St John’s Smith Square / Westminster Abbey / Grosvenor Chapel
Featuring: Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI/ Ex Cathedra and Jeffrey Skidmore/ La Nuova Musica and David Bates/ Ensemble Masques and Olivier Fortin/ Choir of Westminster Abbey and St James’s Baroque/ The Marian Consort/ La Serenissima with Adrian Chandler/The Bach Players and Nicolette Moonen/ Mercurius Company and Ricardo Barros/ Le Concert de l’Hostel-Dieu/ Improviso/ Royal Academy of Music Baroque Ensemble and Margaret Faultless/ Lux Musicae London
Plus: LFBM Young Artists’ Competition/ A hop and step across the Channel/ Come and Sing Latin American Baroque/ Workshop Learn to dance a Gavotte and a Menuet with Ricardo Barros
For the 36th London Festival of Baroque Music - ‘Crossing the Border’ - the themes of travel and discovery and their importance in the development of music throughout the Baroque period are explored.
Richard Heason, Artistic Director, said: “Travel is an integral part of the life of the musician and this has been true throughout history. Ideas develop and creativity flourishes as people share experiences and make new discoveries. This was as much the case in the Baroque period as it is today.
Musicians travel for many reasons – sometimes to gain employment; sometimes to learn new skills; perhaps due to family circumstances; or even to escape personal or political difficulties, exile proving the only viable solution. Through travelling, musicians both take their home experiences to new ears and discover for themselves new ideas and styles of performance. This creative cross-pollination of musical styles and techniques was the crucible from which exploded the incredible creative flowering of Baroque music.”
This year there are 15 events over 9 days bringing together leading artists such as Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI, Ex Cathedra Consort & Baroque Orchestra with Jeffrey Skidmore, La Nuova Musica and David Bates, Ensemble Masques and Olivier Fortin, the Choir of Westminster Abbey and St James’s Baroque, The Bach Players and the Mercurius Company, The Marian Consort and La Serenissima with Adrian Chandler.
‘Crossing the Border’ will explore a range of different musical experiences from the Baroque Period. The Festival will look at ‘The Grand Tour’ and explore the musical styles that the 18th century traveller would have experienced on their journey from London to Italy. It will also follow the explorers and the conquistadors on their journeys to the New World, hearing the Spanish baroque side by side with music from Central and South America. There will be the influence of the French court of Versailles on the music of Restoration England, and the Italian influence upon that very French court. The development of flamenco is explored, tracing a route back through the Sephardic traditions of the middle ages, and there is even the assimilation of Ottoman music within Poland. You will hear how the protestant music of Northern Germany developed alongside the Roman and Neapolitan traditions of Southern Europe. And how secular and nationalist dance forms were adopted within the sacred music of the period.
The Festival opens on 10 May at 7.30pm with La Serenissima and Adrian Chandler. This programme celebrates the music of German composers Pisendel, Telemann and JS Bach alongside those who contributed to their musical heritage. Included alongside the German triumvirate are works by Vivaldi who physically helped with the composition of Pisendel’s A minor concerto movement, Fasch who was a great friend of Pisendel and Telemann, and Brescianello, an Italian who helped the dissemination of Italian instrumental music throughout the German-speaking lands and whose concertos were played in Dresden by Pisendel. Expect a feast of instrumental colour with oboes, bassoons, trumpets, timpani, strings and continuo by the finest composers of the baroque!
On 11th May Nicolette Moonen’s The Bach Players join hands with Ricardo Barros’s Mercurius Company to present a concert that embodies the European idea in music and dance. Musicians have always travelled, both in mind and in body, and this programme will take you on a journey across the Continent: from Russia and Turkey, through Switzerland, Italy, France, and on to Spain and Portugal. The music will be both played and danced to, providing an enjoyable reminder that dance was fundamental to music in the baroque period, and part of the fabric of everyday life then. Telemann’s suite Les Nations, in which the characters of European countries are depicted in music, is followed by Rebel’s Les caractères de la danse: a compendium of the main dance forms of the period, performed by Ricardo Barros. Vivaldi’s passionate and hugely popular set of variations on ‘La Follia’ takes on fresh meanings when danced out. The concert concludes with Telemann’s ‘burlesque’ of Don Quichotte. The concert will be presented in the round, in the main body of the church, and can be enjoyed by people of all ages.
Also on 11th May at 9.45pm, Le Concert de l’Hostel-Dieu under Franck-Emmanuel Comte with soprano Heather Newhouse will perform the concert La Donna Barocca - Female Italian baroque composers from the Seventeenth Century. 2019 celebrates the 400th anniversary of the birth of one of the most famous female composers in the history of baroque music- Barbara Strozzi - and her flamboyant personality and the inventiveness of her style are fully displayed in this programme. Along with some of the most beautiful lamenti from Strozzi, there will be works by some of her lesser known colleagues: Isabella Leonarda, Francesca Caccini and Antonia Bembo.
Undoubtedly a highlight of the 2019 Festival will be Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI on 12 May at 7.30pm with L’Europa Musicale - From the Renaissance to Baroque. This concert charts the development of popular dance forms from across Europe during the transition from Renaissance to Baroque demonstrating both the idiosyncrasies of individual national styles but also the cross-over between traditions fuelled by the ever-increasing migration of musicians and people.
The London Festival of Baroque Music's annual visit to Westminster Abbey on 14 May at 7pm features the magnificent Coronation Anthems of Handel paired with Bach’s Magnificat performed by The Choir of Westminster Abbey and St James's Baroque under James O'Donnell. Handel’s four Coronation Anthems were written for the coronation of King George II and Queen Caroline and first performed at that event in Westminster Abbey in 1727. These were the first works composed by Handel following his naturalisation as a British citizen in February 1727. One of the final acts during the life of King George I was to bring forward the Act of Parliament which allowed for Handel’s naturalisation as British – this was necessary if he was to earn money from any court appointments in Great Britain at this time.
On 15 May at 7.30pm The Marian Consort and Rory McCleery with Gerald Kyd as narrator will perform Breaking the Rules written by Clare Norburn. Blurring the boundaries between a one actor play and a concert, Breaking the Rules explores Gesualdo’s strange world and his extraordinary music. The Marian Consort accompanied by a lutenist provide the soundtrack to Gesualdo’s mind on the final night of his life, as he contemplates his own mortality and the tumultuous events which have led him to this moment.
In the 18th century, the Grand Tour was the fashionable means by which high born Europeans – and the British in particular - sought to broaden their horizons, gathering ideas and points of view from all across the continent. Inspired by this tradition, on 16 May at 7.30pm, Ensemble Masques and Director Olivier Fortin with an actor will give a programme that transports the listener through a tale of travels, with stops in the great cities of France, Italy and Germany, where the works of Rameau, Couperin, Vivaldi, Bach and Telemann were performed for the first time. This programme not only places this repertoire in their original creative context, but also sheds new light on the era and regions for which they were composed. Narrated excerpts from original letters of young travellers provide vivid eye witness accounts of the places, people and overall character of 18th century Europe and will give added drama to the concert.
Earlier in the day, at 1.05pm on 16th May Improviso give a concert focusing on composers who chose to write in ‘adopted’ musical languages during the baroque period, including works by French composers François Couperin and Michel Blavet respectively writing in their dialect of the ‘Spanish’ and ‘Italian’ styles; a trio sonata by German composer G.P. Telemann that explores Polish folk music, and, most unusually, works from Polish musician Wojciech Bobowski’s collection of 17th-century Ottoman music.
There will be another programme around the theme of the Grand Tour on 17th May at 1.05pm - The Grand Tour II - Cities on the 18th Century Grand Tour with the Royal Academy of Music Baroque Ensemble and director Margaret Faultless. This concert will explore the music heard in the various cities visited as the Grand Tour progressed from Northern Europe down to Italy and includes a performance of Bach’s ‘Italian Concerto’.
Also on 17th May at 7.30pm Ex Cathedra Consort & Baroque Orchestra with Jeffrey Skidmore will perform Purcell’s semi-opera – The Indian Queen, a work that imagines war between a Mexican Indian Queen and an Inca king. In the first half of the concert there will be a selection of baroque music composed by Latin American Baroque composers, unearthed by Skidmore during his visits to Mexico and Bolivia.
On 18th May at 3.00pm at the Grosvenor Chapel, South Audley Street, Lux Musicae London will perform The Secrets of Andalusia - discovering the hidden origins of Flamenco. They will be collaborating with Flamenco guitar virtuoso Ignacio Lusardi and Oud Maestro Ahmed Mukhtar to discover the music from which flamenco burst forth. Featuring Flamenco, Sephardic and Arabic music alongside Spanish composers of the late 16th to 18th centuries, this programme tells a story of the Iberian peninsula and its music, weaving flamenco itself with music in which we can hear the echoes of its beginnings.
The final concert on 18th May at 7.30pm Handel will be Handel’s Messiah with La Nuova Musica and David Bates. In this performance, David Bates has assembled a wonderful quartet of soloists: Clint Van Der Linde, Ben Johnson, Keri Fuge and James Platt who will present the arias alongside a small orchestra of the finest Baroque musicians London can offer. The quartet of soloists will also sing along side the La Nuova Musica choir, so that the audience can hear a personal interpretation of the solo choral lines often full of coloratura. This will save the power of the tutti choir for specific moments, accentuating their dramatic rasion d’etre. This conceit is rooted in the late 17th century performance practice of church music in Germany, something that Handel would certainly have grown up with (eg in the works of Schutz and Buxtehude).
‘Crossing the Border’ will feature a host of international artists alongside emerging talent. A new development for 2019 will be the establishment on 13th May 2018 of the first Young Artists’ Competition within the London Festival of Baroque Music, featuring the best emerging artists from across Europe. Alongside the concerts there will also be a full programme of talks and workshops to engage audiences more directly in the themes of the festival.
Richard Heason, Artistic Director, said: “This year’s festival promises to provide audiences with a fabulous itinerary of musical journeys and exotic locations. We look forward to crossing borders back and forth as we explore the rich musical expression of Baroque style from Europe and beyond in the 36th London Festival of Baroque Music.”