Classical music at the 2017 Edinburgh International Festival: A Beginners Guide
- Alex Johnston
- 15 March 2017
Want to hear some classical music at the EIF, but don't know what to go to? Try these
The Edinburgh International Festival has announced its 2017 programme, and as always there's a generous and diverse spread of classical music events. Those who regularly attend classical music at the EIF can see at a glance what attracts them and what doesn't, and will already be checking their bank accounts and making bookings.
But what about others? People who are curious about classical music, and who want a chance to get to know it better, but who don't know their Pärt from their L'Orfeo? How are they to tell what events are most suited to an enthusiastic but uninformed listener, the kind of person who thinks that 'da capo' is how a Russian mobster says yes to his boss?
We have the answers. Here, in chronological order, is a selection of classical music events in this year's EIF, chosen according to their likely accessibility to those without much knowledge of classical music. This is not a question of quality: the entire programme is, as always, a glittering array of world-class talent. It's about which events we think the novice listener are most likely to find intelligible and entertaining.
We've left out a lot. Wagner's Die Walküre (Usher Hall, Sun 6 Aug) is a great opera, but if we're talking about throwing people in at the deep end, with all due respect to the Royal Scottish National Opera and conductor Sir Andrew Davis, it's five hours deep. Similarly, while we mean no disrespect to the many great soloists on the programme, two hours of unfamiliar piano music can be a little indigestible to those used to piano music in five-minute bites.
This is not a highlights selection with training wheels, though–there are some thorny works in here, along with plenty of tunes, drama and diversity. If these sound interesting check out the EIF's full programme.
The Edinburgh Musical Society
Ensemble Marsyas, under the direction of Peter Whelan, delivers a recreation of an 18th century Edinburgh musical evening in the newly restored St Cecilia's Hall, with guest mezzo-soprano Emilie Renard and music by Barsanti, Handel, Arne and Gluck.
Chosen because: It's classical music through and through, no Romantic extravagances to make you lose your thread; plus, it's only an hour long.
St Cecilia's Hall, Tue 8 Apr, £25
Karen Cargill & Simon Lepper
Scottish mezzo-soprano Cargill and accompanist Lepper perform late Romantic French chansons by Debussy, Chausson, Duparc and Hahn.
Chosen because: Have you ever heard late Romantic French chansons? This is music to take someone on a third date to, if you know what we mean.
The Queen's Hall, Thu 10 Aug, £9–£32.50
German tenor Julian Prégardien and colleagues Marc Hantaï (flute), Philippe Pierlot and Xavier Diaz-Latorre (baryton) recreate a Viennese salon from Schubert's time, with music and poetry. Kind of like the Edinburgh Musical Society concert, but strictly Vienna this time.
Chosen because: It's a piquant instrumental combination and you don't see a lot of concerts like this one.
St Cecilia's Hall, Thu 10 Aug, £25
If you've never seen an opera, let it be this one, even if it's not a staged performance but a concert one (no sets, it's just sung.) Benjamin Britten's 1945 tale of a fisherman nobody likes is a gripping picture of persecution and mental breakdown, and Grimes himself is one of the great operatic roles of the 20th century. Edward Gardner conducts Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, with Aussie tenor Stuart Skelton (pictured) in the title role.
Chosen because: Britten is one of the most direct and accessible of 20th century composers, and unlike other operas in the EIF programme, this one's in English.
Usher Hall, Sun 13 Aug, £15–£50
If you want to go right back to the source, you can't beat Monteverdi's L'Orfeo. Although not the first opera ever written it's the first great one, a turbulent and moving dramatisation of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, here presented by the mighty English Baroque Soloists under the baton of John Eliot Gardner.
Chosen because: It's no period piece, but the opera that made other composers want to write operas.
Usher Hall, Mon 14 Aug, £13–£47