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Commentary

Holywell Music Room in Oxford, England [Source: Wikipedia]
10 Oct 2010

Oxford Lieder Festival 2010

The Oxford Lieder Festival is small, but is extremely important. It's quite an achievement, extremely well organized and comprehensive, a model for intelligently-presented festivals of any kind.

Oxford Lieder Festival 2010

Above: Holywell Music Room in Oxford, England [Source: Wikipedia]

 

At Oxford Lieder, you can can experience what Schubertiades may have been like. In Oxford, most concerts take place in the Holywell Music Room, built in 1740, the oldest dedicated public recital space in the world. The building seats only about 100 people. Seats are arranged on three sides, the platform extending into the room Interaction between performers and listeners is intense, much more direct than in an ordinary concert hall.

Moreover, the atmosphere is as intimate as the Schubertiades would have been. Oxford Lieder feels like “family”, since it’s so nurturing and supportive. People come together here because they’re united in their love of the genre and want it to thrive. An intimate genre like Lieder can’t — and perhaps shouldn’t — generate mass sales. Funding is backed entirely by private and trust contributions.

The opening recital on 15th October features Wolfgang Holzmair with Julius Drake, performing Schumann. Indeed, all through the festival there will be Schumann recitals and events, including “Lunch with Schumann” — refreshment for the soul!

A measure of how far the festival has come is that it has been able to co-commission Ned Rorem to write a song “My Love is a Fever”. The Prince Consort, who specialize in Rorem will give the premiere on 21st October, at which a second co-commission, a setting of Rilke by pianist Stephen Hough will also be unveiled. The Prince Consort, whose members include Jacques Imbrailo, have been associated with Oxford Lieder almost from the start.

Oxford Lieder programmes blend well known with unusual repertoire. This year part-songs figure prominently and Schubert settings for guitar (Christoph Denoth and Nathalie Chalkley). Katarina Karnéus and Julius Drake perform Grieg, Sibelius and Ture Rangström There’ll be an evening of Polish song with Maciek O’Shea and Festival Director Sholto Kynoch. Hugo Wolf’s complete Mörike setting will be heard over two days. Among the singers this year are : James Gilchrist, Anna Grevelius, Sophie Daneman, Stephan Loges, Felicity Palmer, Sophie and Mary Bevan, and Jonathan Lemalu. Oxford Lieder has a reputation for spotting new talent early on, and many of its “discoveries” return loyally.

Ian Partridge leads this year’s main Masterclass programme, but this year there are three, the others, led by Stephan Loges and Henry Herford, encourage non-professionals to enjoy the experience of singing. There are schools events and even an open air Brahms and Schumann concert. Oxford Lieder is much more than an annual festival — it’s aims are long term and benefit the wider community.

For more information, please visit the Oxford Lieder site.

Anne Ozorio

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