Wednesday 8 November – St Andrew’s Hall, Norwich
Thursday 9 November – Barbican Hall, London
Friday 10 November – Saffron Hall, Saffron Walden
Sir Mark Elder launches a four-year Britten Sinfonia Brahms Symphony Cycle with a fresh take on Brahms’s dramatic First Symphony this November, as part of Britten Sinfonia’s 25th anniversary season.
The first time that Elder will have conducted a Brahms Symphony Cycle, the performances launch a four year collaboration which sets Brahms alongside Mahler Lieder and lesser known works from 20th century English repertoire. Britten Sinfonia’s Brahms Symphony Cycle traces a poetic line from mid 19th century symphonic Romanticism to more intimate evocations of poetry, love and nature in Mahler songs, and pastoral works by 20th century English composers including Finzi, Delius, Butterworth and Bridge.
Elder remains true to the authentic spirit of early performances of Brahms’s First Symphony, which was envisaged for and performed by considerably smaller musical forces than we typically hear today, with the aim of illuminating the fascinating details of one of the greatest of all Romantic symphonies. Elder describes Brahms’s Symphonies as “great musical journeys” and the First Symphony as a “wonderful, original, daring masterpiece” in which Brahms’s shows “absolute mastery of what he wanted to say.” To accompany the symphony, Elder has chosen poetic works including Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder, with soloist Austrian mezzo- soprano/contralto Elisabeth Kulman, Finzi’s soaring elegy The Fall of the Leaf, and What the wild flowers tell me, Britten’s arrangement of the second movement of Mahler’s Symphony No.3.
Sir Mark Elder, who is returning to conduct Britten Sinfonia for the first time since acclaimed performances of Berlioz’s L’Enfance du Christ in 2011, comments: “People expect Brahms to have a weight of sound, a monumentality, which isn’t in proportion to what I read in his scores. We know from his letters that Brahms always preferred a small string section, thereby enabling the woodwind writing to be effortlessly heard without exaggeration. Working with one of the world’s finest chamber orchestras, I’m hoping to reveal the secret side of Brahms’s music; moments of incredible intimacy and delicacy, alongside the Romantic bravura.”
Performances take place in Norwich, Barbican Hall, London - where the orchestra is an Associate Ensemble - and Saffron Hall, where Britten Sinfonia is Resident Orchestra.