THE CLASSICS RETURN
After so many months of cancellations and restrictions, music is back and better. Indeed, this year’s Festival will be the best for years. Such a wide choice of really top rate artists means there’s something for everyone.
When the majestic acoustic of Glyndebourne’s opera house focuses down on chamber works the effect is amazing. Piano quintets by Brahms and Dvořák will get an intensity that other venues can’t afford and Prokofiev’s second piano sonata should be electrifying – what a way to start a festival! (Pavel Haas Quartet with pianist Boris Giltburg, 8 May at 3.00pm, Glyndebourne)
The very next day, Brighton & East Sussex Youth Orchestra will be just as exciting. Their conductor Peter Davison has prepared a daring programme of American music, Gershwin’s lively ‘An American in Paris’ and two empowering works by Florence Price. 19-year-old Jeneba Kanneh-Mason, the latest star to emerge from this multi-talented family, will join them in the piano concerto, which will also demonstrate the mettle of the orchestral soloists, especially in the jolly finale.
As usual, the super-value lunchtime concerts bring to Brighton the brightest and best young talent from all over the world. We get the chance to enjoy their virtuosity as they launch international careers.
First off in this excellent bunch is countertenor Hugh Cutting, winner of the 2021 Kathleen Ferrier Award (10 May, 1.00pm, All Saints Church). He’ll be singing from 400 years of English song, and some Monteverdi. With such excellent credentials it is bound to be a treat.
So too will be the programme offered by Dmitry Shishkin, playing Bach, Scarlatti and Rachmaninov. As Silver Medallist of the 2019 Tchaikovsky Competition, he is surely one of the best pianists of his generation. (19 May, 13:00, Brighton Dome Concert Hall).
Another lunchtime date I mustn’t miss is 20 May in the Dome, when Glyndebourne presents its latest handful of Jerwood Young Artists, the best of their new crop of singers. We only find out who on the day but they never disappoint with their glorious voices and favourite audition numbers.
Contemporary music is also on the menu. Lunchtime 11 May in All Saints, bright young pianist Joe Howson mixes his ambitious programme of Debussy and Ravel with works by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho and Michael Finnissy, whose long association with Brighton is still very close.
Then at 6.00pm the same day, Riot Ensemble (a name that must carry its own caution!) will enchant our ears with music including more remarkable Finnish compositions and works by Sussex based composers Patrick Harrex and Peter Copley.
Two weeks later, 25 May 7.30pm and again at All Saints, the Ruysdael Quartet, from The Hague, will give the World Premiere of a Brighton Festival Co-Commission of Jörg Widmann’s 9th String Quartet (Beethoven-Study IV). Obviously I can’t comment on this yet but his work is adventurous and holds the attention. It is followed by Beethoven’s energetic C minor String Quartet, Op.18 No. 4. The established Classical repertoire features fully in other lunchtime concerts too.
There are three events that harmonize with the theme of Syria inspired by Festival Guest Co-Director, Marwa Al-Sabouni: The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians (Wednesday, 20 May 2022, 8.00pm, Brighton Dome Concert Hall) and on Thursday 26 May in All Saints:Thursday 26 May in All Saints there are two events that harmonize with the theme of Syria inspired by Festival Guest Co-Director, Marwa Al-Sabouni.
At 6.00pm composer Jonathan Dove plays the piano for tenor James Gilchrist and the Sacconi Quartet performing ‘In Damascus’, a personal responses to the Syrian war by poet Ali Safar, translated by Anne-Marie McManus.
Then at 8.30pm Rihab Azar and friends play classical and contemporary Syrian music.
On Wednesday, 13 May at 8.30pm in All Saints, after a lunchtime harpsichord recital by Béatrice Martin, the Marian Consort are also mixing the old and new: Heinrich Schütz’s exquisite ‘Musikalische Exequien’ with a specially commissioned work by David Fennessy. Rory McCleery’s small but perfectly formed choir has thrilled us with their accuracy and musicality since they first sang in Brighton in 2011. This programme promises a magical experience.
‘Handel’s Unsung Heroes’ are to be given voice by virtuoso countertenor Iestyn Davies in the Dome. How will this compare with the more supportive acoustics of St George’s Church and Lewes’ All Saints Centre, where he has sung before? This time he will be accompanied by David Bates and La Nuova Musica, a specialist ensemble that includes violinist Thomas Gould, who is well loved by Brighton audiences as occasional leader of the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra. (20 May 2022, 8.00pm, Brighton Dome Concert Hall)
There are more full-blooded orchestral concerts too, like the London Symphony Orchestra under Marta Gardolińska in a romantic programme that climaxes with Tchaikovsky’s fateful 4th Symphony (19 May 8.00pm, Brighton Dome Concert Hall).
The Festival’s grand finale also mixes the old and new to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Ralph Vaughan Williams. The full forces of Brighton Festival Chorus sing Kaija Saariaho’s ‘Oltra Mar’, evocative settings of texts from Abou Saîd and Amin Maalouf, and RVW’s monumental ‘A Sea Symphony’. The Philharmonia Orchestra is conducted by Ilan Volkov with soprano Gweneth-Ann Rand and baritone Duncan Rock, who made his mark in heroic rôles at Glyndebourne (29 May 8:00pm, Brighton Dome Concert Hall).
There truly is something for everyone this year – I can’t wait!