Discover Sheffield's world-class Ensemble 360, international renowned harpist Catrin Finch, and the brightest stars in the world of song - sopranos Louise Alder, Gillian Keith, Ailish Tynan, baritone James Newby, and pianists Jame Baillieu and Simon Lepper! Join Music in the Round and University of Sheffield Concerts for a weekend of warm, evocative chamber music and song from France's golden age.
Presented in Debussy's centenary year, the festival includes the complete chamber works of both Ravel and Debussy performed up close in the extraordinary intimacy of the Crucible Studio. World-class singers and pianists explore songs by these forward-looking composers plus works by Poulenc, Vaughan Williams and others in the nearby beautiful Upper Chapel and the University's Firth Hall.
What's more, if you're hoping to catch all of our SongMakers-branded concerts this weekend, you can do so at a discount! Enjoy all three, 'Debussy and his Muse', 'Ravel and Vaughan Williams', and 'The Short Straw' for £25 (£12 Unwaged/Under 26) with a SongMakers Discovery Pass!
Baudelaire and the Bassoon
‘The brightest lyric soprano of the younger generation' and winner of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2017 Audience Prize, Louise Alder, partners with Ensemble 360’s ‘bassoonist in a million’ Amy Harman, and pianist in a ‘class of his own’ James Baillieu. Celebrating the poet Baudelaire and the musical influences of his life, music by Beethoven, Wagner and Duparc features alongside the pinnacle of French mélodie and Debussy’s most impressive songs 'Cinq Poèmes de Baudelaire'.
Pre-concert talk: 18:15 - Professor Helen Abbott - Director of the Baudelaire Song Project
One work finished just a few days after the outbreak of the First World War – Ravel’s Trio – stands alongside a work conceived towards its end, Debussy’s Cello Sonata. Debussy’s work is in one sense traditional, built around Sonata form, yet its character is resolutely forward-looking. Ravel’s Tzigane is a bravura piece of showmanship demanding extreme virtuosity. Expect fireworks!
Debussy’s Trio is the work of a young man yet to find a personal voice, but it is effortlessly sweet and charming. In contrast, Ravel’s Violin Sonata hints at the composer’s discovery and love of American jazz. Ravel’s only string quartet was much admired by Debussy, and while perceived as progressive and modern, Ravel considered it firmly rooted in classical tradition.
Debussy and his Muse
When an 18 year old Debussy worked in the studio of fading diva Madame Moreau-Sainti, he fell in love with one of her most talented pupils, Marie-Blanche Vasnier. A captivating society lady with the voice of an angel, this green-eyed muse sang her way into his heart, inspiring a period of happiness, creativity, and self discovery. Award-winning duo Gillian Keith and Simon Lepper perform Debussy’s most ravishing songs, illuminated by extracts from diaries, letters and essays, interwoven seamlessly into this most touching of programmes.
Debussy's Violin Sonata is complemented by the composer's Petite Pièce and Première Rapsodie for clarinet and piano, plus Ravel's Violin Sonata No.1 and his Sonata for Violin and Cello.
Ravel and Vaughan Williams
Winner of the 2016 Kathleen Ferrier Award, baritone James Newby returns to Sheffield with pianist Simon Lepper to explore the evocative sound world of Ravel. From entirely flippant, to deeply profound, the fragranced Cinq Mélodies Populaires Grecques are paired with music by Ravel’s pupil, Vaughan Williams. Travelling through places foreign and familiar, Robert Louis Stevenson’s poems of a wandering vagabond’s reminiscences inspired the classic English song cycle, and some of Vaughan Williams’ best writing in Songs of Travel.
Ensemble 360 with Catrin Finch (harp)
Although Debussy only wrote a single quartet, we can be grateful that it’s a wonderful piece. In Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro, the opening wind and strings duos, followed closely by rippling harp, launch what could almost be a ‘manifesto of impressionism’ in music.
The Short Straw
BBC Cardiff Singer of the World prizewinner and celebrated soprano Ailish Tynan partners with acclaimed pianist Simon Lepper to conclude our French Weekend. A carafe jealous of a giraffe, the Queen of Hearts’ strange icy domain, and the adventures of a flea, elephant, and pot of jam… Poulenc’s delightful, charming, nonsensical and surreal La Courte Paille inspires this programme exploring the voice of children in French song.
A festival weekend and collaboration between