Spring Sounds International
Music Festival 2014
Celebrating Shakespeare in words and music
With featured composer Howard Blake – Composer of The Snowman
Sunday 20 April – 8:10am BBC Radio 4
Wednesday 23 April – 3:30pm BBC Radio 3
Friday 16 May, Friday 23 May, Friday 30 May and Friday 6 June
Civic Hall, Stratford-upon-Avon
2014 marks the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth and to commemorate the occasion Orchestra of the Swan will be celebrating music inspired by his words.
Howard Blake, composer of ‘The Snowman’, is our featured composer and we will be performing his Shakespeare Songs, Variations on a theme composed for Henry V and Suite from As you like it.
The Lark Ascending and Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis by Vaughan Williams will also feature in this year’s programme as will new works by Huw Watkins, Roxanna Panufnik, Guto Puw and Roger Steptoe.
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Spring Sounds History
The inaugural Spring Sounds took place in May 2008 with Tasmin Little at the helm as Artistic Director. The ethos behind the festival is to feature the work of established and developing composers alongside the great classics of the classical canon and to showcase and broaden Stratford-upon-Avon’s musical offering.
Taking place every May composers and artists featured thus far include Roxanna Panufnik, Joe Cutler, Phil Dukes, the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Paul Watkins, Martin Roscoe, the Smetana Piano Trio, Param Vir and Viv McLean.
The festival has also made full use of a variety of venues Stratford offers from the orchestra’s home base of the Civic Hall through to the elegant Georgian Town Hall and the beautiful Peter Adams designed Compton Verney art gallery just outside of Stratford. Compton Verney has also hosted the festival’s family events with young participants and gallery visitors creating graphic scores and being treated to impromptu performances around the grounds from Orchestra of the Swan’s musicians.
Performances in the festival have received critical acclaim and the 2008 festival was featured in ITV’s flagship arts programme the South Bank Show.
“An excellent orchestra and conductor”
BBC Music Magazine
“You won’t hear much better than this anywhere”
Classic FM Magazine
“Curtis’s conducting, if close to Boult’s, is more intimate, and slightly more perceptive”
American Record Guide
Mark Bebbington, Piano
Described by Aldo Ciccolini as “…quite simply one of the most stunningly gifted young pianists I have been privileged to encounter…” Mark Bebbington has established a particular reputation as an exceptionally refined and elegant exponent of French music and under the auspices of the Kirckman Concert Society, he has given critically acclaimed South Bank recitals that have laid special emphasis on French nineteenth and twentieth Century pianistic traditions.
Over recent seasons, Mark has toured extensively throughout Central and Northern Europe, the Far East and North Africa and has appeared as soloist with the London Philharmonic and Philharmonia Orchestras at the Barbican and Royal Festival Halls.
He has worked with many leading conductors, including Sir Georg Solti, Marco Zambelli and Norman del Mar and has appeared both as concerto soloist and Recitalist on BBC Television and Radio and also on Radio France.
Born in Coventry, Mark studied at the Royal College of Music with Phyllis Sellick and Kendall Taylor and later in Italy with Aldo Ciccolini.
Richard Edgar-Wilson, Tenor
Biography to follow
Ruby Hughes, Soprano
Winner of both First Prize and the Audience Prize at the 2009 Handel Singing Competition, Ruby Hughes was a BBC New Generation Artist between 2011 and 2013 and during 2013. She works regularly with major conductors and orchestras throughout Europe and created Ella in Huw Watkins’ In the Locked Room for Scottish Opera.
Jeremy Huw Williams, Baritone
The Welsh baritone Jeremy Huw Williams studied at St John’s College, Cambridge, at the National Opera Studio, and with April Cantelo. He made his debut with Welsh National Opera as Guglielmo (Così fan tutte) and has since appeared in sixty operatic roles. He has given performances at major venues in North and South America, Australia, Hong Kong, and most European countries.
In France he has sung the roles of Olivier (Capriccio), Papageno (Die Zauberflöte), George (Of Mice and Men), Guglielmo (Così fan tutte), Shchelkalov (Boris Godunov), Baritone (Hydrogen Jukebox) and title role Till Eulenspiegel by Karetnikov for L’Opéra de Nantes, and Sebastian (The Tempest) for L’Opera du Rhin. In Italy he has sung the role of Nixon (Nixon in China) at the opera house in Verona and Ferryman (Curlew River) at the opera houses of Pisa and Trento. In Greece he has sung the role of Chou En-lai (Nixon in China) for Greek National Opera. In Belgium he has sung the role of Marcello (La Bohème) for Zomeropera. In Norway he has sung the role of Papageno (Die Zauberflöte) for Vest Norges Opera and Serezha (The Electrification of the Soviet Union) for Opera Vest. In Austria he has sung the role of Dr Pangloss (Candide) in Vienna, a role that he repeated in Bremen, Munich, Suhl, Leipzig and London. In the USA he has sung the role of Lukash (The Good Soldier Schweik) for Long Beach Opera.
In Wales he has sung the roles of Guglielmo (Così fan tutte), Escamillo (Carmen), Germont (La Traviata), Marcello (La Bohème) and Le Dancaïre (Carmen) for Welsh National Opera and the roles of Serezha (The Electrification of the Soviet Union), Tarquinius (The Rape of Lucretia), Choregos (Punch and Judy), Mangus (The Knot Garden) and Dr Simon Browne (For You) for Music Theatre Wales. In Ireland he has sung the role of Teddy (The Silver Tassie) for Opera Ireland. In Scotland he has sung the roles of Andrew (74 Degrees North), Father (Zen Story), Epstein (The Letter) and Kommerzienrat (Intermezzo) for Scottish Opera.
He has given recitals at the Wigmore Hall and Purcell Room, and at many major music festivals. He has appeared with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in Tippett’s King Priam at the Royal Festival Hall, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in Lambert’s Summer’s Last Will and Testament at Symphony Hall, the Hallé in Handel’s Messiah at the Bridgewater Hall, the Philharmonia in Mozart’s Requiem at St David’s Hall, the BBC Symphony Orchestra in Nielsen’s Third Symphony at the Royal Albert Hall during the BBC Proms, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in Rawsthorne’s Medieval Diptych, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in Adams’s The Wound Dresser at City Halls, the BBC Philharmonic in Schubert’s Mass in Ab, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the London Philharmonic Orchestra in Watson’s O! Captain, the Ulster Orchestra in McDowall’s Theatre of Tango, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in Mathias’s This Worlde’s Joie at the Three Choirs Festival, and the BBC Concert Orchestra in Stainer’s Crucifixion at Southwark Cathedral for BBC Radio 2.
He has also appeared with the RTE Concert Orchestra in Dvořák’s Requiem at the National Concert Hall in Dublin, the Orchestre National de Lyon in Benjamin’s Sometime Voices at the Auditorium de Lyon, l’Orchestre Léonard de Vinci in Brahms’s Requiem at the opera house in Rouen, the Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona i Nacional de Catalunya in Orff’s Carmina Burana at the Auditori in Barcelona, and the Sønderjyllands Symfoniorkester in Bach’s Weinachts-Oratorium.
He is renowned as a fine exponent of contemporary music, having commissioned much new music and given premieres of works by Alun Hoddinott, William Mathias, John Tavener, Michael Berkeley, Paul Mealor, Julian Phillips, Richard Causton, Mark Bowden, and Huw Watkins. He frequently records for BBC Radio 3 (in recital, and with the BBC NOW, CBSO, BBC SO, BBC SSO, BBC Philharmonic and BBC CO), and has made many commercial recordings, including eight solo discs of songs.
As a principal singer with Welsh National Opera he appeared at the opening night of the Wales Millennium Centre, and received the inaugural Sir Geraint Evans Award from the Welsh Music Guild, given annually to a person or persons who have made a significant contribution to Welsh music in any one year or recent years: ‘there has been an unanimous decision that the first award should be made to baritone Jeremy Huw Williams in recognition of not only his performing ability but also for the tremendous support that he has given to Welsh composers and their music in recent years’.
He was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by Glyndwr University in 2009 for services to music in Wales, and received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Music from the University of Aberdeen in 2011.
Madeleine Mitchell, Violin
Madeleine Mitchell has been described by The Times as ‘one of Britain’s liveliest musical forces (and) foremost violinists’. Her performances in over 40 countries as a soloist in a wide repertoire are frequently broadcast for television and radio including the BBC Proms, ABC (Australia), Bayerisher Rundfunk and Italian TV when she won the Palmo d’Oro, praised both for her vibrant lyrical intensity and her pioneering creativity.
Madeleine Mitchell has performed violin concertos with orchestras including the St Petersburg Philharmonic, Czech and Polish Radio Symphony, Wurttemberg and Munich Chamber, the Royal Philharmonic and other London orchestras, Orchestra de Bahia Brazil and for the BBC. For the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee she returned to the Bath International Festival as soloist in the ‘Great Brits’ programme in Vaughan Williams ‘The Lark Ascending’, which she also performed as Canberra International Music Festival Artist-in-Residence in 2013. She performs Elgar Violin Concerto for Russia-UK 2014. Her recent performance of Bruch Violin Concerto during the Edinburgh Festival was reviewed as ‘totally bewitching. She has a full rich tone which sang strongly.’ She devised a unique ‘concerto’ for violin and choir, with new works by Jonathan Harvey, Thierry Pecou and Roxanna Panufnik, supported by Arts Council England. The latest in a long line of distinguished composers to write for her are David Matthews, whose Romanza with strings she performed in several festivals 2012/13 and Guto Puw, whose violin concerto she premieres with Orchestra of the Swan at the Bangor New Music Festival, March 2014.
Mitchell’s acclaimed discography for which she has been nominated for Grammy and BBC Music Awards, includes ‘In Sunlight: Pieces for Madeleine Mitchell’ by MacMillan, Nyman and other well known UK composers, ‘FiddleSticks’ – Lou Harrison Violin Concerto with Percussion Orchestra and new companion pieces (which she performed in Symphony Hall International Series); ‘Violin Songs’ – Classic FM’s CD of the week, ‘British Treasures’ – early 20th century romantic violin sonatas, two albums for Naxos of music by Alwyn and Howard Blake (with the composer as pianist), Hummel violin sonatas, Bridge chamber music and the widely recommended Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time with Joanna MacGregor. Her recording of MacMillan Motet with solo violin was released in December 2013 by Linn. Future plans include several violin concerto recordings.
Madeleine Mitchell is well known for her recitals and for her imaginative programming, described by The Herald as ‘a violinist in a million’ after a recital in Glasgow. She represented Britain in both the festival UKinNY with a recital at Lincoln Center and for the centenary of Entente Cordiale. Mitchell has given recitals at Sydney Opera House, Seoul Center for the Arts and Hong Kong – part of a 3 month world tour supported by the British Council, played at many international festivals and frequently in London. Madeleine Mitchell won the GBSF award for her recitals with pianist Noriko Ogawa in festivals and she has collaborated with many outstanding artists. She regularly tours the US and in 2013/14 her recitals include Paris, Rome, London and St Petersburg by return invitation.
A highly creative personality, she devised the Red Violin festival under Lord Menuhin’s patronage, the first international eclectic celebration of the fiddle across the arts for which she was shortlisted for both European Women of Achievement and Creative Briton Awards. She is also Director of the London Chamber Ensemble.
Madeleine Mitchell won the Tagore Gold Medal as Foundation Scholar at the Royal College of Music where she is a Professor and Member of Council. As Fulbright/ITT Fellow she was awarded a master’s degree in New York studying with DeLay, Weilerstein and Rosenberg at the Eastman and Juilliard schools. She gives master classes worldwide and is on the faculty of the Orfeo International Music Festival in the Italian Alps. Madeleine plays on an 1839 Rocca violin made in Turin. She was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2000.
Howard Blake is that rarity in the contemporary music scene, a genuinely popular composer. If he has a recent parallel, it is probably Leonard Bernstein, though he is an altogether more ‘natural’, less troubled composer than Bernstein even at his gentlest.
The purity of line and lack of clutter that make ‘Walking in the Air’ so utterly and immediately memorable, is also what animates the Clarinet Concerto and complements his apparent conviction that imaginative composition is still feasible within a constantly renewing harmonic tradition. After an immensely successful period in his 20s at the peak of the London music scene, he retreated to the country to work again at the basic pillars of harmony and counterpoint, slowly refining a technique and language that have little in common with much contemporary academic music. His most obvious (distant) influence is Mozart, but there is also something of his one-time teacher Howard Ferguson’s neo-classical idiom and a strong sense of music as a cultural adhesive, rebonding a society fractured by civilisation and its discontents. Recordings of his music grow ever-more numerous and performances and releases take place around the world. Blake is unembarrassed and unhindered by his popularity. It is, as it was with Mozart, simply a response to a spontaneous melodic gift underpinned with considerable technical skill.
(Encyclopedia of Contemporary Composers)
Howard Blake was awarded the O.B.E. for services to music by The Queen and is a Fellow of The Royal Academy of Music.
Dobrinka Tabacova, In House Composer for 2014-15
Growing up in London, Bulgarian-born Dobrinka Tabakova (b. 1980) attended Alleyn’s School and the Royal Academy of Music Junior Department, specialising in composition and piano. She graduated with distinction BMus and MMus in composition at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama (GSMD) and was then appointed composition fellow there. Currently Dobrinka is completing her PhD in composition at King’s College, London (KCL). Her composition teachers have included Simon Bainbridge, Diana Burrell, Robert Keeley and Andrew Schultz as well as masterclasses with John Adams, Louis Andriessen, Alexander Goehr, Marek Kopelent, Philip Manoury, Alessandro Solbiati, Olav-Anton Thommassen and Iannis Xenakis.
Performances of Dobrinka’s works have been heard around the UK and Europe. Concerts in the UK include performance of her orchestral work Thrace at the Barbican, performances at the Cheltenham International Festival of Music, Bath Festival and The South Bank Centre. In October 2001 she was chosen to represent British young composers at the Paris Conservatoire’s International Composition Festival. In 2005 her Concerto for Viola and Strings (written for Maxim Rysanov) was presented at the International Rostrum of Composers in Vienna and subsequently broadcast in Europe and North America. In the same year she presented her work at the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Music of Today series at the Royal Festival Hall and received performances at the Lockenhaus Festival, Austria.
Commissions include two chamber operas- Midsummer Magic for the Guildhall School of Music, and The Custard Tart Opera performed at the international ‘Profile Intermedia’ design conference in Bremen; the finalé piece for Moscow’s ‘Homecoming’ Festival 2003; and the Concerto for Viola and Strings The Song of the Enchanting Viola. After the success of her commission for the Orchestra of the Swan as part of Sir Michael Tippett’s centenary celebrations in 2005, they premiered her settings of four Shakespearean sonnets for soprano and orchestra in 2006, with Claire Booth as soloist.
During 2007 Dobrinka will be working on a ‘Suite in Old Style’ for viola and ensemble, to be performed around Europe and a work for the Dutch Ricciotti Ensemble. Dobrinka is also composer in residence at the 2007 Leicester Festival and is writing a chamber work to be performed in Bulgaria and the UK, as well as working on a violin, cello and string orchestra triptych for Gidon Kremer’s 60th birthday and Kremerata Baltica’s 10th anniversary.
For more information and to listen to MP3 sound clips visit www.dobrinka.com
“In a post-modern era often characterised by various aesthetic movements, it is especially enriching to encounter an artist like Roger Steptoe, who possesses a fresh and individual voice at once original, accessible and adventurous.” ~ The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2000)
Alongside Judith Weir and Sally Beamish, Roger Steptoe is a 2013 PRS for Music Foundation Beyond Borders award-winning composer. Since 1999 he has chosen to live in the medieval hilltop town of Uzerche in the French Limousin where he is the Artistic Director of the Festival de Musique Classique d’Uzerche held over a long weekend in August every year.
He has composed for most forms – orchestral, concertos, vocal, choral and opera. But it is in the coveted world of instrumental and chamber music that Roger Steptoe has forged an enviable reputation. His catalogue covers four string quartets, two clarinet quintets, the Seven Miniatures for piano trio, the Seven Nocturnes for piano duo, an oboe quartet, four brass quintets, a brass quartet, the Three Paul Verlaine Songs for mezzo, viola and piano, five instrumental Sonatines, a tuba sonata, a viola sonata, the Sonata for trumpet and organ, the Toccata for organ…..all with regular performances worldwide.
Recent works include Spring Music 1 (in memory of Richard Rodney Bennett) for brass quartet (New York Chamber Brass), Brive Dances, the Four Shakespeare Sonnets, Intrada for organ (for the newly-restored organ at St Patrick’s Cathedral, 5th Avenue, New York) and Spring Music 2 for violin and piano for Virgil Boutellis-Taft’s US tour in May 2014.
Steptoe has the distinction of having a number of key works on CD. The French CD magazine, Le Monde de la Musique, awarded 4 stars to the recording of his Oboe Concerto, Light for organ and strings and the Seven Miniatures for piano trio. “Light” was recorded by Olivier Latry on the organ at the Cathedral Notre-Dame at Paris. Steptoe is the first British composer to have a concerto-type work recorded at this world-famous building.
Most of Steptoe’s output is currently in print. All his recent work from 2000 is published by the international publishing house, Editions BIM, in Switzerland. He teaches at the Conservatoire de Brive-la-Gaillarde.
Roxanna Panufnik is one of the UK’s most popular and loved composers whose works have struck a deep emotional chord with audiences everywhere. Since studying composition at London’s Royal Academy of Music, Roxanna’s since written a wide range of pieces including opera, ballet, music theatre, choral works, chamber compositions and music for film and television which are regularly performed all over the world.
Other compositions include Roxanna’s critically acclaimed harp concerto Powers & Dominions; Letters from Burma for oboist Douglas Boyd and the Vellinger String Quartet; Leda, a ballet for English National Ballet and Wratislavia Cantans and Abraham – a violin concerto commissioned by Savannah Music Festival for Daniel Hope, incorporating Christian, Islamic and Jewish music. This last work was converted into an overture, commissioned by the World Orchestra for Peace and premiered in Jerusalem under the baton of Valery Gergiev.
Recent premieres include her oratorio “Dance of Life” (in Latin and Estonian), incorporating her fourth mass setting, for multiple Tallinn choirs and the Tallinn Philharmonic Orchestra (commissioned to mark their tenure of European Capital of Culture 2011 and recently recorded – in English – for release on Warner Classics 2014) and “Four World Seasons” for violinist Tasmin Little and the London Mozart Players, which was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, launching their Music Nation Weekend, celebrating the 2012 Olympics.
2012/13/14 sees numerous premieres in Europe, Australia and the USA with the choirs of Westminster and Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedrals, Philadelphia’s St Mark’s Episcopal Church, Chanticleer, the Welsh Sinfonia, Ernst Kovacic & the Leopoldinum Orchestra and the London Mozart Players (with whom she has been appointed inaugural Associate Composer from 2012 – 15). Her multi-faith choral CD “Love Abide” (www.loveabide.com) was released this February to critical acclaim.
2014 is the centenary of Roxanna’s father’s, Andrzej Panufnik, birth – many concerts, recordings and events including father-daughter programming will be happening over this year – please do visitpanufnik.com for further details (which will be regularly updated through this year and next).
Roxanna’s compositions are published by Peter’s Edition Ltd and have been recorded on many labels including Warner Classics (most recently her multi-faith choral CD Love Abide www.loveabide.com) and EMI Classics.
Japanese Spring – 2008
Japanese Spring This piece is part of a long-term project commissioned by Tasmin Little and Orchestra of the Swan for the Spring Sounds Festival. It is the first of a 21st Century Four Seasons – each movement taking its influence from a country culturally associated with that season.
The music is all about the precipitation and anticipation of Spring, starting with one bud shooting up through the ground and eventually bursting into a myriad of petals and the glorious cherry blossoms of Japan. Its nationality is signified by the use of the Japanese “in” mode which is fundamentally pentatonic. Birdsong also appears – the song of the Japanese Bush Warbler which is prevalent in Spring. The piece starts very low and quiet as the first hints of new life appear and ends very high and jubilant after a build up of exploding blossom and a cacophony of birdsong! It is dedicated to Tasmin and the Orchestra of the Swan.
Tibetan Winter – 2009
Tibetan Winter This beautiful Tibetan song has been sung for centuries in many different ways. I first heard a “folk opera” version, sung exquisitely by a popular singer, Namgyal Lhamo, in a softer, more romanticized, rubato (and some would say “westernized”) way. Then I heard a more traditional performance by a Tibetan nomad from the East of the country – complete with frequent glottal stops (translated to the violin into grace notes) and brief bursts of tremelo at the start of longer notes. I have used both of these versions as they both have their individual appeal – and the rawness of the nomad version enhances the trembling chill of a Tibetan Winter.
My thanks go to Tibetan music expert Anna Morcom for all her help and advice – and to Tasmin Little and David Curtis for making it happen. It is dedicated to Tasmin and the Orchestra of the Swan.
Indian Summer – 2010
Indian Summer I’m using poetic license here, as “Indian Summer” is often used to describe an uncharacteristically warm UK autumn, but the intense warmth and colour of India seemed perfect for summer music. Over a double-bass drone, the solo violin plays the main theme in the sweeping portamento (sliding)-style of the traditional Northern Indian violin. Slightly Bhangra-ized tabla (Indian drums) rhythms and four Northern Indian modes (Kalyan, Marva, Purvi and Kafi ) are used to bring the kaleidoscopic hues and vivacity of this stunning subcontinent.
My thanks go to Northern Indian music expert and performer Kartik, for all his help and advice – and to Tasmin & David Curtis for making it happen. It is dedicated to Tasmin and the Orchestra of the Swan.
Guto Pryderi Puw
Guto Pryderi Puw read Music at Bangor University where he gained his MMus degree in 1996 and later, through the Parry Williams Scholarship, completed his PhD in Composition in 2002. He was appointed as a Music Lecturer at the School of Music, Bangor University in 2006, specializing in Composition and Contemporary Music. He has been active in the promotion of new music in North Wales through his involvement with the Bangor New Music Festival, being its Artistic Director and founding member since 2000.
In 2009 he received a Creative Wales Award from the Arts Council of Wales to develop his operatic writing, culminating in a commission by Music Theatre Wales to write the opera Y Tŵr (‘The Tower’) to be premiered in 2016. His recent orchestral pieces have all been recorded by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and will be released on the Signum label during April 2014. Later this year he will be working on a collection of choral settings for the Dylan Thomas Festival at Bangor in October 2014.
© Guto Pryderi Puw