We are excited to be able to share this video from Aldeburgh Festival which captures part of our performance of 'The Discovery of Bomarzo' back in June 2016. In this project, Solomon's Knot joint Artistic Director James Halliday and five singers of our singers collaborated with the award-winning artist and composer Mira Calix, who created an electronic sonic ‘garden’ which surrounds a 'sound sculpture' of Italian madrigals dating from around 1600. Read more about the project here.
We're delighted to announce our 2016 / 2017 season! Check out the Next Performances page to read an introduction to each of these exciting projects from Artistic Directors Jonny Sells and James Halliday. We look forward to seeing you on our travels! Don't forget, you can find us on Twitter or Instagram to follow our updates from the road.
Bach Mass in B Minor
11 December 2016, 14:30 at Spitalfields Music *online booking now open*
11 & 12 March 2017 at Bury Court Opera *online booking now open*
8 April 2017 Arnstadt, Germany (Thüringer Bachwochen) booking opens Tuesday, 29 November 2016
14 April 2017 at Aldeburgh Music Easter Weekend *online booking now open*
Handel Messiah (Dublin version)
2 June 2017 in Halle, Germany (Händel-Festspiele) *online booking now open*
4 June 2017 in Regensburg, Germany (Tage Alter Musik) *online booking now open*
Our 2015/16 season was crowned by a visit to the Leipzig Bachfest, at the invitation of the festival director, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, on 11 June 2016. We performed J.S Bach's Magnificat in Eb and cantata "Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis" as well as Johann Schelle's sacred concerto "Machet die Tore weit" in the Nikolaikirche, one of the two main churches where Bach worked for 27 years.
It was an honour, a humbling and an inspiring experience to play at this 'Mecca' of Bach scholarship and tradition, and we were not really sure how the Leipzig audience would react to our way of performing. In the event, we were met by storms of 'bravo' and an extended standing ovation. We are extremely grateful to the festival and the audience for receiving us so warmly, and very much look forward to returning there in the future.
Happily (and this is by no means always the case!), the reviews of the concert very much reflected the atmosphere in the church. In the press we were described as the "discovery of the festival". Below is the full review in the Leipziger Volkzeitung (translated by Jonathan Sells). The original German versions of the two longest reviews are here and here.
Leipziger Volkszeitung, 13th June 2016, Werner Kopfmüller
the baroque collective Solomon’s Knot performs at the Bachfest in the Nikolaikirche
It is actually hardly to be believed: not a single contemporary account about the performance of a church composition of Bach has survived. The only things to be passed down are the not very flattering entries of Johann Adolph Scheibe in his ‘Der critische Musicus’, according to which Bach’s music was unnatural, contrived and confusing in style. Apart from Scheibe’s critique, which Bach refused to accept and countered with a refutation, no further document has been handed down to posterity. Thus, we have no idea what impression the music made on the congregation assembled for the Sunday service.
The reaction of the capacity audience on Saturday evening in the Nikolaikirche told a very clear story: after the final chorus of the Magnificat BWV 243a a storm of enthusiasm broke out which greeted the musicians with standing ovations and cries of ‘bravo’ which did not want to end; only the encore of the final movement could somewhat appease the applause.
The performance of the baroque collective Solomon’s Knot with their director Jonathan Sells marked a further highlight of the Bachfest, which has only just begun. Under the title, “Secrets of Harmony”, the Bern- and London-based ensemble placed the cantata cycle 1723/24 at the centre of its programme. Thus, they performed those pieces which received their Leipzig premiere during Bach’s first year as Thomaskantor: the cantata “Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis” BWV 21, the Magnificat in Eb BWV 243a, and between the two masterpieces, the concerto-aria-cantata “Machet die Tore weit” by Bach’s predecessor, Johann Schelle.
Only the Magnificat was a new creation for Leipzig. Mary’s song of praise in Latin describes the meeting of the archangel Gabriel and the future mother of God, known as the Visitation of the Virgin Mary. This work, which was originally written in Eb major and is extremely virtuosic for instrumentalists as well as singers, seems to have slightly overstretched the Leipzig Stadtpfeifer, because a few years later, Bach revised the piece, transposing it into the key of D major, which was easier for the trumpeters. Solomon’s Knot, however, chose the original version, and it was audible in every moment that the trumpets did not need to resort to the alternative. In the opening chorus ‘Magnificat anima mea Dominum’, the listeners already experienced an explosion of splendid baroque colour: the infectious swing, and luminous presence of the trumpet parts launched a momentum which carried through until the end of the work. It was never noisy or violent, but rather built to such unbridled joy in music-making in the final chorus, ‘Gloria Patri’, that only the repeat of the final section after frenetic applause could dissipate the excess energy.
In fact, the performance of all of the instrumentalists was remarkable: the softly pulsing Basso continuo, which despite holding back dynamically never lost its sharply-defined contour; the warmly luminous string sound, in which the grace of God flowed during the aria ‘Suscepit Israel puerum suum’, or the playing of Leo Duarte: there was so much painful beauty in the wailing garlands of his oboe playing that his duet partner soprano Zoë Brookshaw was even able to hold back a little in her expression, and a little later he wove bucolic recorder sounds into the singing of Martha McLorinan, praising the compassion of the Lord for the hungry. Whilst the ensemble playing of the vocal and instrumental parts was sounded out in every phrase as if with a plumb line and balanced in every syllable, the singers also presented themselves as an ensemble that is strong in individual expression in every part, but that can also fuse itself into a homogeneous whole – also in Schelle’s ‘Machet die Tore weit’.
By not being overly expressive in vocal character, they avoided the danger that, after the opening chorus, the solo sections might become too fragmentary. This was to the benefit of the piece, which could otherwise have become an incidental filler. After all, Bach’s ‘Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis’ BWV 21 is considered an exemplary work amongst his pre-Leipzig vocal music. Bach was thoroughly aware of the importance of this cantata, using it time and again as a calling card when auditioning for new positions, and performing it on the 3rd Sunday after Trinity in the first year of his tenure as Thomaskantor.
Here, Bach displays everything that his compositional art has to offer – and fundamentally contradicts the claim that he never wrote for the opera. The eighth movement, the duet between a believing soul and the Lord Jesus, is just that: an operatic scene conceived with psychological refinement, in which the resigned calm of Zoë Brookshaw’s soprano mixed with the tender warmth of Jonathan Sells’ bass. Such moments were also a part of this exceptional evening.
We are very excited to announce that 'The Discovery of Bomarzo', a madrigalian sound-sculpture garden created by James Halliday and Mira Calix, will be performed at the 2016 Aldeburgh Festival on 21st June at 3pm. Tickets and more information are now available on the Aldeburgh Music website. See also next performances.
Before then, the singers of Solomon's Knot shall be travelling to Bern for a second collaboration with Les Passions de l'Ame - Thomas Linley Jr's Ode on the Fairies, Aerial Beings & Witches of Shakespeare. This wonderful mix of late baroque and early Classical styles is a great way for the two ensembles to honour the Bard in his anniversary year.
Performances are in the Kultur-Casino in Bern at 7.30pm on 12th May, at the Eglise Saint-François in Lausanne at 7.30pm on 13th May, and at 8pm on 16th May as part of the Tage Alter Musik ('Days of Early Music) in Regensburg.
We are very pleased to report that L'Ospedale has had a wonderful reception during the opening week of the run at Wilton's Music Hall (ends 21st November). With three 4-star reviews, the press response in particular has been very positive. Tickets are going fast for the second and final week, so do book while you can. See Next Performances for more information.
Here are a few quotes from the reviews:
"a spookily topical and entertaining endeavour" ★★★★ Evening Standard (Barry Millington)
"a clean bill of health for this operatic satire on the healthcare system"
"a sharply observed piece of social commentary"
"a pretty unimprovable contemporary premiere by the young musicians of Solomon's Knot"
"a superb cast" "James Halliday's virtuosic band"
"the impeccably tuned clarity of two Gesualdo madrigals"
"it's a rich selection of solo voices, but most striking is the blend they achieve in ensembles"
"Solomon's Knot have personality in buckets" ★★★★ The Arts Desk (Alexandra Coghlan)
"an hour of delectable light operatic entertainment"
"the magical voices blend beautifully in the warm acoustic of Wilton's"
"good, riotous fun"
"L'Ospedale is a treat - go and see it" ★★★★ Bachtrack (David Karlin)
"Solomon's Knot's first operatic venture is an artistic triumph"
"a performance of tremendous enthusiasm and earnestness"
"a welcome reminder that the major opera houses in London do not monopolise the market in imaginative, innovative productions of musical theatre" Classical Source
"the music was a delight"
"the singing, and acting, was outstanding, both as soloists and in the many choruses"
"this is a show well worth experiencing" Andrew Benson-Wilson
"an operatic Carry On Matron, only darker"
"this first modern performance satirises the failings of mental health care with admirable imagination"
"the small instrumental ensemble expertly directed by James Halliday" ★★★ The Guardian (George Hall)
We are very excited to announce that our first fully-staged production, l'Ospedale, will take place at Wilton's Music Hall from 10th-21st November. This is the modern premiere of a work that has most likely not been heard since its premiere in around 1650.
The libretto is by the well-known 17th-century Italian poet, Antonio Abati, and the score of this 'dramma burlesco', or short comic opera, was dug up in the Marciana Library in Venice a few years ago. Tantalisingly, we don't know who the composer was, but the piece is put together with such a melodic gift and dramatic confidence that we could not resist bringing it to the stage.
Our stage director for this production, James Hurley (ETO, ENO, Opera North), writes, "l'Ospedale is a biting satire on patients, doctors, and medical practice, providing a unique and radical platform – or “voice” – to four characters, who exhibit various psychological and social disorders. A contemporary, immersive production, sewn into the heart of Wilton’s Music Hall, brings this provocative work to life amidst the purgatorial wasteland of a dilapidated modern hospital, where vulnerable patients await the arrival of an enigmatic doctor who they hope will restore their sanity – but at what cost? The opera is performed in the original Italian, with English captions."
Musical director: James Halliday
Stage director: James Hurley
Designer: Rachel Szmukler
Forestiero: Lucy Page
Povero: Nicholas Merryweather
Matto: Michal Czerniawski
Innamorato: Rebecca Moon
Cortigiano: Thomas Herford
Medico: Jonathan Sells
Tickets can be booked through the Wilton's Music Hall website here. We very much look forward to welcoming you into the mad and wonderful world of l'Ospedale.
For all press enquiries please contact Jo Carpenter Music PR Consultancy: firstname.lastname@example.org +44 7771 538 868
Image by Ugo Carmeni, ugocarmeni.com
Video trailer from our workshops at Aldeburgh Music:
A little memory of our semi-staged show back in April, 'Pour un tombeau d'Anatole', with Sven Werner as part of our Open Space residency at Aldeburgh Music. With Zoë Brown, soprano, and John Crockatt, violin.
POUR UN TOMBEAU D'ANATOLE
For our third residency as an Open Space ensemble at Aldeburgh Music and a performance as part of the Easter Weekend, James Halliday leads a programme of 17th-century French and English music inspired by the fragmentary poems that Stéphane Mallarmé in memory of his son, Anatole.
Purcell, Charpentier, Marais, de Jeune, Janequin, Lambert and others form a musical memorial to a lost child, set within a visual context by way of projection and movement by Sven Werner.
Saturday 4 April 2015 6pm
Britten Studio, Snape Maltings
As you can see from the example above, we've been totally overwhelmed by the response to the Chamber Messiah in St John's Smith Square last Friday, 5th December. We also felt that it was our best performance of the piece so far.
Apart from the fact that illness stayed away and we finally had eight singers with no scores in the concert, the quality of the individual and collective musicianship hit a real high, and the work that we had done with Shakespeare director Tim Carroll to dramatise the piece took the project on to a new level. This is certainly something we would like to develop in the future.
If there are any more of you out there who enjoyed the performance and would like to share your response with us, please don't hesitate to contact us, and do join the mailing list or, best of all, become a Friend!
Looking ahead, our next two projects are:
- a residency at Aldeburgh Music in January (with Open Session on 15 Jan) for a staged concert on 4 April 2015 based on 17th-century French music, entitled 'Pour un tombeau d'Anatole'
- a tour with the Bernese baroque orchestra Les Passions de l'Ame of Telemann's Die Tageszeiten and J.S. Bach's 'Singet dem Herrn' and Orchestral Suite no.3, visiting Bern (18 March 2015), London (Handel Festival, 19 March, online booking from 19 Jan), and Cambridge (Early Music +44 1223 847330, 21 March).
We'd love to see you at one of those events.
Frohe Festtage und einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr!
We are very excited to be returning to St John's Smith Square in London to perform our trademark 'chamber Messiah'. Following last year's Christmas Oratorio (see video below), we're back at St John's due to popular demand. In the words of Handel scholar Dr Ruth Smith, "it bears repeating every year, it should become an institution."
We find that performing this work 2-to-a-part (with the singers taking the solos as well as the choruses), without conductor and from memory makes it an absolutely exhilarating experience. This year we are also collaborating with Tony-nominated Globe Theatre director Tim Carroll to bring the piece even closer to our audience.
We would love to see you at St John's on Friday 5th December at 7pm. There are still a few of the best seats left. Book here or on +44 207 222 1061. Halleluyah!