Preview – Oxford Lieder Festival 2022

by Ben Hogwood

In three weeks’ time, the 21st Oxford Lieder Festival will be underway – and this is a short piece to show you why it’s worth going!

Arcana first attended this festival in 2018, and were really taken with its layout, friendly atmosphere, and intimate (or breathtaking!) venues. This is before we even get to the music, which is imaginatively chosen and programmed, and performed by some of the best singers and pianists available. Not only that, but festival director Sholto Kynoch and his team place the music in the context of interesting talks and features to place the songs in the context of the wider arts climate.

This year’s festival is Friendship In Song: An Intimate Art, and its aim is to ‘explore friendships between composers, poets and performers, recreate the intimate atmosphere of the salon, and generally enjoy a festive spirit of conviviality and shared experience. World-renowned artists mingle with the best of the new generation, and the great works of the song repertoire are complemented by new music and new discoveries’.

You are encouraged to head to the festival website to explore the concerts and artists, but Arcana would like to point you to a couple. On Saturday 15 October the songs of Richard Strauss come under the microscope. Until recently this aspect of the composer’s output was not greatly considered, lying in the shadow of his orchestral works and operas, but more recent explorations have shown just how inventive he could be as a songwriter.

On Sunday 16 October Claire Booth & Christopher Glynn perform songs and piano works by Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov, and later that evening Patricia Petibon & Susan Manoff make their festival debut in a typically imaginative programme. If you have not seen these two live before, they are a brilliant double act, bringing their songs to life, as Arcana discovered at the Wigmore Hall back in 2015.

Tuesday 18 October sees the beginning of a mini-series devoted to this year’s most prominent festival composer. Vaughan Williams: Perspectives will examine some of RVW’s most memorable songs and cycles, including Songs of Travel (William Thomas & Anna Tilbrook) and Four Last Songs (Ailish Tynan and Libby Burgess). As a considerable bonus Alessandro Fisher, William Vann & the Navarra Quartet will perform On Wenlock Edge together with a complementary work, Portraits of a Mind by British composer Ian Venables.

Wednesday 19 October finds soprano Lotte Betts-Dean and pianist Natalie Burch performing Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov, a late night slot for his Quiet Songs – and then on Sunday 23 October a day devoted to Schubert will revel in concerts from Birgid Steinberger & Julius Drake (Schubert and the Sounds of Vienna), then Werner Güra and Christoph Berner (Schubert ballads)

The Swedish Nightingale is a recital themed on the legendary Swedish soprano Jenny Lind, whose life and musical contacts will be explored by soprano Camilla Tilling and pianist Paul Rivinius on Tuesday 25 October. The next day, father and son duo – Christoph Prégardien and Julian Prégardien – will give a concert with Michael Gees, which promises to be a memorable encounter. Finally, regular festival guest Carolyn Sampson will give Music For A While on Friday 28 October, with her regular partner Joseph Middleton, while the festival will close with Dame Sarah Connolly singing music by Brahms, Schumann, Strauss and Mahler, alongside pianist Eugene Asti.

What a memorable three weeks it promises to be!

In Memoriam Queen Elizabeth II

As a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, here is a small part of the deeply meaningful music from her funeral service at Westminster Abbey this morning, which also included new works from Sir James MacMillan and the Master of the King’s Music Judith Weir.

Two English works, by Sir Hubert Parry and Vaughan Williams, are included below. My Soul There Is A Country is the first of six Songs Of Farewell by Parry, for unaccompanied choir, written towards the end of the First World War.

O taste and see is a short motet that Vaughan Williams completed in 1953 for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. It is a short and beautiful piece:

News – Maria Marica wins the 2022 George Enescu International Competition, Violin Section

Maria Marica (above centre), won the 2022 George Enescu International Competition Violin Section after a Final in which she performed the Violin Concerto in D major Op. 77 by Brahms. The violinist also received a special award from the IMK Vienna Association, represented by jury member Igor Petrushevski: a concert as a soloist with the North Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in 2023 in Prague.

Maria Marica will perform, together with cellist Benjamin Kruithof – who won the cello section of the Enescu Competition – the Double Concerto in A minor Op.102, also by Brahms. The Violin Final of the Enescu Competition took place on Tuesday 13 September at the Romanian Athenaeum. Romanian violinist Ștefan Aprodu was second, with Frenchman Grégoire Torossian third. The audience enthusiastically embraced the three orchestral concerts in which soloists performed some beloved violin works.

In Appreciation – Lars Vogt

by Ben Hogwood

Yesterday we learned of the incredibly sad news that the pianist Lars Vogt had died, at the age of 51.

The warmth and appreciation of tributes paid to him from fellow artists yesterday evening testify to his warm personality, strength of character and great musicianship. Lars was diagnosed with cancer early in 2021, but even in his chemotherapy found that playing the piano channelled the most positive energy and feeling. Here, for instance, is a wonderful performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto no.24 given as part of the Parnu Festival with the Estonian Festival Orchestra and Paavo Järvi.

Lars was an extremely versatile artist, either as a soloist, chamber musician or conductor. Regular partners included violinist Christian Tetzlaff and cellist Truls Mørk, while he took part in a formidable piano trio with Christian and cellist Tanja Tetzlaff. He also proved himself a conductor of some note from the keyboard, directing the Royal Northern Sinfonia from the piano in recordings of the concertos of Beethoven and Brahms, and the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris in the concertos of Mendelssohn.

His orchestral partners spoke of him with great warmth, and certainly his time in Newcastle with the Royal Northern Sinfonia was characterised by energetic, creative music making and seasonal planning. My own memories of solo performance run back to a spellbinding account of the Goldberg Variations at Wigmore Hall:

As a concerto soloist I also recall a memorable account of BrahmsPiano Concerto no.2 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Jiří Bělohlávek at the Proms:

At the same festival, I also recall a full-blooded account of the Bartók Violin Sonata no.1 with Christian Tetzlaff:

As a recording artist, Vogt enjoyed many peaks, mostly in the company of the Ondine label. The playlist below brings together just a section of these recordings, in the knowledge that a couple more are yet to be released.

He will be greatly missed, and we send condolences to all his family and friends. His lasting gift to us is in the form of recordings we will treasure greatly: