Brighton Festival Classical Concerts 2023 – Preview
At 3.00pm on Sunday 7 May, Glyndebourne hosts the Takács Quartet in the first Classical music event of this year’s Festival. They start with Arvo Pärt’s beautifully hypnotic ‘Summa’, five minutes of lulling, repetitive phrases that will calm and focus our minds. This will be followed by Schubert’s elegant 8th Quartet, in B flat, D112. Full of grace and dance tunes, it was written when he was only seventeen. Their third offering is more substantial. It lasts the better part of an hour, Schubert’s last Quartet, in G, D887, a monumental work venting the passion of this terminally ill genius, a powerful opening statement to launch the 2023 Festival.
The next Classical event, ‘Abomination: A DUP Opera’, is at the Theatre Royal at 7.30pm, 9 & 10 May. Who would have thought the Democratic Unionist Party worthy of an opera? Well, The Belfast Ensemble have fused opera, drag, cabaret, and political satire into an unprecedented experience. When Northern Irish politician, Iris Robinson, referred to homosexuality as an ‘abomination’ she triggered a fierce debate on equality. This production sports an excellent cast and promises a powerfully emotive evening.
In marked contrast, the virtuoso small choir Tenebrae will evoke the medieval pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela as they sing Joby Talbot’s ‘Path of Miracles’ in the rich acoustic of All Saints Church, Hove at 8.30pm on 13 May. This is an exciting work in four vibrant sections. It should be a very memorable event.
The enthusiasm and talent of our local young musicians always thrilling. This year Peter Davison brings the Brighton & East Sussex Youth Orchestra and Brighton Festival Youth Choir back to the Dome Concert Hall at 7.30pm, Monday 15 May 2023. They will be sure to delight us with another excellent programme of folk music arrangements and Elgar’s ever popular Cello Concerto played by Maciej Kułakowski. At the age of 19 he won 1st Prize at the Lutoslawski International Cello Competition in 2015. Our young musicians need all the local support we can muster to counteract the neglect and indifference of central authorities.
Two days later, on 17 May, the Dome will ring to more folk inspired music as the Britten Sinfonia and Brighton Festival Chorus under the inspirational conductor Adam Hickox perform works by Vaughan Willliams, Brighton-born Frank Bridge and the world premiere of ‘Flame and Shadow’ by Joseph Phibbs. There’s no hint in the Festival programme or on the BFC website about what this new work might be but Phibbs has an excellent track record and I’m keen to hear what he has to offer.
Scintillating violinist Thomas Gould returns again to Brighton with Vaughan Williams’ ‘The Lark Ascending’, which he played to such acclaim for the Brighton Philharmonic audience in 2019. Another performer making a welcome return to the Dome is soprano Ella Taylor who comes with baritone Felix Kemp to join the BFC in ‘Dona Nobis Pacem’, Vaughan Williams’ great cry for peace. This concert will pack a strong emotional punch.
In 2021 Ella Taylor sang Schubert in the Dome with baritone Roderick Williams and he too is back this year. He teams up again with tenor Mark Padmore, pianist Julius Drake and star of stage and screen Rory Kinnear as narrator, this time with his fiancée Pandora Colin. The ‘Songs of the Sea’ at Glyndebourne in 2018 was a delight – this year ‘The Seven Ages of Man’ will surely be as enchanting. It’s a programme of words and music inspired by Shakespeare’s droll summary of the human condition as moaned by the melancholic Jaques in ‘As You Like It’. It will include works by Donne, Yeats and Carol Ann Duffy, and music from Purcell and Schubert, Copland and Barber, Frank Bridge and Benjamin Britten. It’s in the Dome on 25 May 2023 at 7:30pm, a bit late for a Glyndebourne-style picnic but I shall be treating it as a celebration none-the-less!
The London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by François-Xavier Roth, is to deliver the finale for this year’s Classical music Festival. After giving the premiere last October in San Francisco, Chinese virtuoso Yuja Wang is taking Magnus Lindberg’s Piano Concerto No.3 around the world and bringing it to the Dome, Brighton on Friday 26 May at 7.30pm. It a work for connoisseurs and the curious alike, indeed, for everyone who enjoys sumptuous orchestral colours and pianistic virtuosity.
Beethoven’s ever popular Pastoral Symphony (No.6) will give an optimistic ending to this concert and wrap up the 2023 Festival programme most agreeably.