Gluck CD: Gramophone Editor’s Choice, Five Stars in BBC Music Magazine & nominated for ICMA award

BBC Music Magazine Opera Choice December 2019

“Conductor David Bates is, like Gluck, wonderfully radical. Whereas other directors smooth over disjunctions, he revels in rupture”

“Davies radiates Orfeo’s impassioned tenderness”

‘This is directorship at its most alert, and aiding Bates is an optimal cast’

“It’s the stuff of Gluck’s dreams”

Gramophone Editor’s Choice December 2019 

This is the first version of Gluck’s opera, composed for Vienna in 1762, complete on one CD: not quite penny plain, as David Bates has included the ‘Dance of the Blessed Spirits’ from the Paris version of 1774. It comes from Pentatone, Gramophone’s 2019 Label of the Year, and it’s very fine. It’s hard to believe that it was recorded live, as there’s not a peep from the audience: no coughing, no applause.

I wish the booklet had named the singers and players of La Nuova Musica. The chorus has much to do, and I lost count of the number of times it ravished the ear. When the lament that opens the opera returns, it has a greater urgency. Similarly, the Furies’ first chorus is given extra momentum by the crescendo at the repeat of ‘sull’orme d’Ercole e di Piritoo’. When the spirits finally take pity on Orfeo, their hushed singing gives way to a marvellous intensity in another crescendo before the music dies away. When the Blessed Spirits announce the arrival of Euridice the pastoral lightness is just right. I couldn’t detect any difference between the first time’s Andantino and the second’s Allegretto – which presumably implies a slightly faster tempo – but no matter.

The orchestra, too, is extremely accomplished. There’s a delightful hint of portamento in the introduction to the first chorus (and again in the postlude). The horns are splendidly prominent, both in the ‘orribile sinfonia’ to Act 2 and in the minore sections of the second Ballo at the end. The dances are all played with fire or grace, as appropriate; and the flute, oboe and cello obbligatos in ‘Che puro ciel’ are beautifully phrased and perfectly balanced. (The recording producer is Gramophone’s Jonathan Freeman-Attwood.)

The soloists are magnificent. Iestyn Davies sings smoothly throughout, hitting top Ds and Es with no sense of strain. He could show a greater sense of wonder when entering the Elysian Fields, but his grief in Act 1 and his encounter with the Furies are vividly conveyed. ‘Che farò’ is restrained, quite reasonably: it’s the Paris version that has the more emphatic, desperate conclusion. Euridice appears only in Act 3. Sophie Bevan comes across powerfully, getting more and more stroppy as she rails at Orfeo for not looking at her. Rebecca Bottone has a perfect voice for Amore (Cupid), light and bright. ‘Gli sguardi trattieni’ is taken more slowly than usual: the tempo suits the words but not, I think, the tune.

High praise, then, for David Bates and his ensemble. This is a serious rival to the excellent Sony recording conducted by Frieder Bernius, with Michael Chance, Nancy Argenta, the Stuttgart Chamber Choir and the Canadian orchestra Tafelmusik.

Cassandra Miller interview

Cassandra Miller is a Canadian composer living in London. She combines teaching and her own post-graduate studies with an approach to composition that has been described ‘unclassifiable’ (by Music Works magazine). Her composition technique encompasses both notated and non-notated approaches, and always evolve in response to collaborative relationships with the musicians for whom she writes.

Cassandra has been commissioned to compose a new piece for La Nuova Musica which will receive its first performance at Wigmore Hall in January 2020, as part of LNM’s ‘A French Affair’ programme. It will then be repeated at the same venue in July as part of LNM’s ‘An Italian Sojourn’ programme. Both programmes revolve around the music of Henry Purcell and it is Purcell who provides the inspiration behind Miller’s piece. We caught up with her to ask how it was going.

First of all, how did you become involved with LNM and this commission?

David Bates posted on Facebook asking for recommendations of composers who write music inspired by existing works, and who write well for voice. It seems my name came up in many of the replies so David got in touch to tell me more.

I have worked several times with EXAUDI, a vocal group who specialise in contemporary music but many of the singers are trained in baroque style, so I think this experience helped.

David and I met and hit it off straight away and although it’s unusual for me to plunge straight into a project with a new partner organisation without getting to know one another first, this just felt right – a magical match.

Tell us about the piece you’re writing for LNM’s concerts at Wigmore Hall in Jan and July and how it fits into the programmes.

It’s one piece which will be played twice – specifically designed to complement both programmes, which are centred on music by Purcell and the composers who influenced him as well as those who admired him. The first programme (January) explores the relationship between Purcell and French music of the era – a style of music inextricably linked to dance. The second examines Purcell and music from Italy – with its unique blend of colour and lyricism (i.e. the ornamentation within long lines of a single breath). Both programmes reflect the bright, colourful context within which Purcell composed. I wanted the piece to be all about the voice and vocal performance, so it was natural to base it on Purcell’s vocal music.

Can you tell us about the process of composing the piece?

I like to compose using people as the starting point: in this case the two singers who will be performing (countertenor Chris Lowrey and tenor Nick Pritchard). They are experts on baroque opera and they bring this experience and skill into what’s essentially a collaborative process. The music is really about them and their own unique way of singing. I often work closely with singers and their input influences the finished work. This is of course different to the traditional method of composing, sitting alone in a room. I get to know the singers, their interests and background, and essentially, what makes them feel excited, alive and what makes their voice soar. So, it’s a lot of talking at first!

The next stage involves the singers listening to music with headphones (in this case, a specific extract from Purcell’s Fairie Queen) and I invite them to sing along. They keep doing this until they are almost in a meditative state – that’s when I start recording their voices. I then play the recording back to them and ask them to sing along again – and I record that ‘performance’. The process is repeated until I feel we have the ‘essence’ of a musical line. It’s a way of discovering what the music can be: what is captured when they are in touch with the bodily sensations as they sing in that meditative state; the unique relationship between the original piece and the piece they ‘created’. Baroque performance is such a physical way of performing and my piece demands physical input from the singers, so there’s a link there.

How will this work in live performance?

For the concerts, they won’t be meditating although I do sometimes require that from performers. In this case, the process I just described is the preparation – the research into what this music can be – then I will capture it and write it down for performance by the singers, strings and continuo. I suppose it’s a hybrid of my meditative technique and the more traditional approach to composition.

Does the piece have a title yet?

Not yet but I will think of one soon! The Fairie Queen may provide inspiration for a title. The whole aspect of sleep, night and mystery at the core of the opera perfectly suits this meditative approach to composition. The intertwining of magic and nature Shakespeare so beautifully captures in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (on which the Fairie Queen is loosely based) really works with the active florid lines of the music. In fact, the juxtaposition of this colourful, active music and the dreamy/meditative theme is an interesting one – I hope the end result will energise the audience and not put them to sleep!

Classical Women SJSS Review

David Bates and Lucy Crowe have a long acquaintance with each other and the fiendish and charismatic heroines of Handel and Mozart. They brought their considerable talents to bear on a stunningly composed programme of operatic arias and serenades at St John’s Smith Square in London on this cold November night…….

La Nuova Musica set the scene with the dramatic Overture from the opera, electrifyingly pacy, but never losing subtle detail, dynamics or shape. Crowe was channelling Cleopatra in more ways than one: a golden dress and an even more lustrous tone. Provocative, flirtatious, desperate, every aspect of the Egyptian queen’s psyche was on display. Her performance was astonishing……..

Sobs and laughter were musically conveyed within Handel’s intention. The audience responded equally wildly to every piece, with rapturous ‘bravos’…….

Crowe and La Nuova Musica made music as one, a moving and vital presence and a musical relationship to be treasured and developed even further……….

Read the full review

Five star review for Classical Women

Lucy Crowe joined us for two performances of Classical Women in November 2019.

★★★★★ Review in The Times from Bath MozartFest

Bath is no stranger to star singers. In the 18th century the castrato Venanzio Rauzzini drew in Europe’s prima donnas for his concert series. He would have snapped up Lucy Crowe, whose exceptional Handel and Mozart recital graced this year’s Bath Mozartfest. Her voice glittered as brilliantly as the Assembly Rooms’ crystal chandeliers, and she packed in more than enough drama to have amused those gossiping Georgians.

If Crowe’s soprano was once exquisitely pure and light, it has matured into something far more interesting. None of the beauty is lost. Nor her unshakeable technique: Crowe made the difficult athleticism of Ah! Se il crudel periglio from Mozart’s Lucio Silla look easy, ending with a mock wipe of the brow. Her coloratura is pinpoint clear; those high notes ping like stars in a night sky. Her ornamentation is imaginative and eloquent. Yet her sound is now so much richer, the colours more varied. Expression is everything.

In Handel the emotion was visceral. Crowe poured out anguish as the abandoned sorceress Alcina in Ah! mio cor; the word “sola” exhaled in desperation, “pianto” a tear-filled cry. Spiky strings scratched through to the heart. The creeping disquiet conjured in Ombre pallide, also from Alcina, left a shadow in the soul. There was some hope, at least, in a finely judged Dove sono from Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro.

La Nuova Musica was on exhilarating form, from agile double bass to virtuosic leader. The instrumental interludes — even the ubiquitous Allegro from Eine Kleine Nachtmusik — were wonderfully fresh. And the conductor David Bates, his gestures fluid and natural, was entirely at one with Crowe.

The superb programme explored 18th-century women who, Bates hoped, might “resonate with contemporary thinking”. At the end there were flowers for her, wine for him. With a wry look, Crowe whisked away his bottle and handed him her bouquet. Equality in action

 

Listen to BBC Radio 3 In Tune from Monday 11 November with Lucy Crowe, David Bates and musicians from LNM performing extracts from Handel’s Giulio Cesare

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000b7h2

 

Watch Classic FM’s video of the rehearsal at St John’s Smith Square

Mozart from Lucy Crowe and La Nuova Musica

Tonight, soprano Lucy Crowe and La Nuova Musica with conductor David Bates perform virtuosic arias from Handel and Mozart. This is from Mozart's opera Mitridate and isn't it extraordinary? If you're in London do get along to St John’s Smith Square if you can 👉 https://clssicfm.co/32IYjv8

Posted by Classic FM on Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Orfeo ed Euridice CD Release

Iestyn Davies, Sophie Bevan, Rebecca Bottone, David Bates, La Nuova Musica

GLUCK – ORFEO ED EURIDICE

RELEASE OCTOBER 2019

PRE ORDER HERE

NOBLE SIMPLICITY AND CALM GRANDEUR

La Nuova Musica presents a new live recording of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, with countertenor star
Iestyn Davies singing the title role. Once created to reinstate the “noble simplicity and calm
grandeur” of ancient Greek culture, the opera continues to delight audiences with its direct and
unpretentious appeal, epitomized by the world-famous aria Che farò senza Euridice. This live
recording presents the original 1762 Vienna premiere version of the opera, with Gluck’s exquisite
evocation of the Elysian Fields from his 1774 Paris version as a small addition.

La Nuova Musica and its artistic director David Bates are among the most exciting young Baroque
ensembles of our times. For their first PENTATONE recording, they work together with three
exceptional vocalists: countertenor Iestyn Davies and sopranos Sophie Bevan and Rebecca Bottone. [Read more…]

Handel – Quel fior che all’alba ride

David Bates accompanies Ali Ponsford-Hill and Amy Caroline Wood singing Handel’s “Quel fior che all’alba ride” – HWV 192. Handel went on to use the same tune in “His Yoke Is Easy”.

Come and hear our performance of Handel Messiah on Saturday 18th May 2019 at St John’s Smith Square for the London Festival of Baroque Music

Click Here for Tickets

4 Star Review in the Telegraph for Alcina

Joanna Lumley narrates Alcina at St John’s Smith Square, pictured her with soprano Rebbecca Bottone
(Photo: Nick Rutter)

 

Thanks to Ivan Hewett who gave our sold-out performance of Handel Alcina a 4**** review in the Telegraph:

“Regular readers of my reviews may have noticed a degree of impatience in the matter of baroque opera. I apologise, but all its convoluted plots inhabited by psychologically implausible characters, all its adherence to a rigid code of hierarchy and formality, all its sheer prolixity, are deadening weights on the beauties of the music and can make a performance seem a long tedious grind rather than a delicious sensual pleasure.

So I was well disposed towards conductor David Bates’s decision to present a semi-staging of Handel’s Alcina that eliminated one pointless subsidiary character and replaced the harpsichord-accompanied recitative that drives the narrative forward with a spoken narration, written by June Chichester and declaimed with elegance, wit and panache by no less a personage than Joanna Lumley.

The success of this experiment was instant. Only the most pedantic of purists could object…..”

 

Read the full review

 

Joanna Lumley to narrate Alcina at SJSS

Star of stage and screen Joanna Lumley will lead LNM’s unique performance of Handel’s Alcina.

For the first time ever, Handel’s masterpiece will be presented with a specially commissioned English script by June Chichester. The magnificent Italian arias will be sung by a wonderful team of soloists lead by Lucy Crowe in the Title Role.  We are delighted to be working with Joanna Lumley and the prolific stage director, John Caird.

The concert is nearly sold out – there are just a few tickets left, so do follow this link to St John’s Smith Square website to snap up the final few seats.

Live From Wigmore Hall

Watch our concert of Vivaldi, Handel, Corelli and Nico Muhly recorded live at Wigmore Hall, London

David Bates and his Baroque ensemble bring together operatic extracts by Vivaldi and items from Handel’s very first oratorio Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno (The Triumph of Beauty and Disillusion) alongside a concerto by the highly influential Corelli, and a London première of a new work by Nico Muhly.

Interval feature: David Bates in conversation with Lucy Crowe.

Haydn Creation reviews

Robert Thicknesse for The Critics Circle

“A revelatory performance […] Lately, David Bates and his group La Nuova Musica have emerged from the melee of early music groups to real pre-eminence, thanks to the certainty of Bates’s own taste and the conviction with which he achieves the sounds and effects and musical results he wants. Listening to the intentionally grainy edges, the groovily artisanal, wheezy winds and extremely distinctive string tone – all absolutely natural-fibre, but with the tensile strength of stretched silk – I got a distinct and very rare feeling that yes, this might actually be something like what Haydn had in his head. […] Everything was done with a terrific sense of enjoyment: I’ve rarely seen such a smiley bunch of performers. And the lodestone, in a performance with a far bigger, fuller and less namby-pamby sound than I’ve heard from a period band in a while, was an excitement in the process – of creation, and of its musical representation – something new around every corner, a pervasive feeling of wonder and rapture and surprise.”
Read the full review……