London Festival of Baroque Music

‘Baroque at the Edge: pushing the boundaries’
London Festival of Baroque Music
St John’s, Smith Square & Westminster Abbey
12-20 May 2017

IMG_20170515_091152885.jpgAfter reforming, renaming, and regrowing itself from the long-running Lufthansa Festival, the London Festival of Baroque Music has become, phoenix-like, one of the most important early music festivals in London. Under the banner of ‘Baroque at the Edge: pushing the boundaries‘, this year’s LFBM used the music of Monteverdi and Telemann, from either end of the Baroque (and both with anniversaries this year) to explore ‘some of the chronological, geographical and stylistic peripheries of Baroque Music’. With one exception, all the concerts were held in the Baroque splendour of St John’s, Smith Square. Continue reading

European Union Baroque Orchestra: Farewell

European Union Baroque Orchestra
Maria Keohane, Lars Ulrik Martensen
London Festival of Baroque Music
St John’s, Smith Square. 19 May 2017

IMG_20170519_163842318.jpgOne of the key events of the London Festival of Baroque Music was final concert of the current incarnation of the European Union Baroque Orchestra, and orchestra I have been reviewing enthusiastically for many years. After extensive annual training auditions attracting around 100 applicants, aided by leading period performers, around 30 instrumentalists are selected each year to tour a series of concerts around Europe. But this concert was also, very sadly, the very last EUBO concert in its present state as a UK-managed organisation. Founded 32 years ago as a UK initiative (during the 1985 European Music Year), and managed ever since from its base near Oxford, the vote by a small percentage of the UK population to drag the UK out of the European Union means that it is no longer viable to run an EU venture from the UK. In its 32 years, EUBO has encouraged and nurtured around 1000 young musicians, giving some of the finest period instrumentalists around an early grounding in performance practice at the start of their careers. For the future, after a hiatus of a year to allow for the transfer, when there will be no auditions or orchestra , EUBO will restart from a new base, and with new management, based in the music centre AMUZ in Antwerp. Continue reading

London Festival of Baroque Music: Tabea Debus & European Union Baroque Orchestra

London Festival of Baroque Music
Tabea Debus, European Union Baroque Orchestra

WP_20160506_20_16_57_Pro_crop.jpgThe London Festival of Baroque is growing from strength to strength after its rebirth from its previous incarnation as the Lufthansa Festival. Shorn of the former funding stream, it has had to rebuild its financial stability. The increase in the number of this year’s events over last year is one sign of their success. One of the big advantages of the former sponsorship deal was that it enabled many non-UK groups to travel to London for the festival, so it is encouraging that such visits by musicians from abroad continue to be a feature of the festival. Also most encouraging is their focus on young musicians, with three concerts specifically devoted to them under the banner of ‘Future Baroque’. They also included a late-night concert by the young folk-inspired singer-songwriter, Olivia Chaney.

Unfortunately this year’s festival (13-19 May) clashed with my annual invitation to the Regensburg Tage Alter Musik festival, which takes Continue reading

London Festival of Baroque Music – Day 4/5

‘Women in Baroque Music’
St John’s, Smith Square & Westminster Abbey, 18/19  May 2015

SJSS 2I couldn’t get to the lunchtime concert on day 3 of the festival, but it was given by soprano Rowan Pierce and the young group Medici, under the title of ‘Future Baroque’, with music by Handel, Bach, Royer, Telemann, Corelli and Vivaldi. Unless I have missed something, this was another event that seemed to bypass the festival’s theme, although it did include as its final work Agitata da due venti, a surviving fragment from Vivaldi’s opera L’Adelaide and later also included in his Griselda, composed for the virtuoso soprano Margherite Giacomazzi.

‘Leçons des ténèbres’
Julia Doyle & Grace Davidson, sopranos,
Jonathan Manson, bass viol, Steven Devine, harpsichord, organ & director

The Monday evening concert (St John’s, Smith Square, 18 May) Continue reading

London Festival of Baroque Music – Day 3

‘Women in Baroque Music’
St John’s, Smith Square, 17  May 2015

The third day of the festival started with ‘Sing Baroque’, with Robert Howarth, one of the Robert HowarthOrchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s regular conductors, leading a Sunday morning workshop on the choral sections of Vivaldi’s Gloria – “for all aspiring Baroque singers – no experience necessary!”. This is certainly not the sort of event that should be reviewed, but I will comment on the experience of watching a conductor at work from the other side of the podium. Conducting styles vary by personality (and over historic time), but there is a generation of younger conductors who focus on using collaboration, cooperation and genuine good humour (rather than dictatorship or bullying) as the key to communicating their ideas. It was clear that Robert Howarth is one of those. As well as giving the gathered singers an excellent insight into the music and aspects of performing it, Robert Howarth also made it an extremely entertaining occasion. Music’s gain is stand-up comedy’s loss.

The Sunday afternoon included a guided tour of The Wallace Collection exploring ‘Music, Dance and Gallentry in 18th-century French Art’, followed by a concert focusing on the harpsichord music of Elizabeth Jacquet de La Guerre (1665-1729) given by Béatrice Martin. Continue reading

London Festival of Baroque Music – Day 2

‘Women in Baroque Music’
St John’s, Smith Square, 16  May 2015

‘Canto dell dame’
Concerto Soave
María Cristina Kiehr soprano, Jean- Marc Aymes, harpsichord, organ & director.

On the cover of the festival programme book are the words “Joy / Passion / Religion / Love / Death / Adoration / Intensity. The Saturday afternoon concert of 17th century Italian music given by Concerto Soave included all of those aspects, sometimes in the same piece. Featuring Concerto Soavefive female composers, the music ranged from the very beginning of the Baroque up to the end of the 17th century. The earliest composer was Francesca Caccini (1587-1641), daughter of Giulio Caccini (represented here by Peter Philips’ harpsichord transcription of his Amarillo, mia Bella). Francesca Caccini made her debut aged 13 at the Medici Court, singing at the wedding of Henri IV of France to a Medici bride. After time in France she returned to become the leading female singer in Florence. Apart from one opera (the earliest known one by a woman) her only surviving music was published in 1618. The three pieces demonstrated the early recitativo style of Continue reading

London Festival of Baroque Music – Day 1

‘Women in Baroque Music’
London Festival of Baroque Music
St John’s, Smith Square, 15 May 2015

This long weekend of Baroque music was both a 1st  and a 31st  event. The first event of the new London Festival of Baroque Music, and the 31st of a continuing festival that had hitherto been known as the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music. The Lufthansa Festival was an extraordinary example of collaboration between a sponsor (that in latter years also included Rolls Royce) and a music festival. Shorn of the funding of a major international sponsor, the LFBM_cropfirst London Festival of Baroque Music inevitably revealed its reduced financial resources, covering an 5-day extended weekend rather than earlier 8 or more days, and with a reduction in the number of groups from outside the UK. But a wealth of individual sponsors and some crowd-funding through social media has come up with the wherewithal to make for a rich and fulfilling series of concerts. And a capacity audience for the opening concert in St John’s, Smith Square showed the strength of public support. Continue reading

The 2014 Lufthansa Festival – end of an era?

As the 2015 London Festival of Baroque Music approaches, I thought I would re-publish my review of last year’s festival, under the then title of the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music.

“This year’s Lufthansa Festival (the 30th) marked the end of an era.  It was the last to benefit from the 30-year sponsorship of Lufthansa (and, for the past 12 years, also Rolls-Royce plc), one of the most remarkable musical/financial partnerships in the modern history of music.  The Festival will continue with the same wealth of performers and performances under the name of the London Festival of Baroque Music, and is seeking funding Continue reading