Sunday, 3 July 2011

Manchester, Classical Music and British Composers – Part Three: The International Series.

The International Series is little better for British Music than the Manchester Proms and the Summer Season.
The first concert in October is a fine recital by Wayne Marshall, with works by Bach, Liszt, Vierne and the ubiquitous Toccata from Widor 5.
Yuri Simonov conducts the Moscow Philharmonic with works by Rachmaninov and Mussorgsky. However this is an interesting programme. Rach. 2 in NOT performed but the lesser known 1st Concerto and the even less well known 1st Symphony.

Craig Ogden does include a couple of short pieces by Kent-born Gary Ryan, Lough Caragh and Rondo Rodeo. Emma Kirkby ignores the British element completely. However Harry Christopher’s The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra do give two fine pieces by Henry Purcell – the ‘Come, ye sons of art’ and Act V from The Indian Queen. Well done!
Freddy Kempf avoids British music. However the story improves with The Tallis Scholars. Gabriel Jackson (born in Bermuda!) Tallis himself, John Sheppard and the Italian, Gregorio Allegri. But the surprise is a piece by ‘North-West’ composer Robin Walker, although it seems that Walker was actually born in York – on t'other side of the Pennines.
Jonathan Scott manages to squeeze in Murrill’s arrangement of Walton's Crown Imperial and Herbert Brewer’s take on Elgar’s Chanson de Matin.
The Manchester Camerata concentrates on Bartok, Kodaly and Haydn whilst the great John Lill plays music by Mozart, Schumann, Prokofiev and Beethoven. But no Bax, Ireland or Bridge!

In February 2012 Camerata Salzburg under the baton of Tomas Hanus will give a performance of Britten’s attractive Simple Symphony. This contrasts well with the Mozart Divertimento in F KV138 and Dvorak’s Serenade for Strings.
Natalie Clein gives an important recital of cello solo music by Bach, Kodaly and the Austrian composer Thomas Larcher. Alas, she does not perform solo works by Leighton or Walton.
One cannot fault the performance of J.S. Bach’s St Matthew Passion by the St. Thomas Choir, Leipzig in their 800th anniversary year.
Perhaps the major British music event is the New London Consort’s realisation of Henry Purcell’s opera King Arthur. This is a ‘lightly-staged’ production narrated by Merlin the magician. The brochure promises ‘an A-list cast of early music specialists...’

Anne-Sophie Mutter plays Mozart, Schubert, Lutoslawski and Saint-Saens, but nothing by a Briton.
The Orchestre Nationale du Capitole de Toulouse performs Berlioz and, Saint-Saens.
Jaques van Oortmerssen gives an organ recital with music by Bach Liszt, Franck et al. And finally, the St Petersburg Philharmonic under Yurin Temirkanov celebrates 50 years of St Petersburg and Manchester being ‘twin cities.’ This really annoys me. Why does it have to be an all Russian programme? Twin cities, Manchester & St Petersburg- why not a Walton Symphony or a Rawsthorne Concerto or a work by John Foulds?
Perhaps the Hallé is off on a trip to the Russian city- let’s hope they give an all British programme – but somehow I doubt it.

Now I do not expect all British concerts, nor do I think likely that the ‘concert promoters and organisers’ will choose to avoid Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Rachmaninov. What I find disappointing is that there are three major works by Saint-Saëns and none by RVW, Alwyn, Bax, Rubbra, Simpson etc. Apart from the excellent Purcell King Arthur, there are no major works by British composers – they are all tit-bits.
Even more depressing is the total lack of interest in music written in the Manchester area. Where is the Alan Rawsthorne, the Eric Fogg, the John Foulds, the William Walton, the John McCabe, the Peter Hope...
And just as importantly, where are the contemporary compositions by local musicians? The only work that claims to be by a 'living' ‘North West’ composer is actually written by a Yorkshireman!!

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