Notes on Summer 2019 Concert
MARK GRIFFITHS – Musical Director
Mark Griffiths began his musical training as a chorister at St John’s College, Cambridge and returned to the university as a Choral Scholar at Trinity College. While at Trinity he started conducting the college orchestra, gaining experience of large orchestral works including Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 2 and Vaughan Williams’s 5th Symphony. During postgraduate studies at the Royal College of Music he began to conduct singers and, soon after, began a long association with the multi-award-winning Berkshire Youth Choirs, initially as Associate Conductor and latterly as Acting Musical Director. Recently he spent thirteen years as Choral Director and Lead Tutor in Voice for the Junior Department of Trinity College of Music. In 2003 he became Musical Director of Coro, a prize-winning London-based chamber choir with whom he won the Grand Prix at the Tallinn International Choral Competition and prizes at festivals in Arezzo, Italy and Tours, France. They have recorded three CDs and sung backing vocals for a number of classical crossover albums. With Coro he was a Founder of the London International Choral Conducting Competition and is a member of its National Jury. Mark has worked with the Philharmonia Chorus, preparing them for concerts at the Royal Festival Hall and on tour, and for small professional groups including Trinity Voices. He also coaches choral conductors for the Association of British Choral Directors at whose National Convention he has been a presenter. He is an adjudicator for the National Festival of Music for Youth and a former recipient of a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship.
ST PAUL’S SINFONIA
Orchestra leader James Widden writes: “ St Paul’s Sinfonia was formed in 2004 to perform concerts at the fine Baroque church of St Paul, Deptford. We spent our first seven seasons there very happily, but in 2011 we spread our wings and moved to new venues, principally St Alfege Church, Greenwich, but also St Margaret’s Church, Lee and Cadogan Hall. This season is our fifteenth, and we continue to go from strength to strength, always supported by an ever-growing audience whose never-ceasing enthusiasm and support is the reason why we enjoy performing so much. The Sinfonia players are delighted to be working with Beckenham Chorale again, and we are already looking forward to the exciting programmes for the rest of this season and the next “
The orchestra gives monthly concerts between September and June. The final two concerts of this season will be at St Alfege Church, Greenwich at 7.30pm on 17 May and 21 June 2019. Full details are on the St Paul’s Sinfonia website.
EMMA WALSHE – Soprano. Emma was educated at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where she held a choral scholarship while reading Music. Emma’s professional engagements have seen her work regularly with many prestigious vocal consorts including The Tallis Scholars, Tenebrae, the Gabrieli Consort, the Monteverdi Choir, The Sixteen, Polyphony, The Marian Consort and the ORA Singers. Solo highlights have included Belinda in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas with Devon Baroque, Handel’s Dixit Dominus with Sir John Eliot Gardiner, the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists in a television broadcast from the chapel at Versailles, Daniel in Handel’s Susanna with Christian Curnyn and the Early Opera Company, Bach’s Mass in B minor with Tenebrae at the British Museum, Monteverdi’s Vespers at Gloucester Cathedral and Bach’s St. John Passion at Cadogan Hall. Future solo engagements include a further performance of Bach’s St. John Passion with the Gabrieli Consort, a programme of Purcell Odes with Laurence Cummings and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and a recital of lute songs by Dowland and Purcell at the Conwy Festival.
ZOË BROOKSHAW – Soprano. After graduating from Trinity College, Cambridge in 2008 where she was a choral scholar and read Theology, Zoë was awarded a place on the Monteverdi Choir Apprenticeship Scheme. She has since performed, toured and recorded as a soloist with Sir John Eliot Gardiner, including a performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion recorded live for the Soli Deo Gloria label in 2016. Zoë is a well-established soloist specialising in baroque oratorio, and has performed in many of the world’s greatest concert halls including Carnegie Hall, the Royal Albert Hall, Wigmore Hall, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Barcelona’s Palau de la Musica, Paris’s Cité de la Musique and the Berlin Philharmonie. Zoë is also proud to be a member of a number of small ensembles, including Arcangelo, I Fagiolini and Solomon’s Knot (an ensemble who sing from memory and without a conductor). She has recently been awarded a place on the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s 2019-2021 ‘Rising Stars’ Scheme, designed to realise opportunities for the next generation of solo singers.Opera credits include Euridice and La Musica in Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, Purcell’s The Fairy Queen, Bizet’s Carmen, Weber’s Le Freyschütz, and Gluck’s Orphée at Covent Garden. Future engagements include Purcell’s The Indian Queen with Emmanuelle Haim and Le Concert d’Astrée at Lille Opera House in October 2019.
BENJAMIN WILLIAMSON – Countertenor. Winner of the 2013 Nei Stëmmen International Singing Competition in Luxembourg, Benjamin Williamson has recently sung the roles of Anführer (the Leader) in the première of Toshio Hosokawa’s Erdbeben. Träume with Opera Stuttgart, Seraphim 3 in John Adams’s The Gospel According to the Other Mary with Theater Bonn and Tolomeo in Handel’s Giulio Cesare with English Touring Opera. He was a Choral Scholar at King’s College, Cambridge, before studying at the Royal College of Music, where he won the English Song Competition. His concert highlights include UK tours of Bach’s Mass in B minor and St. Matthew Passion with English Touring Opera, Handel’s Brockes Passion with Stephen Cleobury and King’s College Choir on BBC Radio 3, the world première of Jonathan Dove’s dramatic cantata Arion and the Dolphin, music by Purcell and Richard Leveridge with the Irish Baroque Orchestra in Dublin, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms with Edward Higginbottom in Italy, Purcell’s Hail, Bright Cecilia in St Petersburg and Handel’s Messiah in Poland and Qatar. Benjamin is a committed recitalist, and has performed his programme ‘The Art of the Countertenor’ at Cadogan Hall, the Chelsea Arts Club in London, Gravetye Manor in Sussex, and with Corfu Arts in Corfu. He is also the co-founder and vocal consultant of Sloane Square Choral Society, a lecturer with Opera Prelude, and a passionate singing teacher: his pupils have taken postgraduate places at all the London Music Colleges.
NATHAN VALE – Tenor. Nathan studied with Ryland Davies at the Royal College of Music’s Benjamin Britten International Opera School, and was awarded an Independent Opera Scholarship to the National Opera Studio, where he was supported by English National Opera, the Nicholas John Trust and the Elmley Foundation. He is a former winner of the London Handel Singing Competition where he was also awarded the Audience Prize. His concert performances have included Bach’s Christmas Oratorio conducted by Harry Christophers and arias in Bach’s St. John Passion conducted by Paul Goodwin, both with the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings at the Hong Kong Festival and, with the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale RAI, Mendelssohn’s Die erste Walpurgisnacht conducted by Sir Neville Marriner and ‘Theory’ and ‘Arithmetic’ in Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges conducted by Jeffrey Tate. His operatic engagements have included Handel’s Ariodante for the Bolshoi and Alcina for English Touring Opera, Mozart’s La finta giardiniera for Luxembourg Opera, Beethoven’s Fidelio for the Glyndebourne Festival and the revival of The Opera Group’s award-winning production of Kurt Weill’s Street Scene. Current and recent engagements include roles in the newly-commissioned To See the Invisible by Emily Howard at the Aldeburgh Festival, Hippolyte in Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie for the Opera Rara Festival in Krakow, the Evangelist in the St. Matthew Passion at the London Handel Festival and the second in a series of Quilter song recordings for Nimbus Records.
JONATHAN BROWN – Baritone. Jonathan Brown was born in Toronto and studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music there, the University of Western Ontario and, after moving to England, at Cambridge University and the Britten-Pears School in Aldeburgh with Sir Thomas Allen and Anthony Rolfe Johnson. He made his solo debut with Sir John Eliot Gardiner in Holland on the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage and thereafter was a regular soloist with performances in Zurich, Brussels and Paris and on the subsequent CDs. Recent solo concert work has included Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s B minor Mass and the St. John and St. Matthew Passions at Westminster Abbey, Haydn’s The Seasons for the Norwich Philharmonic Society and Vaughan Williams’s A Sea Symphony for the Portsmouth Choral Union. He was also a soloist on the Harmonia Mundi recordings of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas and Blow's Venus and Adonis under the direction of René Jacobs, in Sullivan's The Golden Legend for Hyperion and, for Priory Records, a recently-released world première recording, also with the Portsmouth Choral Union, of Samuel Wesley’s masterpiece Confitebor tibi, Domine. His wide-ranging operatic roles have featured composers as diverse as Puccini, Leoncavallo, Donizetti, Mozart, Handel, Purcell, Cavalli and Monteverdi, including Mozart’s Idomeneo for Sir Simon Rattle with the Berlin Philharmonic in the Salzburg Easter Festival and Monteverdi's L'Orfeo at the Opéra de Lille, the Théâtre du Chatêlet, Paris and L'Opéra du Rhin with Emmanuelle Haim.
Gloria, RV.589 Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Born in Venice, Vivaldi was the son of a professional violinist who had originally followed the family baking trade. He played under the name ‘Rossi’, perhaps an indication that the red hair which occasioned his son’s soubriquet of ‘Il prete rosso’ (the ‘Red Priest’) was a family trait. Antonio studied the violin with his father and did indeed also train for the priesthood, being ordained in 1703. In the same year he became ‘maestro di violino’ at the Ospedale della Pietà, a home for girls which specialised in musical training and whose musical events were highlights of the Venetian social calendar. He was later appointed ‘maestro de concerti’ and ‘maestro di cappella’ there. He also travelled widely, not always to the liking of the Pietà’s governors. Two years were spent at Mantua, and several seasons in Rome in the 1720s, and he often left Venice on other occasions to oversee productions of his operas. As a composer he was astonishingly prolific. Twenty-one operas survive, as do over 500 concertos (which the Pietà required him to supply at the rate of two a month) together with about ninety instrumental sonatas and a significant output of vocal music. His sacred works, written for performance in the Pietà, have generally remained much less well known than his instrumental music until quite recently; this evening’s Gloria, the second of his two surviving settings of this text, has of course been a notable exception, ever since its modern revival by Alfredo Casella in a Vivaldi festival in Siena in 1939. This performance takes account of the later editorial work of Gian Francesco Malipiero, the Italian composer and baroque scholar whose extensive mid-twentieth-century studies of the music of his predecessors, especially Monteverdi and Vivaldi, had already played a major role in their rehabilitation. Here Malipiero adheres to the disposition of solo and chorus parts that had been established in Casella’s ‘elaboration’ of the score (having not being indicated in Vivaldi’s manuscript), but corrects a number of notational errors which appear in the Casella version and above all restores several passages of music in the second, third and sixth movements which do not.
Magnificat in D major, BWV.243 Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) Bach’s Magnificat, which is among his earliest major liturgical works using a Latin text, belongs to a relatively small corpus of such material, although it has to be said that that corpus does include the great Mass in B minor. The Lutheran liturgy allowed for the performance of certain items in Latin, including the Magnificat, which was performed during Vespers on the major feast days. Normally, it was sung in plainchant to Luther’s German translation, but on such occasions as Christmas a more elaborate setting in Latin was required. This work of Bach, to quote Prof. Ivor Keys, is a “full-dress Latin Magnificat” performed on Christmas Day 1723, Bach’s first Christmas at St. Thomas’s, Leipzig. In its original version it was notated in E flat and for the Christmas performance Bach interpolated four seasonal hymns (laudes) between the main movements of the Magnificat. He revised the whole piece in the early 1730s, re-casting it in D and omitting the Christmas material, and this is the form in which the work is usually performed today. There are twelve movements. (© John Nightingale, 2019)