Aldeburgh sea interludes
* The photo above was taken before the very fine Aldeburgh Festival concert by Exaudi in Orford Church last weekend. It may be deepest rural Suffolk, but the concert received a glowing review in the New York Times, and is being broadcast on BBC Radio 3's Early Music Show on September 9th. As well as Gesualdo the concert includes a UK premiere by Salvatore Sciarrino, and works by Niccolo Castiglioni, Monteverdi, Giacinto Scelsi, and Luigi Nono. Don't miss it.
* Nuria Schoenberg Nono, widow of the composer Luigi Nono and daughter of Arnold Schoenberg, gave a moving introduction to a performance of her husband's 'Hay que caminar' soñando' for two solo violins yesterday in the Jubilee Hall. Madame Schoenberg Nono was also pretty impressive with her laptop. Her use of PowerPoint in her talk would have put most record industry chief executives to shame.
* The critical acclaim for Yoshi Oida's new production of Death in Venice at Snape is all the more remarkable when you remember that the Maltings has neither proscenium arch nor scenery flies. Britten insisted on the interior space of the hall being kept uncluttered to provide the best acoustics. He succeeded triumphantly, the reverberation time of the hall is two seconds when filled to its 800 seat capacity. This reverberation is the same as many modern concert halls with twice the audience capacity.
* Praise is due for the Aldeburgh Festival programme, or that should really read book. The 292 page full colour book, edited by Jane Bellingham, has articles from a range of authors including Paul Griffiths and Colin Matthews. The lavish £9 volume is worth getting hold of, even if you didn't attend the Festival. How many programme books can you say that about?
* The new Death in Venice was stunning, both musically (especially Alan Oke's Aschenbach and Paul Daniel's conducting) and visually. The crab and samphire salad in the Snape Maltings restaurant after the performance was also stunning. Samphire is a delicacy found here in East Anglia. The Maltings restaurant sums up the whole Aldeburgh Festival. It serves wonderful local fresh food at reasonable prices. It has the best view of any restaurant in the world across the marshes to Iken Church. And it employs a lot of local young people. The young lady who served us last night was a second-year archeology student from Southampton University. The restaurant also does a very nice Chardonnay.
* Yesterday was one of those days that can only happen at the Aldeburgh Festival. In the morning there was the amuse bouche of Nono's 'Hay que caminar' soñando', followed by a picnic lunch. Picnics at Aldeburgh have not yet become the ostentatious style statements seen at Glyndebourne, and my picture below shows the only meal I have ever eaten on a Cold War airbase. Following our picnic the afternoon brought a truly memorable double-header. At 2.00pm it was Luchino Visconti's film of Death in Venice in the sold-out Aldeburgh Cinema. It finished at 4.15pm, and there was then a fifteen minute drive to Snape for the 5.00pm start of the new production of Benjamin Britten's Death in Venice, which was also sold-out.
* You can't get more beautiful that two Deaths in Venice in one afternoon. But what happens when beauty grows old? Björn Andrésen became a gay poster boy when he was cast as Tadzio by Visconti in his 1971 film. After that role he lived in Japan, where he appeared in a number of television commercials and also recorded two pop songs. Andrésen now lives with his wife and daughter in Stockholm, and performs regularly with the Sven Erics dance band.
That's just the first few days of the 2007 Aldeburgh Festival, stay tuned for more Aldeburgh sea interludes.
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I've just discovered your excellent blog! I shall be looking in more often. And damn, I wish I were at the festival rather than stuck in London teaching...
It was really my love of Britten and English music and culture in general which led me to move to London from Philadelphia. I've been here 7 years, and not one visit to the Maltings. (sigh)
One point your photograph taken outside Orford parish church makes is that the Festival audience is very grey! Was it always like this? I first went to Aldeburgh in the late 70's and then largely stopped going until the kids had grown up, and so my wife and I are now part of the grey brigade. (I looked for myself in the photo, but as we had unreserved seats in the choir we were probably seated inside by the time you took this.) These days we are always shocked by the average age of the audience. Another fire at Snape would be terrifying.
The Exaudi concert was a highlight, and sitting in the choir we could follow the scores and appreciate some of the technical challenges of the music. The Britten Sinfonia concert earlier in the day was also enjoyable, but I was less impressed with Keenlyside on Sunday, particularly in the first half where he seemed to be having some difficulties. His Schubert after the interval was fine. All this paled into insignificance against the Death in Venice on Friday. I could have sat through it again, immediately - the acid test for me of a good production.
Our annual weekend at the Crown and Castle passed all too quickly. We envy those who live nearby.
But a very bright spot at this year's Aldeburgh Festival was the young average age at Faster Than Sound.
This event was exclusively electronic music. But it did set us thinking as to whether a similar presentation, but mixing contemporary acoustic and electronic music, could attract a welcome younger audience.