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Music in the concert hall, community and to take home
Spring & summer 2023

Britten Sinfonia’s spring/summer 2023 season ventures far and wide, from a timely revisiting in the month King Charles III is crowned of the music premieres that made waves in 1953, the last coronation year, to world premiere commissions and new music of today, alongside a rarely heard Donizetti opera. The orchestra brings its distinctive music making to Festivals across the East of England, both in the concert hall and the architectural splendour of the region’s cathedrals and chapels. It brings music into the heart of the community, including to patients and staff at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge. And there’s a recording first, with Britten Sinfonia featuring in Opera Rara’s premiere recording of Mercadante’s Il proscritto.

The typically wide-ranging programme, with a particular focus in the East of England, comes at a time when the orchestra is working hard to secure its future following the withdrawal of its ACE funding as a National Portfolio Organisation. Britten Sinfonia’s recently launched Play On appeal has now received hundreds of donations from individuals who together are helping to build an invigorating future for the orchestra. Donations can be made at: https://playon.brittensinfonia...

In concert

In May, the month of King Charles III coronation, Britten Sinfonia reflects on the music that was making waves 70 years earlier with performances of several notable premieres by British composers in 1953, the year of the late Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation and the scaling of Everest. These include Elizabeth Maconchy’s Baroque counterpoint-influenced Symphony for Double String Orchestra, Tippett’s Fantasia Concertante on a theme of Corelli (preceded in this concert by Corelli’s Concerto Grosso, whose themes Tippett so brilliantly adapted) and Walton’s finale to Variations on an Elizabethan Theme (which borrows from music of the court of Elizabeth I). Flame and Shadow, a substantial new string symphony by Joseph Phibbs completes the programme. (Sun 21 May, The Halls, Norwich (as part of Norfolk and Norwich Festival/Wed 24 May, Milton Court Concert Hall, London).

Britten Sinfonia returns to partner with Opera Rara in Donizetti’s L’esule di Roma, Opera Rara’s 27th complete Donizetti revival. Conducted by Opera Rara Artistic director, Carlo Rizzi, a concert performance of this milestone opera (Thu 11 May at Cadogan Hall) will be preceded by a studio recording, for future release in spring 2024. Both recording and performance feature Albina Shagimuratova, Nicola Alaimo and Sergey Romanovsky.

A busy festival season across the East of England sees the orchestra return to Aldeburgh Festival, alongside featured festival artist, pianist Pavel Kolesnikov, in a concert that features Britten’s Young Apollo, Mozart’s Piano Concerto in E flat, and Arvo Pärt’s Lamentate (Sun 25 Jun). At Peasmarsh Festival, Britten Sinfonia joins violinist Anthony Marwood and cellist Richard Lester in works by Stravinsky, Mendelssohn, Saint-Saëns and the Britten Sinfonia co-commissioned Shanty by Thomas Adès (Fri 23 June). Britten Sinfonia visits Brighton Festival with the world premiere of Joseph Phibbs new work and partners with Brighton Festival Chorus for a performance of Dona Nobis Pacem (Wed 17 May) and returns to the music of 1953 at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival (Sun 21 May). Further festival appearances will be announced shortly, including summer performance in the architectural splendour of three of the country’s finest cathedrals and chapels: Ely Cathedral, St Albans Cathedral, and at King’s College Chapel, where the concert includes a work by Richard Blackford which draws on the covid diary of a doctor at Addenbrookes Hospital.

Further afield, the orchestra returns to Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, joined by Polyphony and conductor Stephen Layton for a concert featuring Fauré’s Requiem, and contemplative music by Pärt, Väsks and Poulenc (Sat 27 May, and also Mon 29 May at Saffron Hall).

Other events include Britten Sinfonia soloists in two concerts with young trumpeter Matilda Lloyd, to mark the release of her debut Chandos recording of operatic arias transcribed for trumpet (Fri 21 Apr, Southend/Thu 27 Apr, Wigmore Hall lunchtime concert and Casta Diva CD launch).

In the community and supporting composers

At the centre of Britten Sinfonia’s Learning and Participation work is the idea of empowering people of all ages and abilities to play, listen to and importantly, enjoy music and music making. This spring sees a range of events across a variety of community settings across the East of England, from music for patients and staff at CUH Addenbrookes Hospital to Musical Memories concerts for people living with long term illnesses such a Dementia and Parkinsons, and Music on your Doorstep, where the orchestra brings its world class music making to communities’ home turf, including Pushchair Playlist concerts for babies, toddlers and their carers.

The orchestra’s commitment to supporting the next generation of talent continues, with a special spring focus on composition. At the heart of all is Opus, Britten Sinfonia’s composer development programme. There’s a new cohort of composers joining Opus 1, which is open to composers of any age or ability who are interested in working with professional musicians; they will be working with Programme Directors Dani Howard and Raymond Yiu to develop new works for a Britten Sinfonia trio to be performed and recorded in Cambridge in the autumn. For early stage professional musicians, Magnum Opus offers the chance to be embedded with the orchestra for a year. This year’s Magnum Opus composers, Daniel Soley, David John Roche and Crystalla Serghiou, who each had a new wind quintet performed by Britten Sinfonia in the UK and Netherlands as part of an April tour with pianist Daria van den Bercken, will work intensively with the Opus programme directors and Britten Sinfonia musicians on new pieces for a special Magnum Opus showcase concert in October. And in secondary schools, Britten Sinfonia will be taking the first steps in a new project, inspiring the next generation of composers and empowering Key Stage 3 teachers to bring composition into the classroom; just one of a number of projects across the East of England, from family concerts to residencies in wellbeing settings, currently in development.

At home: Recordings

New releases out this spring include the world-premiere recording of Mercadante’s Il proscritto, restored from the autograph manuscript, recorded for the first time ever, which was released worldwide on Fri 14 April 2023 (ORC62). The Opera Rara recording features Britten Sinfonia and soloists Ramón Vargas, Iván Ayón-Rivas, Irene Roberts, and Elizabeth DeShong, conducted by Carlo Rizzi. A recording with Merton College Oxford, Orchestral Anthems, features music by Dyson, Howells, Elgar and Finzi (DCD34291) will be released in June on Delphian. Matilda Lloyd’s Casta Diva, on Chandos, featuring Britten Sinfonia string quintet and harp, conducted by Rumon Gamba, will be released on 27 April. The orchestra also returns to the recording studio with Opera Rara to record Donizetti’s L’esule di Roma, for release in Spring 24, and in the summer joins the Choir of King’s College Cambridge and the Choir of Selwyn College Cambridge for two new recording projects.

Plus: Now booking for Autumn 2023

Britten Sinfonia’s season at Associate Ensemble at the Barbican

Britten Sinfonia kicks off Autumn 23 as Associate Ensemble at the Barbican with two song cycles which show the best and worst of humanity. Award-winning soprano Elizabeth Watts joins the orchestra in Gerald Finzi’s Dies Natalis, exploring the joy and innocence of a baby’s view of the world through Thomas Traherne’s mystical texts. By contrast, Richard Blackford’s new work sets powerfully moving poems by young Afghan writer Nadia Anjuman, whose courageous life was tragically cut short when she was killed by her husband in 2005. A new Britten Sinfonia commission from Ryan Latimer and 2022 commission Glade by Dobrinka Tabakova, which draws surprising inspiration from Barbican green spaces, also feature. (Fri 20 Oct, Milton Court).

Britten Sinfonia joins Milton Court Artist in Residence, clarinettist Anthony McGill, who in 2014 became the first African American principal player at the New York Philharmonic, in a concert featuring works by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, George Walker, Jessie Montgomery and the UK premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Anthony Davis’s 2011 work for clarinet and chamber orchestra, You Have the Right to Remain Silent. (Wed 29 Nov, Milton Court).

In a rare twist on the perennial seasonal favourite, Britten SInfonia performs Handel’s Messiah re-imagined by Mozart. Until the 1950s, Mozart’s orchestration of Messiah for a late-18th century orchestra with enhanced woodwind and brass was a commonly performed orchestration of the work. Sophie Jeanin conducts the BBC Singers, and soloists including mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston and tenor Laurence Kilsby (Tue 12 Dec, Barbican Hall).

The season will also feature an October showcase of the work of the orchestra’s current Magnum Opus composers, with a concert featuring music that they have written as part of their year-long residency with the orchestra.

Britten Sinfonia at Wigmore Hall

Harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani and Britten Sinfonia, directed from the violin by Jacqueline Shave, embark on an exploration of Bach’s music for the harpsichord, with performances of Concertos BWV 1057, 1054 and 1056 alongside music for recorder (Michala Petri) and oboe by Telemann and Vivaldi (Wed 8 Nov, with further concerts in Spring 24). The orchestra also takes part in the Wigmore Hall’s day-long celebration of the music of Laurence Osborn with a programme that sets the composer’s work alongside music by C.P.E Bach (Sat 25 Nov).

Further concerts during Autumn 2023, including at Saffron Hall, Saffron Walden and in Norwich, will be announced soon.

Further press information from: Shoel Stadlen, Britten Sinfonia, 07815 787 336