Continuo Foundation “Preserving historical performance in the UK“
The Continuo Foundation was founded earlier this year, and was soon granted charitable status by the UK Charities Commission. Their Mission is “To support a flourishing historical performance sector, sustaining the careers of its virtuosic freelance musicians, creating opportunities for the next generation of artists entering the field and widening access to performances for communities across the UK“. They realised that, without support, the once-thriving UK historical performance sector could be permanently damaged by Covid restrictions. To that, I would add the devastating effect of a badly-negotiated Brexit deal that seems to have ignored the vital importance to musicians of easy travel within Europe. Their immediate aim was to help period instrument ensembles to remain active by developing Covid-safe projects as a way of creating employment for musicians. Their longer term aim is to “provide a new resource for connecting ensembles, musicians, audiences, and venues in order to grow the UK’s historical performance sector and preserve its celebrated tradition of excellence“.
BBC Prom 17: Berlioz, Beethoven, Brahms Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra (SWR) Sir Roger Norrington, Robert Levin Royal Albert Hall, 28 July 2016
Few in the audience would have realised what a poignant and emotional, event this Prom was to be until after the encore, when the leader Natalie Chee took a microphone and addressed the packed Royal Albert Hall to explain that, due to spending cuts, the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra is to merge with the SWR Symphony Orchestra in September, and that this was their very last concert. Founded in the dark days of 1945 this distinguished orchestra has built an enormous international reputation, not least during the years from 1998 to 2011 when Sir Roger Norrington was their chief conductor, bringing his noted ‘historically informed’ performance practice to this modern instrument orchestra, producing a distinctive style – the ‘Stuttgart sound’. The two merging orchestras are both under the auspices of Südwestrundfunk (South West Radio), the public broadcaster for Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate, and have very different repertoires and styles. It was entirely appropriate that Roger Norrington, now their Conductor Emeritus, was the conductor for their final concert.
Berlioz’s sparkling and witty overture to Beatrice and Benedict opened the evening, with Norrington’s characteristic attention to detail being at the forefront. Continue reading →
Compulsive Lyres and Fowl Play
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Sir Roger Norrington
Royal Festival Hall. 14 February 2016
Haydn: Symphony No.83 (La Poule); Mozart: Concerto in C for flute & harp, K.299; Joseph de Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-George: Overture, L’amant anonyme; Beethoven: Symphony No.2.
The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s Department for Thinking up Silly Concert Titles had a field day with this one, coming up with ‘Compulsive Lyres and Fowl Play’. Under the benevolent direction of Sir Roger Norrington, the OAE’s programme was centred on the fascinating character Joseph de Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-George (b1745), the son of a wealthy French plantation owner in Guadeloupe, and his African slave. Educated back in France from the age of 7, he first became known as a fencer, graduating from the Academy of fencing and horsemanship aged 21 and somehow collecting the title of chevalier (knight) on the way. Quite how he achieved his skills in music is not known, but the composers Lolli and Gossec had already dedicated works to him before he was 21. He quickly became one of the leading Parisian violinists and orchestra leaders. He briefly lived in the same house as Mozart (the mansion of his mentor, the Duke of Orléans in Paris), and was leader of the enormous Masonic Loge Olympique orchestra, for which Haydn wrote his Paris Symphonies.
It was one of those Paris Symphonies that opened the programme, No 83 in G minor, the so-called La Poule, nicknamed after the hen-like clucking Continue reading →