SUFFOLK PUNCH

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Odd place to instigate a music festival one might have thought when Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears decamped to deepest Suffolk and, together with Eric Crozier, launched the first Aldeburgh Festival. Yet, half a century later, the 50th festival (13-29 June) testifies to its enduring appeal. While the music of Benjamin Britten still forms a cornerstone, new works are also important and two premieres stand out. First, the opening event evinces a new operatic double-bill by ENO Contemporary Opera Studio from Mark-Anthony Turnage of Twice Through the Heart, and The Country of the Blind, to a libretto by Clare Venables, from the story by HG Wells. Then on 21 June, comes a new Viola Concerto by Alexander Goehr, subtitled Schlussgesang, with Tabea Zimmermann as soloist.

The viola also features in a belated premiere for Britten's youthful Concerto for Violin and Viola never performed in his lifetime, but aired on 15 June by the Britten-Pears Orchestra. Further interesting Britten works include his Saint Nicolas (14 Jun), premiered at the very first festival, a selection of his songs, juxtaposed with those of his teacher, Frank Bridge, plus his Diversions, for Piano Left Hand And Orchestra (both on 28 Jun), and the acclaimed City of Birmingham Touring Opera staging of the three Church Parables (17 & 24 Jun).

A wide range of chamber recitals, in which the anniversaries of Schubert and Brahms are not forgotten, make up the fortnight, yet new music is also to the fore: Ensemble Corrente's 28 Jun morning concert features work by Donatoni and Anderson. A full supporting programme of films, talks and walks ensures that a visit to Aldeburgh can be jam-packed with both musical and extra-musical activity. And if you go wondering why Britten set his festival in the wilds of East Anglia, you'll return knowing exactly why he did.

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