In the last concert of the season the Reykjavik Chamber Orchestra will perform three pieces from England. Clarinet concerto by Gerald Finzi. Serenade for tenor horn and strings by Benjamin Britten and Chaconne in g minor by Purcell arranged by Britten. Besides the three soloists the string orchestra plays a major role in this concert.
The conductor is Johannes Debus, the music director of the Canadian Opera Company.
Henry Purcell/Benjamin Britten: Chaconne in g minor
Gerald Finzi: Concerto for Clarinet and strings op. 31
Benjamin Britten: Serenade for tenor, horn and strings op. 31
Clarinet: Rúnar Óskarsson
Tenor: Stuart Skelton
Horn: Frank Hammarin
Conductor: Johannes Debus
Benjamin Britten (1913 – 1976) was a great admirer of Henry Purcell (1659 – 1695) and he made arrangements of his works, had them performed and used themes from them in his own music. Purcell wrote the Chaconne in g minor for a quartet of strings probably around the year 1680, but Britten’s arrangement from the year 1948 is mostly about adding some dynamic changes and we also get to hear it for a full string orchestra.
The clarinet concerto by Gerald Finzi (1901 – 1956) is one of his most famous works and is frequently performed around the world though in Iceland it has not been performed a lot. The concerto was premiered in London in the year 1949 where the composer held the baton and the soloist was one of Britains most acclaimed clarinetist Frederick Thurston. The piece is in three movements and Finzi gives the clarinet freedom to bloom in wonderful melodies, many with a folkloric hint, always with an imaginative orchestral support where his love for the clarinet and string orchestra shines through. In the piece many different moods can be heard, ranging from lyric passages to spiritual contemplation and sparkling joy.
Serenade for tenor, horn and strings by Benjamin Britten was composed in 1943. Britten had moved to the United States in 1939 but returned to England in 1942, in the middle of the second world war. Britten’s biggest piece from this time is obviously the opera Peter Grimes, but of other pieces from this period, the Serenade is considered the most important. The piece is composed on six poems by british poets where the theme is, the night, from enchanting tranquility to it’s more dark and shady sides.
The piece starts and ends with the solo horn – a kind of prologue and epilogue – where the composer uses the natural overtones of the horn, which might sound to our ears, used to western major and minor scales, quite frankly out of tune.
Johannes Debus has been Music Director of the Canadian Opera Company (COC) since 2009, having been appointed immediately following his debut. His 2019-20 season includes performances of Rusalka, Hänsel und Gretel, and The Flying Dutchman.
Recent highlights include Debus’s debuts with the Seattle, Oregon, and Milwaukee Symphonies; Santa Fe Opera conducting Jenůfa; ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra; Hallé Orchestra; and the Bilbao Orkestra Sinfonikoa, and return engagements with the Frankfurt Radio, Toronto, Kansas City, and San Diego Symphonies; the Metropolitan Opera conducting The Tales of Hoffmann; and the Bregenz Festival conducting the Austrian premiere of Goldschmidt’s Beatrice Cenci with the Vienna Symphony.
Debus conducts regularly at the Bayerische Staatsoper Munich, Staatsoper unter den Linden Berlin, and Frankfurt Opera and has appeared in new productions at English National Opera and Opéra National de Lyon. He made his debut at the BBC Proms with Britten’s Sinfonia in 2014, and conducted a new production of The Tales of Hoffmann at the 2015 Bregenz Festival.
As guest conductor, he has appeared at several international festivals such as the Biennale di Venezia and Schwetzingen Festivals, Festival d’Automne in Paris, Lincoln Center Festival, Ruhrtriennale, Suntory Summer Festival, and Spoleto Festival. He has appeared with The Cleveland Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the Philharmonia in London.
Debus graduated from the Hamburg Conservatoire before being engaged as répétiteur and, subsequently, Kapellmeister by Frankfurt Opera where he acquired an extensive repertoire from Mozart to Thomas Adès. At home in both contemporary music and the core repertoire, he has conducted a wide range of world premieres and works of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. He has collaborated with internationally-acclaimed ensembles such as Ensemble Intercontemporain, Ensemble Modern, Klangforum Wien, and Musikfabrik. He enjoys an ongoing relationship with the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.
Stuart Skelton is one of the world’s leading heldentenors and has appeared in some of the repertoire’s most demanding roles on all the major stages of the world, including Siegmund (Die Walkure), Otello (Otello), Parsifal (Parsifal), Lohengrin (Lohengrin), Florestan (Fidelio) , Peter Grimes (Peter Grimes) and Tristan (Tristan und Isolde) with the Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera House – Covent Garden, Vienna State Opera, Paris Opera, Berlin State Opera, London Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony, Berlin Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, and Symphony orchestras of Dallas, St Louis, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Sydney, Melbourne and West Australia. Stuart appears on 5 recordings of Die Walküre, has recorded Das Lied von der Erde 4 times, and recorded Tristan und Isolde and his debut solo disc Shining Knight in 2018. Stuart also appears in the title role on the upcoming CD of Peter Grimes, with the Bergen Philharmonic under Edward Gardner.
California native Frank Hammarin began playing the horn at age 11. He received a Bachelors degree from DePaul University in Chicago where he studied with Jon Boen, Oto Carrillo, and Jim Smelser. Frank went on to receive a Masters degree from The Peabody Institute in Baltimore where he studied with Denise Tryon.
Frank has performed orchestral and chamber music internationally at music festivals and was a fellowship student of John Zirbel for two summers at the Aspen Music Festival. Since 2016 he has been a member of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra.
Rúnar Óskarsson completed solo and teaching diplomas from the Reykajvík College of Music 1993, where his principal teacher was Sigurður I. Snorrason. He continued his studies at the Sweelinck Conservatory in Amsterdam with George Pieterson and in 1996 graduated with a diploma in clarinet performance. Rúnar also studied with Harry Sparnaay and completed the same degree on bass clarinet in 1998, having also studied with Walter Boeykens in Rotterdam. After three years of playing and teaching in Holland, he returned to Iceland and has since 2004 held a position with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and played with the Reykjavík Chamber Orchestra, Caput, The Icelandic Opera and the National Theater, not to mention many solo and chamber music concerts.