Within a programme that presents some of the world’s leading performers, Bath Festival produces a large number its own unique productions created to maximise the potential of its atmospheric buildings. This year’s programme sees exciting new commissions, bespoke stage productions, new collaborations and multi-media projects beating at the heart the Festival’s thought provoking themes.

World premieres:
Artistic Director Joanna MacGregor has commissioned a diverse group of composers to write works for this year’s Festival; from highly esteemed classical composers, to jazz and world composer performers to indie band leaders writing for classical players.

BBC Radio 3 and the Music Festival have jointly commissioned some of the UK’s most celebrated composers to write new arrangements of traditional Northumbrian music for renowned piper and fiddler Kathryn Tickell. As part of the Festival’s celebration of Celtic and folk music - Fire in the Flint - Howard Skempton, Peter Maxwell Davies and Michael Finnissy will be premiering their new pieces for Kathryn, Joanna MacGregor and the Navarra Quartet at the Assembly Rooms. Alongside folk-influenced music by Alasdair Nicolson and James MacMillan these new works will be performed on Monday 30 May and broadcast on Performance on 3.

Homage to Nina Simone is a new Festival commission from composer, vocalist and cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson, celebrating the great singer, songwriter, pianist and Civil Rights activist, Nina Simone. Ayanna has become a name to watch on the UK and NY jazz scene; drawing on her classical training, she has moved effortlessly into an idiom where she combines writing and improvising, singing and playing with fresh and gutsy passion. Bringing her own response to Simone’s powerful legacy, for this commission Ayanna will be performing with her quartet, preceded by the documentary film Strange Fruit about the poignant protest song Billie Holiday made famous.

Heralding the start of the Festival’s citywide free event Party in the City, Brazilian percussionist Adriano Adewale premieres his large scale work Talking About Us. Adriano has been commissioned to work with 200 school children in the county to create a stunning performance for Bath Abbey. Raised in Sao Paolo, Adriano is now one of the most indemand Latin percussionists and collaborators in the UK working with a wide range of musicians from Seu Jorge to Britten Sinfonia.

The world’s foremost cellist Natalie Clein returns to Bath with a programme of unaccompanied works. Together with Tavener’s Threnos and Kodály’s incredible Sonata for Solo Cello, she will perform the world premiere of Festival commission Turquoise Black by composer and founding member of The Guillemotts, Fyfe Dangerfield.

Bespoke productions and programmes:
Over the past few years Bath has created dramatic, staged events from Handel’s Israel in Egypt in the Roman Baths to Stravinsky’s A Solider’s Tale.This year it continues to bring together artists and directors for two visually arresting performances.

At the heart of this year’s theme Russian Weddings: Vows and Vespers, is a stunning concert performance of Igor Stravinsky’s rarely heard Les Noces. Despite not coming to the Russian Orthodox church until his later years, this work - which recreates a traditional Russian wedding - is his most emphatically Russian. Promising to be a visual feast, Bath Abbey will be transformed into a wedding scene for this incredible piece, complete with ushers, bride and groom’s guests allocated to either side of the knave and an ostentatios wedding cake which will be cut during the interval. Conducted by Diego Masson, this original score features four solo pianos - led by Joanna MacGregor – as well as the spectacle of ensemblebash’s army of percussion instruments and young opera soloists from Royal Aacademy of Music joined by Bath Camerata. The scene is set with a performance of the Nuptial Mass motets and chants, and culminates in a magical candle-lit Russian Vespers the Roman Baths, sung by the evocative Moscow choir Arte Corale.

This year the Festival’s grand finale is a striking new stage musical created for Bath by theatre director Richard Williams. Mr Brecht! Are you now, or have you ever been…? is a witty, poignant and spicy evening of words and music, celebrating two of the most original and politically astute creators of the twentieth century, Kurt Weill and his greatest collaborator Bertolt Brecht. Taking place in Komedia – the glamorous Beau Nash Picture House and art deco cinema - the production will be performed by a stellar cast including Tony Award-winner Frances Ruffelle, Olivier Award-winner Clive Rowe, actor Roger Lloyd Pack, and actors from Drama Centre London.

Opening the Festival Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen, Joanna MacGregor and Britten Sinfonia are joined by Wells Cathedral Choir and the Bristol Pipers for a clamourous celebration of Celtic and particularly James MacMillan’s music. Not only MacMillan’s Piano Concerto No. 2, but new arrangements of his choral works So Deep and Halie's Speerit Dauncers sit alongside as Joanna’s soulful catelogue of Sprituals from the Lost Highway - rewritten and rearranged by Joanna for Arve.

Composers explored:
Cornelius Cardew Uncovered presents a day devoted to the music of the radical music revolutionary, Cornelius Cardew. His close collaborators, composer Howard Skempton and veteran pianist John Tilbury, present an introduction to this remarkable figure. Audiences will also have the opportunity to take a pilgrimage round seven venues in Bath’s city centre to hear a simultaneous performance of his 1970s masterpiece, The Great Learning, performed by Musicians of Bath Spa University, CoMA, Richard Barnard and the Elektrostatic Project, Organum choir, Material, Syzygy (St Hilda’s College, Oxford), and The Oxford Improvisers.

Collaborations and multi-media
The Festival brings together two outstanding improvisers for the first time. British saxophonist Evan Parker has been at the forefront of European free jazz for the past four decades, a player whose improvisations swirls and snake around the listener with a powerful, intensity and almost a Shamanic, trance inducing quality. He performs with Chris Abrahams of highly regarded Australian trio The Necks whose slowly evolving improvisations can similarly ensnare the listener in.

Jazz and film come together in a highly intriguing commission for Romanian violinist Alexander Balanescu and Russian accordionist Evelina Petrova to create and perform music to Lotte Reiniger’s folk influenced 1920s silhouettes. Alonglside them, Welsh pianist Huw Warren’s brings his new scores for the silent masterpieces of Buster Keaton.

 

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