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Michael White’s classical & jazz news: Oxford Lieder Festival; Oliver Zeffman; Wigmore Hall

08 October, 2020 — By Michael White

Sholto Kynoch accompanies singers including Ian Bostrich (left) at the Oxford Lieder Festival

WHEN I was a student there (admittedly some time ago), singing at Oxford meant choral evensong delivered by one of the excellent though still essentially amateur college choirs.

But nowadays it’s so much more, thanks to impressive arrivals like the Oxford Lieder Festival which runs every autumn and is a celebration of song like no other, offering international-quality recitals round the clock.

This year it’s happening without an audience, alas, but everything is being filmed for online streaming. And as the artistic director, pianist Sholto Kynoch says he aims to recreate “as much of the atmosphere of live music-making as we can beam to your screens and speakers – bringing you into special venues, allowing you to watch again when it suits, and creating a series of illustrated study events called Song Connections”.

The cameras will sweep you into places like Trinity College, the Bodleian library, Christ Church Cathedral and Europe’s oldest purpose-built concert hall, the Holywell Music Room. More than 100 singers and pianists take part over eight days, with Ian Bostridge as artist-in-residence and stars like Sarah Connolly, Roderick Williams, and Lucy Crowe – although Kynoch is keen to stress that “we’re also giving a platform to many younger musicians hard-hit by the Covid crisis”.

Given the circumstances, it’s an utterly amazing schedule that embraces the whole history of concert song – with quirky sidelines like a programme of music about roses coming from the Oxford Botanical Garden. Everything starts this Saturday, October 10, and continues to Saturday 17th. Tickets for online access are a modest £3 to £12. Details www.oxfordlieder.co.uk

The rising young conductor Oliver Zeffman hasn’t worked much in the past six months – who has? – but he’s back on the rostrum this Saturday, October 10, with the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields and a programme of Britten, Prokofiev and Huw Watkins that repeats at 5pm and 7.30pm in St Martins church, Trafalgar Square: booking www.asmf.org

And to prove he wasn’t idle during lockdown, he’s just issued an online film, made with the Academy and featuring music commissioned from leading composers like Julian Anderson and Nico Muhly. Sung by equally leading singers like Toby Spence and Iestyn Davies, it’s called Eight Songs from Isolation, and can be accessed on Apple Music (as long as you have an account).

• Meanwhile, Wigmore Hall’s autumn season with small, socially-distanced audiences continues to be a key event in London music right now, playing more or less every day through to December.

This Friday (October 9), 7.30pm, has soprano Louise Alder singing Bizet, Berg and Poulenc. And Saturday, 7.30pm, brings the pianist Leon McCawley playing Schumann and Janacek – presented for the Wigmore’s live online streaming by me, so clearly a must-watch (and as it stays on the website for several weeks, free of charge, there’s no excuse not to!). Details: www.wigmore-hall.org.uk

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