As part of the UK-Russia Year of Music, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts will host a festival of classical and contemporary British music, programmed as part of the exhibition Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and the School of London. The festival will take place in the museum’s Italian courtyard for three days: 27 March, 21 April and 25 April 2019. The performed British music will range from the Restoration to the present day and will introduce audiences to significant compositions which have either rarely or never been performed in Russia.
Over the course of three concerts, the festival will showcase key examples that illustrate how UK music has developed, starting with the Baroque era. The first concert - Mad Songs - will be dedicated to the musical genre of the same name that originated during the Stuart Restoration. The songs evidence the incredible interest which the English in the 17th century considered mental disorders and sleepwalking. One of the popular entertainments of that time was observing the patients of the Bethlem Royal Hospital (Bedlam). The Mad Songs programme shows the heyday of the genre: songs by Purcell, Dowland, Eccles and their contemporaries, as well as the extremely expressive 20th century mad songs: Eight Songs for the Mad King (1969) by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. The fascination with the borderline states of the human psyche, first manifested in the mad songs, was embodied three centuries later in the expressionist paintings of Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and their followers.
The concert for two grand pianos B like Britannia consists almost entirely of Russian premieres. The second concert in the programme will feature works by composers of the 20th century English musical Renaissance Arnold Bax and York Bowen, the British Orpheus Benjamin Britten and, finally, the many-faced Richard Bennett, composer of the post-war generation. The audience will travel from impressionism to neo-classical music and jazz through a mixture of high and low art, typical for the late XX century.
The final concert - Brave New World - will present English composers of the second half of the 20th century and our contemporaries. The programme will open with composer Elisabeth Lutyens’s String Quartet No. 6 (Russian premiere) dedicated to one of the main exhibition characters, Francis Bacon. It will be followed by Incipit Vita Nova, a sample of harmonious new simplicity by Gavin Bryars; The Piano Trio by Alexander Goehr, a consistent enthusiast of serial method; and the shocking Life Story by the leader of new British music, Thomas Ades. The festival will close with an unusual work by Benjamin Britten composed on Auden’s poem Night Mail for the 1936 documentary film of the same name — perhaps the first and only rap in the history of classical music.
The festival will feature British singers Marcus Farnsworth (baritone) and William Towers (countertenor), singers Yulia Mikkonen (Vienna) and Alisa Ten (Moscow), famous piano duet Ludmila Berlinskaya and Arthur Ansell (Paris), Moscow Contemporary Music Ensemble, harpsichordist Olga Filippova and an instrumental ensemble under the direction of violinist Roman Mints (Moscow).