As lockdown restrictions continue to ease, it is wonderful to see live music returning to Oxford. There are still some digital treats as well, though, for anyone who prefers watching from the comfort of their own homes, glass of wine in hand! There is some fabulous stuff coming up this month, so put your feet up with an online concert or go and get your live music fix!
- Corona Strings/Roderick Williams – Brave New World, Saturday 15th May, 7pm, livestreamed from SJE Arts, Iffley Road, Oxford
Roderick Williams’ world premiere, Corona, commissioned well before the pandemic, intends to celebrate Corona Strings, a string ensemble founded by conductor Janet Lincé in 2012.
Asked to write a piece for baritone and strings, Roderick Williams selected some favourite poems that, “caused me to think of musical references directly based on my own performance experience”. Originally intended to debut in May 2020, the premiere, like so much else, had to be postponed. But now, a year later, here it is – and I’m sure will be worth the wait.
Also included in the programme are Finzi’s Romance, Op.11 and Clarinet Concerto, Op.31, and Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro, Op.47. With Corona Strings, Catherine Leech (leader), Jack McNeill (clarinet), Roderick Williams (baritone) and conductor Janet Lincé.
2) Oxford Lieder – A Schubertiade: The Seasons in Song, Tuesday 18th May, 6pm and 8pm, SJE Arts, Iffley Road, Oxford
Oxford Lieder Festival has masterminded some wonderful livestreaming during lockdown, but here it is – the first live OLF event for over a year. Soprano Anna Cavaliero and pianist Sholto Kynoch treat audiences to a selection of Schubert’s songs and piano works in two one-hour, socially distanced concerts. The programme reflects the seasons of the year, from a joyful autumn harvest to a reflective winter evening and finally to the optimism of spring. Definitely one for lieder fans to add to their diaries.
3) Voice – Hildegard Transfigured, Friday 21st May, 8pm & 10pm, SJE Arts, Iffley Road, Oxford
Home-grown trio Voice – its members met when singing with the Oxford Girls’ Choir – return to the city with a fascinating exploration of the life and work of inspirational 12th century nun, visionary and composer Hildegard von Bingen. Featuring Hildegard’s music, interwoven with new music by contemporary composer Laura Moody, along with psychedelic images and stunning lighting, this extraordinary piece of concert-theatre promises to be a moving and exhilarating experience. FULL PIECE TO FOLLOW
4) Bampton Classical Opera – Gluck: The Crown, Saturday 22nd May, 7.30pm, University Church, Oxford
Bampton Opera makes its debut at the University Church this month with a concert performance of Gluck’s one-act opera The Crown, sung in Italian with linking English narrative. Set in Ancient Greece, it tells the story of a wild boar that devastates the country, killing people, animals and crops, before it is eventually hunted down and slain – a clear parallel with our current fight against Covid! With its beautiful arias and quartets, and with Gluck’s Paris and Helen coming up later in the year for Bampton’s traditional summer season, this short piece should be a very tasty appetizer. FULL PIECE TO FOLLOW
5) The Queen’s College, Oxford – Organ Recital: Benjamin Sheen, Wednesday 26th May, 1.10pm, Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford
The Queen’s College lunchtime organ recitals makes a welcome return this month, starting with this recital by Benjamin Sheen, Sub-Organist at Christ Church Cathedral, who will perform works by JS Bach, Georg Böhm, Heinrich Schiedemann, Michaelangelo Rossi and Philip Moore. Tickets are free but need to be pre-booked.
6) Music at St Peter’s – Lipatti Piano Quartet, Saturday 29th May, 5.30pm and 8pm, St Mary-le-More, Wallingford
Wallingford’s popular Music at St Peter’s chamber music season is back with a typically varied and enticing programme. A welcome thread throughout the season is a selection of Beethoven works in belated celebration of the great composer’s 250th birthday last year. Opening the new season is the Lipatti Piano Quartet with Beethoven’s Piano Quartet in E flat, Op.16 and Fauré’s Piano Quartet NO.1 in C minor, Op.15. With Amy Tress (violin), Jenny Lewisohn (viola), Auriol Evans (cello) and Gamal Khamis (piano).
7) Oxford Philharmonic – Nicola Benedetti & Lawrence Power Play Mozart, Sunday 23rd May, 7.30pm. YouTube
Oxford Philharmonic’s digital series continues with this glorious Mozart fest. Scottish violin sensation Nicola Benedetti performs the Violin Concerto No.5 in A major, K.219, the ‘Turkish’, and is then joined by prize-winning violist Lawrence Power for the Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra in E flat major, K.364 – a piece that Power has played at the Proms – to bring this concert to a joyful conclusion.
Tickets for the premiere are free, but you need to book to receive the YouTube link just before the concert. After the premiere, the concert will be available on demand. www.oxfordphil.com
8) Orchestra of St John’s. Songs and Strings at Dorchester Abbey, Saturday 22nd May, and Dvorak and Wolf-Ferrari at the SJE, Saturday 29th May.
The OSJ has been doing sterling work during the pandemic, bringing us live performances when possible and continuing with its community projects in between. The orchestra is back this month with two concerts – Songs and Strings at Dorchester Abbey (Saturday 22nd May) and Dvorak and Wolf-Ferrari at the SJE (Saturday 29th May).
The first concert has a suitably celebratory feel to it, with Wagner’s glorious Siegfried Idyll, written to celebrate the birth of his first son, as well as Glazunov’s Intermezzo Romantico and Coleridge-Taylor’s Danse nègre. Soprano Ilona Domnich, a regular soloist with the orchestra, joins them for Fauré’s Four Songs.
The OSJ’s popular Proms series has now moved to the SJE, and this opening concert in the series includes Wolf-Ferrari’s rarely-performed Chamber Symphony and Dvorak’s glorious Symphonic Variations.
Both concerts will be performed twice, at 6pm and 8pm, to ensure social distancing, and will also be livestreamed. www.osj.org.uk
9) Merton College Oxford’s Live Organ Recitals from Thursday 20 May
Merton College, Oxford’s Thursday Organ Recital Series resumes in person on Thursday 20thMay with a recital given by Rachel Mahon, Director of Music at Coventry Cathedral. Mahon will play a programme of Gerald Bales, JS Bach, Dietrich Buxtehude and Rachel Laurin.
The recitals take place at 1.15pm each Thursday in Merton College Chapel, and are simultaneously streamed live via the Merton College Choir YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/user/MertonCollegeChoir.
Upcoming recitals will be given by Martin Baker, past President of the Royal College of Organists, and former Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral (27 May), Dónal McCann, Assistant Organist at New College, Oxford (June 3), Carleton Etherington, Organist and Director of Music at Tewkesbury Abbey (June 10), and Benjamin Nicholas, Director of Music at Merton College (17 June).
Attendance at the recitals is free, and can be booked through the Merton College website: https://www.merton.ox.ac.uk/organ-recitals. All are welcome to attend.