Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Interesting piece in the Guardian by Nicholas Kenyon on the Aldeburgh Festival, its antecedents and prospects. See: Flying the flag, 30 June 2007. Inter alia, he notes of one of its leading lights: "It is ironic that, as a composer, Benjamin Britten's commitment to the music of his contemporaries was more equivocal."

"While the Proms of the 1960s under Glock's direction rushed to embrace the continental avant garde, introducing Messiaen, Schoenberg, Varèse, Ives, Stockhausen and Berio to a sometimes stunned metropolitan audience, Aldeburgh's tastes were far more restrained. In the 1950s, Kodály and Poulenc came, and Lennox Berkeley, Malcolm Williamson, Richard Rodney Bennett and Nicholas Maw had new theatre pieces performed. While the Society for the Promotion of New Music was allowed to present small-scale music from the younger avant-garde generation, Britten drew the line at Harrison Birtwistle's violent music-theatre piece Punch and Judy. (Whether he actually walked out of the premiere is debatable, but he clearly disliked the piece and criticised its lack of awareness of operatic tradition.) For all his generosity to young composers, Britten felt increasingly uncomfortable with some of the directions that music was taking.

"... Gradually, the festival worked its way back to find a home for new music and living composers. Oliver Knussen invited Henze (who had already been welcomed by Britten and Pears), Takemitsu, Dutilleux, Magnus Lindberg and others, and the present creative team of Thomas Adès and John Woolrich has made new music and a distinctive vision of the repertory central to its proposition. The creation of the Britten-Pears School transformed the context in which the festival happens, and Aldeburgh Music (as it is now snappily branded) is a round-the-year proposition of huge potential value to the whole east of England, with ambitious plans that will see the rest of Snape Maltings developed over the next two years." [Pic: Aldeburgh view]

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