The Rest is Noise – Britten comes to town


Image courtesy of the Southbank website for The Rest Is Noise

Benjamin Britten was on occasion criticized for not bringing his music to London more often, yet over the weekend of Friday 27 – Sunday 29 September his music will arrive in the capital to take over the Southbank Centre festival The Rest is Noise, based on the book on 20th century music by Alex Ross. There his centenary will be celebrated by a multitude of talks, concerts, films and musical studies, several of which will incorporate audience participation.

There is a mixture of the familiar and the unfamiliar in store, and it looks like a revealing weekend lies ahead. Into the ‘familiar’ (but possibly essential) bracket goes Peter Grimes. The London Philharmonic Orchestra’s principal conductor Vladimir Jurowski will conduct a spectacular cast of singers, many of whom are reprising previous roles in the opera. The heldentenor Stuart Skelton returns to the title role, and is set to dominate Saturday evening, in the company of Pamela Armsrong (who plays Ellen Orford) and Alan Opie (Balstrode). More details on the cast can be found here

We have Noye’s Fludde, too, and this will be a performance given in a spirit of which Britten himself would surely have approved, with four performances thrown open to families in the Clore Ballroom. The first two are on the afternoon Saturday 28 September, at 2pm and 4pm respectively, while two further opportunities are in the same venue, at the same times, on Saturday 12 October.

That later Saturday date will also include a performance of the War Requiem, Jurowski again taking charge of a performance that boasts a fine trio of soloists in Ian Bostridge, Matthias Goerne and Tatiana Monogarova. More details on the performance, which takes place at 7.30pm, can be found here

Jurowski will also take to the stage on Wednesday 2 October for a concert From Darkness to Light, with late Britten in the form of the Nocturne (with Mark Padmore), the Cello Symphony (with Truls Mørk) and the Suite on English Folk Tunes (A Time There Was). More details here

Perhaps the most welcome and revealing concerts, however, are tucked away in the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Here, on Sunday 29 September at 3pm, the Aurora Orchestra will accompany screenings of Britten’s film music from the 1930s, bringing to life not just the established classic Night Mail but some of the unsung scores such as Coal Face, The Tocher, The King’s Stamp and Men behind the meters. These scores provided some of the grounding for Britten’s whole career, and it will be fascinating to hear them put together. More information is available here

From early evening on Friday 27 September the Queen Elizabeth Hall plays host to a free concert of jazz and Latin music inspired by Britten – who did on occasion a lot more music containing these flavours and styles than perhaps people realise. In the hall itself the same evening Michael Collins will preside over a concert titled Music from across the Iron Curtain, and will be the soloist in Britten’s surviving Movement for Clarinet and Orchestra and Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, as well as conducting the City of London Sinfonia in the Serenade for tenor, horn and strings. The soloists are Ronan Busfield and Stephen Stirling. Completing the generous program is Shostakovich’s Symphony No.14, dedicated to Britten himself – with more details available here

There is music for one instrument (cello, oboe or guitar in the Royal Festival Hall foyer at 1pm on Friday, from Royal College of Music Students) or hundreds (Peter Grimes and The War Requiem), with plenty in between. Add to these a showing of Wes Anderson‘s Britten-inspired film Moonrise Kingdom, at 8pm on the Sunday evening in the Foyer Spaces, and talks from Paul Kildea, Stephen Johnson, John Bridcut, Mark Revenhill and Alex Ross himself – among others – and you have ingredients for a truly illuminating weekend!

The homepage for The Rest is Noise – Britten’s Centenary – is here. In an interview he gave to Good Morning Britten, Michael Collins talks about his concert Music from across the Iron Curtain and the Britten Clarinet Concerto here

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