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The New Elizabethans

Sat 25 September 2021
7:30 pm, Kings Place, Hall One

Countertenor Iestyn Davies co-curates a special London Unwrapped programme which sparks a dialogue across four centuries of music and ideas. At its root are songs by the brightest stars in the musical firmament of Elizabethan and early baroque London, John Dowland and Henry Purcell. These distinctively English voices have inspired countless musical journeys by later composers, from Oliver Knussen’s kaleidoscopic refraction of a Purcell fantasia to Nico Muhly’s reimagining of Dowland’s Time Stands Still. Echoes of Shakespeare also reverberate, with Michael Tippett’s Songs for Ariel (originally composed for the Old Vic’s production of The Tempest in 1962) and Knussen’s miniature masterpiece Ophelia Dances, described by the composer as trying to evoke ‘a crossing of the line that divides laughter from tears.’

The programme also features a rare chance to hear another Ophelia from Richard Rodney Bennett: his setting of a 16-year old Arthur Rimbaud’s poem Ophélie includes the extraordinary sound of the Ondes Martenot, one of the earliest electronic instruments developed in the 1920s. The Principal Players of Aurora Orchestra also perform Harrison Birtwistle’s Cortege, a ritualised orchestral ‘dance’ in which individual instrumentalists take turns to deliver a melodic line from the centre of a circle of players.

Photo © Benjamin Ealovega

Aurora’s performance of Cortege is generously supported by PRS Foundation’s Resonate programme.