I am delighted to welcome you to another season full of musical highlights. Although I conduct many orchestras and opera houses around the world, I always relish returning to The English Concert, which I consider my musical and spiritual home. The talent, energy and passion I encounter with the musicians of this orchestra is unique.
The season will start with the re-invention of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas at Britain’s oldest, still working theatre, the Old Vic in Bristol.
Continuing the string of reunions that we started last season with Trevor Pinnock and Simon Standage, I have asked Rachel Podger to join us for two concerts at the start of this season. A former leader of The English Concert, Rachel is such an engaging musician whose performances energise us all, both as soloist or as a director. Or both, as in this case!
I am delighted that Joyce DiDonato will make her début with The English Concert. Joyce will sing the title role in Handel’s Alcina Carnegie Hall, the venue that has made her “Artist in Residence” this season. With Alice Coote singing Ruggiero, this is a rare opportunity to hear these two great artists on stage together. In November Laurence Cummings and Elizabeth Watts continue their journey through the instalment in the autumn of 2011, The English Concert will bring Watts the brand new venue at the Guildhall School and the Barbican.
We return to Bach in December for a concert with Iestyn Davies in Christchurch Spitalfields that includes a nod to the approaching Christmas season in the shape of two excerpts from the Christmas Oratorio. But it’s not all Christmas as the programme also includes “Vergnugte Ruh”, one of Bach most searchingly beautiful cantatas.
Handel though will never be far from our minds this season, as in February and March we will present a European tour of Hercules, featuring an extraordinary selection of the greatest British vocal talent: Alice Coote, James Gilchrist, Matthew Rose and Elizabeth Watts. Alice’s portrayal of Dejanira is one that has been electrifying audiences in Chicago and Toronto in the recent Peter Sellars production of this oratorio, as well as being featured in the soon-to-be-released Hyperion recital disc with The English Concert.
In the spring we have been asked to present two concerts as part of the Wigmore Hall's Purcell season. IN the first, Rosemary Joshua and Sarah Connolly, two singers who gave us such stellar performances in Theodora earlier this year, will return to delight us with some of Purcell's finest songs, arias and duets. The second concert is part of a new initiative by the Wigmore Hall; a late night concert, this one featuring Trevor Pinnock and Alison Balsom in a reprieve of the successful “Sound the Trumpet” recording.
The plaudits so often go to the artists who take their bow on stage, but I am delighted that this year the spotlight was aimed at our backroom staff for a change. I want to send my huge congratulations to our Chief Executive Gijs Elsen who was awarded British Orchestra Manager of the Year by the Association of British Orchestras. A great accolade not only to him but to that small team of people who work tirelessly to help make this orchestra the success that it is today.
Harry Bicket - Artistic Director