Aldeburgh Festival 2018 mixes past and present to reach new audiences
PUBLISHED: 08:00 20 January 2018
The Aldeburgh Festival has announced its line-up for this year. Arts editor Andrew Clarke takes a look at the programme, celebrates the breadth of work and nominates some highlights
The Aldeburgh Festival, the founder of the county’s cultural legacy, has announced a packed programme which blends familiar names with fresh young talent. It’s a festival designed to reach out and involve people from all walks of life with a myriad of different musical tastes.
This year’s line-up features artists and ensembles including Patricia Kopatchinskaja, John Wilson, Claire Chase, Sir Bryn Terfel, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, The Sixteen, Tamara Stefanovich, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Le Concert Spirituel, John Wilson Orchestra, Alina Ibragimova, BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Belcea Quartet, Anne-Sophie von Otter, Piatti Quartet, Cédric Tiberghien and many more. As always, there’s a wealth of new music, including premieres by Emily Howard, Harrison Birtwistle, Michael Hersch and Simon Holt.
The programme of International classical music and opera will also include a strong visual arts strand with three artists in residence. Exhibitions include Suffolk Voices, an exploration of the changing Suffolk accent as well as free family-friendly events from 1pm each day at the Bandstand on the Beach in Aldeburgh.
A key programme strand this year is Britten and America, coinciding with the centenary of the inspirational composer, conductor and educator Leonard Bernstein, whose connections with and parallels to Britten are fascinating to explore. Another, marking 70 years since the festival was founded, is The Spirit of 1948 – we reflect on a remarkable post-war period when so much of what we now regard to be the backbone of our cultural life was launched.
Taking place from June 8 – 24, the festival features more than 50 events in the main programme over 17 packed days. For 2018 the festival has introduced a new £10 ticket price for every performance. Meanwhile those aged 21 and under can access half-price tickets for most events in the festival.
This year’s highlights include:
To See The Invisible (8, 10 & 11 June)
The world premiere of composer Emily Howard’s new sci-fi inspired opera, an Aldeburgh Festival commission that Howard developed over the course of a Snape residency with her collaborators, director Dan Ayling and librettist Selma Dimitrijevic. Emily Howard’s music is known for its particular connection with science – she studied mathematics and computer science – and To See The Invisible is based on a short story by renowned American sci-fi writer Robert Silverberg.
Artist in Residence: John Wilson
The conductor who approaches music from classical to popular with the same open-mindedness and dynamism not only conducts the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (8 & 9 June) in two programmes of Britten, Bernstein and Copland, but also brings his John Wilson Orchestra (10 June) to make its Festival debut with a programme of Bernstein’s popular and less well-known Broadway hits including excerpts from West Side Story, Wonderful Town, On the Town, Candide, Peter Pan, Trouble in Tahiti and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Artist in Residence: Claire Chase’s Density 2036 (14 June) and Feldman at Sunrise (16 June)
Virtuoso American flautist, curator and educator Claire Chase is an inspirational trailblazer for her
instrument and for new music of all styles. In 2013 she embarked on an epic commissioning and performance adventure entitled Density 2036, performing a brand new solo programme each year until 2036, the centenary of Varèse’s iconic piece Density 21.5 for solo flute, written in 1936. In Feldman at Sunrise Chase and collaborators present a performance of American composer Morton Feldman’s marathon 5-hour piece For Philip Guston, starting at sunrise and with the audience lying on mattresses and cushions. The New Yorker’s music critic Alex Ross writes: ‘To sit through a performance of For Philip Guston is to enter into a new consciousness’.
Artist in Residence: Patricia Kopatchinskaja (20, 22 & 23 June)
Violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja performs and curates two concerts with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (20 & 22 June), ranging from Stravinsky, Bartòk and Ligeti to a staged concert entitled Bye-Bye Beethoven, and explores her native Moldovan roots (23 June) with her musician parents. ‘Classical music is like a ship’, Kopatchinskaja has said, ‘and everyone is standing at the stern and looking at how nice it was where we came from. But no one dares to go onto the bow to see what is coming.’
But with Kopatchinskaja at the helm it steers a fascinatingly unorthodox course. Featuring orchestral performances and collaborations with video and sound designers, it is a gripping portrait of one of today’s leading performers and her bold and imaginative curatorial flair.
Knussen & Aldeburgh Festival Ensemble (18 June)
An archetypally ambitious Aldeburgh Festival event featuring a host of new music including the world premiere of Harrison Birtwistle’s Aldeburgh Festival commission, Keyboard Engine, Construction for Two Pianos, performed by Tamara Stefanovich and Pierre-Laurent Aimard.
Sir Bryn Terfel (24 June)
One of the world’s most loved opera singers makes his first Aldeburgh Festival appearance in a programme of English and American folk song arrangements by Britten and Copland, and classical songs by Schubert and Brahms.
Italian Baroque at Ely Cathedral (13 June)
Also in residence is the outstanding French period instrument ensemble Le Concert Spirituel, who give three concerts (12, 13 & 14 June) including a performance of Benevolo’s spectacular baroque Mass for eight separate choirs and ensembles, each with their own conductor, for which the festival returns to the gothic grandeur of Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire for the first time in 50 years.
This year’s exhibitions include Suffolk Voices by British-Australian artist Samantha Heriz. Heriz
grew up in Suffolk and has long been fascinated by the transformation and dilution of the county’s accent. Following her residency at Snape Maltings in 2017, Samantha presents her immersive sound installation created from recordings of today’s Suffolk voices, showing the increasing diversity in accent. The voices speak the words of a bygone Suffolk fisherman’s song, reformed to create a modern soundscape telling of migration, globalisation and the transitory patterns of our region.
Other exhibitions include a programme of exhibitions and events at The Red House in Aldeburgh focused on Britten in America; Tom Hammick’s Lunar Voyage, a narrative cycle of 17 woodcut prints
conjuring a metaphorical escape from Earth in pursuit of freedom and isolation on another planet; Dennis Creffield’s drawings of East Anglian Cathedrals; and a new installation alongside other work by East Anglian-born sculptor Kate MccGwire.
The Pumphouse and the Bandstand on the Beach
The programme for the 30+ non-classical events in the fringe venue The Pumphouse will be announced in April and there will be free family-friendly events from 1pm each day during the festival at the Bandstand on the Beach (line-up to be announced in June).