It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said: “show me who a man’s friends are and I will tell you who he is”. Substitute “man’s” with “orchestra’s” and I think a look at our regular collaborators say a lot about the musical ethos of The English Concert.
Alice Coote, unforgettable in Alcina and Hercules last season as well as on our recent Hyperion disc, returns with us to the BBC Proms in an intriguing exploration of the “cross-dressing” aspects of being a Handel mezzo, using Handel arias to question the extent to which one’s gender informs the performances of these fascinating roles. “Being Both” promises to be an extraordinary event.
Iestyn Davies has, like most counter tenors, suffered every conceivable joke about singing like a woman, though one has to remember that the castrati of the 18th century were in fact regarded as great sex symbols. He features in the Wigmore Hall season opener, singing the roles for which he is currently so celebrated: Bertarido, Arsace, Rinaldo and Orlando. We present the entire Orlando in early 2016 as part of our Carnegie Hall residency which also travels through Europe, including performances in Birmingham and London, and there is also a rare opportunity to hear Iestyn alongside Andreas Scholl at the Wigmore Hall in November.
We welcome back Pumeza Matshikiza, David Stout and Mary Bevan in the revival of John Retallack and Tom Morris’ production of Dido and Aeneas at the Buxton Opera festival, as well as Ann Hallenberg who joins us for performances of Ferrandini’s wonderful Il Pianto di Maria at the Wigmore Hall.
Despite the abundance of extraordinary singers, it is the orchestra that for me shines brighter and brighter every year. We welcome back Robert Howarth, Christian Curnyn and Kristian Bezuidenhout to lead orchestral programmes of huge diversity, from Marais to Mozart, and our two visits to Spitalfields include performances of Charpentier, Stradella and Vivaldi’s joyous La Senna festeggiante.
Finally, we say goodbye this season to two extraordinary musicians, Walter Reiter and Peter McCarthy, who have together contributed over fifty years of service to the English Concert. Our thanks to them is immeasurable, as is our admiration for their skill and commitment to the orchestra.
Harry Bicket - Artistic Director