BBC Radio 3 is to broadcast live from Suffolk, the county of Benjamin Britten’s birth, during the composers’ centenary weekend. The station will be resident at Aldeburgh Music, broadcasting a unique programme of live music and discussion based on the theme of Britten and community from 22–24 November 2013.
Radio 3 presenters Suzy Klein and Tom Service will be joined by guests who encountered Britten, to discuss the man and his music. Performances of his work will be broadcast live from Suffolk locations that have strong associations with the composer, including Snape Maltings Concert Hall, and others in Aldeburgh, Lowestoft and Southwold. With the help of writer and film maker John Bridcut, Britten’s recorded legacy will be re-examined. John Bridcut also presents Singing for Britten, a location feature exploring Britten’s creative relationship with amateur singers and other local volunteers from the composer’s much-loved community in Suffolk.
The residency begins on the 100th anniversary of Britten’s birth itself with a special live broadcast of In Tune from the Britten Studio at Snape and simulcast on BBC Radio Suffolk (Friday 22, 4:30pm). Later that day Tom Service will present a Britten Centenary Concert live from the Snape Maltings Concert Hall (Friday 22, 7:30pm), with the BBC Symphony Chorus and Orchestra conducted by Oliver Knussen. They are joined by soprano Claire Booth, mezzo soprano Monica Groop, tenor Robert Murray and baritone Christopher Purves for a programme featuring Spring Symphony, the Four Sea Interludes and Passacaglia from Peter Grimes, alongside the rarely heard Cantata Academica and the world premiere of a new Aldeburgh commission by Ryan Wigglesworth.
On Saturday, the BBC Symphony Orchestra joins forces with choirs from Suffolk schools for a Family Concert presented by Suzy Klein in the Snape Maltings Concert Hall (Saturday 23, 11am). As well as Britten’s Welcome Ode (his last complete work) the programme features his boisterous Soirées Musicales and ever-popular Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. Also included are four new commissions for children’s chorus by young composers with strong Suffolk associations.
Also live are the BBC Singers conducted by David Hill with choral music by Britten, Frank Bridge, John Ireland and Purcell from Southwold Church (Sunday 24, 3:30pm). And the Belcea Quartet present a series of three concerts throughout the weekend pairing Britten’s String Quartets with music by Shostakovich. From the summer Aldeburgh Festival, there is a chance to hear three Church Parables, recorded in Orford Church, the location for which they were written.
Three further live broadcasts emphasise Britten as community composer. Britten’s cantata Saint Nicolas comes from Aldeburgh Parish Church where it was first premiered (Saturday 23, 5pm) and his comic opera Albert Herring is performed at the Barbican in London (Saturday 23, 7pm), with Steuart Bedford conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra and an ensemble cast. Noye’s Fludde, which calls for professionals, children and audience to join forces (Sunday 24, 7pm) is a fitting climax to the weekend and comes from the town of Britten’s birth, Lowestoft.
Digital arts service The Space (developed by Arts Council England in partnership with the BBC) plans to contribute to the Britten centenary over the weekend with a combination of rich archive films and live streams, funded by the Arts Council, England.
Earlier in the month BBC Four presents the theatrical premiere of John Bridcut’s new film Britten’s Endgame, in the Aldeburgh Cinema (Saturday 2, 2pm). The film explores Britten’s creativity in the face of death as he embarked on his final opera Death in Venice. The documentary features specially filmed performances by the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Paul Kildea, John Graham-Hall and Allan Clayton (tenors), Sarah Connolly (mezzo-soprano), Fitzwilliam String Quartet, Xavier Phillips (cello), Schola Cantorum of Oxford conducted by James Burton. The film will be broadcast on BBC Four the weekend before Britten’s anniversary weekend, alongside three further Britten programmes – Britten at the BBC, Glyndebourne’s recent Billy Budd and the London Symphony Orchestra’s Britten concert from the BBC Proms.
In further related programming, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, perform Britten’s War Requiem at the Royal Albert hall (live on Radio 3 on 10 November, 7pm).