classical music

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The Independent Culture
Spitalfields went into high profile for music with last month's opening of the Market Opera, and stays there for the annual Spitalfields Festival which is back on Wednesday. It's a sensitive business running an upmarket arts venture in an area with such a mixed population. But local groups have set their sights on the potential of the new theatre building. Rightly taken to task for calling the Market's Celebration of Spring a token venture amid the opera, I went along and saw for myself how Bengali and Somali music and dance groups really have taken up the space for themselves.

All of which is a long way from the 1995 version of the Festival, based as usual in Hawksmoor's monumental Christ Church. There's a new face here, or rather three of them, in the shape of a triple-headed artistic directorate: Anthony Payne, Judith Weir and Michael Berkeley, taking over from Richard Hickox who has moved across to the City of London Festival. There is still Baroque music in plenty, but the new-music content has gone sharply up. Not just the user-friendly specimens that used to crop up there before, but hard-core stuff: Maxwell Davies and Lutyens already on the second night, Thursday, in the concert by Jane's Minstrels -otherwise a welcome chance to hear some of the Payne's own music.

Purcell, of course, provides the grand opening and recurs through the three weeks at all scales from the chamber to the operatic. Along the way you can pick up Thomas Ades as pianist in Schubert's Trout Quintet and as composer of a London premiere, new pieces by John Woolrich and Gerard McBurney, a sarod recital by Wajahat Khan and a counter-tenor session with Michael Chance. And if Dido and Aeneas isn't enough for the opera buffs there is still a pre-Festival chance to catch the last two outing of the Market Opera's Mozart/Salieri double bill, tonight and tomorrow.

Further details and tickets, 0171-420 0000

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