2014 Festival Newsletter
Issue 10, April 2014
LUFTHANSA FESTIVAL OF BAROQUE MUSIC
The Year 1714
16 - 24 May 2014
BESPOKE FUNERAL MUSIC
On 21 May vocal ensemble Vox Luminis perform the work that won them a Gramophone Award in 2012 - Schütz's masterpiece Musicalische Exequien. Long said to have been the funeral music for a "prince", we now know that the dedicatee was a relatively minor Saxon aristocrat, Heinrich Posthumus Reuss, the earl or 'Lord' (Herr) of the territory around the town of Gera, some 35 miles south of Leipzig, during a time of great upheaval, the Thirty Years War (1618-48).
Relatively minor he may have been, but Herr Reuss spared no pains in making sure his funeral music was of the highest quality and to his exact specifcation. Throughout the piece the solo singers perform the biblical texts that were painted in gold on Herr Reuss' copper coffin, while the Cappella delivers stanzas from Lutheran hymnody, these too being written in the gilded panels around the sides, lid, and ends of the coffin.
And Herr Reuss did not finish there. Part 1 of the piece features two solo sections with a second bass part, written in the alto part book. It seems likely that this part was incorporated specially for the earl, a competent singer, so that he could take part in the performances of Part 1 that took place in his lifetime!
In the second part of their programme Vox Luminis perform funeral music for Queen Mary written by Purcell and Morley. Queen Mary had wanted a quiet funeral, but her great popularity prompted her co-regent, King William, to agree to a State Funeral, with all the accompanying pomp. Purcell wrote the last of the Funeral Sentences for the occasion, the setting by Morley having been lost, and it was this extraordinarily intense music that within months resounded in the same place on the death of its composer.
Queen Mary had ascended the throne not through the death of a predecessor, but by the will of Parliament. In the wake of the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688 she ruled jointly and equally with her husband William III of Orange. After the deaths of Mary and William, succession passed to Mary's younger sister Anne. With her demise in the year 1714, shortly after work commenced on St John's Smith Square, the Georgian era was ushered in, again at the behest of Parliament, which had decided that in the event of Anne's having no surviving issue the throne would pass to George Ludwig, Elector of Hanover.
The ensuing musical era was dominated by another German called George, G. F. Handel, who, during a performance of his own oratorio Jephtha, opined: "If Purcell had lived, he would have composed better music than this".
With musicians as with monarchs, "The King is dead. Long live the King".
THIRTY GLORIOUS YEARS
Lucy Bending writes about the moments that have left an indelible impression on her during her time as Festival Manager:
Whenever I am asked by friends and acquaintances what I do for a job, I always feel incredibly privileged to say that I help to promote concerts with some of the finest Baroque musicians in the world. I have been the manager of the Lufthansa Festival for five years now and I do still pinch myself on a regular basis. What an amazing experience it has been.
Instead of listing particular favourite concerts, the memories I want to share on this occasion are more personal, as they are from the other side of the stage. I will never forget Paolo Pandolfo on the morning of his performance improvising for hours on end as I sat quietly working at the back of an empty hall; nor will I forget welcoming Gustav Leonhardt when he arrived to give what would be his last UK recital - I think we all knew we were about to experience a moment in history; or there's the snapshot image I have in my head of our sterling Festival volunteers literally disappearing in a post-concert scrum of audience members desperate to lay their hands on a copy of one of Ensemble Caprice's CDs; or the sense of fun I felt exuding from the stage during Zefiro's rehearsal (and indeed later during their performance)... I could go on and on.
These are but a few of my memories which I hope will trigger many of your own from the last 30 years. I'm already looking forward to savouring some more wonderful concerts and gathering some more special moments for my Festival memory box this year. I'll see you there!
For your further interest...
From 4 to 6 April, the Institut français in London will bring you It's All About Piano!, a festival featuring concerts, films, workshops, and masterclasses. Rising stars and the greatest pianists - including Alexeï Lubimv, Lucy Parham and Pascal Rogé - will enchant with all styles of piano music, from classical to jazz.
Tuesday 15 April, 7.00 pm
J. S. Bach St John Passion BWV 245
Westminster Abbey is the imposing setting for a Holy-Week performance of Bach's St John Passion given by the renowned Choir of Westminster Abbey and period instrument ensemble St James's Baroque conducted by James O'Donnell.
Tickets (priced £12 to £32) are available from the Barbican Box Office: www.barbican.org.uk / 020 7638 8891.
For more information visit the Abbey website
Wednesday 7 May, 7.30pm
Julia Lezhneva sings Handel and Geminiani
Russian soprano Julia Lezhneva brings her astounding agility and trademark lightness and power to Italian arias by Handel. Joined by Giovanni Antonini and his specialist ensemble Il Giardino Armonico, Lezhneva promises an enchanting evening of Baroque music.
Thursday 8 May, 7.30pm
St John's Smith Square
"The USA's hottest Baroque band" Classical Music Magazine
The acclaimed American ensemble, Apollo's Fire, which has played to sold-out crowds at the Wigmore Hall and Madrid Royal Theatre, returns to Europe.
Copyright 2014 Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music.