The City of London Festival has announced its full programme, which will run between 23 June and 26 July, with more than 150 music, film, poetry and art related events to take place.
Highlights this year include Britten’s War Requiem performed by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and St Paul’s Cathedral Choir under Edward Gardner, and a unique, one-off arrangement of Barber’s Agnus Dei and Adagio by the London Symphony Orchestra and Tenebrae.
This year’s festival will be based on the three themes of ‘Conflict and Resolution’, ‘City Walls’, and ‘Trees’ ‒ the latter following through from the environmental themes of previous years.
The city walls theme brings with it a new project whereby a composer and poet from each of eight different walled cities will create eight songs which will be performed as a song cycle by the Brodsky Quartet and soprano Loré Lixenberg.
Other premiered work will include a new arrangement of David Matthews’s The Flaying of Marsyas performed by the Britten Sinfonia and soloists Nicholas Daniel (oboe) and Huw Watkins (piano) at the Mansion House on 27 June, and Mark-Anthony Turnage’s At Sixes & Sevens, performed on 3 July at the Guildhall Great Hall by members of the London Symphony Orchestra, students of Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the London Symphony Chorus, and the New London Chamber Choir. The piece will be simultaneously performed in the Guildhalls of London and Derry-Londonderry as part of the Northern Irish city’s celebrations as City of Culture 2013.
The festival will be director Ian Ritchie’s final year after eight years’ involvement. He had directed the festival for one year in 1983 before returning to the role in 2005.
At the festival’s press launch, Ritchie said there were many performances throughout his time as director that he will ‘never forget’, but picked out two personal highlights: 2008’s Byron: To the Jungfrau and Beyond which took a group of artists to the Jungfrau region of the Swiss Alps; and last year’s performance of Berlioz’s Grande Messe des Morts by the London Symphony Orchestra and a 150-strong choir drawn from the London Symphony Chorus and the London Philharmonic Choir under Sir Colin Davis.
Asked what he had learned in his eight years in charge of the festival, Ritchie said: ‘Music, if it isn’t reinvented, ultimately dies. A commitment to music will necessarily reflect the new and the old.’
On 3-6 July, Britten’s Church Parables will be performed at Southwark Cathedral by Mahogany Opera and the Aurora Orchestra. Other highlights include How Like An Angel by vocal ensemble I Fagiolini (25-28 June); JS Bach’s Cello Suite no 3 and Britten’s Suite no 3 performed by rising star Philip Higham (5 July); and the world premiere of Robert Saxton’s piano cycle Hortus Musicae performed by Clare Hammond (24 June).
The festival also offers a variety of free events including Open-Air Ballet (15-19 July) choreographed by Marc Brew and performed by students from the Central School of Ballet; various talks such as ‘Music and the Trauma of War’ (28 & 29 June) and ‘Metamorphoses in Music’ (2 July); and Music in the Yard, a week of live music on 1-5 July.
The City of London Festival 2013 promises an exciting and daring programme for its audiences. A question at the press launch asked whether the Festival was ‘getting a bit too highbrow … where is the dancing in the streets?’ but Ritchie, after quoting figures that for 10,000 paid-for audience members in 2012, there were 60-70,000 enjoying events free outside, stressed the importance of music being ‘reinvented’ by the avant-garde. In this spirit, the City of London Festival 2013 will no doubt succeed in entertaining and enthusing Londoners for the 51st time.