whose poem Babi Yar – about a brutal Nazi massacre of Russian Jews in 1941 – would become the bedrock of the composer’s 13th Symphony. Effectively banned for its exposé of endemic anti-Semitism and other Soviet abuses, fifty years on this multi-movement choral symphony resonates with the same seismic force that made it such a thorn in Kruschev’s side. The concert opens with Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto, performed by Japanese pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii.
Wed 23 May, Concert Hall, Brighton Dome, 7.30pm, £10-£30.
Mahler & Schubert
Schubert’s light and lyrical Fifth Symphony echoes with the exultant optimism of youth. Like Schubert, Mahler had a deeply melodic sensibility and could render the most abstract of human emotions with deceptive simplicity. Never more so than his collection of lieder (1902) set to the words of Schubert contemporary Friedrich Rückert. Rückert’s themes – love, death, loneliness and spiritual transcendence – were positively Mahlerian in their scope. That the latter should distil their ‘romantic’ essence so sublimely is testament to a musical and textual match made in heaven.
Performed by Britten Sinfonia, the concert features perhaps one of the finest contemporary British male tenors, Mark Padmore, who was last heard by Brighton Festival audiences in 2010 singing Schumann’s Dichterliebe. Saturday 19 May, Concert Hall, Brighton Dome, 7.30pm, £7.50–£25
Fatoumata & Baloji
Born in the Ivory Coast of Malian parents, but based in Paris, Fatoumata Diawara (aka Fatou) caught her first break as a backing singer on Oumou Sangaré’s Grammy-nominated album Seya. Encouraged to take up the guitar by friend Rokia Traore, she soon penned an album worth of original material, blending jazz and blues with the traditional Wassoulou music of her parents’ native Mali. Between recording sessions she found time to contribute her vocals to albums by Cheikh Lô, AfroCubism and Herbie Hancock.
Kinshasa Succursale, the latest album by Baloji, is something of a departure for the Congo-born, Belgium-raised hip-hop artist. Recorded in Kinshasa, it marks a re-engagement with his African roots, mixing the dance rhythms of Congolese soukous with reggae beats and his trademark Francophone rap.
This concert is an exclusive African music doubleheader from two of the continent’s brightest young émigré artists,
Tuesday 22 May, Concert Hall, Brighton Dome, 8pm, £10–£15
Matthew Herbert: One Pig
One year. One animal. One live musical encounter with the food we eat but rarely consider – the latest project from British electronic musician Matthew Herbert tells the story of a single farmyard animal from birth to plate in a journey described by the artists as one into ‘very unfamiliar territory’. Over 12 months, Herbert recorded every detail of the animal’s short life including butchering, cooking and consumption. Nothing was wasted, as its constituent parts were recycled to create everything from pigskin drums to a specially devised ‘pig blood organ’. Here Herbert and his band recreate this extraordinary album, complete with audio-visual composition and onstage cookery!
Mon 21 May, Theatre Royal, 8pm, £10–£17.50
English Chamber Choir
The concert sees António Teixeira’s ornate and vibrant baroque masterpiece, Te Deum (1734) – featuring five choirs, sixteen solo lines and a full instrumental ensemble – performed alongside the world premiere of a specially commissioned companion piece by British composer Ivan Moody, who was involved in the reconstruction of Teixeira’s original score. Performed by the English Chamber Choir, and accompanied by the English Players, performing on 18th century instruments.
Friday 11 May, St. Batholomew’s Church, 7.30pm, £16.50
Brighton Festival Chorus/
Brighton Festival Youth Choir
An evening of candlelit song with the women of Brighton Festival Chorus who are joined by Brighton Festival Youth Choir. Together they perform four songs by Brahms and showcase the vocal works of Gustav Holst. After evoking the esoteric East with hymns from the Riga Veda (one of Hinduism’s sacred Sanskrit texts) and Two Eastern Pictures (set to the spring and summer cantos of Kalidasa’s poem Ritsusamhara), they conclude with Holst’s tender and moving Ave Maria, an eight-part setting for double female chorus, dedicated to the memory of the composer’s young mother.
Friday 25 May, St. Bartholomew’s Church, 9.30pm, £10–£15
Comprised of three Hagen siblings – Lukas, Clemens and Veronika – plus Rainer Schmidt, the Salzburg-based Hagen Quartet is regarded as one of the foremost chamber ensembles of our era. Join them for an afternoon of exquisite chamber music as they perform Beethoven’s String Quartet in A minor, Op. 132 – with its rapturous adagio – and Brahms Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115.
Sun 6 May, 3pm, Gyndebourne, £12.50, £22.50, £27.50, £32.50
James Vincent McMorrow
The debut album of Irish singer-songwriter James Vincent McMorrow, Early In The Morning, was like Bon Iver’s eponymous debut, born of isolation. Holed up in a remote house on the Irish coast with his guitar, laptop, microphone and a head full of Steinbeck, Hemmingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, the album’s resultant mix is intimate and literate, wistful acoustic folk and American West Coast sounds. Previously a ‘post-rock’ musician, McMorrow cites his stylistic turning point came when listening to Donny Hathaway’s (who also heavily influenced Amy Winehouse) soul ballad ‘I Love You More Than You Will Ever Know’.
Sunday 20 May, Brighton Dome, 7.30pm, £10–£18.50
There are many other musical events to enjoy in the Brighton Festival including:
The Lady – An Homage to Sandy Denny
An Homage To Sandy Denny sees the likes of Maddy Prior, Thea Gilmore, Joan Wasser [Joan As Police Woman], Dave Swarbick and members of Bellowhead pay tribute to the folk icon.
Mon 21 May, 8pm
Concert Hall, Brighton Dome,
Tickets £15, £18.50, £22.50
Festival Standby £10
Live_Transmission – Scanner and Heritage Orchestra rework Joy Division
An exclusive Brighton Festival commission where Scanner and Heritage Orchestra rework Joy Division. Rather than classical interpretations or cover versions, this special concert pays homage to the music and signature spirit of one of the world’s most progressive ‘art’ bands.
Fri 18 May, 8:30pm
Concert Hall, Brighton Dome, Tickets £20, £22.50
Festival standby £10
Stellar jazz funk from Dennis Rollins, a dynamic and compelling live performance of Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E flat major, Op.44 from Jerusalem Quartet, and a range of classical lunchtime concerts including pianist Katharina Wolpe, who will be introduced by Guest Director Vanessa Redgrave.
For full listings and more information go to www.brightonfestival.org