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2nd July, 7.30pm
The New London Orchestra with Annemarie Federle & Brenton Spiteri
St John the Baptist Church

Ailsa Dixon, arr. Joshua Ballance, Nocturnal Scherzo

Benjamin Britten, Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Op. 31

Arnold Schoenberg, Verklärte Nacht, Op. 4


The performers introduce the programme...

Annemarie Federle, Horn Soloist

What has been your favourite musical experience so far?
In terms of solo experiences, probably stepping in on 24 hours’ notice last month to play the Knussen Horn Concerto with the LPO. It was the first time I had performed with a professional orchestra in front of an audience, and the first time that I had played that concerto with orchestra, so it was a very exciting (albeit nerve-racking...) experience!


Orchestrally, it would probably be playing Bruckner 7 with 94 year old Blomstedt conducting a couple of weeks ago - so both very recent experiences!
How does performing Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings compare with performing a solo concerto?

The Britten Serenade feels a lot more like chamber music, due to the smaller orchestra, as well as the addition of the tenor soloist. The way the piece is composed, both the horn and the tenor alternate at having soloistic and accompanying roles, and you are constantly reacting and responding to the tenor’s part and the ensemble to ensure that the sound colours link as they should (for example when they should blend and when they should contrast).

As a more light-hearted way to get to know you, if you were a sandwich, what flavour would it be and why?
Maybe a BLT – lots of different aspects that work together well!

Brenton Spiteri, Tenor Soloist

How did you start singing? What’s been your educational journey in singing up to this point?

I started singing as a child, and continued all the way through school. I attended the University of Melbourne for my Bachelor and Honours degrees, which were in Music and Arts. I went on to work around Australia as a singer, and came to London three years ago to do my Masters on the Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. 

Brenton Spiteri.jpg

What has been your favourite musical experience so far?

I’ve had a range of musical experiences in my career so far and have loved them all for different reasons. Performing in concert is very special because of the lack of barrier between performer and audience. To have the opportunity to tell a story or capture a certain state of being, in such intimate relationship with the audience, is extraordinary.

A long form work such as the Britten Serenade that we are performing for HBCMF really highlights this because it is so rich in musical and literary detail, and it leaves many interpretive choices to the performer- and the audience, for how they choose to receive its meaning.

Performing a staged opera, in character and costume, is equally extraordinary, but for very different reasons. There’s a magic about the scale of it all, and the sheer size of emotion, that is undeniable. There hasn’t been much opportunity for either in recent times and I’m happy that musicians and performers are finding themselves back onstage more and more this year. 

As a more light-hearted way to get to know you, if you were a sandwich, what flavour would it be and why?

A sweet potato and black bean burrito, which is what I had for dinner a few nights ago and it was very tasty.

Joshua Ballance, Conductor

Tell us a bit about the programme you’ll be conducting. Why have you chosen to perform these works?
I’m always keen in our programming that we have pieces that complement each other, and for this concert we’ve gone for a night-time theme that underpins the whole programme. We open with Ailsa Dixon’s Nocturnal Scherzo (title says it all, really!), then we’ve got Britten’s Serenade which sets six poems all about night, and then finally Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht (‘Transfigured Night’), which is an instrumental setting depicting a poem by Richard Dehmel.


Having talked about how coherent the programme is, I should also admit that it’s a slightly self-indulgent programme of some of my favourite pieces! I’ve adored Britten’s music since I was about 13, and the Serenade is surely up there amongst his best work. It’s so varied, with its hauntingly beautiful passages between the tenor and the horn.

Those of you that came to the Mad Song concert last year might remember that we performed Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony No. 1. Verklärte Nacht was written seven years earlier, and is probably Schoenberg’s most famous, and most beloved piece. It’s Schoenberg in full-blooded late-Romantic mode, even before the modernist tendencies of the Chamber Symphony, and it’s absolutely gorgeous.

Ailsa Dixon’s music I didn’t know until a few months ago, and I’m so glad that now I do! The piece we’re performing, the Nocturnal Scherzo, actually began life as a movement for string quartet, so with the blessing of the Dixon estate we’ve put together a new arrangement of the work for string orchestra. It’s wonderfully characterful, so it makes the perfect opener for the festival.

If our audience wanted to listen to some other music related to your programme, what would you recommend?
Great question!

The Four Sea Interludes from Britten’s Peter Grimes would be an obvious choice to get into that world, and the Prelude to Wagner’s Tristan would probably be a good forerunner to Verklärte Nacht (one critic supposedly wrote that Schoenberg’s piece “sounds as if someone had smeared the score of Tristan when it was wet”, so you may as well listen to the original!).

Someone else who had a profound impact on both these composers was Gustav Mahler. You can listen back to his Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen from HBCMF last year on our website, or if you fancy something else I’d suggest the Rückert-Lieder. Just make sure you listen to a recording that puts Ich bin der Welt last, like Janet Baker & John Barbirolli, or for a more modern take, Magdalena Kožená & Simon Rattle.

As a more light-hearted way to get to know you, if you were a sandwich, what flavour would it be and why?
Ha! Perhaps a BLTA: a new spin on the classics?

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