An opportunity to hear Sir John Tomlinson in recital doesn’t come along every day. Some Southover residents are treated at Christmastime to his voice booming out Good King Wenceslas outside their homes, but this month the Nicholas Yonge Society presents him for real at Sussex Downs College. And they don’t suffer just any old singer. Sir John’s programme consists of works relating to Michelangelo. He begins with Britten’s Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, followed by Hugo Wolf’s Drei Gedichte von Michelangelo and ending with Shostakovich’s Suite on Verses of Michelangelo Buonarotti, opus 145.
Britten’s Seven Sonnets was composed in 1940 for the tenor Peter Pears. It was the first of several such song cycles Britten would write for him, and the recording of it was also the first of many that Britten and Pears would make together. Modeled on the great melodic arcs of Italian art songs, they are nonetheless distinctly English in nature, perhaps even echoing the works of Hubert Parry.
Wolf’s three Michelangelo Lieder were actually written for the bass voice and were the last songs to be completed by the composer just six months before his mental breakdown and terminal illness due to syphilis. One of the greatest writers of German Lied, Wolf was terribly depressed to be considered just a lowly songwriter. In 1974, Shostakovich too was in the last year of his life when he wrote the Michelangelo Suite, originally scored for bass and piano. In one of his final letters, Shostakovich wrote, ‘By the essence of these sonnets, I had in mind: Wisdom, Love, Creativity, Death, Immortality.’ Mr. Tomlinson’s pianist will be the equally renowned David Owen Norris.
23 March 7:45pm – Sussex Downs College in Lewes – Single tickets £14 from www.localboxoffice.com, at the door or in person from Lewes Travel.
For more 20th century masterworks but of the French choral churchy variety, one would do well to navigate over to nearby Ringmer to hear the Esterhazy Chamber Choir perform Duruflé’s Requiem along with that composer’s Quatre Motets. The concert will also feature the Langlais Messe Solenelle (listen for the interpolated Top C in the Hosannas section!), Messiaen’s motet O Sacrum Convivium and Villette’s best-known work, the Hymn á la Vierge. The Esterhazy’s conductor is Sandy Chenery.
Back in Lewes on the 11th the Corelli Ensemble will perform the Stabat Mater of Pergolesi. Written in 1736 for male soprano, male alto, string orchestra and basso continuo, it is Pergolesi’s best-known sacred composition. This meditation on the Virgin Mary was commissioned by the church to replace Scarlatti’s Stabat Mater. After only nine years of service, Scarlatti’s Baroque work was already viewed as old-fashioned, while Pergolesi’s looked ahead to the more modern Classical style of composition. Also on the bill for this evening will be two of Corelli’s Concerti Grossi, numbers 1 and 8 and Vivaldi’s ever-famous Four Seasons featuring violin soloist Nathaniel Anderson-Frank.
An organ recital given by Nick Houghton will be a lovely chance for Lewes residents to hear not only a very fine player indeed but also to hear one of the finest organs in Lewes, that at St. Michael’s Church on the High Street.
A conductor as well as an organist, Nick Houghton began his musical career at the age of seven as a chorister at Coventry Cathedral. He studied music at Bristol and Cambridge Universities and since then has successfully combined teaching with a career as a freelance musician. He is now Head of the East Sussex Academy of Music in Lewes. He is also music director of three choral groups, the Lewes Singers, the Lewes Chamber Choir and the East Sussex Community Choir. His recital programme of Buxtehude, Franck and Guilmant should give the St. Michael’s instrument a real work-out. Don’t miss it.
There will be a retiring collection in aid of the recently completed scheme of redecoration and relighting.