Summer may only just be upon us but we're already announcing some outstanding chamber concerts for the Howard Assembly Room's Autumn season. Modern and contemporary experimentation is particularly well represented, and there are five venue debuts by emerging and world-renowned artists, Romantic and Classical masterpieces, the return of Leeds Lieder, and festive choral music for Christmas.
Having been performed around the world since its 2007 premiere, Gavin Bryars’ commission for Opera North and the Royal Shakespeare Company, Nothing Like the Sun, comes ‘home’ to Leeds for the first time on 25 October. Influenced by early music but unmistakably modern, this haunting, dramatic piece for chamber ensemble and voices weaves Bryars’ music through eight of Shakespeare's most meditative sonnets. The composer himself leads an ensemble featuring tenor John Potter and cult Dublin singer-songwriter Gavin Friday.
Celebrated Canadian-American violinist Leila Josefowicz makes her Howard Assembly Room debut with her long-term musical partner John Novacek on 30 September, and a programme reflecting her reputation for insightful performances of canonical works coupled with passionate championing of new music. Marked by dark introspection and powerful emotion, the concert takes in Sibelius’ reflective Valse Triste, Prokofiev’s wildly beautiful Sonata in F minor and the mystical Calices by contemporary Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho.
One of the finest interpreters of Classical and Romantic repertoire, pianist Imogen Cooper makes another long-awaited venue debut (30 November) with a programme ranging from the classical poise of early Beethoven and the authority of Haydn’s C minor Piano Sonata, to the remarkable invention and emotional quality of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 31. The concert also includes Darknesse Visible, Thomas Adès’ stunning “explosion” of a John Dowland lute song.
Exotic, erotic and technically demanding, Olivier Messiaen’s Harawi takes the Tristan and Isolde myth, Andean love songs and the music of Debussy and Wagner among its inspirations. One of the most experienced Messiaen singers of her generation, Gweneth-Ann Rand will be joined by pianist Simon Lepper on 26 October for a rare performance of the 12-song cycle, with projections and surtitles. The award-winning British soprano has previously sung Harawi at the Messiaen centenary and the BBC Proms, and last year received outstanding reviews for her performance in 4.48 Psychosis for the Royal Opera House. Simon Lepper returns to the Howard Assembly Room following a rapturous reception for his concert with Christopher Purves earlier in the year.
Leeds Lieder’s partnership with Opera North continues with a debut from one of today’s foremost young song recitalists, Gramophone Young Artist of the Year 2016 Benjamin Appl. Having received the RPS Young Artist Award 2017, exceptional pianist and Director of Leeds Lieder Joseph Middleton returns to accompany the German baritone on the best-known of Schumann’s song cycles, Dichterliebe. Written during the composer’s separation from his beloved wife Clara, his settings of Heine’s poems chronicle a musical journey, from the most delicate descriptions of nature to heart-breaking cries of longing; from a joyful wedding dance to twelve giants casting a coffin into the sea. The programme also includes Beethoven's only song cycle and three settings of Yeats.
As the year draws to a close, The Choir of Clare College Cambridge pay their first visit to the venue with a radiant festive concert. Plainsong chants sit alongside Renaissance masterpieces including Palestrina's Surge, illuminare and Tallis' sublime Videte miraculum, with motets and carols by Howells, Britten, Tavener, and John Rutter’s much-loved What sweeter music? The Howard Assembly Room’s Christmas chamber concerts have become something of a Leeds institution, with the venue’s atmospheric, neo-gothic interior decked with decorations, and early booking is recommended.
Jo Nockels, Opera North Projects Manager, comments:
We’re looking forward to an Autumn season that fully inhabits the ethos of the Assembly Room, from the great song cycles performed impeccably by our partners Leeds Lieder to Nothing Like the Sun, an Opera North commission that crosses conventional genre boundaries.
We’re also continuing to explore new ways of presenting chamber concerts, with projected imagery and surtitles for Harawi drawing the audience deep inside Messiaen’s musical world and myriad influences.
Tickets for all events at the Howard Assembly Room are available via the links above or through Box Office on 0844 848 2727.
Light Night 2016 in the Howard Assembly Room. Credit Tom Arber
Gavin Bryars and Gavin Friday, Nothing Like the Sun