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Chamber music for Winter in the Howard Assembly Room

In anticipation of the tenth anniversary of its opening next year, the Howard Assembly Room will host a series of concerts from internationally-renowned artists, two collaborations with Leeds Lieder continuing our long-running partnership, and three commemorations of the Armistice centenary over the coming months.

South African soprano Pumeza Matshikiza brings her exquisite lyric voice and emotional sensitivity to bear on Schumann’s vivid Frauen-Liebe und -Leben, and Strauss’ sublimely beautiful Four Last Songs on 31 October. Three selections from Reynaldo Hahn’s Venezia and three of the South African songs featured on Voice of Hope, her debut album for Decca, demonstrate her extraordinary range.

Australian pianist Piers Lane is at his poetic best on 8 November with a programme tracing the influence of Bach on Chopin, and the Polish composer’s influence in turn on Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky. Opening with Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in F sharp minor and a selection of Chopin’s greatest piano works, their probing and moving nature are mirrored in the forms used by Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky, whose Trois mouvements de Petrouchka brings the recital to a dazzling climax.

In association with Leeds Lieder and as part of our commemorations of the centenary of the Armistice, brilliantly expressive British baritone Christopher Maltman and Leeds Lieder’s Joseph Middleton perform a selection of music on the subject of war in From Severn to Somme on 22 November. Taking in composers from the major nations involved in the First World War including Butterworth, Mahler, Fauré, Ives, Mussorgsky, Wolf and Poulenc, the programme traverses the despair, tender poignancy and rawness of war through song.

This year’s visit from the young artists of the National Opera Studio (8 December) picks up the thread of the War in the form of a beautifully staged passage in song from the gaiety of pre-war Europe to the apocalyptic impact of the war’s outbreak and beyond, devised and directed by Tim Albery.

The National Opera Studio's performance in the Howard Assembly Room, 2015 © Malcolm Johnson

A new co-production by Opera North and Leeds Playhouse, Not Such Quiet Girls, tells the stories of three women on the front line during World War I. Bringing together an all-female chorus and three female actors, this new musical drama, written by Jessica Walker with musical arrangement by Joseph Atkins, weaves a moving narrative through staged scenes, film projections, music hall songs and rarities by the early 20th century composer Rebecca Clarke. Directed by Jacqui Honess-Martin from Leeds Playhouse, Not Such Quiet Girls is commissioned as a companion piece to our UK premiere of Silent Night, rescuing the lost voices of the women of the Great War from undeserved obscurity.

Drivers of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry in their fur coats, by John Warwick Brooke © National Library of Scotland

With The Tallis Scholars‘ much-anticipated festive return on 19 December already sold out, Early Music continues into the New Year – and the tenth anniversary season – with Tenebrae’s programme of Spanish Glories of the Sixteenth Century. On 17 January they reprise their BBC Music Magazine Award-winning interpretation of Tomás Luis de Victoria’s Requiem Mass for six voices, and his contemporary Alonso Lobo’s Versa est in Luctum, both exquisite examples of Renaissance polyphony.

A number of Byrd’s masses, composed in times of great unrest, thread through later repertoire when The Cardinall’s Musick visit on 15 February. Benjamin Britten’s warning of the perils of totalitarianism on the eve of the Second World War, Arvo Pärt’s meditation following the Madrid bombings in 2004, and several of James MacMillan’s deeply spiritual contemporary works are contemplative responses to conflicts in more recent times.

One of the world’s most inventive and creative pianists, Joanna MacGregor brings another programme traversing the centuries on 11 January, opening with Beethoven’s 32 Variations and taking in Chopin’s Mazurkas, Ginastera’s Argentinian dances, Sofia Gubaidulina’s Chaconne and Fazıl Say’s Black Earth, before returning to Beethoven to conclude with the magnificent ‘Apassionata‘.

A BBC New Generation Artist and the first British winner of the Cardiff Singer of the World competition, Catriona Morison makes her Leeds recital debut in Leeds Lieder’s first event of the New Year on 31 January. Joseph Middleton returns to accompany her on a programme of her own devising, full of Romantic longing. Bookended by Brahms and Korngold, at the heart of the recital stands Schumann’s setting of Mary Queen of Scots’ final prayer and Mahler’s transcendental Rückert Lieder, timeless in its exploration of the human condition.

One of the longest running string quartets in the world, The Fitzwilliam Quartet presents a specially curated concert in honour of the Howard Assembly Room’s tenth anniversary on 7 February. Purcell’s Fantasia no. 10 is followed by the premiere of a new piece inspired by it, written by the Quartet’s Marcus Barcham Stevens. Other works involving the number 10 by Beethoven and Shostakovich – whose high regard for the ensemble led to their performing the Western premieres of his last three quartets – complete the programme.

The Howard Assembly Room’s full programme, featuring world music, folk, jazz, spoken word events and film screenings, continues until March 2019, when the venue will close for a year as part of Opera North’s ambitious renovation programme, Music Works. To book tickets for any of our chamber concerts, click on the links above.


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