Introducing our 2021 concert series
Some of the greatest symphonies ever written will be heard on the Glyndebourne stage for the first time this summer.
Four different programmes will be presented, with Mahler 4, Dvorak 8, Brahms 1 and Mozart’s ‘Jupiter’ Symphony at the centre of each. The concerts trace a shared journey from silence, darkness and doubt to blazing light and new hope.
Devised by Glyndebourne’s music director Robin Ticciati, the concerts meet us after a year of isolation and loss, marking a return to life and new beginnings in striking sequences of music spanning almost 300 years – programmes that take the narrative and musical threads of the season’s five operas and weave them into answering shapes and colours.
Rites of Passage (LPO) — 10 June, 15 June
Closing with a child’s vision of heaven, Mahler’s Fourth Symphony is the composer at his sunniest and most ingenuous. A single song – ‘The Heavenly Life’ – runs right through the work, concealed and hinted at before finally emerging in a soprano solo as the clouds clear in the final movement.
It’s a radiant moment of arrival for a programme that opens with the sombre, processional drama of Purcell’s Funeral Music and Harrison Birtwistle’s highly theatrical Cortege, with its virtuosic musical ‘flowers’ offered up by soloists. After Birtwistle’s jagged grief there’s balm from Vaughan Williams’ string orchestra and the shimmering softness and heavenward gaze of his Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis.
Out of Chaos (LPO) — 2 July
Nature – primal, fertile, transformative – is the theme running through a concert that shares the path of Mahler’s wandering journeyman in song-cycle Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen, eventually arriving among the birdsong and pastoral landscapes of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8. But it begins with one of the most startling shocks of the repertoire.
Jean-Fery Rebel’s Les Élémens is an 18th-century representation of chaos – the teeming confusion and energy just before the moment of creation. The sounds Rebel conjures are richly and wonderfully strange – a musical precursor to the evocative sound-world of Czech composer Ondrej Adamek, whose Sinuous Voices sees an orchestra urgently grasping after the sounds and songs of the human voice.
Schools of the Romantic Heart (OAE) — 27 May, 26 August
‘High on the mountain, deep in the valley – I greet you a thousand times!’ So wrote the 35-year-old Brahms to Clara Schumann, sending her the horn melody that would later lead into the hymn-like finale of his Symphony No. 1. 20 years in the making, it’s a work freighted with ambition and expectation but also with love – of Clara, and of nature and the world itself.
Inspired by Mathilde Wesendonck, wife of Wagner’s patron, the Wesendonck Lieder were written alongside Tristan, and the songs are shot through with echoes of the opera’s rapturous love-music. Performed here by mezzo Karen Cargill (who also sings the role of Brangane this season) it offers the missing piece in the composer’s musical love-story. Two more romantic snapshots complete the programme: the supernatural love of Max and Agathe from Weber’s Der Freischütz, and the tragic love of Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette.
Ceremonies and the Quest for Light — 5 August, 18 August
Classical order is at the heart of an all-Mozart programme that offers a response to the tangled operatic intrigue of Così fan tutte. Confusion reigns on stage in the partner-swapping comedy, but here we find ritual solemnity in the Masonic Funeral Music with its charred, low wind writing, balance in the sonic symbolism of the Overture to Die Zauberflöte, and architectural elegance in the composer’s final symphony.
Written shortly after Mozart completed Don Giovanni – arias from which will also feature here – the ‘Jupiter’ Symphony betrays nothing of the strain of the composer’s personal life in its dazzling C major optimism and ceremonial grandeur, bright with timpani and trumpets. The finale and its dazzling double fugue provides a thrilling close, opening up ‘vistas of contrapuntal infinity’.
Five minutes to fall in love with...
Opera expert Alexandra Coghlan meets director Damiano Michieletto, singer Nicky Spence and historian Rosamund Bartlett to get under the skin of Janáček’s intensely lyrical piece.
Writer and broadcaster Stephen Fry talks about his passion for Wagner, and Artistic Director Stephen Langridge, conductor Robin Ticciati and Gus Christie discuss Nikolaus Lehnhoff’s acclaimed production.
Alexandra Coghlan meets director Mariame Clément, satirist Melinda Hughes and singer Rodion Pogossov and takes a deep dive into Rossini’s sparkling and sophisticated, culture-clash farce.
Opera expert Alexandra Coghlan meets soprano Mané Galoyan to discuss the complexities of the title character, and hears from Chorus Director Aidan Oliver about the opera’s unusually prominent choral moments.
Alexandra Coghlan meets pianist Matthew Fletcher to discuss how recitative is used and Production Manager Tom Harrison to look at the sumptuous stage design. Plus Gus Christie tells her more about the opera’s significance in Glyndebourne history.
Image credits: LPO concert rehearsal, Festival 2021, photos by Richard Hubert Smith | OAE concert rehearsal, Festival 2021, photos by Richard Hubert Smith