The first weekend of the 2015 Aldeburgh Festival

The first weekend of this year’s Aldeburgh Festival went as expected – in a whirlwind of music, stretching over Suffolk with events in Aldeburgh, Snape, Blythburgh and Ipswich.

The official start to the Festival was a double bill of operas by Harrison Birtwistle and David Harsent. Both are based on Greek mythology: The Cure starts with Jason’s triumphant arrival home with the Golden Fleece, and focuses on the magical rejuvenation of his father by his sorceress lover Medea; and The Corridor freeze-frames the devastating moment when Orpheus turns to look back at Eurydice as they leave the underworld, thus losing her forever.

Friday’s performance was the world premiere of The Cure, which was a neat reminder that The Corridor was premiered in the Britten Studio in 2009, while the venue was still pretty much brand new.

The pieces have had great reviews, with outstanding performances by Mark Padmore, Elizabeth Atherton and London Sinfonietta leading to 4* in the Guardian, Telegraph, Times, and FT, with another glowing report in the New York Times. If you still want to see the production, it starts a six night run at the Linbury Studio Theatre in London tomorrow.

Back in Aldeburgh, the Bandstand on the Beach had already spun up with a mix of Festival & Pumphouse performers and local Suffolk acts, beginning with Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s “Prelude to the Festival”, an exploration (in the loosest possible sense – you had to be there) of preludes and fugues by Bach. The outdoor stage has already established itself as a musical hub in the town, with jazz and folk over the weekend, and another wonderful Festival moment as old BBC chums Roger Wright and Humphrey Burton played a series of piano duets with varying accuracy.

 

The alternative Aldeburgh Festival at the Pumphouse has also been very busy this weekend, with even more variety – drag queens, stoner rock, comedy and film music. Check out The Pumphouse on Facebook for some pictures and the rest of the programme.

For a week, Andreas Scholl and Tamar Halperin have been giving masterclasses to the singers on the Britten-Pears Programme Baroque Vocal course. These have proved to be very popular, and Andreas & Tamar’s recital on Saturday in the beautiful Blythburgh Church was one of the quickest performances to sell out.

Another ensemble that have been in residence for a week now are the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Over 3 concerts they are working with a whole host of other artists – premiere of works by young composers Tom Coult, Luke Bedford and Edward Nesbitt, a concerto with Pierre-Laurent Aimard and a couple of pieces with soprano Claire Booth, and concerts conducted by François-Xavier Roth and George Benjamin. Their performance on Saturday was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and you can hear it again on iPlayer.

Finally, we ventured to Ipswich for Multi-Story – an orchestra in a car park! Framed by Beethoven and Copland, the orchestra’s found Kate Whitley had also written a piece for Suffolk school children, which they sang beautifully in Suffolk Council’s car park at Endeavour House. The whole experience left all who were there with a warm feeling inside, and this even spread to the critics, with the Telegraph giving the event 5 stars.

The Aldeburgh Festival 2015 continues till the 28 June – with a wide range of events covering classical and contemporary music, visual arts, exhibitions, plus our alternative fringe events at The Pumphouse. See all Festival events