Music of a Lost Generation
Swept Away was a three day festival featuring music by German and Austrian composers who fled into exile in the early 1930s. Persecuted and threatened with arrest for their Jewish origins, socialist political views and artistic ‘modernism’, the composers’ music was banned from performance and publication so their work almost completely disappeared until recently.
The festival brought this unjustly neglected music back into the light and revealed its outstanding quality and engaging modernity over five concerts, pre-concert talks and readings at Kings Place concert hall, London, June 19 – 21, 2015.
Mr. Headlam programmed operas, chamber, choral and orchestral music by Ernst Toch, hailed as the most promising young German/Austrian composer in the 1920s, Kurt Weill, relatively unknown but writing music for theatre and radio, Paul Hindemith, Erwin Schulhoff, Stefan Wolpe, Ernst Krenek as well as cabaret composers Mischa Spoliansky, Friedrich Hollander, Wilhelm Grosz and Herbert Zipper. Eleven pieces were performed in the U.K. for the very first time.
Philip Headlam conducted The Continuum Ensemble and The BBC Singers, broadcast on BBC Radio 3. Outstanding soloists included sopranos Sarah Tynan, Anna Dennis, Donna Bateman, mezzo sopranos Lucy Schaufer and Martha Jones, tenor Andrew Rees, bass Barnaby Rea, cellist Joseph Spooner, violinist Hugo Ticciati, flautist Lisa Nelsen and Douglas Finch, piano.
Lawrence Weschler, grandson of Ernst Toch, spoke to audiences about Toch’s life in Germany and exile in the U.S.
Festival patrons were conductors James Conlon and Lawrence Foster and author Daniel Snowman.
Little Red Riding Hood by Georges Aperghis
A music theatre piece for audiences aged 7 and up. An Almeida Opera production in association with The Continuum Ensemble; U.K. premiere performance.
Annabel Arden, director
Giuseppe di Iorio, lighting designer
Philip Headlam, music director
Leah Hausman, movement
Neyire Ashworth, Ian Stuart clarinet / bass clarinet
Nell Catchpole violin
Philip Headlam, Cassie Yukawa, piano
Ingrid Laubrock soprano saxophone
‘Here, the superbly accomplished protagonists are the members of Continuum, long time champions of [Georges] Aperghis in a spare, gently witty staging….….It’s deft, engaging‘
‘The show’s distinction is in its staging and vocal delivery…[director] Annabel Arden has the musical experience and nous to bring off the adventure‘
‘…colourfully staged by Annabel Arden and The Continuum Ensemble …there is much fun (a sudden excursion into Japanese, a tuba played with a plastic tube) and genuine inventiveness along the way.‘
The Sunday Times
East/West: Gamelan Music in America and Europe
Composer Richard Causton and conductor Philip Headlam presented East/West, a Gamelan Music Festival, at the Royal College of Music, London, May 1 and 2, 2003 and repeated at the Spitalfields Festival, June 24, 2003, broadcast on BBC Radio 3.
Programmed and conducted by Philip Headlam, The Continuum Ensemble performed a concert of music on western instruments influenced by gamelan music. A convergence of Eastern and Western musical languages, each piece explored a range of expression with the distinctive chiming resonance of gamelans. Composers included Claude Debussy, Colin McPhee, Lou Harrison, Jose Evangelista and Claude Vivier.
Richard Causton led the inaugural concert of the Royal College of Music Sekar Tunjung Seta (White Lotus Flower) Gamelan from East Java as well as a Degung Gamelan from West Java and a Calung (bamboo) Gamelan from Central Java.
Composer Jose Evangelista gave a pre-concert talk on Debussy, McPhee, Messaien, Britten and Vivier: Composing in the 20th century with gamelan music materials.
Recitations and Conversations: Georges Aperghis and his Contemporaries
The richly imaginative music theatre and music of Greek born composer Georges Aperghis was featured in productions, concerts and events over a three day festival at the Purcell Room, Southbank Centre, London, U.K.
Aperghis explores the human condition in all its complex expression and emotion, even language itself, which he renders into highly original music that blends gesture and sound that is by turns poignant, sophisticated, witty and disturbing though always moving and profound.
Programmed along with music by his contemporaries in France Pascal Dusapin, Tristan Murail and Claude Vivier as well as his mentor and friend, Iannis Xenakis, the festival focussed on Aperghis’ work from the 1970s and 80s, an incredibly rich time for artistic creativity in Paris.
An evening of music theatre works was directed by Annabel Arden with production design by Yvonne Kyriakides and featured mezzo soprano Lore Lixenberg, soprano Rachel Shannon, baritone Richard Jackson, percussionist Chris Brannick, harpist Patrizia Meier, cellist Matthew Sharp and clarinetist Ian Stuart as well as actors Joz Houben and Simon McBurney and Philip Headlam, piano.
Solo, vocal, chamber and ensemble music was performed by The Continuum Ensemble conducted by Philip Headlam with soloists including Mieko Kanno, violin, Guy Cowley, clarinet, Douglas Finch, piano, Karl Lutchmayer, piano, Marianne Hellgren, Fiona Rose and Marie Vassiliou, sopranos, Colin Currie, percussion and a special appearance by Aperghis’ close collaborator, Jean-Pierre Drouet, percussion.
Other events included pre concert talks led by Annette Moreau with Georges Aperghis.
‘The scenarios are sometimes explicit, sometimes teasingly abstract; there’s a nervy humour about a great deal of it. The texts for the vocal works may be more or less coherent or use an invented polyglot language – Conversations for two voices create music out of the inflections of text, nothing more; the Recitations for female voice switch between comprehensible words and fractured syllables at dizzying speed. Speech is always mimicking music and vice versa; the boundaries are shifting all the time and nothing can be taken for granted.
If it’s hard to pin down Aperghis’ achievement and its place in the music of our time, it depends on the kind of stylish performances The Continuum Ensemble had prepared under its music director Philip Headlam. Annabel Arden had given a sharp continuity to the programme, interweaving it with the Recitations, performed by cellist Matthew Sharp and singers Lore Lixenberg and Rachel Shannon as if they known them all their lives. Patrizia Meier was the vituperative harpist in Fidelité while Joz Houben had the walk on, sit-down, say nothing role of the object of her obsessions; Headlam himself was the timorous accompanist in The Physiological Laugh, Richard Jackson his overbearing partner. It’s a bold, imaginative project, wonderfully well realised.