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Barbara Hannigan conducts Stravinsky & Knussen as a part of a collaborative challenge between the Royal Academy of Music and the Juilliard College


Alexandra Beason, Barbara Hannigan, Lisa Dafydd, Elizabeth Green at the Royal Academy of Music
Alexandra Beason, Barbara Hannigan, Lisa Dafydd, Elizabeth Inexperienced on the Royal Academy of Music


Stravinsky, Delage, Knussen; college students from Royal Academy of Music and the Juilliard College, Barbara Hannigan, Charlotte Corderoy; Duke’s Corridor, Royal Academy of Music
Reviewed 28 October 2022

Responsiveness and accuracy, poise and pleasure, Barbara Hannigan directed college students in a splendidly clever and fascinating lunchtime recital

For 20 years, the Royal Academy of Music and the Juilliard College have loved an in depth relationship, collaborating on initiatives as numerous as co-commissioning Peter Maxwell Davies’ opera Kommilitonen!, recording Gabrieli’s brass music and performing with Elton John at Radio Metropolis Music Corridor in New York. The most recent such collaboration culminated in a live performance within the Academy’s Duke’s Corridor on Friday 29 October 2022, when Barbara Hannigan carried out an orchestra of musicians from the Academy and the Juilliard, Hannigan’s first residency on the Academy. The programme consisted of Stravinsky’s Concerto in E flat ‘Dumbarton Oaks’, Two Poems of Balmont, Three Japanese Lyrics and Octet, Maurice Delage’s Quatre Poèmes Hindous, and Oliver Knussen’s Requiem: Songs for Sue. The soprano soloists had been Alexandra Beason (Stravinsky), Lisa Dafydd (Delage) and Elizabeth Inexperienced (Knussen). Assistant conductor Charlotte Corderoy carried out the Delage, and Barbara Hannigan additionally payed tribute to a different assistant conductor (whose title I didn’t catch) who had finished a number of background work on the Knussen piece.

Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks started with a pleasant mixture of lyricism and pointed rhythms, crisp and energetic with out feeling pushed. All through the live performance, I loved the orchestra’s clear, lithe sound and the gamers’ mixture of responsiveness and accuracy. Issues relaxed within the second motion, however rhythms stayed tight with a center part which just about hinted on the Romantic, with wind solos over muted strings. the finale was notable for the power and pleasure the gamers introduced.

Stravinsky’s Two poems of Balmont, for soprano (Alexandra Beason) and chamber ensemble, set poems by Konstantin Balmont, a Russian poet a lot set by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov. Stravinsky’s settings had been written for soprano and piano in 1911, however within the Nineteen Fifties he orchestrated them to make use of the identical instrumental line-up because the Three Japanese Lyrics. Right here they featured beautiful delicate textures and perky rhythms with a lyrical soprano solo, sung in a haunting method by Beason, pin sharp and intriguing. The entire thing had a readability of texture mixed with hints of French affect.

In 1912, Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire premiered in Berlin, and composers Stravinsky and Varese had been current. They reported again to composers in Paris and the outcome was an curiosity in writing for soprano and small ensemble. This led to a live performance in 1914 inaugurating the Société musicale indépendente the place Delage’s Quatre Poèmes Hindous and Stravinsky’s Three Japanese Lyrics had been premiered alongside music by Ravel and Schmitt.

Delage’s Quatre Poèmes Hindous, written for soprano (Lisa Dafydd) and chamber ensemble (right here carried out by Charlotte Corderoy) are the product of Delage’s go to to India and the songs set 4 poems from numerous sources (unique Indian poetry alongside Heine) translated into French. Madras: une belle featured a stunning flute solo over spare strings, with a sinuous soprano line round which the devices had been weaving, all very evocative. Lahore: un sapin isolé featured intriguing unique textures together with pizzicato slides on cello and haunting viola melody, with a fluid solo from Dafydd. Bénarés: Naissance de Bouddha was quick, busy and stuffed with color, and eventually Jéypur: si vous pensez à elle featured the voice amidst beautiful textures. All through Lisa Dafydd sang with nice poise, hints of seductive line and funky luxuriance.

Stravinsky’s Three Japanese Lyrics set translations of Japanese lyrics for soprano (Alexandra Beason) and chamber ensemble. The primary was cool and considerably gnomic, beautiful but with out the luxuriance of the Delage. The second was quick and vivid, and the third sluggish and spare with sinuous traces from devices and voice.

Stravinsky’s Octet dates from 1923, one among his defining neo-classical works it additionally hints on the musical Paris of the Nineteen Twenties. The opening Sinfonia started lyrically and surprisingly mild, fairly severe with a stunning readability to the taking part in, earlier than turning into quicker and perkier. This was taking part in of nice acuity, with out making an excessive amount of of a degree. The Tema con variazioni moved between the mysterious, the spare and vivid thrives, masking a exceptional array of types in a short while. The Finale was superbly crisp with tight rhythms over a operating bassoon line.

We ended with Oliver Knussen’s Requiem: Songs for Sue, written within the wake of the loss of life of Knussen’s spouse Sue and originating in his setting of a textual content by Rilke initially chosen by composer Alexander Goehr for a memorial booklet for Sue Knussen. The ultimate work units texts by Emily Dickinson, Antonio Machado, WH Auden and Rilke for soprano (Elizabeth Inexperienced) and enormous chamber ensemble.

Elizabeth Inexperienced sang with nice poise, utilizing a wealthy hued soprano voice whose beautiful decrease register was very a lot confirmed off by the music. Following a gap severe outburst from Inexperienced supported by vivid power within the ensemble, the music turned sluggish and severe, with some hints of French inspiration within the orchestral textures, intriguing to listen to after the Stravinsky and Delage. The Machado setting whose off Inexperienced’s smoky soprano however with sturdy phrases too, and great delicate instrumental textures, but issues developed each in power and drama because the textual content introduced out the poet’s intense anxiousness. The setting of phrases by WH Auden (a favorite of each Oliver and Sue Knussen) moved from spare, magical textures to one thing extra intense, but all the time with a way of the phrases. Lastly, the Rilke fragment, haunting and haunted.

This was a consummate efficiency all spherical, one among nice maturity.

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