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Commentary

27 Jul 2020

A virtual ‘Der Lindenbaum’: Streetwise Opera bring the 2020 Ryedale Festival Online to a restful close

Streetwise Opera were joined by baritone Roderick Williams, the Brodsky Quartet and Genesis Sixteen for a special ‘virtual’ performance of Schubert’s ‘Der Lindenbaum’, the fifth song of the composer’s song-cycle Winterreise, bringing this year’s Ryedale Festival Online to a pensive close.

2020 Ryedale Festival Online

Above: Roderick Williams

Photo courtesy of Groves Artists

 

Streetwise Opera is both an award-winning performing arts charity for people affected by homelessness, running a programme of regular creative workshops in homeless centres and arts venues in five regions across England, and a critically acclaimed opera company. Those who participate in the company’s workshops create and perform in new productions work alongside exceptional professional artists.

Performing Iain Farrington’s new arrangement of Schubert’s song, 23 Streetwise Opera singers, workshop leaders and support workers sang alongside Roderick Williams and eight professional singers from Genesis Sixteen - a young artists’ scheme established by The Sixteen in 2011 which aims to nurture the next generation of talented choral singers and create a bridge from conservatories and universities into the singing profession - accompanied by the Brodsky Quartet and pianist Christopher Glynn, the Festival’s Artistic Director.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ca-2wQuWrYE

Farrington’s arrangement complements William Müller’s poetic imagery, the richness of the strings’ interjections heightening the colours and textures of the rustling leaves, the chill of the cruel wind’s icy blasts, and the depth of the night’s darkness - images further visually elaborated in director Freya Wynn-Jones short film. The breeze stirs up crisp autumnal leaves to reveal a violin nestled amid the undergrowth. Williams slowly treads a lone path through waist high grasses, like one of Thomas Hardy’s ‘solitary pedestrians’, towards the distant beckoning tree. Silver light flickers through the woodland canopy. A sole leaf flutters onto still water.

The English translation by Jeremy Sams is direct and is complemented by verbal fragments - “You belong”, “Come back to me and rest here” - written on leaves, held aloft. The tempo is expansive, enhancing the dream-like mood and conveying the sense of comfort that Schubert’s wanderer feels as he reclines under the linden tree’s protective branches. But, with the brutal blast which gusts into the traveller’s face and jolts his hat roughly from his head, Williams solo voice pushes forward, the tension only dissolving with the final stanza’s retrospective recollections of the tree’s restful safe haven.

Following this unusual and moving performance of ‘Der Lindenbaum’, the Carducci Quartet completed the recital, performing Phillip Glass’s String Quartet No.3 (Mishima) and Beethoven’s String Quartet in F minor Op.95 No.11 (Serioso). Their performance was filmed at Castle Howard - a magnificent medley of Baroque flamboyance and Palladian graciousness surrounded by 1000-acres of parkland and woodland, the building of which was begun by the 3rd Earl of Carlisle in 1699 and reached completion over 100 years later. Damaged by fire in 1940, Castle Howard subsequently became best-known to many as ‘Brideshead’ in the 1981 television serial and 2008 film adaptations of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.

The rich acoustic of the Long Gallery enriched Glass’s meditative reflections on the life of Yukio Mishima, music which was originally composed for Paul Schrader’s 1985 film, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. Compact in form, its music very condensed, this F Minor Quartet is Beethoven’s shortest string quartet, but it conveys a scope and power that belie its surface dimensions. Beethoven acknowledged the radical nature of this ‘Quartetto serioso’, which he composed in 1810, when he told the composer-conductor Sir George Smart that the Quartet was “written for a small circle of connoisseurs and is never to be performed in public”. This remark, and the apparent interiority of the Quartet, seem to raise interesting questions about the relationship between composer, the performer and the listener - questions which, as performers and audiences alike adapt to new ways of communicating and sharing musical experiences made the Carducci’s performance a fitting and reflective conclusion to the 2020 Ryedale Festival Online.

Claire Seymour

This concert is available to view until Sunday 16th August 2020, along with the other events in the 2020 Ryedale Festival Online.

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